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BEEKEEPING NEWS Back to top
With effect from April 2009 the prescribed quantities for
pre-packaged foods is deregulated so honey may be packed in any type
and size of jar. Trading Standards Officers have been advised not to
prosecute anyone caught applying the new rules
from 1 January 2008.
Honey Bee Losses Continue To Rise In U.S.
Colony Collapse Disorder, mites and other stressors
continue to take a devastating toll on U.S. honey bee populations,
according to apiculture experts in Penn State’s College of
A recent survey by the Apiary Inspectors of America found that
losses nationwide topped 36 percent of managed hives between
September 2007 and March 2008, compared to a 31 percent loss during
the same period a year earlier. Pennsylvania fared better, with
losses of about 26 percent, compared to nearly 48 percent the
previous year. About 70 percent of the state’s losses this year were
not related to Colony Collapse Disorder. The state’s lower overall
bee-mortality rate may be due to greater awareness of bee health
issues and beekeepers’ diligence in controlling varroa mites, nosema
and other threats. Weather conditions also may have been more
favourable for winter survival.
The state’s comparatively lower losses meant that beekeepers this
spring were able to meet the pollination demands of Pennsylvania’s
$61 million apple industry, which is the fourth largest in the
country. Apples are completely dependent on insects for pollination,
and 90 percent of that pollination is accomplished by honey bees.
However, the cost of pollination has risen dramatically. This year,
apple growers paid about $65 per colony, compared with $35 to $45 in
the past. A typical apple orchard requires one colony per acre to
achieve adequate pollination. Last year, apple growers harvested
about 21,500 acres. Later this year, pumpkin growers may pay $95 to
$105 per colony, compared to $55 to $65 last year.
CCD. Pinning Down the Causes
Meanwhile, Penn State researchers are making progress in pinning
down the cause or causes of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a
mysterious ailment that threatens the beekeeping industry and the
crops and native plants that rely on honey bees for pollination.
In fall 2007, a team led by Diana Cox-Foster, professor of
entomology, reported a strong correlation between CCD and the
presence of Israeli acute paralysis virus, making the pathogen a
prime suspect in the disease. Since that time, researchers have
introduced IAPV to healthy honey bee colonies in a controlled
greenhouse environment in an effort to induce a collapse. Within one
week of introducing the virus, they observed dramatic bee mortality,
with bees dying outside the colonies across the room in the
greenhouse. Bees were found on the floor with paralytic-type
movements, and guard bees were observed removing paralytic bees from
colonies and flying across the room. The majority of these
‘twitcher’ bees were found to have IAPV. Within a month, infected
colonies had declined to small clusters of bees, many of which had
lost their queens. These data indicate that IAPV is a highly
pathogenic virus. But they do not yet support a finding of IAPV as
the sole cause of Colony Collapse Disorder. Researchers still
suspect that additional stresses are needed to trigger CCD. Among
the potential triggers being investigated are environmental
chemicals. Penn State scientists analyzing pollen, wax, adult bees
and brood (larvae) have found the presence of dozens of chemicals,
including pesticides used by agricultural producers to protect crops
and by beekeepers to control hive pests such as parasitic mites.
“This raises several complicated questions,” said Maryann Frazier,
senior extension associate in entomology. “Some of these compounds
could react with each other to cause toxic effects or could combine
with viruses or poor nutrition to weaken immunity and cause colony
collapse. We also need to do more research to understand these
chemicals’ sub-lethal effects on bees.” Though the role of chemicals
in Colony Collapse Disorder is still unknown, Frazier noted that
beekeepers need more options for controlling varroa mites so they
can reduce their reliance on chemicals. “With the sheer number of
compounds we’re finding in hives, it’s hard to believe that
pesticides aren’t contributing to the general decline in bee
health,” she said.
Article adapted from materials provided by Penn State USA.
RESEARCH NEWS Back to top
Bee Species Outnumber Mammals and Birds Combined
It has recently been reported that there are more bee
species than previously thought. In the first global accounting of
bee species in over a hundred years, John Ascher, a research
scientist in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the American
Museum of Natural History, compiled online species pages and
distribution maps for more than 19,200 described bee species,
showcasing the diversity of these essential pollinators.
This new species inventory documents 2,000 more described, valid
species than estimated by Charles Michener in the first edition of
his definitive The Bees of the World published eight years ago.
It seems so!
“The bee taxonomic community came together and completed the first
global checklist of bee names since 1896,” says Ascher. “Most people
know of honey bees and a few bumble bees, but we have documented
that there are actually more species of bees than of birds and
mammals put together.” The list of bee names finished by Ascher and
colleagues was placed online by John Pickering of the University of
Georgia through computer applications that linked all names to
Discover Life species pages, a searchable taxonomic classification
for all bees, and global maps for all genera and species. The
scientists recently reviewed all valid names from the university
checklist and from those of experts from all over the world for the
World Bee Checklist project led by the Smithsonian Institution’s
National Museum of Natural History and available online at:
The bee checklists were developed as a key component of the Museum’s
Bee Database Project initiated in 2006 by Ascher and Jerome G. Rozen,
Jr., Curator of bees at the Museum.. A primary goal of the project
is to document floral and distributional records for all bees,
including now obscure species that may someday become significant
new pollinators for our crops. The vast majority of known bee
species are solitary, primitively social, or parasitic.
