Evaluating the foraging performance of individual honey bees in different environments with automated field RFID systems

Théotime Colin*, Ryan J. Warren, Stephen R. Quarrell, Geoff R. Allen, Andrew B. Barron

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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    Abstract

    Measuring individual foraging performance of pollinators is crucial to guide environmental policies that aim at enhancing pollinator health and pollination services. Automated systems have been developed to track the activity of individual honey bees, but their deployment is extremely challenging. This has limited the assessment of individual foraging performance in full-strength bee colonies in the field. Most studies available to date have been constrained to use downsized bee colonies located in urban and suburban areas. Environmental policy-making, on the other hand, needs a more comprehensive assessment of honey bee performance in a broader range of environments, including in remote agricultural and wild areas. Here, we detail a new autonomous field method to record high-quality data on the flight ontogeny and foraging performance of honey bees, using radio frequency identification (RFID). We separate bee traffic into returning and exiting tunnels to improve data quality solving many previous limitations of RFID systems caused by traffic jams and the parasitic coupling of RFID antennae. With this method, we assembled a large RFID dataset made of control bee colonies from experiments conducted in different locations and seasons. We hope our results will be a starting point to understand how ontogenetic and environmental factors affect the individual performance of honey bees and that our method will enable large-scale replication of individual pollinator performance studies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere4088
    Pages (from-to)1-15
    Number of pages15
    JournalEcosphere
    Volume13
    Issue number5
    Early online date19 May 2022
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - May 2022

    Keywords

    • Apis mellifera
    • bee longevity
    • flight ontogeny
    • foraging performance
    • pollination performance
    • radio frequency identification (RFID)
    • temporal polyethism

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