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Very busy drones...

 
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johno
Guard Bee


Joined: 08 Jun 2014
Posts: 60
Location: Limerick, Ireland

PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2014 10:53 pm    Post subject: Very busy drones... Reply with quote

I've spent a few hours watching my hives this week. I think there is a flow on because despite having small populations in both hives, there is between 2000 and 3000 visits every hour at each hive. The top bar hive has only one 19mm hole open and bees are actually having trouble getting in and out because it's too busy.

I'm kinda fascinated by the drones. They look comical with their awkward back legs hanging down when they fly and their rolling crash landings on the landing boards. I've noticed that about 15% of the visits to the hives are by drones, they are constantly flying in and out. I can't help wondering why they are so busy. I'm certain there are no other hives within 5 kms of me. I've been working the land here for about 15 years on and off. I never saw a honey bee here until a couple of months ago. I'm an insect nerd, I can id 9 species of bumblebees that I've seen here over the years, so if honey bees were around I think I would have known. Since I've joined the local BKA, the nearest apiary I have heard of is about 13 kms away.

Are the drones frantically looking for a princess to mate with? Does it matter whether there is one in range or not? Why do they keep returning to the hive if finding a princess is their priority?
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stevecook172001
Site Admin


Joined: 19 Jul 2013
Posts: 443
Location: Loftus, Cleveland

PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2014 11:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe they are a part of the "central heating system" of a hive. In cold weather, they are allowed to cluster round the brood to maintain the temperature. However, in warmer weather, they are forced out of the hive temporarily by the workers during the hotter parts of the day in order to bring the hive temperature down a bit. Under such circumstances, they are not outside the hive as a consequence of looking for a virgin queen to mate with and so are only interested in getting back in the hive as soon as possible. Hence, the flying round the hive trying to get back in.

All of the above is the entirely ignorance-driven, wild speculation of a novice bee-keeper, I should emphasise..... Smile
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Dexter's shed
Scout Bee


Joined: 16 May 2014
Posts: 307
Location: Grays, Essex, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2014 12:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd be inclined to add another entrance hole or two, they are easy to seal with corks when not needed, but why make it hard for the bees with only one hole?
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marise
Nurse Bee


Joined: 07 Aug 2011
Posts: 48
Location: market harborough ,leicestershire,England

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2014 6:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am inclined to think that the bees know best , and that the number of drones in any given hive is appropriate for the circumstances within that hive , For too long the Drones have been given a "lazy" label afterall they must be useful for something other than just mating with the virgin queens ,
I like the answer given by Steve , abit like children in the house on a sunny day , always under your feet , kick them out and get them to find something to do !!!
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B kind
Scout Bee


Joined: 13 May 2013
Posts: 250
Location: Co.Wicklow, Ireland

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2014 8:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am a novice but I like Steve's answer too!

Quote:
I never saw a honey bee here until a couple of months ago. I'm an insect nerd, I can id 9 species of bumblebees that I've seen here over the years, so if honey bees were around I think I would have known.


9 Species, that's fantastic! We also spent several years without seeing any honeybees here in the garden, that may be adding to my current obsession with seeing what plants they like most. They have some different preferences to the bumble bees whom I have always planted for.

Kim
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johno
Guard Bee


Joined: 08 Jun 2014
Posts: 60
Location: Limerick, Ireland

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2014 8:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

B kind wrote:
They have some different preferences to the bumble bees whom I have always planted for.

Kim

Aye. I have a lot of comfrey which the bumblebees love, but I don't think the honeybees can reach the nectar in it.
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johno
Guard Bee


Joined: 08 Jun 2014
Posts: 60
Location: Limerick, Ireland

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2014 8:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dexter's shed wrote:
I'd be inclined to add another entrance hole or two, they are easy to seal with corks when not needed, but why make it hard for the bees with only one hole?


Agreed, the second hole was already drilled during construction. I pulled the cork on it about an hour ago.


Last edited by johno on Mon Jun 23, 2014 8:48 am; edited 1 time in total
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johno
Guard Bee


Joined: 08 Jun 2014
Posts: 60
Location: Limerick, Ireland

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2014 8:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

stevecook172001 wrote:
Maybe they are a part of the "central heating system" of a hive. In cold weather, they are allowed to cluster round the brood to maintain the temperature. However, in warmer weather, they are forced out of the hive temporarily by the workers during the hotter parts of the day in order to bring the hive temperature down a bit. Under such circumstances, they are not outside the hive as a consequence of looking for a virgin queen to mate with and so are only interested in getting back in the hive as soon as possible. Hence, the flying round the hive trying to get back in.

All of the above is the entirely ignorance-driven, wild speculation of a novice bee-keeper, I should emphasise..... Smile


Well I did a lot of googling yesterday, after my beewatching and before posting here. It's nice to see that you went to the effort of thinking for yourself instead of repeating the same old tired story about the useless drones. Smile However, I don't think the drones were being ejected from the hive by the workers, they seemed to walk out by themselves and fly from the landing board off into the distance.

I'm trying to look at the hive from an evolutionary point of view. A colony that wastes resources will not be as successful as a hive that conserves resources and/or uses it's resources wisely. Over the course of millions of generations, the wise strategies will triumph over the foolish strategies. Therefore the way that bees do things today has to be finely-tuned to making efficient use of what is available to them. Having thousands of drones flying around consuming energy/honey for no reason at all is just not possible. Whatever they are doing, I'm certain that it is providing more benefit to the colony than the honey those drones are eating to fuel their flights. I hope that this mystery is unlocked during my lifetime.
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Lacewing
Guard Bee


Joined: 08 Sep 2012
Posts: 96
Location: Powys, Mid Wales

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2014 10:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was a bit worried earlier in the season that one of my hives in particular was producing really a lot of drones (from large cells, not because of a drone laying queen.)

Why? first of all... Was there something wrong? And: How much were they going to need to eat??

Reading up other people's posts etc and Bernhard talking about smaller cells being built in higher temperatures, and large cells being built in cooler ones, I thought in the end it might well have been just a response to the bees being a bit too cool (my having given them too large a space to heat early in the season?).

- Anyway, now (perhaps with warmer weather?) the size of cells seems to have changed to more smaller ones again, and the laying pattern has changed accordingly.

Like yours Johno, the drones here zoom out and come back. About 4pm often there's quite a roar of them (coming home for tea obviously). Wouldn't we expect them to go out looking to mate in the afternoon? Yesterday, an entire comb up one end of the hive was covered in them.

But since so many beekeepers all around are trying to keep their numbers of drones right down, perhaps this is not a bad thing...
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johno
Guard Bee


Joined: 08 Jun 2014
Posts: 60
Location: Limerick, Ireland

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2014 11:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As I've said in most of my posts here, I'm a newbee. I have so much to learn and I intend to start studying honeybee anatomy asap.

However, a thought occurred to me in the last hour that I have to follow up on. I've seen workers and drones engaging in trophallaxis inside the hives. I assumed that this was just the workers feeding the drones, but assumptions can be dangerous. Could anyone tell me if it is possible that drones collect water and bring it back to the hive during hot weather. I realise that honeybees are one of the most studied insects on Earth, the chances of me stumbling on the answer to this question after 24 hours of contemplation are almost non-existent. However, I don't have the kind of equipment I would need to carry out experiments to confirm/refute my hypothesis. Does drone anatomy even allow them to regurgitate anything?
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stevecook172001
Site Admin


Joined: 19 Jul 2013
Posts: 443
Location: Loftus, Cleveland

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2014 12:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

johno wrote:
....from an evolutionary point of view....A colony that wastes resources will not be as successful...Over the course of millions of generations....wise strategies will triumph.....


Completely agree with this Johnno. Maybe the workers don't "force" them out. Maybe they are simply behaviourally programmed to "choose" to go out themselves in the context of a given temperature/given hive population density.

Ultimately, one way or another, I think it's likely to be linked to the maintenance of optimal environmental conditions for brood.
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AugustC
Silver Bee


Joined: 08 Jul 2013
Posts: 613
Location: Malton, North Yorkshire

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2014 12:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe flying is a nicer sensation than sitting in a dark box full of woman who are trying to do the housework Shocked
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johno
Guard Bee


Joined: 08 Jun 2014
Posts: 60
Location: Limerick, Ireland

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2014 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

AugustC wrote:
Maybe flying is a nicer sensation than sitting in a dark box full of woman who are trying to do the housework Shocked


roflmao
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peopleshive
Guard Bee


Joined: 07 Aug 2011
Posts: 51
Location: Central Scotland

PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 5:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Johno wondered where all his drones are going. In one of the standard popular textbooks (The Biology of the Honey Bee, 1987, Harvard) Winston notes that "matings commonly occur between drones and queens from nests as far apart as 12 km and up to 17 km". The nearest drone congregation areas may be many km from your hives.

Regards,

Andy
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madasafish
Silver Bee


Joined: 29 Apr 2009
Posts: 880
Location: Stoke On Trent

PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 6:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="johno"] Could anyone tell me if it is possible that drones collect water and bring it back to the hive during hot weather. I realise that honeybees are one of the most studied insects on Earth, the chances of me stumbling on the answer to this question after 24 hours of contemplation are almost non-existent. However, I don't have the kind of equipment I would need to carry out experiments to confirm/refute my hypothesis. Does drone anatomy even allow them to regurgitate anything?[/quote


I have seen lots of bees collecting water but never any drones... which of course are unmistakable.. and nothing I have read suggests it happens.
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