, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 129-140

Colony migration in the tropical honey beeApis dorsata F. (Hymenoptera: Apidae)

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To obtain insights into the organization and adaptive significance of seasonal migration by colonies of the giant honey bee,Apis dorsata, we monitored the arrivals and departures of colonies in a rain forest habitat in northeastern Thailand, compared patterns of honey bee abundance with other measures of habitat variability, and observed the role of dance communication in organizing the migratory departure of a colony. Colonies arrived in the area during the end of the dry season, reproduced, and then departed early in the rainy season. During the immigration phase, early-arriving colonies stayed only temporarily, as if assessing habitat quality. Colonies departing after a long stay always left barren combs behind, suggesting that they had left in response to deteriorating resource quality. These observations support the idea that migration allows colonies to track seasonally varying resources in different regions. Our observations of a colony preparing for migration revealed that the dance language is involved in organizing the colony's departure, but that dancers signal only the direction to be taken, rather than, as in dances to feeding sites, both the direction and distance of a particular location.