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Video transcript: Bumblebee research: A day in the life

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July 2011

Video shows bees buzzing between flowers in a meadow

Nic Charlton, PhD student, University of Bristol
Hello I'm Nic Charlton and I'm going to show you what I do on a typical day working in the field.

So I'm at my first field site, got my equipment in my bag and, of course, it's a glorious day so I've got my hat! Lets go…

Okay so I'm at the field site. I've got my notebook to record my data and the first thing I'm going to do with this little device is record the temperature and the wind speed.

Video shows Nic in a tall grass meadow (guitar music throughout)

So this is my first experimental patch today. This is red Campion, the flower that I look at and I'm going to sit here for 20 minutes and observe any bumble bees that come to visit these flowers. No bees this time.

Each of my fields' sites is alongside a field of cereal or a field of oilseed rape and at each site I have a patch of red Campion flowers and this patch here isn't doing very well. Unfortunately, it has been nibbled by deer so we may have to leave this one.

Video shows a large bumblebee on a flower, then Nic with his specimen bottles

Because all my patches of red Campion are in pots one of the things I have to do every time I come out is water them so I'm going to fill up these bottles.

The fieldwork that I'm doing is part of a PhD at the University of Bristol. I'm looking at nectar robbing by bumblebees. Nectar robbing is a behaviour whereby bees with short tongues bite a hole in the back of a flower to get to the nectar...

Video shows a photograph of a flower with a bite hole behind the flower

...so I'm trying to find what are the circumstances which will increase or decrease robbery levels. I do this by putting out patches of a flower called red Campion next to different fields. One field full of bright yellow flowers, another field of no flowers and I go back to those patches and try to record how much robbing has happened in those patches.

I'm at my next field site, just stopped for some lunch. I was thinking one of the nicest things about field work is the fact that you get outside for most of the day and some of the wildlife you see - you see numerous insects, birds - no mammals yet but you never know. Milk break and then off to check the flowers.

Video shows Nic's hand holding a flower to show the insect bite on the back of a flower

This is the flower that gets robbed by bumble bees so I check the green part at the back of the flower and look for neat little holes or semi circular little bites and that's a sign of nectar robbing by bumble bees.

Video shows wasp's nest entrance buried in the under-growth

I have just found a wasp's nest in the ground. One of those strange things you see while you're out doing field work. Never seen that before.

I'm at my last site for the day. Its been pretty good. I've got some more data and the weather has been fine so after this one I'll drive back home for a nice cup of tea. We need a greater understanding of bees and their interactions with the environment because they are such essential pollinators of crops and wild flowers and, in terms of crops, without major pollinators like bees our food production would decrease, food would become more expensive and this would affect a greater number of people in terms of food poverty. They would not be able to afford essential nutritious foods that bumblebees help to produce.

ENDS