Finding An Elusive Mutation That Turns Altruism Into Selfish Behavior Among Honeybees    From Oxford University Press     January 8, 2019

A. m. capensis pseudoqueens  (black bees) among  A. m. scutellata  host workers (yellow bees). Credit: Picture taken by Mike Allsopp

A. m. capensis pseudoqueens (black bees) among A. m. scutellata host workers (yellow bees). Credit: Picture taken by Mike Allsopp

Among the social insects, bees have developed a strong and rich social network, where busy worker bees tend to the queen, who in turn, controls reproduction for the benefit of the hive.

But the South African Cape honey bee (Apis mellifera capensis) can flout these rules. In a process of genetic trickery called thelytoky syndrome, worker bee females ignore the queen's orders and begin to reproduce on their own.

Scientists, in their own altruistic effort to protect the Cape honey bees from a recent devastating blight, transferred the Cape honey bees to a northeastern region—-only to see the Cape bees wreak havoc among colonies of the neighboring honey bee subspecies A. m. scutellata.

The A. capensis bees turned from altruistic workers to the guests who would not leave—-becoming social parasites that forage on their own into foreign colonies, reproducing an army of loyal workers, stealing all the honey, and eventually, dethroning the queen and taking over the host colony.

This type of behavior, despite making for bad neighbors, makes a lot of evolutionary sense. If the queen is lost, then the thelytoky syndrome at one point must have first kicked in as a life raft to save the colony. But if this is the case, why hasn't it become a more widespread phenomenon for other bee species?

Recently, scientists have combed through bee genomes to narrow down the genetics behind thelytoky, and linked these to candidate genes in the past few years—-but to date, the master genetic switch has not been found.

Now, for the first time, a group led by Denise Aumer and Eckart Stolle, working in the lab of Robin Moritz at the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg's Institute of Biology, have finally found the root cause responsible for thelytoky. The findings were published in the advanced online edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution.

"Uncovering the genetic architecture underlying thelytoky is a big step towards understanding this mode of reproduction, not only in the Cape honeybee, but also in other insect species in general (e.g. many invasive ants reproduce in a very similar fashion)," said Stolle. "After having worked on the topic for so many years with so much efforts by our colleagues and us to add pieces to the puzzle and also with the one or other dead end, it is a huge accomplishment for us to have come to this point."

By comparing the genomes of Cape honeybees which produce diploid female offspring (thelytoky) with those producing haploid male offspring (arrhenotoky, i.e. the expected mode of reproduction), they identified a candidate gene located on chromosome one, LOC409096, and proposed to call it Thelytoky (Th), as the major regulator of the selfish worker bee reproduction. Thelytoky encodes a receptor protein with a transmembrane helix and a signal peptide at the extracellular N-terminus, indicating that it is linked to a secretory pathway.

A. m. capensis pseudoqueen  (bee with white tag on thorax) eliciting retinue behavior in the surrounding  A. m. scutellata  host bees. Credit: Picture taken by Mike Allsopp.

A. m. capensis pseudoqueen (bee with white tag on thorax) eliciting retinue behavior in the surrounding A. m. scutellata host bees. Credit: Picture taken by Mike Allsopp.

Specifically, a single mutational substitution in exon 7 of Thelytoky causes a change from the polar amino acid threonine to the non-polar amino acid isoleucine in the protein sequence, leading to substantial structural modifications and likely functional consequences. In addition, they confirmed their genetic data by showing that RNA levels of Thelytoky were elevated only in the selfish bees. They also performed DNA sequencing of another honey bee population and found the same exact mutation amongst the socially parasitic lineage of the Cape honey bee, but not among workers of other honey bee subspecies.

From the study of the genetics, they determined that Cape bee selfishness exhibits a dominant inheritance pattern, which means that only one mutation that needs to be passed down to perform the selfish genetic switch.

But the genetics are a bit more complicated because it turns out that the selfish gene still needs its altruistic partner (known as the social, or arrhenotoky form of the gene).

"The genetic control of the thelytoky syndrome is regulated by a more complex genetic mechanism than previously assumed," said Aumer. "The thelytoky allele (Th) is not recessive, i.e., needing two copies of the mutated gene, but rather a dominant allele. This dominant mutation expresses the phenotype (thelytoky) when one copy of the gene is the mutated variant, and the other copy is the one variant typical for the Cape honey bee."

"But at the same time, it appears that having two copies of the mutated variant is detrimental, perhaps even lethal, while having two copies of the "regular" Cape bee variant of this genes makes them reproduce normally. Any other combination of the mutated variant with another subspecies' variant would be non-matching alleles and would result in either non-functional or fertile normally reproducing (arrhenotokous) phenotypes. Therefore, the Cape bee typical Th variant seems to complement the mutated Th variant in a way that the offspring is fertile and expresses the unique set of phenotypes referred to as thelytoky syndrome."

Because only one gene can get passed on during reproduction, the genetics not only explain why breeders, for the past 150 years, have been mostly unsuccessful with producing thelytokous workers from mating the Cape bees with others, but also why the thelytoky behavior hasn't spread into other bee populations.

Genetically, it turns out you still need a little altruism to be truly selfish. When only one is passed on from interbreeding, the effect is lost without its partner gene.

"On a broader level, the identified genetic architecture of thelytoky in honey bees may serve as a model for other eusocial species with similar thelytokous reproduction, in particular for novel ant model systems, such as Platythyrea punctata and the clonal raider ant Ooceraea biroi," wrote the authors in the Molecular Biology and Evolution publication.

And just like the striking case of malaria and hemoglobin genes in humans, the study shows how just a single change in the DNA can have such a dramatic effect on a species, or in this case, changing the behavior of a bee from a helper to a mercenary.

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Journal reference: Molecular Biology and Evolution  
Provided by: Oxford University Press

Here’s How Clumps Of Honeybees May Survive Blowing In The Wind

Science News    By Emily Conover     September 17, 2018

In lab tests, the insects adjust their positions to flatten out the cluster and keep it stable.

BEE BALL Certain types of bees tend to arrange into clusters on tree branches. Bees move around within a clump to maintain its stability, a new study finds.

A stiff breeze is no match for a clump of honeybees, and now scientists are beginning to understand why.

When scouting out a new home, the bees tend to cluster together on tree branches or other surfaces, forming large, hanging clumps which help keep the insects safe from the elements. To keep the clump together, individual honeybees change their positions, fine-tuning the cluster’s shape based on external forces, a new study finds. That could help bees deal with such disturbances as wind shaking the branches.

A team of scientists built a movable platform with a caged queen in the center, around which honeybees clustered in a hanging bunch. When the researchers shook the platform back and forth, bees moved upward, flattening out the clump and lessening its swaying, the team reports September 17 in Nature Physics.

The insects, the scientists hypothesized, might be moving based on the strain — how much each bee is pulled apart from its neighbors as the cluster swings. So the researchers made a computer simulation of a bee cluster to determine how the bees decided where to move.

When the simulated bees were programmed to move to areas of higher strain, the simulation reproduced the observed flattening of the cluster, the researchers found. As a bee moves to a higher-strain region, the insect must bear more of the burden. So by taking one for the team, the bees ensure the clump stays intact.

O. Peleg et al. Collective mechanical adaptation of honeybee swarms. Nature Physics. Published online September 17, 2018. doi:10.1038/s41567-018-0262-1.

Epigenetic Patterns Determine If Honeybee Larvae Become Queens Or Workers

Science Daily / Queen Mary University of London    August 22, 2018

Scientists at Queen Mary University of London and Australian National University have unravelled how changes in nutrition in the early development of honeybees can result in vastly different adult characteristics.

Queen and worker honeybees are almost genetically identical but are fed a different diet as larvae. The researchers have found that specific protein patterns on their genome play an important role in determining which one they develop into.

