Thursday, May 27, 2010

Radio transmitters used to track bees

A group of scientists have used minute radio transmitters to track the movements of bees as they track down rare flowers.

It is the first example of the successful use of micro radio telemetry to track movement of an insect pollinator and the results may have implications for our understanding of biological activity patterns and the evolution of forset pollinators.

The iridescent blue-green orchid bees (Exaerete frontalis) were fitted with  transmitters weighing just 300 mg. Eyelash adhesive was used to attach the equipment to the bee's thorax (see image above).

A total of 16 bees were tagged (four were lost) and the team was able to track them for about 5 days. The results confirmed that such large orchid bees have very large home ranges and averaged about 45 hectares (although one of the bees had a range of 700 hectares).

The scientists warn that the results must be interpreted carefully but "by extending radio telemetry to bees that are scarcely a few times heavier than transmitters we obtained credible results because orchid bees are known for their flight capabilities".

These results were published in PLoS ONE journal and can viewed in its entirety here.


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