Background

Birds: Several bird species have been observed to occasionally use honeybees as food source, like great tits, blue tits, and sparrows. These species mostly feed on dead honeybees and have no apparent negative consequences for the bee colony.

Bees: Especially at the beginning of the year dead bees are removed by younger workers
(undertaker behavior). This behavior is also more frequent in unhealthy colonies as a mechanism to limiting prevalence of diseases.
During the season the majority of old bees just do not return from their flight (self-removal
behavior). Both behaviors lead to dead bees outside the colony.

Birds + Bees: Regardless if the majority of dead bees ends up at distance (self-removal) or
more in the vicinity (undertaker) of a colony, there is a continuously “production” of dead
bees. Dead bees offer a nutritious (e.g. many amino acids) and easy to access food source for
birds, especially at the beginning of the year when undertaker bees remove the dead bees thatvaccumulated during the winter.

Aims and methods
The projects aims to quantify the anecdotal description of the behavior of birds feeding on
honeybees. This will be accomplished using camera traps at several colonies and live
observations with event logging software.
Additionally the project offers a divers set of angles that can be perused, depending on the
student’s interest. Among them are: potential modulators of bird visitations (urban vs rural
landscape, colony size and health); “dead-bee traps” to quantify where the majority of dead
bees are discarded; calculations of the potential large scale ecosystem effect (public bee
keeping data, literature survey); include other mammals (mouse, bear) that may benefit from
human beekeeping.

Work environment
The project will be performed in the vicinity of Uppsala. The Department of Ecology offers a
friendly and divers environment. It has a strong background in bird ecology, bee diseases with
good contacts to Swedish beekeepers, and modeling of data the student will benefit from.
Requirements
Driver’s license. Experience in the statistical software R is meriting, as are
field work experience.
Contact Jörg Stephan ([email protected])

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