These bees do not make honey or live in hives but are essential
pollinators of crops and native plants. Honey is made by nearly 500
species of tropical stingless bees in addition to the well-known
honey bee Apis mellifera
The crises facing traditionally managed pollinators like honey bees
highlight the need for more information about bee species and their
interactions with the plants they pollinate. The US National Academy
of Sciences identified improved taxonomic data on bees as a high
priority, and the new online bee checklists, maps, and other
databases have for the first time made comprehensive data readily
The checklists compiled by Ascher and colleagues facilitate ongoing
data-basing of the Museum’s worldwide collections of more than
400,000 bee specimens.
Note: Adapted from materials provided by American Museum of
MEMORY. New light on brain lateralisation.
It is generally known that the right and left hemispheres of the
brain perform different tasks. Lesions to the left hemisphere
typically bring impairments in language production and
comprehension, while lesions to the right hemisphere give rise to
deficits in the visual-spatial perception, such as the inability to
recognize familiar faces.
In the last few years, we have become used to the idea that
functional asymmetry between the left and right sides of the nervous
system is not unique to humans: fishes, amphibians, birds and
mammals have functional and anatomical asymmetries. So, the idea
that all vertebrate species, even non-human ones without any
linguistic skills, have an asymmetric brain seems to be finally
Now, this process of extension among species is going on and brain
lateralization has been extended beyond the class Vertebrata.
Insects, with their nervous system so different from that of
vertebrates, are also “lateralized”, and this has been demonstrated
in a paper written by an international team of scientists and
published in PLoS ONE by Lesley J. Rogers of the Centre for
Neuroscience and Animal Behaviour, University of New England
(Australia), and Giorgio Vallortigara, of the Centre for Mind/Brain
Sciences, University of Trento (Italy).
Asymmetry common to bees as well?
The scientists looked at memory in bees using a widely tested
procedure, known as proboscis extension reflex (PER). When presented
with a droplet of sugar solution, the honeybee extends its proboscis
to get it. If an odour stimulus, such as lemon scent, is present
shortly before the droplet, after very short training, animals learn
to extend their proboscis when the odour alone is presented.
The honeybee can learn to discriminate between different odours,
extending its proboscis to lemon and not to vanilla, keeping memory
of the correct scent for a long period. The odour is perceived by
the two antennae that honeybees have on their heads. After the bees
had been trained using both antennae, Rogers and Vallortigara tested
their recall ability, by coating either the left or right antenna
with a harmless latex-based substance and thus rendering one antenna
incapable of detecting odour.
The authors observed that, one hour after training, honeybees
recognized the correct odour when the right antenna was in use and
didn’t when using the left antenna. However, 24 hours after
training, the pattern reversed: correct responses were significantly
higher when the left antenna was in use. The “lateralization”
appears to be linked to memory consolidation. Testing animals using
lateral presentation (the odour was presented to the left or right
side of the bee) and no coating of the antennae (both antennae in
use), the authors found that bees showed better recall of the task
when they were tested at one hour after training using the right
antenna, an effect that disappeared three hours after training.
However, by 6 hours after training, a lateral shift had occurred and
the memory could be recalled mainly when the left antenna was in
use. The left antenna took over on the long period (after 6 hours
and remained so at 24 hours).
It would seem that the right antenna and the associated neural
structures form the basis for a short term and relatively temporary
memory, and left antenna supports long term learning, taking place
from about 3 hours after training on. It is not clear at present
whether learning via the right antenna is sufficient to trigger
shorter-term encoding on the right side of the brain and longer-term
encoding on the left side of the brain. An alternative hypothesis
would be that the memory encoding is the same on both sides of the
brain but only the right antenna has access for shorter-term recall
and only the left antenna has access for longer-term recall.
What could the ecological reason for that be? Perhaps the shift from
one antenna to the other allows use of the right antenna to learn
about new odours without interference from odour memories in
long-term stores. It is known that bees visit different flowers at
different times of the day, as nectar becomes available, and this
would require the formation of different odour associations during
the course of the day, a process that might be aided if recall of
earlier odour memories is avoided on the learning side of the brain.
Rogers et al. From Antenna to Antenna: Lateral Shift of Olfactory
Memory Recall by Honeybees. PLoS ONE, 2008; 3 (6): e2340 DOI:
This article was adapted from materials provided by Public Library
of Science in the USA.
Non Native Plants Can Help Native Plants
In a new and pioneering study, scientists at the
Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (UAB), [the Autonomous University,
Barcelona], the Biological Station, Donana, CSIC [the Spanish
National Research Council] and the Instituto Mediterráneo de
Avanzados (IMEDEA) [Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies]
have shown that invasive non native plants can assist rather than
hinder native plants. Using empirical tests, a pioneering study
shows how plant species, such as the prickly pear, invade
Mediterranean ecosystems, and can either rob the native plants of
pollinating insects, or, surprisingly, can attract them, thus
benefiting the whole plant community, such as in the case of balsam.
