Fish and Bees "Talk" with Help from Robot Translators

The Scientist By Jef Akst March 20, 2019

Robots integrated into groups of zebrafish and of one-day-old honey bees allow the two species to influence each other’s behavior.

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A robot interacting with young honey bees in Graz, Austria, exchanged information with a robot swimming with zebrafish in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the robots’ communication influenced the behavior of each animal group, according to a study published in Science Robotics today (March 20).

“It’s the first time that people are using this kind of technology to have two different species communicate with each other,” says Simon Garnier, a complex systems biologist at New Jersey Institute of Technology who did not participate in the study. “It’s a proof of concept that you can have robots mediate interactions between distant groups.” He adds, however, that the specific applications of such a setup remain to be seen.

As robotics technology has advanced, biologists have sought to harness it, building robots that look and behave like animals. This has allowed researchers to control one side of social interactions in studies of animal behavior. Robots that successfully integrate into animal populations also provide scientists with a means to influence the groups’ behavior.

See “Send in the Bots

“The next step, we were thinking . . . [is] adding features to the group that the animals cannot do because they don’t have the capabilities to do so,” José Halloy, a physicist at Paris Diderot University who has been working on developing robots to interact intelligently with animals for more than a decade, writes in an email. “The simple and striking thing is that robots can use telecommunication or the Internet and animals cannot do that.” 

In the new work, Halloy teamed up with collaborators at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), the University of Graz in Austria, and elsewhere to have two different animal-robot societies interact via modern communications technology. The researchers worked with two very different species that wouldn’t normally interact in nature—honey bees and zebrafish—and they housed the experimental animals more than 1,000 kilometers apart. “What we did is a bit extreme,” admits coauthor and EPFL engineer Frank Bonnet

In 30-minute trials, the teams presented the animals with a collective choice. In the case of bees, that choice was which of two heat-emitting robots they would gather around, while the zebrafish, which shared their donut-shaped tank with a fish-like robot, would decide which direction to swim. Both the robots in the bee colony and the fish robot interacted with the real animals as the experiments took place. The bee robots have infrared sensors that allow them to estimate density of nearby bees, and as more bees clustered, the robots produced more heat, enticing more bees to gather around. The fish robot detects the location of the fish and itself with a camera filming the aquarium, and responds to changes in the real fish’s direction by following the majority, which in turn influences the group’s collective decision about which way to swim.

The researchers then linked the two robots via an internet connection. As the bees gravitated toward one robot or the other, that information could be transferred to the fish robot, which interpreted the news as more fish choosing a swimming direction—clockwise or counterclockwise. Conversely, information on the swimming direction of the fish in the group could be transmitted from the fish robot to the bee robots, which interpreted the signal as more bees choosing a particular bot. “When we make the connection between the two setups, the robots act like translators,” says Bonnet.

Left to their own devices, zebrafish, while they generally swim as a group, don’t stay swimming in one direction; they frequently reverse course. But when the fish robot was receiving information from the bee robots, the fish would reach a consensus for several minutes or longer. That’s because the young honey bees, when the robots in their colony were not receiving information from the fish robot, would after about 15 minutes settle with one of the two robots. 

Conversely, the fish’s indecisive swimming patterns influenced the behavior of the honey bees. If the fish robot shared information with the bee colony, the bees continued to move back and forth between the two heaters for the entire 30-minute trial. If the communication was two way, the bees settled around one of the two bots in the enclosure, but it took about five minutes longer. This then led the fish to settle on a swimming direction. 

A single 30-minute run of the experiment with two-way communication between the bees and fish, sped up 10x.

“It’s technically very impressive; I buy the argument that there has been some form of communication,” says Garnier. But he wonders how the technology will be used. “I’m not sure where it fits in terms of the science.”

Guy Theraulaz, who studies collective behavior at the Research Center on Animal Cognition at CNRS in Toulouse, France, agrees. “From a biological point of view, we don’t learn anything,” he notes, and from an engineering point of view, the key aspect of the experiment is the integration of the robots into animal societies, which had already been done. “They are selling something which is a little bit trivial,” he says.

The researchers argue that the proof-of-concept study points to new approaches for interrogating natural species interactions, just as robots have already been used to study within-species social behavior.  “It allows us to do experiments with animals to build mathematical models of behaviors,” says Halloy. 

Nicole Abaid, an engineer at Virginia Tech who was not involved in the work, could also see this type of work providing insight into how best to develop multi-agent robotics systems, such as robotic swarm, in which many small robots are deployed in unison for applications such as precision agriculture or search and rescue. While most so-called distributed systems use many of one type of robot, engineers are starting to experiment with devices of different types—for example, a quadcopter and a ground vehicle, says Abaid. “The idea that you could have an interspecies interaction in the application of robotics is super interesting.”

F. Bonnet et al., “Robots mediating interactions between animals for interspecies collective behaviors, Sci Robot, 4:eaau7897, 2019.

https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/fish-and-bees-talk-with-help-from-robot-translators-65621

Honeybees All Have Different Jobs

National Geographic By Richie Hertzberg March 22, 2019

How honeybees get their jobs—explained

With brains the size of sesame seeds, honeybees have to work together in different
capacities to maintain a healthy nest.

EVERY HONEYBEE HAS a job to do. Some are nurses who take care of the brood; some are janitors who clean the hive; others are foragers who gather nectar to make honey. Collectively, honeybees are able to achieve an incredible level of sophistication, especially considering their brains are only the size of sesame seeds. But how are these jobs divvied up, and where do bees learn the skills to execute them?

Unlike in Jerry Seinfeld’s “Bee Movie,” real honeybees don’t go to college and get a job assignment from an aptitude officer upon graduation. Instead, they rely on a mixture of genetics, hormones, and situational necessity to direct them. Honeybees are born into an occupation, and then their duties continually shift in response to changing conditions in the hive.

“The jargon we use is that it’s ‘decentralized.’ There’s no bee in the center organizing this,” says Thomas Seeley, author of the book Honeybee Democracy. “Each bee has its own little set of rules, and the labor is sorted out by the bees following their rules.”

Born this way

A bee’s job is determined by its sex. Male bees, or drones, don’t do any work. They make up roughly ten percent of the colony’s population, and they spend their whole lives eating honey and waiting for the opportunity to mate. When the time comes for the queen to make her nuptial flight, all the drones in other colonies will compete for the honor of insemination. They fly after the queen and attempt to mate with her in mid-air. If they mate successfully, they fall to the ground in a victorious death. The queen will mate with up to twenty drones and will store their spermatozoa in her spermatheca organ for the rest of her life. That’s where male duties end.

Female bees, known as worker bees, make up the vast majority of a hive’s population, and they do all the work to keep it functioning. Females are responsible for the construction, maintenance, and proliferation of the nest and the colony that calls it home.

A bee’s sex is determined by the queen, who lays eggs at a rate of 1,500 per day for two to five years. She has the unique ability to designate which eggs will develop into female workers and which will become male drones.

If the queen approaches a smaller worker bee cell to lay a female egg, she will fertilize the egg on its way out by releasing spermatozoa from her nuptial flight. She has enough spermatozoa stored in her abdomen to last the duration of her life.

If the queen approaches a larger drone cell to lay a male egg, on the other hand, she will not release any spermatozoa as the egg leaves her ovaries. This unfertilized egg will develop into a drone.

Domestic duties

It takes 21 days for the worker bee to grow out of her larval state and leave the cell. When she emerges on day 21 as an adult bee, she will immediately start cleaning the cell from which she hatched. Her first three days will be spent cleaning cells to prepare them for the queen’s next round of eggs.

After three days, her hormones kick in to initiate the next phase of work: nursing the young. Seeley explains that hormones are released to activate different parts of the bee’s genes assigned to different tasks. “It’s similar to when humans get sick,” he says. “Sick genes that are involved in inflammation and fever get turned on. Likewise with bees and their jobs.”

A worker bee will spend about a week nursing the brood, feeding larvae with royal jelly, a nutritious secretion that contains proteins, sugars, fats, and vitamins. The exact number of days she spends on this task depends on where the hive needs the most attention. Bees are very sensitive organisms whose hormones are closely tied in with the colony’s needs. “A colony of honeybees is, then, far more than an aggregation of individuals,” writes Seeley in Honeybee Democracy. “It is a composite being that functions as an integrated whole.” The colony is a well-oiled superorganism, similar to ant and termite colonies.

The most dangerous job

When the bee is finished nursing, she will enter the third phase, as a sort of utility worker, moving farther away from the nest’s center. Here she will build cells and store food in the edge of the nest for about a week.

A bee’s hormones will shift into the final phase of work at around her 41st day: foraging. This work is the most dangerous and arguably the most important. It’s only done by older bees who are closer to death. As Steve Heydon, an entomologist at the University of California, Davis, puts it, “You wouldn’t want the youngest bees doing the most dangerous job.” If too many young bees die, then the hive wouldn’t be able to sustain itself.

As the worker bee approaches her fourth week of nonstop work, she will sense her end of days and remove herself from the hive, so as not to become a burden. If she dies in the hive, her fellow bees would have to remove her corpse.

Thus is the life of a female bee during the active seasons of spring and summer, compulsively working from the day she’s born until the day she dies. It’s a thankless life of nonstop work, but honeybees, as a result, are some of the most successful collaborators we’ve found in nature.

[Editor's Note: This article originally misstated what bees use to make honey. They use nectar.]

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2019/03/honey-bee-job-queen-hive-animals/?fbclid=IwAR22oQODHIUDVcWt3qY2GoZxLmL9sDZWCMPWGl9Is6dR5H3bkcSFlMdRBfE

Watch Related - Amazing Time-Lapse: Bees Hatch Before Your Eyes

Honey Bee Caste Systems: Part 1 - Honey Bee Genetics

Bee Informed Partnership By Garrett Slater March 19, 2019

I have always been fascinated with queens and workers. In fact, I spent my master’s degree studying the mechanisms that produce queens and workers. I won’t bore you with my master’s thesis, but I did want to write about the fascinating differences between queens and workers. This topic includes a lot of information, so I decided to split this topic into 3 blog installment: 

  • The Genetic Book of Life-The basics to honey bee genetics

  • How genetics and the environment shape honey bee workers and queens

  • The differences between queens and workers 

Honey bees are unique living organisms. Some fascinating traits honey bees possess include: 1) distinct reproductive caste system, i.e. fertile queens that lay the colony’s eggs and sterile workers who forego their own reproduction but help raise their brothers and sisters instead, 2) they have a behavioral division of labor within the worker caste, and 3) they have distinct sexual dimorphism. As most beekeepers know, honey bees include many more interesting characteristics, but I included the three that I am most interested in! While honey bees are quite unique compared to any other animal or living form, the underlying material by which these traits are passed on to future generations is shared with all organic living organisms: Deoxyribonucleic Acid or DNA. DNA carries the genetic material necessary to produce the distinct and fundamental characteristics of honey bees. While all living organisms have DNA, honey bee genetics is unique.

Honey bees have a system of sex determination (male drones versus female queens or workers) known as haplodiploidy. This differs from human sex determination in several ways. With humans, both males and females carry two copies of every chromosome (they are both diploid), one inherited from the father, and one from the mother. Human males result because they have a specific sex chromosome (Y chromosome) that females lack. With honey bees, queen bees carry sperm inside a specialized compartment within her body that she obtained from earlier mating events, and she determines whether or not to fertilize each egg as it is being laid. Males develop from unfertilized eggs, and therefore only carry a single set of chromosomes (Haploid) and females develop from fertilized eggs and possess two copies of each chromosome (Diploid), Females receive DNA from both parents, while males receive DNA from just the mother. Therefore, this is referred to as a Haplodiploid genetic system.

Caste System 1 .jpg

Figure 1: Depicted above is the genetics of honey bee workers and queens. Female workers and queens result from fertilization, which is the act of fusing female queen eggs with male drone sperm. This combination results in a diploid egg and contains chromosomes from both the male drone and the female queen. Unique to honey bees, diploid females can develop into either a queen or worker. This depends upon the nutrition they receive during development.

Caste system 2.jpg

Figure 2: The picture above is the genetics of a laying worker. A laying worker has underdeveloped reproductive traits, so they cannot mate with drones. Because of this, they cannot fertilize eggs and produce female workers or queens. The laying workers can, however, produce unfertilized haploid males. This is a last-ditch effort for the colony to pass along its genetic material to future generations because the colony will not survive.

Caste system 3.jpg

Figure 3: The picture above shows a queen laying drone eggs. Queens can either lay fertilized or unfertilized eggs. This typically depends upon cell size as queens lay unfertilized drone eggs into drone cells. In some situations, queens run out of viable sperm for many different reasons. Queens can only produce unfertilized drone eggs, which can spell doom for a once prosperous colony.  

Figures 1-3 summarize the genetic differences between diploid females and haploid males. In order for females to develop, they need a different genetic recipe from both the mother and father. Diploid males are a great example of how important these different genetic recipes are in sex determination. In certain cases, diploid males can result if they receive identical chromosomes from both the father and mother. This can result from very inbred populations, and results in infertile males.

Queens are the only individuals in the colony that can produce both diploid female workers or queens and also produce haploid males. I will touch on why workers cannot produce diploid females in a later blog, but I describe in some detail in Figures 2-4. Though, workers can lay drones because workers are able to lay unfertilized eggs. Essentially, workers cannot mate or store sperm, so they produce just haploid males.

Honey Bee genetics is fascinating. If you enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it, keep an eye out for the next installment on how genetics and the environment shape honey bee workers and queen. 

Cheers!
Garett Slater
Midwest Tech-Transfer Team
University of Minnesota
Bee Informed Partnership

https://beeinformed.org/2019/03/19/honey-bee-caste-systems-part-1-honey-bee-genetics/

Rearing Honey Bees Responsively Requires Education and Careful Management to Help Stop the Spread of Disease

Bee Culture - Catch the Buzz By Matt Robinson March 20, 2019

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Small-scale beekeeping has bloomed in recent years as amateur apiarists have taken to cultivating honey bee colonies of their own to help boost the ranks of pollinators under pressure around the globe.

But more is sometimes not better, and experts like Paul van Westendorp, a provincial apiculturist with B.C.’s Animal Health Centre, are warning that backyard honey bees that aren’t carefully managed can contribute to the spread of disease, undermining the well-intentioned efforts of those who keep them.

“Ironically, while beekeepers can be a highly independent lot and very individualistic … honey bees are completely communal in everything they do. So the misery that is experienced by one colony is often shared with other colonies, and the misery is often in the form of disease,” van Westendorp said.

B.C.’s honey bee colony count, at roughly 52,000 in 2018, is the highest its been since at least 2010, according to the results of the province’s annual beekeeping survey, and there are more colonies across the country than ever before, said van Westendorp. Urban interest in beekeeping and corresponding local bylaw amendments have helped foster the spread of honey bee colonies into cities and towns.

But what some who keep bees may not be aware is that honey bees were introduced to this continent and are best thought of as a form of livestock, distinct from the hundreds of species of domestic pollinators in Canada, like bumblebees and orchard mason bees, van Westendorp said.

He warned people against keeping bees without first learning some basics on seasonal management, or what to do in spring, summer, fall and winter. Also key is recognizing bee behaviour and the health of the brood, and understanding how bees reproduce, he said.

“By having an insight in that, that will enable the beekeeper to also detect possible diseases that may be present and … when you do find a disease, what kind of practices or techniques can you use to control these diseases.”

Stan Reist, the Canadian Honey Council rep for the B.C. Honey Producers’ Association, said he believed some people may be avoiding crucial procedures that can help colonies around the province stay healthy.

We’ve got people out there who do not believe in treatments. Well, they’re not doing themselves any favour and they’re not doing us any favour,” he said. “If you had a dog and it had mange, would you treat it? Sure you would. If your kid came home from school and had head lice, would you treat it? Yeah, sure you would. So if your bees have got mites, why wouldn’t you treat them?”

Reist said he believed those who neglect treatment are typically beekeepers with a few hives who “haven’t been in it for long enough to understand the dynamics. … They had the attitude that they want to save the bees, and they’re actually doing more harm than they are good.”

The provincial government offers introductory beekeeping classes that regularly enroll to capacity. It also offers a free webinar version open to anyone, and a master course for beekeeping veterans.

There are other beekeeping courses offered around the Lower Mainland as well, including those at the Honeybee Centre, which are geared toward hobbyists, and a program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, aimed at commercial keepers. Carolyn Essaunce teaches at both.

Essaunce said sometimes there is “contention between commercial beekeepers and hobby beekeepers” and if a hobby beekeeper’s hives get sick they blame the commercial beekeepers, and vice versa. She thought it was important to bridge the two industries because all of them have the same goals and raise bees that fly around.

“I think there’s a bit of misconception about what commercial beekeeping is. I think there’s an idea out there, not that everybody has it, in the hobby beekeeping industry that it’s sort of this mass production industrial farming. But I teach basic beekeeping for hobbyists and I also teach commercial. And we actually teach the exact same management methods,” she said.

In the broader picture, the societal pressure that humans place on the environment has been problematic for bees, van Westendorp said. Industrial monoculture agriculture, the widespread use of farm chemicals and the loss of agricultural land to development are just a few examples of a large societal footprint that has contributed to a widespread “depressing effect” on the natural world, he said. Honey bees — even though colonies now appear in Canada in greater number than before — have suffered from that and native pollinators are suffering even more, he said.

“We may have managed to maintain a quantitative presence or a relative abundance of pollinators. … Where the biggest fear is, is that we have a qualitative decline. And that is a decline in species diversity.”

Anyone looking for a low maintenance way to help pollinators could consider setting out mason bee condos or planting “bee forage plants,” van Westendorp said. That includes flowers like lupines, lavender, bigroot geraniums, hyssops and a host of other plants that bees like to visit.

