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Monitoring and discriminating solitary bee activities with continuous vibration measurements

  • School: School of Science and Technology
  • Starting: 2023
  • Funding: UK student / Fully-funded


In this project, artificial leaf cutter bee nests will be built in order to accommodate bees during the summer season. The artificial nests will be made of natural bamboo tube sections tightly packed into a suitably sized short plastic piece of tubing.

In parallel, accelerometer and video recording equipment will be prepared a multiple sites in order to record the activity of the nests, simultaneously with (i) vibrational and (ii) visual signals. Two sets of equipment will be prepared, one running on mains power supply and another one running on solar panels.

Some empty nests that are being monitored will be left on site, and others will be left at other locations where solitary bees are known to thrive. This will guarantee successful population of some of our nests. Each summer will therefore provide multiple repeats of the measurements, in addition to one existing measurement that the supervisor presently has.

The first summer will allow us to monitor the bees discovering a nest, and its gradual filling with partitions and eggs. The second summer will allow us to monitor the birth of the previous years' bees and the replacement of the old partitions with new ones.

From our pilot study we know that securing an accelerometer to an artificial leaf cutter bee nest allows us to detect and discriminate at least two different leaf cutter bee activities,

  • the task of building the partitions in the tube and
  • the task of scratching the pollen off the bee's abdomen.

In this Ph.D. program our pilot studies will be brought to a standard allowing their publication. The student will write code (simple machine learning) to discriminate the two activities and show long term trends in them, constituting results for a first publication.

We will then also explore whether other types of vibrations, associated with other physiological activities are measured.

We will also try a pilot study where the same measurement will be undertaken on an empty snail shell, the nest often used by Osmia Bicolor. The thin and rigid structure will give us excellent vibrational signals to monitor. Other solitary bees suitable for the study could also be investigated.

Video and audio material will be discussed with Nottingham artist Wolfgang Buttress (and team) and made available to them for the “BEES, A STORY OF SURVIVAL” exhibit work which is funding half of this work.

Entry qualifications

Entrants must hold a first or upper second-class honours degree of a UK university or an equivalent qualification, or a lower second-class honours degree with a master’s degree at Merit level from a UK university or an equivalent qualification.

How to apply

Please visit our how to apply page for a step-by-step guide and make an application.

Application deadline: Thursday 31 August 2023.

Interviews will take place the week commencing Monday 11 September 2023.

Fees and funding

This Ph.D. is ‘matched funded’, between Buttress LTD and the Nottingham Trent University.

Guidance and support

Find out about guidance and support for PhD students.

Still need help?

Dr Martin Bencsik
+44 (0)115 8488057