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Beauty is in the eye of the Bee-holder: studies with a hive begin!

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.

living the queen bee life with Maria

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:

in the lab

in the field

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.

the tunnel on day one in the field (featuring stylish beekeeping attire)

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!

There’s a lot of waiting involved, so what do you do? Play with perspective photography, of course!

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