Vibrations tell bees where mates are from.

In choosing among potential suitors, red mason bee females pay attention to the specific way in which males of the species vibrate their bodies. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 22 have found that those vibrations carry important information about where their potential mates are from.

The findings are the first to suggest that bees rely on vibrations, in addition to chemical signals, as a mode of mate recognition.

“We were really surprised to find that bees use vibrational signals not only as a sign for fitness but also for information on where a male comes from,” says Taina Conrad of the University of Ulm in Germany. “This is complex information, and we did not expect this to be encoded in this signal.”