In my previous blog, I spoke about the Kinship theory. This theory states that the more relatedness there is between a group of individuals, the more likely to exhibit altruistic behavior the individuals are to be. Honeybee sisters share 75% of the same genetic material. This genetic similarity is what drives the honeybees to take […]
Watching reruns of the television series Elementary last night, Sherlock mentions twice the phrase, “Biology dictates behavior.”
In the beehive the genetics of the queen and the multiple drones she mated with is manifested in the behaviors of the workers. While honey bees progress through different work tasks according to their age, other behaviors are less defined and not seen as routine. That is to say, all bees begin as house bees and start by cleaning cells. They progress through various jobs as they age becoming nurse bees, feeding larvae, cleaning the hive of trash and dead bees, tending to the queen, wax excretion, moving nectar, and fanning the nectar or cooling the hive. However, most of these jobs are not compulsory nor do all bees perform all of these tasks as they age. There simply isn’t a need for all bees to progress through the task of feeding the queen nor is there a need for thousands of undertaker bees. The bees tend to have some degree of flexibility in shifting behaviors to meet the needs of the colony. But there is no macro view of the colony so how do they know what tasks need performing to be able to change behaviors. (Imagine an Amazon.com warehouse where all the workers seemingly just know what to do every day when they report to work.)
The same can be said of those bees that have graduated from house bee status and become foraging bees. Some specialize in pollen, other propolis, water, and still others nectar. The bees shift amongst these tasks depending on the needs of the colony but, again, their is no central command issuing “orders of the day” to direct these tasks. Yet, remarkably, the jobs get done.
So what determines bee behavior? We know that there is a biofeedback loop based on pheromones produced by the bees and that the queen has a major role in signaling, through pheromones, the colony needs and wellbeing. That’s one method of directing the day-to-day activities but it doesn’t fully account for the flexibility observed in an organization comprised of tens of thousands of bees operating on a day to day basis and responding to changes that take place in the environment and within the hive.
Let’s consider defensive behavior within a colony. Beekeepers may miss or overlook a lot of bee behavior but they seldom fail to observe a colony that is more defensive than others. Often referred to as “hot,” these colonies stand out to the beekeeper and rightly so as it’s not fun working a colony of bees intend on displaying defensive or aggressive behavior. Once again though, we typically find that even in colonies that display higher than normal defensive behavior we don’t usually see thousands of bees dedicating themselves to delivering their sting, and their life, to the cause. Most often there is one or several ready to act on the behalf of defending the colony. Additionally a measured response is noted with the bees ratcheting up the response as alarm pheromone is spread and triggering more and more bees to act. It’s biology in action.
But it begins with a genetic predisposition to act, either sooner or later, to a stimulus. Some bees tend to jump on the bandwagon early in delivering their venom payload to the unsuspecting beekeeper, seemingly before a genuine need exists to become defensive. If this behavior is excessive beekeepers blame the queen. Of course it may, in fact, be the genetics passed on from one or more of the multiple drones she mated with on her nuptial flight. But regardless, she gets the blame and is sought out for execution for this undesirable trait. The beekeeper replaces her with a queen of better disposition and through normal attrition of her progeny, and the more gentle temperament of the new queen’s offspring, the colony takes on a different personality.
And where in the above is anything other than the title of this article, “Biology dictates behavior.” There are no feelings involved. There is no sorrow for the old queen within the hive. There is nothing but the now of queen-rightness, the sensed reality of queen-lessness, and then the resumption of being queen-right. It’s stimulus response. Should a beekeeper kill the old queen without a replacement the bees simply initiate the replacement process. No rituals exist, no beliefs cloud the process, no judgement, and no processing of the loss. The bees carry on and make plans for the colony’s survival without missing a beat. The hive may fail but they will, through their genetics and biology go forward pushed by urges provided by pheromones (or lack thereof) and their genetic predispositions. Biology dictates behavior.
The beekeeper may wish to mourn the loss of a valued queen but that mourning is for the beekeeper alone. And the new beekeeper does mourn – at least the ones I have met. I too found it difficult to kill the queen early in my beekeeping. The mourning, whether for a queen or a colony, takes it’s emotional toll on some. I’ve met those that said they got out of beekeeping after losing a couple hives because, “It was too hard losing the bees.”
New beekeepers resist what is while the bees do not. Truly to understand the bees we need to learn from them. To force our understanding of them into our mental framework removes the beekeeper from a true understanding. Understanding them through our rose colored glasses discredits the bees and moves us further from what they offer us.
Amino Acids are building blocks of proteins. All amino acids are comprised of 4 groups. The first three are common in all amino acids. They are: Alpha Carbon (C-H) Amine Group (N-H-H) Carboxyl Group (O-C-OH) The last is the R Group. The R Groups are what defines the individual amino acids. Some are polar […]
To read more visit: Amino Acids —
Bees have amazing vision that is very different from ours – here’s how they work!
A Facebook friend’s post this week told how a large honeybee swarm had taken up residence in an empty hive on his property. All on its own! He’d left the hive out all winter, “seasoning it with lemon grass every month,” (rubbing lemon grass into the wood), and the day before saw a scout bee […]
By Meredith Swett Walker Imagine a parasite about the size of a grapefruit, and it’s latched onto your back where you just can’t reach it. Now imagine that parasite is sucking your blood and that its cronies are reproducing rapidly in your home and attacking your family. This horrifying scenario is essentially what the mite […]
Harry Hyde Laidlaw Jr. (April 12, 1907-2003)
Father of Honey Bee Genetics
Bee biologist Harry Hyde Laidlaw Jr. (1907-2003), known as “the father of honey bee genetics,” served on the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty from 1947 until his retirement in 1974. Long after his retirement, however, the professor continued his research and outreach programs, publishing his last scientific paper at age 87 and his last book at 90. He died at age 96 at his home in Davis.
