Listen to honeybees ‘whooping’ when they are startled or surprised

Surprised honeybees 'whoop' when they are in the hive according to a Nottingham study

Audio: Honeybees ‘whooping’

Honeybees ‘whoop’ in the hive to show that they are either startled or surprised, according to Nottingham scientists.

The ‘whoop’ is thought to be used to warn other bees of dangers from outside of the hive, called the ‘stop signal,’ but a team of researchers at Nottingham Trent University argue that the sound is made to show surprise.

A ‘stop signal’ is believed to be directed at bees performing a ‘waggle dance’ which they do to share information about locations of food.

However researchers have found the vast majority of those sounds happen at night, when no ‘waggle dances’ would be performed.

Dr Martin Bencsik, researcher and physicist at Nottingham Trent University, said: “We have found that this signal is remarkably common, much more than previously thought.

“Scientists in the past have explored this signal in artificial circumstances where they ensured that the bees under investigation would be trying to inhibit other bees.

“In our study we have not manipulated our bees in any way, and this has revealed totally unexpected results, yielding new interpretations but also yet more mystery around this brief honeybee vibrational pulse.

“We believe that in only a small number of instances is it used as an inhibitory signal and therefore have proposed a new name – the ‘whooping signal’.”

The scientists found the ‘whooping signal’ most regularly occurred when two bees accidentally collided within the hive.

Researcher Michael-Thomas Ramsey said: “Through our work we are expanding the understanding of honeybee communication.

“This vibrational pulse was originally known as the ‘begging signal’ as it was believed to be a request for food, then it was thought to be a purely inhibitory ‘stop signal.’

“Now we have taken this another step forward.

“It shows promise that our methods can be used as a sensitive way of monitoring and assessing colony status for these hugely important pollinators.”