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Behaviour of Honey Bees

The various behaviours of honey bees, some of which are listed on the record card systems are listed on the left hand buttons.

Honey bees are social insects and are successful because the behaviour of each individual bee is in concert with her sisters (and half sisters), but the behaviour of groups of individuals is also complimentary in the main, although the groups represented by different patrilines, can often exhibit differences in behaviour. Overall, this diversity makes the whole unit more adaptable to changes in circumstance.

Observation is the key to recognising behaviours. This may be done with sophisticated observation hives and equipment, or by making observations whilst conducting your routine beekeeping. The "reading" of a colony is an ability that will come with experience, but remember that when a colony is smoked and taken apart, the cohesion of the colony is disturbed and they won't behave normally. We must always remember it is dark inside a colony and we introduce light when we open it. The activity that can be seen on the alighting board can also be very revealing. The older beekeepers learnt much of what was happening in their colonies from observation, simply by sitting and watching them.

If you are an objective observer and do not allow your conclusions to just fall in line with what you may have read about or been taught by others, you will learn a lot.

Do not be afraid to challenge established thoughts and opinions, it is by constantly re-appraising what we see that our knowledge is advanced. Hence the writing of my book "Beekeeping: Challenge what you are told". R.P.

In the context of bees, the words 'behaviour' and 'characteristic' may have a variety of meanings. They are used here with the widest interpretation, as in some cases, I'm not sure if there is any difference, e.g. I am not really sure whether drifting is a 'behaviour' or a 'characteristic', but I have tagged it onto this menu anyway.

This catalogue of behavioural characteristics (see the point I made above about meanings) keeps on growing. One thing that I am looking into with the thought of adding yet another page is the tolerance of a colony for multiple queens, which is strongly linked with supersedure.

It has long been observed that different sub - species of honey bees often behave in slightly different ways. When research is carried out it is likely to have been done on one particular race. Please bear this in mind when reading articles.

Some of the information accessed from the buttons on the left is from scientific papers. Where I have done this I have created a link to the original. R.P.

Originally written by Dave Cushman. Edited and additions by Roger Patterson.

Page created pre-2011

Page updated 27/12/2022