Bees fitted with tiny ID tags for study

A A A

Bees are being fitted with tiny radio ID tags to monitor their movements as part of research into whether pesticides could be giving the insects brain disorders, scientists said today.

The study is examining concerns that pesticides could be damaging bees' abilities to gather food, navigate and even perform their famous "waggle dance" through which they tell other bees where nectar can be found.

The research is part of a raft of studies which will look at declines in pollinators including bees, hoverflies, butterflies and moths, amid fears over the impact of their falling numbers.

Experts said three of the UK's 25 bumblebee species had gone extinct, while half had suffered declines of up to 70%.

Three quarters of butterfly species were declining, while there was little "robust science" on what was happening to other insect pollinators such as hoverflies, the researchers said.

It is estimated insect pollinators contribute £440 million to the UK economy through their role in fertilising crops, with produce such as strawberries dependent on being properly pollinated by insects to produce good-quality fruit.

Other research being funded as part of the £10 million initiative include a study into pollinators in cities, the impacts of disease on pollinating insects and the effects of modern agriculture on bees.

Research is also being conducted into whether the decline in wildflowers such as red clover and bird's foot trefoil is the result of falling numbers of insects to pollinate them.

Professor Andrew Watkinson, director of the Living with Environmental Change programme under which the projects are being funded, said: "We've seen well-documented changes in our birds, our flowers and also in some of our insects.

"Now there is growing concern insect pollinators are in decline."

He said declining numbers of honeybees, bumblebee species, hoverflies and butterflies posed a problem not just for wildlife but for the economy.

He said there was "no single factor" that could explain the declines, but a whole range of potential issues ranging from agricultural practices to the use of pesticides.

Dr Chris Connolly, of the University of Dundee, who is leading research into the damage chemicals could be doing to pollinators, said it was unlikely a single pesticide was having a direct impact on bees.

But a combination of chemicals could be affecting their nervous systems and damaging their ability to learn, communicate, navigate and forage.

His research will study the impacts of combinations of chemicals from the cellular level up to seeing how bees manage learning and behaviour tasks and examining the performance of whole hives.

The study will include fitting tiny radio frequency ID tags on bees which will act like "barcodes at the supermarket", recording when they come in and out of the nest, while the insects will also be weighed to see how successful they are at bringing back food.

Working with the Scottish Beekeepers Association, the researchers will also carry out a survey of how hives perform and comparing the results to local conditions including temperature and rainfall and to the pesticides being used in the surrounding area.

He said: "Bees have to be able to identify which flowers are the best for nectar, and they learn it by social communication."

He said they also had to be able to navigate complex flowers, while finding their way back to the nest was also crucial.

If their learning systems were being affected by the chemicals it could damage their ability to perform these important tasks.

And he said that if a bee's neurological functions were damaged it could mean that when it came back to the hive to perform the waggle dance, it may not be able to do it appropriately or in the right part of the hive, while other bees may be unable to interpret it.

Another study, led by Professor Jane Memmott of the University of Bristol, will compare cities, farms and nature reserves to identify hotspots for pollinators - and then look at which urban areas such as gardens and wasteland are good for the insects.

It will also add flower mixes high in nectar and pollen to selected habitats in Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds and Reading to test whether the extra food provision boosts numbers of pollinators.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
News
The video, titled 'A Message to America', was released a day after Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that has overrun large parts of Iraq, threatened to attack Americans 'in any place'. U.S. officials said they were working to determine the video's authenticity
i100
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Insight Manager

£40000 - £43000 Per Annum plus company bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - IT

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Computer Futures has been est...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape