Robert Dahlberg, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
Science Museum of Virginia
Project Title: Honey Bee Language Dance Translator
What it is, in a nutshell
An application to interpret the waggle dances of honey bees in the Science Museum of Virginia’s colony.
What it is, in a slightly bigger shell
A web app with a back-end component for gathering and processing bee videos and a front-end component that displays results. The app includes a script to help users remotely operate a webcam to video record the hive. It also has a video processing component that tracks and clusters honey bee dances captured on video. A front-end component displays the clips and processing data. A visualization tool helps users understand how the waggle dance works.
Why it needs to exist
Honey bees communicate the location of high-value flower patches to one another through a signaling system scientists call “waggle dances.” These signals provide insights into honey bees’ dietary preferences and habitat needs. Reliable methods to track and interpret the honey bee waggle dance supports conservation efforts and helps protect one of the ecosystem’s most important pollinators.
What they’re working on right now
They are completing this phase of the project and making sure everything is in place to hand the project off to a future Capstone team. The next team will calibrate the app to the specific hive at the museum.
The biggest challenge so far
Because much of the work was completed during the winter, bees were not always available at the science museum for data gathering. This meant the team had to work with data from external sources, which made testing parts of the code more challenging.
Their goal by the end of the year
They aim to have a working prototype that can record, process and display bee waggle footage alongside fun, interactive explanations of how the dance works.
Something you may not know about bee dances
The waggle dance is just one of multiple dances that bees perform to communicate with one another. The circle dance and sickle dance (a sort of figure-8 movement) indicate there are close food sources, while the more common waggle dance signals that the food is further away.
Something the team particularly enjoyed
These students knew each other from previous computer science classes. They said it was a memorable experience getting to work with friends on this last assignment before graduation.