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Photo#891833
Feral Honey Bee Swarm - Apis mellifera

Feral Honey Bee Swarm - Apis mellifera
A few miles south of the Indians, Los Padres National Forest, Monterey County, California, USA
June 15, 2011
I found this impressively large massing of feral honey bees late in the afternoon, aggregating on a dangling branch of a Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) in a wild canyon bottom of the Santa Lucia Mountains. It seems like the individuals near the top must be have been holding quite a lot of weight!

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Feral Honey Bee Swarm - Apis mellifera Feral Honey Bee Swarm - Apis mellifera

Interesting info regarding swarming in Apis mellifera
A quote from Bernd Heinrich's "The Thermal Warriors"(1):

"When a swarm (over ten thousand workers plus the old queen) leaves the colony, it typically hangs in the shape of a beard, and scouts leave from it to scour the countryside for suitable nest sites. The scouts inspect numerous cavities to gauge their quality. Several criteria are involved in nest selection, including cavity size and entrance hole (preferably small and south-facing). Several scouts may each find different potential nest sites, and each scout then indicates the apparent suitability of its best find by the vigor of its direction-indicating dance. Scouts also follow each other's dances, calibrating the quality of their own finds versus those of others; they will be "converted" if they encounter a better one than they had themselves found. Eventually all the scouts reach a consensus, and the swarm then departed en masse to the best nest site that any of its scouts had managed to locate. "Streaker" bees who know the nest site location by already having flown individually to the site indicated lead the way. The queen follows."
More interesting info follows: for instance, European Honeybees are of tropical origin, and...even after many thousands of years in northern climes...still need to maintain their hives at near 32°C. Too much to quote (this is a worthwhile book to read!)

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