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AmerisourceBergen launches RFID-enabled medications packaging system ••• Scientists use Microsensys RFID technology to study pesticides' effects on bumblebees ••• EasyJet trials Estimote Bluetooth beacons at three European airports ••• Palos Community Hospital puts Versus RTLS in its operating rooms ••• PINC announces next-generation enterprise yard-management solution ••• Toshiba announces new RFID chip compliant with NFC Forum Type 3 specification ••• Trimble intros Apple iOS support in ThingMagic Mercury API.
By Beth Bacheldor

Scientists Use Microsensys RFID Technology to Study Pesticides' Effects on Bumblebees

Tagged bumblebee
Researchers recently completed a study leveraging radio frequency identification to learn the effects of long-term exposure to a neonicotinoid pesticide on bees' ability to forage for pollen. The research, conducted at the Royal Holloway University of London monitored 259 bumblebees from 40 colonies throughout a four-week period. and measured the impact of two pesticides, neonicotinoid (imidacloprid) and pyrethroid (lambda cyhalothrin). The study was designed to accurately examine long-term exposure.

The study, published in the British Ecological Society's journal Functional Ecology, was carried out by Dr. Richard Gill, in the Department of Life Sciences at the Imperial College London, in Ascot, Berkshire, England; and Nigel Raine, with the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada.

The bees were tracked using 13.56 MHz Microsensys' mic3-Tag 64-bit read-only passive transponders compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, Gill reports. The tags measure 2 millimeters by 1.6 millimeters by 0.5 millimeters (0.8 inch by 0.06 inch by 0.02 inch) and weigh just 4 milligrams (0.0001 ounce). The tag ID codes were recorded using a handheld USB pen reader, the Microsensys iID PEN mini USB, while the RFID readers were Maja IV reader modules with optimized antenna for mic3 transponders from Microsensys, Gill adds.

By fitting each bumblebee with an RFID tag, the researchers were able to track, in detail, when individual bees went out and returned to their colony throughout the four-week experiment. The bees were housed in wooden boxes within a temperature-controlled, naturally lit laboratory, but were also connected to the natural environment via an outlet hole, so that they could forage outside the laboratory at will. All colonies were provided with artificial nectar (sugar water) in feeders that they could choose to visit—hence, bees collected all of their pollen and some nectar from real flowers in the field.

To expose the colonies to pesticides, the scientists provided neonicotinoid in the sugar water, while pyrethroid was sprayed onto filter paper that the bees could walk over to reach the feeder. The study found that bumblebee colonies that had been exposed to the neonicotinoid pesticide brought back significantly reduced amounts of pollen in comparison to untreated colonies, suggesting that persistent exposure weakens the bees' foraging performance. To compensate for the lack of pollen being brought back by each individual bee, the scientists suggest that neonicotinoid-treated colonies also sent out more foragers.

When scientists considered the color of collected pollen, they found evidence to suggest that exposed foragers preferred different flowers on which to forage. Results also revealed that pesticides are preventing bees from improving their pollen foraging ability as they age. Foragers in untreated colonies carried larger pollen loads as they got older and more experienced. The study was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Scottish Government and the Wellcome Trust under the Insect Pollinators Initiative, which is managed under the auspices of the Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) partnership. The scientists are urging for environmental policy-makers to consider reforms of the risk-assessment guidelines for pesticide use. Previous research has tended to focus on the impacts of short-term pesticide exposure over a period of 48 hours.

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