In conducting experiments with swarms of honey bees, Apis mellifera, we noticed great variation in their proficiency to scout/dance for new nest sites and activate for swarm take-off to the new location. Our experiments are conducted at a remote southern California desert site and, hence, requires the expenditure of much time and effort to set up experiments where occasionally a swarm performs no house-hunting behaviors for days. We wondered whether the variation that we were seeing was due to a normal, inherent variation amongst the artificial swarms and whether there was a variable we could manipulate to increase house-hunting efficiency. In comparison with controls (1.5 pounds of bees fed for 2 days prior to swarm set up), we tested the following variables: 1) pre-crowding of the colony for 8 days prior to making the artificial swarm, 2) confinement for 1, 3 and 5 days in a swarm package prior to set-up and 3) swarm size (1.5 vs. 3 pounds of bees). Considering the 3 aforementioned variables, these manipulations resulted in neither obvious increase nor decrease of house-hunting ability and swarm take-off. There was great variation within a single variable for each test. Although future experiments are planned, so far it appears that the frustrating variation we witness at the desert site is indeed the normal, inherent variation exhibited amongst the swarms and nothing we have done so far can enhance swarm behavior.
Species 1: Hymenoptera Apidae Apis mellifera (honey bee)
Keywords: social insect, behavior
The ESA 2001 Annual Meeting - 2001: An Entomological Odyssey of ESA