‘Tanging’ Bees: What is That?

As I was scrolling through a beekeeper Facebook group, I came across a person who talked about ‘tanging’ bees. I was like, “what is tanging?” I have never heard of that term before. 

As usual, you would Google something you are unaware of. Interestingly, not a lot of Australian beekeepers have talked about it and it is more common in American beekeeping. Let’s see what we find.

Image Source: Bee Culture

What is Tanging Bees?

Upon reading a few articles, apparently tanging bees is a method where you bang two metal objects together in a rhythmic pattern to entice a swarm into a beehive box. 

You’re probably laughing at the crazy thought, but this method has apparently originated from ancient beekeeping. Some reckon that it is probably as old as medieval times. You have to admit, it sounds like something that would come from beekeeping folklore. 

How does it work?

You’re probably thinking how the sound of two metals being banged together is supposed to “call” the bees. The only logical explanation is probably sound waves, although researching scientific resources on how it works was pretty limited. To my luck, I found a beekeeping forum and one beekeeper did make a rational answer. 

To quote, “The Roman poet Virgil, a beekeeper himself, wrote that a swarm of bees could be brought back to the hive by the sound of cymbals. And in fact, it has been noted in beekeeping literature in recent years that a frequency of 600 hertz from a vibrator or loudspeaker placed 60 to 120 centimetres from a hive causes bees to ‘freeze’ on the honeycomb; the beekeeper himself, however, finds this sound extremely hard to bear.

According to studies, honey bees generate sounds that human ears probably can’t hear. They found that bees generate sound from several parts of their bodies, such as with their abdominal or thoracic muscles. You can almost argue that they also communicate through sound. For example, we all know that bees can communicate through the waggle dance. But the interesting detail that some people leave out is that bees also emit sound signals while doing the dance. This is the only time I noticed that when bees do the waggle dance, they flap their wings in rhythm. Research has shown that bees can hear airborne sounds and sound frequencies that are up to 500 Hz. According to American studies, honey bees produce frequencies of vibrations of sounds, ranging from 10 to up to a thousand Hz. 

Something New to Try

There is only one way to prove if tanging is effective, and that is to practice it to the actual bees themselves. According to some articles, this practice was also used to let other beekeepers know that you are claiming the swarm as your property instead of having the conversation. 

The anatomy and behaviour of honey bees are always a mystery and there will always be something new to learn about. Would you try this practice to your colonies? 

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