BPH 101 – THE BEE
– HONEY BEE BEHAVIORS
Good day friends, its nice meeting you again. I am sure you’ve been learning a lot about the bee. And once again I am Bee Royal. Let’s do a quick revision of our last lesson.
In our last lesson, we discussed the physical characteristics of the bee and described how each body parts are used. We found out that the body part of a bee is divided into three segments; the head, the thorax, and the abdomen, each segment house the various vital organs of the bee and we also discover that each part plays a role in the production of the honey.
Today, we will be looking at the behavior of a bee. As tiny as we bees are we have behaviors that can leave you speechless. We will be taking a closer look of how we honeybees carry out our daily life activities and how we keep ourselves busy. All these activities aims towards our daily survival and the survival of our colony. Researchers have been able to discover most of them; listed below are some:
1. Swarming Behavior; is the process by which a new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees. It is a honey bee colony’s natural means of reproduction.
2. Anarchic Behavior; the word anarchy means, a state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority or other controlling systems and absolute freedom of the individual. Therefore this behavior in bee is when the worker bee begins to reproduce where the queen alone should be the reproductive member.
3. Rosette Capping Behavior; this is a behavior in bees whereby the bees cover their honey with wax, much like putting a lid on it. This occurs only when the nectar is ripe. As you know, nectar is what bees turn in to honey. Bees turn nectar into honey by removing the moisture content from the nectar. Once the bees are pleased with the moisture level, they seal it off with wax. This “cap” keeps the honey from losing any more moisture.
4. Peak Queen Cell Number (PQN); when a bee colony swarms they build new cells for the queen bee, these cells are what we refer to as queen cells. The total number of queen cells a colony builds is what we refer to as peak queen cells. This is a behavior common to all honey bee colonies.
5. Running Behavior; in a bee colony, we are either bad-tempered or runners. Running is a good trait in a bee colony as it is a sign of activeness, liveliness, and mobility. Runner bees are preferred over the bad-tempered ones and are easily bred.
6. Jumping Behavior; a trait though not common to all bees in a colony are of two aspects that may exist separately or both together within a colony. The first is the “standing jump” where a stationary bee takes to the air (it usually appears to the observer that they are heading straight for the beekeeper’s veil), but a calm appraisal will establish that it is often quite random. The second aspect is the “running jump” which is more like an aircraft “take off” and much less likely to be straight at the beekeeper.
7. Cool Weather clustering; is a trait in bees during cold weather they cluster together to keep warm, this is also a period where they eat the fruit of their labor which is the honey they have gathered so far. This is converted into energy in their bodies to build up heat.
8. Mating Behavior; the male honey bee (drone) main purpose of existence is mating with the queen bee. This activity takes place on a flight, whereby the queen bee flies to a site where multiple drones are in wait. It is important to know that a drone can only mate 7-10 times with a queen bee after which he dies.
9. Multiple Mating; also known as polyandry, it serves an essential function in honeybees. It is a mechanism that helps to avoid inbreeding (the production of offspring from the mating or breeding of individuals or organisms that are closely related genetically).
10. Hygienic Behavior; is the removal of debris items from the nest area. Such items may be wax scales dropped by secreting bees or lost by bees transferring wax scales to point of usage. They may be fragments of capping, or used wax, from comb being modified or repaired. This may be bee’s legs or wings or other body parts (including dead bees). It may be other insects or their larvae (alive or dead). This activity is carried out by the bees using their mandibles.
11. Guarding Behavior; the entrance of a hive is vulnerable to attack by other bees intent on robbing honey or other insects on the lookout for honey or bees to eat. As a result Honey bees have developed a ‘guarding’ behavior whereby a small number of bees ‘police’ the entrance and ‘vet’ would-be entrants. The number of bees involved in this activity varies from zero to a few dozen and is usually carried out by worker bees between the fourteen and twenty days of age. The ‘guard’ bees monitor the entrance and scrutinize any bees or other insects attempting entry. If they are ‘recognized’ by the smell they are allowed to pass unhindered, but if they have deemed a threat they will be ‘roughed up’ by one or more guards.
12. Supersedure; Failure of the queen bee to distribute pheromones and lay the necessary number of eggs may lead worker bees to supersede (replace) her. For this, they build one, two or three queen cells, called supersedure, or replacement, cells, at intervals of a few days. The queen lays an egg in each queen cell. After the first queen emerges, the remaining queen cells are destroyed. The young queen may live in peace with the old one, even for several months, until the old queen dies.
13. Drifting Behavior; is the term used by beekeepers to describe the behavior of bees that leave one colony and join another. This behavior often occurs when several colonies, housed in similar hives, are kept close to one another. Most of the bees which drift do so during their orientation flights and before they become regular foragers.
14. Queen Balling; Balling of queens is an aggressive behavior of worker bees related to queens. Usually, workers crowd around a queen to cover completely and sting her. Sometimes, worker bees only tear her body with mandibles, then the queen looks black, shiny and hairless. Even if the queen survives, her quality is most likely to decrease in the further period of life. This usually takes place when a new queen becomes available, the workers kill the reigning queen by “balling” her, clustering tightly around her. Death through balling is accomplished by surrounding the queen bee and raising her body temperature, causing her to overheat and die.
These are just a few behaviors that make us unique and stand out among other insects. In our next lesson, we’ll be studying exclusively some of these behaviors.
- Robinson, 1984; Gerula & Bieńkowska, 2008 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/330125121_Balling_Behavior_of_Workers_Toward_Honey_Bee_Queens_Returning_from_Mating_Flights