Scientists using new tools to deal with the shrinking number of honeybees

Posted at 1:05 PM, Feb 02, 2021

With honeybees dying at rates never seen before, there’s a big buzz about the future of some of your favorite foods.

“This is something that is going to affect what you can buy in a grocery store and what you can eat and how much you are going to pay for,” saidJules Bernsteinof University of California, Riverside.

Because honeybees pollinate many of America’s most consumed produce, Bernstein says this increase in deaths could cause a nationwide food crisis.

“About a third of what we eat, you won’t be able to get it anymore,” Bernstein said. “Or if you can get it, it will be incredibly expensive.”

Now, a team of scientists are working with new tools and artificial intelligence to hopefully solve this national bee problem that has been stumping experts for years.

“The idea is that you deploy a sensor in a beehive, you listen into the language of bees, you understand what is happening inside a hive,” said Boris Bar, Ph.D., a professor of entomology at UCR and a self-described bee nerd.

“That’s what my kids refer to me as,” he said jokingly. “But they both want to study bees as well.”

After being awarded a $900,000 grant by the University of California’s Office of the President, Bar is leading a team of scientists from several universities to develop new solutions to stop honeybee colonies from collapsing.

They’re using new tools and technologies to install sensors that they’re calling “tiny electronic veterinarians” inside hives.

Bar said these help scientists listen to bee activity and also smell pheromones emitted by the bees when they’re in distress.

“That would be a major breakthrough for beekeepers, to remotely control the health of their hives of the bees,” he said.

The AI then signals beekeepers, giving them a much better sense of what’s wrong and how to fix it before a colony collapses.

“It says, 'hey, beekeeper. Your colonies are hungry, you need to feed them’ or ‘hey, your colonies got invaded, you have to go out and you have to treat them,’” Bar said.

They're using AI to save the bees and ultimately save your foods.