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Radio frequency ID tags on honey bees reveal hive dynamics
Date:7/22/2014

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Scientists attached radio-frequency identification (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.

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."

Citizen scientist Paul Tenczar developed the technique for attaching RFID tags to bees and tracking their flight activity with monitors. He and Neuroscience Program graduate student Claudia Lutz measured the foraging activities of bees in several locations, including some in hives in a controlled foraging environment. (Watch a video about this work.)

Vikyath Rao, a graduate student in the laboratory of U. of I. physics professor Nigel Goldenfeld, analyzed the data using a computer model Rao and Goldenfeld developed.

Previous studies, primarily in ants, have found that some social insects work much harder than others in the same colony, Robinson said.

"The assumption
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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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