Re-orientation of honey bees

It is assumed that young bees tend to leave all throughout the day and not in groups. He states that groups of older bees in afternoons preceded virgin queens mating flights and suggest that this phenomenon is confused with “flight school”. Whether the young bees have an instinct to orientate in groups seems to remain unclear. As they are slightly choosey about flight conditions, following a week of bad weather it is likely that they would leave as a group, which would coincide with the arrival of the beekeeper to help establish the belief that they ‘like’ to do it together.

Re-orientation due to swarming

When a colony of bees swarms naturally and sets up a new home, it faces the challenge of learning its new nest position and its relation to its foraging field. The bees will re-orientate more or less in a similar way as they did on their first orientation flights, with the added benefit of having already learned the sun’s course.

Often a beekeeper will need to move bees, possibly due to migratory beekeeping or just because the original site proves to be an unacceptable choice. General guidelines are based around the 3-3-3 rule which refers to less than 3 feet, more than 3 miles, or more than 3 days. The aim of this rule is to eliminate or minimize the number of bees that return to the site from which the bees are moved.

Less than 3 feet allow them to find the new nest site by exploration, most likely due to recognizing the scent, despite the nest being in slightly the wrong place. More than 3 miles assumes they are beyond their original foraging range and more than 3 days refers to confining the bees for 72 hours. In practice, these guidelines vary greatly and are situation dependent.

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