Australian scientists microchip bees to map movements, halt diseases

SYDNEY Wed Jan 15, 2014 3:12pm IST

1 of 3. Detail of bees on their hive in Paris in this September 24, 2010 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Jacky Naegelen/Files

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian scientists are gluing tiny sensors onto thousands of honey bees to track their movements in a trial aimed at halting the spread of diseases that have wiped out populations in the northern hemisphere.

Scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's national science agency, said the microchips could help tackle so-called colony collapse disorder, a situation where bees mysteriously disappear from hives, and the encroachment of the parasitic varroa mite.

Scientists will use tweezers to glue on the sensors, weighing about 5 milligrams and measuring 2.5 millimeters (a little more than 1/16 of an inch) square, after soothing the bees to sleep by refrigeration.

Some young bees, which tend to be hairier than older bees, need to be shaved before the sensor can be glued on.

Scientists will examine the effectiveness of pesticides in protecting the bees from colony collapse disorder and varroa mite.

The study will also enable farmers and fruit growers to understand and manage their crops, given the honey bee's crucial role in the pollination of crops globally, the CSIRO said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

"Honey bees play a vital role in the landscape through a free pollination service for agriculture, which various crops rely on to increase yields," the CSIRO's Paulo de Souza, who is leading the project, said in the statement.

"Using this technology, we aim to understand the bee's relationship with its environment."

Scientists plan to fit sensors on 5,000 bees in the southern island state of Tasmania over the Australian summer.

The radio frequency identification sensors work like an electronic tag for cars on a toll road, recording when insects pass a checkpoint. That will allow scientists to build a three-dimensional image of the insects' movements, a process described as "swarm sensing".

The scientists are working on shrinking the sensor to 1 mm square so they can be attached to smaller insects, including mosquitoes.

(Editing by Jane Wardell and Ron Popeski)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Ebola Outbreak

Diabetes And TB

Diabetes And TB

Experts sound alarm as diabetes fuels cases of TB.  Full Article 

Microsoft Band

Microsoft Band

Microsoft launches wearable fitness device for $199.  Full Article 

Long-Term Effect

Long-Term Effect

Having controlling parents may affect later relationships.  Full Article 

Exercise Trend

Exercise Trend

Paddleboard yoga stands venerable practice on its head, on water.  Full Article 

Spike In Polio Cases

Spike In Polio Cases

'Disastrous' health campaign feeds Pakistan's worrying polio spike.  Full Article 

Factbox On GM Crops

Factbox On GM Crops

GMO crops have history of controversy.  Factbox 

Teal Pumpkin Project

Teal Pumpkin Project

Painted pumpkins raising awareness about food allergies.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage