In Brief: Gluing bees with tiny transmitters


Gluing bees with tiny transmitters

Researchers have been able to attach miniature transmitters to the backs of bees to better understand how disease affects the threatened insects.

Lead researcher Lori Lach from James Cook University said the team glued Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chips to the backs of 960 bees.

Half of the insects were infected with a low dose of nosema spores, a gut parasite common among adult honey bees, while the rest of the bees remained disease-free, said the university in a statement.

Using the RFID tags in combination with observations at the hives and artificial flowers, the researchers were able to see how hard the bees worked and what kind of material they gathered.

The fungus nosema (Nosema apis) used in the study has long been thought to be benign, compared with the many other parasites and pathogens that infect honey bees.

"We knew diseased bees couldn't forage or pollinate," said Dr Lach. "But what we wanted to investigate was the behaviour of live bees that are affected by non-lethal stressors."

The researchers said that infected bees were 4.3 times less likely to be carrying pollen than uninfected bees, and carried less pollen when they did.

Infected bees also started working later, stopped working sooner and died at a younger age.

Dr Lach said nosema-infected bees look just like normal bees, so it is important to understand the behavioural changes the parasite may be causing.

"The real implications from this work are for humans. About a quarter of our food production is dependent on honey bee pollination," she said.

"Declines in the ability of honey bees to pollinate will result in lower crop yields."

Walking in groups beneficial to health

There is strong evidence to show that group walking is beneficial to one's health as it reduces a person's body fat and total cholesterol, among other benefits.

The National Healthcare Group's Department of Health Services and Outcomes Research came to this conclusion after searching scientific journal databases for best available evidence to support the hypothesis that walking in groups results in wide-ranging benefits.

By searching two databases - Medline and Google Scholar - the department found a systematic review, or summary of research findings from primary studies, which featured 42 studies involving 1,843 participants worldwide.

The review showed that walking in groups resulted in reductions in blood pressure, body mass index and depression scores, among others.

It also increased maximal oxygen uptake - a measure of aerobic physical fitness.

An estimated 3.2 million deaths each year are attributable to physical inactivity, according to the World Health Organisation.

And the latest findings from the Ministry of Health's National Health Survey show that around four in 10 adult Singaporeans are physically inactive. The Health Promotion Board recommends 150 minutes of physical activity a week.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2015, with the headline 'InBrief'. Print Edition | Subscribe