Navigating around a bee's point of view

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

For years, bee populations have suffered a dramatic decline, which has been a worrying trend for scientists and environmentalists, among many others. We rely on bees for much of our food. Around 70 % of our most popular food crops – including fruits, nuts and vegetables – are pollinated by bees which means that further reduction in their numbers could threaten food security on a global scale.

However, despite the crucial role played by bees in the food chain, until recently almost nothing was known about the ways they navigate between their hives and the vegetation they pollinate. ‘To understand how close patches of wildflowers or clover need to be to sustain pollinator populations, it’s very important to understand how far bees fly and what their spatial patterns are,’ says Lars Chittka, Professor in Sensory and Behavioural Ecology at Queen Mary University in the United Kingdom.

That is why researchers in the EU’s SpaceRadarPollinator project, funded by the European Research Council, set out to develop new technology to track individual bees as they move around and then create 3D visualisations of their journeys, in effect reconstructing what the world looks like from a bee’s point of view. This 3D reconstruction is important because it will enable researchers to understand what the bee sees as it is flying and how landmarks and other visual triggers influence its behaviour.

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Image source: © badwiser, #343077244 2020

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