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Balling Behavior of Workers Toward Honey Bee Queens Returning from Mating Flights


During natural mating honeybee queens can get lost due to drifting, predators or other cases. In this work, the balling of queens returning from flights by worker bees originating from the same colony was observed. Three subspecies of bees Carniolan, Caucasian and European Black Bee were tested. Research was conducted in both spring and summer, but in the former in newly created colonies, while in the latter in new and earlier used ones. Generally 15.2% of queens were balled and in total 30.2% of queens were lost during mating flights. 269 queens performed 785 mating flights, and 5.2% of those finished with balling. Three times more queens were balled when returning from mating flight rather than orientation flight. Subspecies matches or mismatches of queens and workers in nucleuses did not significantly affect the balling or its frequency. Additionally, no bee subspecies characterized stronger tendencies to ball a queen. Worker bees from newly created nucleuses treated queens similarly to the ones in nucleuses earlier used. However, significantly more queens had been balled during the spring in comparison to summer. There were days with higher balling of queens. During some days the weather was very unstable and unpredictable with such anomalies as heat waves, thunderstorms or sudden drops in insolation. Most of the queens were balled at the entrance while returning from flight and only a few inside the hive. In the research, clear causes of balling were not found, but some factors can be excluded.

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