Bee Business: The Mysterious Relationship Between Bee Behavior and Nectar

Bee Business: The Mysterious Relationship Between Bee Behavior and Nectar

This is a colony of bumblebess. And bumblebees do buzz pollinate, so they will grab the flower parts with their mandibles and they’ll vibrate their
wings, and you’ll often hear them if you see them like in a rose, they’ll be making
this buzzy sound while they are visiting the flower. And that’s them buzz
pollinating and it makes the plants release the pollen. So the questions that
I’m really interested in are about how does the chemistry of floral nectar
influence bee behavior? And in turn, how does that change in bee behavior affect
pollination in plants? So one of the things I’m particularly interested in at the moment is
how do compounds that are present floral nectar prevent nectar from
fermenting. And if it does ferment, what’s the consequences of that fermentation
for the bee behavior and therefore potential negative consequence for the
plant? So what I do is I train bees to my particular color. Here I’m training
this colony of bees to yellow in this example and they’re foraging on these
little flowers, artificial flowers. They’re filled with sucrose solution and
they’re getting experience going to yellow flowers and associating that
yellow color with a reward. And then what I’ll do is when I will let only one be
out at a time and I will give that individual bee an arena that’s full
instead of all yellow, a mixture of yellow in blue. And I will look at how
sticky is that bee to the yellow that she’s had experience foraging on versus
how much is she willing to investigate novel things. Patty is also interested in the
effects of alcohol on the social behavior of bees and whether they’re
more likely to join other bees at flowers under the influence of alcohol. My findings from some preliminary things is that alcohol seems to be increasing the
amount of time that they spend on flowers, when they’re joining other bees
on flowers, but not when they’re visiting flowers alone. I think that alcohol
itself is shifting their behavior but we don’t have enough data yet to
really say for sure. [What about this research fascinates and excites you?] Honestly bees make really good company. They really do. And I work at least two hours for my shifts and they just fly by. It’s
really interesting seeing all the different personalities within the bees. One of the biggest elements in this lab is surprises.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

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