In my last post I claimed my tunnel was done and ready for testing, but boy was I wrong! I’ve spent the last week or so adding supports, finding a way to cover it to prevent the bees from escaping, covering the surroundings to eliminate landmarks (anything in the environment that lets bees keep track of where they are), and setting up my camera for recording and subsequent tracking.
At first I tried mesh to keep the bees in the tunnel, but still allow recording without glare. Unfortunately, I found that bees liked to crawl on the mesh rather than fly, and it was tricky to keep them from escaping. I then tried acrylic covers sprayed with hairspray to reduce glare, and once I moved the light source that worked well. It was a bit unstable, so I had to glue most of the tunnel together. To eliminate landmarks, I first tried using cardboard with white paper glued to it, but that proved too unstable. I then suspended black cloth above the tunnel, and that seems to be working well. Finally, I built a camera stand to suspend a GoPro above the tunnel.
The logical next step was to test bees in my new and improved tunnel, so I had to learn how to catch them. Luckily, my yard has a plentiful supply of flowering bushes and my roommate had a delightfully eccentric childhood hobby of catching bees (shout out to the younger version of fellow Fellow Maria!) After some coaching and moral support, I got pretty good at catching our pollinating friends without harming them, and releasing them after a few hours of testing.
A couple days ago, I finally got a bee to fly in the tunnel and forage at the feeder, the behavior I’d been looking for. The bee showed up well on the camera and we were able to track its movement. However, catching bees outside won’t get me enough numbers for my experiment, so I’ve been lucky enough to meet a local beekeeper who will let me set up outside his hives and look for some foraging in action. Hoping I get to do that soon!