13.5.3 Experiments with the mast

For experiments on the mast, all of the items have to be composed according to the specific question, apart from the collapsible (portable) mast, built by a locksmith. To measure the potential flight speed of drones, for example, the electro motor must allow adjustable rotation speed. Only one aluminium pipe (rotating bar) is required. For choice tests including two stimuli (visual stimuli, pheromones etc.) a forked wire has to be attached to the rotating bar (Koeniger 1981). For analysing drone flight near the queen or drone competition, two video recorders have to be fixed on two rotating bars. The queen or dummy has to be fixed on a third bar in an identical angle to both recorders (Gries and Koeniger, 1996). Examples of possible research goals and their respective methods are given in Table 6.

Table 6. Examples of some research goals concerning mating behaviour and some methods to achieve them.

Research goal

devices needed

parameter to measure

determine drone flight period


personal observation at flight entrance, tally counter

video observation

time of start of first drones

starts / min

time of last drones returning

individual drone flight time






individual queen flight time

individually marked drones

1.     Numbered tags, stop watches (personal observation)

2.     RFID technique


veranda covered with glass, entrance closed by removable queen excluder, stop watch

age of drones at first flight

duration of orientation and mating flight

duration of life flight time

life span


duration of orientation and mating flights


behaviour of drones pursuing a fixed queen

high mast with one or two cameras on top of the queen or dummy on a carrousel

drone competition: flight speed, overtakes, drone/drone distance


finding a drone congregation area (DCA)

helium filled balloon, queen or queen dummy fixed to the line,

testing height from 10 to 40 m

number of drones following queen or dummy

typifying drones on a DCA


helium filled balloon, drone traps or flypaper fixed at the line 5 m below the balloon,

testing height from 10 to 40 m

flight distance (colour marks on drones, recover in apiaries)

genetic diversity (molecular techniques)

estimation of drone number visiting a DCA


“capture-mark-recapture method”: catch, mark and release about 500 drones and wait until drones are evenly mixed in the population (30 min!).

then catch again and count marked and unmarked drones


estimate the total drone population size on the DCA by dividing the number of marked individuals by the proportion of marked individuals in the following catches.