Why can’t we Bee friends? Bees (unsurprisingly) don’t do what I want them to
Hi everyone, your favorite amateur beekeeper checking in! Since my last post, I’ve moved up to the exciting step of testing on a full hive! The good news is, I’ve gotten over any lingering fear of bees (see my first post). The not so good news is, I am not a bee whisperer and not surprisingly, they don’t want to do what I want them to do, even though I dressed as a queen bee for the Fourth of July Parade! I guess it has more to do with “pheromones” and “being the right species” than great costumes.
On the more scientific side, I’ve learned a lot about bees and my experimental setup in the past few weeks. I built a rig to suspend my landmark elimination cloth above the tunnel in the field, and switched to a white cloth to allow enough light in. It looks like this:
I also learned that things that work well in the lab don’t always translate to (in this case, the literal) field. But half a bottle of super glue later, the tunnel was up in by the hive. Now I just had to get the bees to forage in it.
However, the bees didn’t seem to want to forage, even with the feeder at the end of the tunnel. I moved the whole tunnel closer to the hive entrance, and they seemed to get the idea. I was able to move the feeder back gradually, and as soon as it gets into testing position I can start my trials! …or so I thought, but the path would not be that simple. No sooner had I left my beautifully constructed (if I do say so myself) landmark elimination setup over the tunnel, than the wind knocked everything over a couple hours later! I was able to repair the damage, but I was back to square one. How could I get my pollinating friends to forage for science??
The answer, it turned out, was right there: pollen. These particular bees were finding plenty of nectar (like the sugar water I was providing), but there was a pollen deficit in the environment. By tempting them with pollen as well as sugar water, I was able to lure them into the tunnel. And now, the real fun begins: data collection! Will these bees learn to forage the way I want? Will I be able to construct a stable tunnel of a different diameter? Will I finally succeed in confusing them instead of vice versa? Stay tuned to find out!