Bee behavior refers to what bees do-as individuals and as a colony. By studying their behavior, we may learn how to change it to our benefit.Two practical discoveries of bee behavior made our beekeeping of today possible. One was the discovery by Langstroth of bee space. The other was the discovery by G. M. Doolittle that large numbers of queens could be reared by transferring larvae to artificial queen cups. The discovery of the “language” of bees and of their use of polarized light for navigation has attracted considerable interest all over the world.
Much has been learned about the behavior of insects, including bees, in recent years. As an example, the term “pheromone” had not been coined in 1953, when Ribbands summarized the subject of bee behavior in his book, The Behavior and Social Life of Honeybees. A pheromone is a substance secreted by an animal that causes a specific reaction by another individual of the same species. Now many bee behavior activities can be explained as the effect of various pheromones.
Recently, we have learned how certain bee behavior activities are inherited, and this information gives us a vast new tool to tailor-make the honey bee of our choice. Further studies should reveal other ways to change bees to produce specific strains for specific uses.
Queen Making & Swarming
1. Bees construct up to 20 wax queen cells, which are acorn like and point downwards.
2. The queen lays fertilised eggs in each queen cell.
3. The young (nurse) bees feed the young queen larvae with a rich creamy food called Royal Jelly, and extend the cell downwards until it is about 25mm in length.
4. Nine days after laying, the first queen cell is sealed with a layer of wax capping.
5. This is the time for a large swarm (called a prime swarm) of bees leaves the hive led by the older bees. The old queen has been starved of food to make her lighter and able to fly. The older bees can jole the old queen to join the swarm.
6. Eight days later first virgin queen leaves her cell. Two things can now occur, either the first virgin queen leads a smaller swarm from the hive (called a cast) or she locates the other queen cells and kills her sisters by stinging through the wax wall of their cells.
7. About one week later the young queen takes her first flight to orientate her to her new surroundings.
8. The queen will shortly take several matting flights in which she will mate with up to 20 male bees called drones.
9. Three days later the mated queen will begin to lay fertilised eggs.
10. This queen will stay with the colony until at least the following year when she too may lead a prime swarm.
Photo sources: Bee Behavior.