More Wilke and Marjon Naomi and Jenny..and others

Number warning: for those who don’t like data analysis; read another post.

I’ve written about the data I’ve collected from the chipped bees at Foriade 2012, Venlo, Netherlands.

I spotted quite soon that some bees seemed to go out and in together – Marjon and Wilke being the first pair I spotted.  I soon realised that this buddy behaviour was quite common – and I think it was Emily heath who pointed to similar comments being made in the Buzz about bees book.

However, the story gets more curious and I wonder whether there is a spurious relationship?

The first time I saw either Wilke or Marjon go out without the other I assumed death for a few seconds – then I noticed that one went out and within a minute the other came in.  Checking the data this was not an aborted trip as the partner had been in the hive for 40 minutes.  Then I noticed that the majority of of intervals between flights were of the order of 40 minutes.  For Marjon and Wilke their outside trips were also running at a duration of about 40 minutes.  At some stage a partnership that had endured a few days had ‘flipped’ so one was coming as another was going.  Then the next day or so – they were back together in sequence. I’ve seen this flipping for other pairs where I have seen a link – a track record of flying seemingly together and then suddenly one is coming in at more or less the same minute the other goes out.  I’m enjoying all my data gathering but as it increases in volume it is harder to find specific details – and then if I spend too much time looking at the data at the same time as capturing it I miss a few entrances and exits but I will try and paste some examples.  I am now trying to put in an extra column to the right of the data the number of minutes between the in and out trips.  (If the data indicates a bee is going out then the minutes to the right will be the time it was inside and vice versa)

Marjon and Wilke have just returned as I write

Flight id: Bee name: Status: Time:
104727 Gerda in 12:37
104726 Marjon in 12:37
104725 Wilke in 12:36

Here is data about a ‘flipped’ sequence a couple of days ago

103396 Maja in 17:13 103394 Marjon out 17:12 NB Marjon and Wilke in/out
103395 Gerda in 17:13 103392 Jet out 17:11
103393 Wilke in 17:12 103391 Bianca out 17:11

I first saw Marjon and Wilke in sequence right at the beginning of June.  Since then I have witnessed them out of sequence for a time; back in sequence for a time; out of sequence again including a flip where to within a minute or two one was going out whilst the other was going in and back in sequence once more.

When I spot a ‘pairing’ or even a ‘trio’ of bees acting in sequence they invariably carry on for a while (days) and most seem to experience ‘flipping’.

It made me think about our journeys to work.  Whether we travel by train or car, we start to identify others who travel the same route (or sometimes the reverse route) not because they know us but because they have a similar work pattern.  If people travelling on the London tube were tagged (PLEASE can someone do this – well, I guess privacy laws won’t allow!) and someone watched the data, they may attribute friendship to people who just had the same travel pattern.  As I mused further on this I realised that though often the trips indicated the chipped pairs arrived at exactly the same time, often it differed by a minute (which I put down to rounding up) and at times even more.  Bees are very small so a whole minute between arrivals and perhaps – just perhaps- they were not travelling together at all – they were just driven by a common theme.  Perhaps they were foraging the same crop.  Perhaps they have a sort of inner clock.  Our inner clock is driven heavily by the whole business of light and dark – night and day – we get jet lag when this is changed.  The bees are happy in the dark (even though they appear to navigate by the sun) – so perhaps there body clock influences are completely different from our own?

Obviously if I collect data rigorously over an hour, at the end of that hour I can start to see those bees who have foraging journeys or hive residence of about 40 minutes or so.   To be able to spot longer foraging journeys, I need to monitor for much longer and try not to miss too many journeys in that time.  this is not only difficult, it is somewhat antisocial and anti-housework or other duties!

However, I have had periods where I have spotted that there are quite a few bees doing journeys of about 40 minutes; another lot doing journeys of 66 minutes and another few doing journeys of either 106 or 116 minutes (I was tired and I think my brain meant my arithmetic was wrong).  Observing pollen loads from my own bees it always seemed to me they tried to have loads from about three different plants coming in at any one time (different coloured pollens).  This seems to have some implications when bees are moved so that they produce monofloral honey.  Inevitably it draws the mind to what we would be like if we had just one thing in our diets – but I know that my previous assumptions are dangerous and these are positively a leap into the unknown.  I still think that trying to put a context to the data is worth doing.

Over the next few days I am going to try really hard to try and establish whether trip durations do seem to divide into a few common times and also whether a bee that starts out travelling for 40 minute trips later progresses to 60 minute trips.

Anyone still reading?  I’ll post some data about some more of the pairs I have spotted.

