Danny is a PhD candidate in Integrative Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research is focused on the foraging activity of honey bees and bumble bees, and how this relates to the identity and quality of collected resources. There exist a variety of approaches to address such questions, including radio frequency identification (RFID), which monitors the movement of individual foragers into and out of the hive, and the collection and identification of pollen carried by returning foragers.
Bees are central place foragers, implying that they must locate profitable resources, gather provisions from these resources, and return with these provisions to a central nesting site. This can be a challenge, especially when the resources that bees collect are so variable in space and time. Bees collect a variety of resources including pollen and nectar, which they gather from flowers. Pollen is an essential source of protein for developing bees, and the amount and quality of protein found in collected pollen has dramatic effects on the size, health, and physical aptitude of adult bees. In addition, nectar is used primarily for carbohydrates and energy.
A variety of environmental stressors challenge these important pollinators including habitat development and limited resources, pesticide exposure, and general ecological patterns. Examples of the latter include the amount and quality of resources produced by plants varies within and among different plant species. In addition, the timing of life events (phenology), for example flowering time, is variable in space and time. Therefore, bees have evolved strategies to maximize resource intake in an uncertain environments, the general premise of optimal foraging theory. My research focus seeks to elucidate the specific strategies of diverse bee species, and how these relate to resource collection patterns.
Recently we found that honey bees and bumble bees show persistent differences in their foraging activity using RFID, and that these differences are persistent through time and among sites in a shared landscape. These results suggest intrinsic factors within bee species that effect foraging activity, and it can be hypothesized that these differences are manifest as a result of evolved foraging strategies and cognitive abilities. You can read more about these findings in the article published here: (Minahan and Brunet 2018) in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution