Swarm Sensing: Attaching Sensors to Bees to Tackle Colony Collapse [Video]

First Posted: Jan 30, 2014 01:28 PM EST

Honey bees in Tasmania, Australia, are being fitted with tiny radio sensors in an attempt to better understand the insect’s behavior and increase productivity on farms. It is also hoped that the research will provide insight into Colony Collapse Disorder, a condition currently decimating honey bee populations in many areas of the world.

Through refrigeration, the bees are put into a resting state. This allows the sensors, which measure just 3.5mm across, to be attached using an adhesive. Up to 5,000 bees are being fitted with these sensors, which is the largest number of insects ever used in such a study.

The radio frequency identification sensors work like an electronic tag for cars on a toll road, recording when insects pass a checkpoint. That will allow scientists to build a three-dimensional image of the insects' movements, a process described as "swarm sensing".

The researchers say that the next stage of the project is to reduce the size of the sensors to only 1mm so they can also be attached to smaller insects, such as mosquitoes and fruit flies.

-- by
Andrew Purcell, © i SGTW

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