Bee Buzzes Could Help Determine How to Save Their Decreasing Population

Bee Buzzes Could Help Determine How to Save Their Decreasing Population

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The world has become increasingly concerned about the disappearing honeybee populations – but now, researchers may have just created an easy, downloadable piece of software that can be used by amateur and professional enthusiasts alike to save bee species worldwide.

Scientists at the University of Missouri have cobbled together an inexpensive acoustic listening system that uses data from small microphones in the field to monitor bees in flight. The software uses special algorithms that detects the buzzing of bees and calculates the status of the local population based on the sounds.

“Causes of pollinator decline are complex and include diminishing flower resources, habitat loss, climate change, increased disease incidence and exposure to pesticides, so pinpointing the driving forces remains a challenge,” said researcher Candace Galen. “For more than 100 years, scientists have used sonic vibrations to monitor birds, bats, frogs and insects. We wanted to test the potential for remote monitoring programs that use acoustics to track bee flight activities.”

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Basically, farmers and backyard honeybee fans can use the software to check up on the amount of honeybees and pollination activity in their area and react accordingly, based on the readings.

“Eavesdropping on the acoustic signatures of bee flights tells the story of bee activity and pollination services,” said Galen. “Farmers may be able to use the exact methods to monitor pollination of their orchards and vegetable crops and head off pollination deficits. Finally, global ‘citizen scientists’ could get involved, monitoring bees in their backyards.”

Galen’s team is currently working on creating a downloadable smartphone app that can record buzz activity, giving every smartphone user a valuable tool in saving honeybees.

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(Photo by Jennifer Geib, Appalachian State University)