LA County Fair Bee Booth - Weirdest Bees Dance!

Watch the bees perform the Waggle Dance here on the National Geographic video.

Then come to the LA County Fair, visit the Bee Booth, check out the honey bee observation hive, and see if you can spot The World's Weirdest: Honey Bee Dance Moves - The Waggle Dance.  There's only five more days of the fair (Wed-Sun) Sept 23-28). You don't want to miss this rare opportunity to see the honey bees perform The Waggle Dance in person.

http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/weirdest-bees-dance?source=relatedvideo

Cool Things About Bees That Have Nothing To Do With The Beepocalypse

 greenpeaceblogs.org  By Jason Schwartz    June 18, 2014

It’s National Pollinator Week, seven days the US government sets aside to honor the butterflies, birds, beetles, and bats that keep a lot of our plants (and food supply) going. But if you’ve been paying even the most casual attention, you probably know that that bees, particularly honeybees, are in some serious trouble.

Colony Collapse Disorder is decimating bee populations in the U.S. and Europe. For years, scientists have been trying to understand its causes. But a recent study by Harvard scientists confirms what many in the EU have already taken to heart: a group of pesticides called neonicotinoids are, in large part, to blame.

While we’re super concerned about bees and believe, like any sensible people, that their problems are our problems, we’re not here to talk about Colony Collapse Disorder right now. We think it’s a bummer that so much of the press around bees is about catastrophe, pesticides, mites, viruses, and doom and gloom, while the other great discoveries around bees — which seem to pop up constantly — get little fanfare. So here’s a little sampling, just from the past couple months.

Small brain, big maps

Animal pollinators like birds and butterflies use the sun as a navigational tool, sort of like a compass. Mammals, on the other hand, tend to create mental maps using landmarks. Recent research is showing that despite their tiny brains, bees may actually do both, creating cognitive maps using memorized ‘landscape snapshots’ to find their way home, at times when the sun can’t be relied upon. 

Bees are better than water

Researchers in California found that neither lack of fertilizer nor insufficient watering were as damaging to almond yields than a lack of bees and other wild pollinators. In other words, the presence of bees is more important to crop yields than fertilizer and sufficient watering(WHAT?!) As climate change sends us down a path of food insecurity, preserving bee populations is that much more urgent.

Berries are better with bees

Pollination by bees doesn’t just make more fruit, it makes better fruit.Researchers found that strawberries pollinated by bees were redder, better formed, heavier, firmer, and had better sugar-acid ratios (a marker of flavor) than self-or-wind pollinated strawberries. Another study found similar results when diverse bee species visited their blueberry plants. The economic implications of better berries with longer shelf lives are self-evident, but for most of us, that’s not the point, is it? 

Get your wag on

The waggle dance is how honey bees show hivemates the direction and distance of the good stuff. A recent study shows the waggling bees tend to urge their peers toward nature reserves and rural areas that are managed for agri-ecological diversity. Heavily managed, conventionally-farmed areas are low on bees priority list, even when they house nectar rich flowers. Why? Well don’t they sound boring to you too? 

Buzzed Bees

A recent study showed that bees experience improved long-term memory (along with a predictable mild high) when visiting plants who provide them with caffeine. The caffeine acts as a kind of reward, perhaps provoking bees to remember where they found it. The report also found that bees like to visit those plants in the morning and again at 3pm, when the workday feels like it’s never going to end. Actually that last part is me. 

Rambling men

Neotropical orchid bees, which evolved to depend on year-round warm and moist habitats, are really at risk, as climate change and habitat loss from deforestation have taken a toll on their homes. Fortunately for their continued survival, a sexual variation in orchid bees that has males traveling up to 7km a day means that genetic variation and vitality may be maintained, across fragmented habitats. It’s probably best not to ask where those guys have been though, unless you want to hear bad excuses. They may travel far and use their mental maps to get home, but scientists are still pretty sure bees are bad liars. 

Stuff like this comes out in science journals all the time. There are thousands of scientists all over the world whose job is to figure out new things about bees. That’s their job. Where did I go wrong?

During this National Pollinator week, can we expect legislation from the White House and President Obama about protecting our bees and pollinators? Might we finally see legislation to limit the use of neo-nicotinoids?

We’re not holding our breath, but we hope so.

Read at... http://greenpeaceblogs.org/2014/06/18/national-pollinator-week-six-bee-studies-arent-beepocalypse/?utm_source=gpusafb&utm_medium=blog&utm_campaign=bees

Honey Bee Dances Lead the Way on Agriculture and the Environment

Western Daily Press    By Jeff Wells   May 23, 2013

Honey bees' foraging preferences can provide valuable information for governments about how to better manage rural landscapes, according to new research.

