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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
If the queen can lay up to 1,500 eggs a day, (according to Beekeeping for Dummies), why don't we see 1,500 bees each day making their orientation flights? Occasionally it seems like there might be that many, but most days only a few and some days seems like none at all. I realize she may need a break now and then, but it still seems like it should happen on a daily basis. Also, do drones do orientation flights? I would think so, but I have never noticed them.
 

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Well, first, the number 1500 isn't set in stone. Some queens will lay more, other (and I suspect more) will lay less.

Second, orientation flights happen all day long - they just peak around 2-4pm (at least in my area). So who is to say that there aren't some 1000+ orienting each day?

Third, orientation happens as house bees are recruited for foraging duties, based upon their age. But, job assignments in the hive are not rigidly set either. I think it was Larry Conner who wrote an article in one of the recent ABJ's regarding the mechanisms for honeybees to actually revert to previous jobs (that are normally below their age class).

Fundamentally, if the hive has greater needs elsewhere (cooling/evaporating, feeding brood, ferrying nectar to cells, etc.) or otherwise has enough foragers, then fewer foragers recruit to that task.

However, I would bet that if you were able to count the total number of bees recruited to orientation flights over say maybe a week, I bet that number would be pretty high.

I think that drones do orientation flights - I have seen them around the fronts of my hives doing them.
 

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I see orientation flights everyday. They are a little hard to notice with so much going on in front of the hive. I stand off to the side and watch. The foragers come and go with great purpose. Straight in or straight out but there are always a few just hanging out in front or above and then go back in. Every three weeks or so there's an explosion with hundreds of bees in the air which I'm imagining coincides with the point a few months back when the hive got up to full strength.
I notice your in Parker Colorado. I lived in Elbert County for 30 years. If you've had a bit of moisture you should actually have a pretty strong flow with asters, sticky weed and liatris.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
NDnewbeek, that's very interesting about bees reverting back to previous jobs sometimes. I never knew that. (I've learned so much here that's not in any of the books I've read!)

Growing Boy, I'm actually in Elbert County too, I just have a Parker address. Did you have bees when you lived here? I'm guessing so since you know about the bloom times. Is it ok if I PM you some questions about this area?
 

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I just spotted my first for-sure orientation flight today and it was kind of neat. I only focused on the one bee, so I'm not sure how many others were going at the same time, but it was fun to finally spot it. I'd imagine there isn't room for 1K+ bees to all do their flights at the same time, along with the explanations above. The seem to need to see the front of the hive, from a set height range, so that probably limits how many can be out at once.
 

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I was just listening to an old Professor and 35 year beekeeper saying that he'd consider 1200 eggs a day a good Queen. We also have to take into consideration that at different times the hive needs different things to be done and may not need as many foragers.Right now with it at 100 degrees my girls are hauling water from sun up to sun down. They get out at first light and haul pollen and do their washboarding thing til about 1 or 2 then activity slows to a crawl and most go back into the hive. It makes inspections a crap shoot. Do I want to deal with a thousand bees on the outside of the hive or a thousand more inside. Finally came to the conclusion I'd rather have them inside so I can at least keep an eye on them.:D
Oh, it's quite the thrill when you have a full graduating class. Is it robbing! Is it swarming! Nawh. The girls are just growing up.
 

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Lol...I've noticed the drones are a little...slow sometimes. The girls will be darting in and out, in and out, and I'll see a drone wander up and down the front of the hive for 5 minutes, checking the handles and the knots and all, looking for the way in.

Or when I have an entrance reducer on, the drones are the ones that stop and decide to clean their antennae in the sunshine, blocking the way for EVERYONE and causing a traffic jam.

Just go out and stand behind your hive, close your eyes, and listen. The drones are the ones that make you want to duck--they have a more distinctive sound--louder and deeper. I always think its a hornet.

Oh, and my girls have an orientation flight every day at 5:30, just after the sun sinks behind the nearby trees. It lasts about half an hour.
 

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The two hives in my yard are very poilte on their o flights. One hive goes off every day about 3:30 for a half hour or so, and once they're 90 per cent back in the other starts up (at least that way it works when I'm not at work;)). It would be a sight to have them both go off together. I wonder how many days of o flights a new forager bee takes, or if it's just one, done, and off to the fields.

Tara, it's funny you mention the sound a drone makes, I find the same thing, much deeper, easy to recognize when you know what to listen for.
 

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Growing Boy, I'm actually in Elbert County too, I just have a Parker address. Did you have bees when you lived here? I'm guessing so since you know about the bloom times. Is it ok if I PM you some questions about this area?
Of course you can PM me. Actually I had a Native Plant Nursery and Wildflower seed business north of Kiowa. A close friend (former Mayor of Elizabeth and Elbert county Commissioner) kept a half dozen hives out there seeing as though it was in the middle of 300 acres of alfalfa and prickly pear. I learned a lot from him. He also kept a few hives in his backyard on Main Street in Elizabeth culminating in the infamous "Elizabeth Town Council Plans to Outlaw Insects" episode that had Colorado amused for about a month many years ago.
Sorry guys and gals.:eek:t:
 

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A queen can lay up to 1500 (or whatever) eggs a day IF - she has room to lay, AND there is enough workforce available to provide and care for them. If comb is already full of brood or stores she can't lay until either brood hatches, stores are used/moved or new comb is built. That's one reason why drawn comb is so valuable - so you can give her room to lay.

So the size of orientation flights is highly variable even with a good queen.
 

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I wonder if general hive health can be guessed from how many "large" orientation flights one sees per week. For example, I have a hive that I am kinda keeping an eye on because I'm worried about the queen. I see 3 to 4 orientation flights per week with a cloud of maybe 2 hundred or so bees each time. I dunno if that's large or not....
 

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Seems to me there are a number of variables first and foremost of which has got to be nectar availability. The last couple months I've seen enormous orientation flights. The last few weeks not so much. The queen slows down laying when a dearth is perceived. No point in producing more hungry mouths to feed when there is little or nothing out there to gather. I put a super on top of the deep and medium that make up the brood chamber a month ago and even though the comb is drawn out not a single cell is filled which makes sense seeing as though we are in our mid-summer dearth. They are still bringing in lots of pollen. We get a flow usually in a few weeks so I'll keep and eye on them. If that doesn't pan out I'm going to have to feed.
The weather plays such a huge role. We are 20 inches shy of our normal rainfall here. It's stressing out everything.
 

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Is it possible for all four of my hives to be having an orientation flight at the same time? It looks like orientation; just hovering around the front of the hive; some sitting on the hive. . .but it's all four hives at once! Very noisy and impressive, I must say.

The only disconcerting thing is that right by the entrance gate to the apiary, there are about 6 or 8 bees on the ground with apparent deformed wing virus! I haven't had much trouble with varroa these past years--3 to 5 mites on a 48 hr sticky board count--but it looks like I'd better do some FGMO fogging again. I've been neglecting the varroa aspect because of the shb problem! I guess I'll have to juggle the two of them.
 

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Completely possible for many hives to orient at the same time. It seems to be partly weather dependent - so sometimes when the conditions are right they all go at the same time.
 

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That's probably it. We had some really heavy rains last night into this morning, then it got cloudy and sun didn't come out until about the same time the bees did! Thanks for thinking of it.
 

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My two hives do orientation flighst at roughly 2-3.30pm every day.. if it's warm enough to fly.

If not, then the first warm day sees about 500-1,000 bees in front of each hive - hovering. Quite a spectacle.
 
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