Bee behaviour mapped by tiny trackers

Bee behaviour mapped by tiny trackers

Bee with tracker
The tiny trackers measure have a range of up to 2.5m (8.2ft)

A tiny new tracker designed to monitor bee behaviour is being tested by ecologists at Kew Gardens in London.

It is made from off-the-shelf technology and is based on equipment used to track pallets in warehouses, said its creator Dr Mark O’Neill.

Readers, used to pick up a signal from the kit, are connected to Raspberry Pi computers, which log the readings.

The device has a reach of up to 2.5m (8.2ft). Previously used models were restricted to 1cm (0.4in).

The tracker consists of a standard RFID (radio frequency identification) chip and a specially designed aerial, which Dr O’Neill has created to be thinner and lighter than other models used to track small insects, allowing him to boost the range.

The engineer, who is technical director at the Newcastle-based tech firm Tumbling Dice, is currently trying to patent the invention.

“The first stage was to make very raw pre-production tags using components I could easily buy”, he said.

“I want to make optimised aerial components which would be a lot smaller.”

“I’ve made about 50 so far. I’ve soldered them all on my desk – it feels like surgery.”

The average “forage time” for a worker bee is around 20 minutes, suggesting they have a forage range of around 1km (0.6 miles) , Dr O’Neill explained.

The idea is to have readers dotted around a hive and flower patch in order to track the signals as the bees move around freely in the wild.

Chilled bees

The tiny trackers, which are just 8mm (0.3in) high and 4.8mm (1.9in) wide, are stuck to the bees with superglue in a process which takes five to 10 minutes. The bees are chilled first to make them more docile.

“They make a hell of a noise,” acknowledged Dr O’Neill.

He told the BBC he hoped that the trackers – which weigh less than a bee and are attached at their centre of gravity so as not to affect their flight – would remain attached for their three-month expected lifespan.

bee with tracker
The bees are chilled before the trackers are attached.

They have only been fitted to worker bees, which do not mate.

“If an animal ate one, I guess it would have a tracker in its stomach,” Dr O’Neill said.

“But the attrition rate for field worker bees is very low. Most die of old age – they are very competent, and good at getting out of the way.”

Dr Sarah Barlow, a restoration ecologist from Kew Gardens, was involved in testing the as-yet unnamed trackers.

“These tags are a big step forward in radio technology and no one has a decent medium to long range tag yet that is suitable for flying on small insects,” she said.

“This new technology will open up possibilities for scientists to track bees in the landscape.

“This piece of the puzzle, of bee behaviour, is absolutely vital if we are to understand better why our bees are struggling and how we can reverse their decline.”

Researchers Develop System for Assessing How Effective Species Are at Pollinating Crops


NUMB3RS - Desert Edition ... FSU student has n...

NUMB3RS – Desert Edition … FSU student has nightmare experience at NC State — “home of the Wolfpack.” (Oct. 10, 2012) …item 3.. Briefcap: FSU gets sweet, sweet revenge against NC State (Oct. 26, 2013) — FULL RECAP COMING SOON … (Photo credit: marsmet491)


Researchers Develop System for Assessing How Effective Species Are at Pollinating Crops
by Staff Writers
Raleigh NC (SPX) Dec 12, 2013


From tomatoes to pumpkins, most fruit and vegetable crops rely on pollination by bees and other insect species – and the future of many of those species is uncertain. Now researchers from North Carolina State University are proposing a set of guidelines for assessing the performance of pollinator species in order to determine which species are most important and should be prioritized for protection.


“Widespread concerns over the fate of honey bees and other pollinators have led to increased efforts to understand which species are the most effective pollinators, since this has huge ramifications for the agriculture industry,” says Dr. Hannah Burrack, an associate professor of entomology at NC State and co-author of a paper on the new guidelines and related research. “However, various research efforts have taken a wide variety of approaches, making it difficult to compare results in a meaningful way.


“We’ve developed a set of metrics that we think offers a comprehensive overview of pollination efficiency, which would allow researchers to compare data from different crops and regions.”


The new comprehensive approach looks at four specific metrics. First is single-visit efficiency, which measures the number of seeds produced when one bee visits one flower. Second is abundance, which measures the number of each type of bee observed in a study area. Third is inclement weather behavior, which tracks how active a bee species is during cool, cloudy and/or windy weather. Fourth is visitation rate, or the number of flowers that a bee visits while foraging, and the amount of time it spends at each flower.


