Journal of comparative physiology

, Volume 147, Issue 4, pp 495–501

Orientation of comb building by honeybees

  • David De Jong

DOI: 10.1007/BF00612015

Cite this article as:
De Jong, D. J. Comp. Physiol. (1982) 147: 495. doi:10.1007/BF00612015


Upon entering a new home site a honeybee swarm is faced with the task of organizing the building activities of thousands of component bees so that several straight and parallel vertically oriented combs can be quickly and efficiently built. As a part of this organization process it is necessary for the bees to select and agree upon a planar orientation for the new combs.

This paper presents evidence that memory of a previously used comb direction influences the building of the new set of combs. Swarms which have recently moved into bait-hives (empty boxes placed in trees to attract feral swarms) tend to maintain the previously used comb direction when removed and forced to build new combs, whereas swarms which have occupied the bait-hives for a longer period (over 9 days) do not.

Recent swarms predictably alter their comb building direction within the influence of an applied earthstrength magnetic field, indicating that honey bees are able to use the earth's magnetic field as a reference at the commencement of comb construction in a new hive.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • David De Jong
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EntomologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Depto. de GeneticaFaculdade de Medicina, USPRibeirão Preto, São PauloBrasil

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