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Thread: Honeybee Swarms

  1. #41
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    Keith, beehave yourself....
    (btw, do you think Aaron Morris believes in the dance language?)

  2. #42
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    To Murphy,

    Very lovely quote from Yeats! This alone was worth staying in this forum.

    To BUckbee,

    Thanks again for cathing the mess in my first post on honeybee swarms. I have had to correct and re-mail the message to at least 3 other spots. Done already.

  3. #43
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    To Kieck,

    You said you know that honeybees produce sounds that are probably not like queen piping. Now you expect me to explain why the sound dancing foragers produce during the waggle-run is not called piping?

    The pulsed sound emitted during the waggle-run is probably produced by the wing-vibrations. The wings can never produce a piping sound.

    Tree-bark look very different than the wood inside a cavity in the trunk of a tree. It also probably has very different odors, for which nest-scouts have never developed an attraction, because the scouts never lived out in the open on the trunk of any tree. All strains of Apis mellifera nest only in dark cavities.

    I don't know anything about water-meter pits, or what's in them. The water-meters I know are always covered by a (I think), a bottomless metal box. And I have never heard of any honeybee swarms settling into them.

    On very rare occasions you pose a pertinent, but very difficult question. I am very skeptical that nest-scouts choose a cavity to fit the size of the swarm,. I do not believe they have the "brains" needed to understand such a concept as swarm-size. Besides, a swarm could very easily use a far larger cavity than initially needed, because it is quite capable of gradually increasing manyfold in size. When the colony outgrows the size of the cavity it inhabits, the colony start raising new queens, and sending out swarms. (Seasonal availability of food is undoubtedly a major cause for increase in colony-size, but other factors may also play a role in swarming.)

    Going back to nests, there is no doubt that attractive odors alone do not determine where a swarm will settle, and other factors, never properly studied (because they may constitute very complex combinations), also play a role here. Honeybee nest-scouts will not inspect a source of attractive odors, unless the source of the odors lead to a small entrance, which, in turn, leads to a dark cavity. These are the minimal conditions that the scouts had learned to associate with a nest. A very small cavity might not even produce attractive odors in a concentration high enough to attract the scouts. Or the scouts would leave very fast, because there is too much light inside, since a very small cavity means that every spot inside is very close to the entrance. Or the temperature inside the cavity may not be acceptable to the scouts, due to air-drafts from other holes that lead to the cavity. (Even if the cavity has only one small entrance hole, the size and shape of the cavity itself, may affect the temperature inside, because they affect the rate of exchange of the air inside, with air from the outside.)

  4. #44
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    It's common in AHB areas for bees to nest in water/gas meters. They range in size from about a loaf of bread to about a cubic yard. There is a little hole on top that ranges from a little smaller than the size of hole you can make touching your thumb to your index finger to somewhat larger. That hole is used for the meter reader to open the box.

  5. #45
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    Hi All,

    For a considerable amount of information on all phases of honeybee-swarming, go to:

    BeeSource.com | POV | Dr. Adrian M. Wenner 1993 14. SWARM MOVEMENT: A MYSTERY EXPLAINED. Am. Bee J. 132:27-31. Jan. 1992 (Wenner).

    In that article Wenner describes, among others, the well-known exposure of scouts' Nasanov-glands after the swarm had reached the new nest-site. He also notes that the scouts may expose those glands while guiding the swarm in flight. But, there is no mention of actual observations, which would be very difficult, if not impossible to make.

    I deliberately rechecked this article, because I remembered that it contained some quite interesting, specific evidence against the DL hypothesis, as far as the dances of nest-scouts are concerned. Wenner reports he actually observed nest-scouts dancing after the swarm had already reached the new nest-site. Such dances are obviously quite useless in communicating to any swarm-mates the location of the new nest-site, after the scouts, and all the rest of the swarm, had already arrived there.

