23 April 2016

Orientation flights.

Orientation Flights are the first flights bees take, it's how they learn the position of the hive in relation to local landmarks. We more often refer to orientation flights as the forward and hive-facing flying we see when colonies are expanding, where it seems that new flyers are learning what the front of their home looks like so they can recognise it, and pinpoint its location. But that isn't all they do, and it's hard for a beekeeper to see how bees learn the location of their home within the wider local environment when a colony has been in the same spot for a long time because older bees get in the way.

It's actually amazing to watch a colony orientate en masse, something that will only happen when a colony finds itself somewhere new - when a beekeeper moves a hive, or perhaps when a swarm relocates from a tree to a permanent nesting site, or maybe even when a tree containing a nest falls down and the colony suddenly finds itself at ground level.

When the first two colonies of bees arrived at the small apiary it was intensely interesting (because they were new, because I was a new beekeeper and having bees was exciting) and so, of course, the hives were closely observed for hours on end - but I'll always remember those first few minutes.