Bee Behavior Mapped by Tiny Trackers


Usually when scientist want to learn something about an animal they’ll research it, which typically includes tracking it in some way.  That isn’t necessarily anything new so to speak, but what is new is that the ones used for bees has gotten a serious upgrade!

Dr. Mark O’Neill has recently created and is currently testing a new design to monitor bee behavior.  At the moment it’s made from off-the-shelf technology, and the information they transmit is logged by readers connected to Raspberry Pi computers.  His creation has a reach of 2.5 meters, whereas old models couldn’t transmit over a centimeter.

It works with a typical radio frequency identification (RFID) chip that’s been specifically designed to be aerial, which the good doctor was able to make lighter so as to boost the range.

At the moment though, this is only the first stage.  Once all of the aerial components are all optimized, the components will be much smaller, which it turn could help boost the effective field for the tracker.  A worker bee’s average forage time is about 20 minutes, which gives it a forage range of an approximate .6 miles, and then to gather all the information possible, several readers scattered around a hive and flower patch to get the best representation of their movements.

The trackers being used are approximately .3in high and 1.9in wide, and are placed on the bees using a superglue.  The process tends to take anywhere from five to ten minutes, but this is only made possible by chilling the bees before hand to make them more docile.  These weight less than the bee itself and are attached at their centre of gravity so it doesn’t effect their flight.  Bees have a three month lifespan, and Dr. O’Neill hopes that they remain attached throughout it.

Additionally, these are only fitted on the worker bees do to the fact that they don’t mate. Hypothetically speaking they could be eaten by other animals, but most of them die of old age and are good at escaping from predators.

For more information, click here for BBC’s article on the matter.

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