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RFID has bee researchers abuzz

RFID technology has allowed researchers a rare glimpse into the flight patterns and homing abilities of honey bees. A report in the scientific PloS ONE Journal says that bees frequently fly several kilometers to and from vital resources, and utilize a form of symbolic dance language to communicate those locations to fellow bees.

Each bee was tagged on the thorax. Each tag carried a unique 64 bit number which allowed researchers to track flight patterns of individual bees. Two readers attached to the beehive tunnel recorded the bee’s exits and arrivals.

Here’s how researches utilized RFID, according to the publication:

Pollen-carrying bees were captured upon return from a foraging trip at the hive entrance and briefly immobilized on ice, so that a RFID tag with known ID number could be glued to each bee’s thorax with shellac glue from a queen marking kit.

Groups of 20 tagged bees were then kept in cages with ad libitum access to 50 percent sucrose solution. The cages were transported to the respective release sites in dark styrofoam containers so that the bees did not derive any directional information before the experiments began. The preparations were conducted in the morning, so that the experimental bees could be released in the early afternoon. At the respective release sites, the cages were opened at one side, and the bees were given five minutes to take off. The bees then spiraled upwards in wide circles until they were lost from view; homing trajectories could therefore not be determined. Animals which had not left the cage after five minutes were excluded from the experiment.

Approximately two hours passed between the bees’ capture and release. Upon return to the hive, the bees’ identity and homing time were recorded by the RFID receivers at the hive entrance.

Click here to read the full research paper:

 

 

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