Vita Bee Health Global Honeybee Health Experts

Blog – bees, beekeeping & other sticky subjects

Higher or lower?

Vita’s blogger has been out again with a radio-controlled (UAV) drone chasing honey bee drone congregation areas (DCAs)

At the site of the first documented DCA (by Gilbert White on Selborne Common, Hampshire), I’ve been successful in finding DSCAs just 4m or 5m above the ground but have often wondered what is happening higher up. So, a UAV drone acquisition seemed the way to provide the answer. And it did.

At the end of the honey bee drone season, a few drones showed up at 10m. Not very convincing, but it was the end of the season. The drone flew higher – up to 40m – but nothing could be seen from the ground, until the video was downloaded and there they were! Not many, but clearly some. How many might there be up there at the height of the honey bee drone season?

And are there really two distinct flying levels? Some research has said that Carniolan and Italian bees do indeed mate a at different heights. Roll on next season.

Where did the DCA go? Upwards!

Those who have followed the drone congregation area (DCA) hunts of Vita’s blogger over the past few years may have been surprised that the DCAs can be found at only five metres above ground. But this year it hasn’t been so easy to find them with a lure on an extendable fishing rod. Where are the drones congregating hoping to mate with the queen?

Vita’s blogger takes up the story:

On several occasions, the drones did not appear at the five-metre-high lure on days that appeared suitable. I tended to blame the lack of breeze/thermal which is a crucial element, probably because it helps the drones in the precision flying necessary to mate on the wing with a queen. Perhaps the hotter temperatures were having an effect. But I wasn’t convinced. Listening very carefully, it was possible to imagine that there were drones around, perhaps higher up.

Raising the lure higher above the ground poses difficulties of course. But then there are those newly available and affordable remote-control drones.

So, having had an unsuccessful search at one site, I returned armed with extendable fishing rod and radio-controlled drone.

The fishing rod eventually attracted two drones — but on the same site a couple of weeks ago it had attracted fifty or more. So the lure went on the radio-controlled drone and this is what I saw:

From queenless to queenright

How quickly bees change their behaviour in the presence of royalty. Vita’s blogger videos the reaction.

Drone congegation area revisited

Five years ago, Vita’s blogger visited Greenham Common, at one-time a 3km by 0.5km disused airfield and now a nature reserve. At each end and in the middle of the Common, drones almost instantly appeared at the lure. What happened yesterday?

Only one end of the Common appeared to be active. And the drones took a little longer to appear. Was this because it was a week or two earlier in the season and not some many drones were about?

Watch what happens when the lure is lowered into a bush. Nearly all of the drones appear to lose interest and when the lure is hoisted again, a large number seem to have flown off elsewhere.

The never-ending puzzle of DCAs.

Look at me, I’m dancing!

The observation hive of Vita’s Blogger wants to release a swarm but the weather is inclement. A dancing bee (she has pollen in the baskets on her legs) can’t get any attention in the brood chamber, where the bees are focused on swarming, so she moves to the less swarm-obsessed super where they pay more attention.


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