Feeds

Boffins tail bees with tiny radio tags

How long is a beeline?

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Bees with radio tags glued onto their backs have been busily demonstrating just how long it takes them to get home, and how much easier it is to travel west.

The tags are 13.75MHz RFID tags – very small ones – and were glued to individual bees by researchers Mario Pahl and ShaoWu Zhang. Once properly tagged, the bees were released from various locations and an RFID reader on the hive noted their eventual arrival. That data then enabled the apicultural boffins to deduce that nearby mountains were used for navigation, and the speed of journey was heavily influenced by landmark availability.

Bee with tag on back

One of the test subjects poses for a close-up

About 1km to the west of the test hive was a distinctive mountain, which (the researchers conclude) guided the bees who were released to the east, enabling them to make their way home from as far as 11km away. Those poor bees released as little as 6km to the west were, sadly, never seen again.

The tags used are 1x1.6mm and weigh 2.4 milligrams. Given that a bee can collect 35 milligrams of nectar that's not a big deal, though having the thing glued to their backs can't help the aerodynamics much. RFID Journal has the technical details of the tags, while the results of the study appeared in the PLoS ONE Journal.

Apparently bees like to circle the hive during their formative days, looking into the distance for landmarks that might help them find their way home. But despite that, and a flying speed of 15km/h, some of the bees took several days to make it back. In the tests the slowest journeys came from the south: a 3km trip took 78 minutes travelling west, compared to 280 minutes travelling north.

Those worried about such things might like to know that the bee will have to refuel every 25 minutes or so, which obviously slows things down.

What the boffins didn't see was bees dropping dead from radio waves, or being confused by having to enter the hive through a tunnel containing a radio signal strong enough to bounce a unique ID off their backpack-mounted tags, which is nice to report. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.