RFID tags track honey bees

July 23, 2014 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Honey bees are important to the ecosystem and provide a vital source of food. Recently, it has been well documented that honey bee populations have declined significantly, and scientists are still debating the likely cause.

Recently, scientists attached RFID tags to hundreds of individual honey bees and tracked them for several weeks. The effort yielded two discoveries: Some foraging bees are much busier than others; and if those busy bees disappear, others will take their place.

Though the RFID tag research is not particularly related to this problem, the more we know about these interesting animals the more easily we can find answers.

The findings are reported in the journal Animal Behaviour.

Tagging the bees revealed that about 20 percent of the foraging bees in a hive brought home more than half of the nectar and pollen gathered to feed the hive.

"We found that some bees are working very, very hard – as we would have expected," said University of Illinois Institute for Genomic Biology director Gene E. Robinson, who led the research. "But then we found some other bees that were not working as hard as the others."