Student uses artificial intelligence to understand bee behaviour

Feb 16, 2010

A University of Exeter PhD student has used artificial intelligence to shed new light on the behaviour of bumble bees.

Daniel Chalk developed the to understand the potential for bees to cross-pollinate between GM and non-GM crops.

The first of its kind in the world, the study sheds new light on the foraging behaviour of over a large area. It suggests that the potential for bees to affect crops through cross-pollination is very limited. There has been concern over cross-pollination from GM crops and because there is very little evidence of how bumble bees move between fields, policy-makers have not been able to properly address the issue.

A PhD student in the School of Biosciences and School of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, Daniel hopes his research will help shape future policies around GM crops in the UK and Europe. He also believes his model could help with bee conservation, which is becoming an increasingly important issue because of bumble bee decline.

We now have a good understanding of the ways in which bees move between plants but researching the movement of bees between fields has proved very difficult. This is the first study to successfully simulate the foraging behaviour of bees across a large area.

Daniel Chalk said: “By creating a kind of ‘virtual bee’ I have been able to show for the first time how bees move over large areas, across and between fields. My research has shown that bumble bees are very efficient foragers and will only travel long distances if they really need to. We showed that containment strategies could be put in place - creating a shield of ‘sacrificial crops’ for example - as bees tend to favour moves to neighbouring sites.”

He continued: “While the purpose of this study was to look at the potential for cross-pollination from GM crops, the findings may also help with the massive bee conservation effort now underway. The model I used could help identify landscapes that promote bee activity.”

Daniel based his study on oil seed rape, a very high-yield crop that is extremely popular with bees. He has called his model HARVEST (Harvesting Animals with Reinforced Values and ESTimates). It is based on the principle that bees learn from trial and error and quickly learn which areas are worth returning to for nectar and which are not.

Daniel is now planning to publish his findings so they can be shared by the scientific community and also by those responsible for setting guidelines around GM crops.

Explore further: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Asian bees threaten Australia

Jun 15, 2007

Four swarms of Asian bees found in Cairns, Australia, may pose a serious threat to the country's honey bee population.

Bee species outnumber mammals and birds combined

Jun 11, 2008

Scientists have discovered that there are more bee species than previously thought. In the first global accounting of bee species in over a hundred years, John S. Ascher, a research scientist in the Division of Invertebrate ...

Study: City bees better than rural bees

Jan 17, 2006

A French beekeepers' association says it has determined bees reared in cities are healthier and more productive than bees raised in rural areas.

The cost of long tongues

Apr 16, 2007

Orchid bees use their extraordinarily long tongues to drink nectar from the deep, tropical flowers only they can access. Researchers have long suspected that this kind of exclusive access came with a mechanical ...

Bee research shows benefits of native plants, wild bees

Jan 14, 2010

( -- As scientists struggle to come to grips with Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious disease threatening to wipe out domesticated honey bees in the United States, they have begun to cast a ...

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

( —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

( —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

( —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.