Sunday, August 22, 2010

Do bees prefer drab?

I came across this Mason Bee nest box, which has appealing--at least to my eyes-- two-tone trays. But I wonder if bees feel the same. Assuming all trays were installed at the same time, and that bees have no upper/lower preference, the nesters seem to prefer all-brown or half-brown nesting holes, or at the very least avoid like crazy the zazzy colour combinations. Very conservative little creatures.

Further research is required.

8 comments:

Susan in the Pink Hat said...

I have mason bees nest in the drill holes on the back of my Adirondack chairs that are painted verdigris.

Neil said...

I started running the T-test on this, and then realized, I need to go to bed. Wasn't looking good though...

I think your "upper/lower comment" is interesting in that both the top four (all brown, half brown) and bottom three (no brown) rows are all unoccupied, as are apparently all (? save 1?) of the perimeter holes. Maybe there is an anti predator/parasitoid advantage toward going for a non-edge unit...? Or perhaps it simply reflects encounter rate (assuming more bees will initially land somewhere in the middle than the edge)...

KaHolly said...

I think the more natural looking the more attractive to the bee it will be. ~karen

Carol said...

Thanks for stopping by and the nice comment.

I think the thing I like about Nature is..you never stop learning..and all those critters..big and small seem to have it all figured out...

Hugh said...

Susan, The bees obviously have good taste.

Neil, Those seem to be reasonable suggestions to me. I can think of a number of ways of testing the colour hypothesis--one being to compare with a uniformly colored block. There also may be non-randomization based on which cells are already filled. I've found (through casual observation) that rows tend to fill up, one cell filled next to a previous cell. I suppose it would also help to know how many individual bees are involved. So many questions. Good luck in China.

Karen, Perhaps, although I've had them nest in the square holes in the aluminum window frames of our house. Maybe that was the best they could find.

Carol, About critters, Yup, I agree. Nice to see you posting again.

Neil said...

Anecdotally, our non-painted blocks seem to fill in the same fashion with clusters and rows of occupancy, which backs up your observation about "clumping."

I should be either packing, or unpacking, but I did run a chi-square comparing number of occupied vs. number of unoccupied among brown, 1/2 brown and no-brown holes. Unsurprisingly given the small sample size I failed to reject the null hypothesis of equality among color schemes (p=0.09). Then again, there are some problems with the test when the value in bins is <5 so I might have been able to design it better.

Clearly though, we need more data to address this important problem. I'm drafting up a grant proposal right now...

Georgia said...

Hmmm...maybe the Metropolitan Field Guide blog of Sunset's One Block Diet Team Bee can provide some answers or direction.

theroamingnaturalist said...

How fascinating! Given the good color vision that bees have, this makes me wonder how and with what bees associate certain colors, and why they may prefer to nest in one over the other. If only I could speak bee...


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