A British bumblebee has set a record for long-distance flight, finding its way home after being dropped off 8 miles away.
Nobody knows if other bees have flown farther—few tests have been done—but this flight is about 5 miles more than scientists expected.
For the record, the bee flew from a garden center in Heddon on the Wall in the Tyne Valley in the county of Northumberland to its home at Newcastle University. Other bees in the test flew up to 3 miles to get back.
"The current scientific literature shows that bees normally forage within 5 kilometers [3 miles], and this is probably correct," said study leader Steph O'Connor, who just graduated from Newcastle. "However, the findings of our research are intriguing, because it shows the bees can navigate their way home from further away than this."
Only worker bees made the trip, the scientist said this week. They suspect queens find shelter elsewhere.
The scientists don't know how the bees find their way, but they suspect it's mostly by using visual cues. Further tests aim to find out.
There are 25 species of bumblebee in the UK, but three have gone extinct in the past 30 years. The scientists hope understanding the habits of those that remain will help in conserving them.