Closer Bee Observations - How To
it is difficult to get close observations of the many interesting
bees you have in your yard. The fear of being stung may prevent
you from getting close enough to distinguish small details. For
the bees, the fear of being eaten by that giant creature looming
over them easily outweigs the value of the nectar in your flowers.
Even when both human and bee can overcome their fears, bees have
many very small body parts that can't be seen by the naked eye.
If you are interested in having a closer look at the bees, there
is an easy way to check them out that is painless for both you and
A simple insect net can be purchased at most pet
stores or through biological research supply stores such as Bioquip.
We have two techniques that we find work best for netting bees.
The first is the "tennis swing." When you spot an interesting
bee on a flower, use your best tennis swing, gently scraping the
top of the flower, to scoop up the bee. You must swing past your
target and, at the end of the swing, use a quick circular motion
to whip the end of the net around itself to keep the bee from escaping.
This last part takes a bit of practice, but it very quickly becomes
method we call the "drop technique," and it works best
on low-growing flowers. When your bee lands on a flower, simply
drop the net on top of the bee, holding the end of the net up with
your hand. When trapped, bees will always fly up and therefore,
your bee will make its way to the top of the net. When it gets close
to the top, simply choke off the net underneath the bee, trapping
it in the top.
Both the above techniques are common in insect
netting, and should be familiar to anyone with any insect collection
experience. Once your bee is netted, transfer the bee to a jar
or Tupperware container by sliding the jar up into the net. Hold
the net tight around the edges of the jar, scooting the opening
toward the bee until the bee enters the jar. Hold the net taut
over the jar opening and screw on the lid over the net. Put the
jar and net end into an into your cooler (refrigerator or icechest)
for about 30 minutes. If your net won't fit in the refrigerator,
simply do your best to put the lid on the jar after quickly sliding
the net off. Like all insects, bees are cold-blooded animals.
When they are chilled they become very sluggish and will stop moving
altogether after about 30 minutes - without dying. You can
take your specimen(s) out of the icebox after this time and you
will have about 2 - 3 minutes to look at them closely with a magnifying
glass or microscope before they warm up enough to fly away. No
need to rush or be afraid! When your times runs low and they begin
to move again, they will still be too groggy to sting. Just place
them in a nearby flower and stay to watch them wake up and fly
• Butterfly net
• Glass jar or Tupperware with lid
• Refrigerator (or icechest filled with ice)
• Magnifying glass