Researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia developed a new sensor technology that is designed to find out why populations of honey bees in different parts of the world are collapsing.
Around 10,000 individual honey bees have been fitted with tiny sensors on their backs to help scientists understand why large numbers of these insects are dying around the world.
Similar to how electronic tags keep track of vehicles while they are on toll roads, the sensors on the bees will monitor the movement of the insects by sending information back to electronic receivers that are placed strategically at beehives in different areas.
The developers of the sensor compare the technology to an adult person carrying around a backpack. They said the device weighs around one-third of what an average bee can carry on its back. What makes the sensor different from a regular backpack is that it will remain on the back of the bee for the rest of its life.
Mass Die-offs of Bees
CSIRO's microscopic technology was developed over the last two years as part of the agency's study on bee health.
The agency's scientists said that the number of wild bees in different parts of the world have significantly dropped as a consequence of diseases, habitat loss and the continued use of pesticides.
Professor Paulo de Souza, science leader of CSIRO, said that this event has put crops that require pollination at risk.
In a recent interview, De Souza explained that they are trying to determine why bees from seemingly healthy hives suddenly die in some parts of the world.
He said that it is occurring so frequently that it is now considered a syndrome known as colony collapse disorder (CCD), and no single scientist can work on solving this problem alone.
In the past ten years, a predatory mite known as Varroa destructor has killed a number of bee colonies.
CSIRO said that honey bees in Australia remain immune to the Varroa destructor mite, which makes the country an ideal place to coordinate an international research effort.
The bee sensors that the agency has developed weigh only around 5.4 milligrams. These devices are capable of tracking an individual bee's time away from its hive and the distance that it has traveled. They are powered using a battery that can produce energy through vibration
The sensors will also record the exposure of the bees to different environmental factors such as air pollution, pesticides and even water contamination. They will also help monitor the diet of the bees as well as the weather.