Study Shows Bee Brains Process Positive and Negative Experiences Differently

Phys.org By Bob Yirka September 11, 2019

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has found that when bees experience positive versus negative events, their brains process and remember the events differently. In their paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the group describes their study of bee brain processing and memory retention and what they found.

Scientists have known for a long time that vertebrates handle positive and negative events differently, storing and retrieving those memories in their brains differently, as well. In this effort, the researchers wanted to know if the same could be said of invertebrates such as the common honeybee. To find out, they exposed test bees to positive or negative events and then studied gene expression in a part of their brain known as the mushroom body—an area involved in processing sensory information, learning and memory.

More specifically, the researchers exposed the bees to positive experiences such as tending to their young or negative experiences such as dealing with a threat like an enemy or a predator. They then quickly froze the bees to keep the brain chemical state intact. Next, they studied the brain chemistry related to gene expression in samples taken from the mushroom bodies, focusing on genes that prior research has shown respond very quickly to external stimuli. The team then looked for differences in other parts of the mushroom bodies after the bee had been exposed to a positive or negative event. They report that they did find differences between the two, which, they suggest, indicates that bee brains process and store memories of the two types of events differently. The researchers were surprised by the results, considering the very small size of the bee brain.

The researchers suggest their findings could lead to a better understanding of social behavior in invertebrates and how they respond to different sorts of stimuli. They also note that because of the two types of memory involved in the two types of events, there is a link between vertebrate and invertebrate cognition despite the two groups diverging approximately 600 million years ago.

More information: Ian M. Traniello et al. Valence of social information is encoded in different subpopulations of mushroom body Kenyon cells in the honeybee brain, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2019). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2019.0901

Journal information: Proceedings of the Royal Society B

https://phys.org/news/2019-09-bee-brains-positive-negative-differently.html

Related: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-09-brain-function-impacts-contribute-depression.html

Male Honeybees Inject Queens With Blinding Toxins During Sex

SciTechDaily University of California Riverside By Jules Bernstein September 10, 2019

Queen honeybee in a hive. Credit: Barbara Baer-Imhoff / UCR


Queen honeybee in a hive. Credit: Barbara Baer-Imhoff / UCR

They say love is blind, but if you’re a queen honeybee it could mean true loss of sight.

New research finds male honeybees inject toxins during sex that cause temporary blindness. All sexual activity occurs during a brief early period in a honeybee’s life, during which males die and queens can live for many years without ever mating again.

UC Riverside’s Boris Baer, a professor of entomology, said males develop vision-impairing toxins to maximize the one fleeting opportunity they may ever get to father offspring.

“The male bees want to ensure their genes are among those that get passed on by discouraging the queen from mating with additional males,” said Baer, senior author of the study that discovered these blinding findings published today in the journal eLife. “She can’t fly if she can’t see properly.”

The toxins identified by the team are proteins contained in male bees’ seminal fluid, which is a substance that helps maintain sperm. Earlier work by Baer’s team also discovered honeybee seminal fluid toxins that kill the sperm of rivals. All honeybees make these proteins, though some may make more of it than others.

Baer first became interested in bees’ seminal fluid years ago as a doctoral student. During early projects, he noticed that if bumblebee queens were injected only with the fluid and not the sperm during insemination, the queens stopped mating and became increasingly aggressive toward males. He wanted to understand why.

Roughly 10 years ago, Baer and his international team began analyzing which proteins could be found in honeybees’ fluids.

“We found at least 300 of these ‘James Bonds,’ little secret agents with specific missions,” he said.

It isn’t easy being queen. Queens can mate with as many as 90 males during a single, brief mating flight. Credit: Markus Imhoff / UCR


It isn’t easy being queen. Queens can mate with as many as 90 males during a single, brief mating flight. Credit: Markus Imhoff / UCR

The team was not entirely surprised to find a protein that attacks the sperm of other males, as this behavior can be found in other insects. But they were surprised to find the protein that impacts genes responsible for vision in the queen’s brains.

To test whether the protein had this effect, Baer’s team presented inseminated queens with a flickering light, and measured her response to it via tiny electrodes in her brain. The vision and corresponding flight-impairing effects kick in within hours, but Baer notes that it is likely reversible in the long term because queens do tend to fly successfully later in life when they establish new colonies.

Studying the seminal fluid proteins required an interdisciplinary team of entomologists, biologists, biochemists, and more to identify them and examine their effects on the queens.

This team included Baer’s wife and co-author, Barbara Baer-Imhoof, a UC Riverside pollination specialist. As part of this project, Baer-Imhoof conducted experiments in which she installed tiny tags on queen bees’ backs read by scanners at the hive entrances.

“The tags were similar to those at the self-checkout counter in grocery stores,” Baer-Imhoof said. The experiment showed queens had difficulties finding their way back to their colonies if they had been inseminated.

A molecular understanding of honeybee mating habits could eventually be used to improve breeding programs and help insects that pollinate many of the foods we eat.

“More than a third of what we eat depends on bee pollination, and we’ve taken bees’ services for granted for a very long time,” Baer said. “However, bees have experienced massive die-offs in the last two decades. Anything we can do to help improve their numbers will benefit humans, too.”

Reference: “Seminal fluid compromises visual perception in honeybee queens reducing their survival during additional mating flights” by Joanito Liberti, Julia Görner, Mat Welch, Ryan Dosselli, Morten Schiøtt, Yuri Ogawa, Ian Castleden, Jan M Hemmi, Barbara Baer-Imhoof, Jacobus J Boomsma, and Boris Baer, 10 September 2019, eLife.
DOI: doi.org/10.7554/eLife.45009

https://scitechdaily.com/male-honeybees-inject-queens-with-blinding-toxins-during-sex/

Bees Can Learn the Difference Between European And Australian Indigenous Art Styles In A Single Afternoon

PHYS.ORG By Andrew Barron January 29, 2019

A painting titled The Bridge Over the Waterlily Pond by Claude Monet. Credit:  AAP/National Gallery of Victoria

A painting titled The Bridge Over the Waterlily Pond by Claude Monet. Credit: AAP/National Gallery of Victoria

We've known for a while that honey bees are smart cookies. They have excellent navigation skills, they communicate symbolically through dance, and they're the only insects that have been shown to learn abstract concepts.

Honey bees might also add the title of art connoisseur to their box of tricks. In part one of ABC Catalyst's The Great Australian Bee Challenge, we see honey bees learning to tell the difference between European and Australian Indigenous art in just one afternoon.

Does this mean honey bees are more cultured than we are?

Perhaps not, but the experiment certainly shows just how quickly honey bees can learn to process very complex information.

How the experiment worked

Bees were shown four different paintings by the French impressionist artist Claude Monet, and four paintings by Australian Indigenous artist Noŋgirrŋa Marawili.

At the centre of each of the paintings was placed a small blue dot. To make the difference between the artists meaningful to the honey bees, every time they landed on the blue dot on a Marawili painting they found a minute drop of sugar water. Every time they visited the blue dot on a Monet painting, however, they found a drop of dilute quinine. The quinine isn't harmful, but it does taste bitter.

Lightning in the Rock by Noŋgirrŋa Marawili won the Bark Painting Award at the 2015 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. Credit:  AAP/PR Handout Image

Lightning in the Rock by Noŋgirrŋa Marawili won the Bark Painting Award at the 2015 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. Credit: AAP/PR Handout Image

Having experienced each of the Monet and Marawili paintings the bees were given a test. They were shown paintings by the two artists that they had never seen before. Could they tell the difference between a Marawili and a Monet?

All the trained bees clearly directed their attention to the Marawili paintings.

This experiment was a recreation of a study first conducted by Dr. Judith Reinhard's team at the University of Queensland. In the original study, Reinhard was able to train bees to tell the difference between paintings by Monet and Picasso.

Bees are quick to learn

This kind of work does not show bees have a sense of artistic style, but it does show how good they are at learning and classifying visual information.

Different artists – be they Marawili, Monet or Picasso – tend to prefer different forms of composition and structure, different tones and different pallets in their art. We describe this as their distinctive style. These styles are recognisable to us, even if most of us would be hard pressed to describe exactly what makes a Marawili different from a Monet.

When the honey bees were trained on the paintings, every Monet they visited was a bitter experience, while every Marawili was sweet. This motivated the bees to learn whatever differences best distinguished the set of Marawili paintings from the set of Monets.

(NOTE: The video is currently unavailable.)

