Miniature wireless sensors attached to bumblebees could soon give researchers real-time data on their pollination patterns. This story from Oregon State University says researchers at the school are planning to build sensors that will track how the bees pollinate fruits and vegetables, including blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, tomatoes and dozens of other staples.
Given recent losses of European honeybees to diseases, mites and colony collapse disorder, bumblebees are becoming increasingly important as agricultural pollinators, said Sujaya Rao, an entomologist in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.
“Lack of pollination is a risk to human food production,” said Rao, an expert on native bees. “With our sensors, we are searching for answers to basic questions, such as: Do all members of one colony go to pollinate the same field together? Do bumblebees communicate in the colony where food is located? Are bumblebees loyal as a group?”
“The more we can learn about bumblebees’ customs of foraging, pollination and communication,” she added, “the better we can promote horticultural habitats that are friendly to bees in agricultural settings.”
The article goes on to point out that flowers and hedgerows near crops can promote the presence and population of bumblebees and help increase yields.
The researchers are also hoping they can one day track other small species, such as invasive pests.