Scouting Behavior
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Richmond, VA, USA
    Posts
    396

    Default Scouting Behavior

    I have a trap up that has been getting moderately scouted for the last few days. I am able to look at the trap everyday around noon. I hadn't seen any scouts whatsoever for almost 4 weeks. Then last Friday (6/15) there were 2-7 bees in the entrance, and around the trap. The situation was the same in the afternoon. I don't know what activity there was over the weekend, but yesterday there were 10-20 bees in and around the trap. I thought there was a good chance to find a swarm in the box this morning, but I only saw one bee.

    I have a wax lure inside the box, and a baggie with several drops of SC and LGO on the outside of the trap. My question is, do bees ever scout a location for fun? Are these bees just curious passers-by, or does moderate/heavy scouting always indicate a swarm is seriously considering moving in? Are they put off by the strong lure on the outside of the box?

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Dane County, WI, USA
    Posts
    3,887

    Default Re: Scouting Behavior

    I don't think bees do anything for fun (well, maybe youngsters at home play about some).

    Scouting far and wide is not for fun.
    It is outright dangerous and expensive and exhaustive work and not much fun.

    Before I scored my first (and only so far) swarm for 2018 season, there were two instances of heavy scouting against the same backyard porch trap.
    The first one was so heavy, I was very, very sure the swarm was coming.
    Talking close to a hundred of bees sniffing the trap. Felt very serious intent.
    Then sharp cut-off and almost nothing for few days.
    It felt as if a beekeeper someplace caught the swarming build-up and took some drastic measures.
    Or maybe they chose a different spot and went there.

    Then 1-2 weeks of relatively low scouting (3-4 bees scavenging for propolis and such; likely my own bees from a nearby colony).
    Then another build-up - 10-20 bees at a time running in and out.
    Then more bees for about 2-3 days.
    Then they landed late Sunday morning (perfect day for swarming - hot and humid).

    Right now, I have pretty solid scouting at another site, regardless of very cool and rainy weather.
    About 5-10 scouts are patrolling the trap every morning and feel protective of the property somewhat, as I do my entrance experimentation just few feet away.
    Fingers crossed for the weekend swarm show down - the rain is supposed to stop.

    PS: after reading the blogs by "soaringeagle" just here, I do even more external LGO (an external placement; in a zip lock);
    inside my traps are well propolized, used nucs - don't do LGO internally anymore;
    LGO is only needed to help them find the trap; well used box is prime real estate as it is.
    Last edited by GregV; 06-22-2018 at 11:40 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Richmond, VA, USA
    Posts
    396

    Default Re: Scouting Behavior

    Gregv,

    Again, thank you for the insights.

    Most of the swarms I've caught had the following pattern: first, one or two scouts, with increasing numbers throughout the same day, until a certain frenzy is reached. (I've actually looked inside the trap during heavy scouting. There is lots of very excited bees buzzing around). Most of the time the swarm moves in the same day, but I've seen two arrive the following.

    I've read Honeybee Democracy twice to try to understand swarming behavior. I assumed that bees scouting a trap are actually outside their former hive, actively looking for a new location. Barring a deadlock, or bad weather, I assumed they would try to move into the new location the same day, or perhaps the next.

    The location of the swam trap I am speaking of above, has had moderate to intense activity twice this season. About 6 weeks apart. The second time appears to have been pretty steady over four days, with no hit. This is puzzling. I can't figure out if it was an indecisive swarm that moved on, or something else. The more I learn, the more ignorant I am.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Dane County, WI, USA
    Posts
    3,887

    Default Re: Scouting Behavior

    Quote Originally Posted by clong View Post
    Gregv,

    Again, thank you for the insights.

    Most of the swarms I've caught had the following pattern: first, one or two scouts, with increasing numbers throughout the same day, until a certain frenzy is reached. (I've actually looked inside the trap during heavy scouting. There is lots of very excited bees buzzing around). Most of the time the swarm moves in the same day, but I've seen two arrive the following.

    I've read Honeybee Democracy twice to try to understand swarming behavior. I assumed that bees scouting a trap are actually outside their former hive, actively looking for a new location. Barring a deadlock, or bad weather, I assumed they would try to move into the new location the same day, or perhaps the next.

    The location of the swam trap I am speaking of above, has had moderate to intense activity twice this season. About 6 weeks apart. The second time appears to have been pretty steady over four days, with no hit. This is puzzling. I can't figure out if it was an indecisive swarm that moved on, or something else. The more I learn, the more ignorant I am.
    There at least two distinct cases to consider (maybe more):

    1)swarm is only pending and the momentum is building up (but they still have a home) - probably less desperate;
    This swam is still tentative and could even pause/stop the swarming move if the weather is forbidding (just like right now at my place - terrible swarming weather) OR the keeper interferes.

    2)swarm is hanging on a branch - probably pretty desperate for a home and probably will grab anything ASAP if they find it.

    I observed both.

    Here is one I caught a couple years ago (a tiny swarm who decided to settle directly on some apple tree).
    It is likely they hanged on a branch for 2-3 days without finding a home or maybe weather was poor - I was on vacation out of town; unsure of the weather.
    Surely, they have been scouting; surely, they were desperate for a few days before they gave up and they settled in the open.
    20160806_123137.jpg

    Here is another desperate swarm.
    Also hanging on a branch into their second day under cold rain in late August.
    Also desperate and starting to build some wax as the weather just hammered at them.
    These guys would grab anything as soon as they could.
    DSCN8885.jpg

    Last year, I came home from a vacation, walked around the yard and found flakes of wax on my own apple tree branch.
    So, a swarm was hanging while no one was around (very likely my own crowed nuc swarmed away).
    That would be a pretty desperate scouting there before they left.

    Another nuc I had also became too crowded and they actually built combs on the outside.
    End of August, but they finally decided to start the swarming proceedings and started scouting my own traps nearby.
    I was hoping to give them a bigger hive, but had no time build one.
    In the end, split them temporarily (so to combine back later).
    So these guys were doing some exploring but not too desperate as they still had home (though about half the bees lived directly on the front wall of the nuc box; was quite a show).

    Now, these bees could be scouting someone else's trap too, and the guy could be in high hopes and crossing his fingers day and night....
    And then, the keeper (me) decided to split them and the swarm was call off. Too bad for that guy with the empty trap.

    So anyway, these are just speculations, but you can see where there bees are coming from and what kinds of scouting you may observe on the trap side.
    Maybe a desperate swarm found your trap - lucky for you and this should be a quick one.
    Maybe just "thinking about it" type swarm - cross your fingers, be patent and hope for the best.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Portland, Oregon
    Posts
    134

    Default Re: Scouting Behavior


  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    Bay, Florida, USA
    Posts
    85

    Default Re: Scouting Behavior

    Most likely they found a location that suits them better. Other scout bees returning to the hive probably gave a stronger waggle dance for another location so activity fell off at your location and increased at another.

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