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The dusk was defined as the time at which the natural light intensity had dropped to 5 lux or below. On sunny days we observed groups of bumblebees coming out of the nests and flying through the interior of the bee hotel to the nearby flowers. They collected pollen and nectar from the apical part of the field flowers (Figure 4b). The foragers returned to the hive and the idle bees started to collect pollen and nectar from the lower part of the flowers.
Four bees were monitored and we noticed that the sun went below the horizon at approximately 10:30. Between 11:45 and 12:30 the light levels dropped substantially, with a correspondingly higher probability of collecting pollen and nectar from the lower, weaker part of the flowers. Thus, these results show that bumblebees are capable of measuring solar cycles in time, and use the information to accurately plan their flight behaviour. To confirm the circadian rhythm, we compared the bees’ statistical index of circadian rhythmicity (RS) values at the different time points while the sun was above the horizon. Using the beekeeper’s records derived from the honey analyses, the mean RS values while the sun was above the horizon showed consistent rhythms (Figure 4c).
A Skywatch RFID reader (http://rega.csr.csu.ru/~mai/skywatch.html) was installed at the top of the bee hotel wall, above the entrance. The identification number of the bees collected by the beekeeper was given from the resulting database when the individual bee visited the bee hotel. Up to 100 bees could be monitored at a time.
From the weekly light and dark cycles and the daily rhythm, we hypothesized that the bees would be more successful in the foraging at night, when the moon light would reflect off the grass, thus the light would be brighter, and also when the days were getting shorter, during which the bees should have been adapting to the winter conditions.