The Sciences 60-Second Science
Believe it or not, bees forage in a similar geographic pattern to that of serial killers committing crimes. So understanding bee behavior may help catch criminals. Karen Hopkin reports
[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
Unless you’re talking about killer bees, it’s hard to imagine a situation in which “killers” and “bees” would be related. But it turns out that scientists are using the same mathematical model to describe the behavior of both bumblebees and human serial killers.
The method, called geographic profiling, was developed by a detective who was trying to predict where serial killers might live based on where they commit their crimes. Believe it or not, murderers operate fairly close to home. But not too close. They maintain a kind of kill-free “buffer zone” around their actual digs.
A similar pattern of activity seems to hold true for bumblebees—when they’re foraging for food. Bees tend to avoid stopping at flowers too close to home, perhaps to reduce the risk of drawing predators, parasites or nosy scientists to the nest. And working with the former detective, scientists in the U.K. found that geographic profiling allowed them to locate the entrance to a hive based on mapping which flowers the bees visit. The results appear online in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. Repeating such experiments, with bees or other foraging critters, could help hone the model for catching criminals.
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