Rearing Honey Bees Responsibly

You may also want to check this out: Keeping Backyard Bees - Home Sweet Home for Mason Bees

Honey Bee Colonies More Successful By Foraging on Non-Crop Fields

USDA-ARS By Kim Kaplan March 20, 2019

An adult worker bee gathering pollen and nectar from a helianthus flower. Credit: USDA-ARS

An adult worker bee gathering pollen and nectar from a helianthus flower. Credit: USDA-ARS

Honey bee colonies foraging on land with a strong cover of clover species and alfalfa do more than three times as well than if they are put next to crop fields of sunflowers or canola, according to a study just published in Scientific Reportsby an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist and his colleagues.

Managed honey bee colonies placed from May until October next to land in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in North Dakota were more robust with better colony health including higher numbers of bees and increased ability to turn nectar and pollen into vitellogenin—a compound that plays a number of roles including serving as the base for producing royal jelly, which bees use to nurture larvae and turn larvae into queens.

Vitellogenin also is a critical food storage reservoir for honey bee colonies, and a colony’s success in the spring depends on total vitellogenin reserves carried by specialized bees over the winter. Vitellogenin prolongs the lifespans of queens and forager bees as well as strongly influencing key behaviors that increase colony survival such as determining how old bees are before they begin foraging and whether they tend to gather nectar or pollen.

After spending six months foraging on CRP land and then overwintering, more than 78 percent of the colonies were graded A, the highest level commanding the highest price for pollination services in January, meaning a colony has six or more frames well filled with bees, capped cells and bee brood (larvae).

With colonies kept near intensely cultivated fields and then overwintered under the same circumstances to the CRP apiaries, only 20 percent could be rated Grade A and 55 percent were less than 2 frames or dead.

Land in the USDA Conservation Reserve Program provides valuable forage for honey bees. Credit: USDA-ARS

Land in the USDA Conservation Reserve Program provides valuable forage for honey bees. Credit: USDA-ARS

“With California almond growers having paid an average of $190 per Grade A colony in the 2018 almond pollination season, the need for beekeepers to have access to land that has diverse and substantial nectar and pollen sources is obvious,” explained ARS research microbiologist Kirk E. Anderson. Anderson is with ARS’ Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona.

Anderson and his team, including ARS molecular biologist Vincent Ricigliano, also profiled several molecular colony level biomarkers, looking for a way to simplify how researchers can measure how well a honey bee colony is doing in different foraging conditions while overcoming individual bee variation.

They found that higher levels of vitellogenin stores were the best predictor of colony size after winter. Higher levels also were associated with increased production of antioxidant enzymes—which reduce cell damage—and greater production of antimicrobial peptides, which contribute to disease resistance.

The researchers eliminated other potential common causes of colony decline except for forage resource, highlighting the importance of pollen and nectar quality provided by the area surrounding the apiary. While the link between the quality of forage and colony health is generally known, this study highlights the value of agriculturally marginal (CRP) landscapes for honey bee production in a region that hosts close to half the U.S. managed bee population (about 1 million colonies) during the summer.

“We’ve also shown that the benefits of high-quality forage such as that provided by CRP land carries right through the overwintering period and leaves bees in the best shape to build up their numbers before being needed to pollinate almonds in February and early March,” said Ricigliano.

Our results provide land managers and scientists with methods to evaluate the relationship between bees and the landscape. For beekeepers, it provides a basis for making decisions about where to put their apiaries for the summer and fall after crop pollination ends so that the colonies will be in a position to build up robust healthy numbers in time for the migration to California for almond pollination, Anderson added.

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $20 of economic impac

https://www.ars.usda.gov/news-events/news/research-news/2019/honey-bee-colonies-more-successful-by-foraging-on-non-crop-fields/

Asian Citrus Psyllid Treatment Program in Whittier

The California Department of Food and Agriculture will be conducting treatments in the Whittier area for Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) suppression, due to the detection of citrus trees infected with Huanglonging (HLB) disease.  They will begin treatments on Monday, March 18, 2019 and the treatment will last approximately  2-3 weeks.  See the following map of the area they will be working in. All citrus trees will be treated within the area boundaries using Tempo SC Ultra and Merit 2F.  

See the CDFA website for additional information on the ACP/HLB program: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/acp/
Pesticide Regulation
Protecting Bees Tips
Asian Citrus Phyllid Whittier Map Enhanced

If you have any questions regarding their program, you can contact:

Celestina Galindo
Environmental Program Manager
California Department of Food and Agriculture
Pest Detection and Emergency Projects

Flowers Can Hear Buzzing Bees - And It Makes Their Nectar Sweeter

National Geographic By Michelle Donahue January 15, 2019

The bowl-shaped flowers of evening primrose may be key to their acoustic capabilities. PHOTOGRAPH BY DENNIS FRATES/ ALAMY

The bowl-shaped flowers of evening primrose may be key to their acoustic capabilities. PHOTOGRAPH BY DENNIS FRATES/ ALAMY

“I’d like people to understand that hearing is not only for ears.”


EVEN ON THE quietest days, the world is full of sounds: birds chirping, wind rustling through trees, and insects humming about their business. The ears of both predator and prey are attuned to one another’s presence.

Sound is so elemental to life and survival that it prompted Tel Aviv University researcher Lilach Hadany to ask: What if it wasn’t just animals that could sense sound—what if plants could, too? The first experiments to test this hypothesis, published recently on the pre-print server bioRxiv, suggest that in at least one case, plants can hear, and it confers a real evolutionary advantage.

Watch a Garden Come to Life in This Absolutely Breathtaking Time-Lapse

RELATED: TIME-LAPSE VIDEO SHOWS A GARDEN COMING TO LIFE - Journey through a blooming garden of dancing flowers in this incredible four-minute short film. Visual effects artist and filmmaker Jamie Scott spent three years shooting the stunning springtime imagery in this continuous motion time-lapse. The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the web and selected by National Geographic editors. The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of National Geographic Partners.

Hadany’s team looked at evening primroses (Oenothera drummondii) and found that within minutes of sensing vibrations from pollinators’ wings, the plants temporarily increased the concentration of sugar in their flowers’ nectar. In effect, the flowers themselves served as ears, picking up the specific frequencies of bees’ wings while tuning out irrelevant sounds like wind.

The sweetest sound

As an evolutionary theoretician, Hadany says her question was prompted by the realization that sounds are a ubiquitous natural resource—one that plants would be wasting if they didn’t take advantage of it as animals do. If plants had a way of hearing and responding to sound, she figured, it could help them survive and pass on their genetic legacy.

Since pollination is key to plant reproduction, her team started by investigating flowers. Evening primrose, which grows wild on the beaches and in parks around Tel Aviv, emerged as a good candidate, since it has a long bloom time and produces measurable quantities of nectar.

A brown and yellow hoverfly rests on a dewdrop-covered evening primrose in the U.K. PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAELGRANTWILDLIFE/ ALAMY

A brown and yellow hoverfly rests on a dewdrop-covered evening primrose in the U.K. PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAELGRANTWILDLIFE/ ALAMY

To test the primroses in the lab, Hadany’s team exposed plants to five sound treatments: silence, recordings of a honeybee from four inches away, and computer-generated sounds in low, intermediate, and high frequencies. Plants given the silent treatment—placed under vibration-blocking glass jars—had no significant increase in nectar sugar concentration. The same went for plants exposed to high-frequency (158 to 160 kilohertz) and intermediate-frequency (34 to 35 kilohertz) sounds.

But for plants exposed to playbacks of bee sounds (0.2 to 0.5 kilohertz) and similarly low-frequency sounds (0.05 to 1 kilohertz), the final analysis revealed an unmistakable response. Within three minutes of exposure to these recordings, sugar concentration in the plants increased from between 12 and 17 percent to 20 percent.

A sweeter treat for pollinators, their theory goes, may draw in more insects, potentially increasing the chances of successful cross-pollination. Indeed, in field observations, researchers found that pollinators were more than nine times more common around plants another pollinator had visited within the previous six minutes.

“We were quite surprised when we found out that it actually worked,” Hadany says. “But after repeating it in other situations, in different seasons, and with plants grown both indoors and outdoors, we feel very confident in the result.”

Flowers for ears

As the team thought about how sound works, via the transmission and interpretation of vibrations, the role of the flowers became even more intriguing. Though blossoms vary widely in shape and size, a good many are concave or bowl-shaped. This makes them perfect for receiving and amplifying sound waves, much like a satellite dish.

To test the vibrational effects of each sound frequency test group, Hadany and her co-author Marine Veits, then a graduate student in Hadany’s lab, put the evening primrose flowers under a machine called a laser vibrometer, which measures minute movements. The team then compared the flowers’ vibrations with those from each of the sound treatments.

“This specific flower is bowl- shaped, so acoustically speaking, it makes sense that this kind of structure would vibrate and increase the vibration within itself,” Veits says.

And indeed it did, at least for the pollinators’ frequencies. Hadany says it was exciting to see the vibrations of the flower match up with the wavelengths of the bee recording.

“You immediately see that it works,” she says.

To confirm that the flower was the responsible structure, the team also ran tests on flowers that had one or more petals removed. Those flowers failed to resonate with either of the low-frequency sounds.