  6. #46
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    Hi All,

    It is worthwhile noting that in his ABJ 1992) about honeybee swarms, Wenner also notes that:

    1. Nest scouts crawl inside the cavity they found, presumably (according to Seeley) measuring the size of the cavity. He also notes that scouts can sometimes be observed crawling around the entrance-hole to the cavity, presumably measuring the size of the entrance. I had already noted earlier that there is no evidence, and therefore no reason to believe that honeybees can count at all; which, in turn, means that there is no reason to believe that they can measure anything that requires using an arbitrary measuring unit. I also noted that, factors which make a cavity of one size more attractive to nest-scouts than a cavity of a different size, may be factors only indirectly related to actual size.

    2. When the swarm moves in what appears to be a direct flight to the new nest-site, the scouts often fly ahead of the swarm, and then back to the swarm.

    3. Even when the swarm as a whole appears to be flying a direct rout, individual swarm-mates can be seen moving in circles; which suffices to exclude the possibility that they are affected by any distance & direction information from any scout-dances they might have attended earlier. He points out that it is difficult to seriously consider the possibility that honeybees can transcribe distance & direction information from dances, while flying in circles.

    A closely related problem also plagues the claims of the authors of the radar-tracking study (in Nature, of May 12, , that their radar-tracked bees used distance & direction information from foragers'-dances. The radar-tracked bees did not fly in circles, but (as the radar-tracks clearly showed), more often than not, they flew visibly jagged, rather than straight routes.

    The authors concluded that the straight line which connect the start-point and end-point of each such route (but not the routes actually flown), fit the distance & direction information in the dances well enough. This is why the authors state that the bees flew the expected distance & direction "on the vector", i.e. as determined by the straight line (start to finish), but not by the actual flight-route.

    This requires the bees to be able to transcribe the distance & direction information while flying an indirect route, i.e. integrating the different legs of the trip. This, in turn, requires honeybees to perform very complex mathematical calculation, without any evidence that they can do anything like that at all.

    There are, thus, basic problems with the claims made by the authors of that study, starting with the radar-tracked flight-routes which, more often than not, did not even fit any expected direct route based on use of the distance & direction information contained in the dances attended.

    I have nothing more to say about honeybee swarms, and will, therefore, unsubscribe.

  7. #47
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    >"often resulting from a lighting-strike, have the odors of "wounded" wood."

    In my high school and college years I spent a lot of time working for an arborist doing repair on damaged trees. Rarely did I ever see a lightning strike cause a cavity that a bee would find attractive. Most cavities are caused by infectous agents of some kind or another. Is it possible that bees are attracted to the smell of decaying wood?

    Different woods smell very differently when physically wounded. I have my doubts that damaged wood itself is part of the equation. Has anyone ever seen bees hanging around a freshly sawn wood pile?
    Linux - World domination through world cooperation

  8. #48
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    I've seen them collect sawdust from a freshly sawn woodpile.

    Hawk
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  9. #49
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    Hi All,

    First, I need to enter a CORRECTION: I reported that a loud buzzing can be heard from inside the hive hours before a swarm emerges. I thought I might have been wrong, in mentioning only hours, and Wenner's article about swarms confirmed for me that I had, indeed, erred. The loud buzzing sound starts several DAYS before the swarm emerges; which would give beekeepers plenty of time to address the situation, if they were only aware of the buzzing. This is why someone suggested arranging a system of microphones to be attached to hives, in order to alert beekeepers at home.

    Second, to Hillside:

    Your information is quite interesting. I stated that in nature honeybees usually nest in cavities in the trunks of trees in the woods; which is quite correct. I also stated that such cavities are often caused by a lightning-strike. On this point, however, I simply relied on general information scattered in the literature.

    The truth of the matter is that no one has ever attempted to study what odors attract nest-scouts to cavities. I thought of odors of wood-resins, which are always found in the bees' home-nest, because they always use propolis, that is actually wood-resin. I even checked the literature, years ago, and found out that resins from different types of wood share various chemical components, and concluded that they could, therefore, also easily share odors. I am not an expert on wood, and I am not even sure whether all tree-species produce resins. Maybe they do, but some species produce resins in much larger quantities, and when honeybees need propolis they gather it primarily from such trees. But, where would you find anything like wood-resins in boxes of water-meters, and gas-meters? Maybe different kinds of odors become associated for nest-scouts with the home-nest, and any components from the whole combination would suffice to attract the scouts?

