Posts about bees

Honeybees Warn Others of Risks

Honeybees warn of risky flowers

They trained honeybees to visit two artificial flowers containing the same amount and concentration of food. They left one flower untouched, making it a “safe” food source for the bees.

On the other flower, they placed the bodies of two dead bees, so they were visible to arriving insects, but would not interfere with their foraging. They then recorded whether and how the bees performed a waggle dance on their return to other members of the hive colony.

On average, bees returning from safe flowers performed 20 to 30 times more waggle runs that bees returning from dangerous flowers.

That shows that the bees recognise that certain flowers carry a higher risk of being killed or eaten by predators, such as crab spiders or other spider species that ambush visiting bees.

Related: Scientists Search for Clues To Bee MysteryThe Study of Bee Colony Collapses Continues

The Great Sunflower Project

photo of sunflower (Helianthus Annuus Taiyo)Sunflower photo from WikiMedia – Helianthus Annuus ‘Taiyo’

The Great Sunflower Project provides a way for you to engage in the ongoing study of bees and colony collapse disorder. The study uses the annual Lemon Queen sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), that can be grown in a pot on a deck or patio or in a garden (and they will send you seeds).

How do bees make fruits and vegetables?

Bees help flowers make seeds and fruits. Bees go to flowers in your garden to find pollen (the powder on the flower) and nectar which is a sweet liquid. Flowers are really just big signs advertising to bees that there is pollen or nectar available – though sometimes a flower will cheat and have nothing! The markings on a flower guide the bee right into where the pollen or nectar is.

All flowers have pollen. Bees gather pollen to feed their babies which start as eggs and then grow into larvae. It’s the larvae that eat the pollen. Bees use the nectar for energy. When a bee goes to a flower in your garden to get nectar or pollen, they usually pick up pollen from the male part of the flower which is called an anther. When they travel to the next flower looking for food, they move some of that pollen to the female part of the next plant which is called a stigma. Most flowers need pollen to make seeds and fruits.

After landing on the female part, the stigma, the pollen grows down the stigma until it finds an unfertilized seed which is called an ovary. Inside the ovary, a cell from the pollen joins up with cells from the ovary and a seed is born! For many of our garden plants, the only way for them to start a new plant is by growing from a seed Fruits are just the parts of the plants that have the seeds. Some fruits are what we think of as fruits when we are in the grocery store like apples and oranges. Other fruits are vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers.

Related: Monarch Butterfly MigrationSolving the Mystery of the Vanishing BeesVolunteers busy as bees counting populationThe Science of Gardening

Continuing Bee Colony Collapse Disorder

Photo of a bee

‘I do everything… the bees still die’

The use of the term colony collapse disorder has been criticised by some scientists and other experts who say that it’s often an excuse for poor beekeeping. David sighs heavily.

“Well… I don’t abuse my bees, I kinda take offence at that, when we transport them we take great pains to make sure they arrive safely, to make sure they have water. It’s totally unexplained.

“That’s the frustrating part. There’s no reason that these bees here should be in this shape, just three months ago they were beautiful bees, they were large thriving colonies, and to have them dwindle down to one or two or frames of bees is beyond comprehension as far as I’m concerned.”

But despite the disappearance of his bees, and the lack of clarity about what’s causing it, David remains an optimist. He points to a small discreet emblem on the side of his pickup truck, a hieroglyph of an ancient bee.

“That little hieroglyph there is Egyptian it stands for a beekeeper or bees. It’s an ancient craft; it’s been around a long time. The bees will endure.”

Photo by Justin Hunter

Related: Bye Bye BeesColony Collapse Disorder ContinuesPenn State Program Promotes Pollinator-Friendly GardeningA Survey of Honey Bee Colony Losses in the U.S., Fall 2007 to Spring 2008

The Life of the Queen Bee

The Life of the Queen Bee

A common mistake amongst non apiarists is the assumed fact that the queen directly controls the hive. Effectively, however, her duty is as an egg making machine. She can lay bout two thousand eggs a day in the spring. This amounts to more than her own weight in eggs each day. Surrounded continuously by workers, she needs for nothing. They give her food and take her waste away. They will also collect a pheromone which they then distribute to stop workers from starting queen cells.

