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Honeybee swarming

Final Activity Report Summary - BEESWARM (Honeybee swarming)

In order to obtaining precise data about honeybee swarming, four colonies were recorded continuously during the whole process of swarming using 16 cameras and 8 microphones. The collected data made it possible to determine the timing of egg laying, queen cell sealing and queen emergence. Sounds produced by queens and their behaviour after emergence was determined as well. The queen cells precapping period was shorter during swarming than during emergency queen rearing.

On the other hand, the postcapping period was longer during swarming in comparison with emergency queen rearing. The optimal strategy of honeybees during swarming was determined using a game theory model combined with dynamic programming. Results of the models suggest that the number of fights should increase as the swarming approaches its end. This was confirmed by the empirical data. It can be also predicted that during swarming there is a conflict between the queen and workers. The optimal time of swarming is later for queen than for workers.

These predictions were confirmed by observations of aggressive interaction between queen and workers at the time of egg laying in the queen cells. This suggests that the queen is forced to initiate swarming. An electronic device for automatic detection of swarming was built, designed to detect queen cell visitation. The device consisted of artificial queen cells equipped with infrared diode and phototransistor. The device was installed in five honeybee colonies and the visitation rate of the queen cell was recorded before and during the swarming. The visitation rate of queen cells increased before initiation of swarming. The device can be used for detection of swarming at its early stage.