(DCA's) the honey bees of the British Isles

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Newbeeneil 

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I was jesting. The idea of trying to follow a queen to see where she mates is absurd. I've chased a swarm which is a darn sight bigger and lost it pretty quickly.
Didn't they used to track Asian Hornets with a feather? Or am I confused?
I think from memory the initial tracking in the Channel Islands was done with a feather. (before they got the micro transmitters)
 

mbc 

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But as an artifact of unnatural concentrations of colonies rather than naturally dispersed sites?

Maybe we'll get some indepth research on this subject one day. As @Apiarist mentioned (not necessarily in this context - I don't wish to ascribe a different meaning to his post):



The AVM thing doesn't seem to fit the bees natural instinct to out cross, at least, not as I understand it. As I said to Jon G so many times on the old Scottish forum, if better/deeper research on the subject is presented then I'll acknowledge my mistake (but I still wouldn't use AVM as a selling point if I was trying to build a queen rearing business).
Well yes, isn't everything we observe with our bees now an artifact of them being sort of domesticated and bent out of shape a bit to fit our convenience?
I wouldn't try and use avm as a selling point, in fact given the choice I'd much prefer all my queens to be mated on the wing at 30 foot a mile or so away from her hive to a dozen or so drones as nature intended (or is it? As mentioned most published work on honey bees is done on subspecies other than Amm, I'm not entirely sure the oft quoted work from places such as baton rouge has much relevance to our native bees, certainly the more anecdotal observations of beekeepers such as Willie Robson fit what I see better than the number crunched, peer reviewed work from elsewhere. )
Either way, I've seen avm a few times with my own eyes, so I'm satisfied it's a thing, whether it does them any good who knows? Queens with semen from only one drone aren't likely to last long, but then if the colony was desperate then at least some sort of mated queen gives them a chance to continue while looking for better times and a chance to superceded her.
 
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rolande 

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@mbc do you think it's a desperate act on the colonys part or more to the point the queen's? To AVM.
I'll butt in here and say that I don't see it as desperate, more a case of opportunistic. There have been plenty of accounts of this, *usually* associated with large apiaries, going right back to the early 20th century (possibly before that too). As an example, I think (would need to check) that Phillips mentioned it in his 1905 USDA Queen Rearing bulletin. Was certainly mentioned in the early magazines.

edit: then there was Manley recounting such an instance in Honey Farming, in fact, if I remember right he actually used it to try to dismiss the idea of queens flying any great distance from the hive during their mating flight.
 
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Murox 

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@mbc do you think it's a desperate act on the colonys part or more to the point the queen's? To AVM.
Despair suggests rashness or recklessness, but bees like most creatures are opportunistic. We really know very little about the sexual pheromone signalling of bees. Like most things with bees the obvious variables are significant and the subtleties within the variables go unnoticed by us most of the time.

Edit - just a 'side' thought - how do we REALLY KNOW that drones & queens are really polygamous, all we see are the results.
 

Into the lions den 

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This thread reminds me of one of the key distinctions I make when talking to groups about how we can possibly run so many colonies on what to most seem very short visits. What turns a hobby beekeeper into a potential professional.

The distinction between what you NEED to know...........and what is NICE to know. Its part of the rather nebulous idea of 'pace' that takes some adjusting to when moving up in numbers.

Unless you are very dense and try to run a queen yard in areas deficient in drones (only exception is if you are doing line breeding by isolation) there is no actual need to know this. Bees will do what bees do since long before mankind even existed, and do it very well too.

I too have never gone to look for DCA's, have never seen one, and don't need to either. Sounds odd perhaps that Jolanta (who also has never seen a DCA) will raise 4000 queens in her unit next year, and we don't know know or really think about such things. Truth is it is not greatly important and there is nothing we can do about it anyway.

Dont get me wrong though.....pro or not...I still really enjoy the slow pace things when I have time....sitting observing what is going on at or in a colony. Part of having the experience and knowledge that means you pick things up almost instinctively.
 
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Into the lions den 

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Listened to a talk some time ago about AVM. In many cases it may well be an illusion.....there are drones from other apiaries congregating in the area. Their DCA just happens to be adjacent to your hives. The apiary drones may well actually be toddling off to another place 'on the hunt'.
 

mbc 

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@mbc do you think it's a desperate act on the colonys part or more to the point the queen's? To AVM.
I'd always thought it was an accident that the queen sometimes get nabbed before she's properly aloft and away from the hive, flying with a big hairy brute of a drone on your back must be difficult.
On a related matter I had a very interesting conversation with a notable breeder of queens from these parts and we crossed notes on a few things, one of which was the very raggedy, tattered look of some virgins in large colonies where they've failed to mate in the first three weeks (less noticeable in mini nucs), as if the queen has been chased and nipped by the irritable old bees in the colony, to such an extent that the queen fails to mate or is in such poor condition she gets superseded soon after starting to lay. Our observations about how things seem to be changing were pretty close despite running very different operations 60 miles apart.
So, mating behaviour, we're told the impetus for a virgin to go on a mating flight comes from being chased into it by the house bees, these ruffled up virgins we observed are obviously digging their heals in rather than flying into danger.
 

rolande 

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As to the DCA observation, I have seen one, by pure chance. I certainly wasn't looking for one but I suppose its the same mechanism as noticing similar cars when you buy a new one. If you mess with bees and happen to walk past an active DCA you tend to notice it. The site (open grassland) has long since gone, like so much of Portland it's been quarried. I did at the the time relay the coordinates to Karl Showler who I knew to be very interested in this stuff. I believe he was trying to build an index of UK DCA's but am unaware of what ultimately happened to his research.

Interesting sight? Yes it was. Helpful, in a practical way, to know where it was? No. But on the balance I'm happy to have witnessed it over those summers in the knowledge that I may not ever stumble on such a thing again.
 

Curly green finger's 

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Repwoc 

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Interesting sight? Yes it was. Helpful, in a practical way, to know where it was? No.
If a beekeeper was flooding an area around his mating apiary with drones in an attempt to influence the paternal genetics of the raised queens then it may be useful to know where the local DCAs are to determine where the drone mother hives should be sited.
 

Curly green finger's 

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If a beekeeper was flooding an area around his mating apiary with drones in an attempt to influence the paternal genetics of the raised queens then it may be useful to know where the local DCAs are to determine where the drone mother hives should be sited.
And by what I read 2/5km is a good distance.
Most of mine are closer but with breeder queen's above them mainly higher up
 

rolande 

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How many mature drones are required to flood your local area?
 

Curly green finger's 

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How many mature drones are required to flood your local area?
Well if I had say 100 Mating nucs I would need 1200 or so mature drones
I will have half that this season might be more. ( Mating nucs)
Im hoping that the 8/10 drone colonys will be enough.
 

rolande 

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Well if I had say 100 Mating nucs I would need 1200 or so mature drones
I will have half that this season might be more. ( Mating nucs)
Im hoping that the 8/10 drone colonys will be enough.
No, well, I think it's a no - I don't actually know the answer for my own location so can't possibly comment on yours. But 'flooding' implies to me that you have more (a lot more) than the combined total of drones from all other local colonies.
 

jenkinsbrynmair 

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Too many - but not nearly enough
it means having colonies (drone production or otherwise) dotted around the whole area surrounding the mating apiary.
Good chance if your drone producers share the same apiary as your mating nucs that the queens will fly to a totally different DCA to your drones.
 

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