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Nasa's "citizen scientist" honeybee project - waggledancers

rumorofrainAug. 26th, 2009 01:58 pm Nasa's "citizen scientist" honeybee project

Honey Bees Turned Data Collectors Help Scientists Understand Climate Change

An excerpt:

"When honey bees search for honey, colony scouts tend to scour far and wide and sample the area around a hive remarkably evenly, regardless of the size of the hive. And that, Esaias explained, means they excel in keeping tabs on the dynamics of flowering ecosystems in ways that even a small army of graduate students can not.

The key piece of data bees collect relates to the nectar flow, which in the mid-Atlantic region tends to come in a burst in the spring. Major nectar flows, typically caused by blooms of tulip-poplar and black locust trees, leave an unmistakable fingerprint on beehives -- a rapid increase in hive weight sometimes exceeding 20 pounds per day. When a nectar flow finishes, the opposite is true: hives start to lose weight, sometimes by as much as a pound a day.

By creating a burgeoning network of citizen scientists who use industrial-sized scales to weigh their hives each day -- HoneyBeeNet -- Esaias aims to quantify the dynamics of nectar flow over time. Participating beekeepers send their data to Esaias who analyzes it, and posts nectar flow trend graphs and other environmental data for each collection site on HoneyBeeNet's webpage."

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