What else plants can hear

Hadany acknowledges that there are many, many questions remaining about this newfound ability of plants to respond to sound. Are some “ears” better for certain frequencies than others? And why does the evening primrose make its nectar so much sweeter when bees are known to be able to detect changes in sugar concentration as small as 1 to 3 percent?

LILACH HADANY, TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY

LILACH HADANY, TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY

Also, could this ability confer other advantages beyond nectar production and pollination? Hadany posits that perhaps plants alert one another to the sound of herbivores mowing down their neighbors. Or maybe they can generate sounds that attract the animals involved in dispersing that plant’s seeds.

“We have to take into account that flowers have evolved with pollinators for a very long time,” Hadany says. “They are living entities, and they, too, need to survive in the world. It’s important for them to be able to sense their environment—especially if they cannot go anywhere.”

This single study has cracked open an entirely new field of scientific research, which Hadany calls phytoacoustics.

Veits wants to know more about the underlying mechanisms behind the phenomenon the research team observed. For instance, what molecular or mechanical processes are driving the vibration and nectar response? She also hopes the work will affirm the idea that it doesn’t always take a traditional sense organ to perceive the world.

“Some people may think, How can [plants] hear or smell?” Veits says. “I’d like people to understand that hearing is not only for ears.”

Richard Karban, an expert in interactions between plants and their pests at the University of California Davis, has questions of his own, in particular, about the evolutionary advantages of plants’ responses to sound.

“It may be possible that plants are able to chemically sense their neighbors, and to evaluate whether or not other plants around them are fertilized,” he says. “There’s no evidence that things like that are going on, but [this study] has done the first step.”

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the percent increase in nectar's sugar concentration.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2019/01/flowers-can-hear-bees-and-make-their-nectar-sweeter/

Honey Bees Can Help Monitor Pollution in Cities

Honey from urban bees can tell us how clean a city is and help pinpoint the sources of environmental pollutants such as lead, new University of British Columbia research has found.

In a study published today in Nature Sustainability, scientists from UBC’s Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research (PCIGR) analyzed honey from urban beehives in six Metro Vancouver neighbourhoods. They tested for minuscule levels of lead, zinc, copper and other elements and carried out lead isotope analyses – akin to fingerprinting – to identify where the lead came from.

“The good news is that the chemical composition of honey in Vancouver reflects its environment and is extremely clean,” said Kate E. Smith, lead author of the study and PhD candidate at PCIGR. “We also found that the concentration of elements increased the closer you got to downtown Vancouver, and by fingerprinting the lead we can tell it largely comes from manmade sources.”

Tiny elements, tiny measurements

Metro Vancouver honey is well below the worldwide average for heavy metals like lead, and an adult would have to consume more than 600 grams, or two cups, of honey every day to exceed tolerable levels.

“The instruments at PCIGR are very sensitive and measure these elements in parts per billion, or the equivalent of one drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool,” said Dominique Weis, senior author and director of the institute.

The researchers found the concentration of elements increased closer to areas with heavy traffic, higher urban density and industrial activity such as shipping ports. Places like the city of Delta showed elevated levels of manganese, which could be a result of agricultural activity and pesticide use in the area.

Map of Metro Vancouver, featuring locations of the sampled for this study and possible sources of manmade trace elements.

Map of Metro Vancouver, featuring locations of the sampled for this study and possible sources of manmade trace elements.

Lead fingerprints point to manmade culprits

In the first study of its kind in North America, the researchers also compared the lead fingerprints of the honey to those from other local environmental samples like lichen from around British Columbia, rock from the Garibaldi volcanic belt, sediment from the Fraser River and trees in Stanley Park.

They discovered that the lead fingerprints of the honey did not match any local, naturally-occurring lead. However, the trees in Stanley Park and the honeys from downtown displayed some striking similarities that pointed to potential manmade sources of lead.

“We found they both had fingerprints similar to aerosols, ores and coals from large Asian cities,” said Weis. “Given that more than 70 per cent of cargo ships entering the Port of Vancouver originate from Asian ports, it’s possible they are one source contributing to elevated lead levels in downtown Vancouver.”

Honey is able to provide such localized “snapshots” of the environment because honey bees typically forage for pollen and nectar within a two- to three-kilometre radius of their hives.

“We now have four years of consistent data from Metro Vancouver, which provides a present-day baseline that will allow us to monitor even tiny changes in our environment very efficiently,” said Weis.

Citizen science for communities

The research was carried out in partnership with Hives for Humanity, a local non-profit that creates opportunities for people in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to engage in urban beekeeping.

"One of the exciting parts of this study is that it bridges science with community interests," said Smith. "Honey sampling can easily be performed by citizen scientists in other urban centres, even if they lack other environmental monitoring capabilities."

The team will continue to study how honey analysis might complement traditional air and soil monitoring techniques and test the efficiency of honey as an environmental monitor in other cities.

Find other stories about: Dominique WeisHoneybeesKate E. SmithPacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research (PCIGR)

https://news.ubc.ca/2019/03/11/honey-bees-can-help-monitor-pollution-in-cities/

Improved Regulation Needed As Pesticides Found to Affect Genes in Bees

EurekAlert From: Queen Mary University of London March 6, 2019

Bumblebee Colony Credit: TJ Colgan

Bumblebee Colony Credit: TJ Colgan

Scientists are urging for improved regulation on pesticides after finding that they affect genes in bumblebees, according to research led by Queen Mary University of London in collaboration with Imperial College London.

For the first time, researchers applied a biomedically inspired approach to examine changes in the 12,000 genes that make up bumblebee workers and queens after pesticide exposure.

The study, published in Molecular Ecology, shows that genes which may be involved in a broad range of biological processes are affected.

They also found that queens and workers respond differently to pesticide exposure and that one pesticide they tested had much stronger effects than the other did.

Other recent studies, including previous work by the authors, have revealed that exposure even to low doses of these neurotoxic pesticides is detrimental to colony function and survival as it impairs bee behaviours including the ability to obtain pollen and nectar from flowers and the ability to locate their nests.

This new approach provides high-resolution information about what is happening at a molecular level inside the bodies of the bumblebees.

Some of these changes in gene activity may represent the mechanisms that link intoxification to impaired behaviour.

Lead author of the study Dr Yannick Wurm, from Queen Mary University of London, said: "Governments had approved what they thought were 'safe' levels but pesticides intoxicate many pollinators, reducing their dexterity and cognition and ultimately survival. This is a major risk because pollinators are declining worldwide yet are essential for maintaining the stability of the ecosystem and for pollinating crops.

"While newer pesticide evaluation aims to consider the impact on behaviour, our work demonstrates a highly sensitive approach that can dramatically improve how we evaluate the effects of pesticides."

The researchers exposed colonies of bumblebees to either clothianidin or imidacloprid at field-realistic concentrations while controlling for factors including colony social environment and worker age.

They found clothianidin had much stronger effects than imidacloprid - both of which are in the category of 'neonicotinoid' pesticides and both of which are still used worldwide although they were banned in 2018 for outdoor use by the European Union.

For worker bumblebees, the activity levels of 55 genes were changed by exposure to clothianidin with 31 genes showing higher activity levels while the rest showed lower activity levels after exposure.

This could indicate that their bodies are reorienting resources to try to detoxify, which the researchers suspect is what some of the genes are doing. For other genes, the changes could represent the intermediate effects of intoxification that lead to affected behaviour.

The trend differed in queen bumblebees as 17 genes had changed activity levels, with 16 of the 17 having higher activity levels after exposure to the clothianidin pesticide.

Dr Joe Colgan, first author of the study and also from Queen Mary University of London, said: "This shows that worker and queen bumblebees are differently wired and that the pesticides do not affect them in the same way. As workers and queens perform different but complementary activities essential for colony function, improving our understanding of how both types of colony member are affected by pesticides is vital for assessing the risks these chemicals pose."

The researchers believe that the approach they have demonstrated must now be applied more broadly. This will provide detailed information on how pesticides differ in the effects they have on beneficial species, and why species may differ in their susceptibility.

Dr Colgan said: "We examined the effects of two pesticides on one species of bumblebee. But hundreds of pesticides are authorised, and their effects are likely to substantially differ across the 200,000 pollinating insect species which also include other bees, wasps, flies, moths, and butterflies."

Dr Wurm added: "Our work demonstrates that the type of high-resolution molecular approach that has changed the way human diseases are researched and diagnosed, can also be applied to beneficial pollinators. This approach provides an unprecedented view of how bees are being affected by pesticides and works at large scale. It can fundamentally improve how we evaluate the toxicity of chemicals we put into nature."

###

Research paper: 'Caste- and pesticide-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticide exposure on gene expression in bumblebees'. Thomas J. Colgan, Isabel K. Fletcher, Andres N. Arce, Richard J. Gill, Ana Ramos Rodrigues, Eckart Stolle, Lars Chittka and Yannick Wurm. Molecular Ecology.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-03/qmuo-irn030519.php

LACBA Beekeeping Class 101 Class #2: Sunday, March 10, 2019, 9A-Noon, at The Valley Hive

!!!REMINDER!!!
LACBA Beekeeping Class 101 Class #2
at The Valley Hive
Sunday, March 10, 2019
9AM-Noon
Sign Up Today!

LACBA Beekeeping Class 101.jpg

Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association Beekeeping 101:
A Class for Beginning Beekeepers
Hosted by The Valley Hive

Who: Current 2019 Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association Members. The membership is a family/household membership, children under the age of 18 are welcome with accompanying adult member.

What: 8 Classes to guide you during your first year as a beekeeper

Where: Chatsworth, CA: Class topic will determine class location

When: The 2nd Sunday of the Month (See full class schedule )

Time: 9am to Noon (All classes are the same time.)

Requirements: Beginning with the 3rd class (April) BEE SUITS ARE REQUIRED to attend class.

Cost: Suggested donation of $20 per class per household or $100 per household for all 8 classes. The February and March classes are free. You will need to be a current LACBA member to take class.

More Info: Please refer to our Beekeeping Class 101 page for the Location(s) and Schedule of Classes.

Sign Up for LACBA Beekeeping Class 101

Beekeeping Supplies & Equipment - Just What You Need!

Basic Essentials List for Beginning Beekeepers

A Bee Hive

The Hive - Langstroth (from the bottom up):

Hive Stand - This is a platform to keep the hive off the ground. It improves circulation, reduces dampness in the hive, and helps keep ants, bugs, leaves, and debris from getting into the hive. It can be made of anything solid enough to support the weight of a full beehive. Wooden hive stands are available for sale but bricks, concrete blocks, pallets, and found lumber are just as good. It’s helpful to place the legs of the stand in cans filled with used motor oil to deter ants from climbing up the legs and into the hive. The stand should be strong enough to support one hive or a number of colonies. What is important to remember is that the hive needs to be at least 6 inches off the ground.

Bottom Board - Is placed on top of the hive stand and is the floor of the hive. Bees use it as a landing board and a place to take off from. 

Entrance Reducer - Is basically a stick of wood used to reduce the size of the entrance to the hive. It helps deter robbing.

Hive Boxes/Supers - Come in three sizes: deep, medium and shallow. Traditionally, 2 deep boxes have been used as brood chambers with 3 or 4 or more boxes (medium or shallow) on top as needed for honey storage. Many beekeepers use all medium boxes throughout the hive. This helps reduce the weight of each box for lifting. If you have back problems or are concerned about heavy lifting, you could even use shallow boxes all throughout the hive. So, 6 boxes as a minimum for deep and medium. More if you wanted to use only shallow boxes. You will only need two boxes to start out, adding boxes as needed for extra room and honey storage.

Frames and Foundation - For each box you have for your hive, you will need 10 frames that fit that box. Frames can be wooden with beeswax foundation or all plastic with a light coating of beeswax. The bees don't care and will use both equally well. Foundation is intended to give the bees a head start on their comb building and helps minimize cross comb building that makes it difficult to remove and inspect. You can buy all beeswax foundation or plastic foundation with a thin coat of beeswax applied to it. Alternatively, you can provide empty frames and let the bees build their comb from scratch but that can be a bit tricky and it takes the bees longer to get established. 

Top Cover: The top cover can be as simple as a flat sheet of plywood. We prefer the top covers made with laminated pieces to make a flat board and extra cross bracing to help hold the board flat for years. Plywood tends to warp over time. You can also use a telescoping cover, but they require an additional inner cover. 

Paint - All parts of your hive that are exposed to the weather should be painted with (2 coats) of a non-toxic paint. Do not paint the inside of the hive or the entrance reducer. Most hives are painted white to reflect the sun, but you can use any light colors. Painting your hives different colors may help reduce drift between the colonies. If your hive will not be in your own bee yard, you may want to paint your name and phone number on the side of the hive.

We primarily work with the Langstroth hive but you can also use the Top Bar Hive or the Warre Hive.

Tools & Supplies:

bee brush.jpg

Bee Brush - A beekeeper needs a brush to gently move the bees from an area of observation when looking for a queen and when harvesting frames of honey. Use a brush that has long, soft, flexible, yellow bristles. Don’t use a dark, stiff brush with animal hair, or a paint brush.

duct tape.jpg

Duct Tape - You’ll have lots of uses for duct tape, might want to keep it handy.                                                                                                                                                            

 

hive tool.jpg

Hive Tool - A hive tool is the most useful piece of beekeeping equipment. It can be used to pry up the inner cover, pry apart frames, scrape and clean hive parts, scrape wax and propolis out of the hive, nail the lid shut, pull nails, and scrape bee stingers off skin. The hive tool has two parts: the wedge or blade and the handle. Hive tools are often fitted with brightly-colored, plastic-coated handles which helps the beekeeper locate the hive tool while working. 

feeder.jpg

Feeder - You may want to have a feeder with sugar syrup to give your new bees a boost in their new home. Its the helping hand they need to get started building comb.

smoker.jpg

Smoker - Examining a hive is much easier when you use a smoker. Use it to puff smoke into the entrance before opening the hive and to blow smoke over the frames once the hive is opened. This helps the beekeeper to manage the bees. Cool smoke helps to settle the bees. Smoking the bees initiates a feeding response causing preparation to possibly leave the hive due to a fire. The smoke also masks the alarm pheromone released by the colony’s guard bees when the hive is opened and manipulated. Smoke must be used carefully. Too much can drive bees from the hive. A smoker is basically a metal can with a bellows and a spout attached to it. We prefer to use a smoker with a wire cage around it. A large smoker is best as it keeps the smoke going longer. It can be difficult to keep a smoker lit (especially for new beekeepers). Practice lighting and maintaining the smoker. Burlap, rotted wood shavings, pine needles, eucalyptus, cardboard, and cotton rags are good smoker fuels.

Protective Clothing:

bee suit veil gloves.jpg

Bee Suit - For the best protection, full bee suits are recommended. You can also use a bee jacket.

But whether or not a suit is used, a beekeeper's clothing should be white or light in color (bees generally do not like dark colors and will attack dark objects). Avoid woolen and knit material. You will want to wear clothing both that will protect you and you don’t mind getting stained (bees produce waste that shows up as yellowish marks on your clothing). You’ll want to close off all potential to getting stung by wearing high top boots or tucking your pants into your socks and securing your cuffs with rubber bands or duct tape.

bee gloves.jpg

Bee Gloves - Long, leather, ventilated gloves with elastic on the sleeves help protect the hands and arms from stings.

Hat and Veil - Even the most experienced beekeepers wear a hat and veil to protect their head, face, and eyes from bee stings. Wire veils keep bees farther away from the face than those made of cloth. Black veiling is generally easier to see through. Make sure the veil extends down below and away from your neck.

That’s it!

Once you have all you need, expenses can be kept to a minimum. With the right care, equipment, tools, and clothing will last a long time. If your hive becomes overcrowded, just add another box or two. Or, you may find you’ll want to split your hive – then you’ll have two! If honey is overflowing, just add another box or two. And, great! – You’ll have lots of yummy honey!!

A note on protective clothing: There was a time when we could safely visit our bees wearing little protective clothing. With the arrival of Africanized Honey Bees into Southern California we've come to realize the potential danger of an aggressive hive and have learned to exercise caution when approaching our bees. A once gentle hive could be invaded and taken over by a small aggressive swarm in a few days. These bees are unpredictable and vigorously defend their hives. Protective clothing such as a bee suit, veil and gloves will help keep stings to a minimum in the bee yard if worn correctly.

Suppliers:

Local supplier:

Los Angeles Honey Supply Company
Pierce Beekeeping Supply Company
Pierco Beekeeping Equipment
The Valley Hive

Outside Los Angeles area:

Dadant
Better Bee
Brushy Mountain Bee Farm
Glory Bee
Mann Lake
Shastina Millwork
Western Bee Supplies

Sharing 'The Secret Life of Bees'

Bug Squad By Kathy Keatley Garvey

"Where can kids learn beekeeping for free?" someone asked us last week.

One of the ways is through the 4-H Youth Development Program. Who can join 4-H, which stands for head, heart, health and hands and which follows the motto, "making the best better?" It's open to all youths ages 5 to 19.  In age-appropriate projects, they learn skills through hands-on learning in projects ranging from arts and crafts, computers and leadership to dog care, poultry, rabbits and woodworking, according to Valerie Williams, Solano County 4-H representative. They develop leadership skills, engage in public speaking, and share what they've learned with other through presentations.

At the recent Solano County 4-H Presentation Day, held at Sierra K-8 School, Vacaville, 4-H'ers presented demonstrations, educational displays, illustrated talks, an improv,  and an interpretative reading.

The interpretative reading was about bees.

Kailey Mauldin, 15, a sixth-year 4-H'er and member of the Elmira 4-H Club, Vacaville, delivered an award-winning presentation on Sue Monk Kidd's New York Times'bestseller, The Secret Life of Bees. Kailey read and interpreted passages, and answered questions from evaluators JoAnn Brown, April George and Kelli Mummert.