Bee colour vision is excellent, if different from ours. Bees can see ultraviolet wavelengths of light, but not red. Bees can pick up structure and edges in paintings by zipping quickly back and forth in front of them to detect abrupt changes in the brightness of an image.

In our experiment, bees could detect enough differences between the Marawili and Monet paintings to learn to tell them apart. The bees were not memorising the paintings; instead they were learning whatever information best distinguished a Monet from a Marawili. They could then maximise their collection of sugar, and avoid any bitter surprises.

Learning the visual differences between one set of Monet and Marawili paintings was enough for the bees to correctly choose between Monet and Marawili paintings they had never seen before.

Similarities between art and flowers

This experiment taps into a highly evolved honey bee skill. Bees did not evolve to differentiate between artists, but their survival depends on learning to tell which flowers are most likely to offer the best pollen and nectar they need to feed their hive.

Because of this, bees have evolved the ability to very quickly process complex and subtle visual information. These learning skills are on display when bees forage on flowers. Bees quickly learn to pick up on the subtlest distinction between fresh and older flowers, be it colour, odour or texture, which can betray the blooms that are most likely to contain a drop of nectar.

Honey bees break any stereotypes we may have that insects are dumb, instinct-driven animals. They have an intelligence that is very different from ours, but one that has evolved to be fit for the task of a bee doing what a bee has to do.

It is hard not to admire such clever and discriminating creatures.

Explore further: To bee an art critic, choosing between Picasso and Monet

Provided by: The Conversation

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2019-01-bees-difference-european-australian-indigenous.html#jCp

Researchers Discover Honeybee Gynandromorph With Two Fathers And No Mother

Phys.org By Bob Yirka November 28, 2018

Credit CCO Public Domain

Credit CCO Public Domain

A team of researchers at the University of Sydney has discovered a honeybee gynandromorph with two fathers and no mother—the first ever of its kind observed in nature. In their paper published in the journal Biology Letters, the group describes their study of honeybee gynandromorphs and what they found.

Honeybees are haplodiploid creatures—which means that females develop from fertilized eggs, while males arise from eggs that are not fertilized. Because of this, honeybees are susceptible to producing gynandromorphs, creatures with both male and female tissue. This is different from hermaphrodites, which are one gender but have sex organs of both male and female. In this new effort, the researchers sought to learn more about the nature of gynandromorphs and what causes them.

Prior research has suggested the likelihood that rare mutations result in the creation of gynandromorphs. The mechanics of the process are due to multiple males mating with a queen, resulting in more than a single sperm fertilizing an egg. To learn more about the genetics involved, the researchers captured 11 gynandromorph honeybees, all from a single colony, and studied their genome.

The genetic makeup of the gynandromorphs revealed that five of them had normal ovaries, while three had ovaries that were similar to those of the queen. Also, one of them had normal male sex organs while two had only partial sex organs. The researchers also found that out of the 11 gynandromorphs tested, nine had either two or three fathers. And remarkably, one had two fathers but no mother—a development that could only have occurred through the development of sperm fusion.

The researchers note that gynandromorphs confer no known evolutionary advantage for a species; thus, their development must be due to mistakes resulting in still unknown mutations. They suggest that the large number of gynandromorphs in a single hive likely means the queen carries the mutation. They note that gynandromorphs have been observed in other species as well, including some crustaceans, other insects and a few bird species. The mutation that causes it in those other species has not been found, either.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-11-honeybee-gynandromorph-fathers-mother.html#jCp

All the Buzz About Bees - Talking Points Featuring Bill Lewis of Bill's Bees

Bill Lewis, President/Owner of Bill’s Bees and former president of the California State Beekeepers Association and the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association, shares some of his experiences with bees over the last 30-some years.

"It's not something everybody does." ~Bill Lewis

In this fascinating overview, Bill talks about honey bee activity, hive behavior, bee colony collapse, habitat loss, crop pollination, and honey production. 

Bill Lewis Talking Points.jpg


Take a peek at the amazing life that goes on inside a beehive: how bees communicate, get along inside a hive, and who makes the decisions. Learn how bees collect nectar and pollen and bring it back to the hive to make honey, how honey is harvested and preserved. 

When asked about the best ways to behave around bees, Bill's reply:

"Pretend they're not there." 

Beach TV/CSULB Host: David Kelly
California State University/Long Beach

Bill's Bees