Berks and Schuylkill Beekeepers Association - Bees with pollen on their legs - they fly with this thereThere is a new study to suggest the flight patterns and maneuverability of honeybees is altered by the weight of their loads and type of food they carry. Bees are very capable aviators and navigators but scientists wanted to see how their flying varies when carrying pollen and nectar. The scientist developed a wind tunnel to study the bees flying with and without pollen and nectar.

They used a robotic flower as a moving landing pad for the bees so they studied the bees using high speed cameras with changing wind factors. They found when the bees were carrying pollen in their legs they maneuvered more like a jumbo jet rather than a fighter jet without food. When weighed down by pollen, bees gain stability in the face of difficult wind conditions but for a steadier flight pattern, bees sacrifice maneuverability, which made locating an elusive moving flower more difficult.

Nectar on the other hand, stored in a centrally located pouch on the bee’s abdomen, had the opposite effect. The added central weight actually aided the bee’s maneuverability but the additional weight in the center of the body was more difficult for the bee’s stability.

Berks and Schuylkill Beekeepers Association - Bee seeking nectar on yellow and red flowersThe determination of the test according to Dr. Sridhar Ravi, an aerospace engineer, researcher at RMIT University in Australia “It shows there’s a trade off between stability and maneuverability. So if something is stable it’s not going to be maneuverable and if something is maneuverable it’s probably not going to be stable.” They did also determine although, there were trade offs involved, researchers say bees are adept flyers regardless of load and conditions.

They now want to study whether bees are fair weather bees, carrying pollen on windy/rainy days and nectar on calm days. I just think bees are just so AWESOME and WONDERFULLY made!!