This page is credited in full to Dave Cushman who created it. His voice is expressed in black colour text and any additions or comments in blue belong to myself. Credit: Dave Cushman’s website.
Running Behaviour in Honey Bee Colonies
Running behaviour of honey bees on frames in bee hives that are opened for the manipulation of colonies.
Bees that run about on frame top bars, when a hive is opened, are difficult to manipulate without trapping a scurrying bee and subsequently being stung. If hands are gloved then such a sting may or may not be felt by the beekeeper, but a sting lodged in a glove will emit the sting pheromone and consequently the rest of the bees will be aroused and attentive, even if not stinging en mass.
The behaviour that we are looking for should more accurately be described as “non running”, in other words calm and sedate progress without paying any attention to what the beekeeper is doing. By this I mean carrying on as if nothing at all had happened not even standing still and looking upward, just going about whatever business the individual bee had in mind before the hive was disturbed by the beekeeper opening it.
This behaviour applies equally to queens and worker bees… Drones may or may not exhibit the behaviour, but natural drone drifting may result in the drone population of the hive being mixture of types and thus more mobile, so that an few odd running drones may be ignored for our assessment purposes.
Virgin queens may run about more than mated or mature ones.
We usually score this activity for recording on a scale of 0 – 10, 10 representing total disinterest by the bees and zero equating to running around “like headless chickens” (if such a metaphor is permissible when describing bees).
Intermediate values between 0 and 10 are more difficult to define and are obviously very subjective, providing that your judgment is consistent and in some way graded that should suffice. I should say that in the last twenty five years or so I have only seen a few dozen colonies that I would score as “10”s and I have never seen a colony that deserved a zero score.
?I totally agree with Dave’s thoughts here, but… a running clumping colony is certainly NOT one to take queen material from as this behaviour is no aid to queen finding.