Bee Biology
Population Dynamics
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Longevity of Worker, Drone and Queen Honey Bees

The longevity of worker, drone and queen honey bees has a considerable effect on the population dynamics of honey bee colonies.

Put simply the longer the flying life of an individual worker bee, the smaller the number of bees that are required to gather a given quantity of nectar.

I look for supersedure and longevity as these features seem to go hand in hand with 'reasonable' poor weather performance.

Micheál MacGiolla Coda wrote (in 1997)... Original Document

"If you have a queen of two or three or more years standing, still laying vigorously and her colony has never attempted to raise swarm-cells during her long life, you may have a treasure. She is worthy of careful observation from here on in.

If in the Spring or early Summer or late Summer or Autumn you suddenly find between one and five even-aged queen cells built on the face of the brood combs of this colony, you may very well have a treasure rare, i.e. a supersedure strain. Should you subsequently examine your colony and find therein your old queen still laying while on an adjacent frame you find her daughter queen also laying; then you surely have a pearl of great price. For this is supersedure at its very best and this is a strain which is well worthy of future propagation."

Chris Slade (in an Email discussion) asked "If longer lived bees and less prolific colonies necessarily went together."

My reply:-
I doubt if they are genetically linked, but if it is possible for longer lived bees to exist in larger colonies and this proved in some way beneficial (to the bees) then natural selection would provide us with bees that exhibit both qualities.

I can't say that I have seen this, in fact I have only seen longevity in bees that are of a type that is frugal with winter stores appear to be less populous.

There is another issue here as well... Beekeepers tend to inspect bees at a time when foraging is in progress. The colonies I am describing forage for longer hours within a day and as there are proportionately more foragers to non foragers, then the hives will seem to have a small number of occupants even it this is not actually true by 'head count'.

Wedmore said...
"Some Italian strains imported to Great Britain have shown an effective life span as low as five weeks [from emergence], whereas the British black bee had an effective life nearer eight weeks, and some modern strains show a still better figure."

Wedmore makes a couple more comments on this.
"With some modern strains, individual bees emerging in May have been found alive in September, and September-hatched bees in a normal good colony have been found alive in the following June."

I did mark some workers to see how long they were evident in the colony, but I cannot match September to June.

Dave Cushman.

Page created 15/05/2001

Page updated 30/11/2022

 Written... 15 May 2001, Revised... 01 February 2002, Revised... 20, 27 August 2002, Revised... 09 October 2003, Upgraded... 21 August 2006,
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