Device Reveals Bees' Attack StrategiesBy
A newly updated Data Logging Temper Tester from the
Agricultural Research Service could
provide new clues about attack strategies of bees and the overall temperament of
The new tester provides a more detailed and useful record of bee attacks
than the previous model. The device logs bees' attempts to sting a black,
plastic egg-shaped target. Attacking bees don't sting the target but "ping"
or strike it with their bodies.
In one experiment, a hive of 40,000 honey bees pinged the target more than
700 times in 5 minutes. The attack, profiled at 10-second intervals, showed a
peak of 80 stings in 10 seconds, or 8 per second. For that test, scientists
deliberately provoked the colony.
Studies with the device could lead to new and better tactics to prevent or
lessen the intensity of bee attacks. Bees of greatest concern are the
Africanized strain in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas. Highly
defensive, they sting readily in great numbers with little or no provocation.
They also invade colonies of mild-tempered European honey bees crucial for crop
pollination and supplying honey and beeswax.
The temper tester measures attacks by agitated bees on the target until they
calm down and return to the hive. It also reveals how far bees fly from their
hive to attack. The information is more accurate than analyzing videotaped
attacks or interviewing sting victims and witnesses.
G. Spangler and David J. Sprenkle of the ARS in Tucson, Ariz., designed and
built the latest Data Logging Temper Tester. Outfitted with memory and
microcontroller chips, it's the newest generation of a model patented in 1991 by
Spangler and Eric
H. Erickson of the Tucson lab.
The target is slightly larger than twice the size of a chicken egg.
Suspended outside the hive or up to 900 feet away, it holds a tiny microphone.
The mike picks up the "pings" and routes them to a data logger. A
personal computer can then profile the attack.
Scientific contact: Hayward G. Spangler, USDA-ARS Carl Hayden Bee
Research Center, Tucson, Ariz., phone (520) 670-6380, ext. 124, fax (520)
670-6493, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.