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Forensic profile tests help save rare bumblebee from extinction

PUBLISHED: 20:10 29 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:29 05 October 2010

SCIENTISTS in East London are trying out geo profiling’ used to hunt serial killers to help save the humble bumble bee from extinction. Experiments at Queen Mary college are testing bees under lab conditions to work out what makes them tick and disguise where they live’... just like criminals killers on the run. They are using the geographic profiling’ technique based on the crime scenes of a serial killer to predict where the perpetrator is most likely living

Mike Brooke

SCIENTISTS in East London are trying out 'geo profiling' used to hunt serial killers to help save the humble bumble bee from extinction.

Experiments at Queen Mary college are testing bees under lab conditions to work out what makes them tick and disguise where they 'live'... just like criminals killers on the run.

They are using the 'geographic profiling' technique based on the crime scenes of a serial killer to predict where the perpetrator is most likely living.

Two boffins at Queen Mary's School of Biological & Chemical Sciences in Mile End, Dr Nigel Raine and Dr Steve Le Comber, made a bee-line for the former detective who invented the profiling technique, Kim Rossmo, to help carry out their tests.

They are looking at patterns in bees to distinguish between different types of foraging behaviour.

Most serial crimes happen close to the killer's home, it has been found.

But the killer's home is surrounded by a 'buffer zone' where the opportunity to commit a crime without being detected is low.

These two parameters allow criminologists to create the 'geographic' profile, which shows the areas where the killer is most likely to live.

Dr Raine, writing in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, explains: "Geographic profiling can tell us which strategies bees use when foraging.

"The approach works well for very different animals, from bees and bats to great white sharks."

The results of the lab experiments suggest bees could create their own 'buffer zone' around the hive where they don't forage, to reduce the risk of predators and parasites locating their hive.

The results show 'geo' profiling can be used to find the entrance to a bee hive by observing where the flowers are that bees visit.

The technique being used at Mile End could be applied to help locate areas of potential nesting habitat, a valuable conservation tool for reversing the numbers of rare or endangered bumblebee species.

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