Mating Flight

This is a quick post as I’m still in the midst of work mayhem, but even strong warriors need a break.  I did promise a silvery tale, but this one is golden.  I have to tell it, as it was such an exciting event.

A wee while ago, I posted about our battle against the varroa. I’m pleased to report that with some apiguard, the varroa count halved, but I did plan a second follow up treatment as the count was still higher than I would like.  However, the bees had other ideas.

Midweek we noticed that our empty ‘B’ hive was buzzing with activity and the ‘A’ hive looked like they were sleeping.  It was if they had decided to move next door.  In not quite understanding this odd behaviour, we developed three theories of what had happened and decided that the opening of either hive was ill-advised.  B-hive continued to work overtime – up before 5 am, working until sundown.  A-hive showed signs of activity, but very little.

The weekend arrived, the sun shone and suddenly A-hive came to life.  All the bees emerged, making a noise like they were gathering for a swarm.  There I was, mid-paper, reading something boring to do with the lack of internal democracy in UK political parties, and this crazy buzz became an acute distraction.  I would need to know where that swarm was going to set up its temporary clump.  Then – all quiet again.  Barely a sign of a bee.  Did I miss the swarm take off? I went back to the papers while Verd kept a watchful eye.  Then out of the periphery of my vision, I could see that a healthy colony of bees were excitedly flying around the hive again.  When I saw nassanoff activity, one of the theories began to be more convincing than any other.

So what happened?

A-hive swarmed with old queen without our knowledge.  They occupied the empty B-hive.  A-hive looked quiet as it had halved in number, but the colony would have been actively tending to the new virgin queen.  What we witnessed when A-hive came to life was the colony accompanying the virgin queen on her mating flight.  Nassanoff activity is the production of pheremones from the nassanoff glands which attracts other members of the colony.  It is a feature of swarming behaviour to ensure none of the workers get lost.  In this case, returning bees began this activity to ensure the safe return of their queen.

I’m a bit disappointed that my responsibilities for the day meant that I couldn’t witness the queen herself, but still it was an exciting afternoon. B-hive has also proved to be interesting, but I will share that scene with you later – only 35 papers left.

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