Behaviour of bees towards neighbouring bees

comportamiento de las abejas con sus vecinas

The world of bees, beekeeping and raw honey is fascinating. The bees, which form a huge social community, work in synchronisation to bring the whole hive forward. Each bee learns its task at every stage of its life. We already know a lot about behaviour of bees, but there is still more to learn about them. Now, they have discovered more about bees, which will help improve beekeeping and add to the science.


  1. Bee behaviour at the entrance of the hives
  2. Acceptance of host bees

Summary: The behaviour of bees outside the hive depends on a number of factors. Likewise, each bee has its job in the control and recognition of the bees that enter the hive. You can also visit our shop in Las Rozas de Madrid, where you will find a fantastic selection of quality honeys: thyme, eucalyptus, manuka, orange blossom, rosemary

Other interesting articles: Where to buy quality raw honey?

1. Behaviour of bees at the entrance to the hives

Honey bees, which would have a single system for accepting other bees not belonging to the hive, which we could call immigrant bees. Bees that “wander aimlessly”, i.e. roam through neighbouring hives, could have free passage into a neighbouring hive if the guard bees in these hives view it favourably.

Stacking of bees inside a hive is common. At the same time as the hives are placed by the beekeeper one after the other in the field. Sometimes, some bees go aimlessly and migrate from one hive to another, not returning to the hive where they belong.

Morgane Nouvian and her research team at the University of Quuensland in Brisbane, Australia, reviewed 161 scientific articles on the defensive behaviour of bees. He did it in order to obtain a more accurate overview of the phenomenon of European honey bees.

Trozos de colmena y cuadro

Photo 1: Pieces of hive and honeycomb frame

a) Control task

This research team found that 10 to 15 % of the bees in a hive performed the task of controlling entry to their hive, acting as entry guards. In addition, these bees on guard duty are between two and three weeks old. Furthermore, their main role is to detect and deal with predators, such as bees from neighboring hives that would like to enter.

In an inspection that could take half a minute. Also, the guardians verify chemical traces of the new – typically hydrocarbons – that depend on genetic factors specific to the hive. Moreover, they check the wax they have in their bodies. If these traits are similar to those of your hive or are very similar, the guard bees will let the “vagabond” bee or another hive pass.

According to numerous experiments in beehives, about 30% of stray bees are allowed to remain in a hive.

The guard bees also have to identify the looting bees that aim to steal mead from their comb. According to Nouvian: “We now know that these honey bees are detected by their flight pattern and speed. Guardians can detect the arrival of thieves and sting them before they even reach the hive.

b) Other factor

There are other factors that influence whether new guests are allowed in or not. One of the main factors is the availability of resources both outside and inside the hive.

“This is interesting, because when there are sufficient resources, for example, nectar sources near the hive, or few empty honeycombs, the guard bees allow other bees not belonging to their hive to pass through, as Nouvian told us in his research. Even under these circumstances of abundance there would be no guard bees at the entrance to the hive.

“These “open doors” can be quickly closed in situations of food shortages. In these cases, the guard bees would not only reject new guests, they would even kill them if they tried to enter. Nouvian also added in his article that when the combs are empty of honey, the guard bees are much more aggressive.

2. Acceptance of honey bee hosts

Other experiments conducted by researcher Francis Ratmieks of the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom showed the following. Once a new host bee had been accepted into a hive, these new bees finally integrated themselves into the chemical characteristics of the new hive.

Francis placed a working bee from a neighboring hive directly into a hive, without passing the control of the guard bees. The new host bee, as soon as she arrived at the new hive, took wax from the hive. Thus, it was accepted later without any problems by the guard bees and they had the same treatment with them as with the rest of the native bees.

According to Ratnieks, this shows that the chemical compounds on the bee’s body make the bees recognize themselves as his companions.

With another scientific study by Ratnieks, he has shown that guard bees are extremely good at arresting predators such as wasps.

He said: “In these experiments, we introduced both wasps and bees from other hives to the entrance of the hive. The results showed that the guardians always detected them easily, never confusing them with their hive companions.

“This is very important for the survival of the hive, because the wasps attack the larvae and bees in order to kill them and steal their honey, just like other bees in other hives, which may have the same objective of stealing honey.

Explanatory video in English:

3. Reasons for change of temperament of bees

The temperament of bees can change at any time, and often it does not depend on the beekeeper. For this reason it is recommended not to place hives near houses where people live.

The reasons why bees change their temperament are as follows:

  1. Warm and humid weather
  2. Shortage of food
  3. A hive without a queen
  4. bee strains that are more aggressive than others
  5. Theft from hives
  6. Presence of predators that disturb the hive
  7. Not knowing how to use the smoker properly
  8. Careless treatment of bees
  9. High levels of varroa mites
  10. The end of the bee defence season
  11. Alarm pheromones in the bee suit
  12. Africanisation

Now let’s take a closer look at each point:

a) Warm and humid weather

Warm and humid weather does not suit bees very well and causes them to become more aggressive.



Behaviour of bees. American bee Journal

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