Bee behaviour: what do bees do at home?

What goes on in the beehive? These videos, published in the journal PLOS ONE by Paul Siefert from Goethe-Universität, Germany, and colleagues, give a fascinating insight into what a bee actually gets up to in the hive, by showing close-up clips of honeybee (Apis mellifera) behaviour from behind closed doors.

The recordings show how workers, offspring and queens behave inside the cells, including things like laying eggs, feeding larvae, storing pollen and even cannibalism.

This video shows a bee feeding a baby mouth-to-mouth, and another bee doing some “hygienic clean-up” by eating another bee that died.

Honeybee behaviour in focus. Credit: Siefert et al, 2021, PLOS ONE.

“Generally, I am fascinated how honeybees are able to choose the beneficial decision for the colony, and wonder how they perceive their surroundings and information, and if their actions are based on learning or instinct,” says Siefert.

They even have their own little personalities.

“Specifically,” says Siefert, “I was surprised to see that the first of two workers, which successively entered the same cell that had parasites in it (the Varroa destructor mite), did not bother at all, but the next one attacked the mites vigorously.”

All of the bee behaviour videos will be freely available: open-source material to use for educating students, beekeepers and bee lovers.

“With our videos, we want to bring the processes of a fully functioning social insect colony into classrooms and homes, facilitating ecological awareness in modern times,” says Siefert.

“We encourage the non-commercial use of our material to educate beekeepers, the media and the public and, in turn, call attention to the general decline of insect biomass and diversity.”

Cartoon of bee jobs in a hive
Credit: Diego Perez-Lopez, PLOS, CC-BY 4.0.

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