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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Albuquerque, New Mexico
    Posts
    192

    Default Why so many orientation flights suddenly?

    Looking at one of my hives, there were lots of orientation flights going on yesterday. The other hive was relatively quiet. Why?

    Let me give some details. The busy hive holds a swarm that I captured 9 days ago. It is a TBH. They have been building comb like crazy, but there is obviously no brood hatching yet. It is equally obvious that since this is a captured swarm, all the bees have been out flying at least once. The second TBH has a swarm that has been hived for just 4 days.

    I have a few sort of related theories. One is that the bees feel like they have built enough comb to meet their immediate needs and now they need to fill those combs with honey and pollen, so they are switching from comb building to foraging.

    The second theory is that brood is capped, and there is less work for the bees to do inside the hive, so they are foraging.

    The third theory is that the big honey flow is over from the fruit trees and they need more foragers to provide food for the colony.

    My favorite theory is the first one. The second theory seems unlikely because there should be just as much brood to cap tomorrow as there was today and yesterday. The third theory is OK, although I though the main honey flow continued well into May usually?

    Anybody have any other ideas or can you tell me if any of my theories are correct?

    Ted

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Atlanta, GA
    Posts
    25

    Default Re: Why so many orientation flights suddenly?

    From what I understand, foragers produce a pheromone that must be present up to a certain level in the hive, otherwise those that might not be of age yet are "encouraged" to take orientation flights and begin foraging. I think that's why people describe seeing "bee classes" where all of a sudden a bunch of new orientation flights happen all at once. Once the forager pheromone falls below a certain threshold in the hive (which I imagine is common the first few days or weeks in newly hived swarms or packages), most likely an entire subset of the population notices and a switch is flipped in their little bodies for them to start on their orientation flights.

    I have a hunch that this pheromone threshold might change depending on whether or not enough comb is built, whether or not eggs are laid, and whether or not larvae are present to devour any pollen that comes in, which fits well with your theory #1.

    I just recently learned about the forager pheromone, and think it's a pretty darned cool way for the hive to know whether or not it has enough foragers.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Albuquerque, New Mexico
    Posts
    192

    Default Re: Why so many orientation flights suddenly?

    Very interesting, and it makes sense.

    Ted

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