The Bees in my hives are wrapped around the Queen in tight balls. I can hear the hum. Winter it is a time of study for Beekeepers and I throw my name into this tribe with emotional humility. With thousands of years of observation , there is a lot to learn and much information to share about these creatures, Apis, the Honey bee.
It came to the attention of Thunder Bay’s Beekeepers’ Association that we have an expert in our midst- a Dr. Heather Mattila, from Wellesley College, Department of Biological Sciences in Massachusetts returns home at Christmas to visit her parents and we had our own exclusive ‘Ted Talk”. The Topic: “Why do well mated queens produce the busiest bees?”
The language of science from a Phd Biologist keeps a person on point. I have new information to share from Heather’s work over the last 15 years from her students at Wellesley (of notable Alumnus: Clinton, Albright, Sawyer) and colleagues from Cornell.
Slide No. 2 of the Power Point show gets right down to the nitty gritty of the subject; an airborne Queen with the ripped off genitalia of a Drone dangling from her bottom. Imagine that visual! My own musings (of a wannabe biologist) before the lecture were generic answers:
– because there is some selection going on – couplings are planned – drones have been selected.
The definition of a ‘busy’ bee, also explained in the Lecture will be explored in another instalment, Part II
Polyamory is a new word in my vocabulary. Today’s women are seeking more than one sexual partner but remaining in their marriage, apparently and Polyandry in Bees ensures genetic diversity, hence stronger . . . busier . . . bees.
The Queen’s flight away from the hive may occur up to three trips (maximum) in search of an aerial drone congregation travelling many dangerous kilometres to follow the scent of those minute pheromones on the wind. Once located, a mating comet of drones begins to swirl around her and the chase is on. The biggest, the strongest, the fastest Drone wins. Nothing new there >wink<.
Back in the hive, the Queen returns and worker bees are reassured by the ultra violet light emanating from the Drone’s still attached genitalia. The workers chew off the package and the colony is restored.
The End Part I
Illustration from C. P. Dadant’s “First Lessons in Beekeeping” 1918