Childhood and Career Development
Born April 12, 1907 in Houston, Harry spent his boyhood and teen years in the Southeast: Virginia, Florida and Louisiana. In his childhood, he developed a keen interest in bee breeding and worked with his grandfather, Charles Quinn. They experimented with mating queen bees and control breeding and developed what became known as the Quinn-Laidlaw hand-mating method.
In 1929, while working in Baton Rouge, Laidlaw was encouraged by his boss to attend Louisiana State University. He completed his master’s degree in entomology in 1934 from Louisiana State University and received his doctorate in genetics and entomology form the University of Wisconsin in 1939. Two years later he was inducted into the U.S. Army, commissioned. and served as the Army entomologist for the First Service Command in Boston. There he met Ruth Collins, whom he married in 1946. They lived in New York City where he worked as a civilian entomologist for the Army. His career with the UC Davis Department of Entomology began in 1947.
Laidlaw is best known for developing artificial insemination technology for honey bees. His contributions enabled selective breeding of honey bees and pioneered the fundamental study of insect genetics. He authored numerous scientific publications and four books on honey bee genetics and breeding.
Laidlaw studied pests and diseases and conducted research on the breeding of queen bees and on re-queening bee colonies. His research on artificial insemination of bees inspired poet E.B. White to write a poem, “Song of the Queen Bee,” published in the New Yorker magazine in 1945. It included the lines “What boots it to improve a bee, if it means an end to ecstasy.”
Laidlaw received national and international awards for his research and service to the university, agriculture and the beekeeping industry. He was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1955, and the Entomological Society of America (ESA) in 1991. At UC Davis, he was the first associate dean for research (1969) in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The College of Ag selected him for its Award of Distinction in 1997.
Laidlaw was awarded the Western Apiculture Society’s “Outstanding Service to Beekeeping” award in 1980, being cited as “one of the great scientists in American agriculture.” In 1981 he won the C.W. Woodworth Award of the Pacific Branch of the ESA.
Laidlaw published his classic text Queen Rearing in 1950, in collaboration with J. E. Eckert. He published his last book, Queen Rearing and Bee Breeding, written in collaboration with Robert Page, former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, in 1997
Although retired, in 1980-85, he established a honey bee breeding program for the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture as part of a joint UC-Egypt agricultural development program.
Naming of Laidlaw Facility
In 2001, the Bee Biology Laboratory at UC Davis was renamed the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. Local artist and sculptor Donna Billick and entomologist-artist Diane Ullman designed the sign at the facility.
Source: Harry H. Laidlaw Papers from the UC Davis Special Collections
Biographical materials, correspondence, writings, research materials, course materials, printed materials, memorabilia, photographs.
By Constance Lin Varroa mites, pathogens, or climate change? What exactly causes the honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)? Honey bees (Apis mellifera) offer us critical pollination services. In the United Kingdom, for instance, data from the British Beekeepers Association estimates that approximately one-third of the nation’s food supply is dependent on pollination, and more […]
It’s bee season again! As your going through your hives, you may notice they are putting on queen cells. There are three types of cells you will see: Swarm Cells, Superscedure Cells, or Emergency Cells.
The swarm cell is typically the one you will see. This type cell is an indicator that your hive is preparing to swarm. The beehive is a super organism, and bees are eusocial. This means that each individual bee can not survive on its own for very long. Superorganisms reproduce in different ways. Honey Bees do this by swarming. They will raise a new queen, and after that queen hatches, the old queen and a number of the worker bees will leave the current hive in search of a new home. Swarm cells are typically located on the bottom of frames or around the edges. There can be several in a hive at one time.
Supersedure cells are different. These are made to replace an existing queen. Sometimes the hive views the queen as inferior. There are many reasons for this. I have had hives do it when I put in marked or clipped queens. Sometimes they do it when the think she is not laying enough brood, or is not mated properly. These cells can be anywhere on the face of the frame. Typically there are 1-3 at a time. There has been some debate over whether the workers put the eggs in, or if the current queen lays in the cell cup.
Emergency cells are easy to spot. They are made in the absence of a queen. The worker bees realize there is no queen within an hour. They respond by selecting a couple of eggs that are the correct age. The reform the wax around that egg into a queen cell. These cells can be anywhere on the frame, and are usually somewhat recessed into the frame. There is some debate over the quality of these queens. However, I have had some good success with emergency queens. I raise some of my own queens, and when the season is over I purchase them. However, sometimes a quality queen from a reputable source is not available. So I let thousands of years of evolution do what it has learned to do.
Recognizing what type of queen cells are in your hive can help you to make decisions about your hive. Sometimes it can mean the difference in whether or not you loose the hive. If you are new to beekeeping, and are unsure, ask your mentor, or take a picture and send it to another beekeeper to find out what’s going on.
Remember, swarm cells are a great time to make increase. If you have a good supply of brood, honey, pollen, and bees you can make at least one split with a swarm cell.
Source: Types of Queen cells
Uses of propolis by bbkamodules
The varnishing of cells?
Where does this get a mention? It’s in the study notes..
They asked lots of people too.
In Ribbands, Chapter 27, Huber (1814) observed that new combs become more yellow, more pliable stronger and heavier and sometimes there were reddish threads on the inner walls. Chemical tests showed this was propolis.
Source: Uses of propolis