Stories tagged bees


Bees: Another new virus, similar to HIV, has been identified as being a possible cause to high numbers of honey bee deaths.
Bees: Another new virus, similar to HIV, has been identified as being a possible cause to high numbers of honey bee deaths.Courtesy Bksimonb
There's a new possible factor to the rapid collapse of honey bee population numbers. And tobacco plays a role; but the impacted bees aren't smoking.

New research shows that a rapidly mutating plant virus, called the tobacco ringspot virus (TRSV), may be at play in the high fatality rates in bee population numbers. This new virus behaves very similarly to the HIV virus in that it rapidly mutates to evade the immune systems of the honey bees. Evidence of TRSV has been showing up in many dead honeybees.

It's one new piece of the puzzle researchers trying to solve this mystery now can look at. Other factors that appear to be killing honey bees at high rates are new agricultural pesticides, a specific species of mites, the Israeli paralytic virus (IASV) and the loss of open wilderness.

Last winter, one third of honey bees died, a 42-percent increase over the regular winter death rates of 10-15 percent.

What do you think of this new theory? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment here for other Science Buzz readers.


Dead zombie bee: Up to 80 percent of bee hives along the West Coast may be impacted by the "zombie bee" phenomenon. Parasite flies plants inside the bees, like this one, that ultimately kill them.
Dead zombie bee: Up to 80 percent of bee hives along the West Coast may be impacted by the "zombie bee" phenomenon. Parasite flies plants inside the bees, like this one, that ultimately kill them.Courtesy wintersixfour
Zombies are all the rage these days, and not just on cable TV shows or at pub crawls.

There's a growing trend in "zombie bees" working its way around the West Coast. Just this week beekeepers in Washington state report finding evidence of "zombification" of their bees.

The impacted bees get their name for their changing behaviors once they host the parasitic flies that cause the trouble. While most bees spend their nights nestled snuggling in a comb, these "zombie bees" actually go out flying in very erratic patterns. Like many other night bugs, the zombie bees fly to light and usually die quite soon.

What's really at play is that the tiny parasitic flies plant eggs into the host bee. Those eggs grow into maggots that eat the inside of the host bee that ultimately cause its demise.

Evidence of zombie bees was first found in 2008 near Sacramento, Calif., and beekeepers around the west coast have seeing the spread of the problem in the years since.

Researchers are trying to figure out if this parasite problem is a factor in the bee population declines that have been going on nationwide. One researcher has set up a website – – to allow amateur beekeepers to share information about zombie bees they are finding around their hives. It is also looking for people who want to step forward to be "zombee hunters."

There has been one isolated report of zombie bees in South Dakota. So far, two investigations in Minnesota have turned up no evidence of zombie bees.

Earthen “Beehive Houses” made from Mud, Straw, Dirt have been keeping Syrians cool for Centuries:

Check out the interview with Marla Spivak. She is a MacArthur Fellow and Distinguished McKnight Professor and Extension Entomologist in the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota. Her research and extension efforts focus on honeybee health, breeding, behavior and on the sustainable management of alternative pollinators.


Researchers at the University of South Florida recently found that the fungicide chlorothalonil, in the same family as DDT, killed almost 90% of the frogs exposed to it. They tested several species of frogs, and all had the same reaction. They are now testing the chemical's mortality rate for other organisms, including bees.

I know, I know, it's not Friday. But I didn't post the Science Friday video last week. (Or the week before, for that matter, and that one's up next.)

Science Friday
Science FridayCourtesy Science Friday

This week (last week?):

"Crocuses, robins, spring peepers aren't the only creatures to signal spring. We visited the "Insect Compactor" at the American Museum of Natural History in New York to learn about which bugs to look out for as the weather warms. Keep your eyes on the willow trees--that's where early bees like to hang out."
It's Friday, so it's time for a new Science Friday video. Science Friday
Science FridayCourtesy Science Friday
"Of the orchid genus catasetum, Charles Darwin wrote: "I never was more interested in any subject in all my life than in this of Orchids." The male flowers in this genus evolved an unusual pollination program. They propel a package of pollen onto the backs of visiting bees. The bees endure the blow (which would be like a 150-pound person getting hit with a few bowling balls) in exchange for orchid aromas that the bees use to attract mates.

Delicious nectar...
Delicious nectar...Courtesy flickr
It feels like summer is finally here, and with the warm weather comes swimming at the beach, picnics, and… bumblebees.

A study came out today from the University of Cambridge that shows how bees use “natural Velcro” to cling on to flowers as they drink nectar. The “Velcro” is actually made up of microscopic conical cells on flower petals that allow for an easier grip. Dr. Beverly Glover, the researcher behind this discovery states:

“For bees to maintain their balance and hold on to a flower is no easy task, especially in windy or wet conditions. Evolution has come up with the simple solution of equipping flowers with a Velcro-like surface that bees can get a grip on.”

To test her initial hypothesis, Dr. Glover and her team created artificial flowers out of epoxy resin, half with flat cells and half with conical-like cells. When the petals were horizontal there was no preference, but as soon as the angle steepened, the bees chose the conical cells more than 60% of the time. Real flowers were also tested, this time the bees preferred the spiky surface over 75% of the time. Using high-speed video photography, the team saw that when bees attempted to land on the flat-celled petals, they struggled for grip. However, in all recorded occurrences the bees were able to grip onto the conical cells, allowing them to stop beating their wings and rest while feeding.

So next time when you see a bee sucking nectar from a flower, impress your friends with your knowledge of conical shaped cells and bumblebees!


Colony collapse
Colony collapseCourtesy Kevin Cole

SMM volunteer and bee enthusiast receives grant

Marjorie Bolz Allen was a lifelong museum volunteer at the Science Museum of Minnesota. In her memory a Marjorie Bolz Allen Grant is awarded to a SMM volunteer to develop an activity that will directly enhance our museum visitors' experience about a science, technology, engineering or mathematical (STEM) discipline. I hope the following links will help my fellow volunteer (A.Z.) in developing her activity about bees.

News about bee colony collapse disorder

  1. The Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research Extension Consortium (MAAREC) has links to press releases, research updates, and articles about CCD.
  2. The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) also has a web page with links to related sites and articles about colony collapse disorder.
  3. An April 16 Ars Technica article titled "A cure for colony collapse" claims that "new research has proposed both a concrete cause for bee colony collapse disorder, as well as a cure". The abstract of the source paper titled, "Honeybee colony collapse due to Nosema ceranae in professional apiaries"

Previous Science Buzz posts about bees

Joe did a Buzz burst April 8 titled More on the vanishing bees and linked to a great article in Scientific American titled Solving the Mystery of the Vanishing Bees"
Click this link for all Science Buzz posts about bees.