The honeybee queen and her attendants

M. Delia Allen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


1. 1. 196 individually marked bees were seen to examine the queen and the durations of their visits were recorded. All gradations of behaviour varying from an apparent desire to avoid the queen to a strong desire to remain with her were found. The behaviour of individual bees varied on different visits, but no regular sequence could be found. 2. 2. More than half the total number of visits had a duration of 30 seconds or less while the remainder were longer than 30 seconds, with a maximum of 41 minutes. About 8 per cent. of the visits were very short and terminated abruptly and with signs of alarm, but no reason for this type of behaviour was apparent. 3. 3. The ages of the attendants varied from a few hours to 52 days but no obvious difference in age-distribution between the attendants remaining for very short periods and those remaining for longer was found. In relation to the total numbers of marked bees of different ages present the proportion of workers acting as attendants showed no systematic variations, although in a colony where the average age was low (as in summer) the actual numbers of young attendants would apparently greatly exceed those of the older ones. 4. 4. The age-range of attendants licking the queen was similar to the overall age-range of the attendants. 5. 5. The ages of the attendants feeding the queen in two colonies ranged from 1 day to 23 days. No bee was seen to feed the queen during the day of its emergence, although the greatest numbers recorded occurred in the next few days of adult life. No systematic changes were apparent in the duration of feeds given by bees of different ages, the mean value for two colonies being 44 seconds. These results are discussed in relation to the work of other authors on the period of activity of the pharyngeal glands. 6. 6. Observations made during the season of active brood-rearing up to swarming time (April-July) showed that the number and duration of feeds supplied to the queen tended to rise until 2-3 weeks before the swarm left but in this latter period both number and duration decreased, approximately from the time that queen cell formation started. Thus the queen received gradually diminishing quantities of food in the period of swarm preparation. Egg-production over the same period showed a similar trend.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-208
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Jan 1960


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