Free access
Volume 39, Number 6, November-December 2008
Page(s) 708 - 713
Published online 05 December 2008
Apidologie 39 (2008) 708-713
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2008056

Effects of hive spacing, entrance orientation, and worker activity on nest relocation by honey bee queens

Juan Antonio Perez-Sato1, 2, William O.H. Hughes1, 3, Margaret J. Couvillon1, 4 and Francis L.W. Ratnieks1, 5

1  Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK
2  Present address: Colegio de Postgraduados Campus Cordoba, Km 348 Carretera Federal Cordoba-Veracruz, Congregación Manuel Leon Amatlan de los Reyes, Cordoba, Veracruz, C.P. 94946, Mexico
3  Present address: Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
4  Present address: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, 85721, USA
5  Present address: Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QG, UK

Received 18 April 2008 – Revised 16 August 2008 – Accepted 2 September 2008 - Published online 5 December 2008

Abstract - The mating flight is the riskiest period in the life of a honeybee queen. A major cause of queen mortality in apiaries may be the drifting of queens to foreign colonies. We investigated the effects of distance between hives, entrance orientation and worker activity on queen drifting. Only 4% of queens drifted in our experiments, all during their maiden orientation flight and all to the closest neighbouring hive. Neither drifting nor the length of time it took queens to relocate their hive was significantly affected by either entrance orientation or distance between hive stands (2 m or 5 m). However, queens took significantly longer to identify their hive and were more likely to drift when the number of workers at the entrance was lower than that at the neighbouring hive. Our results show that drifting can be low even when hives are placed in pairs with only 2 m between pairs, and that worker activity has an important role in guiding returning queens on their maiden orientation flight.

Key words: Apis mellifera mellifera / mating nucleus hive / mating flight / queen rearing / queen drifting

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2008