Wild bees, distance from bait per minute round trip. [Archive] - Beesource Beekeeping Forums

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12-29-2015, 12:44 PM
I'll tell you what I've got going on, I've got a wild or feral bee hive working my bait box. I've got a very good course on the bees, they're leaving the bait at a bearing 260*. I marked a bee, from the time it leaves my bait, unloads and shows up at my bait again, it's almost exactly 8 minutes.

Without moving my bait closer to the hive, or trying to get a second angle, I'm just curious as to the range of the hive.

I have a fairly good idea of where the hive is located, because of the terrain. But I'd rather just be able to find the hive, sitting here at the computer using Google Earth.

Does anyone have a breakdown as far as feet per minute or yards per minute? Or any guideline of distance per minute round trip?

I first started this little project back in November, all together I have 3 different hives working my bait. I've pretty much put bee hunting on hold until warmer weather.

jim lyon
12-29-2015, 12:56 PM
A honeybee can fly roughly 15 mph or a mile in 4 minutes. So its a pretty safe bet that its within a mile, of course the unknown would be how long they spend unloading. I'm not convinced, though, that a beeline is truly a straight line as I think they do some orientation along the way.

Michael Bush
12-29-2015, 01:01 PM

According to Wenner"

"Marking and Timing Bees – Once round trips have become routine for a few bees, individuals must be distinguished from one another to obtain round trip times. Water foragers often settle on the same spot each time they return for a load, permitting timing of flights without a need to mark individuals. After several trips, foragers visiting sugar solution or diluted honey can be marked with paint (model airplane enamel, in our case), colored dust (as Columella used), or even cooking lime (as used by Mexican cowboys: C. H. Muller, personal communication). That is because nectar foragers may alight anywhere at a dish where there is room. If one anaesthetizes foragers, numbered disks or Christmas-tree tinsel can be glued in place.

"With foragers now recognizable as individuals, the time of arrival of each marked bee is tallied (one needs no more than 10 round trips per bee), while recording at the same time the homeward bearing of marked individuals. One normally needs at least three (but no more than six) bees coming from each colony to counter error due to between-bee variation. The third or fourth shortest time for each bee (rather than the mean or median time) provides a usable estimate of round trip time (Figure 1). The median time for several such estimates usually fit our formula closely (see below), but times were shorter than normal for the Frazer Point colony due to exceptionally light winds all day (see Wenner 1963.)

"Interpreting Round Trip Time Data – Earlier accounts ranged from vague statements about colony distance (e.g. Edgell 1949:20) to more specific flight time equivalents (e.g. Donovan 1980:85). Such accounts are not particularly helpful; during field work we use a simple formula: x = 150y – 500 (straight line in Figure 1). That is, to estimate distance (x = meters or yards) to each colony, we multiply complete round trip time (y = time between arrivals) by 150 and subtract 500 from the result. (The constant value of 500 represents the time spent filling at the station and unloading in the colony – see Wenner 1963). Error can be considerable, because several bees (marked and unmarked) can be landing and departing each minute, markings are not always clearly distinguishable, some individual foragers are not consistent, wind (as well as uphill or downwind flight paths) alters time, and foragers from more than one colony can be traveling to the feeding station."

12-29-2015, 02:55 PM
The old time bee hunters from this area has some kind of formula.

Would it be safe to assume, that it'd take a bee an equal amount of time to "load" and unload?

The bait that I was using was just water and honey, probably mixed 4:1 give or take. I didn't measure anything, I'd just pour out a dab and add water.

The report above is a little bit different than what I was timing.

I marked one bee, and started the clock when I noticed it missing from the bait, and stopped the clock, when it returned.

I didn't allow for the "loading" process in my time.

With my calculations, I allowed 2 minutes to unload, and 3 minutes to unload; and at a speed of 15 MPH and 20 MPH. And all combinations.

I'd assume there is a difference in "flight speed" of a loaded bee vs an "empty" bee. And I'm sure there would be adjustments for elevation changes, head or tail winds, etc.

Of the 3 hives that were working my bait (back in November), I know the location of one hive, it's at a range of 965 yards, but I don't have a flight time for that hive. Once it warms up, if I can get a flight time for that hive, that will give us something to work with. The 3rd hive, it's even closer.

12-29-2015, 07:31 PM
Dr Tom Seeley has a new book explaining how to trap, paint, follow- find, paint, and locate

12-29-2015, 08:14 PM
Not sure?, I found my first wild bee tree, give or take about 35 years ago.

Give me a nice warm, calm day, 4 or 5 hours and I could probably find the other 2 hives, that were working my bait box back in November.

But I'm trying to come up with a very close estimate of the range/distance from the hive to my bait, minute by minute.

I understand that under different conditions, it's not going to be exactly that same. But if a feller could come within, say 100 or 150 yards of the range, that would make things a lot easier.

01-24-2016, 02:24 PM
HI Guys

The timing has been extensively studied and a working formula developed. The study was done when researchers needed a fast way to locate feral colonies on Channel Islands.

Unfortuantely, I don't have the study. But I do have the formula in my notes:


use anise scented 2:1 sugar syrup in a cellulose sponge.
need at least 3 bees.
bees forage farther upwind than downwind.
use 3rd or 4th shortest time for each bee out of 10 trips.


x=distance in meters
y=3rd or 4th shortest time

Mass conversion option:

net 25 foragers
put in dark coffee can with sponge
leave bees in can at least 4 minutes

I've used. It works great!


01-24-2016, 02:34 PM
Hi Guys

Found the study, It's here on BeeSource:


01-25-2016, 09:47 AM
I'm open feeding Pro Bee right now and you can see the bees coming and going out to 35 yards. They are almost white when they roll the protein mix, I'm sure during this time of year a pollen sub would work great for bee tree tracking.

01-25-2016, 02:53 PM
http://i36.photobucket.com/albums/e16/reddsnow/098_zpsfevcsika.jpg (http://s36.photobucket.com/user/reddsnow/media/098_zpsfevcsika.jpg.html)

It'll be hard to find in this picture, but up near the top, you'll notice one bee with a white spot on it's butt. That's the bee I was timing. It's hive is 8 minutes from here. 1,000 yards puts it down near the river. If it's inside 1,000 yards, it's probably in someone's attic.

01-25-2016, 03:06 PM
My neighbor is a full blood Cherokee in his 80s who grew up in Missouri. When i first brought bees to my property he came over and told me stories of how he and his brothers used to track bees from flowers back to their hive when he was a kid -- of course, back then, when they found a feral hive they would destroy it to get the honey. Very fascinating, but i could not follow his explanation. He was an engineer at the Idaho National Laboratory, but when he talks of his childhood he still says it was "Old Indian Tricks."

Thanks BWrangler for posting the formulas and study.

01-25-2016, 03:54 PM
This was years ago, but my Dad and his cousin Don would take my brother and I out bee hunting. We found 7 wild hives one year.

But the way we'd do it, we'd find a good spot, where you can see, catch all the bees in sight and get them started on our bait. I remember Don, (which he had several hives at the time), he'd take a piece of old comb and burn it with a propane torch, get it smoking like heck. The smell does linger.

But we'd catch bees, put them on the bait and wait for them to really start working the bait box. An old cigar box, with diluted honey on a piece of old comb, or a sponge. In my picture above, that's just a slice of bread, soaked with sweet water.

We'd get a bearing on the bee's course, move closer and try to get another angle. I did carry a compass.

Wish I could remember, but Don and my Granddad had some kind of formula. Once you move the bee bait, with a load of bees, they had it down to yards per minute, when the first of the bees came back. It wasn't exact, but darn sure would put you in the ballpark.

Talking to some of the older folks around, the one guy told me that every family would need at least one bee tree for the winter. But that was years ago. But it's still fun, just to track them down. Talking to the younger folks, they don't have a clue about what's going on with bees.

