A high-tech honeycomb for bees
A new high-tech honeycomb makes it possible to study bee colonies. The hive robot developed by EPFL researchers should provide new insights into the survival of pollinators.
Studying bees scientifically is extremely difficult, according to a statement from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL). Research instruments and even unfamiliar smells can disturb the behaviour of a bee colony. In addition, bees are extremely sensitive to cold. In winter, therefore, they can hardly be studied because opening the hive would endanger them.
The new high-tech beehive solves this problem. The robotic system can be inconspicuously built into the frame of a normal beehive. The honeycomb can measure and influence the temperature. In this way, the researchers are investigating how honey bees react to temperature fluctuations. The new robotic system was recently presented to the scientific community in the journal "Science Robotics".
Helping bees survive
"By collecting data on the bees' position and creating warmer areas in the hive, we were able to encourage them to move in ways they would never do in nature during winter," said research group leader Francesco Mondada. "This gives us the opportunity to act on behalf of a colony of bees, for example by guiding them to a food source or stopping them from splitting into too small groups, which can threaten their survival."
For example, the researchers have succeeded in prolonging the survival of a bee colony after the death of the queen by warming the combs. In future, according to the researchers, this should make it easier for bee colonies to survive. This is important in view of the worldwide decline in pollinator populations, which is a growing problem for the environment and food safety.