Marking bees for experiments

Guest post by Dean Haley


Marking bees for experiments

Marking bees for experiments

Nick came up with an ingenious method for watching native bee behaviour. Non toxic pigments are put in a jar, which catches bees leaving a nest. The inspiration for this was the tales of Aboriginals coating bees in flour to track them to their nest.

You can use pigments to count your worker bees. Catch and colour one hundred worker bees leaving the nest, then let them fly out and collect nectar and pollen as normal. After a while, count the number of bees returning in a 15 minute period and the number of returners that are coloured.
(100÷returned coloured) × total returned = total worker bees in hive.
I have been trialing another experiment lately. I have been purposely swapping a young new hive (brown box) that I split from a mature colony (white box). I swapped the box positions every second day for two weeks hoping they would share workers. Today I marked about 50 bees from each box. Orange pigment for the brown box and blue pigment for the white box. I plugged up the entrance holes to see what would happen. As expected, most bees returned to the correct box, but some blue pigmented bees were found at the other box.






These are quick and simple trials. Just goes to show how useful Nicks pigment idea was.

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