These all involve bumblebee colonies and flight cages or small arenas; they can be done indoors throughout the fall; each topic, if well executed, is potentially publishable. Also see additional notes on independent projects in the first takehome assignment you received (the constancy experiment). I've tried to give a single reference for each one, so you can follow up a little bit.
1. Trapline development by individual workers. (Note: We will do something like this as a class exercise--details not final yet. An independent project would have to go well beyond what we do in class.)
What foraging paths are set up by bees confronted with a spatial array of artificial flowers that have continuous secretion of nectar? Could look at aggregate patterns of traffic of all foragers, or concentrate on a number of marked individuals. Factors that can be varied include the spatial pattern of the flowers, the reward rate, colors of flowers. After bees are trained to one configuration, these variables can be switched. Observations can be by eye and stopwatch, voice tape, or video. (Thomson, J. D. 1996. Trapline foraging by bumble bees: I. Persistence of flight-path geometry. Behavioral Ecology 7:158-164. Other refs in first takehome assignment.)
2. Does foraging performance change over the lifetime of a forager? Individually marked bees. Might expect foraging speed to initially increase as bees gain experience, learn to handle flowers, and trim inefficient flight paths, then decline as they age, their wings wear, they may become parasitized, etc. (Don't know of any studies of this. (Speculation on its importance by Thomson et al., 1982. Behavior of bumble bee pollinators of Aralia hispida Vent. (Araliaceae). Oecologia 54:326-336.)
3. What information (if any) about flower sources do returning worker bumble bees transmit to other workers in the hive? Location, richness, scent? Try, for example, getting a bee to feed at one of two feeders in opposite corners. Can vary whether this feeder is rich or poor. As the bee returns home, daub it with a particular scent. Then mark the feeder it did not feed at with the scent. Do the next foragers go to the location where the first bee fed, or to the location that bears the bee's scent, or neither? (The first publication suggesting that bumbles have any information transfer at all was just published in Nature by Anna Dornhaus and Lars Chittka, I believe in the 9 September issue.)
4. Does the rate at which a bee grooms pollen off its body into its corbiculae (pollen baskets, remember?) depend on the amount of pollen that it has recently picked up? This question has implications for how much a plant can increase its male reproductive success by making more pollen. Could answer by quantifying particles groomed and/or by high-speed video of grooming movements. (No direct observations have been made; indirect studies include:
Harder, L. D. 1990. Pollen removal by bumble bees and its implications for pollen dispersal. Ecology 71:1110-1125.
Thomson, J. D. and B. A. Thomson. 1989. Dispersal of Erythronium grandiflorum pollen by bumble bees: implications for gene flow and reproductive success. Evolution 43:657-661.)
5. Nectar feeding by bees is thought to involve complex "sponging and wringing" movements of the mouthparts, as well as pharyngeal suction. How does the use of a bee's tongue (especially lapping rate) change with sugar concentration (=viscosity) of nectar? High-speed video.
HARDER LD. 1986. EFFECTS OF NECTAR CONCENTRATION AND FLOWER DEPTH ON FLOWER HANDLING EFFICIENCY OF BUMBLE BEES. OECOLOGIA 69: (2) 309-315.
HARDER LD. 1982. MEASUREMENT AND ESTIMATION OF FUNCTIONAL PROBOSCIS
LENGTH IN BUMBLEBEES (HYMENOPTERA, APIDAE) CAN J ZOOL 60: (5) 1073-1079.