Jumping back into research: Prep work for bee tagging

Back to Honeybee Research!

Adrian Perez is a Bee Scientist. He’s a Honeybee Researcher, and in this video he walks through how to tag bees. It’s something he does for all of his experiments, and he has quite a bit of experience with. However, due to the pandemic in 2021 he’s jumping back into his research for the first time in over a year! So, in his walkthrough you’ll see a couple things he had a little bit of trouble with since he was a bit out of practice.

He’s just gotten back into the lab, and as it gets warm and the bees get active he’s excited to get back to it.

So, how do you tag bees for research?

This is one where the video is especially great to watch, because you get to see the whole process first hand! Here’s the gist though.

Prep Work

Newly born bees are tagged so that scientists know what age they are when the experiment is done. A big part of tagging newly emerged bees is having a place for them to emerge. That’s what an incubator is for. Incubators need to be at the not only at the right temperature, but humidity. The other supplies needed are pants, individual number tags, and cages to house bees after they’ve been tagged.

Before collecting bees, Adrian also had to make sure he had frames from old hives in storage to replace the ones he is going to take. He was going to need 1 regular frame to replace the female workers he takes, and a drone brood frame where male bees are laid. Since male bees are larger, they get laid in a different type of cell. So, it’s important to make sure the frames are switched like for like.

Day 1

First, get in the pickup and head to the bee colonies!

Step 1: Light the smoker. This is always the first thing you should do when working with bees. The smoker mainly helps spatially displace the bees away from where the scientist or beekeeper is trying to work and blocks the bees sense of smell.

Step 2: Going into the colony! For the real feel on this one, you should check out this part of the video and watch Adrian blow smoke, opening it up, getting out the drone brood, etc.

Part of the process for tagging bees is to get newly emerged bees. None of the bees out on the comb that are adults are important to Adrian’s work. He wants the frame that has the developing bees. One of the first lessons he teaches to his undergrads, is that bees are surprisingly amenable to just being shaken and thrown around! So, that’s what he does to get only the frame and not the adult bees.

Step 3: Take the frame from the colony back to the truck, and bring back one of the frames to swap it with.

Step 4: Find the other frame needed. Happily, he found a really good one! Just like the previous frame, gotta give it a good shake before taking it with.

Unfortunately, no other frame in the initial colony he was working in had another drone brood that he needed. So, he went to work in another apiary (a yard with honey bee colonies). Sometimes, looking for an emerging brood can be a bit of a while goose chase. At one point, he found a frame that wasn’t good for his research, but was worth showing to the camera because it had the queen on it! It’s amazing to see just how much different the queen is from the other female worker bees (that are sterile).

Day 1 of Bee Tagging Wrap Up

Day 1 is wrapped up with a view of the female worker frame, what to look out for, and watching a tiny bee emerge! You can watch her start to emerge from the frame, and then take a beat and decide she’ll do the rest of the work later.

It’s good little bee, we feel you.

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