Vita Bee Health Global Honeybee Health Experts

Do drones assemble above prehistoric sites?

Vita’s Blogger is continuing the search for Drone Congregation Areas (DCAs) and a fourth has turned up provoking an intriguing thought: could there be a connection between the location of DCAs and prehistoric monuments?

To recap: drones congregate in specific places to meet and mate with honeybee queens. No-one can consistently describe the areas nor predict where they might be. It’s all a bit of a mystery. Do the drones and queens locate these areas by smell, sight, hearing, air movements or something altogether different? Even the density of DCAs in a given area is subject to debate.

Having found a lively DCA close to the steep scarp slope of chalk downland (chalk landscapes often have a steep scarp slope in one direction and a more gentle dip slope in the other), I decided to venture along the scarp slope to see if there was another. The first one had been in the general vicinity of two mapped prehistoric barrows (ancient burial sites, often dating back 2000 years and more).

There was another. And even though the temperature was relatively cool (just above 20C), the drones were out in force. Here’s a video of them in action and showing the general location. In fact the drones were videoed just above the centre of a prehistoric bell barrow.

Karl Showler, well-known British beekeeper and author, has suggested that there could be a link between prehistoric sites and DCAs. He has wondered if prehistoric man was in awe of the buzzing sounds from unseen objects above their heads in certain locations. Perhaps they thought it was made by the gods and decided to build their special memorials beneath them. (We should remember that today we may not be sensitized to such sounds because of air and road vehicle noises and the noise is less because there are probably fewer honeybees since Varroa has arrived.)

However, there could be other explanations of the association between barrows and bees — if indeed there is an association at all. Prehistoric man often constructed barrows partly to mark the edge of their territories and often that might be just be below a ridge in the landscape. Drones might be attracted to these areas for other reasons, such as wind direction and air currents.

Beowulf Cooper suggested that drones like to operate in areas of warmed and rising air. It’s just possible that the disturbance of areas where barrows have been built create areas of warm updrafts. I think that might be fanciful, however, because the DCA stretched with some intensity quite some distance beyond the barrow.

Nonetheless, Karl Showler has raised an intriguing possibility of a link, deliberate or otherwise, between prehistoric man and honeybees. But there are other ideas too and nothing quite seems to suit all situations. Are we missing a critical factor that would explain all?

Next up: a DCA on a village recreation ground.

Vita’s Guest Beekeeper Blogger


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