How, when and why does a honey bee do its orientation flights

Big thanks to fellow beekeeper Scott Mineikis from Buckinghamshire, England who prepared this article about honey bee orientation flights.

Let’s start with when do bees make their first orientation flights?

Some say that it could be within days of being born, some will argue that it is when the bee enters the foraging stage of its life. As with all questions with beekeepers you should expect many, many answers! This is my view taken from a number of sources, I’m not saying it's correct however suggesting on the balance of probability that this is more than likely to be the case. As you may know, the lifespan of a Honey Bee worker is 5-7 weeks and the first few weeks are spent in the hive, the last few as a forager. This timeline can’t be exact as there are many factors involved, such as consumption of pollen and the abundance of protein etc. but I would suggest that the first orientation flights are taken when the bee becomes a forager. Why do I think this, if you are making splits and moving nurse bees, these bees tend to return to the original hive? This could indicate that nurse bees are house bees and do not do orientation flights until they become forager bees.

Bees orientation flight

The science

Honeybees, perform exploratory orientation flights before they start foraging in order to become familiar with the terrain. There appears to be to types of orientation flights short and long-range orientation flights. Short-range flights are likely to be related to learning the specific features of the hive's immediate surroundings and can be seen more often under unfavourable weather conditions. Short-range orientation flights take bees no further than 30 m away from the hive and lack any clear direction The duration of long-range orientation flights declined from the first to the fourth flight because bees spent less time inspecting the immediate surroundings of the hive. During consecutive orientation flights bees explore new areas of the terrain, foraging flights performed after orientation flights cover greater distances and may involve a sector of the terrain not explored before. Exploration may be mixed with foraging flights after the initial orientation flights, sometimes leading to extremely long and elaborate flights* Navigation of bees is believed to be simple, employing isolated sensory-motor routines that are learned. For example, bees learn the directions and distances of their travels between hive and food sources by path integration, they use the sun to apply these memories and use landmarks to calibrate distances. Bees can retrieve flight directions from landmarks when the sun is not available.

Beehive entrance

But what if it's cloudy?

On cloudy days, honey bees are known to navigate to familiar food sources and orientate their dances accurately. This capacity could be based on a magnetic compass sense, an ability to perceive the sun or patterns of polarized light through the clouds, or on the bees' memory of the diurnal course of the sun with respect to local landmarks. Experiments pitting these alternatives against one another demonstrate that the navigational backup system of bees is based on memory.**

References:

*Sciencedirect

**sciencemag

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

★ Reviews

Let customers speak for us

427 reviews
98%
(418)
2%
(9)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
Buckwheat honey

Once again great taste for your Buckwheat honey. 👍😊

Best Honey in Cold Weather

It really is the Best Honey during the cold season. Taste is really good and even better with Ginger and Cinnamon. I wish there are more other types of raw honey (such as Dandelion, Kiawe, Ikaria etc.) available on this site.

Acquired taste

Different from your normal golden coloured honey both in taste and looks. It definitely has an acquired taste. It might not be for everybody, very deep, rich with an earthy aftertaste. I personally like it, I feel it would be good as a glaze rather than in my herbal teas

Beautiful honey

Lovely tasting honey. Perfectly balanced with sweet and creamy notes. Similar to Manuka honey in texture and taste. If you want manuka honey without the expensive price, this is the honey for too.

Favourite honey

Love buckwheat honey. This is just the right consistency and colour. Keep recommending it to people