These proteins, known as histones, act as switches that control how the larvae develop and the diet determines which switches are activated. They found that the queen develops faster and the worker developmental pathway is actively switched on from a default queen developmental programme.

This change is caused by epigenetics -- a dynamic set of instructions that exist 'on top' of the genetic information, that encode and direct the programme of events that leads to differential gene expression and worker or queen developmental outcome.

The study, published in Genome Research, describes the first genome wide map of histone patterns in the honeybee and the first between any organism of the same sex that differs in reproductive division of labour.

Bees are also very important pollinators -- so it is crucial to understand their molecular biology, how they develop and the mechanisms that regulate this.

Lead author Dr Paul Hurd, from Queen Mary University of London, said: "The ability of an individual larva to become a worker or a queen is due to the way genes are switched on or off in response to the specific diet; this determines such differing outcomes from the same genome."

"We show that queens and workers have specific histone patterns even though their DNAs are the same. These proteins control both structural and functional aspects of the organism's genetic material and have the capacity to determine which part of the genome, and when, has to be activated to respond to both internal and external stimuli."

The histones have small chemical tags, or epigenetic modifications, that allow them to act differently to those that do not, usually by allowing access to the DNA and genes. This enables identical DNA to behave in different ways because it is wrapped around histones with different chemical (epigenetic) tags.

Co-author Professor Ryszard Maleszka, from Australian National University, added: "The extent of histone modifications uncovered by this study was remarkable and exceeded our expectations. We were able to identify where the important differences are in the genomes of workers and queen."

Epigenetic information can be altered by environmental factors, including diet. In the case of the honeybee, the queen larvae are fed a diet of royal jelly, a potent substance capable of changing developmental instructions.

Dr Hurd said: "Think of the genome as the instruction book of everything that is possible but the epigenetics is the way in which those instructions are read. Epigenetics is about interpretation and of course there are many different ways to interpret these instructions and when and in response to what."

The authors found that some of the most important epigenetic differences are in regions of the honeybee genome that are not part of genes. For the first time, these caste-specific regulatory DNA regions that are so important in making a queen or a worker have been identified.

Professor Maleszka said: "Our findings are important because a high level of similarity of epigenetic tool kits between honeybees and mammals makes this familiar insect an invaluable system to investigate the sophistications of epigenetic regulation that cannot be addressed in humans or other mammals."

Story Source:

Materials provided by Queen Mary University of London. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Marek Wojciechowski, Robert Lowe, Joanna Maleszka, Danyal Conn, Ryszard Maleszka, Paul J. Hurd. Phenotypically distinct female castes in honey bees are defined by alternative chromatin states during larval development. Genome Research, 2018; DOI: 10.1101/gr.236497.118

Honeybee Hive-Mates Influenced To Fan Wings To Keep Hive Cool  University of Colorado at Boulder  By Kenna Bruner    August 3, 2018

Credit: University of Colorado at Boulder

Rachael Kaspar used to be scared of bees. That was before she studied their behavior as an undergraduate at CU Boulder. Since learning their secret lives and social behaviors, she has developed an appreciation for the complex, hard-working bees.

Honeybees fan their wings to cool down their hives when temperatures rise, but a new study shows that an individual honeybee's fanning behavior influences individual and group fanning behavior in hive-mates.

Kaspar graduated in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in ecology and evolutionary biology, and in environmental studies with a minor in atmospheric and oceanic sciences. While a sophomore, she joined the lab of ecology and evolutionary biology professor Michael Breed to work with then-doctoral student Chelsea Cook and became interested in organized behavior and responses to environmental stress.

She is the lead author of a scientific article in Animal Behaviour based on her undergraduate honors thesis about honeybee behavior, which shows experienced fanner honey bees influence younger, inexperienced bees to fan their colony to cool it down. Her study tested the hypothesis that an individual bee can influence group members to perform thermoregulatory fanning behavior in the western honey bee, Apis mellifera L.

Building upon this behavior is Kaspar's finding that shows young nurse bees are influenced by seeing older, more experienced worker bees fanning their wings—also known as fanners. The younger nurse bees then join in to help regulate the hive's temperature. The fanners influenced the nurses' thermal response threshold and probability to fan, but most notably, fanners had the greatest influence when they were the initiators—the first to fan in the group.

"The older workers are definitely influencing the younger nurse bees," Kaspar said. "I was interested in how different age groups socially interacted, what are the variances between age groups and how are they interacting to have a proper homeostatic response to environmental stressors."

In the paper, she states that the survival of an animal society depends on how individual interactions influence group coordination. Interactions within a group determine coordinated responses to environmental changes. This behavior is exemplified by honeybee worker responses to increasing ambient temperatures by fanning their wings to circulate air through the hive. Their previous research demonstrated that groups of workers are more likely to fan than isolated workers, which suggests a coordinated group response.

Hive temperatures that exceed 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit put larvae at risk of death or developing abnormalities. This is just one reason why it is crucial that individual bees have a coordinated group fanning response to properly regulate the temperature of the hive.

Credit: University of Colorado at BoulderHoneybees divide their tasks among female age groups. Nurses, who are between zero and 10 days old, take care of the larvae and the brood. Middle-aged worker bees, who are 10 to 20 days old, can be found on the front porch, as well as on the inside of the hive guarding and cleaning the hive, and fanning to cool the hive. The more outwardly visible bees are the foragers, which are 20–30 days old and fly from flower to flower collecting nectar and pollen.

Researchers marked bees with water-soluble paint to identify them in the hive. When researchers warmed groups of bees, they would observe the bees' fanning behavior and record the temperature at which individuals and groups began to fan.

"When I was down there with my face right in front of the hive, I could feel the air moving from their wings fanning," she said.

This social and influential behavior, Kaspar says, can be seen in a variety of organisms throughout the biological index, from elephants to chimpanzees to fish. And perhaps not surprisingly, in humans as well.

"You would think that bees as insects wouldn't have the capability to learn, remember or have these social influences. But, in fact, they do. Bees are a great model to use for studying other societies, like us."

Kaspar got the idea of an influencer or an initiator of hive behavior when she observed human behavior unfolding at a cross walk on campus. A group of people were waiting for the light to change so they could cross. Too impatient to wait, one person strode across the street. A second or two later, the rest of the pedestrians crossed too, influenced by the behavior of the first person to cross against the light.

"When I saw that I was shocked," she said. "This is exactly what I was studying in honeybees and there I was seeing it in people on campus."

Kaspar is a professional research assistant in the Department of Anesthesiology at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. She is working in Eric Clambey's laboratory, where they are identifying unique cell phenotypes and interactions in human lungs and the gastrointestinal tract to better understand the effect of micro-environments on viruses and inflammation. Her goal is to start graduate school in 2020 and continue her studies into how organisms come together to improve their chances of survival.

"I love bees, though," she said. "I would very much like to continue studying honeybees in some way."

Explore further: Honeybees more likely to regulate hive's 'thermostat' during rapid temperature increases

More information: Rachael E. Kaspar et al. Experienced individuals influence the thermoregulatory fanning behaviour in honey bee colonies, Animal Behaviour (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2018.06.004

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      By Dan Wyns     June 12, 2018


Bees have incredible navigation abilities that allow them to fly miles away from the colony to forage and return home with enough precision to locate the entrance to their colony, even when there are dozens of nearly identical hives within a small apiary site. The current understanding of navigation is that a combination of position relative to the sun and landmarks across the landscape get them close and then a combination of visual cues and pheromones to precisely locate the colony entrance. When a returning forager ends up returning to the wrong colony, she is typically not attacked as a robbing bee but accepted into the colony due to the pollen or nectar she carries. This process, known as drift, can lead to significant variations in colony strength over time and increase the potential for the spread of diseases and parasites within an apiary. Drift is generally not viewed as a huge problem, but there are some steps beekeepers can take to mitigate the amount of drift happening in their apiaries.

