Drifting behaviour of drone honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) in commercial apiaries

publication date: Dec 10, 2010
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Journal of Apicultural Research
Vol. 30 (2) pp. 61-68
June 1991
Article Title

Drifting behaviour of drone honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) in commercial apiaries


R W Currie; S C Jay


Marked drone honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) of known age were introduced to queenright colonies of equal strength, in five different apiaries arranged in different patterns, in Manitoba, Canada. The extent of drone drifting was measured by counting marked drones in each colony. Most drones began drifting when 6-7 days old. The proportion of drones that drifted increased with age to a level of 50% at 15 days old. The proportion of drones older than 15 days that had drifted from the parent colony remained fairly constant (50-60%). Twenty one percent of the drones drifted more than once. Drones continued drifting after they had left their parent colonies, with the level of drift being fairly constant in all age groups of drones. At distances greater than 50 m, drone drift decreased with increased spacing between colonies. No drones drifted between colonies that were spaced more than 150 m apart unless other colonies were present at intermediate distances. Drone drift between hives with coloured entrances, offset entrances or laid out in horseshoe formations did not differ significantly from colonies arranged in straight rows. Drift between hives in a pair was significantly lower than that within rows of five hives, when drones were 7-10 and 14-16 days old. Drift from colonies at the ends of rows was not significantly different from drift from colonies in the middle of rows. There was no apparent tendency for drifting drones to collect in the colonies at both ends of a row. There was, however, a significant directional effect in which more drones drifted towards the south than towards the north, in west-facing rows. None of the apiary designs tested can be recommended for reducing drifting of drones in commercial apiaries.


drifting, drone honey bees, Apis mellifera, apiary layout, hives

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