Bee Behaviour - Index
Head Butting Article
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Head Butting Behaviour of Honey Bees

There are two interpretations of the same term

There are two interpretations of the term "Head Butting". One is the topic of the original page by Dave Cushman, the other is when bees head butt each other as part of the decision making inside a colony. Rather than favour one interpretation, I will include both on this page. R.P.

This is often interpreted as aggression by humans. It consists of mobbing the head and to some extent the body of the beekeeper, by bees flying into the person or the clothing that they are wearing. In some cases this is associated with stinging, but in the main it is just a physical bombardment.

Even if stinging is not present, it is an unpleasant experience and detracts severely from the enjoyment of beekeeping. The constant bombardment has a disorienting effect and this causes most beekeepers to withdraw more quickly than they otherwise might. This may well be the reason that the behaviour developed... I suspect that honey robbing bears would also be disoriented and thus retreat for a bit of 'peace and quiet'.

I am not sure if there is any direct genetic linkage, but other behaviours are often associated with head butting...

Biting & Hair pulling is noticed, Following occurs and the following bees have been observed keeping station with the eyes of the beekeeper as if they were staring into them.

I have had some colonies that exhibited each of these behaviours and some had several in combination. In all cases, I considered them undesirable and requeened them for my own convenience.

With hindsight, I wonder if I should have looked at how these types of colony were managing the varroa mite, because there is some conjecture that the "Russian" strains, that are to some extent mite resistant, often exhibit these properties.

It has been discovered (Seeley) that honey bees are able to influence where a swarm selects for its new home by stopping bees who are promoting an unfavourable site. This is done by head butting. I am unable to locate a paper, so I have a button on top left that links to an article. R.P.

Dave Cushman.

Page created 12/08/2001

Page updated 24/12/2022

  Written... 12 August 2001, Posted on this Website... 01 January 2002, Upgraded... 12 April 2006,
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