For the first time, our bumblebees generated their own tweet this morning as a result of increased activity following the prolonged cold and rainy spells.
To my knowledge, this is the first tweet ever generated by bumblebees themselves. Sadly they are not equipped with a bee-size keyboard, so instead the tweet comes courtesy of an activity monitor via the entrance flap to their nest. The flap itself is there for protection against invasion by Wax Moth and the bumblebees have learnt to operate it in order to leave the nest to forage.
While the tweeting is fun, there is a serious point to having an "internet enabled" bumblebee nest, as we are collecting data about the environment/micro-climate and the bumblebee activity "outside of the laboratory". Though bumblebees have been studied for well over 100 years, some of this research takes place in the lab; a criticism that is often levelled, for example, on studies of the effect of pesticides on pollinators.
Our project, therefore, is demonstrating a proof of concept for the type of technology that can be used to study bumblebee behaviour in wild environments. We hope to build on the data we collected in 2011 which was able to determine the factors that trigger bumblebees to start and stop working at the beginning and end of the day.