A bee flight room designed for studies of bee foraging behaviour
G M Poppy; I H Williams
A new design for a bee flight room is described, which is suitable for observing the foraging behaviour of honey bees and bumble bees. The most novel feature of this room is the use of prismatic reflectors to create even illumination within the room which measures 4.7 x 4.7 m x 2.7 m high. The angular radiance of distribution of light in the room was measured using a spectrophotometer and this demonstrated that the 8 luminaire units used were sufficient for even illumination, thus considerably reducing the number of such units normally required for rooms of this size. Both UV and ‘white' fluorescent tubes were incorporated, thus providing light which is suitable for both bees and the human observers within the room. Air conditioning units were placed in two corners of the room to maintain a temperature of 25° ± 1°C and relative humidity of 60% ± 5%, and a Ventaxia extraction fan was used to ensure good circulation of fresh air within the room. To assess the suitability of the flight room for behavioural studies, a number of experiments were conducted. These included detailed observations on the foraging pattern of a bumble bee colony over a 6-day period as well as the use of computer software to compare, in detail, the foraging behaviour of individual honey bees and individual bumble bees. Since the room was commissioned, a number of colonies have been kept in the room and honey bees have successfully reared brood and survived many months. Although the room cannot totally simulate outdoor conditions, studying bees under such controlled conditions allows very detailed studies to be undertaken and we describe several further studies which we will undertake in the future.