Bumblebee tagging – a new method to track individual flight activity in the field

Dimitri Seidenath1, Matthias Schott2, Heike Feldhaar1, Oliver Otti1
1 Animal Population Ecology
2 Animal Ecology

O 4.2 in Methods in Ecology and Environmental Research

14.10.2021, 09:21-09:27, H 36

Tracking animal behaviour and movement is essential when trying to understand how organisms react to changes in their environment. Especially in insects, such as bumblebees, precise measurements of their movement can be rather difficult. Due to their small size and light weight, traditional tracking methods like radio telemetry or GPS are disadvantageous. As commercially available alternatives such as RFID-tags are very costly, we developed a low-cost approach that uses paper tags, cameras and raspberry pi computers. This approach enables us to automatically track individual flight activity of bumblebees in the field. In our research we look at the effects of soot on the buff-tailed bumblebee Bombus terrestris. By modifying the OECD homing flight test for honeybees, a standardized method to test chemicals, we can examine the effects of soot exposure on bumblebee flight activity. As a first step, we aim to understand how individual bumblebees are affected. As bumblebees are eusocial insects, individual behavioural changes might affect colony development as a whole, which will be subject of subsequent research. Our new method can be easily adapted to other organisms and offers a low-cost alternative to conventional techniques of animal tracking.

Keywords: animal tracking, behavioral ecology, bumblebees, social insects

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