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David Sparks Ph.d Bee Buzz to Pollination
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Line on Agriculture
Date: August 15, 2017

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A research team led by the University of Missouri has developed an inexpensive acoustic listening system using data from small microphones in the field to monitor bees in flight. The team analyzed the characteristic frequencies—what musicians call the pitch—of bee buzzes in the lab. Then, they placed small microphones attached to data storage devices in the field and collected the acoustic survey data from three locations on Pennsylvania Mountain, Colorado, to estimate bumble bee activity.

Using the data, they developed algorithms that identified and quantified the number of bee buzzes in each location and compared that data to visual surveys the team made in the field. In almost every instance, the acoustic surveys were more sensitive, picking up more buzzing bees.

 

“Eavesdropping on the acoustic signatures of bee flights tells the story of bee activity and pollination services,” said research team leader Dr. . Candace 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.” Currently, using the algorithms developed in this study, the team is developing a smartphone app that could record buzz activity as well as document the bees photographically. Future studies could determine whether bees detect competitors by sound and whether flowers have chemical responses to bee buzzes, Galen said.

 

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