Monitoring foraging behaviour

To analyse foraging behaviour, you need tents to:

  • Refrain bees from foraging in unknown terrain.
  • Guarantee the attractiveness of the offered sugar solution.

Alternatively, the experiments can be performed during mid/late European summer, when natural forage is declining. In order to analyse foraging behaviour, bees have to be trained to forage from an artificial food source (see section 13).

For short distances up to 20 meters:

1. Catch departing worker bees of unknown age at the hive entrance, using e.g. sample glass bottles with snap caps (70 x 25 mm, 20 ml, neoLab, Heidelberg, Germany).

2. Release these bees at the feeding site by placing the opening of the sample bottle as close to the feeder as possible, so that the bees can collect sugar solution if it is attractive for them.

For mid/to long-distance experiment:

3. Train bees stepwise to the feeder as described in section 14.

4. Colour-mark them on the abdomen.

5. Attach the RFID tags to the thorax of each bee (see section 2.3; Fig. 27A)

6. Provide the feeder with a compartment whose entrance is monitored by RFID scanners (similar to the hive entrance) to automatically identify RFID-tagged bees (Fig. 27B).

7. Unlike the registration tunnels in front of the beehive, which the bees learn to pass on their own when leaving and entering the colonies, you have to guide the foragers stepwise by laying a trace of sucrose along the tunnel tubes which leads the bees to the feeder within compartment; these training procedures incur some cost in labour, thereby restricting the numbers of bees which can be investigated simultaneously.

Fig. 27A. RFID tagged bees foraging from a feeder filled with sugar solution. B. Feeder compartment to automatically detect bees at an artificial feeder site.

1293PN revised Fig 27