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Peer navigators witness experiments at Green River beehives

sugar switch
Najera helps a student switch the plain peppermint water with the sugar peppermint water.

The Green River peer navigators traveled out to the beehives with Danny Najera Friday, Aug. 2. After opening the hive and checking each frame, Najera passed around a drone, a male bee with no stinger, for the students to hold. They then found the queen bee and even got to try honey.

The moment the students were waiting for, however, was the demonstration of bee reasoning and logic.

Najera set sugar water (which is what bees feed on) laced with peppermint near the hive. When there was an established "ring" of bees feeding from the peppermint sugar water, Najera swapped the peppermint sugar water with plain peppermint water. He placed the bee food a couple of feet away.

The students watched as each bee almost instantaneously found the container with the sugar. The plain peppermint water sat ignored while the bees formed a "ring" around the sugar peppermint water. Watch this video of the bees finding their food after the switch.

By alternating the position of the sugar peppermint water and the plain peppermint water, the bees quickly communicated with each other where the food was.

bee ring
The bees form a "ring" around the food container.

The crux of the experiment came when Najera replaced the peppermint sugar water with plain peppermint water, and put out vanilla sugar water. The bees flew around, confused for the first time in the experiment. It took much longer for the bees to take to the vanilla, proving that they had learned to associate the peppermint scent with food, a concept called "associative behavior."

"My career goal is to work with exotic animals," said Nikki Furner, a peer navigator in the tour, "When I saw the demonstration, I realized that this is exactly the kind of work I was hoping to do!"

Every Monday at 1 p.m., Najera conducts a tour from the SC lobby. He also arranges special group tours upon request. Email Najera to arrange or sign up for a tour.  Najera also maintains a facebook page with tons of pictures, videos and updates.