It is a mystery why we are seeing a massive decline in bee populations. The major concern comes from the fact that bees pollinate one-third of the world’s crops and so researchers are keen to discover why they are dying out.

Australia’s National Science Agency has come up with a solution in trying to solve the mystery. They are using radio-frequency identification tags in order to track the bees movement.

bee with a tracker on its back

The trackers measure only 0.1-inch square and are being attached to the backs of 5,000 bees in Tasmania’s capital Hobart. The researchers collect the bees and then with the help of a fridge they are anaesthetized. Once docile, the bees can be fitted with their trackers, which will feed information to the recorders strategically placed near the hives and food sources.

By finding out the bees daily movements, it is hoped that the researchers can monitor any unusual behaviour and give them a starting reference to investigate what is causing the colony to act in such a way.

“Honey bees play an extremely important role in our daily lives. Around one third of the food we eat relies on pollination and this is a free service these insects provide. A recent CSIRO study showed that honey bees helped increase faba bean yield by up to 17 per cent. Knowing how bees interact with their environment will allow farmers, fruit growers and seed producers to manage their properties using honey bees to increase productivity,” says Dr Paolo de Souza of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

At the moment it is not clear whether it is pollution, parasites or pesticides that are causing the bees to die out but once the cause is known, then hopefully preventative steps can be taken and stop this essential stripey insect from being wiped out completely.

[Image via CSIRO]