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Orientation of comb building by honeybees

Summary

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.

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De Jong, D. Orientation of comb building by honeybees. J. Comp. Physiol. 147, 495–501 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00612015

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00612015

Keywords

  • Magnetic Field
  • Organization Process
  • Planar Orientation
  • Building Activity
  • Home Site