bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Drifters aren't always anti-social

Wasps drift from nest to nest helping colonies that are close relatives, says new research undertaken in Panama. Although suspected, the phenomenon hadn't been properly observed until a newish technology, RFID, enabled tags to be attached to the wasps' backs.

The researchers believe that the wasps are boosting their chances of propagating their genes by nurturing relatives in nearby nests.

Drifting is of course a well-known phenomenon in beekeeping, but is usually regarded as a disease-spreading mechanism, or, if deliberately encouraged, as a harvest-boosting technique.

As yesterday's post alludes, it is usually recommended that bee hives are not placed in regular lines as this encourages drifting.

A well-known Hampshire beefarmer tells of his first visit as a youngster to the New Forest for heather honey: He went with more experienced beekeepers and he was told to put his hives at the end of the line. He learnt that lesson quickly -- his more experienced colleagues knew that the bees would drift towards their more centrally-placed hives, boosting their honey crop and leaving the youngster with little honey and few bees at the end of the visit.



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