“The perfect bee would produce a lot of seeds and visit a lot of flowers, even in poor weather – and there would be a lot of them,” Burrack says. “But as far as we know, the perfect bee doesn’t exist.”


The researchers conducted a pilot study using their comprehensive approach to assess the pollination performance of various bee species on economically important highbush blueberry crops in North Carolina. They found that small native bees had extremely high single-visit efficiency rates and were active during inclement weather. However, small native bees did not have high abundance nor appear to have high visitation rates.


“This highlights the importance of incorporating multiple metrics,” says Dr. David Tarpy, an associate professor of entomology at NC State and co-author of the paper. “Because researchers looking only at visitation rates or abundance may think the small native species are unimportant, when they actually appear to be important pollinators for blueberry growers.”


The paper, “Multiple Criteria for Evaluating Pollinator Performance in Highbush Blueberry (Ericales: Ericaceae) Agroecosystems,” was published online Nov. 25 in the journal Environmental Entomology. Lead author of the paper is Shelley Rogers, a former graduate student at NC State. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation, the N.C. Blueberry Council and the NC State Beekeepers Association.



Bees Are Actually Just Stressed?

English: A sign warning about pesticide exposure.

English: A sign warning about pesticide exposure. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Monsanto pesticide to be sprayed on f...

English: Monsanto pesticide to be sprayed on food crops. Français : Remplissage d’un épandeur (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Bees Are Actually Just Stressed?

Heather Callaghan Activist Post
Some lines:
You’re probably aware of this. But scientific studies can hold a lot of double-speak. For what reason would a researcher announce a breakthrough that both points to neonicotinoid pesticides as the big cause for colony collapse disorder but at the same time denies it?
It is ice to dilute hot waters. In the average reader’s mind it can derail a serious concern with hidden meanings, causing them to say “Oh, so the situation is not that bad…”
The results of a recent study held mixed messages that might draw some “Huhs?” It could either encourage disregard for the steadily growing bee die-off and appease industrial pesticide chemical makers…or, at best, be a colossal waste of money.
Let’s take a spin together….
Royal Holloway University researchers found that when bees become exposed to low levels of neonicotinoid pesticides – which they claim do not directly kill bees – it affects their behavior and they cannot work as well to keep the whole hive going.
The results were supposed to showcase that the type of exposure bees face in the field has subtle impacts that can ultimately…lead to colony failure. However, over and over, it emphasizes the words “sublethal,” subtle impacts, synergistic effects and stress. The stress from chemical exposure and perhaps other factors. It points to neonicotinoid pesticide impact but downplays it at the same time.  It is called a discovery and a breakthrough on a “trend that has baffled many experts worldwide.” But it also looks likes like a call for more research, passing the blame onto the bees themselves and a way to give a stamp of approval to more sets of chemicals….

Diesel fumes confuse honeybees when foraging


Diesel fumes confuse honeybees when foraging

Exhaust fumes from diesel could be changing the scent of flowers and making it harder for honeybees to collect pollen and nectar, according to a new study.

© Tracey Newman, Guy Poppy and Robbie Girling A bee lands on a oilseed rape flower