This very close up [follow link] of a queen bee shows one of its greatest – and smallest – enemies. The bee mite is an external parasite that attacks honey bees. It attaches itself to the bee’s body and sucks out its hemolymph. This is the blood analogue that is used by bees as they have an open circulatory system. Unfortunately the mite is more than just a pain in the neck. It can spread a host of viruses, including “Deformed Wing Virus” and the arrival of mites in a colony can often spell its demise. Scientists believe that the mite may contribute to the Colony Collapse Disorder (otherwise known as CCD) that is spreading throughout the United States.

Related: Scientists Search for Clues To Bee MysteryVirus Found to be One Likely Factor in Bee Colony Collapse DisorderRoyal Ant Genes

Bees, Hornets and Wasps

Photo of a bee by Justin Hunter

Bee vs. Hornet vs. Wasp

A bee can generally only sting you once, while hornets and wasps can sting multiple times.

Bees are fuzzy pollen collectors that almost always die shortly after stinging people (because the stinger becomes embedded in the skin, which prevents multiple stings). Bees don’t die each time they sting, though; the primary purpose of the stinger is to sting other bees, which doesn’t result in the loss of the stinger.

Wasps are members of the family Vespidae, which includes yellow jackets and hornets. Wasps generally have two pairs of wings and are definitely not fuzzy. Only the females have stingers, but they can sting people repeatedly.

Hornets are a small subset of wasps not native to North America (the yellow jacket is not truly a hornet). Somewhat fatter around the middle than your average wasp, the European hornet is now widespread on the East Coast of the U.S. Like other wasps, hornets can sting over and over again and can be extremely aggressive.

Photo by Justin Hunter

Related: Bye Bye British BeesWasps Used to Detect ExplosivesColony Collapse Disorder ContinuesBye Bye BeesVanishing Giant Nests of Yellow-jackets

Germany Bans Chemicals Linked to Bee Deaths

Germany bans chemicals linked to honeybee devastation

Germany has banned a family of pesticides that are blamed for the deaths of millions of honeybees. The German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) has suspended the registration for eight pesticide seed treatment products used in rapeseed oil and sweetcorn.

The move follows reports from German beekeepers in the Baden-Württemberg region that two thirds of their bees died earlier this month following the application of a pesticide called clothianidin. “It’s a real bee emergency,” said Manfred Hederer, president of the German Professional Beekeepers’ Association. “50-60% of the bees have died on average and some beekeepers have lost all their hives.” Tests on dead bees showed that 99% of those examined had a build-up of clothianidin.

The company says an application error by the seed company which failed to use the glue-like substance that sticks the pesticide to the seed, led to the chemical getting into the air.

Related: The Study of Bee Colony Collapses ContinuesBye Bye BeesScientists Search for Clues To Bee Mystery

Colony Collapse Disorder Continues

1.1 Million Bee Colonies Dead This Year

The information provided here was generated by a survey conducted by the Apiary Inspectors of America. They took the survey in January and February this year, and in the process, gathered information from 18% of the colonies in the U.S.

The survey found that about 35% of all the colonies in the U.S. died last winter. Of those that died, 71% died of natural causes, 29% from symptoms that are suspect colony collapse disorder. Doing the math that comes to at least 10% of all the bees in the U.S. last year died of Colony Collapse Disorder.

Considering all these factors, undue concern over IAPV detection is not warranted. While IAPV’s role in colony losses remains a priority in ongoing research, we do know that high levels of other common bee viruses, such as KBV, DWV, and ABPV, have also been linked with certain incidences of high colony mortality or decline in worker numbers. We also know that nearly all bee colonies are infected with at least one type of virus and that all these viruses are potentially pathogenic.

The research continues. As I have said before this is a great example of scientists in action trying to figure out what is happening.

Related: The Study of Bee Colony Collapses ContinuesBye Bye BeesScientists Search for Clues To Bee Mystery

Vanishing Giant Nests of Yellow-jackets

Giant wasp nest

Vanishing Nests

Only a year ago, an Auburn University research entomologist encountered a phenomenon that beggared description – 16 super-sized yellow jacket nests throughout central and south Alabama.

By the end of the summer, the number of reported nests increased to more than 80. Auburn researcher Dr. Charles Ray speculates there probably were hundreds more undetected nests throughout the state. One nest collector spotted 10 of these nests in Lowndes County alone, while an Alabama Cooperative Extension System agent in Covington County reported as many as 25 nests.

Why were these gigantic nests considered such oddities? Because entomologists such as Ray could go an entire career without seeing scarcely one of these huge nests. This year, though, the nests seem to have vanished as quickly as dissipating clouds. Working closely with Alabama Extension agents and other monitors throughout the state, Ray hasn’t turned up so much as one nest this year.