    In the study by Beekman et al. the authors used small hive-boxes with a swarm-lure made primarily from the major components of Nasanov-gland odors. And swarm-lures can be bought commercially.

    However, there is no doubt in my mind that odors play an important role in attracting nest-scouts to prospective nest-sites. In fact, there is no doubt in my mind that nest-scouts dance in the swarm only because swarm-mates chase after them, being attracted by the odors the scouts carry on their bodies. Now, where in nature would nest-scouts find a cavity with Nasanov-gland odors, unless it is a cavity that had been previously occupied by a honeybee-colony? And I'm sure that swarms often move into cavities never occupied by honeybees before. I have also, never seen any indication that the first nest-scouts that finds a cavity exposes its own Nasanov-glands there, before leaving.

    Third, to Robert Hawkins:

    Your observation is also pretty interesting. But, perhaps the bees you saw gathering sawdust gathered it as a source of resins for propolis?

    Discovering what odors attract nest-scouts in nature could help produce more efficient swarm-lures. Wenner believes, however, that this would be very difficult to discover.

  10. #50
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    A neighbor (now retired) where I was raised in upstate New York supplements his social security by cutting and selling firewood. When my father had bees the neighbor reported that on warm spring days bees could readily be seen crawling over the sawdust. Some think bees confuse sawdust for pollen, but I'm inclined to think they're drawn to the sawdust more for it's starch content.

  11. #51
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    Regards, Barry

  12. #52
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    To Ruth:

    I appreciate your response! Honestly, I'm not trying to ask questions to poke holes in your hypotheses, but rather trying to see if these ideas "hold water," so to speak.

    I'm still curious about a couple things, as well as wanting to offer a few clarifications/corrections.

    "The pulsed sound emitted during the waggle-run is probably produced by the wing-vibrations. The wings can never produce a piping sound." -Ruth Rosin

    I said the two sounds (the sound produced during the waggle-run and queen piping) might be different, but I wasn't and am not sure how they differ practically. Are they different pitches? Are they different intensities? You said the pulsed sound produced during the waggle-run is probably produced by wing vibrations (and I would imagine it is), so is "queen piping" produced through a different mechanism? How do queens produce the sounds that we call "piping?"

    "All strains of Apis mellifera nest only in dark cavities." -Ruth Rosin

    Nope. This one I have to disagree with. I'm surprised no one else took exception to this before I have. I have seen numerous photos of large sections of comb hanging from exposed tree branches or under eaves of houses. For a few examples, look at some of the photos on this link:

    http://www.owensapiaries.net/removals.htm

    As far as the water-meter pits are concerned, I'm afraid I've been using some jargon. Around here, "meter pits" include the shut-off valve, the water meter assembly, and a pressure-reducing valve, all set well below the surface of the ground in a cylinder with a metal cover (a "man hole," but really far too small for a man to fit through). The portion of the meter that a person reads is above ground, but the rest is all in a "pit". If the valves/pipes were too close to the surface of the earth in the winter, the water in the valves/pipes would freeze, and the change in volume would damage or rupture the water lines.

    "2. When the swarm moves in what appears to be a direct flight to the new nest-site, the scouts often fly ahead of the swarm, and then back to the swarm." -Ruth Rosin from a report by Adrian Wenner

    This seems to indicate that the scouts visually lead the swarms to the nest sites, rather than strictly relying on odor gradients.

    I see some problems with the distance components of a dance language, but what about the direction elements? So far, none of the evidence I've read here really rules out the possibility that bees can use the direction component of a "dance" to locate resources indicated by scouts. Presented with a dance, are the recruits significantly more likely to travel in the direction indicated by the dance, perhaps even while moving as a swarm?

  13. #53
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    To Barry,

    The post you copied from Moss, concerns bees attracted to sawdust at the end of winter & early spring, i.e. before the swarming season starts. I strongly suspect that the bees are then attracted to the odors of resins in the sawdust. It is well-known that they gather resins for propolis.

    Moss, however, still takes the stillborn DL hypothesis for granted, and believes that dancers decide when to dance. There is no doubt in my mind that dancers never decide when to dance, and that the dances are, instead, caused by hive-mates, or swarm-maters chasing after bees that carry attractive odors, and by the chased bees trying to escape from those who chase after them.

    If bees dance after visiting wood-chips they were unable to carry, this is undoubtedly due to the odors from the wood-chips that adsorb onto the bees body-hair, and attract hive-mates (who do not know the chips can not be collected), just as those odors attracted the bees that found the chips in the first case.

    The fact that honeybees learn to associate a home nest with the odors of resins, which are always present in a nest, led me to consider the possibility that the odors of wood-resins from cavities in the trunks of trees, or other wooden constructions, may play a role in attracting nest-scouts. Since it has been reported (apparently quite reliably), that honeybees will nest even in the metal boxes of water-meters, and gas-meters (where the odors of wood-resins are not expected to exist), I would, in no way, claim that the odors of wood-resins are the only odors that attract nest-scouts in nature.

  14. #54
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    "First, I need to enter a CORRECTION: I reported that a loud buzzing can be heard from inside the hive hours before a swarm emerges. I thought I might have been wrong, in mentioning only hours, and Wenner's article about swarms confirmed for me that I had, indeed, erred. The loud buzzing sound starts several DAYS before the swarm emerges; which would give beekeepers plenty of time to address the situation, if they were only aware of the buzzing. This is why someone suggested arranging a system of microphones to be attached to hives, in order to alert beekeepers at home."

    Rosinbio:

    Mostly three to four days previous to a swarm being issued from my observation hive the bees start "rehearsing" for the event, the time is mostly around 2 pm and the buzzing is quite loud and even though being hearing impaired I can hear it, the bees run helter skelter and out the entry/exit tube and beard on the window above the opening. Placing your hand upon the glass of the Observation Hive is always an exhilirating experience for me with all the noise and vibration from the bees wings.
    "Younz" have a great day, I will.

  15. #55
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    To Kieck,

    I can't comment about the contradiction between Wenner's claim that nest-scouts often fly ahead of the moving swarm, and , then, back to the swarm, and the belief by Beekman et al. that the scouts fly with the swarm. Beekman et al. believe that the "streakers" that fly with the swarm, mostly in the upper part of the swarm, are scouts, but the authors do not state that unequivocally. And I suspect that they could not even identify marked scouts that presumably flew in the swarm.

    Wenner's claim, however, makes a lot of sense to me, because what he describes is very similar to what is known about foragers in some species of stingless bees, where the foragers guide a small group of recruits, by repeatedly flying ahead of at tiny "swarm" of recruits, and back to the "swarm", apparently guiding the "swarm" by the odors the foragers carry on their body.

    Your idea that scouts guide the swarm only visually to use direction information not from dances, but from the direction in which the scouts apparently fly ahead of the swarm, makes no sense whatsoever. Why? Because the scouts do not differ visually from any other bees in the swarm, and cannot, therefore, attract swarm-maters unless they carry attractive odors. As I had stressed before, honeybees do not dance unless there are other bees who chase after them, as a result of sensing attractive odors; which means that the scouts could never have danced in the swarm, long before the swarm takes off, unless they carried attractive odors from the cavity they had found. Scouts could not attract the swarm without odors, even by repeatedly flying ahead of the swarm, and then back to the swarm, because swarm-mates have no idea they should follow such bees. Honeybees do not have the "brains" needed to know what you know, i.e. that the scouts are flying to the new nest-site they had found. You need to discard all the anthropomorphic ideas on which you rely in your attempts to understand honeybee behavior.

