Like jets radioing in their call signs to air traffic control, bees’ buzzing could help scientists know who’s pollinating what over large swaths of land, leading to better farming methods and more productive crops. In the past, farmers have relied on visual surveys for insight into pollinator activity—a time-consuming and expensive process. But one team of researchers thought the bees’ buzzes might do a better job of giving them away. ... The researchers ... nailed down the acoustic signatures of two bumble bee species near Boulder, Colorado, Bombus balteatus and B. sylvicola.
The researchers used field recording equipment to listen for those frequencies in different wildflower patches over two flowering seasons. The buzzes alone allowed the researchers to estimate the number of bees in a given area, they report ... in PLOS ONE. ... [T]hey could—in theory—figure out which bees are where, and what work they do, during each pollinating season. And by actively monitoring the soundscapes around their fields, growers could know whether they have the right bees for the job—or whether they need to call in reinforcements.
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