Kailey related that the story is set in a fictitious rural town in South Carolina in 1964 during the civil rights era. Fourteen-year-old Lily Owens "has just run away from her abusive father named T-Ray," Kailey recounted. "Her mother passed away at an early age." In going though her mother's belongings, Lilly finds an address that leads her to a farm where she meets three sisters, May, June and August, strong African-American women who run a beekeeping business.

Kailey read several passages about Lily's first experience with bees. The book is in Lily's voice.

August, opening a hive, tells Lily: “Egg laying is the main thing, Lily. She's the mother of every bee in the hive, and they all depend on her to keep it going. I don't care what their job is—they know the queen is their mother. She's the mother of thousands.”

The way the bees poured out, rushing up all of a sudden in spirals of chaos and noise caused me to jump.

“Don't move an inch,” said August. “Remember what I told you. Don't be scared.”

A bee flew straight at my forehead, collided with the net, and bumped against my skin.

“She's giving you a little warning,” August said. “When they bump your forehead, they're saying I've got my eye on you, so you be careful. Send them love and everything will be fine."

I love you, I love you, I said in my head. I LOVE YOU. I tried to say it 32 different ways...

Eventually, Lily experiences "a frenzy of love" as the bees seem to say: "Look who's here, it's Lily. She is so weary and lost. Come on, bee sisters."

Interpreting the passages she'd just read, Kailey said: "I learned all bees have mothers and that love isn't who or what, it is now...The way they took her (Lily) in, that was love. Love is everywhere."

Kailey isn't enrolled in a 4-H beekeeping project--yet.

(Editor's Note: Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño offers beekeeping classes at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. See website.)

Honey bees at work. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Honey bees at work. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Elmira 4-H member Kailey Mauldin gets ready to present an interpretive reading on ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ at the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Elmira 4-H member Kailey Mauldin gets ready to present an interpretive reading on ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ at the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Quantum Dots Track Pollinators

The Optical Society By Stewart Wills February 18, 2019

A bee, caught after visiting a flower whose pollen grains had been labelled with quantum dots. The glowing dots show evidence of the bee’s travels, and how the pollen attaches to it, when the insect is examined under the microscope in UV light. [Image: Corneile Minnaar]

A bee, caught after visiting a flower whose pollen grains had been labelled with quantum dots. The glowing dots show evidence of the bee’s travels, and how the pollen attaches to it, when the insect is examined under the microscope in UV light. [Image: Corneile Minnaar]

A particularly sobering aspect of global environmental degradation is the rapid decline of insect populations. One recent study in the journal Biological Conservation estimated that 40 percent of the world’s insect species could go extinct within the next three decades, owing to habitat loss due to agriculture and urbanization, pesticides, climate change and other insults.

Quite apart from playing havoc with the food web, declines in certain insect populations threaten the bugs’ crucial role as pollinators. Humans rely on insects to pollinate more than 30 percent of food crops—a huge service that nature provides free of charge.

That makes it essential to understand which insects are pollinating which plants—even to the point of tracking individual pollen grains from flower to flower via their insect vectors. But a robust, useful system for labeling the tiny grains, which are subject to the vicissitudes of wind and weather in addition to the mazy paths of insects, has been fiendishly difficult to devise. Now, a pollination biologist in South Africa has hit upon a novel answer: tag the pollen with fluorescent quantum dots (Meth. Ecol. Evol., doi: 10.1111/2041-210X.13155).

Dots, flowers and pollen

Quantum dots (QDs) are luminescent semiconductor nanocrystals that, when excited by light of a specific wavelength (such as UV), re-emit at visible wavelengths, with the specific emission wavelength depending on the size of the quantum dot. They’ve found use in a wide variety of contexts including biomedical study (see, “Quantum Dots for Biomedicine,” OPN, April 2017). Indeed, the pollination biologist behind the new study, Corneile Minnaar of Stellenbosch University, South Africa, reportedly got the idea for pollen tracking with QDs from a paper on their potential use in targeting and imaging cancer cells.

Corneile Minnaar, applying a solution of lipid-tagged quantum dots to the business end of a flower. [Image: Ingrid Minnaar]

Corneile Minnaar, applying a solution of lipid-tagged quantum dots to the business end of a flower. [Image: Ingrid Minnaar]

To use QDs to track individual pollen grains, Minnaar—who began the work as a Ph.D. student at Stellenbosch, where he’s now a postdoc in the lab of pollination biologist Bruce Anderson—first had to figure out how to tie the dots to the pollen. To do so, he began with commercially available, nontoxic CuInSexS2−x/ZnS (core/shell) QDs with four different emission wavelengths: 550 nm (green), 590 nm (yellow), 620 nm (orange) and 650 nm (red). Next, Minnaar chemically tied the QDs to an oleic‐acid ligand molecule that would latch onto the lipid-rich “pollenkitt” that surrounds pollen grains—the same substance that makes pollen stick to the coats of pollinators like honeybees.

Minnaar then took the lipid-doped QDs and dissolved them into a volatile hexane solvent, and micro-pipetted drops of the solvent onto the pollen-rich anthers on flowers of four different plant species. The ligand-bearing QDs quickly stuck to the pollenkitt on the grains, as expected, and the volatile hexane rapidly evaporated away. The result: flowers packed with potentially trackable, QD-labeled pollen.

Building an “excitation box”

The next problem to be solved was how actually to read the signal from the tagged pollen. While Minnaar says he started with a toy pen with a UV LED light to excite the fluorescence in the dots, he clearly needed something a bit more scalable. To get there, he used a 3-D printer to create a black “quantum-dot excitation box” that could fit under a dissection microscope, and that included four commercial UV LEDs, a long-pass UV filter, and supporting housing. In a press release accompanying the work, Minnaar said the UV box could “easily be 3D-printed at a cost of about R5,000 [around US$360], including the required electronic components.”

Minnaar tested the ability of the pollen grains to hold onto the QDs by agitating samples in an ethanol solution, and found that the grip was firm. Also, in a controlled, caged experiment, he trained honeybees to move from tagged to untagged samples of a particular flower species, and found that labeling the grains with the QDs had no effect on the grains’ ability also to stick to the bees.

Robust system

The general robustness of the system suggests it could serve well in tracking pollinators in wild settings, quantifying parameters such as pollen loss and the importance of certain species to sustaining specific kinds of plants. That said, there are still a few limitations, according to the paper. One is that right now, “there are only four commercially available, distinguishable quantum dot colors in the visible range,” which could limit studies to only four plant species at a time. And, while initial tests were encouraging, more work needs to be done to determine whether the labeling and application process has effects on pollen viability that could complicate experiments or affect pollinator behavior.

One other, unavoidable drawback, notwithstanding Minnaar’s clever microscope setup, is the sheer labor of counting and checking the glowing pollen grains to amass experimental data. That's a task likely to while away the hours of grad students for years to come, irrespective of the technique used to label the grains. “I think I've probably counted more than a hundred thousand pollen grains these last three years,” Minnaar said.

Source: British Ecological Society

https://www.osa-opn.org/home/newsroom/2019/february/quantum_dots_track_pollinators/

Theodore Payne Foundation to Speak at LACBA Meeting Monday, March 4th, 2019!

Theodore Payne Foundation.jpg

You won’t want to miss our LACBA Monthly Meeting Monday, March, 2019! Our main speaker is from the Theodore Payne Foundation.

The Theodore Payne Foundation inspires and educates Southern Californians about the beauty and ecological benefits of California native plant landscapes.

Come learn about native plants and wildflowers. Bring your questions about gardening for bees. http://theodorepayne.org/

LACBA meets at the Mount Olive Lutheran Church, 3561 Foothill Boulevard, La Crescenta, CA 91214 (In Shilling Hall) Committee Meeting: 6:30pm / Membership Meeting: 7:00pm.

For more info: http://www.losangelescountybeekeepers.com/meetings/

Los Angeles Zoo - Spring Fling

LA Zoo 2019 Spring Fling.jpg

Spring Fling

The Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association will be hosting a ‘Honey Tasting’ (like a ‘Wine Tasting’) during the Los Angeles Zoo 2019 Spring Fling. For six weekends beginning Saturday, March 23 through Sunday, April 28, 2019. LACBA members will be on hand offering samples of a variety of local honeys. We’ll also be selling local honey as well as providing education about honey bees and answering questions. We will also have a 30 minute slot every day on the stage next to our Honey Bee Booth to talk about beekeeping. 

LACBA Members Volunteer Sign Up

Almond Math

Pollinator Partnership By Dan Wyns February 28, 2019

There are plenty of quick stats you come across working around bees: At peak population, a strong colony can have over 60,000 individual bees. A queen is capable of laying more eggs in a day (up to 2,000) than there are minutes in a day (1,440). A single bee can produce 1/12 tsp honey in its lifespan and may cumulatively travel 500 miles during the several weeks it spends as a forager. Despite annual losses in the 30-40% range, the total managed colony numbers remains fairly constant at about  3 million.

The American bee industry is inextricably linked to the almond industry. Every year, about 3/4 of the national herd migrates from various wintering locations to the central valley of California for the almond bloom in February. The almond industry also has some eye-opening statistics: The 117,000,000 almond-producing trees in California are responsible for 82% of global almond production, and it is estimated that it takes approximately 1 gallon of water to produce a single almond. The Almond Board of California does a fantastic job summarizing and quantifying the industry in the annual Almond Almanac available here. A couple previous BIP blogs discussing bees and almonds are available here and here.

Given the link between almond and bee industries and the eye-opening numbers in both, it got me wondering how many almonds each bee produces, or how many bees it takes to produce a single kernel (almonds aren’t technically nuts). Do you think a single bee accounts for hundreds of almonds? Does it take dozens of bees to produce each almond? Pick a number and we’ll work through some estimates to see how close you come.

Each almond starts with a bee in a blossom

Each almond starts with a bee in a blossom

The population of honey bee colonies is often estimated in a unit called frames of bees (FOBs). A frame of bees is defined as a deep frame (apx 19” x 8.5”) well-covered with adult bees on both sides. Estimates range between 2000 and 3000 individual bees per frame. For the sake of this exercise I’ll use the 2400 bees per FOB estimate reported here.

Beekeepers that rent their colonies for almond pollination typically do so under a contract that specifies both a minimum acceptable size and an average colony size that must be met. A commonly used contract may specify a 4 FOB minimum and an overall average of at least 8 FOB with potential bonus payments for colonies exceeding standards.  During the month of February 2018, Bee Informed Partnership  Tech Transfer Teams inspected over 1,100 colonies from 38 different operations with the overall mean frame count being 8.96 FOB per colony, so we’ll use that number as an estimate for colony strength. It is worth noting that not all bees in a colony are foragers and the percentage of individual bees that forage increases with colony strength. Randy Oliver has an excellent summation of the pollination value of a colony relative to FOB available here. Considering the difficulty of accounting for variable percentage of foragers and also the fact that a colony could not function with foragers alone, we will consider the total number of bees present to all be needed in order to provide pollination.

It is estimated that in recent years approximately 1.9 colonies per bearing acre have been required to meet almond pollination demand. For the 2017/18 almond crop year, there were an estimated 1,000,000 bearing acres. For the same year there was an average yield of 2,270 almonds lbs/acre. For a total crop of 2.27 billion pounds. It is estimated that there are 368 almond kernels per pound.

Having accumulated the numbers above we can now go about calculating the total number of bees pollinating almonds:

2400 bees/FOB * 8.96 FOB/colony = 21,504 bees/colony

1,000,000 acres * 1.9 colonies/acre  = 1,900,000 colonies

1,900,000 colonies * 21,504 bees/colony = 40,857,600,000 bees pollinating almonds

How many almonds do those 40 billion bees produce?

2.27 billion pounds * 368 almonds/pound = 835,360,000,000 almonds

835,360,000,000 almonds/40,857,600,000 bees =20.45 almonds per bee

Each of the approximately 40 billion individual bees rented for pollination is responsible for producing a handful of almonds.

Each of the approximately 40 billion individual bees rented for pollination is responsible for producing a handful of almonds.

So there we are, each bee that gets set in California almonds accounts for about 20 almonds. My guess before gathering any of the numbers was about 10 per bee; how close did your guess come?

https://beeinformed.org/2019/02/28/almond-math/

LACBA Meeting Monday, March 4, 2019

Beekeepers' Logo border600.jpg

Our next meeting will be held on Monday, March 4, 2019**

  • General Meeting: 7:00pm 

Location: Mount Olive Lutheran Church (Shilling Hall)
                 3561 Foothill Boulevard
                 La Crescenta, CA 91214

       Please bring something for the raffle!

**The meetings of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association (LACBA) are open to the public. Everyone is welcome. Please see the draft agenda in the email below and send any requests to add or revise agenda items to our president president@losangelescountybeekepers.com prior to the meeting.

Agenda:

General Meeting - 7pm

  1. Welcome

    1. Flag Salute

    2. Introduce the Board

      1. Jon Reese - President

      2. Kevin Heydman – Vice President

      3. Merrill Kruger - Secretary

      4. Bill Rathfelder - Treasurer

      5. El Rey Ensch – Member at Large

    3. Select raffle ticket seller

    4. Index cards for questions

    5. Recognize new members and/or guests

    6. Thank You

  2. Main Meeting Topic  

    1. 7 minute - Experienced beekeeper - My first 2 years as a beekeeper; mistakes, trials, tribulations, and problems.

    2. Main Speaker - Theodore Payne Foundation

  3. Secretary's Report - Merrill

  4. Treasurer’s Report

  5. Committee Reports

    1. Website  - Eva

    2. Membership - Cheryl

    3. Beekeeping 101 - Keith

  6. Upcoming Events

    1. LA Zoo, Honey Tasting – 6 weekends (March to April)

    2. Eaton Canyon Nature Center, Once Day Event – June

    3. UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County presents: Exploring Beekeeping https://ucanr.edu/survey/survey.cfm?surveynumber=26715

  7. Package Update - Month 11

  8. What are you seeing in your hives?

  9. What’s Blooming in your area?

  10. Q & A (answer questions from index cards)

  11. Next month

  12. Raffle

2019 Beekeeping 101
Our second class of the year.
Sign Up Now!

REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED!
 

When: Sunday, March 10, 2019**

Location:  The Valley Hive 
                  10538 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
                  Chatsworth, CA 91311

Parking for Class:  Please park on Topanga Canyon Blvd.  No parking restrictions on Sundays.

Time:  Gates and Check in open @ 8:30am.  Class Starts @ 9am and will run until Noon.

Class Requirements: 

  • You must have a paid 2019 LACBA Membership

  • Bring a notebook and pen/pencil to take notes

  • Seating is limited. If you want a chair you should bring one with you

  • Positive attitude with a willingness to learn!

Price:  This class is free! (Suggested donation of $20 per person per class or $100 for all 8 classes. LACBA is a 501c3, your donation is tax deductible.)

REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED!

Class# 2:  Sunday March 10, 2019 from 9am to noon
Registration is Required

Class Topic:  What to plant in a bee friendly garden. The importance of well-built hive equipment.  How to build/assemble your own Hive Equipment.  The life cycle of the colony and basic bee biology.  How to install a package or nuc of bees into your equipment. 

REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED!
Sign Up Now!

Save the Date(s):

Immense Numbers Of Introduced Honey Bees Overwhelm Native Pollinators For Access To Pollen And Nectar, At Least In San Diego

CATCH THE BUZZ February 28, 2019

Non-native honey bees have established robust feral populations in San Diego, such as the pictured swarm. Honey bees currently make up 75 percent of the observed pollinators in San Diego, considered a global biodiversity hotspot.    Credit: James Hung

Non-native honey bees have established robust feral populations in San Diego, such as the pictured swarm. Honey bees currently make up 75 percent of the observed pollinators in San Diego, considered a global biodiversity hotspot.
Credit: James Hung

Hike around the natural habitats of San Diego County and it becomes abundantly clear that honey bees, foreign to the area, are everywhere. In a study published last year, researchers at the University of California San Diego found that honey bees are the most widespread and abundant pollinators of wild plants in the world, with the San Diego region having exceptionally high honey bee visitation on native plants — roughly three-quarters of all observed pollinators.

New research from the same team found that honey bees focus their foraging on the most abundantly flowering native plant species, where they often account for more than 90 percent of pollinators observed visiting flowers.

The new study by Keng-Lou James Hung, Jennifer Kingston, Adrienne Lee, David Holway and Joshua Kohn of UC San Diego’s Division of Biological Sciences is published on Feb. 20 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“To have a non-native species that removes the lion’s share of pollen and nectar in a diverse ecosystem such as ours is stunning” said Kohn, a professor in the Section of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution. “Think about if we had an invasive plant that covered 75 percent of the region’s land area — it’s similar to that level.”

The honey bees’ monopoly over the most abundantly blooming plant species may strongly affect the ecology and evolution of species that are foundational to the stability of the region’s plant-pollinator interactions, the researchers said.

“It’s concerning enough that a non-native species reaches an overall 75 percent numerical dominance — what’s more, we now show that their numerical dominance is even higher on the plant species that supply the largest amounts of pollen and nectar,” said Hung, a former student of Holway and Kohn who is now a postdoctoral researcher at The Ohio State University. “This finding suggests that honey bees are disproportionately removing resources from the plant species that likely support the greatest diversity and abundance of native pollinator species.”

From an ecological perspective, the new assessment could help habitat and wildlife management evaluate pollination services and native pollinator conservation in natural areas where non-native honey bees have become established.

“Our study is a first step in figuring out which plant and pollinator species may be most susceptible to interference from honey bees,” said Hung. “This is also a great example of the importance of understanding the natural history of a non-native species when we attempt to evaluate its ecological impacts — both positive and negative.”