Pollutants found in diesel exhaust alter levels of chemicals released by flowers which honeybees use to locate and identify varieties with the largest amounts of pollen and nectar, researchers found.
Tests in a laboratory designed to mimic the effect of exhaust fumes on the smell of oilseed rape showed that the bees’ ability to recognise the odour was reduced by about two thirds.
Although exhaust fumes are unlikely to be the main cause of the sharp decline in Britain’s bee populations, they could be exacerbating the problem, researchers said.
Fumes which prevent honeybees recognising the smell of flowers could “have serious detrimental effects on the number of honeybee colonies” as well as reducing the pollination of vital crops and lowering honey yields, they claimed.
Bees play a crucial role in food production around the world by pollinating crops, and are thought to be worth about £430 million a year to Britain alone.
The government this summer launched an “urgent and comprehensive” review into the reduction in bee populations, with a third of colonies thought to have been lost the previous year.
Scientists from the University of Southampton carried out two experiments to examine whether the foraging behaviour of honeybees was being affected by exhaust fumes.
In the first, they blended eight chemicals which are released by oilseed rape flowers and exposed them to air containing levels of diesel exhaust similar to those recorded at busy roadsides.
They found that six of the chemicals reduced in volume and two vanished completely within a minute of exposure to the fumes, meaning their chemical signature, as interpreted by a bee, would appear completely different.
Further tests showed it was NOx gases (nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, both found in diesel exhaust, which appeared to be causing the change in odour.
A group of honeybees had been trained to pick up the scent of oilseed rape, but when the two chemicals worst affected by NOx gases were removed, the proportion able to recognise the odour dropped from almost 100 per cent to about one third.
Because NOx gases are found in greater quantities in petrol fumes, it is likely that these could have a similar effect, researchers added.
Dr Tracey Newman, who led the study, which was published in the Scientific reports journal, said: “Diesel alters floral odours and it is a significant enough change in the chemistry to impact on honeybees’ ability to recognise that odour.
“It is not just about a bee getting confused because there’s a new smell around, it is that the odour itself is being chemically altered.”
This could force bees to spend longer foraging or having to make more foraging trips to help sustain the hive, she suggested, which would likely result in a drop in honey yields and “serious detrimental effects” on pollination activity.
Her colleague Prof Guy Poppy said air pollution could be one factor, along with other “stresses” like viral or mite infections, which are causing the decline in bee populations.
“Bees live in a relatively stressful environment and we think that the combinations of stresses is one thing that potentially might explain some of the dramatic losses in colonies,” he said.
Paul de Zylva of Friends of the Earth said: “Bees are highly sophisticated creatures facing many threats including air pollution  –  this research is yet more evidence that they are under attack from all sides.
“The Government must draft a Bee Action Plan that combats the many threats that bees face.”

Swedish team hope to create buzz in fight against bee deaths


Swedish team hope to create buzz in fight against bee deaths by Staff Writers Stockholm (AFP) Sept 27, 2013

Researchers in Sweden said Friday they had developed a new medicine to protect bees from diseases that kill entire populations of the insect in the US and Europe.

A team of microbiologists at Lund University have patented the treatment, known as SymBeeotic — made from lactic acid bacteria from the stomachs of healthy bees — which they described as a major “boost” to bees’ immune system and are hopeful that it could slow down the rate at which bees are dying.

“The bacteria in this product is active against both American and European foulbrood disease,” Dr Alejandra Vasquez, who co-developed the product, told AFP. Foulbrood is the fatal bacterial disease which threatens bees.

“We hope that beekeepers will see this as a good preventative medicine so that they can avoid using antibiotics.”

The researchers, who worked on the medicine for nearly ten years, planned to launch it at an annual conference of beekeepers in Russia on Saturday.

In a statement from the university, co-researcher Dr Tobias Olofsson said it was “the only existing product that boosts bees’ natural immune system”, as resistance to antibiotics grows.

Pesticides, parasites, stress and poor nutrition are believed to be some of the factors causing a deterioration of the immune systems of bees around the world, making them more susceptible to disease.

In “More Than Honey” a new film exploring the global crisis facing honeybees, a hillarious document!

More Than Honey Q&A

More Than Honey Q&A (Photo credit: Erwin Verbruggen)

Queen bee’s wedding flight – video

About JW Player 6.6.3867 (Ads edition)

In More Than Honey, a new film exploring the global crisis facing honeybees, director Markus Imhoof used mini-helicopters and high-speed cameras to capture an extraordinary video of the inflight mating of a virgin queen bee. It took 10 days to get 36 seconds of footage at Heidrun Singer’s hives in Austria. ‘Our most effective trick was patience,’ Imhoof said.
More Than Honey is in UK cinemas from 6 September

“The bees are dying and we´re to blame.” TIME´s Bryan Walsh explains colony collapse disorder, and why bees are on the verge of extinction.

A poster of bees and wasps

A poster of bees and wasps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The bees are dying and we’re to blame. TIME’s Bryan Walsh explains colony  collapse disorder, and why bees are on the verge of extinction.

Read more:,32068,2591408791001_0,00.html?iid=tabvidrecirc#ixzz2cs5CP4oN,32068,2591408791001_0,00.html


Pollinator Garden

Pollinator Garden (Photo credit: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region)

Dear Friends,

Thank you for signing the petition supporting “The Save America’s Pollinators Act.” Your outpouring of support was amazing with over 310,000 of you lending your name to help me take this vital message to my colleagues in CongressThe legislation currently has 17 co-sponsors, a good first step!

However, despite your passion and the importance of protecting pollinators to our food and ecosystems across the globe, passing this legislation will still be an uphill battle. Our best chance for saving bees from neonicotinoid chemicals is getting “The Save America’s Pollinators Act” included in the reauthorization of the Farm Bill.

