Methods for assessing bee foraging preferences: a short review and a new automated apparatus

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Bees are essential pollinators for many plant species, but multiple threats exist to both managed and wild bee populations. Their innate foraging behaviors and food preferences are subjects of intense research since bee nutrition is essential for maintaining hive and colony health. Multiple approaches have been developed to assess bee foraging behavior and associated preferences, but they are often labor-intensive and provide data on a limited number of parameters. In this manuscript, we provide a short review of these methods and present the design, build, and implementation of a new, inexpensive, and automated feeding apparatus capable of recording: (1) number of visits, (2) total food consumed, (3) photos and videos of bee behavior while inside of the feeder, and (4) environmental conditions. The efficacy of this apparatus is demonstrated through preference tests with artificial nectars, while also acknowledging the relative strengths and limitations of this approach.

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