Anthropomorphism is strongly not recommended when observing mother nature

Just for fun: Frivolous and sundry Questions about bees.

1. In the caste system bee colonies have, at what age or level are some of the less desirable jobs sorted out? These job offerings would be following the post young-ling housekeeper, nursery bee.
We have some spiffy get out of the hive jobs. The Scout, the Pollen Collector, the Nectar Collector.
But when, how and why do some become the hive undertakers and the more challenging bouncer at the gate?
After watching one bee return and having difficulty bringing in the sticky propolis I must also wonder if this is a demotion of sorts. YOU miscreant, are on propolis duty for the rest of your sticky life!

2. This is pure conjecture after seeing a Drone return with either some sort of leg extension or was it simply, did he return with a hard on after not finding a queen. I may be part of the problem here as I removed some potential queen cells and future happy time for him and they are situated in a rather underpopulated hive area. I doubt the local congregation bar has many other visiting queens.

3. This is a Darwinian question regarding the dispersal of honey bees vs. the bumblebee.
IMO the honey bee is far more conservative when it comes to expansion … sending the mature and short flighted OLD queen to find new territory. The Bumblebee, says none of that. The queen stays in her roost and it is the young queens that must fly out to find a new nest …. much more like most mammalian species including humankind. ** More on this!

As for that task of thinning down the fat old queen and gambling on that girl to repopulate a new working home does not make much sense. Certainly not to the point of emptying out the nest with 50 percent of the gals and HOPING the left behind virgin queen and princesses in waiting step up to the fertilization plate.*
1. That old queen and entourage have a limited future at best.
2. The replacement queen may be eaten by a black hornet, bird or simply fail to mate because of weather. All a gamble and certainly not a winning way to expand territory or a good example of reproductive survival.

I have no clue as to the why of this. The stay at home approach and let the children find their evolutionary way seems far better if you ask me.

The common observation: “ensures lots of genetic diversity and only the strongest and fastest males get to cast their genes into the next generation.” is a bit questionable if you also suggest that she will ignore the guys from her own hive. They might actually be the fastest, the closest and the most numerous.
I would argue that for the FIRST observation to be true … she must certainly lollygag around up there and wait until Mr. Right comes along, that nice blond fella with the Italian accent. Or for the Italian queen, that dark fella.

SEE, this frivolous post might have some legs to it. Fun to fool around with.*

That swarm with the old gal, sometimes ends dead in the water when she cannot even get but 100 feet from her former site. Best case scenario being that the frustrated scouts go out again and try to find another close home, but with a needed distance still further away. If she cannot handle that flight it is back into the nest for more fitness training until she can go the distance.*Finally, some opt to nest in a nasty but close-by branch.
None of that is very clever when it comes to expanding and better exploiting the local floral environment.**

Young queens, newly hatched would have no difficulty in flying a mile away from the hive This system makes no sense at all.*

Both old and young queens still have fertility issues to deal with. The former is at the end of her reproductive life and basically might just engineer enough new larvae for a supercedure cell or at worst emergency cells before she croaks or stops laying. 

The young queen alternative would still need to establish herself within the former drone congregation area to be sure she gets fertilized.  Also limiting the expansion of this colony. 

African queens do this better by the number having many explosive princess swarms all with nice healthy ready to go workers. Think part of that is that they produce brood faster, meaning they bring in pollen better than mellifera. So they swarm more and expand their territory more quickly. A great survival trait. 

It might also suggest that they FLY FASTER (or do they have more drones?) so they could mate with the other friendlier types and so hybridize successfully.

End of the poor European line. 

Other issue, were drones available for the new queen? Always a gamble, getting fertilized without being eaten by a bird or a hornet.

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Anthropomorphism is strongly not recommended when observing mother nature — 6 Comments

  1. Agree. It’s always tempting (and entertaining) to apply anthropomorphisms to Mother nature. But we know it’s a fool’s errand as well.

    I happen to like Dr Seeley’s idea of why natural selection has favored mother queens who leave the nest in a prime swarm (and thereby also incur a low probability of winter survival in a new nest). Dr Seeley thinks it might be that because leaving in the prime swarm rather than lingering in the old nest, the mother queen dodges the high risk of being killed by one of her daughter queens when they start emerging from their cells.

    The danger of the mother staying home is borne out by the data on regicide committed by virgin queens as reported by Gilley and Tarpy. They investigated the fates of 44 virgin queens who were reared in six study colonies living in observation hives that had swarmed. The researchers observed that on average, one virgin leaves with the swarm, one virgin inherits the original nest, and 5.3 virgin queens die from being stung by a fellow virgin queen.

    Clearly, it could be, that the mother queen does well to flee the killing field of her old nest before her murderous daughter queens emerge from their cells.

