Seed World

Bee-Tracking Technology Could Help Scientists

Kew Gardens, London’s Royal Botanic Gardens, is collaborating with tech company Tumbling Dice Ltd to trial a 4.8 mm x 8 mm-sized microchip that can be glued to bees to track their movements. The reading distance of the new miniaturized radio frequency identification (RFID) tags is superior to anything else on the market — enabling Kew’s researchers to detect tagged bees up to a 1.2 m diameter from a detecting unit.
The small tagging devices available today only allow bees to be detected at distances of up to 1 cm once they exit or return to their hives. Once successfully trialed, the new technology will help scientists track bees between flower patches, providing new insights into the threats facing bee populations and the pollination services they provide.
This technology could also be used, for example, to study the movements of alien insect pests that have dramatic impacts on native flora and fauna and cause serious economic losses to farmers every year, explains Sarah Barlow, a Kew scientist.