Watching one colony jump into orientation flights, then the next one and so on.
This is my first attempt at taking a series of photos showing a honey bee in flight for 1 second. Honey bees move faster than you might think. 0.294 seconds is the best I could do. That’s 8 photos. (I was aiming for 24.) I’ll do better next time.
It’s more impressive on a desktop if you click the image to view it full-screen.
One more thing: This series of photos captures approximately 75 wing beats in those 0.294 seconds. A honey bee averages about 230 wing beats per second. Yup.
I still can’t tell when foraging honey bees are returning to the colony weighed down with nectar. Apparently that’s a thing people with good eyes learn to recognise, but I’m not there yet. I probably spend too much time in awe of honey bees to slip well into scientific observation mode. But I’m pretty sure I know what orientation flights look like. I better.
Most new beekeepers on the island of Newfoundland (and many other places on the planet) will start up their first colonies with what is often referred to as a nuc, or a nucleus colony, or a starter hive that contains a laying queen, at least one frame of brood, a frame or two of pollen and honey, and usually a blank or empty frame to give the worker bees something to work on while they’re stuck in a 4-frame nuc box for up to a week. The frames from the nuc are usually placed inside a single hive body (in Newfoundland, it’s usually a deep) with empty frames to fill in the rest of the box. A feeder of some sort is installed. And that’s it. The following 24-minute video demonstrates the entire process.
I’ll post a condensed version of this video at a later date if I can, but for now it’s probably more helpful to show how it plays out in real time (more or less) so that anyone new to all this, or anyone thinking about starting up a few honey bee colonies next year, will have a realistic idea of what to expect when it comes time to install their first nuc. I plan to post follow-up videos to track the progress of this colony right into next spring, again so that anyone hoping to start up their own hives in the future will have a non-idealized take on what to expect.
It was well over 30°C (86°F) by the time I finished installing all of my nucs. The sweat was pouring off my face and stinging my eyes. Expect that too.
Here’s a video for brand new beekeepers who’ve seen orientation flights but didn’t know what they were looking at.
I usually notice orientation flights around 11:30am on hot summer days, but sometimes the heat doesn’t kick in until the afternoon — in the case of this video, 2:30 in the afternoon. Everything seems calm and normal and then within about five minutes the air in front of the hive fills with fuzzy young bees hovering and facing the direction of the hive. That’s your standard-issue orientation flight situation.
Orientation flights can appear as massive, confused clouds of bees if the bees have been stuck inside the hive for a few days because of cold or wet weather. A swarm of bees, by the way, is about 10,000 time larger and it’s a whole other ballgame.
For more information on orientation flights than you’ll ever be able to process, I recommend reading the Arnia page on orientation flights.
P.S.: In the video I inaccurately refer to these as baby bees taking their first flights outside the hive even though I know it’s wrong. Orientation flights usually occur when the bees are about 22 days old — not babies — and have completed all their assigned duties inside the hive (cleaning, nursing and so on). In my mind, they’re still babies because they’re learning to fly, and it makes no difference to my beekeeping whether or not I think of them as baby bees or 22-day-old bees. But if you’re taking a test, you’ll get that question wrong if you call them baby bees.
I checked out the bees while I was home for lunch today. The sun was shining and it was 19 degrees Celsius in the backyard. I’ve never seen so many bees outside Hive #1. I could smell the honey, or the pheromones from the bees, from a distance. I could hear them from a distance too. Here’s a quick video: