Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Radio Tracking May Help Explain Colony Collapse Disorder

Tiny Radio Tags Offer Rare Glimpse into Bees' Universe
John Roach, National Geographic Magazine, 11/14/2008

What's causing the unprecedented decline of millions of honeybees? This mystery has been vexing some of the world's best scientists ever since U.S. beekeepers began noticing enormous numbers of their bees dying off or vanishing for no apparent reason several years ago.

Honeybees contribute some $15 billion to the U.S. economy every year, pollinating 90 major crops, everything from fruits to nuts. Most of us take these foods for granted, rarely realizing the vital role tiny creatures play in making them thrive.

Put simply, says zoologist Martin Wikelski, "Everything depends on pollinators."

That's one reason this leader in the study of small-animal migration has begun examining the mostly unknown universe of bee movement.

Wikelski is pioneering the use of supersmall radio tracking tags that fit on the backs of bees, a technological breakthrough that may provide him and other scientists with a direct view of the pollinators' flight patterns.

This could someday help them understand what's causing the honeybees' decline—and how to harness other kinds of bees to protect food supplies...

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