Bees on the move

By Misch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

With the rising temperatures and the blossoming of flowers, grasses and trees, the pollinators of the Grand Duchy are also slowly becoming active. Some honey bees will reclaim old habitats in search of a new home. The Citizen Scientists of Honey Bee Wild are observing them to find out how the animals develop in the wild.

Spring – the beginning of an exciting time for the members of the citizen scientist group Honey Bee Wild. For life will burst forth in the country's honey bee colonies in the coming weeks. In some vigorous colonies with sufficient food reserves, workers, driven by instinct and pheromones, will consistently feed selected larvae with royal jelly. It is partly through this nutrient-rich food juice that they are destined to a life as queen. Within just 16 days, they grow considerably larger than their thousands of siblings growing up around them in more modest combs. Just nine days after laying her eggs, their mother, the old queen, will have departed for a new nest along with thousands of workers in a loud buzzing swarm. She leaves the future of her brood to one of her still unborn daughters, who will soon inherit the throne and half of the colony – after she has stabbed her rival sisters to death. In the ensuing nuptial flight, she is fertilised by up to 20 males. In her life, which can last up to seven years, she will lay up to half a million eggs.

At this point, her mother has already long departed with the other half of the colony in search of a new home. In a "swarm cluster", a large collection of bees, they will have landed on a nearby branch from which so-called scout bees search for possible new nests and dance the way there to their siblings. At this point, they are often caught by beekeepers, who, in doing so, secure a new colony for a new beehive. The buzz of thousands of wings – of which each bee has four, a good way to distinguish them from hover flies – usually makes it easy to find the swarm. However, those swarms that escape sometimes find a natural nest.

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