    Bees in a swarm that has not yet found a new nest-site, will often start constructing combs where they land temporarily. Anyone who ever captured a wild swarm temporarily resting on the branch of a tree, knows that he can often find a small comb attached to the branch where the swarm was. A swarm that has not found a new nest-site can not, however, survive outdoors for very long, when inclement weather arrives. As for swarms under the eves of houses, I can not say whether they were attracted by wood-odors, nor whether stayed there because they were unable to find a proper cavity. The site certainly provides them with some protection, but I do not know whether they can survive there indefinitely.

    As far as I know the only honeybees that do not nest in cavities in nature do not belong to the species Apis mellifera. Instead, they belong to other species of the genus Apis, that live in the Far-East. Some of them nest only outdoors, on the branches of trees. I do not remember which species exactly does that. You can check the literature. But I know I have seen photos of trees with many nests even on one and the same branch.

  16. #56
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    To Ruth,

    Did you look at the photos on the link I copied into my earlier post? Some of these "hives" are clearly exposed to the elements (on branches of trees, under eaves but open on all sides, etc.), all (as far as I could tell from the site) were taken in North America, and all were presumably Apis mellifera. From the amount of comb present in some of these situations, these clearly weren't temporary resting places for swarms, but established nests of bees.

    Sure, such situations might not be common, but they clearly do happen.

    I have known for a considerable amount of time that other species of Apis nest in exposed locations. These species also "dance," but oriented horizontally. Much of the "chasing after foragers with particular odors" that you listed as an alternative to a dance language has been hypothesised as possible evolutionary steps for developing such a "language." Apis mellifera and A. cerana are fairly unique in successfully "replacing" the sun's position with gravity, presumably because their comb is built in vertical sheets rather than horizontal sheets.

    I don't know how long some of the exposed hives of A. mellifera can survive in such locations, but the photos show considerable amounts of comb, so the bees were clearly there for a fair amount of time.

  17. #57
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    http://www.beesource.com/cgi-bin/ubb...=000917#000003

    Here's another thread about bees starting hives in exposed locations. Likely very few of these hives survive in northern climates, but some might make it in the southern U.S.

  18. #58
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    Last year I removed three colonys that were outside. One on the ground under bushes, one in a tree, and another very large one that was under an eve on the NW side of the building and had survived for more than two years there. They all looked like the same bugs to me I need to get those pictures uploaded to my site I guess.
    Bullseye Bill in The Scenic Flint Hills , KS
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  19. #59
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    To Kieck,

    It is simply INCORRECT that bees of Apis species that nest in the open always orient their dances horizontally. They are known to dance also on non-horizontal surfaces.

    A. mellifera & cerana, are NOT at all unique in the ability to change from direction in relation to light to direction in relation to gravity. The phenomenon was, in fact, first discovered in a species of beetles. See, among others, v. Frisch's 1967 book.

    Whatever ideas those who believe in the existence of the honeybee DL might have about how the DL could have evolved, do not interest me at all. I have never seen any valid experimental confirmation for the existence of the honeybee DL. Instead, I have seen what I consider more than enough experimental evidence against the existence of the honeybee DL. Conjectures about how the honeybee DL evolved, without any experimental evidence for the existence of such a DL, means "putting the cart before the horses". I adamantly refuse to waste any more time over such conjectures, or over the DL hypothesis. If you still believe that honeybees may have a DL, you worry about it. [admin edit]

    As for swarms of A. mellifera nesting out in the open, I guess it all swarm will find an unoccupied cavity that is appropriate for a nest. The natural environment does not have an almost endless supply of such cavities. Depending on the climate, one cannot rule out the possibility that a swarm that found no cavity in which to nest, and established a nest outdoors, where it stopped to rest, might be able to survive for years.

    [size="1"][ February 22, 2006, 09:10 AM: Message edited by: Admin ][/size]

  20. #60
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    To Kieck,

    I noticed that a portion of the last paragraph in my previous message had been accidentally deleted.

    It should read as follows:

    As for swarms of A. mellifera that nest out in the open, I guess it is quite reasonable to assume that not all swarms will find a cavity appropriate for a nest...

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