Monitoring crops is essential work for farmers and it's a job being carried out by busy bees all the time. University of Washington scientists have found a way to gather that data using a tiny "backpack" sensor carried by the humble bumblebee.
The team built the sensor from the smallest off-the-shelf components possible, resulting in a prototype weighing just 102 milligrams, about the same as seven grains of rice. And most of the weight came from the battery used to power the sensors and data transmitter.
The scientists fixed the technology in place by putting the bees in the freezer for a few minutes before glueing the backpack on. And the bees seemed happy to fly with their new load around a soccer field.
"The other thing we can do is use this as a platform for biology research itself, to answer questions about what bees are doing, how their behavior is affected by pesticides or changing climate and things like that." Vikram Iyer, researcher at University of Washington, said.
The worker bees and their backpacks could help researchers develop insect-sized robots in the future. For now, they will carry on collecting data along with pollen.
(Video source: Reuters via VCG)