Australian scientists will attach tiny sensors on some 5,000 honey bees to study their behavior and gain an understanding of the causes of the ongoing decline in their population, ABC Online reported Wednesday.
The project undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the University of Tasmania is designed to help improve honey production and requires that part of the bees' bodies be shaved so that the sensors can be glued on, a procedure which doesn't harm the bee or impede its mobility.
The head of the project, Paulo de Souza, said the team will put each bee into a cold place - like a refrigerator - for five minutes at about 5 C (41 F) to put the insect to sleep before attaching the sensor, after which the insect will be released.
"This has been done before, ... (but) the difference here is about the size of the sensor. And the ... number; we're talking about 5,000 bees," De Souza told ABC while explaining the work his team will do on the island of Tasmania.
The sensors are about 2.5 x 2.5 millimeters and weigh about 5 milligrams, which is about 20 percent of the weight a bee can carry. They act like an electronic tag that registers the insect's movement through a specific control location.
"The bee can carry a lot of weight in pollen, in nectar, so this is like someone carrying a small backpack," explained De Souza.
The data obtained during the study will help scientists understand how bees move about and how their behavior changes as well as enable them to evaluate the impact of pesticides and other factors detrimental to honey bees.
"This should help us understand optimal productivity conditions, as well as further our knowledge of the cause of colony collapse disorder," De Souza said, referring to the mysterious condition or disease that has been decimating honey bee populations worldwide for the past 15 years. EFE