Old comb for nesting site recognition by Apis dorsata? Field experiments in China
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- Liu, F., Roubik, D.W., He, D. et al. Insect. Soc. (2007) 54: 424. doi:10.1007/s00040-007-0963-4
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The Asian giant honey bee, Apis dorsata, often conducts seasonal, long-distance migrations in southern China, between a preferred tree (having more than one nest) and alternate sites. Although worker bees cannot make a round-trip journey, colonies re-utilize preferred trees after an absence of several months. We performed comb experiments in which bases and all abandoned combs were entirely scraped off trees and their sites covered with plastic, or comb was moved to trees of the same species. Swarms of giant honey bees investigated trees where combs were removed and continued to nest on the same trees. In contrast, placing combs in nets on previously used trees, or on nearby trees of the same species, did not attract more swarms. The same number of colonies that left them returned to previously occupied trees. Our findings suggest that direct olfactory or sensory contact with old comb bases might regulate nest establishment, but individual trees, lacking normal visual or chemical cues of old nests, are relocated using behavioral devices that remain to be elucidated.