Tracking the flight of the bumblebee
24 September 2010
A SBCS project aiming to reveal how foraging bumble bees choose their flight paths was in the news this week. SBCS’s Mathieu Lihoreau and Lars Chittka - together with Nigel Raine from Royal Holloway University of London - have moved a colony of bees to a tent in Surrey so that they can be studied intensively. Each bee in the colony has been trained to feed on artificial plastic flowers, and its movements will be filmed and tracked. By reconstructing the bees’ flight paths, the team is hoping to discover whether bees that visit several flowers are able to minimise the overall distance that they travel. If bees are able to solve this puzzle – popularly known as the travelling salesman problem – then it will help us to understand how bees carry pollen between flowers. As well as improving our knowledge of pollination, such information could also be useful for designing new networks for humans. Reported by BBC.