When I first started working on bee gustation during my masters, I used to do my experiments in a dark room that would only be lit by the small red light on my forehead. I had magnifying glasses to be able to see every movement of the bees I was training. Focusing on their head and abdomen. Working long hours in the dark, 3 days in, I had this dream... Huge floating bee head looking at me. Funny thing, most people when they start working with bees or any other insects will dream about it during the first weeks.
PhD, rooftop, working during the summer in the greenhouse. View, London. Weather... Meh... changing (raining a bit, sunny a bit...). Bees, keen. But little did I know, other were keen too. Wasps, little bastards of a flying insects. And I can hear in my head some wasp-enthusiasts "but they are so smart". Oh yes they are ! Vicious things too. I would train my bees to collect sugar water from a big feeder first, so I could pick up one bee for the day to train her individually. I take my bee, train her for 9h straight, no breaks. It's around 6 p.m a Saturday, I am exhausted. Wasp comes around, I shoo her. Wasp comes again, I shoo her again. My bee is tired, she takes a break and stand a bit further up the setup. Wasp comes, she literally bites my bee and kill her in front of my naked eyes. I could almost feel her laughing inside. I am furious, I take my shoe and smash. As I am gathering my belongings, I hear a noise. Yes that noise. That is not the calm buzzing of bees. Oh boy, 3 wasps or so. They are pissed, they smelled the treachery that I did (a.k.a alarm pheromone of the one I just killed). OK RUN ! I start to run for my life around the greenhouse to go back inside. CARD ISN'T FUCKING WORKING. Wasps are gathering, here I go just screaming and running around the greenhouse, being hunted down by a pack of angry wasps. Might have lasted a few minutes. Ended up burying myself in the greenhouse under a plastic sheet. Waited... Long... They were around I could tell. Waited more. Took a run and tried my card again. It worked, I was safe. I felt incredibly stupid, it was past 8 p.m, I had accomplished nothing today. But I learned a couple of things. And the following days I would just capture in glass vials every single wasp around. The hunt stops there buddies. NOBODY kills my bees, also I don't kill nobody.
How to work with bees? GET IN THERE. And hop on their marvellous world. Brainy little creatures, their personalities is much like those of dogs. They feel you, they smell you, they recognise you and they follow you happily. They are gentle yet they can show their sting. They can be trained, are very smart and amenable. They like jazz (or at least, they never complained about my musical taste - they don't hear per se but they feel vibrations). Honey bees, oftentimes, have a better work ethic than bumblebees.