Marking bees with glow-in-the-dark powder

Lab notebook style post to keep record of pilot experiments I run. We used one day this spring to see if we can track what bumblebee queens are doing. We captured queens and applied a colored powder to them. The idea is to see if we can find the powder in flowers after that, to see where and what they visit.

Lessons learned:

  • Capturing queens is time-consuming. 12 queens – 6 hours.
  • Marking them is super easy. Only a tiny bit of powder in the vial is enough. Inside the vial bees buzz and cover themselves completely.
  • First tests with too much powder were bad (bees too covered, see photo below)
  • We used glowing in the dark powder (sold in 8 colors in amazon) in case it helps spot it later with a UV light (also very cheap at amazon).
  • Very few flowers are open at this stage of the year, so we targeted a few Salix at different distances from the marking area along a power line corridor, and look for powder in Salix flowers after 6 hours.
  • We recovered a single flower with powder, but was in a Salix 500m down the corridor (not bad)
  • Not convinced on this technique for queens, but may work better for workers, when you can mark 100’s of bees.

As always we only had bad phone cameras, here is a photo of the first trial with way too much powder used. This bee was seen 1 h. after the release flying happily.Bee_glow

 

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