Honeybees are hardwired to efficiently1
search the landscape enabling them to continue working for the greater good of their hives even when they are sick, according to new research co-authored by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). Radar2
technology has been used to show for the first time that bees remain nimble and able to search and respond to their environment even when they have infections or viruses.
Honeybees tirelessly commute3
between rewarding flower patches and their hive, often hundreds or even thousands of metres apart. Their remarkable4
navigational skills rely on distinct landmarks5
, such as trees or houses, which they very efficiently find and memorise6
Experts fitted a transponder, a tiny dipole aerial much lighter8
than the nectar or pollen9
normally carried by the bee, to the thorax of the bee. Tracking each bee individually they would pick up a radar signal form the transponder showing where and how it was flying.
Co-author Professor Juliet Osborne from University of Exeter, said: "We tracked the individual flying bees with a harmonic radar system. This involves attaching a very lightweight aerial to their back but it doesn't affect how fast they fly, or how much nectar they collect. It is still the only method for getting these really detailed10
data on where the bee flies."
Bees, like humans, can fall ill and getting around during periods of sickness can become very challenging. However, this study shows that even very sick bees are still able to optimally11
search their surroundings in so-called Lévy flight patterns.
Lead author of the study, Dr Stephan Wolf from QMUL's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said: "The honeybees we observed had remarkably12 robust13
searching abilities, which indicate this might be hardwired in the bees rather than learned, making bees strong enough to withstand pathogens and possibly other stressors, and allowing them to still contribute to their colony by for example, foraging14