When colonies are aggregated in large numbers and placed in rows of pallets, as is common in a commercial setting, there is potential for excessive drift. Many beekeepers elect to paint all of their woodware white, and this decision may be based on tradition, aesthetic, or other considerations. Others use a variety of colors, which creates a more vibrant apiary and may also help returning forages with orientation. While bees do not see the same spectrum of colors as humans, they are able to distinguish between different shades, assisting them in orientation. In general dark colors should be avoided, particularly in excessively warm and sunny locations, so colonies will not become excessively hot. However, a mix of pastel colors and tones can provide some variation to help bees distinguish individual colonies without adding the potential for thermal stress.

In addition to variations in color, placement relative to other colonies and objects in the landscape can offer navigational aids that limit drift. Many beekeepers have observed that when a number of colonies are placed in a long line the colonies at the downwind end of the line accumulate more bees and yield greater honey harvests while those at the upwind end of the line are often short on bees and lighter in honey stores. By placing an array of hives in circles or arcs, with entrances pointed in different directions, the downwind drift effect can be lessened.  Prominent landscape features can also be helpful in providing orientation assistance. In addition to potentially providing a windbreak, a structure, tree line, or hedgerow close to hives can reduce drift. Orientation landmarks can be particularly important when setting up yards for mating nucs. It is essential that queens return to the correct nuc after orientation and mating flights so extra consideration should be given to visual cues in order to minimize drift in mating yards.

Drift is not something that most beekeepers give a lot of thought and it is certainly not among the most critical factors impacting colony health. Nevertheless, there is a growing understanding of the impacts of horizontal transmission of varroa mites between colonies and the ability to control varroa levels within and between apiaries. Phoretic varroa on drifting foragers are one way that ‘clean’ colonies may become reinfested. Given the ever-increasing number of challenges to bee management, reducing drift represents one area where beekeepers can potentially reduce colony stress for a minimal amount of effort.



Bee Research May Redefine Understanding Of Intelligence

The Japan Times     By Rowan Hooper    November 28, 2017

Honeybees have the ability to tell other bees in the hive where flowers bearing nectar and pollen are located. | ISTOCKThe brain of a honeybee is tiny — the size of a pin head — and contains less than a million neurons, compared to the 85 billion in our own brains. Yet with that sliver of brain, bees can do some extraordinary things. They can count and interpret abstract patterns. Most famously, bees have the ability to communicate the location of flowers to other bees in the hive.

When a foraging bee has found a source of nectar and pollen, it can let others in the hive know by performing a peculiar figure-of-eight dance called the waggle dance. The information contained in the waggle dance was first decoded by Austrian biologist Karl von Frisch, who picked up a Nobel Prize for his discovery in 1973. The dance in itself is not as complex as true language, but it’s remarkable in that it’s a symbolic form of communication.

Recently, Hiroyuki Ai at Fukuoka University has made another breakthrough in our understanding of this extraordinary behavior, by investigating the neurons that allow bees to process the dance information. Bees get information from hearing the dance, as well as seeing it. During the dance, bees vibrate their abdomens as they run in a figure-of-eight pattern. These vibrations send out pulses that are picked up by an organ on the antennae called Johnston’s organ. Johnston’s organs are equivalent to our ears.

Ai maintains hives of honeybees on the campus of Fukuoka University. (Incidentally, he says they have monthly meetings to discuss their research with students, after which they have tea parties and eat the honey produced by their bees.) Until recently, there has been very little understanding of how the bee brain deciphers the information encoded in the waggle dance. The reason, he says, is that bees only perform the dance in the hive, and it’s difficult to get them to do it in the laboratory.

It makes sense that the bees pay attention to sound. “In a dark hive, they can’t see the dance,” Ai says. “Honeybees hear the dance.” Honeybees are very sensitive to vibration, so mimicking the noise of a waggle dance can cause bees to journey to the same place indicated by a real dance.

Ai and his team recorded the vibrations made by the waggle dance, simulated the noises and applied the vibrations to the antennae of bees in the lab. This allowed them to track which neurons fired in response to the waggle dance, and follow their route in the insect brain.

The team discovered three different types of “interneurons.” These are connecting neurons that allow communication between different parts of the brain. Ai, along with team members that include Thomas Wachtler at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, and Hidetoshi Ikeno of the University of Hyogo in Himeji, traced the path of interneurons in the part of the brain concerned with processing sound. They found that the way the interneurons turn on and off is key to encoding information contained in the waggle dance about distance.

This mechanism of turning on and off — in neuroscience it is called “disinhibition” — is similar to one used in other insects. For example, it’s how crickets listen to the songs of other crickets as well as how moths assess the distance from the source of a smell their antennae have picked up. Ai and his team suggest there is a common neural basis in the way these different species do things.

Communication is the key to forming complex societies. It’s what allows the honeybee to perform such extraordinary behaviors. And, naturally, language is a key factor in human success. Intelligence is required for both these things, so does this mean honeybees, with a minuscule brain, are intelligent? It’s a tricky quality to define. One attempt, from the American Psychological Association Task Force on Intelligence, defines it as the ability “to adapt efficiently to the environment and to learn from experience.” Bees are able to do this.

There are six different kinds of dance, for example, and bees are able to learn and change their behavior accordingly. If bees encounter a dead bee at a flower, they change the pattern of dancing they perform back at the hive, suggesting they can perform a risk/benefit analysis.

Both bee and human language are a consequence of intelligence, and research such as Ai’s forces us to rethink what we mean by intelligence. “There might be a common brain mechanism between humans and honeybees,” he says.

What it certainly shows is that you don’t need a big brain to be smart. As with many things, Charles Darwin realized this, writing in 1871: “The brain of an ant is one of the most marvellous atoms of matter in the world, perhaps more so than the brain of man.”

Honey Bees Fill ‘Saddlebags’ With Pollen. Here’s How They Keep Them Gripped Tight     By Katherine Kornei     November 27, 2017

Heidi and Hans-Juergen Koch/Minden PicturesBees don’t just transport pollen between plants, they also bring balls of it back to the hive for food. These “pollen pellets,” which also include nectar and can account for 30% of a bee’s weight, hang off their hind legs like overstuffed saddlebags (pictured). Now, researchers have investigated just how securely bees carry their precious cargo. The team caught roughly 20 of the insects returning to their hives and examined their legs and pollen pellets using both high-resolution imaging and a technique similar to an x-ray. Long hairs on the bees’ legs helped hold the pollen pellets in place as the animals flew, the team reported last week at the 70th Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics in Denver. The researchers then tugged on some of the pollen pellets using elastic string. They found that the pellets, though seemingly precarious, were firmly attached: The force necessary to dislodge a pellet was about 20 times more than the force a bee typically experiences while flying. These findings can help scientists design artificial pollinators in the future, the team suggests.

Mаn Investigаtes If Honeybees Reаlly Hаve To Die When They Sting

Animal Planet Life

Do honey bees reаlly hаve to die when they sting? This video from Аrvin Pierce аbout bees sets out to find out.

The beekeeper explаins thаt if bees sting other insects, they’ll likely survive, but if they sting аn аnimаl with “elаstic skin” (like people), yes, they аre likely to die аs their innаrds аre pulled out when they try to retrieve their stingers.


But there аre exceptions, аs Pierce shows in the video.

Pierce lets the bees sting him аnd, insteаd of swаtting them, he gives them time to get loose. Within 25-30 seconds severаl of the bees mаnаge to retrieve their stinger аnd fly off – surviving the experience!

He explаins thаt stinging is the lаst thing honey bees wаnt to do. They do it аs defense, not аggression. So if you wаnt to sаve а bee’s life “don’t slаp thаt bee, just give them time to get free,” sаys Pierce.

