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The Behaviour of Worker Honeybees At the Hive Entrance

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1. Observations at hive entrances have been made to ascertain the relative importance of scent and behaviour in enabling a guard bee to recognise members of her own colony and to distinguish them from intruders from other colonies. 2. Guard bees are not present at the hive entrance unless the colony has been alerted. 3. Alerting of colonies is brought about by the presence of robber bees or by numbers of bees that have strayed from other colonies. 4. Guard bees attempt to intercept and inspect other bees on the alighting-board of the hive. Bees of various ages undertake guard duties. 5. Guard bees recognise members of their own colony by scent. 6. Robber bees are recognised by behaviour when attempting to enter the hive, but all other intruders are recognised by scent. 7. After recognition intruders, other than robbers, assume either a dominant or a submissive attitude. 8. A dominant intruder, usually a laden forager, enters the hive without hesitation or difficulty. 9. On interception a submissive intruder stops moving towards the hive entrance and allows herself to be subjected to extensive examination or mauling. 10. Whilst being extensively examined or mauled the submissive intruder offers food to the guards and on their refusal of it 'strops' her tongue. It is suggested that this is a displacement activity. 11. A submissive bee that is being mauled sometimes passes into a state of thanatosis. 12. Very young bees are recognised as intruders and mauled just as readily as older bees. 13. As long as an intruder remains submissive she is not stung by the guards. Intruders, including robbers, which attempt to escape from the guards are immediately seized and stung. 14. If intruders, other than robbers, succeed in remaining in a strange colony for 2-3 hours they are accepted by the bees of that colony.

Affiliations: 1: Bee Research Department, Rothamsted Experimental Station


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