Project will use minute sensors to track bumblebees

10/01/2013 02:37:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

bumble beeCourtesy Oregon State UniversityAs European honeybees decline, bumblebees have taken on a more important role as pollinators.

Because little is known abut their habits, a group of Oregon State University researchers plans to track bumblebee activities using miniature electronic sensors attached to the insects, according to a news release.

"Lack of pollination is a risk to human food production,” entomologist Sujaya Rao said in the release. “With our sensors, we are searching for answers to basic questions, such as: Do all members of one colony go to pollinate the same field together? Do bumblebees communicate in the colony where food is located? Are bumblebees loyal as a group?"

The three-year project is being funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The sensors will be attached in a way that they don't affect bee flight.

Each consists of integrated circuits that will broadcast the data wirelessly.

Initially, the plan to attach the sensors to six different bumblebee species in the Willamette Valley that vary in size, flight patterns and seasonal activity.

These native bees different from those found in eastern Oregon, the East Coast and Europe.

They hope to shed light on how bumblebees search for pollen, nectar and nesting sites—information that will help researchers better understand how these insects help with crop production.

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