  2. One person wrote me that “The Queen Queen (old one) is RICH because they have slathered her in love and food for a long time so she DESERVES a BETTER house. Human Rich families- when the kids are all grown the Wife will say to Husband ‘I want MY house now” They usually move to a Warmer climate (northerners) and a beautiful house with just enough room for a visitor (kids) to come for a short time.”

    No right or wrong in a “fun post” but I do think it more likely that the queen bee having left her home probably downsized into a rest care facility or a sadder home than the one she swarmed out of. “a beautiful house with just enough room for a visitor (kids) to come for a short time.” would be unlikely.

    The workers of course who attend to this overworked and coming to a reproductive end Queen, do not “love” her or care about her. They exercise and starve her just to get her out of the house. Heck sometimes, they even ball a queen to get rid of her. I still think this is a poor method of expanding the territory. African Bees putting out more princess cells and swarms do a much better job than these European models.

    “All is a gamble” is a good name for it and has worked for 100,000 years. Perhaps true, but for the future maybe not.

    As for genetic socializing with drones outside the home, I am sure that she gives preference to other drones with different DNA than herself. Also very interesting being that once fertilized by many she herself will do some elimination of sperms to winnow it down, but retaining a nice mix of DNA. Amazing setup that.

  3. How do bees know where they left the swarm, when they go collecting pollen?
    Do they use landmarks to find their way home, or is it “any swarm/hive will do”?

    • Hi Steve,

      Think that for every two beekeepers you might have three different answers.
      IMO some of it is simple discovery/chance encounters and then follow up based upon pheromones left by the previous bee. Some of it is plant based as bees find nectar by sight and odor. Plants also tell bees by coloration changes when that time is no longer optimum.

      Then it is back to “communication,” if it is a matter of finding the big honey brewery in the sky vs. the occasional bar, she will come back and do a dance that instructs direction and even altitude of her find. This lucky girl will also share some of the nectar with other bees to show them what she has found.

      If it is minimal, she will just do her job and walk into the hive, hand it over to the house bees to redeposit and back out she goes. Remember, the forager bee is the OLD bee doing her final thing and she will keep bringing in pollen and nectar until her wings fall off.
      Proximity to the source (pollen and nectar are often gathered together … not sure about the water or propolis … but if she has to fly miles to get the stuff, she will die all the sooner.
      So Proximity is one thing.
      Roads, power lines and other visuals such as rows of trees, buildings all give directional guides and such are passed on to the other bees. Some even think LEY lines affect this.
      Sometimes, I cannot figure out why some of my hives are happily situated and others elsewhere do much, much worse. Maybe the Ley lines are all messed up.

      As for the supposed intelligence and wisdom of this communication sometimes it gets messed up. SCOUTS, younger bees than the elder foragers sometimes seem to pick out rather strange spots for the hive to settle in. This is done by ‘consensus’ and again, dancing and convincing the majority that the place YOU found is better than the others scouts.

      So why do some pick a damn hole between some limited studs or a small bole in a tree vs. a nice and ready hive? Or worse yet some branches in a tree?
      IMO I think it is the ‘freedom from the beekeeper’ thing. They damn well remember that those nice friendly looking habitats are traps in which all their hard work will just end up being thieved out.


      • Here in WA State and in the Western USA hazardous smoke conditions are keeping us hunkering inside. It is the same for the bees. Atmospheric smoke inversion is affecting the bees. Saturday, down from a high of 347 Friday but still in the hazardous range. Some areas nearby actually hit 500!!!

        It is 10 AM here and the temperature is warm, but my bees remain hive bound. We all know that using a smoker fools bees into thinking there is a forest fire, so they fill up with honey … just in case they need to flee … or is it, that they just get drunk on the honey which calms them down.

        I think there is more to it, and I realized that the smoke from the Oregon and CA fires is affecting my hives. Over 3 MILLION acres have been lost and it seems to be getting worse. Think climate change; and the potential of fires such as these or the Australia ones becoming a routine event.

        Air pollution does decrease foraging ability and some of the reasons are given in this link.

        As mentioned before smell is a primary factor in locating plant emitted scents. Pollution in any form confuses bees and their foraging ability is confused. Detecting floral scents is difficult for humans under these circumstances, just consider what it must be for insects that can and need to identify scent molecules in the air.
        Wind currents especially in smoke inversion events simply cannot carry these molecules from the flower source to where the hives are.

        I will end with my fear and despair for the losses of flora and fauna that these fires have caused. Sadly, I strongly suspect that many plants will recover more quickly than the pollinators or other wildlife will.
        As mentioned in this article: “These findings highlight that air pollution is one of many factors influencing the decline of the bee population…
        Honeybees and other pollinators are in trouble almost everywhere,
        and mans affects on the environment will continue on its steady downward course, one that the human monkey simply does not get.
        human monkey

        UNTIL IT IS TOO LATE! Climate change is here, its just earlier than expected.

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