The research contradicts the hypothesis of the “floral market”
whereby only the invasive flowers are seen to benefit and the native
flowers are no longer visited by pollinating insects. This study
would make useful treading for conservationists in New Zealand and
Australia who are increasingly turning their attention to the
eradication of anything that smacks of ‘having been introduced’ –
unless it is a money making crop. By first studying the impact that
introduced plants are having (positive or negative) on the plant
population as a whole, then only those having a negative impact need
Biological invasions (species transported by humans outside their
region of origin to other regions where these species become
established and expand) are one of the major causes of the loss of
biodiversity. The plants fight for nutrients, space and light, and
for pollinating insects. However, according to this research, the
existence of invasive plants in invaded sites can increase visits
from insects to the majority of native plants. In this way the
“floral market” hypothesis in which only the invasive flowers are
seen to benefit and the native flowers are no longer visited by
insects is contradicted. Ignasi Bartomeus, a researcher at the UAB,
and the main author of the study, points out some important details
to SINC: “the invasions do not follow a single pattern: for this
reason it is necessary to understand the mechanisms and structure
whereby the native species compete”.
Carpobrotus Affine. Can this
invader help attract pollinators to the native
flowers, or will it benefit at their expense?
The two invasive plants under study, Opuntia stricata – a type of
prickly pear – and Carpobrotus affine acinaciformis – also called
Sally-my-handsome or balsam – have more eye-catching flowers and are
richer in pollen that the rest of the native plants and receive many
more insect visits that the latter. The study reveals that the
invasive plants play a central role in the plant pollination
network. This is because during the period of the study, Opuntia
stricta received 30.9% of insect visits, compared to 43.4% for
Carpobrotus affine acinaciformis.
The scientists discovered that the more resources there are in the
plant community, the more pollinators will be attracted towards all
of the plants, although it is still not known whether the impact on
the seeds of the native plant is positive or not. This is the case
for Carpobrotus, which can impact upon the pollination of the native
The researchers observed 23 pollinating insects for Carpobrotus and
17 for Opuntia. Compared to the native plants, the two invasive
plants have a different impact. In the first case, there was no
insect that was an exclusive pollinator, whereas in the second case,
the carpenter bee (Xylocopa violacea) was an exclusive pollinator.
The Opuntia flowers monopolise the market, attracting all the
pollinating insects in the area to their flowers, whereas the
Carpobrotus attracts more pollinating insects to the area, but all
the plants are seen to benefit.
The study concludes that Carpobrotus can improve the reproduction of
the native plants whereas Opuntia reduces it. Bartomeus confirms to
SINC that “the presence of the invasive plants can alter the
structure of the plant community, and it is difficult to predict the
long-term effects of this.”
Bartomeus I., Vila M., Santamaría L. Contrasting effects of invasive
plants in plant-pollinator networks. Oecologia 155(4): 761-770 ABR
It seems that bees have a similar propensity for risk taking as
humans. In some very interesting research reported in the journal
Nature, Israeli researchers showed that when making decisions,
people and bees are more likely to gamble on risky courses of action
- rather than taking a safer option - when the differences between
the various possible outcomes are easily distinguishable. When the
outcomes are difficult to discern, however, both groups are far more
likely to select the safer option - even if the actual probabilities
of success have not changed.
The findings by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of
Technology, Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University help shed
light on why people are inclined to choose certainty when
differences between potential outcomes - such as paybacks when
gambling or returns on financial investments - are difficult to
The scientists first started with testing 50 college students and
asked the subjects to choose between two unmarked computer buttons.
Pushing one of the buttons resulted in a payoff of 3 credits with
100% certainty, while pushing the other led to a payoff of 4 credits
with an 80% certainty - though participants only learned these
payoffs through trial and error as they flashed on screen. The test
subjects were required to make 400 such decisions each, and tended
to choose the risky strategy when payoffs were represented as simple
numbers (i.e. “3 credits” and “4 credits”). The results were similar
when the numerals 3 and 4 were replaced with easily distinguishable
clouds of 30 and 60 dots. But when the numerals were replaced with
clouds of 30 or 40 dots - making it much more difficult to
distinguish between the two - subjects veered towards the more
|What shall I do? Red or Black?
Then the researchers subjected honeybees to similar trials, using
the bees’ sense of smell and 2 µl drops of sugar solution payoffs of
varying concentrations. The researchers first tested the bees with
payoffs for risky and safe alternatives at 10% and 5% sugar
concentrations, respectively. In a second experiment, the payoffs
were a less-easy-to-discriminate-between 6.7% and 5%, and in a third
experiment, the payoff in both alternatives was 6.7%. Bees were
required to make 32 such decisions, and were given a choice between
two smells, each presented twice for one-second each, in an
alternating sequence. The bees tended towards the risky strategy
only when their choice was easily discernable, paralleling their
Application in the work place
According to Professor Ido Erev of the Technion Faculty of
Industrial Engineering and Management, some practical implications
of this research can be seen in an analysis of the values placed on
rule enforcement in the workplace.
The results, he said, suggest that:
“Consistent and constant rule enforcement is necessary, since
workers are more likely to ignore risks - if they have done so
before without punishment; workers are likely to be supportive of
enforcement, since they initially plan to obey many of the rules
(wearing safety goggles, for instance) they end up violating; and
severe penalties that are not always enforced are not likely to be
effective, but gentle, consistently enforced rewards and punishments
can be. “The similar responses by humans and bees demonstrates that
this decision-making process happens very early in evolution,” said
Erev. “The results suggest that this is a very basic phenomenon
shared by many different animals.”
Adapted from materials provided by American Technion Society.
