Behavioural categories

The following behavioural categories are a synthesis of the numerous studies (Elzen et al., 2001; Neumann et al., 2001c; Solbrig, 2001; Ellis 2005; Ellis et al., 2002c, 2003c, 2004a,b; Pirk and Neumann 2013) and can be used to investigate interactions. The following behavioural categories were defined:


Resting / Ignore (within 5 mm of a honey bee) - not moving at all, none of the other categories can be observed.

Walking  - moving around (<5mm/sec without being chased by a SHB or worker).

Running -  moving fast (>5-10 mm/ sec), without being chased by a SHB or worker.

Flee -  moving fast (>5-10 mm/ sec), while being chased by a SHB or worker.

Being chased - a) by fellow SHB, b) by a worker c) by more than one worker.

Mating - male is mounting the female

NOTE: in this definition of the behavioural category  mounting is used as a proxy for mating.

Feeding on - a) pollen store, b) nectar store, c) larvae, d) a dead honey bee worker, e) a dead SHB, f) a live honey bee worker.

Antennating with a SHB – antennal contact with one or more a SHB.

Antennating with a honey bee worker– antennal contact with any bee (e.g. with a guard bee (guarding the entrance of the hive (Rösch, 1925) or at a confinement site or prison (Neumann et al., 2001c; Ellis, 2005).

Trophallactic contact with worker bee – obtaining a drop of food from a bee that is presenting food between its mandibles.

Interfering with other SHB trophallactic contact with worker bee –obtaining food while another SHB gets fed.

Turtle-defence posture  – stays motionless and tucks its head underneath the pronotum with the legs and antennae pressed tightly to the body.

Mount a bee - mounting the workers’ abdomen and cutting with the mandibles through the tissue between the tergites.

Honey bees:

There are more than 50 behavioural categories described for honey bees (see for example Kolmes, 1985; Neumann et al., 2001b; Pirk, 2002). The following state only the basic ones related to SHB:

Resting  / Ignore (within 5 mm of a SHB) -  –not moving at all, none of the other categories can be observed.

Walking –moves around at < 1 cm/sec.

Running – moves around at > 1 cm/sec.

Chasing - running and following an intruder (SHB).

Biting – mandibles are open and the bee tries to bit and grab the SHB.

Stinging - bends the abdomen to bring the stinger into position and / or sting is moving in and out of the sting sheath .

Trophallactic interaction with / feeding - a) another worker, b) queen, c) confined or SHB, d) one free running SHB – the worker regurgitates a droplet from its honey stomach, which can be observed between the mandibles and from which one or more food receivers will feed (SHBs or bees).

Guarding - a worker prevents a SHB from moving freely by keeping it at bay in a crack or a prison /confinement. This kind of pattern is often followed by feeding and/or biting.

Building prison (confinement) – chewing or / moulding the wax-propolis mixture constituting the barrier of the prison (confinement).


Final note: All categories can be further subdivided or merged depending on the needs of the experiment.