Knowledge for a sustainable world

The editors of The Journal of Experimental Biology have awarded their journal's 'Outstanding Paper Prize for 2007' to NRI's Visiting Fellow in Ecological Entomology, Dr Don Reynolds, and four colleagues from Rothamsted Research for their paper entitled "Honeybees perform optimal scale-free searching flights when attempting to locate a food source". In this research, the flight patterns of foraging honeybees searching for an artificial feeder were recorded using harmonic radar – a technique previously developed at NRI by Prof. Joe Riley and Alan Smith. Bees were 'tagged' with a small electronic device (a transponder) that allowed their subsequent flights to be monitored over scales of several hundred metres. The experiments showed that the bees' flight patterns have scale-free (Lévy-flight) characteristics that constitute an optimal searching strategy for locating the feeder. This collaboration between mathematical, physical and ecological scientists is leading to better predictive models of insect flight patterns over landscape scales.

For further information about NRI's collaborative research with Rothamsted on the use of harmonic radar to study insect behaviour and ecology, contact Dr Don Reynolds (