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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Bee Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #385794

Research Project: Managing Honey Bees Against Disease and Colony Stress

Location: Bee Research Laboratory

Title: RFID technology serving honey bee research: A comprehensive description of a 32-antenna system to study honey bee behavior

item Alburaki, Mohamed
item Madella, Shayne
item Corona, Miguel

Submitted to: Sensors
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/31/2021
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: A honey bee colony is consisted of thousands of bees including hundreds of drones and a queen. The traditional method to study and observe honey bee behavior in the field is by marking bees with a paint dot on their thorax and observing their activities visually. This method is laborious, hard to apply on large number of hives and comprises significant human errors. Therefore, a new technology has been developed for this purpose, the Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID), which can electronically scan tags fixed on bees when they enter or exit their hives. However, no comprehensive methodology or descriptions have been provided on how to construct a unit and accurately use the RFID technology to serve honey bee research. This study describes how to build and operate a newly designed RFID unit dedicated to tracking and studying honey bee behavior in the field. This unit can simultaneously monitor up to 32 colonies and is powered by a solar panel to operate with no power grid when needed. This study provides a new additional tool to advance honey bee research.

Technical Abstract: The Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) is a widely used technology in many industries and relies on electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track transponders attached to objects. Implementing new technologies to serve research purposes could be frustrating and time consuming for entomologists and researchers. Herein, we present a step-by-step description on how to effectively harness the RFID technology to serve honey bee research. We describe how to build and operate a 32-anntena RFID used in monitoring various honey bee behaviors such as foraging, robbing, queen and drone mating, and can be used in other social insects as well. At full capacity, this unit can monitor up to 32 honey bee colonies concurrently and is self-sustained by a solar panel to work in remote areas. All materials, hardware and software needed to build and operate this unit are detailed in this study, offering researchers and beekeepers a practical solution and a single-source of information enabling the implementation of the RFID technology in their research prospective.