Training Flights for the Bees

Bees take a series of training flights.

06-01-2000 // NWF Staff

In all the studies of honeybees over the years, until recently no one had been able to figure out how the busy insects orient themselves in the world at large. Then researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fitted bees with tiny reflectors and tracked individual insects in flight using specific radar frequencies that bounced off the reflectors. The scientists found that bees take a series of training flights, each time learning about different and larger portions of the landscape around the hive. Bees can navigate their way home from more than six miles away.

"Imagine living in the confines of a dark castle for about half your adult life and then having to venture outside into a world full of sunshine to find food to bring home," says lead biologist Beth Capaldi. "That would be a huge change in your sensory environment, and it would probably take time for you to adjust. That´s how it is for bees." Now the scientists want to know why some bees take only one orientation flight before starting to forage while others take as many as 17 flights.

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