#77: Wired Bees Do Field Research

By Victoria Tang|Thursday, December 16, 2010
Christian Zeigler/Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

This orchid bee was one of 16 outfitted with a radio transmitter backpack as part of a study of the insects’ flight habits by ecologists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. “We can ask animals how they see their surroundings by observing their movement,” says lead researcher Martin Wikelski. Teams on the ground tracked the pollinators while a helicopter crew provided additional monitoring. The results, published in May, indicate that individual bees typically cover a home area of about 100 acres, but some set off on long-distance flights. One intrepid bee took a three-mile jaunt across the Panama Canal, where it spent a few days before returning home.

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