Jenny and Naomi are currently a pair (Jenny always behind Naomi);

around the 6th and 7th June, toos, Ada and Dana were often together with journeys of about 40 minutes and some flipping:

95461 Dana out 12:32
94559 Toos out 23:42
94558 Ada out 23:42
94476 Dana out 22:36
94475 Toos in 22:36
94474 Ada in 22:35
94445 Dana in 21:57
94427 Toos out 21:56
94426 Ada out 21:56
94278 Dana out 19:44
94284 Toos in 19:43
94283 Ada in 19:43

Here’s another little group on much longer trips

103230 Helga in 14:45 106
103228 Rosanne in 14:44 106
103227 Lisette in 14:44 106
103226 Katri in 14:43 116
103225 Pia in 14:43 116

some – like Petra – seem to forage for just 27 minutes at a time – but she is more often on the late evening /night shift so I have less data on her.  Look at the data yourself to see if you spot any of these characters!  click on the timetable tab

Sorry there aren’t many pictures on this post.

How appropriate – just seen Wilke and Marjon set off

104775 Gerda out 13:17
104774 Marjon out 13:16
104773 Wilke out 13:16
104772 Jet out 13:15
They’d been in the hive since  12.36/ 12.37  as I started this post so 40 minutes kip or house duties between trips?

STOP Press Jenny and Naomi just flipped

105062 Jenny in 17:18 105063 Naomi out 17:19

About apiarylandlord

Definitely past it - whatever it was - I may have blinked and missed it. New to beekeeping and totally entranced by the experience. That is probably all you need to know until I work out how secure this blog is. Great fan of recycling - see to find your local group. Save things from landfill. Pass on your surplus, locally, for free or ask for things you need in case you can have someone's cast off again for free.
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6 Responses to More Wilke and Marjon Naomi and Jenny..and others

  1. I love your analysis. It’s very interesting. I’m intrigued about the possibility of a progression in longer time foraging as they get older (or a shorter time progression as they get older). Do you think that there might be any correlation to groups of girls going out around the same time due to a bee dance that is performed to them? I wonder if some of these pairs and groups just happen to be working the same area within a hive and witness the wiggle dance together which might cause them to go out together occasionally and come back together. A theory anyways!

    • All of these things are possible. How I’d love my bees chipped and be able to track them on GPS as well. In some ways, the waggle dance alerts bees to a source. If we assume quite a lot of bees then work that source and go directly there they would take about the same time. I almost imagine a rota for the bees going to any given source over 24 hours. If there is a set time for them to recover or have inside duties (or the equivalent of an HGV drivers tachograph) then in any five minutes of the day there will be bees going to that source and they could appear to be going together. I am determined to try and follow some of these ideas – eg longer foraging trips due to age or just the accident of which crop they forage. I am not sure whether the names for the bees bear any relationship to their age. If those with names starting with A were older than those starting with B it would help us in the whole trip /age thing. It might also mean that older bees (Marjon) trained younger bees (Wilke). However pairs like Naomi and Jenny would be much closer in age. Given that we are told bees live about 6 weeks in peak season, I wonder when I will notice some of these disappear from the statistics. Having seen the site, the one thing I can comprehend is that they have planted the basics of the whole site with similar sorts of bee plants. For example there were thousands and thousands of alliums everywhere. In a more typical situation they may find that a forage plant is tied more precisely to one location and that it goes over more quickly so they may need to change journey patterns.
      thank you for taking the time to comment. The data excites me but I am terrified it bores almost everyone else!

  2. Beekeepers love details. Keep posting! It is really interesting how the bees are foraging in pairs. I am looking forward to conclusions at the end of the season.

    • Thanks for keeping me positive. One of the things that is interesting me as I am now over 2 weeks into the data is that of those pairs or groups that seem to forage together for the majority of their time, I would have expected to have lost some. By the time they forage they are a few weeks old and I imagined the wider world was quite a difficult environment for them – that for each journey there would be a probability of death or disaster. I have been prepared to see one ‘lost in battle’ every so often. We hear the statistic that in high season a worker bee lasts for about 6 weeks. Each time I see one of a known pair without the other I hold my breath – but so far I have not spotted any total losses. If I ever see one it seems to be because of the ‘flip’ that I have described previously. Yesterday and today I am trying to be even more thorough in collecting data over a longer period. I would like to get an idea of the number of likely journeys per bee and so I am concentrating on looking more deeply into some of my known pairs or groups.


  3. Pingback: It has been a while …Floriade, be a bee, geocaching all comes together | Apiarylandlord's Blog

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