At this point, the researchers are still fine-tuning their experimental techniques, which include affixing micro-tags to the backs of the bees while they are still dormant in their cocoons. A video camera placed at each nest will allow building a database of the bees' response to manipulated changes in their natural schedule, and how their well-being might be affected by corresponding disruptions caused by climate change.
The tags on the bees, a special variant of the widely used Quick Response "QR" code, will make it possible to monitor individual bees using computer-assisted image recognition, which is being developed under the lead of NJIT Associate Professor of Biology Gareth Russell. Physical examination of pollen in the nests also is expected to yield information about the food sources the bees visit, and analysis of the ratio of females to males to provide indications about how temperature variation may affect reproduction.
This effort could help to answer key questions about the possible impact of climate change on agriculture. At large and foraging for food before their normal sources are available, bees may not be able to adapt. DeVan emphasizes that this could devastate the cycle of plant pollination and reproduction. Or bees may adapt by feeding on different plants that flower earlier. While this could be a positive sign that bees are adaptable, it also may mean they are feeding on less nutritious plants, which could have a deleterious impact on bee populations.
For the solitary cavity-nesting bees, starting to forage earlier because they are out of synch with the flowering of their food sources could keep them away from their nests for longer periods. This, too, presents a potential threat. It may give flies,
|Contact: Tanya Klein|
New Jersey Institute of Technology