Honey bee dance language is a unique and complex form of animal communication used to inform nest mates in the colony about the specific location of food sources or new nest sites. Five different sensory systems have been implicated in acquiring and communicating the information necessary for dance language communication. We present results from neuronal tracer studies identifying the central projections from four of the five. Sensory neurons of the dorsal rim area of the compound eyes, involved in acquiring sun-compass based information, project to the dorsal-most part of the medulla. Sensory neurons of the neck hair plates, required to transpose sun-compass based information to gravity-based information in the dark hive, project to the dorsal labial neuromere of the subesophageal ganglion. Sensory neurons from the antennal joint hair sensilla and the Johnston’s organ, which perceive information on dance direction and distance from mechanostimuli generated by abdomen waggling and wing vibration, project to the deutocerebral dorsal lobe and the subesophageal ganglion, and the posterior protocerebrum, respectively. We found no ‘dance-specific’ projections relative to those previously described for drone and queen honey bees and other insect species that do not exhibit dance communication. We suggest that the evolution of dance language communication was likely based on the modification of central neural pathways associated with path integration, the capability to calculate distance, and directional information during flight.

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