Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

First radio tracking of tropical orchid bees

Date:
June 8, 2010
Source:
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Summary:
For the first time, researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute track unique signals from tiny transmitters glued to individual orchid bees, yielding new insight into the role of bees in tropical forest ecosystems.

Orchid bees, like Exaerete frontalis, may fly great distances to pollinate specific orchid species. Now scientists can track their flight paths using radio telemetry.
Credit: STRI

Blue-green orchid bees zip through increasingly scarce patches of tropical forest pollinating rare flowers. For the first time, researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute track unique signals from tiny transmitters glued to individual orchid bees, yielding new insight into the role of bees in tropical forest ecosystems.

Related Articles


Researchers, using helicopters, discovered that the orchid bees traveled surprisingly long distances, zipping through increasingly scarce patches of tropical forest as they moved pollen between rare flowers that grew miles apart.

"People disrupt plant pollination as they disturb and destroy tropical forests," said David Roubik, senior staff scientist at the Smithsonian. "Radio-tracking significantly improves our understanding of bees and the plants they pollinate. Now we can track orchid bees to get at the distances and spatial patterns involved -- vital details which have completely eluded researchers in the past."

"When people disturb and destroy tropical forest they disrupt pollination systems," said David Roubik, senior staff scientist at STRI. "Now we can track orchid bees to get at the distances and spatial patterns involved in pollination -- vital details that have completely eluded us in the past."

The team trapped 17 iridescent orchid bees, Exaerete frontalis, which are fairly common in the forest. "These bees easily carry a 300-milligram radio transmitter glued onto their backs," said Martin Wikelski, director of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, professor at Princeton University and research associate at STRI. "By following the radio signals with a hand-held antenna, we discovered that male orchid bees spent most of their time in small core areas but could take off and visit areas farther away. One male even crossed over the shipping lanes in the Panama Canal, flew at least 5 kilometres, and returned a few days later."

People have struggled to determine the distances that bees travel by following individuals marked with paint between baits, or using radar, which does not work well when trees are in the way. "Carrying the transmitter may reduce the distance that the bees travel," said Roland Kays, curator of mammals at the New York State Museum and research associate at STRI. But even if the flight distances we record are the minimum distances that these orchid bees can fly, they are impressive, long-distance movements. "These data help to explain how orchids these bees pollinate can be so rare."

STRI, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the New York State Museum and the National Geographic Society provided support for this study. Co-authors are affiliated with the University of Arizona in Tucson, Cornell University, EcolSciences Inc. and the New York State Museum.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Wikelski et al. Large-Range Movements of Neotropical Orchid Bees Observed via Radio Telemetry. PLoS ONE, 2010; 5 (5): e10738 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010738

Cite This Page:

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "First radio tracking of tropical orchid bees." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100527013222.htm>.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. (2010, June 8). First radio tracking of tropical orchid bees. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100527013222.htm
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "First radio tracking of tropical orchid bees." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100527013222.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — An invisible barrier is keeping dangerous super fast electrons from interfering with our atmosphere, but scientists aren't entirely sure how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — Innovative recycling project in La Paz separates city waste and converts plastic garbage into school furniture made from 'plastiwood'. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — Researchers at Northwestern University are repurposing Blu-ray movies for better solar panel technology thanks to the discs' internal structures. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Antarctic sea ice isn't only expanding, it's thicker than previously thought, and scientists aren't sure exactly why. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins