SUBJECT: Ph.D. Proposal Presentation
BY: Marguerite Matherne
TIME: Wednesday, May 13, 2020, 11:00 a.m.
PLACE:, Online
TITLE: Mechanics of pollen collection, transport, and removal by the honey bee
COMMITTEE: Dr. David Hu, Chair (ME)
Dr. Todd Sulchek (ME)
Dr. Katherine Fu (ME)
Dr. Peter Yunker (PHYS)
Dr. Jennifer Leavey (BIO)


The worldwide agriculture industry relies on pollination by the domesticated honey bee, but the physics of this process are poorly understood. Yet understanding how an insect can gather, package, and transport millions of pollen particles each day can inspire new ways for granular materials to be handled and managed in industry. In this thesis proposal, we present experiments that reveal the physical mechanisms by which honey bees handle pollen. Honey bees carry pollen back to their hive by mixing it with nectar and forming it into a pellet, which they carry in the corbicula, or pollen basket, on their hind legs. We use rheology experiments to understand how the bee packs the pollen-nectar mixture into the pellet, and how it is able to collect pollen grains of varying size and shape. We measure the kinematics of the leg movement during the pellet removal process and design and build an apparatus to measure the forces during pellet removal. Lastly, we explore the role of pollenkitt, a fluid comprised mostly of lipids that naturally occurs on pollen grains, in preventing the pellet from drying out during transport.