There's been a lot of buzz about colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon causing bees to die off around the world, and Australian scientists are trying a new approach to studying the phenomenon: They're attaching tiny sensors to bees.
More than 5,000 honeybees are being equipped with 2.5mm x 2.5mm sensors that relay data to recorders placed around hives and known food sources.
A bumblebee visits a flower, drawn in by the bright colours, the patterns on the petals, and the aromatic promise of sweet nectar. But there's more to pollination than sight and smell. There is also electricity in the air.
Dominic Clarke and Heather Whitney from the University of Bristol have shown that bumblebees can sense the electric field that surrounds a flower. They can even learn to distinguish between fields produced by different floral shapes, or use them to work out whether a flower has been recently visited by other bees. Flowers aren't just visual spectacles and smelly beacons. They're also electric billboards.
"This is a big finding," says Daniel Robert, who led the study. "Nobody had postulated the idea that bees could be sensitive to the electric field of a flower."