Spring is here and that means “Viva la Revolution”, well in the bee world that is. In spring each year we see the mass exodus of bee’s from hives all throughout South Australia. This has a chain effect of causing our switchboard to go into meltdown, as we are inundated with inbound phone calls from clients reporting bees clumping on window ledges, in trees and even in wall vents.
So what causes this event to happen each year I hear you ask? In part it is just a simple breakdown in communication caused by the hive becoming too successful.
As the hive increases in size, it becomes harder for the Queen to transmit her pheromones (a form of chemical communication) to all of her subjects. Without that signal getting through, the bees basic instinct is to replace her and so they set about to create a new queen. This is programmed into each and every bees DNA.
Once the drones fail to receive the signal they begin to construct multiple specially designed queen cells and introduce larvae into them. They then start feeding the larvae on a diet solely of royal jelly. This triggers their DNA to develop them into a queen. At the same time the drones will also set about producing males for the new queen to mate with.
While all of this is taking place, around 60% of the workers will leave the colony and taking with them the old queen. She isn’t leading the cluster just tagging along with them. The old queen is unable to fly very far from the old colony, only managing a couple of 100 metres before she will need to stop and rest. When she stops the workers instinctively clump around her to protect her from any danger. Once she is protected they will send out scouts in numerous directions to seek out the perfect location in which to construct a new hive. Once one of the scouts finds a new location, they will return to the old queen to collect everyone and they will then all work together to build the new hive.