Tag: bees

Bees That Drink Sweat From People's Skin and Tears From People's Eyes

By Sarah Zhang | May 1, 2012 12:12 pm

spacing is important
Drink up!

Have you ever thought about how nutritious your bodily fluids are? Full of goodies like salts and proteins…Wild bees know all about it, feeding human sweat and tears as a source of nutrition.

Urban sweat bees, for example, use humans like a salt lick. “These bees prefer sweaty people—over most animals—because the human diet usually is so salty that their perspiration is saturated with the essential nutrient,” according to a recent feature in the Wall Street Journal on sweat bees. A new species (Lasioglossum gotham) of these bees was recently identified from a specimen netted in the heart of Brooklyn. Although they are as a group fairly common, they’re tiny and they don’t sting, which is why you probably haven’t heard New Yorkers complaining about them. “[M]ost people never notice when the tiny bees alight on a bare arm or leg,” says the WSJ.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World

Guardian Bees Protect Kenyan Crops from Roaming Elephants

By Joseph Castro | July 14, 2011 10:12 am

spacing is important

What’s the News: We’ve all probably heard the myth, made popular by Disney’s Dumbo, that elephants are afraid of mice. While that idea may not be exactly true (video), elephants do make sure to avoid another tiny critter: bees. Knowing this, zoologists from the University of Oxford loaded fences in Kenya with beehives, in hopes of deterring roaming African elephants from eating or trampling farmers’ crops. Now, two years later, the researchers are reporting in the African Journal of Ecology that the novel barriers are working wondrously and could be a viable option for protecting African croplands.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World

Bees Not Bombs: Venom Protein Makes Fluorescing Explosive Detector

By Veronique Greenwood | May 10, 2011 3:24 pm

bees

What’s the News: The next generation of bomb detectors may come from an unusual source: bee venom, the stuff that hurts like all get-out when you get stung. A team of researchers at MIT have used fluorescent carbon nanotubes and venom proteins called bombolitins that bind to single molecules of explosives like TNT to create an exquisitely sensitive detector.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Technology

What Makes a Queen Bee? One Special Protein, Apparently

By Valerie Ross | April 26, 2011 10:51 am

royal jellyQueen bee larvae floating in royal jelly

What’s the News: It’s long been known that a female bee’s place in the social order—whether she becomes a worker or a queen—depends not on her genes, but on whether she eats royal jelly. A study published in Nature found that royalactin, a protein found in royal jelly, is responsible for many of the physical differences that distinguish queens from the hoi polloi of the hive—and, surprisingly, that royalactin can even cause fruit flies to develop queen bee-like traits. This finding also shines light on how, at a cellular level, royal jelly turns bees into queens.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World

Bee Apocalypse Continues: Bumblebees in Dangerous Decline, too

By Andrew Moseman | January 3, 2011 5:32 pm

Don’t you forget about bumblebees. While DISCOVER and others have extensively covered the mysterious colony collapse disorder that’s been crashing honeybee populations around the world, bumblebees have not escaped the tide of doom.

Sydney Cameron leads a team that just published a new study of bumblebees in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and tallied up some scary numbers.

The relative abundance of four species of bumble bees over the past few decades has dropped by more than 90%—and those disappearing species are also suffering from low genetic diversity, which makes them that much more susceptible to disease or any other environmental pressures. [TIME]

In addition, the geographic ranges of those species shrunk precipitously—between 23 and 87 percent, depending upon the case. That reduction in range could have catastrophic impacts on agriculture:

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World

Uh Oh: Pollen Can Spread Viruses From Domesticated Bees to Wild Ones

By Andrew Moseman | December 27, 2010 12:43 pm

More trouble for bees: A study out in the open-access journal PLoS One finds that viruses that previously had been the bane of domesticated honeybees have spread to wild pollinators.

A pattern showed up in the survey that fits that unpleasant scenario. Researchers tested for five viruses in pollinating insects and in their pollen hauls near apiaries in Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois. Israeli acute parasitic virus (IAPV) showed up in wild pollinators near honeybee installations carrying the disease but not near apiaries without the virus. In domestic honeybees, such viruses rank as one of the possible contributors to the still-mysterious malady known as colony collapse disorder that abruptly wipes out a hive’s workforce, [study author Diana] Cox-Foster says. [Science News]

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World

"Science Is Cool And Fun": 8-Year-Old Kids Get Their Bee Study Published

By Andrew Moseman | December 22, 2010 10:31 am

Do bees prefer certain colors or shapes in the flowers from which they forage? And can they learn on the fly to go to certain colors or shapes that prove to be more lucrative?

