Bee family: a constitutional monarchy or Mafia clan


A life of a bee family, the laws according to which they live remain a mystery not only for beekeepers, but for most scientists, who have written many theses of different value on the problem. Experienced beekeepers may be right saying that breeding a family means bringing up a bee family. It is known that bees who feed larvae, visit every larva ten thousand times. Do they only supply larvae with food or they pass them some information, teach them and bring them up?

I. Vedernikov gives his own interpretation to this phenomenon and suggest that other beekeepers use it in practice. We can either to accept or reject it, and set forth our own counterarguments.

At present there exist a so-called pheromone conception, according to which the bee queen secretes pheromones and other bees of the colony lick it off and pass to other members of the bee family. There is a supposition that pheromones inhibits the development of the ovaries of the worker bees (sterile females), as a result they do not lay eggs. Moreover pheromones have a consolidating effect on worker bees.

I think that there are other motive forces that regulate the behavior of bees: a family has a leader in itself with its own team. ( There is a leader in all communities and a bee family is not an exception. There can appear a leader in the nucleus that's why bees of the nucleus don't always accept any bee queen that appears in the family). It is the leader which organizes the work in the family with its team; takes care about protecting the nest; its sanitary condition; provides bees for taking care of the queen bee and is responsible for providing a productive queen bee. If the leader fails to provide a productive queen, it begins to lay unfertilized eggs. Moreover it stimulates a swarming in his colony and the search for a new homesite.

According to the pheromone conception there shouldn't be any other bees, except the queen and a few hundreds or thousands of mail drones and worker bees. After uniting three bee colonies, there should be three queens but in practice that never happens, because a new leader appears in the united bee family and on his command only one queen bee is left. The rest are destroyed. But who kills the queens. Where does the bee family gets bee killers.

Twenty years ago I came to the conclusion that there is a group of bees that kills a strange queen. The process of settling into a tight cluster around a strange queen a is not spontaneous. That can't happen without the leader's order. ( I managed to see the leader. Sometimes at the end of an unsuccessful work with bees the leader comes out on the холстик. It's an ordinary bee, who moves straight-line and after walking a few centimeters, makes several jumps about a centimeter high). The number of bees in the leader's team depends on the strength of the family and can exceed five thousand bees.

In every family there can be only one leader. The family won't accept the queens given to 10 nuclei having been formed ( according to the number of frames with brood) on the basis of this family. In all the nuclei new leader will appear and give the order to lay eggs, layed by bees into the broodnest with larvae. But introducing strange queens a week later after destroying these eggs, all the queens will be accepted by the colony. In this case a beekeeper forces the leader to accept the queen as there is no brood for making the nest, and the nests have all been destroyed by a beekeeper. In this case the leader will always accept a strange queen.

Sometimes beekeepers write: <: bees didn't accept a strange queen, they began swarming:> if bees were to solve the problems of this kind they would never arrive at a decision. This problem is in the .

A need to substitute an undesirable of a failing queen can appear in the life of a bee family. Pheromone conception can't give an answer to the question . Nevertheless the worker bees can rear a queen. The leader controls the queen's activity and evaluates its efficiency. When it comes to conclusion to substitute the queen it gives the order to build new cells for a supersedure queen. The fate of the queen is decided. At the order of the leader most male drones are also destroyed. If a new queen fails in its efficiency the leader will also give an order to change it, but in this case the cells won't be built by mail drones, but eggs lain by a new queen will be used. Worker bees lay eggs when the queen has disappeared or been lost, and sometimes in swarming, when a beekeeper in order to prevent swarming has removed not only all the swarm cells , but the queen itself. In this case the leader would bring the swarm after emerging the first queen.

In spite of the fact that there are swarm cells after the queen has disappeared the leader will give an order to lay queen cells. After swarming swarm cells would be destroyed and the queen would emerge from a swarm cell.