This piece of research has astonished me and as usual with bees it
makes a mockery of the proposition that bees merely inherit a set of
instructions that enable them to carry out their essential roles. It
has now been determined that Asian and European honeybees can learn
to understand one another’s dance languages despite having evolved
different forms of communication, an international research team has
shown for the first time.The various species of honeybees found
worldwide separated about 30 to 50 million years ago, and
subsequently developed different dance ‘languages’. The content of
the messages is the same, but the precise encoding of these
languages differs between species.
Now researchers from Australia, China and Germany have discovered
that the two most geographically distant bee species—the European
honeybee Apis mellifera and the Asian honeybee Apis cerana—can share
information and cooperate to exploit new food sources.
All beekeepers know that the members of a honeybee colony routinely
exchange information via dance about the location of newly
discovered locations, like feeding places, water or new nesting
sites. The scouts perform the so-called bee dances inside the nest.
The coordinates of distant locations are encoded in the waggle phase
of this ballet, with the direction and distance to the food source
indicated by the orientation and duration of the dance. This
duration differs across honeybee species, even if they fly the same
distance in the same environment. It’s these differences which we
can think of as distinct languages.
The research team is the first to successfully study the behaviour
of a colony containing a mixture of two different species of bees.
One of the first findings of this novel approach was that Asian and
European honeybees, after some time of adjustment in the mixed
colony, could share information and work together to gather food.
Asian honeybees followed the dances of European forager bees, and
deciphered the encoded information correctly.
The dance language of honeybees is among the best studied
communication systems in the animal kingdom. Nevertheless, surprises
are still possible, as we have shown and this work has potentially
major implications for our understanding of animal communication.
Next the scientists plan to study exactly to what extent variation
is a factor between different bee dance languages.”
The research was carried out by an international collaborative team.
In addition to the work done at ANU, the research team included Dr
Shenglu Chen and Songkun Su from Zhejiang University in China and Dr
Jürgen Tautz from Würzburg University in Germany.
USING OZONE TO SANITISE BEE HIVES
Ozone Might Help Make Bee Hives Cleaner and Safer especially in case
of build ups of anti varroa chemicals.
Low levels of ozone are already used as disinfectants in residential
homes and for many other sanitising uses, such as:
• Disinfect laundry in hospitals, food factories, care homes etc
• Water disinfectant in place of chlorine
• Deodorize air and objects, such as after a fire. This process is
extensively used in Fabric Restoration;
• Kill bacteria on food or on contact surfaces;
• Ozone swimming pool and spa sanitation
• Scrub yeast and mold spores from the air in food processing
• Wash fresh fruits and vegetables to kill yeast, mold and bacteria;
Now it is being studied to find out if it might help make hives
cleaner and safer for America’s beleaguered honey bees. That’s
according to results from preliminary laboratory tests by
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in the USA.
The researchers tested ozone’s effects on two pesticides, coumophos
and tau-fluvalinate, both widely used by beekeepers to control
varroa mites. As beekeepers, we all know that residues of these
chemicals can accumulate in hives, including in the honeycomb and of
course, beekeepers typically reuse the honeycomb after the honey has
For the experiment, they placed glass vials of the pesticides in a
small, tightly sealed chamber, then exposed the chemicals to a flow
of ozone gas. Keeping the chamber at 50 percent relative humidity,
different temperatures were tested and different ozone and pesticide
Applying 500 parts per million of ozone in an approximately 93
degree Fahrenheit chamber for 10 to 15 hours degraded low
concentrations of both pesticides, but 20 hours were needed to break
down higher concentrations of tau-fluvalinate. They also looked at
ozone’s ability to zap the greater wax moth, a honeycomb pest, in
all of its life stages, from egg to adult. Wax moths attack bee
young and damage the honeycomb.
Young wax moth larvae and adults were killed by just a few hours of
ozone exposure. However, eggs, the most resistant life stage, had to
be exposed to the gas for a few days.
Further tests are needed to find out whether the breakdown products
of the degraded pesticides pose a hazard to bees. In related work,
the researchers are finding that ozone can destroy microbes that
cause major bee diseases such as chalkbrood and American foulbrood,
but much higher ozone concentrations and longer fumigation times are
The research was carried out by entomologist Rosalind R. James. She
leads the agency’s Pollinating Insects Biology, Management and
Systematics Research Unit at Logan, Utah.
Article adapted from materials provided by USDA/Agricultural
How Drones Find Queens
This article was Adapted from materials provided by University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the findings appear in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Odorant Receptor For Queen Bee Pheromone Identified I well know that
the mating ritual of the honey bee is a mysterious affair, occurring
on the wing and usually out of sight and hearing in what are known
as Drone Congregation Areas. But I’ve always wanted to know how
drones find the queen in the vastness of the open sky. Now a
research team led by the University of Illinois has identified an
odorant receptor that allows male drones to find a queen in flight.
The receptor, on the male antennae, can detect an available queen up
to 60 meters away. This is the first time an odorant receptor has
been linked to a specific pheromone in honey bees.
The “queen substance,” or “queen retinue pheromone,” was first
identified decades ago, but scientists have only recently begun to
understand its structure and role in the hive. The pheromone is a
primary source of the queen’s authority. It is made up of eight
components, one of which, 9-oxo-2-decenoic acid (9-ODA), attracts
the drones during mating flights. It also draws workers to the queen
and retards their reproductive growth.
Principal investigator Hugh Robertson, a professor of entomology,
said the research team pursued the receptor for the queen retinue
pheromone because it was the “lowest hanging fruit” of the known
honey bee odorant receptors. Robertson was among the research group
that last year published the entire honey bee genome, a feat that
allowed his lab to identify 170 odorant receptors in honey bees.
