In a grassy clearing between crop hectares at the Kellogg Biological Station LTER, Dr. Nick Haddad, Principle Investigator, stares into the dark recesses of a bee box, set a few feet off the ground.
The research team places the bees here while they’re still in cocoons. When they hatch, the bees gather fluorescent yellow, powdered dye on their furry bodies before flying off across the flowering fields to find new nests.
Alfafa Leafcutting Bee (Megachile rotundata) boxes like this one are set up across the LTER, each with different-colored dye, like hues from a fun run. From the bee box in the grassy walkway between crop rows, Dr. Haddad led me through a secondary successional field plot, grasses and goldenrod waving around our waists as we picked our way carefully along a nearly invisible track towards another bee box. Unlike the first, this wooden rectangle included tiny holes on the other side of a wire fence, bees moving in and out of the tiny holes. Here and there, little bee butts left their highlighter-yellow dye beneath the hole they chose to enter to lay their eggs.
Read the entire article on the LTER Network website!