For decades scientists have used tracking devices to monitor the health of a herd, or study an animal’s range and habits.
Now, a group of University of Washington researchers has figured out how to put a tiny tracking sensor on a bumblebee.
The sensor is similar to a small backpack. Weighing as much as seven grains of dry rice, it attaches to the bees back. One day, a fleet of bees equipped with these sensors could help farmers monitor the health of their crops, and give biologists insights into how bees forage for food, find pollen and navigate through the environment.
Bumblebees were chosen because of their stocky body and ability to carry a light payload. They also return to the beehive every night where the devices can be charged wirelessly.
The team set up several antennas that broadcast signals from a control center. The receiver in the bee sensor uses the strength of the signal, and the angle difference between the bee and the base station, to triangulate the insect’s position. The information is then stored in the sensor, and downloaded when the bee returns to the hive at night.
The researchers are still perfecting the technology and they hope to pique the interest of farmers with the technology next year. Many farmers use drones to monitor their crops, but drones run out of juice after 10 to 20 minutes and have to be recharged. Bees, on the other hand, fly all day long.
Washington Farm Bureau Healthcare has been providing Washington Farm Bureau members fully insured medical, dental, vision and group life insurance benefits since 2004. The Trust has served thousands of Washington employers, focusing on employers who are engaged in agricultural-related activities. Since 2015, the Trust’s membership has been limited exclusively to employers engaged in the agriculture industry. The Trust is a bona fide association health plan. Its governance and operations meet the applicable federal and state regulatory requirements.