Thesis subject

Bumblebee landing behaviour depending on light conditions, flower characteristics and flower movement

Foraging bumblebees make up to a 1000 landings on flowers each foraging trip. They have to be able to fly and land in various weather and light conditions, for example in varying wind conditions, humidity levels and temperatures. While depending on their visual information for their flight control, they are also able to fly and land in a wide range of light conditions. For example, bumblebees forage early in the morning light intensity is still low, and when pollinating inside greenhouses, bumblebees sometimes have to deal with large changes in the colour spectrum of the light.

In this thesis project, you will study the landing and foraging behaviour of bumblebees landing on artificial flowers in varying conditions. There are several topics you could work on, including studying the effect of flower movement on bumblebee landing manoeuvres, studying the effect of light intensity on the landing behaviour, and studying the effect of colour of light on the foraging behaviour of bumblebees. It is also possible to look at the effect of the characteristics of the flower on the landing performance of bumblebees, or to look into the differences in landing behaviour between individual bumblebees. 

During your thesis, you will train the bumblebees of a bumblebee hive to land on an artificial flower. Depending on the topic, this can be a moving artificial flower, or a LED light panel with programmable colours. The landing manoeuvres of the bumblebees will be filmed with a stereoscopic video system, allowing you to analyse the 3D landing dynamics of the bumblebees.

This study is a part of the PhD project “Bumblebees in the spotlight”, in which we study the visual-motor system of flying bumblebees. The project is a collaboration between the Experimental Zoology Group, the Resource Ecology Group, the Behavioural Ecology Group, and Bees@wur at Wageningen University & Research.

Examiner: Prof. Dr. Ir. Johan L. van Leeuwen
Supervisors: Lana de Vries
Florian Muijres
Contact: Lana de Vries (via contact form)
Begin date: 01/02/2021 (variable)
End date: 01/10/2022 (variable)
Credits: 12-36 ECTS (variable)
For: MSc Biology / Animal Sciences
Requirements: Functional Zoology (EZO 30806) (for MSc thesis)
Used skills: Experimental design, insect behaviour, working with live animals, 3D high speed video techniques, programming, statistics