The beekeeper аdmits, thаt no one will probаbly wаnt to wаit the seconds needed for the bees to retrieve their stingers, but it’s а “nice to know”.

Pierce’s key tаke-аwаy is to help people understаnd thаt bees don’t leаve their hive looking for somebody to s t i n g. Their mаin goаl is to seek out food sources аnd bring them bаck to their hive.

But this is аn increаsing chаllenge for honey bees. So Pierce wаnts people to help them by providing а “secure, cleаn environment with heаlthy food sources”.

Thаt sounds like а good ideа for everyone, don’t you think?

(Cautionary note: Make sure if you're working with your bees in areas with Africanized Honey Bees to wear protective clothing.)

Honey Bees Inspire Crime-Fighting Algorithm

UPI / Science News     By Brooks Hayes    April 17, 2017

The research could help police target the bad actors most important to a crime network's functionality and efficiency.

By studying the social network within a bee colony, scientists hope to bolster the crime-fighting abilities of law enforcement officials. Photo by University of GranadaScientists at the University of Granada, in Spain, have created a new algorithm to help law enforcement dismantle problematic social networks, including criminal and terror networks. The researchers inspiration: honey bees.

The bio-inspired algorithm can be used to analyze the connections and relationships among a social network and identify the most dangerous nodes or individuals. Analysis provided by the algorithm could help law enforcement dismantle crime networks or terror cells more effectively and efficiently.

Bee colonies feature highly efficient social structures. They are composed of an organized workforce with well-defined tasks, and their organization and efficiency is reliant upon effective communication.

"Bees form fairly well organized societies, in which each member has a specific role," Manuel Lozano Márquez, a computer scientist at Granada, said in a news release. "There are three main types: scout bees, which are looking for food sources; worker bees, who collect food; and supervisor bees, who wait in the colony."

Scientists at Granada decided to study bee colony organization and behavior -- and the flow of information among different types of bees -- as a model for understanding harmful social networks.

Their analysis showed the traditional method for combating pernicious social networks can be improved upon. Traditionally, law enforcement officials attack crime networks by targeting the most active or dangerous individuals. But removing most important players doesn't ensure the cell or network falls apart.

"In order to find the most effective way of dismantling a network, it is necessary to develop and put into action an optimization process that analyzes a multitude of situations and selects the best option in the shortest time possible," said Humberto Trujillo Mendoza, a behavioral scientist at Granada. "It's similar to what a chess program does when identifying, predicting and checking the possible steps or paths that may occur in a game of chess from a given moment and movement."

The latest research -- detailed in the Journal Information Sciences -- can help officials identify not just the most active or dangerous links within a harmful network, but the nodes or actors most important to the network's functionality and efficiency.

The Threat of Robbing

Perfect Bee Facebook Page    April 11, 2017

The following is from the Perfect Bee Facebook Page: "At this time of year beekeepers install new hives and overwintered colonies start exploring again, after the winter cluster has worked its magic. In the next few weeks there will be a focused effort by our bees to build up their numbers.

But for the smaller or weaker colony there is another challenge. A good example is the installation of a package of bees. A common and effective way for new beekeepers to establish their first hives, a package results in around 10,000 starting out in a new home.

But 10,000 still represents a small colony. While the numbers expand, there's always the chance of robbing. A colony may not have the capability to successfully defend the hive.

Our article "The Threat of Robbing" looks at why and how robbing occurs and what steps you, as a beekeeper, can take to help your bees protect their space."

Read text and view videos at Perfet Bee's Blog post by Mark Williams: "The Threat of Robbing."

Honey Bees Have Keen Eyesight

Morning AgClips    By Dr. Elisa Rigosi, Lund University/University of Adelaide    April 9, 2017

A western honey bee, also known as a European honey bee (Apis mellifera). Researchers at Lund University, Sweden, and the University of Adelaide, Australia, have shown that honey bees have much sharper eyesight than previously known. (Dr Elisa Rigosi, Lund University) - See more at: (Dr. Elisa Rigosi, Lund University)WASHINGTON — Research conducted at the University of Adelaide has discovered that bees have much better vision than was previously known, offering new insights into the lives of honey bees, and new opportunities for translating this knowledge into fields such as robot vision.

The findings come from “eye tests” given to western honey bees (also known as European honey bees, Apis mellifera) by postdoctoral researcher Dr Elisa Rigosi (Department of Biology, Lund University, Sweden) in the Adelaide Medical School, under the supervision of Dr Steven Wiederman (Adelaide Medical School, University of Adelaide) and Professor David O’Carroll (Department of Biology, Lund University, Sweden).

The results of their work are published today in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

Bee vision has been studied ever since the pioneering research of Dr Karl von Frisch in 1914, which reported bees’ ability to see colours through a clever set of training experiments.

“Today, honey bees are still a fascinating model among scientists, in particular neuroscientists,” Dr Rigosi says.

“Among other things, honey bees help to answer questions such as: how can a tiny brain of less than a million neurons achieve complex processes, and what are its utmost limits? In the last few decades it has been shown that bees can see and categorise objects and learn concepts through vision, such as the concept of ‘symmetric’ and ‘above and below’.

“But one basic question that has only been partially addressed is: what actually is the visual acuity of the honey bee eye? Just how good is a bee’s eyesight?”

Dr Wiederman says: “Previous researchers have measured the visual acuity of bees, but most of these experiments have been conducted in the dark. Bright daylight and dark laboratories are two completely different environments, resulting in anatomical and physiological changes in the resolution of the eye.

“Photoreceptors in the visual system detect variations in light intensity. There are eight photoreceptors beyond each hexagonal facet of a bee’s compound eye, and their eyes are made out of thousands of facets! Naturally, we expected some differences in the quality of bees’ eyesight from being tested in brightly lit conditions compared with dim light,” he says.

Dr Rigosi, Dr Wiederman and Professor O’Carroll set out to answer two specific questions: first, what is the smallest well-defined object that a bee can see? (ie, its object resolution); and second, how far away can a bee see an object, even if it can’t see that object clearly? (ie, maximum detectability limit).

To do so, the researchers took electrophysiological recordings of the neural responses occurring in single photoreceptors in a bee’s eyes. The photoreceptors are detectors of light in the retina, and each time an object passes into the field of vision, it registers a neural response.

Dr Rigosi says: “We found that in the frontal part of the eye, where the resolution is maximised, honey bees can clearly see objects that are as small as 1.9° – that’s approximately the width of your thumb when you stretch your arm out in front of you.

“This is 30% better eyesight than has been previously recorded,” she says.

“In terms of the smallest object a bee can detect, but not clearly, this works out to be about 0.6° – that’s one third of your thumb width at arm’s length. This is about one third of what bees can clearly see and five times smaller than what has so far been detected in behavioural experiments.

“These new results suggest that bees have the chance to see a potential predator, and thus escape, far earlier than what we thought previously, or perceive landmarks in the environment better than we expected, which is useful for navigation and thus for survival,” Dr Rigosi says.

Dr Wiederman says this research offers new and useful information about insect vision more broadly as well as for honey bees.

“We’ve shown that the honey bee has higher visual acuity than previously reported. They can resolve finer details than we originally thought, which has important implications in interpreting their responses to a range of cognitive experiments scientists have been conducting with bees for years.

“Importantly, these findings could also be useful in our work on designing bio-inspired robotics and robot vision, and for basic research on bee biology,” he says.

This research has been supported with funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Swedish Research Council, and the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education.

University of Adelaide

Bees Learn While They Sleep, And That Means They Might Dream

 A new study suggests that bees can store information in long-term memory 
while they sleep, just like humans do when we dream

For all our obvious differences, humans and honeybees share some common threads within the fabric of life.

We are both social species. While humans speak and write to communicate, honeybees dance to one another; waggling their bodies for specific durations at angles that indicate where the best pockets of nectar or pollen are to be found outside the hustle and bustle of the nest.

But only forager bees – the eldest of several types of honeybee castes – do this. Just like in human populations, the honeybee colony is divided into different sectors of work. There are cleaners, nurses, security guards, not to mention collection bees whose sole job is to cache nectar in comb. 

Different honeybees do different jobs in the colony (Credit:Pete Oxford/ 

Different honeybees do different jobs in the colony (Credit:Pete Oxford/


As they age, honeybees are promoted through a diverse career, from waste disposal to the more familiar forager.

But it is not all work, work, work. Busy bees have to sleep, too.

Similar to our circadian rhythm, honeybees sleep between five and eight hours a day. And, in the case of forager bees, this occurs in day-night cycles, with more rest at night when darkness prevents their excursions for pollen and nectar.

But, given that a hive's primary purpose is productivity and yield, why should a large portion of the population seemingly waste up to a third of the day resting? What are the benefits of sleep?

Over the last few years, a handful of scientists have started to uncover why honeybees need to rest; their findings adding to the list of threads that we share. 

What goes on inside that head? (Credit: Kim Taylor/ 

What goes on inside that head? (Credit: Kim Taylor/ 

Ever since Aristotle studied the monarchy of the honeybee colony in the 3rd Century BC, the species Apis mellifera has been studied by generations of dedicated scientists, each able to discover something entirely new.

"The bee's life is like a magic well: the more you draw from it, the more it fills with water," wrote Karl von Frisch, the German Nobel laureate who decoded their waggle dances, in 1950.

It was in 1983 that a researcher called Walter Kaiser made a new discovery: that honeybees slept. As he watched through his observation hive, Kaiser noted how a bee's legs would first start to flex, bringing its head to the floor. Its antennae would stop moving. In some cases, a bee would fall over sideways, as if intoxicated by tiredness. Many bees held each other's legs as they slept.

Kaiser's study was the first record of sleep in an invertebrate. But it was far from the last. The scuttle of cockroaches, the flutter of fruit flies, and the rhythmic undulations of jellyfishes all have temporary periods of quiescence. 

Even jellyfish seem to sleep (Credit: Aflo/ 

Even jellyfish seem to sleep (Credit: Aflo/  

"The evidence appears to align with this idea that sleep is shared across all animals," says Barrett Klein, a sleep biologist from the University of Wisconsin Wisconsin–La Crosse. "There's no universally-accepted exception."

Being so prevalent, sleep seems to be a very important part of complex life. To understand why honeybees sleep, a long line of scientists has been keeping forager bees up at night. How do they function sans sleep? Not well, it seems.

For one, they cannot communicate properly. Instead of performing their waggle dances with incredible accuracy, sleepy bees become sloppy. Their interpretive dances fail to translate the direction of a profitable food source.

And since their nest mates use this information as a guide for their foraging trips, they are likely to be sent slightly astray, wasting time and energy on the wing. The whole colony suffers. 

It's not all work, work, work (Credit: MD Kern Palo Alto JR Museum/ 

It's not all work, work, work (Credit: MD Kern Palo Alto JR Museum/ 

Further, sleep-deprived honeybees find it difficult to return to the hive when visiting fresh flower patches, spending more time reorienting themselves with the sky and surrounding landmarks as their compass. Many even get lost and never return, so their rest becomes much more permanent.

Without a good night's sleep, then, honeybees start to forget the activities that should be second nature to them. And in a study released in 2015, Randolf Menzel and his colleagues from the Free University of Berlin provided a possible explanation as to why this might be.

As is well-documented in humans, deep sleep (known as slow-wave sleep) consolidates memories, transferring them from short-term to long-term memory. Menzel and his team wanted to know whether the same was true for the humble honeybee.

First, they had to teach them something new; only then could they test the quality of their short-term to long-term memory transfer. They chose a tried-and-tested protocol, developed by Menzel himself in 1983.

When feeding, honeybees exhibit a stereotyped behaviour: sticking out their long tubular mouthparts, or proboscis, to slurp up dinner. But, by presenting honeybees with a specific odour and burst of heat as they feed, this proboscis extension response (PER) can be elicited even when there is no food available.


Bees have busy lives (Credit: Kim Taylor/ 

Bees have busy lives (Credit: Kim Taylor/ 

It is the honeybee equivalent of the famous Pavlov's dog response. Rather than a bell, the bees associate the odour-heat combo with food and try to feed.

Only it is much easier to condition bees than dogs. Honeybees are quick learners, associating the odour and heat with food after one to three trials. After that, PER happened without the need for a reward.

"If you work with them, you realise very quickly that they are very smart," says Hanna Zwaka, one of the study's authors. "They are also very sweet to watch while they are learning."

Once conditioned, the bees were allowed a full night's sleep within their own personalised plastic tube. As they slept in solitude, the team exposed some of the honeybees to the conditioned odour-heat combo during different sleep stages, ranging from light sleep to deep sleep, allowing any activity in their brains to be further stimulated.

As a control, a separate group of bees were exposed to a neutral odour – paraffin oil – that would not reactivate any conditioned responses.

When the honeybees woke the next day, the memory tests could begin. Did the bees with the night-time reminders hold on to their conditioned response – sticking out their proboscis – for longer than those without? 

When honeybees wake, do they remember? (Credit: Phil Savoie/ 

When honeybees wake, do they remember? (Credit: Phil Savoie/ 

Yes, but only when the odour and heat were presented in the deep-sleep stage, just like we would expect for a sleep-reinforced memory in humans. Presenting the odour and heat during other, lighter stages of sleep offered no advantage in memory retention.

Although their bodies might be inactive during deep-sleep, honeybee brains do not seem to be. The previous day's activities are reactivated, stabilising fragile memories and converting them into a more permanent form that can be accessed the next day – or perhaps even further in the future.

In sleeping rats, memory consolidation has been shown to work like replaying a tape: any learned responses, such as completing a complex maze, are repeated over and over again in the same sequence that they occurred; right turn by wrong turn, neuron by neuron in the brain. 

Sleeping rats are still learning (Credit BonkersAboutScience/Alamy) (Credit: Credit BonkersAboutScience/Alamy) 

Sleeping rats are still learning (Credit BonkersAboutScience/Alamy) 

Menzel and colleagues' study adds some tantalising evidence that the same might be occurring in bees.

"It's a beautifully conducted study with regard to memory," says Klein. But he has some caveats: "Whether or not the results relate to deep sleep is up for discussion." No study has yet clearly demonstrated stages or depth of sleep in insects, he says; only promising hints and suggestions.

Both labs hope to replicate these results with more streamlined, and telling, methods.

With the possibility of memory reactivation in the bees' sleepy heads, Menzel's work begs the question of whether honeybees dream.  

Do bees dream of these? (Credit: Sunny_mjx/CC by 2.0) 

Do bees dream of these? (Credit: Sunny_mjx/CC by 2.0)  

In humans, dreams were thought to be a phenomenon of REM sleep, thus limiting the possibility of dreaming to mammals, birds, and (more recently) reptiles; animal groups that exhibit similar eye-fluttering stages of sleep. 

But this is not the case. Over recent decades, studies have revealed that dreaming can also occur during slow-wave sleep, the analogue of honeybees' deep-sleep.

When woken from slow-wave sleep, people often recall basic non-narrative dreams such as a house, faces, or a pet. "[Therefore], if bees dream at all, it would be very basic dreaming," says Zwaka. "A special odour, for example. Or a colour of flowers, like yellow or blue."

The magic well of bee biology is still nowhere near empty.

(NOTE: Even though this article by Alex Riley is dated June 25, 2016, it came through our LACBA Facebook feed today from the Western Apiculture Society and the American Beekeeping Federation - it is too amazing, informative, and has such beautiful images of bees, I simply had to share it with all of you.)

Bees Use a Variety of Senses and Memory of Previous Experiences to Forage for Pollen, Research Suggests

CATCH THE BUZZ-Bee Culture    By Elizabeth Nicholls    November 28, 2016

A honey bee foraging for pollen. Credit: Dr. Elizabeth NichollsBees use a variety of senses and memory of previous experiences when deciding where to forage for pollen, research by the University of Exeter suggests.

The researchers believe pollen-collecting bees do not base their foraging decisions on taste alone, but instead make an “overall sensory assessment” of their experience at a particular flower.

Bees typically do not eat pollen when they collect it from flowers, but carry it back to the nest via special “sacs” on their legs or hairs on their body.

This makes it difficult to understand how bees judge whether the pollen a flower produces is nutritious enough for their young.

Indeed, researchers have been puzzled for a long time as to what exactly bees look for when they collect pollen from flowers.

Co-author Dr Natalie Hempel de Ibarra, expert in insect neuroethology at Exeter’s Center for Research in Animal Behavior, said: “It seems that bees don’t just respond to a single nutritional compound in pollen, such as crude protein content, but to a range of sensory cues in pollen and flowers.

“They also form memories for locations and types of flowers that they have visited which affect their foraging decisions.

“We need more research that considers the behavior and neurobiology of bees to understand when and why they prefer some plants and some pollen over others.

“A breakthrough in this area could advance our efforts in both biodiversity conservation and crop production.”

The review, published in the journal Functional Ecology, examines existing evidence on how bees use their senses, previous experience and — in the case of social bees — feedback from the nest to decide where to gather pollen.

First author Dr Elizabeth Nicholls, a former PhD student at the University of Exeter and now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Sussex, said: “Our review is unique in considering pollen foraging from an individual bee’s perspective, asking which senses bees use to decide which flowers are worth visiting.

“In our review we suggest that although bees may taste pollen during collection and use this nutritional information to guide their choices, they are also likely to pay attention to the strong odor and visual appearance of both pollen and the flower itself.

“For bees that live together in colonies, information passed on from the other bees in the nest, either via chemical cues or even special ‘dances’, may also be important in influencing their pollen-collecting behavior.”

The University of Exeter is a major hub for bee and pollination research and currently advertising several postgraduate research projects.

Primitive Signs of Emotions Spotted in Sugar-Buzzed Bumblebees

science Daily     By Emily Underwood     September 30, 2016

After a treat, insects appeared to have rosier outlooks

BUZZED Bumblebees seem to get a mood boost from sweets, a new study shows.

To human observers, bumblebees sipping nectar from flowers appear cheerful. It turns out that the insects may actually enjoy their work. A new study suggests that bees experience a “happy” buzz after receiving a sugary snack, although it’s probably not the same joy that humans experience chomping on a candy bar.

Scientists can’t ask bees or other animals how they feel. Instead, researchers must look for signs of positive or negative emotions in an animal’s decision making or behavior, says Clint Perry, a neuroethologist at Queen Mary University of London. In one such study, for example, scientists shook bees vigorously in a machine for 60 seconds — hard enough to annoy, but not hard enough to cause injury — and found that stressed bees made more pessimistic decisions while foraging for food.

The new study, published in the Sept. 30 Science, is the first to look for signs of positive bias in bee decision making, Perry says. His team trained 35 bees to navigate a small arena connected to a plastic tunnel. When the tunnel was marked with a blue flower, the bees learned that a tasty vial of sugar water awaited them at its end. When a green flower was present, there was no reward. Once the bees learned the difference, the scientists threw the bees a curveball: Rather than being blue or green, the flower had a confusing blue-green hue.

Faced with the ambiguous blossom, the bees appeared to dither, meandering around for roughly 100 seconds before deciding whether to enter the tunnel. Some didn’t enter at all. But when the scientists gave half the bees a treat — a drop of concentrated sugar water — that group spent just 50 seconds circling the entrance before deciding to check it out. Overall, the two groups flew roughly the same distances at the same speeds, suggesting that the group that had gotten a treat first had not simply experienced a boost in energy from the sugar, but were in a more positive, optimistic state, Perry says.

In a separate experiment, Perry and colleagues simulated a spider attack on the bees by engineering a tiny arm that darted out and immobilized them with a sponge. Sugar-free bees took about 50 seconds longer than treated bees to resume foraging after the harrowing encounter.

The researchers then applied a solution to the bees’ thoraxes that blocked the action of dopamine, one of several chemicals that transmit rewarding signals in the insect brain. With dopamine blocked, the effects of the sugar treat disappeared, further suggesting that a change in mood, and not just increased energy, was responsible for the bees’ behavior.

The results provide the first evidence for positive, emotion-like states in bees, says Ralph Adolphs, a neuroscientist at Caltech. Yet he suspects that the metabolic effects of sugar did influence the bees’ behavior.

Geraldine Wright, a neuroethologist at Newcastle University in England, shares that concern. “The data reported in the paper doesn’t quite convince me that eating sucrose didn’t change how they behaved, even though they say it didn’t affect flight time or speed of flight,” she says. “I would be very cautious in interpreting the responses of bees in this assay as a positive emotional state.”

Colony Development Part 1

BEE CULTURE   By Larry Connor    September 19, 2015

Importance of Knowing Developmental Rates

by Larry Connor

Before obtaining the first bee colony, the future sustainable apiculturist must master key aspects of bee biology. Beekeepers must know the basic biological developmental rates of the three kinds of bees. It is not something that should be dismissed or ignored. Using the animal husbandry example, a beekeeper should know the developmental time of bees just like a cattle or dog breeder must know the developmental time and growth milestones of a calf or pup. Here are some common examples that I have seen happen with many new and less-experienced beekeepers:

There is no open brood. I think I lost my queen!

Events within the beehive take a set period of time, yet many beekeepers are in a big hurry for these things to happen and, as a result, ignore biology. If a European colony replaces a queen, it takes time for the new queen to develop, reach mating age, mate and then start laying eggs. Here’s a breakdown:

Queen development from egg to emerging……..16 days
Days to reach mating age…………………..7 days (or longer)
Days to mate……………………………..2 days (or longer)
Days to develop eggs after mating…………..3 days
TOTAL…………………………………..28 days

That is four weeks from future queen egg to her first worker egg! Some untrained beekeepers often expect to see new brood in two or three weeks as if Mother Nature will speed development just for them. Convinced the queen is gone, these beekeepers often buy another queen and really confuse both themselves and the bees by trying to introduce a queen to a colony that already has a queen in development! That is both wasteful and expensive, and it is poor animal husbandry.

My queen must be dead because I cannot see any eggs!

Bee eggs are small, and many beekeepers will carefully inspect a frame of brood on a dark day or without a bright light (the sun over the shoulder is best) and declare that the frame does not have any eggs or young larvae. When I take the frame and look, the frame is often filled with eggs and newly hatched larvae. Yes, the young larvae will appear nearly transparent, especially on light colored beeswax or plastic foundation. I often suggest these untrained folks get a flashlight and a hand lens to make these important inspections. While this is not really biology of the bee, it is about the biology of the beekeeper who cannot see. Schedule an eye exam!

I’ve had a queen in the hive for five weeks now, there is open and sealed brood in the frames, but the colony is losing bees. What is happening?

Many things can cause a colony to go into population decline, but five weeks is a critical time for bee populations if you let bees raise their own queen. If you add the 21 days it takes for new worker bees to grow from egg to emergence, you still have to add the time it took the queen to start laying, or 28 days.
Adding 21 and 28 days gives you seven weeks. It takes a long time for a colony to raise a new queen from the accidental death of the queen or when a beekeeper makes a walk-away split. Seven weeks is a very long time for a colony to be without emerging bees in the hive, especially if it did not have much sealed brood when it was originally set up or made queenless. Within three to five weeks you will notice that the population of adult bees is declining unless you intentionally selected or added frames of sealed and emerging brood specifically to boost the bee population. 

Why beekeepers do not see eggs and larvae. This is a black plastic frame of worker comb. Much of the new wax has been pulled off to reveal the eggs and larvae. The larvae floating on a bed of royal jelly are the ‘easiest’ to see. This is why beekeepers need to carry a flashlight and a hand lens in the apiary.

I keep bees in South Florida and I have trouble keeping the colonies from mating with Africanized bees. What can I do?

Researchers have shown that African queens develop about two days faster than European bees, while the hybrid Africanized bees develop one day faster than European queens. What does that mean to the beekeeper?

Because African queens emerge faster than European queens, your first concerns for producing queens in area with African genes is when you emerge queen cells in an incubator or cell finisher. Just one African queen cell will produce a virgin emerging a day or two early and the complete destruction of all the remaining cells. if you put queen cells you found on frames of brood into a new nucleus increase hive, you will find that the African queens will be preferentially favored.

Second, if you mate your queens in an area where both African and European drones are present, several studies have shown that the European queen is more likely to mate with European drones – they fly longer hours and are produced in larger numbers.

The beekeeper trying to mate queens in an area with African colonies need to develop a European-drone saturation program or develop an off-season mating program. Otherwise, they need to find an area that is free of the African bee and mate their queens to European drones at that location.
Here is a summary of the developmental time of the workers, drones and queens:


Most of the bees in a colony are workers. All worker bees are female but in a different caste than the queen. They do all the work in the hive and gather all the food (pollen and nectar) and water that the bees need to survive. Workers also collect resin from trees to coat the inside of the hive – we call this propolis. They are unable to mate with drones, the male bees and they do not attempt to make mating flights. They have very small reproductive structures and are only able to produce eggs in the absence of a queen bee’s pheromone. These eggs are unfertilized and will only become male bees.

Worker honey bees control the queen’s behavior and replacement as well as the number and age distribution of the drones in a hive. Unfertilized eggs are haploid, having just one set of chromosomes. In Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, ants), these develop into males. Worker-produced drones may or may not be significant in terms of passing on genetic information, depending on which scientist you ask. Is there a genetic benefit of the haploid-diploid sex determination system if a worker bee produces sons that contribute to the genetic composition of future colonies?

Worker Development

In whole days, the intervals of metamorphic honey bee worker development follow a mathematical progression: three days as an egg, six days as a larva and 12 days in the sealed cell. Remember this simple relationship: 3+6+12 equals 21 days. Like many things in the hive, these are averages, and the timing is not in exact 24-hour measurements. Temperature and nutrition apparently impact development rates.

Queen cells in an incubator. Genetic differences in queen development time can produce an early emerging queen capable of destroying all these cells in a matter of hours.

The Egg

After first inserting her head into a cell to determine its size, the queen deposits one worker egg. As she positions her body into the cell, she releases some of the sperm stored in her spermatheca to accomplish fertilization. Queens may deposit both fertilized and unfertilized eggs, both workers and drones in worker cells, depending on the size of the cells. All worker eggs are fertilized, and a good queen will produce a pattern of 95% or more worker cells and a few missed cells where diploid drone eggs are deposited (they are removed soon after hatching). This is the time period for the union of the sperm and egg with the resulting embryo feeding on the yolk in the egg. There is rapid growth of the embryonic bee during this short three-day period. Eggs are held vertically, head down, by a small amount of cement at the bottom of the egg. At the end of three days, the outer egg shell, called the chorion, softens as it is reabsorbed into the body. The egg flattens onto the bottom of the cell and becomes the larva.

The Larva

Once the larva hatches, it immediately enters a period of continuous feeding and extremely rapid growth. In six days the bee grows from a tiny egg to a large larva. Nurse bees feed the larva many times per hour and provide a surplus of royal jelly at the bottom of the cell for the first 48-50 hours. This is the same food as fed to a queen bee larva throughout her larval period. After this initial feeding, the diet of the larva changes to a more complex diet that inhibits the formation of queen characteristics and promotes the formation of worker features. The special diet, called worker jelly, contains additional carbohydrates and lipid molecules that turn characteristics of worker development on and turn characteristics of the queen caste off. The worker larva floats on a bed of royal jelly.
When raising queen bees, this is the start of the perfect time to remove larvae and put her into a queen cup. The larva floats on the bed of royal jelly and molts at least four times before the final molt to become the pupa. The molting skin is extremely thin and hard to detect. During the sixth day, the bees place a beeswax ‘cap’ on the cell, even though the larva inside has not completed the larval developmental phase. At this time, the larval body changes into an intermediate prepupal form, which is intermediate between the larva and the pupal stage.

Bees pass through a four stage metamorphosis: egg, larva, pupae and adult. These two are the larva and pupae (with eyes darkening, the purple eye stage).

The Pupa

The larva spins a thin brown silk cocoon with special glands located in the head. Then, she molts the final time to become the pupa, with characteristics in the form of the bee but without wing development and integument pigmentation. The first parts of the bee’s external body to change color are the two compound eyes, first to pink and then to purple. Internally, the body is becoming more differentiated, with the formation of adult bee organs, like the honey stomach, developing out of the simpler larval digestive tract. Just how many changes take place during the ‘quiet’ or ‘resting’ phase of development is not known, but it is both large and essential to the adult bee’s many roles in the hive.

The Emerging Individual

Twenty-one days after the queen has deposited a tiny egg in the cell, the worker bee emerges, soft of body, unable to sting and covered with body hairs that have not yet dried in the atmosphere of the hive. Some refer to emergence as ‘hatching’, but we restrict the term hatching to refer to the egg-to-larval transformation, and the term ‘emergence’ for the worker bees cutting the the protective silk capping off her cell and walking, ready to begin her initial adult bee duties. These callow bees are responsive to the queen bee and quickly learn her odors which helps them in various parts of their adult life.

Differences in Developmental Rates

European races of honey bees follow a similar developmental pattern. When compared to African honey bees, the European queen and worker bee require additional time for development than the same castes in the African bees.

European vs. African Honey Bee Developmental Time from Egg to Adult

From Ellis, J., University of Florida and A. Ellis, Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Commercial Services. FDACS.DPI|EDIS. Accessed online 9 Aug. 2015.

Queen…16 days
Worker…21 days
Drone…24 days

Queen…14 days
Worker…19-20 days
Drone…24 days

Division of Labor

The Nurse Bee (In the Brood Nest)
These young bees quickly assume duties. No other bee provides instruction or hints at the job ahead. There is no mentoring or internship.

Cell cleaning – Newly emerged bees clean the cells of newly emerged cells; they remove remaining royal jelly, larval fecal materials and trim the capping of the cell. They also remove any lingering varroa mites still in development and destroy them. Once the cell is clean, I suspect they either remove any objectionable odor that might repel the queen, or they coat the empty cell with a special odor or pheromone that stimulates the queen bee to deposit a new egg into the cell, thus starting the brood production cycle all over again.

The developing brood is being fed by a nurse bee, a member of house bees that has not yet started to fly. R. Williamson photo.

Feeding brood – Newly emerged bees quickly feed themselves pollen and nectar and are fed by other worker bees as part of the ‘community stomach’ of the hive, which includes food and chemical components collected from the queen. The feeding process stimulates the digestive tract of the bee to process the food and convert the proteins and carbohydrates into royal jelly. When beekeepers feed colonies of bees, only a small percentage of the bees collect food from the feeder device, but all the bees in the colony benefit from the feeding due to food-sharing behavior.
Royal jelly production – Each worker bee undergoes a period of abundant royal jelly production when the season and food supply allows. Most of the year this feeding is almost immediately after food intake, but in the Fall and early Winter, the royal jelly production is delayed as the colony takes a break in brood rearing. The appearance of the first larvae in January (in the northern hemisphere) stimulates royal jelly secretion by select nurse bees.

