THOMAS SEELEY: The purpose of this video is to demonstrate the ancient craft of bee hunting. And by bee hunting, I mean searching for a wild colony of honey bees. The first step is, you go to flowers like this and you capture a bunch of bees. And you do it in this little device called a bee box. This is this device-- homemade device-- which enables you to efficiently get the interest of the bees-- capture the interest of the bees on your little food source-- your very special, rich food source. The structure of a bee box is that it's a two chambered device. It's got a front chamber accessed through that front door. And I'll show you why that's important. Then there's a divider in the middle. And then the rear chamber doesn't have an opening because the back lets in light through the glass. And the way this is going to work is that we're going to go up to a flower that has a bee on it, close the box around the bee and then lure her to the rear chamber. And then I'll explain. That's an efficient way to get a bunch of bees going.
I'm not sure I got that one. Let's see. Those combs are the receptacles for the sugar syrup. Here's my little jar of sugar syrup. Getting the sugar syrup right is actually fairly important. But the recipe is very simple. I make it up with 3/4 of a cup of cane sugar-- granular sugar-- and then I add enough boiling water to make one cup total volume. And so it doesn't take a cup of water. It's enough hot water to make up one cup of the syrup. So you've got your jar of syrup. You also need a little medicine dropper because you're going to use that to drop sugar syrup down in the cells of the column. You can't just pour it. The syrup doesn't go in the cells very well. It just pours off the side. Medicine dropper.
OK, we've got our comb loaded. Gonna put it in the front chamber of the box. Close that up. And now the bees are in the rear chamber. I want them to find the comb, so I'm going to raise this divider. And I'll prop it up so that they can come forward and discover the comb. And I'm going to facilitate their discovery by putting my opaque cloth over the box to darken the interior of the box, so that there's no little places where the light is streaming into the box. We're now going to let the bees out. I'll do this very gently. I don't want to spook the bees. I'm not going to pull the comb out. I'm just going leave everything in place. I'm just going to let them fly. And if they have discovered the food and are interested, they will do exactly what we're seeing here. They come out. They turn around. And they rock back and forth. They're memorizing what this place looks like because they want to be able to come back here.
Now, I expect those bees will come back. And when they do come back, I want them to land on this comb in a place where I can put the paint marks on the bees. So I slid the comb out onto the back of the door to the bee box. Here's somebody back. Here she comes. Yes, that's one of our bees. She knows what she's looking for. But she's a little nervous. Not too nervous, though. Ah. Brilliant, bee. That's a sight I as a bee hunter love to see. It's when the bee lands and puts her tongue in the sugar syrup. Because that means she's really hooked on what I'm offering. I'm going to wet my brush again with this orange paint. Try to make this into an orange thorax, for individual identification.
And the reason we do that is we want to get the round trip times of these bees. How much time it takes from when a bee leaves the comb, goes home and comes back. And the reason we want to get that information is that will give us a good indication of the distance to the home. I would say I get a good reading-- directional reading-- on maybe one out of ten departures I recorded of different bees. You can see they're pretty consistent. 285 degrees. 277. 295, 295, 290, 295, 280, 293, 285, 310. So it's clearly-- it's up. It's a little to the northwest of us. Up in the direction of these pines. Organize things to make a move. What I'm going to do is I'm going to put one of these combs in the box. And I'm going to hide the other one. I also like to get some of my painted bees so I don't lose them. OK, this is looking good. Let a number to-- get a good number to settle. We've got orange thorax and red thorax. Five unmarked bees.
Moved up the hill in the direction the bees were flying, about 100 meters. Sometimes I'll go 300 meters. But this time, I sense that the bees home is nearby and I don't want to overshoot it. So I'm going to make a relatively small jump or move. Opening the box up. Bees are coming out. I've opened up the box. I'm putting out the combs and already there's a good bunch of bees here. Oh, yeah. Now I just saw one fly straight to that dead tree. Fancy that. That's great. Well as you can see, we found the bee tree. We're successful bee hunters. If you're interested in taking up this sport and you'd like to learn more of the details and hear more stories about it, I've actually written a little book called "Following the Wild Bees, the Craft and Science of Bee Hunting." And I can recommend it. It's a good read.
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One method of locating a colony of wild bees is called bee lining. In this video, we will join Prof. Tom Seeley as he tries to locate a wild colony of honey bees. He catches bees foraging on goldenrod and aster, feeds them concentrated sugar solution and determines the direction that they fly as they return to their colony. By painting identifying marks on some bees, he is able to measure their round trip time to get an estimate of the distance to the colony. With direction and distance established, he moves closer. Then, watching the bees, sees that they are living in a dead tree.