CSIRO, University of Tasmania scientists fit tiny sensors onto honey bees to study behaviour

January 15, 2014

From: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

By Ellen Coulter

Scientists in Tasmania are fitting thousands of honey bees with tiny sensors as part of a project aimed at understanding the insect’s behaviour and population decline.

CSIRO is working with the University of Tasmania, beekeepers and fruit growers to trial the monitoring technology, in an attempt to improve honey bee pollination and productivity.

They are fitting tiny sensors to the insects, a process which sometimes involves shaving them first.

“This has been done before,” CSIRO science leader Paulo de Souza said.

“The difference here is about the size of the sensor. And the difference is the number; we’re talking about 5,000 bees.”

The sensors measure 2.5 millimetres by 2.5mm and act like a vehicle’s “e-TAG”, recording when the bees pass particular checkpoints.

The bee can carry a lot of weight in pollen…so this is like someone carrying a small backpack.

      CSIRO science leader Paulo de Souza


Researchers can use the signals from the sensors to find out how the bees move through the landscape and understand changes in their behaviour.

They are also looking at the impacts of pesticides on the honey bees and the drivers of a condition decimating bee populations globally.

“If it impacts the bees, it impacts the whole industry that is producing food,” Dr de Souza said.

“This should help us understand optimal productivity conditions, as well as further our knowledge of the cause of colony collapse disorder.”

Bees put to sleep, shaved, fitted with sensor

The process of gluing on the tiny sensors to the bees is delicate but quick.

“We take the bee into a cold place, usually to a fridge about five degrees Celsius, for five minutes and that is enough to have the bees sleeping,” Dr de Souza said.

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