Royal Holloway spends £2 million electronically tagging bees

Scientists at Royal Holloway University are developing a £2m scheme to fit electronic tags to 3,000 bees.

While this may sound at first like an attempt at curbing anti-social behaviour amongst adolescent honeybees, it is actually an experiment to determine whether pesticides are the root cause of a rapid decline in numbers of the insect. 

It emerged yesterday that alarming depletion of pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies are putting agriculture in Britain at risk. 

Over the past 20-30 years bee numbers have plummeted, leaving only half the amount as back in the 1980s.  The theory being put forward by the Royal Holloway scientists is that chemicals in pesticides are driving bees mad and hampering their ability to indicate which direction flowers are in by performing their ‘waggle dance’.  Whether or not the pesticides will be used on contestants of the next series of Strictly Come Dancing is, at time of writing, yet to be confirmed. 

It is reckoned that if all the pollinators in Britain were lost it could cost up to £440 million a year, spelling disaster for food and farming industries, according to the Mail. In order to help find out what exactly has been causing the depletion of numbers the scientists will attach tiny electronic identification tags to the backs of 3,000 bees, occupying six different hives.  

Three of the hive will be sprayed with a pesticide chemical while the other three will remain untouched. The tags will monitor each time a bee enters a hive before its weight is recorded in order to figure out how much nectar and pollen they have collected. 

It has also been hypothesized in the past that mobile phones or GM crops could also be at fault for the odd behaviour of bees that is putting the future of the species at risk.

Dr Chris Connolly of the University of Dundee believes the results of the experiment, which will be going on for over four years, could prove just how the insects’ nervous system is being affected. 

He said: “It could mean they are less able to remember plants, or that they can’t do the waggle dance properly. Or it could mean that other bees can’t read the messages.”