Pan Traps for Tracking Honey Bee Activity-Density: A Case Study in Soybeans

Ashley L. St. Clair, Adam G. Dolezal, Matthew E. O’Neal, Amy L. Toth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To study how honey bees utilize forage resources and guide pollination management plans in crops, a multitude of methods have been developed, but most are time consuming, costly, and require specialized skills. Colored pan traps for monitoring activity-density are a simple, efficient, and cost-effective alternative; however, their usefulness for studying honey bees is not well described. We examined if trap color, location within a field, and the presence of managed colonies affected estimates of honey bee activity-density within soybean fields. Soybeans are visited by pollinators but do not require these visits for seed development. Pan traps, especially those colored blue, captured more honey bees when colonies were present. There were no differences in activity-density based on placement of traps within a field nor with increasing distance from colonies. Throughout the season, activity-density in soybeans was constant but tripled after soybean ceased blooming, suggesting spikes in pan trap captures may indicate periods of forage scarcity. Activity-density did not correlate with the population size of worker bees at a site, but did correlate with number of colonies present. We conclude that pan traps can be useful for assessing honey bee activity, particularly for estimating colony presence and identifying times of forage scarcity.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number366
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 12 2020


  • Apis mellifera
  • bee bowl
  • pan trap
  • moericke trap
  • activity-density
  • agriculture
  • foraging activity


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