To foraging and bee-yond: where the bee project is headed next
I can hardly believe it’s time for my last blog post, I still have so many bee puns I haven’t taken advantage of yet! Since my last post, I’ve found that working with bees can be far more dependent on environmental conditions, like amounts of natural nectar available, than anything I do. It’s a plant’s world, and we’re all just living in it. When there was a lot of natural nectar available, I couldn’t get the bees interested in my top-notch, handcrafted, artisan sugar water, try as I might. I thought there might be something wrong with my tunnels that was repelling the bees, or that they might be too close, so I set up feeders in various locations around the hive. Sadly, those too were left untouched.
About a week later, things changed. I started seeing foraging at one of my feeders, and immediately moved a tunnel to that location to take advantage of it. Local beekeeping intelligence confirmed that sources of natural nectar were drying up, making my sugar water suddenly more desirable.
As a result, I finally got some data! I trained the bees to forage at a feeder about halfway down the tunnel, and then removed the feeder and observed where they foraged. My analysis of the video showed that more bees foraged in the target section of the tunnel (the one with the feeder), even when the feeder was removed. This confirmed that the bees had been trained to expect food at a certain point in the tunnel.
Now that we’ve shown that we can build our own tunnel, bees will forage in it, and that they will remember the location of the feeder, further experiments to test optic flow can be done in the future.
I have had such a fun time getting to share my research and spend quality time with bees! I think I have finally overcome my long-held fear of bees and I really will miss them, my stylish beekeeping outfit, and driving past the medium-sized canada goose sculpture on the way to the hive every day! I may not have been able to test everything I would have liked to this summer, but I was able to show that this experiment has the potential to expand further, and I have learned a lot about making things myself and solving problems (for me, the answer was usually superglue!) Plus, I now feel qualified to be a beekeeper, should anyone trust me with them again.
I have also learned a lot that will help further the experiment next summer, and I look forward to seeing how it develops in the future! For now, it’s time for me to return to return to my other favorite flying insect, Buzz, and our home at Georgia Tech for my last year of undergrad!