Robertson and his colleagues knew that male drones probably had
little use for most of these receptors. The drones don’t forage and
so do not need to detect the subtle scents of flowers. Their social
role within the hive is virtually non-existent. They have only one
task: to find and mate with a queen. Once they have accomplished
this, they die.
Using a functional genomics approach, entomology postdoctoral
researcher Kevin Wanner was able to determine which odorant
receptors were more dominant in males than females. He found four
receptors that were expressed in much higher quantities in males
“These proteins are expressed in the membranes of the olfactory
neurons way up in the tips of these little sensilla in the antennae
of these males,” Robertson said. “A neuron goes all the way from
there to the brain. Now the brain gets a signal that says, ‘I’ve
smelled this chemical.’ If the chemical is 9-ODA, for the drone that
means one thing and one thing only: ‘There’s a queen somewhere!
Determining which of the four primary receptors in males was
actually responding to 9-ODA was a formidable challenge. By chance,
at a conference on the science of olfaction, Wanner met Charles
Luetje, a neuroscientist at the University of Miami who had
expertise with precisely this type of problem. Luetje had perfected
a technique for expressing mammalian odor-sensing receptors on the
outer membranes of frog oocytes (eggs) and testing them to see which
compounds activated them. When he heard of Wanner’s work in honey
bees, Luetje offered to use this technique to test the four primary
odor receptors of honey bee drones.
After refining and testing the technique in insects, the researchers
exposed each of the drone odorant receptors to 9-ODA. Only one of
the four receptors responded. When it bound 9-ODA, the protein
receptor’s conformation changed, setting off a measurable shift in
the membrane potential. None of the four primary male odorant
receptors responded to the other components of the queen pheromone.
Only the 9-ODA elicited a response in one of the four. Of course,
ultimately, there are another 169 receptors to go. Scientists have
spent decades exploring the mysteries of insect smell, but the
newest tools make such research much more promising. “Like so many
biologists, we are wonderfully caught up in the genomic revolution,”
he said. “We can sequence genomes. We can use functional genomics to
narrow it down. We’ve got these assays, such as the frog oocyte, and
other assays. And the genomic revolution has opened up this black
box of the molecular biology of insect smell. Finally now we can
(What I want to know though is how do drones find Drone
Congregation Areas? When I researched these areas they were full of
drones long before any queens arrived at them. The queen finding
receptor would not be used in this case and I presume would only be
used once a queen entered the area. Also, how do queens find DCAs?).
Flowers’ Fragrance Diminished By Air Pollution
A new study shows that air pollution from power plants and
automobiles is destroying the fragrance of flowers and thereby
inhibiting the ability of pollinating insects to follow scent trails
to their source, a new University of Virginia study indicates. This
could partially explain why wild populations of some pollinators,
particularly bees—which need nectar for food—are declining in
several areas of the world, including California and the
|Could reduced scent be causing a
decline in pollinator numbers?
“The scent molecules produced by flowers in a less polluted
environment, such as in the 1800s, could travel for roughly 1,000 to
1,200 meters; but in today’s polluted environment downwind of major
cites, they may travel only 200 to 300 meters,” said Jose D.
Fuentes, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of
Virginia and a co-author of the study. “This makes it increasingly
difficult for pollinators to locate the flowers.”
The result, potentially, is a vicious cycle where pollinators
struggle to find enough food to sustain their populations, and
populations of flowering plants, in turn, do not get pollinated
sufficiently to proliferate and diversify. Other studies, as well as
the actual experience of farmers, have shown that populations of
bees, particularly bumblebees, and butterflies have declined greatly
in recent years. Fuentes and his team of U.Va. researchers,
including Quinn McFrederick and James Kathilankal, believe that air
pollution, especially during the peak period of summer, may be a
factor. To investigate this, they created a mathematical model of
how the scents of flowers travel with the wind. The scent molecules
produced by flowers are very volatile and they quickly bond with
pollutants such as ozone, hydroxyl and nitrate radicals, which
destroy the aromas they produce. This means that instead of
traveling intact for long distances with the wind, the scents are
chemically altered and the flowers, in a sense, no longer smell like
flowers. This forces pollinators to search farther and longer and
possibly to rely more on sight and less on smell.
The scientists calculated scent levels and distances that scents can
travel under different conditions, from relatively unpolluted
pre-industrial revolution levels, to the conditions now existing in
rural areas downwind from large cities.
“It quickly became apparent that air pollution destroys the aroma of
flowers, by as much as 90 percent from periods before automobiles
and heavy industry,” Fuentes said. “And the more air pollution there
is in a region, the greater the destruction of the flower scents.”
The study appears online in the journal Atmospheric Environment.
