Sebastian Shepherd: RFID Tracking: Where It Fits in an Entomologist’s Toolbox

Radio frequency identification tracking, commonly known as RFID, is revolutionizing what is possible in entomology, but what is it about this technology used in retail inventory, package tracking, and contactless credit cards that is useful for studying insects?

For thousands of years, humans have tried to track insects. Honey gatherers tried to track bees to locate the golden sweet rewards of a bee hive. Antiquated methods of detecting the movements of bees sound just like the ancestral wildlife tracking used by big-game and large-mammal experts. Bees were tracked by looking for droppings on leaves. Bees were also tagged with natural products to make them easier to see—such as ochre, blades of grass, and even the hairs of an ox—and then “pursued” by honey hunters. Not a particularly easy occupation!

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