Bumblebees are being dropped off at famous landmarks in North East England by the Newcastle University researchers, who then observe if they can find their way back to a nest on campus.
Early results show the bees, which are tagged with tiny identification numbers in the laboratory, have flown back from the Metro Centre and the Angel of the North (three miles away, or 5 kilometres) and the Tyne Bridge and Manors Metro station (one mile, or 1.5k).
However, the record flight was from a garden centre in Heddon on the Wall in the Tyne Valley - some eight miles or 13km from their nest.
The researchers have found it is only the worker bees which make their way back - they suspect the queen bees find shelter elsewhere. The results are surprising because scientific literature says the bumblebee they are studying - a common species called Bombus terrestris - travels only 5km for its food.
The project aims to find out how far the bees can travel to get their food and if certain environments are trickier to navigate than others. This knowledge will ultimately help with conservation strategies that may involve adapting landscapes to create optimum habitats for bees.
There are 25 species of British bumblebee but their numbers have been declining in the last 50 years due to dramatic changes in the landscape caused by intense farming.
Bees are a crucial part of wildlife communities - known as ecosystems - because they pollinate plants in their search for their food, nectar and pollen from flowers. Worldwide, up to 40 per cent of the world's food production is due to pollination by wild bees, which include the bumblebee.
Steph O'Connor, who has just graduated from Newcastle University with a Wildlife Biology degree, is working on the project with insect specialists Dr Mark O'Neill and Dr Gordon Port, who is also a senior lecturer with the University's Division of Biology.
Steph, who hopes to continue her studies for a research degree, has spent several weeks attracting the attention of passers-by as she hovers near the hive - in a garden wall on campus - catching the bees in a large net.
She said: “The current scientific literature shows that bees normally forage within 5km, and this is probably correct. However, the findings of our research are intriguing, because it shows the bees can navigate their way home from further away than this.”
Scientists are unsure how bumblebees navigate. Vision is thought to be most Important, helping them to fly in straight lines and to use landmarks as clues. At very close range (no more than a metre or two) they use odour to find their way around.
Co-researcher, Dr Mark O'Neill, is plotting the bees' journeys using a computer programme, allowing him to build up a pattern of flight paths from different places. He said: “We are trying to find out more about how bees forage, or look for their food. We're particularly interested to see if they find certain environments easier to navigate.
“For example, do the bees find it easier to get home from the built-up urban environment that the Metro Centre occupies - or are they more comfortable navigating the green fields out in the Tyne Valley? All this is useful information for conservationists who are formulating strategies to prevent the bumblebee from decline.”
The project, which is funded by Newcastle University, is in its early stages but future hopes are to monitor variables such as the weather and its effect on the bees' homing capabilities.
Claire Jordan | alfa
Cascading use is also beneficial for wood
11.12.2017 | Technische Universität München
The future of crop engineering
08.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
12.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences
12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering