By Jan Day
Updates from the world of honeybees and the people who love them. Brought to you by Second Story Honey.
Chronic bee paralysis virus increasing in the UK
Bee inspection data from England and Wales shows the number of chronic bee paralysis cases increased exponentially between 2007 and 2017, demonstrating chronic bee paralysis as an emergent disease. Characteristic symptoms of the disease include abnormal trembling, flightlessness and shiny, hairless abdomens. Infected individuals die within a week leading to mounds of dead bees outside affected colonies, which sometimes collapse or are too weakened for pollination or honey production. Chronic bee paralysis was found to be higher in hives managed by professional beekeepers compared to those of amateur beekeepers. Clusters of the disease outbreak appeared to be related to the importation of queens or packages of bees used to repopulate honeybee colonies. Researchers found the disease is highly clustered spatially within most years, suggesting local spread; but not spatially clustered between years, suggesting the disease burnt out in a given area before returning as part of periodic reintroduction through bee importation. You can find a link to this research at secondstoryhoney.com/honeybee-news
May 21, 2020
A substitute for pollen substitute?
This week, scientists from the US Agricultural Research Service published research showing that a microscopic algae ("microalgae") could provide a complete and sustainably sourced supplemental diet to boost the robustness of managed honey bees. This is a pioneering look into the nutritional and functional properties of a single microalga and how well it corresponds to what is needed in a complete pollen substitute for the honey bee. The microalgae Arthrospira platensis (commonly called spirulina) has a nutritional profile that closely resembles pollen. Researchers found that spirulina is rich in essential amino acids and lipids required by bees, with levels matching those found in tested pollen samples. In addition to being rich in essential amino acids necessary for protein synthesis, immune function and colony growth in honey bees, spirulina also contains prebiotics that support the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Now, the researchers are testing the microalgae diet in the field to make sure the diet is attractive to bees and supports colony growth.
May 19, 2020
What the honeybees showed me
Working with honeybees can have a profound impact on the life of a beekeeper. Helen Jukes shared her experiences in a recent essay in the New York Times called “What the honeybees showed me.” In it she relates how the gift of a beehive changed the way she interacted with the world around her. This essay is well worth a read and sharing with others, especially those who don’t understand why you love being a beekeeper. Helen Jukes (@helen__jukes) is a writer, teacher and beekeeper, and the author of “A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings.” She teaches creative writing at Oxford University, and is a founding member of the Bee Friendly Trust, a London-based charity to promote understanding of honeybees and help nurture sustainable habitats.
May 15, 2020
Urban bees: happy or hungry?
Which plants do urban bees rely upon most for their forage? To find out, Penn State University researchers set up 3 hives in each of 12 apiaries across Philadelphia. Each colony was equipped with a pollen trap for capturing incoming pollen and a scale for logging its weight once per hour. Trees like maples, oaks and willows were the most important spring pollen sources. During the summer when resources were scarce, crepe myrtle, Japanese pagoda tree and devil's walking stick emerged as important species. In summer and fall, woody vines, such as Virginia creeper, English ivy and autumn clematis, dominated the pollen samples. One key takeaway, while native plant species are usually the best for supporting bees and other pollinators, ornamental plant species can provide important nutritional resources as well, particularly in periods when other plants are not blooming.
May 13, 2020
Virgin birth, in bees?
In honeybees, the ability to produce daughters asexually is restricted to a single subspecies inhabiting the Cape region of South Africa, Apis mellifera capensis. Researchers in Australia have discovered the gene that makes this possible -- gene GE45239 on chromosome 11. This study reveals how mutations affecting the sequence and/or expression of a single gene can change the reproductive mode of a population. This study ends a 30-year search for the virgin birth gene and could help scientists gain new insights into the evolution of different reproductive strategies. You can find out more information about this research at secondstoryhoney.com/honeybee-news
May 11, 2020
Eavesdropping on swarm planning
Researchers in Germany have built a beehive sensor that listens to the sounds of the bees inside the hive. Using machine learning techniques they have identified sound patterns that honeybees make in the lead up to swarming. Swarming is the event of a colony’s queen leaving the hive with a party of worker bees to start a new colony in a distant location. Swarming diminishes a beehive’s production and requires the beekeeper’s immediate attention if the swarm is to be recaptured. Therefore beekeepers try to prevent swarming events in their beehives. You can find out more information about this research at secondstoryhoney.com/honeybee-news
May 09, 2020
A robot bee does a convincing waggle dance
Researchers in Germany have built a honey bee robot, trained it to do the waggle dance and used it within the darkness of a hive to recruit foragers. The dancing robot, called RoboBee, elicited natural dance-following behavior in live bees. Using harmonic radar and transmitter-tagged bees, researchers were able to track the flight trajectory of departing bees who had followed the dances of the robot. Scientists confirmed that bees used information obtained from the robotic dance to adjust their flight path. This is the first report on successful dance following and subsequent flight performance of bees recruited by a biomimetic robot. You can find out more information about this research at secondstoryhoney.com/honeybeenews
May 07, 2020