September 25, 2022

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Chickens eat wasps with a GPS tracker and everything: How effective are animal transmitters?

Chickens eat wasps with a GPS tracker and everything: How effective are animal transmitters?

With the transmitter, the biologists hoped to find out where the insects nest. The Asian hornet does not belong to the Netherlands, and therefore it must be combated. But things went a little differently when the unfortunate hornet ran into a chicken. Two other hornets that were tagged were also unable to lead the researchers to the nest. They could not bear the weight of the transmitter.

The hornet was first spotted by Annemarie Kaptein of Overijssel. She found the creatures in her backyard and then rang the bell. “I’m no expert on hornets, but I knew common European hornets and they were a lot darker and had yellow legs, and the European didn’t have that. Then I started looking online to see what it was.”

This is how Captin finds out that it may have been the Asian hornet, and that the European Union would rather get rid of these creatures than get rich. “I didn’t know it, but found out online that there was a call to report the animals. Then I did and within a few days the researchers from EIS were in the park.”

Using transmitters on the wasps, the researchers then tried to work out where the animals’ nests were. But this has not yet worked.

spatial behavior

“The animals are sent to investigate their spatial behavior,” explains behavioral biology professor Mark Naguib. “You can’t always follow an animal endoscopically, and with a transmitter, the animal’s movement can still be analyzed.”

“We do this, for example, with turtles, storks and other birds,” Najib continues. “This way we can know the size of their territory, how often the animals meet, where they fly and how their migration routes go.”

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According to Najib, it is important not to disturb the animals. “This is why there are rules that transmitters must comply with, for example about the weight of the transmitter, the types of animals the transmitter can be used for, and under what conditions.”

Najib herself has had good experiences with bird transmitters. “For example, I have analyzed the breeding season of nightingales and big tits in the Netherlands using transmitters, and on Monday I will go to Australia to broadcast zebras.”

Few problems

“It almost never goes wrong, according to studies,” Najib continues. “There are very few cases where transmitters cause problems because there are such strict rules. I’ve seen quite a few negative effects.”

However, the researchers were unable to locate the hornet’s nest using their technological tools. In the end, it was Kaptein himself who was able to track the nest with the naked eye after the researchers disembarked.

“I did it the old-fashioned way,” Kaptein explains. “I caught a wasp and flagged it with the biologists’ stuff. Then I kept tracking that wasp and saw that it always came back to the bait point within a minute and a half. That way I knew the nest had to be nearby.”

23 meters high

And this turned out to be true, because the hornets were less than thirty meters away – only 23 meters high. “It’s strange. They were five feet under the top of the trees. The nest was half a meter in size.”

The nest in the garden has since been removed, and in a few days it will become clear whether all the hornets are really gone. The hungry chicken, named Eddie, is fine.

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