Of bee butts and wiggles

It’s fun to investigate what people were looking for in 2016. Although there were 7,136 “Unknown search terms” which Google is keeping private, amongst those from other search engines I noticed a theme:

‘Why do bees wiggle their bums’ (3 searches)
‘Why do bees shake their bum’ (2 searches)
‘What does bees shaking it’s back mean’ (1 search)
‘pepperpot in rectum’ (1 search)

I hope my blog was able to help with the ‘pepper pot in rectum’ problem. It must have been a large bee, or a very small pepper pot.

A bee bum.

A bee bum.

In one of my revision posts on Bee communication for BBKA Module 6, Honey bee behaviour, I covered the various meanings of honey bee vibrations and movements. When it comes to wiggling, the waggle dance is well known, but there are many different types of honey bee dances: round, transition, wagtail, buzzing runs and the DVAV (dorsoventral abdominal vibrating dance).

However, this search suggests that some of these observers were not seeing a communication dance but something else:

What does it mean when a honey bees butt moves in and out?’

Bees have no lungs but move oxygen into their bodies through breathing tubes (tracheae), which are connected to surrounding air through multiple holes in their body called spiracles. In his book ‘The Biology of the Honey Bee’ (1987), Mark L.Winston explains that “When the bee is inactive gas exchange can operate simply by diffusion, but during periods of increased activity bees pump their abdomens to increase gas exchange” (p.34). This pumping movement makes the abdomen move rhythmically as oxygen goes in – which could be the ‘in and out’ movement the searcher was thinking of.

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper who has recently moved from London to windswept, wet Cornwall. I first started keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary in 2008, when I created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully! - future successes.
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17 Responses to Of bee butts and wiggles

  1. disperser says:


    Humans also expel gas by working their abdominal areas . . . although the results are seldom pleasant.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ian Stell has an article in the BBKA news called ‘Do bees pant?’

    It is republished in the reprint of the articles http://www.bbka.org.uk/shop/product/bbka-news-honey-bee-anatomy/


  3. So good to hear that someone is still able to find giggles among their remaining visible search terms. It gives us hope. And thank you for sharing them.

    We actually spent a few moments wondering what the ‘pepperpot’ might have been. Drone genitalia partially protruding from a queen’s bottom? Never struck us as looking much like a pepperpot. Then we realized that bees were never mentioned in that particular search and an entirely different scenario was pictured.

    An invasion of miniature Daleks.


  4. Weird searches: “pepper pot in rectum” certainly trumps my oddest, “how to dispose of dead body?”. Maybe they thought a wildlife site might help. But with your query I can’t think where bees would fit in. As it were. RH


  5. I’ve noticed the in and out movement of the abdomen while they are taking nectar. It looked a bit as if they were sucking it (severe case of anthropocentric thinking) but following your explanation, they are working hard and need more oxygen for respiration. Amelia


  6. P&B says:

    Cool info. Thank you.


  7. theresagreen says:

    An enjoyable post, thanks Emily. It can be a frustrating business try to phrase a query so a poor old search engine can find an answer, you can almost hear the desperation in some – probably their 20th attempt or so! There’s a lot to be said for reading books!


  8. Pingback: Of bee butts and wiggles | How To Raise Bees

  9. Pingback: Of bee butts and wiggles | Raising Honey Bees

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