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  • Writer's pictureThree Lil Birds Farm

Bee Fight Club

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

This past week we worked solely on the NSF Aggression Assay project. After a few weeks of training and preparation everything was set-up and ready to go.


Prior to this week, a hive of painted day-old honeybees was set-up in an outer apiary. A queen and some food were added to this colony to help get them started. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we collected foragers and nurse bees from this colony. These bees will act as our "focal" bees for this experiment.

These "focal" bees were placed in our Ziplock cages, each containing a small cap of a pollen and honey mixture. Following the collection of the foragers and nurses, the cages were brought back to the shed and 3 additional day-old bees were placed in the bag to form the experimental group.

On our aggression assay days (Wednesday and Thursday), we collected foragers from various colonies at one of our apiaries. These foragers were used as our "intruders" for the aggression assays.


The biggest part of the aggression assays, is the timing of placing and removing the "intruder" bees. We paint the "intruder" a different color from our "focal" bees and quickly place the "intruder" with the experimental group. We then observed the bag for 2 minutes and noted any behaviors and the frequency of these behaviors.

The behaviors we were observing were antennation, mandibulation, biting, flexion, and stings. Antennation is when the focal bee appears to be "sniffing" or focusing their attention on the intruder through the use of their antennae. Mandibulation is very similar to antennation, except the mandibles are clearly out and chopping. Biting is as simple as it sounds, the focal bee is actively biting the intruder. Flexion is when the focal bee makes the motion to sting but does not have their stinger out. Unlike the other behaviors, stinging is counted by each individual sting and length of time the focal bee is actively stinging the intruder.


As my last post from my internship this summer, I want to thank everyone I worked with at the University of Kentucky for this experience. I learned a lot about honeybee social behaviors and had fun learning about the different projects the lab was working on.


P.S. You may now understand the title of this post. But shhhh, we don't talk about bee fight club.

Title Credits: Caroline

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