A tiny new tracker allows scientists to monitor bee behavior with a little help from Raspberry Pi with hopes to save the bees.
According to Motherboard, a few off-the-shelf technologies have been combined to create a mapping system to track honey bees in Kew Gardens in London, a species which is declining at an alarming rate. An RFID (radio frequency identification) chip and our favorite gadget, Raspberry Pi, are included in the kit. RFID chips are normally used to track inventories in warehouses and purchases in retail environments.
When used together with a small tracker, the readers can observe each bee’s movements with the use of small wires glued to the bee’s back which send signals to the small computers to collect data. Bees have been dying and scientist can’t figure out exactly why, apart from parasitic infections and colony collapse disorder. There could be something else that has been causing the total bee population to plummet.
Raspberry Pi is a small non-profit organization that creates small, simple computers to be used for educational purposes. The organization’s success has soared as the world finds many more uses for the inexpensive units.
Each device has a reach of up to 8 feet, while initial versions were restricted to a half of an inch. The man behind the science, Dr. Mark O’Neill, has created 50 of the components, all hand soldered. O’Neill explains that bees usually “forage” or search for pollen in 20 minute spurts and travel up to a half mile at a time. His goal is to have readers surrounding a hive and flower patch to track signals as the bees move freely in their natural habitat.
The small coiled wires are attached to the bees while being chilled to lower their body temperature and level of activity. While the bees are docile, the 8mm long tracker is glued to the bee’s back in a spot where the wire will not prevent the bee from moving freely. The tracker remains attached to the bee for its entire lifetime, usually about three months.
Dr. O’Neill only attaches the trackers to worker bees, who do not mate. There have been concerns about the danger of the bee and tracker being ingested by another animal, however Dr. O’Neill does not feel that the small component could pose any threat in the event that this should occur.
The hope of this Kew Gardens project is to hopefully learn more about bees in the wild to open up new possibilities for science to protect bees and ultimately reverse the population decline the bee population has been facing. And all because of Raspberry Pi!
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