As the beepocalypse draws nearer and we face food shortages as a result, researchers have been scrambling to find a way to bolster the health of the world’s bee population. Bees pollinate a third of the crops that we eat, and just in the last year U.S. beekeepers lost 42.1 percent of their colonies. Bees also contribute more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy by helping us grow fruits and vegetables.
Researchers in Australia have been looking for a way to track where honey bees are going, to figure out what may be causing their deaths. Scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation have begun gluing tiny microchips on the backs of bees. Each tracker is a quarter of a centimeter big. Some are calling them “bee backpacks.”
“The tiny technology allows researchers to analyse the effects of stress factors including disease, pesticides, air pollution, water contamination, diet and extreme weather on the movements of bees and their ability to pollinate,” Paulo de Souza, the organization’s science leader, said in a statement. (Via CNN)
The bee backpacks will transmit with radio-frequency identification technology to a data logger every time they fly by. Bees stick to patterns, so deviations in their normal flight routine from day to day can hopefully be linked to other data. Whether it’s pesticides, cellphone towers, or other less controllable factors, the bee chasers in Australia might have a chance of discovering how to better protect our bee colonies in the future.
Since Australia’s bee population is one of the few in the world not suffering a dramatic collapse, it makes it a good control for testing. And the researchers are taking every care to not harm the bees they tag with their trackers.
Man, even the insects are getting Fitbits. Or would bees be considered Apple watchers?