Category Archives: “Colony Collapse Disorder”

RFID Entomology

Paper Wasp with RFID tag
Paper Wasp with RFID tag attached [Zoological Society of London]

An area that seems in its infancy at the moment in Entomology is the use of Radio Frequency Identification [RFID] tagging insects.  RFID is, “a generic term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify people or objects. There are several methods of identification, but the most common is to store a serial number that identifies a person or object, and perhaps other information, on a microchip that is attached to an antenna (the chip and the antenna together are called an RFID transponder or an RFID tag). The antenna enables the chip to transmit the identification information to a reader. The reader converts the radio waves reflected back from the RFID tag into digital information that can then be passed on to computers that can make use of it”[1].

For entomology this could prove a valuable research into insect dispersal studies, migration, colony relationships, and added authority to the science of forensic entomology.  There are already studies underway.  Prof. N. Franks of the University of Bristol, UK is using RFID to study the division of labour of ant colonies[2].  The Zoological Society of London have successfully used FRID to monitor males and female paper wasps[3].

I suppose the question is could this be used further.  Perhaps we could RFID tag bees in the USA to solve the mystery of Colony Collapse Disorder[4].

There is no worries about the size of the RFID tag coming in the way of the research news is that the RFID tags are getting smaller[5].  There is also a US patent on using RFID technology with insects[6].


[1] Anon.; ‘What is RFID?’; RFID Journal
[2] Grant EP/D076226/1; ‘Radio frequency identification and tracking of individual ants engaged in colony scale division of labour’; Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
[3] Sumner, Seirian, Lucas, Eric, Baker, Jessie & Isaac, Nick (2006); ‘Radio-Tagging Technology Reveals Extreme Nest-Drifting Behavior in a Eusocial Insect’; Current Biology, Volume 17, Issue 2, 23 January 2007, Pages 140-145
See also: Roberts, Mary Rose (2007); ‘RFID tags used to study wasps’; 1 April 2007, 12:00pm BBC (2007); ‘Radio tags track wasp behaviour’; BBC News, 24 January 2007, 01:26 GMT 
[4] James, David (2007); ‘Insect dispersal studies’; RFID Journal; 12 April 2007
[5] Nozawa, Tetsuo (Nikkei Electronics) (2007); ‘Hitachi Achieves 0.05-mm Square Super Micro RFID Tag, ‘Further Size Reductions in Mind’; 20 February 2007, 18:29
[6]  ‘Operating and evaluation circuit of an insect sensor’; United States Patent 20050225331; Free Patents Online