Though you may not know it, honey bees play a massive role in sustaining the natural ecosystems around us. Not only that, bees help grow some of our most important crops such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables. The pollination of plants by insects like bees provide a huge boost for the entire agricultural industry. Without bees, crop yields would be much lower, which would make sustaining the human population a much bigger challenge. A 1999 Cornell University study documented that the contribution made by managed honey bees hired by U.S. crop growers to pollinate crops amounted to over $14.6 billion. This number has steadily increased with some estimates as high as $30 billion.
However, the population of honey bees is in decline. A combination of pesticides, insecticides, and biological parasites are putting a strain on the honey bee population. Normal winter losses for a bee colony is about 15%. Now, colonies lose more than 30% each winter (find more bee facts here). With bee populations on the decline, a serious problem in agriculture could occur in the coming years.
So, where does RFID fit into this? Simply, scientists need to know more about bees in order to know how they are coping with the decrease in population. At the University of Illinois, RFID tags were attached to hundreds of bees. They found that about 20% of the bee colony produced over half of the nectar and pollen gathered to feed the hive. And, when the scientists removed those hard working bees, other bees stepped in to carry the load by increasing their pollination workload.
There are many studies going on with bees and RFID with the main purpose to learn more about the insect. At the University of Würzburg in Germany, bees are being tagged in rural areas to learn just how bees find flowers to pollinate, and then find their way home. And, many beekeepers have taken to RFID tags to get a more accurate reading on their bee populations. It seems bees and RFID are as good a match as honey and tea.
Check out the video below discussing the study and research done by scientists at the University of Illinois.