RFID Tags Help to Trace Foraging Habits of Bees

RFID used to help track Bumble Bees
RFID used to help track Bumble Bees

Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags were attached to hundreds of bees by scientists interesting in tracking bee foraging habits. The main discovery made as a result of weeks of tracking is that some bees are much busier than others.

Scientists found that about 20% of honey bees brought home more than half of the nectar and pollen gathered to feed the hives.  It was found that some bees were doing most of the work while others were doing close to nothing compared to the hardworking bees.

RFID tags to bees to successfully  monitor their flight activity. The foraging activity of the bees was measured in several locations, both in controlled and non-controlled environments. After such measurements were made by graduate student of Institute for Genomic Biology, Vikyath Rao (a graduate student from the laboratory of University of Illinois Institute for Genomic Biology) and physics professor, Nigel Goldenfeld, the data was collected revealing one thing. It was found that some social insects work harder than others. To dig further in finding reasons for why only certain bees did most of the work, researchers removed the 20% of bees that were most involved in the labour. After doing so, the bees that had initially been "resting" suddenly became much more active. This change took place in less than 24 hours. Logical assumptions were made as to why all bees do not work together at the same time. It is believed that perhaps the hard working bees are best at the job but if their strength deteriorates, the remaining bees take over.  Even after this transition, the RFID tracking system shows that while the initial "resting" bees take over the hard work, there still remain other bees who are resting or saving their energy should it be needed later to forage for food.

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