That was the question for the students of Blackawton Primary School in Devon, England. And by devising a clever experiment to find out, these kids became the youngest authors ever to have a study published in a journal of Britain’s Royal Society.

From Ed Yong:

Their paper, based on fieldwork carried out in a local churchyard, describes how bumblebees can learn which flowers to forage from with more flexibility than anyone had thought. It’s the culmination of a project called ‘i, scientist’, designed to get students to actually carry out scientific research themselves. The kids received some support from Beau Lotto, a neuroscientist at UCL, and David Strudwick, Blackawton’s head teacher. But the work is all their own.

The class (including Lotto’s son, Misha) came up with their own questions, devised hypotheses, designed experiments, and analysed data.  They wrote the paper themselves (except for the abstract), and they drew all the figures with colouring pencils.

For all the details about this class experiment turned published study, check out the rest of Ed’s post at Not Exactly Rocket Science.

Related Content:
DISCOVER: Wrong By Design (PHOTOS): Beau Lotto, the scientist who helped the Blackawton kids with their bee study, explains the neuroscience of optical illusions.
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Turning Secondary School Children Into Research Scientists
80beats: How Ancient Beekeepers Made Israel the Land of (Milk and) Honey: Imported Bees
80beats: New Caledonian Crows—the Bird Geniuses—Blow Our Minds Again

Image: Wikimedia Commons

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World

Proved by Science: Sleepy Bees Are Sloppy Dancers

By Jennifer Welsh | December 14, 2010 12:01 pm

tired-beeHoneybees usually get about eight hours of sleep a night (lucky things!), but what happens when evil researchers keep them up all night?

The first study of sleep in bees, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the tired bees lag just like sleep-deprived humans do. Too bad bees don’t have coffee. Says lead researcher Barrett Klein:

“When deprived of sleep, humans typically experience a diminished ability to perform a variety of tasks, including communicating as clearly or as precisely. We found that sleep-deprived honey bees also experienced communication problems. They advertised the direction to a food site less precisely to their fellow bees.” [Daily Mail]

So how do you keep bees awake when they don’t need to cram for a calculus final? You make them magnetic. Klein attached a piece of either steel or non-magnetic metal to the bees’ backs. Then all through the night, the researchers swung a magnet over the hive three times a minute–a device they call the “insominator.” This jostled the bees with the magnetic steel on their backs and kept them from sleeping.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Mind & Brain, Top Posts

Bee Collapse May Be Caused by a Virus-Fungus One-Two Punch

By Andrew Moseman | October 7, 2010 11:03 am

beeUPDATE: Fortune reports today that the lead researcher on this study, Jerry Bromenshenk, had financial ties to Bayer Crop Science—including a research grant—that were not disclosed. Bayer makes pesticides that some beekeepers and researchers have cited as a possible cause of colony collapse disorder, and Bromenshenk’s conclusions in this study could benefit the company. Bromenshenk says the money did not go to this project or influence its findings.

Viruses. Mites. Fungi. Genetically modified crops. Inbreeding because of industrial agriculture. They’ve all been floated as possible causes of colony collapse disorder (CCD), the mystery affliction that’s been wiping out honeybees, and by doing so threatening the agricultural industries that rely on those insects. Despite the flood of reports since 2006 about these suspects (and more absurd ones, like cellphone radiation disorienting the bees), the bee die-off continues without a clear explanation.

A study out this week in PLoS One points the finger in a new direction. What’s interesting about this explanation is its contention that there’s tandem foul play at work in CCD—two of the suggested culprits could be working together. But the mystery isn’t solved just yet.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Top Posts

How Ancient Beekeepers Made Israel the Land of (Milk and) Honey: Imported Bees

By Andrew Moseman | June 8, 2010 9:19 am

honeybeeIt took Turkish bees to make Israel flow with milk and honey.

When archaeologist Amihai Mazar and colleagues turned up 3,000-year-old remains of hundreds of preserved beehives from the ancient town of Tel Rehov in 2007, it was the first confirmation of the ancient beekeeping suggested by Egyptian paintings and Biblical references. Now, three years later, the team has published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences with the analysis of the “honeybee workers, drones, pupae, and larvae” found inside those hives. Surprise—they’re from Turkey, hundreds of miles away.

The findings “would imply an incredible amount of commodity trading of bees,” said bee expert Gene Kritsky of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, editor of American Entomologist. The importation of Italian bees to the United States in the 1860s “was thought to be a big deal then,” he said, “but the Israelis may have been doing this as far back as the first millennium BC” [Los Angeles Times].

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Human Origins, Living World
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