Australian scientists microchip bees to map movements, halt diseases

SYDNEY Wed Jan 15, 2014 4:42am EST

1 of 3. Detail of bees on their hive in Paris in this September 24, 2010 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Jacky Naegelen/Files

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian scientists are gluing tiny sensors onto thousands of honey bees to track their movements in a trial aimed at halting the spread of diseases that have wiped out populations in the northern hemisphere.

Scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's national science agency, said the microchips could help tackle so-called colony collapse disorder, a situation where bees mysteriously disappear from hives, and the encroachment of the parasitic varroa mite.

Scientists will use tweezers to glue on the sensors, weighing about 5 milligrams and measuring 2.5 millimeters (a little more than 1/16 of an inch) square, after soothing the bees to sleep by refrigeration.

Some young bees, which tend to be hairier than older bees, need to be shaved before the sensor can be glued on.

Scientists will examine the effectiveness of pesticides in protecting the bees from colony collapse disorder and varroa mite.

The study will also enable farmers and fruit growers to understand and manage their crops, given the honey bee's crucial role in the pollination of crops globally, the CSIRO said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

"Honey bees play a vital role in the landscape through a free pollination service for agriculture, which various crops rely on to increase yields," the CSIRO's Paulo de Souza, who is leading the project, said in the statement.

"Using this technology, we aim to understand the bee's relationship with its environment."

Scientists plan to fit sensors on 5,000 bees in the southern island state of Tasmania over the Australian summer.

The radio frequency identification sensors work like an electronic tag for cars on a toll road, recording when insects pass a checkpoint. That will allow scientists to build a three-dimensional image of the insects' movements, a process described as "swarm sensing".

The scientists are working on shrinking the sensor to 1 mm square so they can be attached to smaller insects, including mosquitoes.

(Editing by Jane Wardell and Ron Popeski)

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Comments (2)
Apprentice wrote:
Interesting reading about technology but,

Here is what I have been doing, in order of controlling mites in the brood area, all one needs to do is cell regression, in other words get the bees to build smaller comb at or below 5.00mm and they will cap over many hours sooner, I have found that the cells capped over 8-10 hours sooner than many of the larger commercial foundations, the mite levels are 50% lower, then you can get used to keeping bees instead of treating them for mites.
Basically there is less room for mites in the given cells and the inhabitants developing stand a much better chance at full fly status.
Also most of the losses are down to bad management, IE, farmer and bee keepers could talk to each other better so as to reduce the exposure to bees being sprayed whilst in the crop, time is of the essence here, giving the sprays time to dry out before the bees come into contact with the wetting agents used in sprays.
For those who require further reading on this pastime, seek out David Cushman

Jan 15, 2014 1:47pm EST  --  Report as abuse
SilentBoy741 wrote:
So after a bunch of bees pass out, then wake up totally disoriented, shaved in an embarrassing place, some foreign object inexplicably attached to some part of their bodies, and dumped out somewhere to find their own way home. Or as we used to call it, sophomore year.

Jan 15, 2014 7:02pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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