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Comparative laboratory study of foraging abilities of honeybees apis mellifica ligustica and interracial hybrids apis mellifica apis ligustica x apis caucasica x apis mellifica

Comparative laboratory study of foraging abilities of honeybees apis mellifica ligustica and interracial hybrids apis mellifica apis ligustica x apis caucasica x apis mellifica

Apidologie 15(1): 33-42

Honeybee value, both in the field of bee-keeping (honey yield) and in the field of crop pollination, depends upon its foraging behavior. Genetic attempts for bee improvement have led to the creation of highly productive interracial hybrids. To understand some mechanisms which determine better qualities of hybrids, foraging behavior of the 3 line hybrids A. mellifica (A. ligustica .times. A. caucasica) .times. A. mellifica and of the pure-bred bee A. m. ligustica, were compared under laboratory conditions. Experiments were carried out in a flight room on whole colonies of .apprx. 3000 workers. Two colonies of each type of bee were tested successively. To take into account chemical signals, which are of the 1st importance in foraging behavior of honeybees, bee-plant relationships were simulated using a device which included artificial flowers (a sugary solution associated with a scent) and which allowed elimination of visual signals. The record of number of forager visits as a function of time has allowed establishment of recruiting curves. It appears that the recruiting curves are specific for the type of bee considered: for the pure-bred honeybee, the number of visits increases gradually and reaches a steady state of 10 visits/observation period of 5 min; for the hybrid bee, recruiting is characterized by a rapid increase in the number of visits, followed by a steady state of 80 visits/observation period of 5 min. The intense recruiting phenomenon seen among hybrid foragers not only indicates their ability to adapt to artificial conditions, but allows a better understanding of the superior performance of these bees in the field. Rapid recruitment leads to greater pollination and nectar-gathering efficiency. This in turn provides larger crop and honey yields. Further studies are needed to determine how behavior within the hive influences such rapid recruitment of foragers.

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