Honeybee tracking with microchips: a new methodology to measure the effects of pesticides

Ecotoxicology. 2011 Mar;20(2):429-37. doi: 10.1007/s10646-011-0594-4. Epub 2011 Jan 26.


Losses of foraging bees are sometimes attributed to altered flight pattern between a meliferous plant treated with an insecticide and the hive. Only a limited number of studies has investigated the impact of pesticides on homing flight due to the difficulty of measuring the flight time between the food source and the hive. Monitoring the flights of the foraging bees needs their individual identification. The number of bees monitored simultaneously and the time span during which observations can be made limit most of the monitoring techniques. However, techniques of automatic tracking and identification of individuals have the potential to revolutionize the study of the ecotoxicological effects of xenobiotics on the bee behaviors. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) offer numerous advantages such as an unlimited number of codes, a large number of simultaneous recording, and a quick reading, especially through materials (e.g., wood). The aim of this study was to show how the RFID device can be used to study the effects of pesticides on both the behavioral traits and the lifespan of bees. In this context, we have developed a method under tunnel to automatically record the displacements of foragers individualized with RFID tags and to detect the alteration of the flight pattern between an artificial feeder and the hive. Fipronil was selected as test substance due to the lack of information on the effects of this insecticide on the foraging behavior of free-flying bees. We showed that oral treatment of 0.3 ng of fipronil per bee (LD50/20) reduced the number of foraging trips. The strengths of our approach were briefly discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / drug effects*
  • Environmental Monitoring / instrumentation
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Models, Biological
  • Pyrazoles / toxicity*
  • Radio Frequency Identification Device*
  • Remote Sensing Technology / instrumentation
  • Remote Sensing Technology / methods


  • Insecticides
  • Pyrazoles
  • fipronil