Sciencing – My Final 2023 Assignment

Female Hairy-Footed Flower Bee

Male Hairy-Footed Flower Bee

Dear Readers, my final assignment for my ‘Biology of Survival’ course this year is due in the middle of May, and it involves some actual ‘sciencing’ – we need to design and carry out an experiment on pollinators. Well, this plays to Bugwoman’s main area of interest (as regular readers will have gathered), and my problem is basically sorting out something that can be measured easily, and which will not be too difficult to do. First we have to run the idea past our tutors to make  sure that it isn’t completely off the wall, so here are my thoughts so far.

Hairy-footed flower bees are regular visitors to my garden, especially to the flowering currant at the back. These are unusual bees because the males and the females look completely different – the females are jet black, and the males are stripey with white faces. I find this very interesting, and wondered if there was an advantage to the females in being black. One that springs to mind is that black as a colour absorbs heat, and so the females might possibly warm up more quickly in the morning, and be able to get out and about to gather the nectar and pollen that they need to raise their young. These are solitary bees and so they won’t have workers to help, and the males basically just hang around plants waiting to mate with the females.

My hypothesis (or ‘guess’ in my case) is that we might see a higher ratio of female to male bees when the temperatures are cooler, because the females will be able to get out and about more. So, I plan to go out, record the temperature, record the maximum number of females that I see and the maximum number of males, and see if my hypothesis holds up.

The whole endeavour is fraught with peril, because hairy-footed flower bees are only about for a very short window, and the weather this week looks particularly crap – being cold adapted is one thing, but no bee likes flying when it’s wet. But faint heart never won top marks in a biology assignment, so I shall hopefully be giving it a go. It’s so much fun to be actually putting this year’s work into practice, however it turns out. Wish me luck!

The flowering currant.

13 thoughts on “Sciencing – My Final 2023 Assignment

  1. Jay

    Good luck with your assignment! We get a lot of Hairy-Foots in the garden too, possibly because not only do we have a good sized flowering currant, but also half a dozen Pulmonaria plants and they love those even more than the flowering currant! At the moment, I’m seeing more males than females in the mornings and after rain, so I’ll be most interested in the results of your study.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Hi Jay, I just put in some pulmonaria but they won’t be in flower probably till next year now. I seem to be 100% females today! I should clearly do a follow-up project in your garden 🙂

  2. Ann Bronkhorst

    Can you observe them on a range of plants or must you restrict observations to one only? And for how long will your flowering currant stay in flower? Would your bees like a very bee-friendly Sophora?

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Well, I can move on to other plants if this one has gone over, but I think it will be good for another week or so, plus it seems to be a real hairy-footed flower bee magnet, whereas the sophora attracts everybody – I might take you up on it if my bees misbehave though! Plus it must be due for a Wednesday Weed…

  3. chrisswan94

    Good luck with your study, it certainly is an interesting one. I wonder if the different coloured faces also allow solitary bees to identify a bee of the opposite gender? I have recently discovered a key ring which contains a vial of sugar water for rescuing exhausted bees when you are out and about so guess what everyone will be getting for their birthdays? If I encounter more white-faced bees than black, I will be sure to let you know.

  4. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    Sounds like a perfect study for Bugwoman! Though I wonder what alternative hypothesis or conclusion you might come to if a) the numbers are the same or b) there are more males than females? 🤔


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