Brood regulators – It appears that these young bees determine the amount of royal jelly to produce, and, thus, the amount of brood to rear, based on stimulation by the increasing day length as well as the food budget of the hive. Here the ‘community stomach’ controls population growth. Bees with proper nutrients in their body cells and their digestive tract produce more royal jelly only when there is an abundance of food stored in both the combs and coming into the hive from foragers that find early season food. Quality food reserves in the body cells of over-wintering nurse bees are essential for the care and feeding of a healthy brood cycle early in the season. If in the prior season the colony had poor food reserves, it was exposed to parasitic mites and diseases, or the colony was undergoing any other stress, then the nurse bees are less fit for brood rearing. It is not the temperature outside the hive that determines the amount of brood that a colony produces, but the bee population and nutritional status of the nurse bees. This relationship makes these young bees critical to starting the new season properly.

Queen attendants – Nurse bees also feed and care for the queen. They regulate the amount of food she receives and they themselves are subject to complex factors that include the food reserves, the nutritional composition of the ‘community stomach’ and the population of young bees inside the hive. Part of this network is the feedback the nurse bees provide to the queen by returning modified queen substance to the queen – she then responds to her own chemical signals (pheromones and hormones). The queen retinue of attendants constantly changes. Look for queens with large retinues, at least ten and perhaps over a dozen worker bees, while resting. Queens with small retinues often do poorly in the hive.

How Honey Bees Telescope Their Abdomen

Science Daily  Entomological Society of America  July 25, 2016

Honey bees are able to wiggle their abdomens in a variety of ways. Now new research shows how they are able to do it. Specialized membranes that connect a honey bee's abdominal segments are thicker on the top of the abdomen than on the bottom, report the scientists. This asymmetry allows the segments to lengthen on top and contract on the bottom, resulting in the unidirectional curling the researchers observed in the bees they filmed.

Honey bees are able to wiggle their abdomens in a variety of ways. Now new research published in the Journal of Insect Science shows how they are able to do it.

In 2015, a team of researchers from Tsinghua University in Beijing used a high-speed camera to observe how honey bees curl their abdomens while in flight and under restraint, confirming that bees can manipulate the shape of their abdomens, but only in one direction -- down, toward the bee's underside.

Now the same team has identified the mechanism behind that movement. Specialized membranes that connect a honey bee's abdominal segments are thicker on the top of the abdomen than on the bottom, allowing curling in just one direction.

Honey bee abdomens contain up to nine overlapping segments that are similar to little armored plates. A thin, flexible layer of cells called the folded intersegmental membrane (FIM) connects the tough outer plates, allowing each concentric segment not just to attach to its neighbor, but to slide into the next one. The authors call this movement "telescoping."

"Our research on the ultrastructure of the FIM is of great significance to reveal the bending and flexing motion mechanism of the honey bee abdomen," said Professor Shaoze Yan, one of the co-authors. "During nectar feeding, a honey bee's abdomen does high-frequency respiratory exercises and assists the suction behavior of mouthparts to improve the intake efficiency."

In this experiment, the researchers looked at forager honey bees using the same combination of high-speed videography and scanning electron microscopy as they did in 2015. The engineers recorded the abdominal wiggling of live honey bees and the internal shapes of dissected bee abdomens. The flying videos were shot at 500 frames per second, and the dissected abdomens were imaged in thin slices.

The microscopy showed that the membranes along the top of the honey bee's abdomen are two times thicker than those on the bottom. This asymmetry allows the segments to lengthen on top and contract on the bottom, resulting in the unidirectional curling the researchers observed in the bees they filmed.

It's a design that the paper's authors suggest is ripe for exploration by more engineers, perhaps for use in aircraft design or other applications.


Story Source: Entomological Society of America.  

  1. Jieliang Zhao, Shaoze Yan, Jianing Wu. Critical Structure for Telescopic Movement of Honeybee (Insecta: Apidae) Abdomen: Folded Intersegmental MembraneThe Journal of Insect Science, July 2016 DOI:10.1093/jisesa/iew049

Don't Take Honeybees For Granted!

Chatham Daily News    By Kim Cooper    June 29, 2016

You may feel that the work you do is sometimes taken for granted, but the work of the honeybee is really taken for granted.

We all know honeybees gather nectar to produce honey, but they perform another vital function — pollination of agricultural crops, home gardens, and orchards.

As bees travel in search of nectar, they transfer pollen from plant to plant. This fertilizes the plants and enables them to bear fruit.

Approximately 30% of the human diet is derived from insect-pollinated plants and the honeybee is responsible for 80% of this pollination. That is amazing!

Bees collect pollen and nectar. Pollen is a very high-protein food for bees. Plants give up some pollen in exchange for the bees' services in transferring pollen from other plants. Nectar is sucked up through the bee’s proboscis, mixed with enzymes in the stomach, and carried back to the hive, where it is stored in wax cells and evaporated into honey.

Some bees tend to stay with a specific kind of flower. For example, a honeybee that visits an apple blossom on its first flight, will usually visit only apple blossoms until there are no more, and then they would change to another flower.

Did you know the honeybee is the only insect in the world that makes food for humans?

So, if you happen to see honeybees during a summer outing, don’t be so hard on them. They are not out to get you. Their stinger is simply a defense mechanism. Their job is to get nectar and spread pollen. They are just doing their job.

We do have a number of local honey operations where you can purchase honey products. They are: Camden Meadows in Dresden (519-683-2033); Mike Dodok Apiaries in Chatham (519-351-8338); and Shiloh Homestead in Muirkirk (519-678-3747). You can also purchase locally grown honey at many of our farm markets and stores.

Why buy local honey? Some say local honey will cure your seasonal allergies, and others say it's just plain good. Whether you want to reduce your carbon footprint or support local agriculture, buying honey that's made by bees in your own area is a good thing to do.

But there's another reason you should purchase locally made honey — your own safety.

International honey launderers sometimes ship contaminated honey from China to the U.S., using intermediaries to falsify shipping labels and documents. The honey you purchase in your grocery chain might be labeled as a product of Australia, Thailand, or India, but there's a good chance it came from China. Barrels of honey travel from China to one of several other countries, where they are relabeled and reshipped to North America to be distributed by packing companies unaware of the scheme.

That’s even more reason to support our bee sector by buying local honey, which is delicious and good for you.

Think about this – The Lord is our refuge and strength, and a very present help in times of trouble.

Just some bee-eautiful food for thought.

Remember that here in Chatham-Kent ‘We Grow for the World’. Check out our community’s agricultural website at:

Flight Guidance Mechanisms of Honey Bee Swarms: How They Get Where They Are Going

Bee Culture Magazine    By Tom Seeley and Ann Chilcott    May 15, 2015

Kirk Visscher, left and Tom Seeley in 2006, watching a test swarm move into a bait hive on appledore Island, in the State of Maine. (photo by Peter EssickAnyone who observes a swarm of bees launch into flight and move off to its new home is presented with a mind-boggling puzzle: how does this school-bus sized cloud of some 10,000 insects manage to fly straight to its new dwelling place? Its flight path may extend for several miles and traverse fields and forest, hilltops and valleys, and even swamps and lakes. What is most amazing is the precision of the flight guidance, for the swarm is able to steer itself to one special point in the landscape, e.g. a specific knothole in one particular tree in a certain corner of a forest. And as the swarm closes in on its destination, it gradually reduces its flight speed so that it stops precisely at the “front door” of its new home. The mystery of how the thousands of bees in a swarm accomplish this magnificent feat of precisely oriented group flight has been carefully probed in recent years using sophisticated radar tracking, video recording, and image processing technologies. In this article, we will review the main findings of these investigations.

First, let’s define the problem a bit more precisely...

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