I was spending a few minutes watching the hive today, and saw three types of flight from the bees.
Coming in hot:
There were bees coming back to the hive, wobbling left and right, coming in slow and heavy. Some had bright yellow pollen bags on their legs, and many made very poor landings. Upside down, skidding, colliding; they are very funny.
Up, up and away…
Bees leaving the hive drop down from the frames, scramble to their feet, and then take off like a rocket. My hive has a well defined departure vector, and the empty bees fly so fast it is hard to keep sight of them.
There were a few bees, fairly pale and still with fuzz on their heads. These lasses walked around the landing pad for a while, before taking off and hovering inches off the ground, then returning to earth. The next flight would be a few feet in the air, and back; the the bee would take a longer flight, but still no more than a few metres away from the hive, circling. These are young bees, taking their first area familiarisation flights. Just like a novice pilot, these bees were performing ‘touch and gos’, sometimes colliding with other bees. On getting in the way, it appears the older, returning bees would give them a clip around the ear, before letting them go. If they were robber bees, a more protracted fight would ensue, rather than a quick beat up. A noob (new bee) was completing a flight and got in the way of a speedily departing ‘pollen jock’, causing a mighty collision between the two. They both hit the ground near the hive, shook their little antennae, and returned to planned activities.
I have decided that individually, bees are not the most intelligent creatures. Collectively they can achieve wonders, yet they are fairly fragile, clumsy things that get trapped, drowned, or otherwise knocked about far more often than, say, wasps or flies. If pinbrained insects can work together to achieve so much, perhaps there is hope for our own government. Of course, bees get rid of the useless, bloated drones at the end of summer, cast out to starve or freeze. Jerry Brownlee, take note.