Honeybees and missing data part 2: Where do bees like to live?

This article relates to where bees prefer to build their hives. Back in the 1970s, there was a bunch of research conducted at Cornell surveying where bees build hives in the wild, and all the evidence seemed to indicate that honeybees preferred to build their hives relatively close to the ground. This finding seemed rather odd, since logically a hive built higher up would be better protected from predators.

Eventually they figured out that the answer was contained in the missing data. What had happened is that the hives which were closer to the ground were far easier to spot by the researchers! Bees do actually prefer to build a hive as high up as possible (and will do so in the majority of cases). In this case, the missing data didn’t just give the scientists more details, it changed the story entirely!

I thought this story was a great lesson for how researchers and organisations have to be careful with how they collect their data, and which data they base their decisions on, as collecting data just because it is easier to get may not just be a waste of money, it may lead you in entirely the wrong direction.

Part 1 is available here.

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Computational biology PhD candidate at the Australian National University. I love writing (both articles and software), learning more about the world around us, and beekeeping. I also write for BioSky.co

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