Grassland studies, radar-tracked bumblebees offer clues for protecting pollinators

Image of bee flying away from flower.

(Horizon) Studying exactly how declining pollinator populations affect biodiversity is a challenge, as is studying any changes to bee behavior and foraging. One way to study an animal’s behavior is to track it. But this is tricky with bumble bees. Unless you use a radar system to pinpoint the position of the bee every few seconds…

Bees forage less efficiently in high winds

Image of beekeeper looking at artificial flowers with honey bees.

(The Guardian) A controlled experiment reveals how high wind speeds can significantly reduce the efficiency of foraging honey bees. With no wind, the bees on average took nectar from 5.45 flowers during their 90-second time trial. When wind speeds were increased, this fell to an average of 3.73 flowers. Over the course of a day, a bee’s capacity to supply its colony with food would be significantly curtailed.

Bumble bees carry heavy loads when flying in ‘economy mode’

Image of bumble bee approaching flower.

(University of California, Davis) Bumble bee can carry up to 80 percent of their body weight when flying. And yet they get more economical in terms of expending energy when heavily loaded – which doesn’t make any sense in terms of energetics. “This has given us an appreciation that it’s a behavior, they choose what to do. Even the same bee on a different day will pick a new way to flap its wings.”

Pesticide exposure causes bumble bee flight to fall short

Image of bee attached to the arm of a flight mill by magnet.

(Imperial College London) Realistic exposures caused bumble bee to fly significantly shorter distances and for less time, reducing the area in which colonies can forage for food by up to 80 percent. Intriguingly, exposed bees seemed to enter a hyperactive-like state in which they initially flew faster than unexposed bees and therefore may have “worn themselves out”.