Bees Teaching Each Other

bees-teachingWhen the light is low, it’s possible to follow a bee’s flight path. On occasion, a couple of bees leave a hive at the same time, and fly in close formation. After many observations it was obvious that one bee was following the other. Was it being taught?

Small cell colonies initially detect and remove mite infected pupa. Although the effects were dramatic, many colonies still perished.

But after the first season, small cell colonies get much better at detecting and removing mites. After the second season, few small cell colonies are bothered by the mites.

Even when a colony’s genetic makeup is changed by requeening, effective mite cleansing behavior continues.

As a result, I speculated that this behavior was learned and passed through the generations as colony intelligence.

A few other European beekeepers had observed the same thing. But the concept was ridiculed by more “enlightened” beekeepers.

Check out Brian Howard’s article. Maybe my observations of bees teaching bees wasn’t so far off the mark!

My small cell colonies were mite tolerant, but never completely free of them. So, they constantly had the opportunity to pass their mite detecting and removal knowledge to the next generation.

Had I treated those bees and essentially eliminated the mites, maybe the opportunity to teach and pass on that knowledge is lost. And when mite populations rebounded, it’s possible that the horrible colony loses, common during the first season, is repeated.

Could heavily contaminated equipment and comb produce the same results?

Maybe this is why some beekeepers have such a hard time with small cell.

-bW

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