Tropical Reforestation Aided By Bats
a very interesting project which is nothing to with bees but does
involve an important pollinator, German scientists are engaging bats to
kick-start natural reforestation in the tropics by installing
artificial bat roosts in deforested areas. This novel method for
tropical restoration is presented in a new study published online in
the science journal Conservation Biology this week. Detlev Kelm from
the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin (IZW) and
Kerstin Wiesner and Otto von Helversen from the University of
Erlangen–Nuremberg report that the deployment of artificial bat roosts
significantly increases seed dispersal of a wide range of tropical
forest plants into their surroundings, providing a simple and cheap
method to speed up natural forest regeneration.
forests are of global ecological importance. They are a key contributor
to the global carbon balance and are host to a major part of the
world’s biodiversity. Between 2000 and 2005, worldwide net losses of
tropical forest cover averaged 0.18 % annually and regionally even
exceeded 1.5 % annually in some Latin American countries. Forest is
usually replaced by agriculture. Often soils become rapidly infertile
and land is abandoned. Because deforested areas rarely offer much food
or protection for seed dispersers such as birds or small mammals,
natural forest regeneration is hampered by a lack of natural seed
inputs. The alternative, replanting tropical forests, is too expensive
and rarely a feasible option, and, in general, knowledge on how best to
rapidly restore natural vegetation is lacking.
believe that bats could help in reforestation. They are able to cover
large distances during their nightly foraging flights and are willing
to enter deforested areas. Many bats eat fruits or nectar, and thus are
key species for seed dispersal and flower pollination. Kelm and
colleagues showed that the principal barrier to reforestation - the
lack of seed inputs - could be overcome by the deployment of artificial
day roosts for bats in deforested areas. These roosts were designed to
approximate characteristics of large, hollow tree trunks, the main type
of natural bat roost. Within a few days to weeks the first bats will
move in. So far they have found ten bat species using the roosts, and
several of these are common and important seed dispersers. They
measured the effect of the roosts on seed dispersal and found seeds of
more than 60 plant species being transported by the bats. Of these
plants, most were pioneer species, which represent the initial stages
of natural forest succession. This cost and labour efficient
method can thus support and speed up natural forest regeneration.
Artificial roosts are simply built boxes, which require little
maintenance and can be used by bats for many years. They hope that this
cheap and easy to use method will be applied in many parts of the
tropics in the near future, and that bats will be “employed” as
efficient agents of reforestation. They may provide an effective
contribution to the amelioration of deforestation and climate change. Reference:
Detlev H. Kelm, Kerstin R. Wiesner, Otto Von Helversen. Effects of
Artificial Roosts for Frugivorous Bats on Seed Dispersal in a
Neotropical Forest Pasture Mosaic. Conservation Biology. Published
article online: 25-Apr-2008. Adapted from materials provided by Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V..
Altruism in Social Insects is a Family Affair
other insects, honey bees are known for the fact that only the queen
bee in the colony will mate and reproduce and they will be assisted in
this function by their non reproductive offspring, the workers. In
other words the interest of the colony is put first by the workers. The
debate about why insects evolved to put the interests of the colony
over the individual has now been reignited by new research from the
University of Leeds, showing that they do so to increase the chances
that their genes will be passed on. The concept of kin selection
team led by Dr Bill Hughes of the University’s Faculty of Biological
Sciences studied ‘kin selection’. This theory postulates that an animal
may pass on its genes by helping relatives to reproduce, because they
share common genes, rather than by reproducing itself.
of was developed in 1964 by the evolutionary biologist Bill Hamilton
and was first proposed by Charles Darwin to explain, for example, why
sterile workers evolved in social insect groups and why a honeybee
would sacrifice its life to defend the colony. Charles Darwin
recognized that such altruistic behaviour in highly social insect
groups was at odds with his theory of natural selection, and Hamilton’s
theory of kin selection showed that this behaviour can evolve because
it still fulfils the drive to pass on genes - but through relatives
As such, high relatedness between insects has generally
been seen as essential for the evolution of highly social behaviour and
until recently, kin selection was widely accepted by the scientific
Kin Selection Theory Challenged
this model was challenged in 2005 by the eminent academic E.O. Wilson,
the founder of socio-biology, who pointed out that relatedness is
rather low in some of today’s social insects. He suggested that highly
social behaviour evolves solely because individuals do better when they
cooperate than when they live a solitary life - a controversial theory
which not only conflicted with 45 years of scientific research, but
which also sparked a highly charged debate between Wilson and Richard
Dawkins, author of ‘The Selfish Gene’. Testing the Theories
Hughes and colleagues at the Universities of Sydney and Sussex tested
the two alternative theories by examining the level of relatedness
between females in colonies of bees, wasps and ants, determined by DNA
fingerprinting techniques, and using statistical methods to look at
levels of monogamy in the ancestral social insects when they evolved up
to 100 million years ago. If females were monogamous, mating with
one male, this would mean the members of the colony are highly related,
and so Hamilton’s theory would be correct. If they were polygamous,
with the female mating with many males, relatedness would be lower and
so Wilson may be right after all.The Result
research, published in the journal, Science, found that in every group
studied ancestral females were found to be monogamous, providing the
first evidence that kin selection is fundamental to the evolution of
This means that Dr Hughes and his team have produced
the first conclusive evidence that kin selection explains the evolution
of social insects and that Wilson’s hypothesis is most probably wrong.
By challenging something that we have based all our understanding on
for 45 years, Wilson has forced us all to examine the theory again and
assess the logic of the arguments. In a recent media interview, he
issued a challenge to the scientific community to prove his theory
wrong and whilst many felt it was, there hasn’t been any hard evidence
The research was carried out by Dr Hughes,
Professor Ben Oldroyd of the University of Sydney, Associate Professor
Madeleine Beekman of the University of Sydney and Professor Francis
Ratnieks of the University of Sussex.Reference:
William O. H. Hughes, Benjamin P. Oldroyd, Madeleine Beekman, and
Francis L. W. Ratnieks. Ancestral Monogamy Shows Kin Selection Is
Key to the Evolution of Eusociality. Science, 2008; 320 (5880): 1213
DOI: 10.1126/science.1156108 Adapted from materials provided by
University of Leeds
Selfish gene by Richard Dawkins shown with the original cover painted
by Desmond Morris. The book was republished as a 30 anniversary edition
in 2006 and is available on Amazon
ARTICLES Back to top
Chad offers more advice for our readers, telling us about the
general state of things in the matter of his beekeeping and he also
comes up with a brilliant new idea!
Nothing in Particular
I’ll tell you what made me mad today. There I was, standing on the
ridge of a roof, clinging to a chimney stack, wondering about life
insurance whilst trying to shake wasp powder down the chimney in the
hope that I might kill-off the bees that were preventing the
builders from restoring the roof. I wondered, who it was that had
put Apistan strips down the chimney last autumn, to keep the bees
healthy? I wondered who had given them their sugar feed? And why it
was that despite my treating and feeding my own bees I still managed
to lose 15 colonies. The bees that had swarmed into the chimney and
had had no one to tend to them managed perfectly well to get through
the winter. Blooming maddening. What a waste.
On the other hand, things are generally going well, I am, for the
first time ever, ahead of the game, my hives and equipment are all
sorted out, all the frames made, all the apiaries healthy and hive
parts serviceable. It feels good; let me tell you, especially after
the previous three years which produced more frustration than honey.
All my hives are just next to, or in, oilseed rape fields and this
evening I drove to a couple of vantage points and made a note of
just how many farms were growing the oilseed rape in the area, it’s
great to see so many yellow squares. I am going to do a bit of
localized migratory beekeeping this year, I have got my field-bean
apiaries lined up for the June gap so as soon as the rape finishes
flowering I’ll be moving the hives there. Bee farming is rather fun
when you’re not behind with things. The only big job I’ve left to do
is to secure my extractor somehow. When it was bolted down into six
inches of concrete it hardly vibrated on full spin but now it’s in
the Portakabin I will have to come up with some new way of securing
it, a wobbly extractor destroys frames and combs.
I’ve come up with a brilliant idea. I have always been a great fan
of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. I was studying A-level geology
when the book first came out and loved all the references to
Paleontology (spell that
when you’re off your head on mead.) The book, for those that haven’t
read it, is all about extracting dinosaurs’ DNA from blood sucking
insects that have been trapped and preserved in amber. It’s not the
science you can do in the kitchen but the theory is fascinating.
Everyone knows about amber, the jewellery is very popular and I’m
very excited to tell you that I have developed my own Amber Honey.
I do is this; I take a 1 oz jar. I half fill it with warmed clear
honey; I put a dead bee in the jar and then fill the jar with more
honey. Then screw the lid on and you’re done; it looks fantastic. I
know what you’re thinking, how do I stop the bee from floating to
the top of the jar, well it’s simple. You can glue a single piece of
lead shot to the underside of the thorax (so that it cannot be seen)
and this compensates for the buoyancy of the dead bee. I know what
you’re thinking, where do you get lead shot? Well, most game keepers
will sell you shotgun cartridges which you can either cut into using
a sharp knife or, as I prefer, the old, tried-and-tested vice,
hammer and pillow technique. If you use a really clear honey the
finished product looks terrific, a perfect gift for children. And
here’s the good bit, I’m selling these jars at £2.50 each. That’s
right, £2.50 each. I know what you’re thinking; there are over forty
thousand bees in a summer colony. Oh yes. And now you’re realising
why I’m taking next year off to go on holiday. My amber honey has
been flying off the Farmers’ Market stalls; just wait until
(Paleontology was one of my main subjects at Uni. Ed.).
RECIPE OF THE MONTH Back to top
FRIED DRONE PUPAE
This exciting and unusual recipe comes to us from Jan Tempelman in
Holland. I expect it is used somewhere in the world and no doubt
would be a great protein provider. I haven’t actually tried this
recipe yet and am actively looking for a reviewer.
Method (in Jan’s words).
1. First uncap the closed cells. I use an old saw blade.
2. Then push out the pupae
3. Now take a pan, fry some onions, and add the pupae and fry for
about 5 min.
4. It tastes great. (Why not, we eat snails, frog-legs, prawns,
shrimps and oysters etc).
After that enjoy your dinner with some buttered toast or a
continental hard bread and of course a pint of Waggle Dance beer or
a smooth glass of mead. (Make that several). (Ed).
(These great pictures made with my new Casio QV-11 (and what a
pleasure that is.)
HISTORICAL NOTE Back to top
In this extract, The Reverend William Charles Cotton gives us an
idea of the thinking of progressive beekeepers in the early 1800s
when coming up to winter time.
“In damp places many Bees die of the rot. Even in dry places a
good deal of water settles on the top of the hives inside, made by
the breath of the bees. When you put your bees in their winter
quarters, take the bung out of the hole in the top, and put a tin on
the board on which the cap stood in summer. It is an upright ring,
standing on a flat plate of tin, or zinc, with a hole through the
middle. Over this, turn a glass top-turvey. The hot air comes up
through the hole, turns into steam, and runs down the glass, outside
the upright ring.
