QR code bees make it easier to track their movements

QR Code Bees - Image of Bumblebee in flight

Researchers have barcoded whole colonies for the purpose of better understanding them.

Little QR code bees are currently flying around to help researchers to better understand them. Each one boasts his or her own quick response code to make it possible to discover more about their colonies.

The process of adding QR codes to individual bumblebees took a great deal of care and precision.

Essentially, the QR code bees came to wear their scannable barcodes through the use of superglue. The process required great delicacy, and the scientists were extremely careful not to cause harm to the bees.

In fact, simply applying the QR codes involved several steps. They included everything from being able to capture the insects safely to immobilizing them. They also needed to make sure the barcodes would safely stick while still being able to scan them.

The QR code bees are a part of a system that has been called BEEtag, for monitoring hundreds of them.

The first step the researchers took was to use a special vacuum that could gently collect the bees that would have QR codes applied. Once the insects were safely gathered up, they needed to be immobilized. To do that, the researchers put them in a refrigerator with a specially selected temperature. That way, the bees would be slowed down without actually hurting them.

The next step was to actually apply the quick response codes. Once the bees were immobilized, they were taken out of the fridge and each one had a barcode individually glued to its back. This was a painstaking process, but the researchers took every precaution. They ensured that the barcode would stay affixed, that it would be properly displayed for scanning and that it would not impede any of the bumblebee’s activities.

The result was that each bumblebee had a QR code super-glued to its back. The purpose was to make it possible for entomologists to monitor hundreds of bees in a colony. This monitoring could continue day or night with significant accuracy.

The BEEtag system of QR code bees makes removes the necessity for researchers to have to stand over the colonies and manually track behaviors of individual bees. The new system lets the researchers watch their interactions, personalities and activities all day and night.

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