“The summer of 2006 may prove to be a once in a lifetime opportunity,” say Ray, who considers the discovery of the nests one of the high points of his career. So what accounts for this once in a lifetime occurrence? Ray speculates it had to do with an unusually mild 2006 winter. “The mid-20s was about as cold as it got that year – only about a day or two of really cold weather,” says Ray, adding that this extremely mild winter probably established optimal conditions for the yellow jackets the following spring.

Related: Giant Wasp Nests24 hectare Spider WebWasps Used to Detect Explosives

Scientists Search for Clues To Bee Mystery

Honey Bees Give Clues on Virus Spread by Carl Zimmer

Now, as farmers wait anxiously to see if the honeybees will suffer again this spring, the true cause of CCD remains murky. Skeptics have raised many reasons to doubt that Australian viruses are to blame. In Australia, bees that get Israeli acute paralytic virus don’t get sick, and the country has had no reports of CCD. And in places where honeybee colonies are collapsing — Greece, Poland, Spain — there are no imported Australian bees. These are not the sort of patterns you’d expect, the skeptics say, if Australian viruses were killing American bees.

Whether scientists look inside a honeybee or look at the entire biosphere, nature is proving to be awesomely intricate. In the oceans and the soil, metagenomics is revealing millions of different kinds of microbes, with an almost inconceivable diversity of viruses shuttling between them, carrying genes from host to host. But we have almost no idea how these menageries work together, either in the biosphere or inside a host like a honeybee — or a human. Many of the microbes that metagenomics is revealing are entirely new to science. As genetic databases fill with DNA sequences from millions of new species, our scientific wisdom lags far behind.

How true. Watching as scientists try to work out what is going on with Colony Collapse Disorder is a great lesson in how scientists search for answers. As I stated earlier much of science is not about simple obvious truths but a search through confusing signs to try and determine what is going on. Answering why, is not always so easy as it appears when someone has already found the answer and posted it online.

Related: Virus Found to be One Likely Factor in Bee Colony Collapse DisorderBee Colony Collapse DisorderMore on Disappearing Honeybeesmost Carl Zimmer related posts

Virus Found to be One Likely Factor in Bee Colony Collapse Disorder

Photo of a bee bu Justin Hunter

Scientists say a virus appears to be a factor in honeybee colony collapse by Andrew C. Revkin:

Scientists sifting genetic material from thriving and ailing bee colonies say a virus appears to be a prime suspect – but is unlikely to be the only culprit – in the mass die-offs of honeybees reported last autumn and winter.

Very well stated. The virus while seeming to be a factor in the deaths appears to cause death in colonies that are stressed which seem to be highly correlated with colonies that are moved from place to place by commercial beekeepers to pollinate various crops. Bees that are kept by hobbiest, wild bees… don’t seem to be dying off. The impact of CCD is growing economically as prices for renting bees to pollinate crops increases and in some cases there are not enough bees available. Honey prices are increasing and prices for food pollinated by bees are too.

The Department of Agriculture states: The only pathogen found in almost all samples from honey bee colonies with CCD, but not in non-CCD colonies, was the Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV), a dicistrovirus that can be transmitted by the varroa mite. It was found in 96.1 percent of the CCD-bee samples. This does not identify IAPV as the cause of CCD,” said Pettis. “What we have found is strictly a strong correlation of the appearance of IAPV and CCD together. We have not proven a cause-and-effect connection.”

Related: Bee researchers close in on Colony Collapse Disorder, Penn State (Penn State broke the link so it was removed) – Bye Bye BeesBee Colony Collapse Disorder CCDMore on Disappearing HoneybeesColony Collapse Disorder and Pollinator Decline

Giant Wasp Nests

Giant wasp nest

Giant nests perplex experts (site broke link so I removed it):

The largest nest Ray has inspected this year filled the interior of a weathered 1955 Chevrolet parked in a rural Elmore County barn. That nest was about the size of a tire in the rear floor seven weeks ago, but quickly spread to fill the entire vehicle, the property owner, Harry Coker, said. Four satellite nests around it have gotten into the eaves of the barn, about 300 yards from his home.

Super-size that nest!, July 21st:

The super-sized nests may contain as many as 100,000. One mammoth nest discovered in South Carolina contained roughly a quarter-million workers and as many as 100 queens.

Ray fears some of these nests may not even reach maximum size until late July or August.

One other finding has intrigued Ray and other researchers: the presence of satellite nests in close proximity to the large nest.