Bees Teaching Each Other


When the light is low and just right, it’s possible to follow a bee’s flight path. On occasion, I’ve observed pairs of bees leave a hive and fly in close formation. It was obvious 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 many “enlightened” beekeepers at the time.

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

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 would be lost. And when mite populations rebounded, it’s possible that the horrible colony loses, common during the first season, would be repeated.

Could heavily contaminated equipment and comb produce the same results?

Maybe this one reason some beekeepers have such a hard time with small cell.

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