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Sweeping up the bees


Sarah Todd

Why is the blue vein trap to catch bees coloured blue?

Bees have photoreceptors that are sensitive to ultraviolet, blue and green wavelengths, and they also show a preference for “bluish” colours. The trap that I was out checking today is shaped like and blows in the wind to replicate a flower. When it blows in the wind, it signals a flash and the bees come.

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Working with scientist Remko Lejis, whom had amazing knowledge and specialisation in native bees, opened my eyes to the world of invertebrates. At least 20 different native bee species were collected in less than 2 hours of "sweeping" flowering native eucalyptus trees with a net.

Remko had a strong message about native bee conservation and how honey bees in suburban areas are competing with native bees. He also talked about how collecting bee species and sequencing their DNA for "barcoding" helps the identification of species.

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I sat at the microscope on return and tried to group the bee species found based on observable features, on further inspection I needed to look closer at the shape of the abdomen, the colouration and markings on the body and head.

When I get back to school I'm going to work with students to construct some bee hotels and plant native vegetation as a hotel isn't complete without a restaurant!