Standard Observation Hive
group represents the Apiculture Section of the Department of Zoology &
Entomology, Rhodes University in Grahamstown, Republic of South Africa. We
are studying the biology of the western honeybee (Apis mellifera L.,
Hymenoptera: Apidae). In particular, we are interested in population biology,
and conflicts in honeybee societies.
Honeybee colonies comprise of two castes of female individuals: one queen,
which usually monopolizes reproduction and thousands of workers, who perform
all other tasks necessary to maintain the colony (such as feeding of brood,
foraging, guarding and new comb construction). However, despite the fact that
workers cannot mate, they are also able to reproduce via parthenogenesis
(virgin birth). They produce unfertilized eggs, which in bees usually develop
into males (drones in the honeybee). This establishes a potential conflict
over reproduction under queenright (colony with a queen) or queenless
However, the queen acts as a central processing unit of worker fertility
via emitting queen pheromones, which suppress worker fertility. These
pheromones are distributed over the hive by workers in her Royal Court who
lick the queen and subsequently by so-called messenger bees spreading them
throughout the colony.
|Individual labeling of bees
Recent studies on the distribution of workers among the colonies indicate
a considerable variance for the actual spatial distribution of
workers. Some workers are attracted to the queen, while others tend to stay
away from her. Given the distance of the workers actually reflects the
amount of queen pheromones accumulated by a worker during its life time,
these distances can possibly explain differences in worker reproductive
potential found in earlier studies.
Workers which tend to stay away from the queen might maintain a higher
reproductive potential compared to workers staying close to the queen.
Moreover, the spatial distribution of workers early in
their lives may have an impact on their tasks later in life. The occurrence
of specialist worker bees is well established and different behavioral thresholds for different tasks such as guarding, undertaking and nectar or
pollen foraging may be a result of different environmental stimuli in
different parts of the hive early in a worker bee’s lifetime.
Therefore our group is particularly interested in the distribution of
individuals in a spatial context also in relation to space and the actual behavioral
and developmental patterns in the bee hive. This may be a key
factor for many phenomena involved in intracolonial conflicts in the honeybee
and in other eusocial insects.
To investigate the distances between a single worker and the queen in
observation hives in a fast and easy way with a high degree of accuracy is of
Take a look at the JavaView applet that treats
this problem. It was written by Eike Preuß at the Technical University
Berlin, Germany, based on
JavaView, an interactive viewer for
3D geometries and a numerical software library. If you have problems with
browsing the page and starting the applet look
for general help and help on the browser properties.
Rhodes University, 6140
Grahamstown, Republic of South Africa
of Zoology and Entomology