(………………..Damp air gives them the rot as it does sheep).”
|The Reverend WC Cotton. There
is no doubt that William Cotton was a talented man
whose achievements were limited by his mental
ill-health. Numerous references have been made to
Cotton's erratic behaviour, in particular his
over-spending, and his periods of depression. There
can be little doubt that he suffered from what is
now known as bipolar disorder. He did achieve much,
particularly during his years as a missionary in New
Zealand, and in the field of apiculture.
Two of his better known works on beekeeping
were:My Bee Book 1842, and A Manual for New Zealand
POEM OF THE MONTH Back to top
Another poem by that supreme 19th Century, American poet, Emily
By Emily Dickenson
Like trains of cars on tracks of plush
I hear the level bee:
A jar across the flowers goes,
Their velvet masonry
Withstands until the sweet assault
Their chivalry consumes,
While he, victorious, tilts away
To vanquish other blooms.
His feet are shod with gauze,
His helmet is of gold;
His breast, a single onyx
With chrysoprase, inlaid.
His labor is a chant,
His idleness a tune;
Oh, for a bee's experience
Of clovers and of noon!
LETTERS Back to top
Re CCD and the comments in the recent newsletter. I wholeheartedly
support the comment about CSL being in denial over this.
I have suffered losses of this type over the past three seasons - no
identifiable reason just empty hives. This last winter I lost
another three colonies and that wiped me out.
Whatever the cause, this problem is with us now and we must lobby
for immediate research as to the cause and possible control.
Excellent newsletter, keep up the good work
Press Release, May 21, 2008
Coalition against BAYER Dangers (Germany)
Mass death of bees in Germany: Pesticide approvals suspended
“Bayer has to take Gaucho and Poncho from the market worldwide”
The German Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) has
the immediate suspension of the approval for eight seed treatment
due to the mass death of bees in Germany’s Baden-Wuerttemberg state.
suspended products are: Antarc (ingredient: imidacloprid; produced
Bayer), Chinook (imidacloprid; Bayer), Cruiser (thiamethoxam;
Elado (clothianidin; Bayer), Faibel (imidacloprid; Bayer), Mesurol
(methiocarb; Bayer) and Poncho (clothianidin; Bayer). According to
German Research Centre for Cultivated Plants 29 out of 30 dead bees
examined had been killed by contact with clothianidin. Also wild
other insects are suffering from a significant loss of population.
“We have been pointing on the risks of neonicotinoids such as
and clothianidin for almost ten years now. With an annual turn-over
nearly 800 million Euro (1.25 billion US dollar) imidacloprid and
clothianidin are among Bayer´s most important products. This is the
why Bayer, despite serious environmental damage, is fighting against
application prohibitions”, says Philipp Mimkes, speaker of the
against BAYER-dangers. The Coalition demands that Bayer withdraw all
neonicotinoids from the market worldwide.
Bayer is the worldmarket leader for pesticides. With sales of 556
Euro in 2007, imidacloprid is Bayer´s best selling pesticide
Germany imidacloprid is used under the brand names Gaucho, Antarc
Chinook, primarily during the cultivation of rape, sugar-beet and
“It’s a real bee emergency”, said Manfred Hederer, president of the
Professional Beekeeper’s Association. “Fifty to 60 percent of the
died on average, and some beekeepers have lost all their hives.”
and agricultural officials in Italy, France and Holland all noticed
phenomena in their fields when planting began a few weeks ago.
In France most applications of imidacloprid were already banned in
2003 the Comité Scientifique et Technique, convened by the French
government, declared that the treatment of seeds with imidacloprid
a significant risk for bees. Only a few months ago Bayer´s
clothianidin was rejected by French authorities.
Clothianidin is a non-selective poison. According to the U.S.
Protection Agency’s fact sheet ‘clothianidin is highly toxic to
Seeds are treated with clothianidin in advance or sprayed with it
the field, and the insecticide can also be blown onto other crops.
chemical is often sprayed on corn fields during the spring planting
create a protective film on cornfields.
For further information see also:
* Press Release of the Research Centre for Cultivated Plants
* Protection of Bees: Open Letter to EU Commissioner of Health
* Bee-keepers and environmental groups demand prohibition of
* French Institutes Finds Imidaproclid Turning Up in Wide Range of
2003 report from the “Comité Scientifique et Technique de l’Etude
Multifactorielle des Troubles des Abeilles”
Coalition against BAYER Dangers
DATES FOR YOUR DIARY Back to top
Saturday 12th July Thorne’s Open Day, WRAGBY
9am – 4pm
Monday 21st July NEWARK
Region, Bromley Arms,
Monday 18th August NEWARK
Region, Lord Nelson,
Bees for Development Safari Dates
2-14 August 2008
Last chance to join this excellent Safari - reply by return
13-27 November 2008
This Safari will be organised in co-operation with our local
partners, Njiro Wildlife Research Centre based in Arusha, East
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
2-12 February 2009
Organised in co-operation with our partner of 14 years, Gladstone
Solomon. Contact us for further information, we will be happy to
PLEASE BOOK EARLY!
Email us on
Visit our site at
Bees for Development
PO Box 105, Monmouth
NP25 9AA, UK
Tel +44 (0) 16007 13648
Bees for Development Trust Charity No 1078803
QUOTE OF THE MONTH Back to top
Which well known beekeeper uttered these words?
“It comes to mind that, if as a young man I was typical
of my generation, I cannot have changed very much, as much of this
book is about sex.”
Editor: David Cramp
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