Beam me up scotty -where did that bee go? Needed tiny lighter transistor.

081114-bees-radio-tracking-missions_bigNeeded an even lighter pack -can you design it for me? asks Ms. Honey Bee.

The bee at the right is wearing a 170-milligram (.006 ounces) radio tracking tag, about one-third of its body weight.

The tag is held in place with eyelash glue and superglue. It is powered by a hearing-aid battery and includes a crystal-controlled oscillator, tiny circuit and an antenna that sticks out from the back about 1 and 1/2 inches. Even loaded up like this, the bees “fly beautifully,” says zoologist Martin Wikelski.

Wikelski and his colleagues are using transmitter tags the size of three or four grains of rice.
The transmitters weigh 0.006 ounces (170 milligrams), are small and light enough to attach to the backs of bees from two relatively hefty species, weighing .02 ounces (600 milligrams), with just a bit of eyelash glue and superglue. Loaded up its weight is about a 1/3 the bees weight.

The transmitters can track the insects as long as they remain within a few miles of the receiver. To date the carpenter bee from a New Jersey center and an orchid bees at Panama’s Smithsoniancarpenter-bee-resting-on-my-hand Tropical Research Institute have passed the transmitter test. To have this device work on smaller native and honey bees the tag would need to become about 40% smaller about the size of a pine nut.

Winfree says the team tried to fit transmitters on bumblebees, but these .007-ounce (200 milligram) insects simply couldn’t carry the load, which amounted to about 80 percent of their body weight.

“You’d throw them up into the air, and they’d just come back to the ground,” she says. “So we need a next generation of transmitters for them, I think.”

Smaller tracking tags like this may eventually help scientists address growing concerns about the blossoms-applefuture production of crops such as apples, melons, and almonds, grains ans other vegetables and fruits that require bees and other insects for pollination.

cucumber flower

cucumber flower

Our domesticated honeybee colonies are weakened and worn out with colonies dieing, but native wild bees appear unaffected by the so-called colony collapse disorder.Possibly native bees could become the main pollinateors of US crops in the future if we do not mess with the sze of their comb or over stress they or feed them GMO supplements or take them out of their native surroundings.

bee-honeyUnderstanding how to support the bees lifestyle in a natural organic way including their foraging range can support the improvement of beekeeping and natural agriculture.

Tiny tracking tags should eventually enable scientists to tackle a laundry list of other questions, including how bees and other pollinators interact with flowering plants in rain forests and how to design agricultural landscapes to attract and sustain native bees.

Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, an organization based in Portland, Oregon, that advocates for the protection of pollinators, says tagging bees in food-rich and food-poor landscapes may lead to better, more efficient uses of farmland.
These radio transmitter tags will give more pertinent, exciting real time information and understanding of the bees and other vital pollinators. This new data could improve the health and food production for people and animals around the world.

Resources

Images courtesy of

Image #1 National Geographic 14-bees-radio-trackin

Image # 2 John Bokma carpenter-bee-resting

Image # 3 blossoms-apple

Image # 4 flowers/cucumber

Image # 5 vg/flowers/honeybee

Image # 5 blossoms-apple

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