Stories tagged honeybees

Since everyone seems to be buzzing with talk about bees, I thought it would be a good time to mention that bee expert Marla Spivak from the University of Minnesota will be giving a talk on Honey Bees & Human Health at Cafe Scientifique this Tuesday night. In 2005 Marla answered all sorts of questions as a Scientist on the Spot for Science Buzz. Since then she has continued to research Honey Bees in an effort to find out more about how we can help keep them healthy. After all, our own health depends on it! Marla is also part of a research team that is exploring the potential of a bee made substance called propolis to help fight HIV in humans. If you are in the Twin Cities and want to ask Marla a question in person, you should come out on Tuesday night!

Some bees: Each and every one of them thinking about doing unspeakable things to that dog.
Some bees: Each and every one of them thinking about doing unspeakable things to that dog.Courtesy Greencolander
Millions of surprised honeybees are loose on a California highway, after a truck carrying crates of them flipped over in traffic this afternoon.

According to an officer on the scene, "several beekeepers driving by the accident stopped to assist in the bee wrangling."

It's nice to hear that the world is still doing great.

Sep
20
2007

Bees attempt to asphyxia-ball a man: Little do they know that he breathes through his thighs.  (image courtesy of Max xx on flickr.com)
Bees attempt to asphyxia-ball a man: Little do they know that he breathes through his thighs. (image courtesy of Max xx on flickr.com)
I tend to get “stuck” on things. You know, mentally.

Like, when Pokemon were big, I had to “catch ‘em all.” I’d fall asleep at night, just thinking how to catch all those Pokemon. Should I lure them into clever traps, or subdue them with a water-based attack? Or should I just go out and buy them?

Or “connect-the-dots”? You do one connect-the-dots puzzle, and tell me you aren’t totally hooked.

Lately, though, I’ve constantly been thinking about the weird and violent things insects do. How could I not? I mean, it’s all over the news - the other day there was the story about fire ants eating baby birds, and today I learn that it’s just been discovered that some honeybees kill their enemies by suffocating them.

I know! Who would have thought? But French scientists have observed Cyprian honeybees mobbing their archenemy, the Oriental hornet, in such a way that they block its breathing passages. The hornets’ exoskeletons are too hard for honeybee stingers to penetrate, so they seem to have adapted this new defensive behavior.

Certain Asian varieties of honeybees have been known to mob hornets and kill them simply by causing them to overheat inside a ball of bees (a behavior known as “thermo-balling”), but Cyprian honeybees are unable to raise their temperature enough to harm more heat tolerant hornets. Instead, they seem to specifically target the abdominal openings of the hornets, covering them with their own bodies, and preventing the hornets from breathing.

This is what we like to call “news you can use.” For a long time I’ve been relying on “thermo-balling” myself, wrapping myself around opponents in the hope that they might be vulnerable to a slight rise in body temperature. This technique almost never wins a fight, but, perhaps, if I could modify my behavior to be a little more like the Cyprian honeybee…

Anyway, that’s the sort of stuff that’s been on my mind lately. I fully expect the news tomorrow to reveal that beetles use nets to capture their prey, or that horseflies frequently resort to blackmail.

Sep
08
2007

Sting of comfort: A foreign virus orginating in Australia may be a major cause in the huge number of bees that have disappeared over the past three years.  (Photo from the U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Sting of comfort: A foreign virus orginating in Australia may be a major cause in the huge number of bees that have disappeared over the past three years. (Photo from the U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Here’s a major breakthrough in a possible cause for the devastating drop in honeybee populations. You may remember reading about that here on Science Buzz this past spring.

Researchers are reporting in the Journal Science this week that a virus – Israeli acute paralysis (IAP) – may be the cause for the disappearance of huge numbers of bees.

The issue rose to the forefront this spring with intense media coverage of the drop in honeybee numbers. In some areas, it’s reported that honeybee populations have dropped 50 to 90 percent. And no bees mean less pollination of plants, an important factor in growing fruits and vegetables we eat.

While theories for the bees’ disappearance were bouncing all over the place – from cell phone wavelengths to exposure to pollen from genetically engineered crops – the IAP virus appears to have the strongest correlation. Scientists have been able to use a new genetic technique to identify germs and viruses that are in the bees. And there seems to be a high number of IAP in bees near beehives that have been wiped out.

While IPA carries the name Israel, it was actually first found in Australia. And the wipe-out of bee colonies started roughly the same time that U.S. beekeepers began importing bees from Australia to augment their populations. Prior to 2004, the U.S. Department of Agriculture did not allow the import of foreign bees to the U.S. Those policies are under review right now.

Also, researchers say that IPA might not be the sole reason for the bee population drop. They’re continuing to look at other factors as well.

One ray of hope is that there appear to bees in Israel that are genetically resistant to IAP. Of course, that would mean that some of them would need to be imported to the U.S.