According to all biological rules the virgin supersedure queen normally must kill the mother queen, but that doesn't happen as the leader doesn't allow it. Only after mating and laying eggs, after evaluating its egg-laying efficiency the virgin attacks the old queen, who leaves the nest

Occasionally in spring a colony may become queenless and unable to develop another queen, when the mother queen either dies or is ill. There is no young brood for laying queen cells. There is an opinion that many of the worker bees begin to lay unfertilized eggs, often several to a cell, and these develop into drones. But the following fact proves the assumption that only one bee lays unfertilized eggs. It's the leader. If the leader dies for some reason, a new leader appears and gives an order to lay swarm cells on unfertilized eggs. This process usually takes place in the family that has lost the queen. After laying queen cells laying of unfertilized eggs ceases. If there were many egg- laying bees, then the death of one of them wouldn't be the reason for ceasing egg laying. In practice the given example is rare, but we can do it artificially, if you put a parthenogenetic hive aside and put on his place an empty one. In this case the family would divide in two. Take a frame with unfertilized drone cells from the parthenogenetic nest and put into the group of bees used for artificial breeding. There would soon appear queen cellsm, that wouldn't happen if there were many laying bees in the colony. A colony that has developed laying workers or a leader is difficult to requeen with a laying queen.

In the fall at the leaders order the leader's team stops helping the queen and she ceases to lay eggs. According to pheromone conception worker bees should lay unfertilized eggs up to spring as no one licks away the secretion from the queen's belly. In the fall the leader of a parthenogenetic family stops laying eggs, and every strange queen is accepted by the family. They begin laying eggs and the bee family has a broodnest in winter. If there were many laying bees, it would be impossible to requeen a parthenogenetic colony, as they would kill strange queens. It testifies to the fact that only one bee lays eggs in a parthenogenetic family and it is a leader. In

order to change this, it is enough to make bees settle into a tight cluster around the queen or frames with open brood. When a new queen starts laying eggs, the nest should be united with the group of bees used for artificial breeding. All the bees should be shaken off the frame on the ground, and then put the frames near the frames of the group of bees used for artificial breeding. The hive should be taken aside from its usual place. In the case of appearance of a former leader in отводок he will be killed by the team of a new leader. Such a complex process as bees swarming is hard to explain only by pheromone secreted by the queen. The instinct of swarming is not sufficient for the explanation: all bees have this instinct, but some families swarm and other families don't. The process of swarming can be divided into the following stages:

Only the leader is in the state of swarming. In literature on the subject there are many reasons as to why bees swarm. One of them is stuffiness and insufficient place in the hive. After swarming a part of bees departs from the hive, but still the swarming can continue. It is known that parthenogenetic families do not swarm, even if they are not fortified. Stuffness and crowdedness do not promote to swarming, as the leaders in such families lay eggs, that is function like the queen. Till the leader lays eggs, there won't be swarming in the family. Beekeepers held that families with seven year old queens do not swarm. The age of the queen is not important for the leader. After departing of a new bee family from the hive, the following families depart with young queens. The mother family will never left without a queen by the leader.

Once the leader gets into swarming under favorable conditions it is difficult to stop his swarming. If the weather changes or the major nectar flow begins, the leader stops swarming on his own. Almost a half of the family stops hive works and honey and nectar collecting and gathers in a part of the hive. The queen lays swarm cells and reduces laying eggs. It the cells with larvae laid by the queen are destroyed, the worker bees will select a dozen of so tiny larvae that is fed copiously with royal jelly. The cell in which the larva is developing is drawn out downward and enlarged to permit development of the queen and the swarm departs with young queens. If the weather conditions do not favour the leader's swarming then it is possible to observe the following. A week before these virgin queens emerge as adults from their queen cells, the mother queen departs from the beehive with the swarm (there are no newly laid eggs). After all virgin queen bees emerge the bees begin to kill superfluous queens. the first queen in the cluster begin to make sounds that all other bees can hear very well and they try to save themselves as they only can. You can see such queens everywhere: on the frames of shop's extensions or under heating cable bedding.

If the weather conditions are favorable after sealing the first cells with larvae a swarm will form a swirl out of the hive and into the air at the leader's order. If there is a queen in the swarm then it alights on a branch of a tree but sometimes on a roof, a parked automobile, or even a fire hydrant. All the bees settle into a tight cluster around her while a handful of scouts reconnoitre a new homesite. Why do the bees and the queen alight but not follow bee scouts, which have to locate a new domicile? The leader and the bees are aware of the presence of the queen in the cluster due to the odor. If there is no queen the leader returns the swarm into the hive and do not alights. If a family began swarming with an infertile queen, the leader can not always perceive that, although she doesn't have the specific odor. That's why such swarms always alight. Only after having understood that there is no queen, the cluster breaks, and bees return to the hive. It order to make sure that the cluster forms, it's enough to detain an infertile queen by a bee entrance bar. With some exceptions the swarm always alights. And there is no need to spray cold water over it or beat a frying pan against an oven door.


English translation © Irina Yelsukova