01-28-2016, 08:04 PM
Hi Redsnow

A good first approximation, using the formula, is 1200 yards. Looks like it's in the River! I'd time the bee a few more times and refine the calculation.

Finding is the fun first step.

But after finding comes the hard part. And it's just a question. Should you take them or just let them bee?

01-28-2016, 08:35 PM
I'll tell you, after reading about all of the tame hives lost to mites, I'm not sure if they'll survive the winter. I hope that they do. I know the folks that own the property down near the river, but it's just too cold now to mess with them. Not positive, but it seems below 55*, that's pretty much the breaking-point for bee activity. It was 13* here this morning. And still have a foot of snow on the ground.

I'd just like to find them, and get a good flight time. Once I do, I'll carve my initials on the tree and walk away!

01-29-2016, 09:58 AM
Hi Redsnow

> I'd just like to find them, and get a good flight time. Once I do, I'll carve my initials on the tree and walk away!


Sometimes, if they're not a nuisance, a feral hive, and especially the cavity it lives in, is a rare and valuable thing. And, if a guy already has bees, it's just so much easier to make a split than it is to get bees out of a tree.

I really enjoy the hunt. And I really enjoy watching a feral hive. So, when I find them, I leave them.

01-31-2016, 08:05 AM
Seems a nice way to spend an afternoon. I have a large park nearby. I should try this to see if there are some bees in the park. I suspect I would find all the beekeepers in proximity to it.

02-01-2016, 05:00 PM
Well, it's like I've told lots of folks, 30+ years ago we didn't have the www or cell phones or 150 channels on TV. On weekends or days off, we'd go out and do something.

But the one hive I was tracking last fall, the "black bees", their course was at 260*. I only marked one bee, and I never timed how long it stayed on my bait, I'd start the clock when I noticed that it was gone, and stopped the clock when I noticed it back on bait. So I kind of shortened the range, by not allowing for it's loading time.

It's hard to watch one single bee on bait, and try to follow it around, over and under the other bees.

You see, I was doing this while at work, my bait was in a parking lot 50 yards from the back door. I'd check on them when I'd get a chance. But I showed one older man what I had going on, he watched them coming and going for a little bit, I showed him the 3 different courses that I had, 3 different hives. From where my bait was located, we could see the tops of the trees down at the river, and I'll quote Wayne: "They're probably down at the river." A 1,000 yards puts them on the island, between the 2 prongs of the river.

Wayne is the man that told me, "every family needed a bee tree for the winter."

Now the "pretty yellow" bees that I have a course on, headed off to the North-East, those belong to a local dentist. I didn't know that he had bees, but straight line, his hives are at a range of 965 yards. Last time I talked to Doc, he invited me up to help tend the hives as soon as it warms up. He just has 2 hives.

I moved my bait about 200 yards South, and got a course on the 3rd hive. So many obstacles here in town, I have a course for them, and they must be fairly close. We had some cold/rainy/windy days, and I put bee hunting on hold until warmer weather. I don't remember exactly, but when I turned the bees loose the last time, it was only 3 or 4 minutes until the first bee came back to my bait.

But it is interesting. We'll have some warm spring weather before long, if I can get them working my bait again, I expect them to work it hard.

02-02-2016, 07:22 PM
Lining Wild Bees

The Bee Keepers Review Volumes 11-12 1899 september


Joe Waggle

CW Finnerty
02-21-2016, 12:23 PM

x=distance in meters
y=3rd or 4th shortest time

Question, should the time be in minutes, seconds, or hours?

02-21-2016, 01:48 PM
Question, should the time be in minutes, seconds, or hours?
For the empirical formula x=150y-500

That is in minutes. Bees fly about 15 mph (or 7.5 mph roundl trip). 6 MPH == 160 meters per minute. So the formula is anticipating a bee averaging about 5.9 MPH on a round trip with an approximate three minute discount for foraging and transfer.