Since the new foragers of the spring are just that,new do they have to relearn what areas to forage or is the direction of the area or areas somehow ingrained in them through the hive genes that they alredy know exactly where to go or do they fly around possibly finding totally different foraging areas?
If they don't know the foraging area they do orientations. Bigger and bigger circles as they mentally map the area.
Not only do bees "learn" the terrain, they
do so only once, when they are young.
A guy at Kutztown U (in PA) did a great
study on this recently, where he moved
hives back and forth between two sites
that had "identical major features", but
were mirror images of each other.
As I recall, he had a treeline, a big
"marker tree" out in the clearing, and
a large (hundred acre or better) open
The "mirror image" set-up proved a few
things very very clearly:
a) Bee's don't "re-learn" a new "map"
once they have learned a map, but
they clearly do keep a map in their
b) When it is very overcast, the lack of
UV means that the bees don't know
where the sun is, but they still are
able to guesstimate the sun's position
and "tell time" with an accuracy of
+/- 15 mins or so.
c) Bees will dance, and foragers will
be recuited as a result of that
dance to visit the WRONG feeder
when you move hives between "mirror
image" sites under overcast conditions.
The feeder was "south of the hive",
and when the hive is moved, the bees
guess the sun's position and give out
the wrong direction vector, so you
have bees visiting an empty feeder
to the North of the hive.
d) When the sun comes out, the dances
start to "adjust" until they are all
back on target.
Very impressive, elegant, and low-cost
work. Proves a number of points in one
1) Bees use dance. If odor was the
mechanism by which bees are either
recruited or vectored to their targets,
they would not be fooled by a mere move
of the hive.
2) Bees can tell time. Better than I can
without looking at a clock.
3) Bees make mental maps, but never adjust
to a new location, and are forced to
use "visual flight rules" and landmarks
in combination with their ESTIMATE of
the sun's position if they don't have
enough UV to get a fix on the sun's
Now, none of this matters all that much to
practical beekeeping, as nectar foraging
under cloudly conditons is mostly a waste
of time anyway.
But when you can make the bees "lie" to each
other, and you can see that the bees are
"fooled" by specific dances, and the dataset
has a nicely-graphed compass rose of vectors
that start to correct themselves as the sun
comes out, you have some very hard data that
proves a number of things in a very elegant
The best "hard proof" before this was the
consistent slow-down in foraging sorties
and dances around "local solar noon", when
the sun was directly "up" and the "angle to
the sun" was zero.
what I am asking is not if the foraging bees that are out today have to relearn the route tomorrow. I know they have a mental note of this as to their habit of visiting the same site for water, but will the bees of this spring go to the same foraging areas that the bees of last spring did or do they just find their own spots?
i think most beekeepers would say that the hive doesn't have a memory like that,but on the other hand, they know to prepare for winter without those individual bees ever having experieced it.maybe they sit around all winter and repeat the best dances of the past season for the next generation,like telling stories around a campfire.
You do a wiggle to the right,
and a waggle to the left,
and then you turn it all around,
and that's how you do the Bee Bop Boogie!
I want to bring a colony up to my city house and put it on the deck....
OH MY GOODNESS. What a joy to think about it...
I have four hives, hope to double...
That would be fun for you. But what about your friends? Bees make some people pretty nervous. Plus sometimes the bees get agressive.
[This message has been edited by Michael Bush (edited March 25, 2004).]
> will the bees of this spring go to the
> same foraging areas that the bees of last
> spring did or do they just find their own
Ah, you mean something like "genetic
memory". No, what one bee learns is not
somehow passed along to another bee of
a later brood cycle. In fact, the two
bees may well be "sisters", daughthers
of the same queen, hatched from eggs
fertilized by sperm from the same drone,
but even then, the newer bee either learns
of a site from the dances of another
foragers, or stumbles into a site in
foraging sorties intended for "random exploration".
Once a site is learned however, it is
remembered over a period of weeks.
The interesting thing is that bees
can be trained with ease to visit a
specific "flower" at a specific time
of day, and they will arrive at that
time of day on subsequent days.
The consensus is that bees can remember
only one combination of color/shape/area
for each discrete 5 to 15 min time slot
of the day, and once they learn another
bloom, it "overwrites" any other bloom
in that same timeslot.
Gould and Gould's book "The Honey Bee"
goes into this in detail. You can pick
it up used in paperback for under $10.00.
I think the bees know what time of day it is, and I also think they know what time of year it is as well. I think they read this from the position of the sun.
As the sun travels across the sky in one day, it follows an arc. One can figure within about 15 minutes what time it is by looking at the position of the sun when one is practiced at it at their location.
The sun's declination (that's sort of like what latitude the sun is at). Is different throughout the year. Spring and Summer the sun is travelling on the close side of the equator during the day, and during Autumn and Winter the sun travels the far side of the equator.
This also is a position. Bees in the far north recognize that winter comes sooner than bees in Georgia. They prepare appropriately the same way bees in Georgia prepare at the right time, and not too soon. I believe they do this by the position of the sun as it travels across the sky.
Speaking strictly in terms of weather, winter begins when the sun stays below a certain latitude at noon. The bees see that the sun is going away for a while and its going to get cold.
I know this is bee related, BUT there is a movie tha demonstrates what the sun looks like as its travelling across the sky over the years. Time Machine, the new remake of just a couple of years ago demonstrates how the sun might look to a super organism over the period of a year or more. When the time machine begins to travel through to the future the sun starts to look like a cool band of light that moves across the sky from north to south and back again.
I think the bees see something like this, though obviously not as graphical as the movie makes it out to be, but I think the bees recognize the location of the sun in the same manner.
Scot Mc Pherson
"Linux is a Journey, not a Guided Tour" ~ Me
"Do or not do, there is no try" ~ Master Yoda
>>do they have to relearn what areas to forage or is the direction of the area or areas somehow ingrained in them through the hive genes that they alredy know exactly where to go
>>will the bees of this spring go to the same foraging areas that the bees of last spring did or do they just find their own spots?
I doubt it. Every bee that comes of foraging age, takes orientation flights. That is how they learn their surroundings to be able to get back to the hive. Nectar and pollen sources change throughout the season, so having these sources ingrained into them would not make any sence.
Bees going into winter, are young bees and probably never ventured outside of the hive before winter preperations. Those bees that make it to spring, will be orientating for the first time.