Native to Europe, the Middle East and Africa, honey bees were introduced to North America in the 1600s. They spread in California after the state’s gold rush in the mid-1800s. In San Diego, the great majority of honey bees foraging in natural systems are both feral and Africanized (an aggressive hybrid of the Western honey bee).
Behind the honey bees’ ability to preferentially target the most rewarding plant species is the fact that they employ social communication to “spread the word” when flowers with rich pollen and nectar resources are available in abundance. Most pollinating insects native to the area are solitary, and thus not capable of such communication.

“Honey bees are thought to have the most sophisticated communication of all invertebrates. They can communicate the distance and direction of a high quality food source,” said Kohn. “Native bumble bees are also social and are thought to communicate that there is a worthwhile floral resource and what it smells like, but they can’t communicate distance and direction the way honey bees can.”

Native bumble bees made up only 0.2 percent of insect visitors to flowers, perhaps due to competition with honey bees. These findings highlight the importance of considering the honey bee’s unique foraging behavior when evaluating its ecological impact on native species.

San Diego County is considered a global biodiversity hotspot where researchers have documented more than 600 species of native bees, numerous other pollinating insect species and more plant species than any other county in the United States. According to the researchers, the high biodiversity, coupled with the fact that many plant and pollinator species in the region are threatened by habitat loss and climate change, means that any ecological impact of honey bees on native species could be especially consequential.

“There is little doubt that honey bees currently play an important role in pollinating native plants here in San Diego,” said Hung, “but we need to also consider how honey bees may be impacting native pollinators by competing with them for limited food resources.”

The researchers also point out that non-honey bee pollinators are known to increase the pollination success of many crop plants in California and elsewhere, even when honey bee hives are brought to fields by the truckload. So the maintenance of healthy populations of native insects is an important aspect of stable food production.

In addition to possible negative effects of honey bees on native pollinating insects, honey bees may negatively affect native plants as well. Studies in other systems have shown that too many visits by comparatively large and super-abundant pollinators such as honey bees can hinder plant reproduction because of damage caused to flowers. In addition, honey bees are known to visit more flowers on a plant before moving to the next plant than native pollinators. This may increase self-fertilization, which often leads to lower-quality seeds due to the negative effects of inbreeding.

The researchers are now investigating these and other possible ramifications of honey bee dominance in San Diego, although their true impact is difficult to assess since there are no available baseline data from before honey bees were introduced into the area.

“In general, the threats that honey bees may pose to native biodiversity have not been explored very thoroughly, but we are now headed that way,” said Kohn, who first became interested in honey bee dominance while hiking in local wilderness areas. “No matter how far away from agriculture or urbanized areas I was, if something was blooming heavily, it was just swarmed with honey bees. I thought it was odd that there were so many honey bees here.”

https://www.beeculture.com/catch-the-buzz-immense-numbers-of-introduced-honey-bees-overwhelm-native-pollinators-for-access-to-pollen-and-nectar-at-least-in-san-diego/

In Search of the World's Biggest Bee: How It Came to 'Bee'

BugSquad By Kathy Keatley Garvey February 26, 2019

Imagine you're in an Indonesian rainforest and a humongous bee, with a wingspan of two and a half inches, flies over your head.

The world's largest bee, known as Wallace's Giant Bee (Megachile pluto), considered extinct since 1981, lives.

It's not extinct, after all.

You probably read the news. An international team, accompanied by guides, rediscovered the black resin bee in January in the North Moluccas, an island group in Indonesia. The find, announced Feb. 21, continues to draw "oohs" "aahs" and accolades.

The four-member team, supported by Global Wildlife Conservation, an Austin, Texas-based organization that runs a Search for Lost Species program, included Honorary Professor Simon Robson of the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney; Honorary Professor Glen Chilton, of Saint Mary's University, Canada; Clay Bolt, a natural history conservation photographer from Montana who specializes in North American native bees; and entomologist and bee expert Eli Wyman of Princeton University.

“It was absolutely breathtaking to see this 'flying bulldog' of an insect that we weren't sure existed anymore,” said Bolt, who is known for his conservation efforts, including his work with the rusty-patched bumble bee. His work (see his website at http://www.claybolt.com) has been featured in National GeographicScientific American and many others.

“To see how beautiful and big the species is in real life, to hear the sound of its giant wings thrumming as it flew past my head, was just incredible," Bolt said. "My dream is to now use this rediscovery to elevate this bee to a symbol of conservation in this part of Indonesia."

It was the last day of their five-day trip when they found it: a single female Wallace's Giant Bee living in an active termite mound in a tree about 2.5 meters off the ground. The bee, which nests in active arboreal termite mounds, lines her nest with tree resin to protect it from termites.

Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, and a past president of the International Hymenopterists (she was not involved in the project) surmises that are more in the area. "Finding a female is a good thing," she told us.

"Yes, I've had a lot of folks email me and call me about the giant bee," said Kimsey, whose museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens, but no Megachile pluto. "I've actually seen specimens of this beast either at some meetings or the American Museum of Natural History. No surprise that it hasn't been collected since the '80s. Its probably been that long since someone collected in the Moluccas."

In his blog, Bolt relates how it all came about. In 2015 he visited Wyman at the American Museum of Natural History  “as part of an ambitious project documenting North America's under-appreciated native bee species. Eli was kind enough to show me around. As we looked through drawers of pinned bee specimens from around the world, I drooled over the beautiful array of species. Just before I left, Eli said with a sly grin, ‘want to see a specimens of Megachile pluto?” I couldn't believe my ears and seconds later, I was literally inches away from one of the rarest and most-sought-after insects in the world."

“It was more magnificent than I could have imagined, even in death,” Bolt blogged. “Eli shared with me that it had been his dream to try to find the bee in the wild for years and before long the two of us began a lengthy dialogue discussing possibilities, following clues, nearly giving up; ultimately a path to follow in the footsteps of Wallace himself and search for the bee in the Indonesian islands known as the North Moluccas. When we heard that GWC was calling for nominations for their Search for Lost Species program, we convinced them to include Wallace's Giant Bee on their top 25 'most wanted list.' We were one step closer to fulfilling our dream."

Fast forward to January 2019. Bolt remembers staring at "termite mounds for 20 minutes at a time" then moving on to the next mound. "It was invigorating but tiring work...As each day went by, we were less and less sure it would happen."

"By the last day of searching, we were all dealing with various maladies, including Glen, who had made the difficult decision to return home to Australia after coming down with heat-induced illness," Bolt blogged. "That day we walked down an old orchard road flanked on both sides by mixed lowland forest and fruit trees. Iswan (a guide), ever the eagle eye, spotted a low termite mound, around eight feet from the ground. He later recounted that he almost didn't mention it to us because, like the rest of the team, he was feeling tired and hungry. However, I'll forever be grateful that he did because as we scampered up an embankment to the nest, we immediately noticed that it had a hole in it, like many other nests we'd seen, but this one was a little more perfect. It was very round, and just the size that a giant bee might use.

"Bracing the rotting tree, I asked Iswan if he would mind climbing up to take a look inside. As he peered inside the nest he exclaimed, 'I saw something move!' Jumping down, for fear that the creature was a snake—his worst fear—after catching his breath, he said that it looked wet and sticky inside. Eli and I looked at each other with reserved excitement. Eli climbed up and immediately felt for certain that it was a bee nest. The structure was just too perfect and similar to what we expected to find. I climbed up next and my headlamp glinted on the most remarkable thing I'd ever laid my eyes on. I simply couldn't believe it:

"We had rediscovered Wallace's Giant Bee."

They documented it, photographed it, and let it bee.

British entomologist Alfred Russel Wallace discovered the giant bee in 1858 when he was exploring the Indonesian island of Bacan. He described the female bee, about the length of a human thumb, as "a large black wasp-like insect, with immense jaws like a stag-beetle." Years went by. It was considered extinct until American entomologist Adam Messer rediscovered it in 1981. 

And now this international team has rediscovered it...in 2019.

Sadly, this is a bee threatened by habitat loss.   Between 2001 and 2017, Indonesia lost 15 percent of its forestation, according to Global Forest Watch.  "The islands have become home to oil palm plantations that now occupy much of the former native habitat," says Wikipedia. "This has caused the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to label this species as Vulnerable."

And sadly, there are greedy entrepreneurs out there anxious to make a buck. Or a lot of bucks. Two specimens sold on eBay in 2018. One sold for $9,100 on March 25, 2018. It was advertised as "very rare--only one!"

We need strict conservation efforts--and bans on international trade--to save this iconic bee.

Natural history photographer Clay Bolt photographs Wallace’s Giant Bee in its. nest. The bee nests in active termite mounds in the North Moluccas, Indonesia. (Copyright Simon Robson)

Natural history photographer Clay Bolt photographs Wallace’s Giant Bee in its. nest. The bee nests in active termite mounds in the North Moluccas, Indonesia. (Copyright Simon Robson)

Wallace’s Giant Bee, Megachile pluto, the world’s largest bee, is approximately four times larger than a European honey bee. This is a composite. (Copyright: Clay Bolt, www:claybolt.photoshelter.com)

Wallace’s Giant Bee, Megachile pluto, the world’s largest bee, is approximately four times larger than a European honey bee. This is a composite. (Copyright: Clay Bolt, www:claybolt.photoshelter.com)