Researchers, farmers and policy makers have been concerned about the global decline in bee populations for a number of years now. Bees perform a critical role in the pollination of hundreds of food crops worldwide, and the loss of a large number of bee colonies would be catastrophic to many segments of the agriculture industry.
Scientists of all types have been working closely with entomologists and beekeepers to monitor bee colonies and try to pinpoint the problem, but with only limited success to date as the bee die offs seem to be related to several causes.
More on research involving “bee trackers”
In an attempt to use 21st century technology to the greatest effect, scientists with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia are undertaking a project using bee trackers. These tiny devices (.25 centimeter across) are gently glued onto the backs of bees before they are released back into the wild.
The bee trackers are based on radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, and record information every time a bee passes close to a data logging device.
The researchers note that because bees are typically very predictable, any changes in their daily routine will assist them in identifying stressors in the environment. This data could lead to new clues in solving the riddle of bee colony collapse disorder ways or to the development of solutions to the problems.
CSIRO science chief Paulo de Souza explains: “The tiny technology [bee trackers] allows researchers to analyze the effects of stress factors including disease, pesticides, air pollution, water contamination, diet and extreme weather on the movements of bees and their ability to pollinate.”
The bee decline problem is a global phenomenon, but it has been a major problem in the United States.
Based on data from the Bee Informed Partnership, a group of academic and private research labs involved in honeybee research, U.S. beekeepers saw a shocking 42.1% of their colonies die off between April 2014 and April 2015.
Of note, commercially managed bee colonies in the U.S, have slumped from from over 6 million in 1947 to barely 2.6 million as of 2013, according to government figures.
The White House has even gotten involved, pointing out that honeybees are critical for the life cycle of 90 North American crops which add up to $15 billion a year to the U.S. economy.
Environmental experts note that Europe has also seen smaller, but still concerning, bee colony losses.