The orientation of combs in traditional beehives is extremely important for obtaining a marketable honey product. However, the factors that could determine comb orientation in traditional hives and the possibilities of inducing honey bees, Apis mellifera (L.), to construct more desirable combs have not been investigated. The goal of this experiment was to determine whether guide marks in traditional hives can induce bees to build combs of a desired orientation. Thirty-two traditional hives of uniform dimensions were used in the experiment. In 24 hives, ridges were formed on the inner surfaces of the hives with fermented mud to obtain different orientations, circular, horizontal, and spiral, with eight replicates of each treatment. In the remaining eight control hives, the inner surface was left smooth. Thirty-two well-established honey bee colonies from other traditional hives were transferred to the prepared hives. The colonies were randomly assigned to the four treatment groups. The manner of comb construction in the donor and experimental hives was recorded. The results showed that 22 (91.66%) of the 24 colonies in the treated groups built combs along the ridges provided, whereas only 2 (8.33%) did not. Comb orientation was strongly associated with the type of guide marks provided. Moreover, of the 18 colonies that randomly fell to patterns different from those of their previous nests, 17 (94.4%) followed the guide marks provided, irrespective of the comb orientation type in their previous nest. Thus, comb orientation appears to be governed by the inner surface pattern of the nest cavity. The results suggest that even in fixed-comb hives, honey bees can be guided to build combs with orientations suitable to honey harvesting, without affecting the colonies.
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Vol. 105 • No. 3