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Analysing bee data to protect crops

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Who did the research?

The Global Initiative for Honeybee Health (GIHH) led by CSIRO in partnership with multiple industry and research organisations.

What is the project about?

Bee colonies are dying out worldwide and nobody is exactly sure why. The most obvious culprit is the Varroa mite which feeds on bees and bee larvae, while also spreading disease. The only country without the Varroa mite is Australia. However, experts believe that there are many factors affecting bee health.

stingless bee with backpack (CSIRO)To unravel this, CSIRO is leading GIHH in gathering large sets of data on bee hives from all over the world. High-tech micro-sensor ‘backpacks’ are fitted to bees to log their movements, similar to an e-tag. The data is sent back to a small computer at the hive.

Researchers are able to analyse this data to assess which stressors – such as extreme weather, pesticides or water contamination – affect the movements and pollination of bees.

What is the real-life data impact?

Maintaining honey bee populations is essential for food security as well securing economic returns from crops. Bee crop pollination is estimated to be worth up to $6 billion to Australian agriculture alone.

More than 100,000 bees have been tagged to date with that number set to exceed one million by the end of 2017. Researchers aim to not only improve the health of honey bees but to increase crop sustainability and productivity through pollination management.

Find out more - watch CSIRO videos explaining the project