Sunday, 25 September 2016

Seek and you shall find: Bees remain excellent searchers even when ill




Date: September 12, 2016
Source: Queen Mary University of London

Honeybees are hardwired to efficiently search the landscape enabling them to continue working for the greater good of their hives even when they are sick, according to new research co-authored by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

Radar technology has been used to show for the first time that bees remain nimble and able to search and respond to their environment even when they have infections or viruses.

Honeybees tirelessly commute between rewarding flower patches and their hive, often hundreds or even thousands of metres apart. Their remarkable navigational skills rely on distinct landmarks, such as trees or houses, which they very efficiently find and memorise on orientation flights.

Experts fitted a transponder, a tiny dipole aerial much lighter than the nectar or pollen normally carried by the bee, to the thorax of the bee. Tracking each bee individually they would pick up a radar signal form the transponder showing where and how it was flying.

Co-author Professor Juliet Osborne from University of Exeter, said: "We tracked the individual flying bees with a harmonic radar system. This involves attaching a very lightweight aerial to their back but it doesn't affect how fast they fly, or how much nectar they collect. It is still the only method for getting these really detailed data on where the bee flies."

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