Scientists put backpacks on bees to study colony collapse

(Credit: CSIRO)

The global bee population has been in serious decline for some years, and scientists are devoting serious effort to trying to figure out why. There are a number of proposed causes for Colony Collapse Disorder, whereby worker bees suddenly vanish from a colony — chiefly pesticide use, parasites, malnutrition, and disease — and although it’s strongly theorized that a combination of these factors is at play, no one really knows for sure.

Scientists at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) are trying a novel approach to understanding the phenomenon. Just like geolocation tags can now be worn by pets, CSIRO’s team, led by Paulo de Souza, is attaching tiny sensors to the backs of bees to monitor where they go.

“Honey bees play an extremely important role in our daily lives,” de Souza said. “Around one-third of the food we eat relies on pollination, and this is a free service these insects provide. A recent CSIRO study showed that honey bees helped increase fava bean yield by up to 17 percent. Knowing how bees interact with their environment will allow farmers, fruit growers and seed producers to manage their properties using honey bees… [Read more]

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