While I work to convince my colleagues in Congress that protecting our economy and environment is tied to healthy bee populations, it’s also vital for them to hear from you, their constituents, while they’re back in their districts during the August work period. Let them know what the buzz is all about! Can you call your representative right now to demand that “The Save America’s Pollinators Act” be included in the Farm Bill to protect pollinators?

As you know, the Farm Bill is a five year law that sets many of the agricultural and conservation policies for the country. Both the House of Representatives and Senate have passed wildly different versions of the Farm Bill that will have to be reconciled and voted on again before the bill can become law. I have worked to reform the Farm Bill in many ways, including amendments that would help study bee colony collapse and protect pollinator habitats. While other reforms to the Farm Bill are still needed, such as restoring food assistance for those struggling, ending unnecessary subsidies going to big agribusinesses, and strengthening the conservation titles that help farmers be better stewards of the land and water, we can still do more to help bees! Protecting the pollinator amendments and adding “The Save America’s Pollinators Act” to the bill is vital!

Thank you for your energy and enthusiasm. I will keep sharing whatever progress we make in Washington and hope that you are also working in your own communities to do what you can to protect pollinators.


Earl Blumenauer Member of Congress

Neonicotinoids are the new DDT

CC BY-ND 2.0 Flickrbee-photo-666600_jpg_662x0_q100_crop-scale

Neonicotinoids are the new DDT


The Newsletter: Bees are worth billions

Jaymi Heimbuch
Science / Sustainable Agriculture
August 6, 2013

CC BY-ND 2.0 Flickr

“It’s the new DDT: a class of poisons licensed for widespread use before they had been properly tested, which are now ripping the natural world apart.” writes George Monbiot in an article in The Guardian.

In another massive human blunder, neonicotinoids are already in many of the pesticides used around the world, though we are only just now realizing the devastating effect they have on the natural world.

Researchers now know that this class of poisons is responsible for many of the bee deaths we’ve witnessed over recent years, and was even the culprit behind the death of over 50,000 bumble bees in a single parking lot.

Recent research has shown that the issue is more complex than we thought, with a veritable witches brew of pesticides causing the illness and death of bees and other pollinators. But neonicotinoids are poisons at the heart of the problem, underscoring not only the problem with the bees, but also with humans rushing to use a product with unknown consequences. …


Bees Attack Texas Couple

Thousands Of Bees Attack Texas Couple, Kill Horses

07/27/13 01:32 PM ET EDT AP

I am sure they will search for the reason why bees attacked this couple! and killend horses there! P presume they were a certain species of bees, we never had to mix with our species of bees here!



PANTEGO, Texas — A swarm of about 30,000 bees attacked a North Texas couple as they exercised their miniature horses, stinging the animals so many times they died.

Kristen Beauregard, 44, was stung about 200 times, and her boyfriend about 50 times, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Saturday ( ).

But the horses, Chip and Trump, were so covered in bees they shimmered. Neither could be saved.

“They were chasing us down, they were following us,” Beauregard said of the incident Wednesday evening. “We swept up piles and piles of them … it was like a bad movie.”

The bees are being tested to see whether they are Africanized or “killer” bees. It is unclear what prompted them to leave the hive.

Beauregard was exercising Trump, a Shetland pony, when he started to jump and kick, she said. That is when a cloud of bees started stinging them all over. Trying to escape, she jumped in the pool and the horse followed.

“It got all dark, like it was nighttime there were so many bees,” she told the newspaper. “We were trying stand up in the water but every time we stuck our heads out for air, they would cover us and start stinging us. We were trying to breathe and they were stinging us in the face and in the nose.”

She escaped to the house, and her boyfriend called 911. Bees chased her, crashing into the windows of the house. Trump ran through the yard, rubbing against bushes in an attempt to wipe off the bees.

Beauregard’s boyfriend called 911 and firefighters arrived with special gear and a foam substance used to clear the bees. They were able to drag the horses to a pasture where police and paramedics tried to treat them.
Chip, a 6-year-old show horse, died before a veterinarian arrived. Trump was sedated and taken to equine veterinarian Patricia Tersteeg’s clinic.

“He was so overwhelmed by bites that his body could not handle it,” Tersteeg said. “That’s way too much for any 250-pound mammal to survive.”

The bees also killed five hens, and stung the couple’s dog.


Information from: Fort Worth Star-Telegram,