In the past two decades, the European Union has spent 41 billion euros (£33.4 billion) on agri-environment schemes (AES), which aim to improve the rural landscape by bringing in changes such as the creation of areas for wildlife around crop fields.

There are different levels of AES, although few studies exist evaluating how wildlife responds to the schemes, researchers at the University of Sussex have said.

But a study published in the journal Current Biology has revealed that a honey bee's waggle dance, in which it waggles its abdomen while moving in a figure-of-eight pattern to tell its nest mates where to find good sources of pollen and nectar, identifies the better areas as being in rural lands under a higher level AES rather than any other land type, including urban areas and rural lands not under AES.

Researchers at Sussex's Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (Lasi) spent two years filming waggle dances made by worker honey bees living in glass-fronted observation hives.

They then decoded the dances to discover where bees were gathering their food.

By combining the waggle dance data with maps of land use, the researchers could make a landscape-wide survey of the surrounding 94sq km (36sq miles) because honey bees forage at long distances from their hives.

The bees were able to access the surrounding city and countryside through tubes in the lab wall that opened to the outside.

The landscape was divided into one of seven land types – urban, rural, and five types of rural under government-funded AESs, a university spokeswoman said.

The study showed that the most plentiful areas for foraging were rural lands in higher AESs.

Lead researcher Dr Margaret Couvillon said: "Usually efforts to help wildlife takes two approaches.

"One is to set aside important areas like National Parks or National Nature Reserves.

"Another approach is to make existing areas more wildlife-friendly, like the agri-environment schemes. Here we have let the bees tell us which practices and what areas are good for them.

"The honey bee is acting as an 'indicator' species pointing to 'healthy landscapes'. The honey bee is a generalist forager, so landscapes used by honey bees are good for a wide range of pollinators.

"The waggle dance is, therefore, more than just behaviour. It is a powerful tool for ecology and conservation."

Read more: http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Honey-bees-say-policy/story-21131862-detail/story.html#ixzz32YSi3AWO

Wondering about State of the Environment? Just Eavesdrop on Bees

Science Daily    Source: Cell Press        May 22,2014

Want a simple way to monitor wide swaths of the landscape without breaking a sweat? Listen in on the 'conversations' honeybees have with each other, researchers suggest. The scientists' analyses of honeybee waggle dances suggest that costly measures to set aside agricultural lands and let the wildflowers grow can be very beneficial to bees.

Researchers have devised a simple way to monitor wide swaths of the landscape without breaking a sweat: by listening in on the "conversations" honeybees have with each other. The scientists' analyses of honeybee waggle dances reported in the Cell Press journalCurrent Biology on May 22 suggest that costly measures to set aside agricultural lands and let the wildflowers grow can be very beneficial to bees.

"In the past two decades, the European Union has spent €41 billion on agri-environment schemes, which aim to improve the rural landscape health and are required for all EU-member states," says Margaret Couvillon of the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex. "However, there is little evidence evaluating these schemes. Our work uses a novel source of data -- the honeybee, an organism that itself can benefit from a healthy rural landscape -- to evaluate not only the environment, but also the schemes used to manage that environment."

Couvillon and her colleagues, led by Francis Ratnieks, recorded and decoded the waggle dances of bees in three hives over a two-year period. Bees dance to tell their fellow bees where to find the good stuff: the best nectar and pollen. The angle of their dances conveys information about the direction of resources while the duration conveys distance. Researchers can measure those dance characteristics in a matter of minutes with a protractor and timer.

In all, the researchers "eavesdropped" on 5,484 dances to find that the best forage within the 94 km2 of mixed urban-rural landscape included in the study -- as far as bees and, by extension, other insect pollinators are concerned -- is a place called Castle Hill, which happened to be the only National Nature Reserve in the area. More broadly, High Level agri-environment schemes were the best places for bees.

The researchers were surprised to find that Organic Entry Level agri-environment schemes were the least frequented by bees. According to Couvillon, it may be that the regular mowing required initially to discourage certain plants from growing in those plots might leave few wildflowers for bees.

The study shows that honeybees can serve as bioindicators to monitor large land areas and provide information relevant to better environmental management, the researchers say. It also gives new meaning to the term "worker bee."

"Imagine the time, manpower, and cost to survey such an area on foot -- to monitor nectar sources for quality and quantity of production, to count the number of other flower-visiting insects to account for competition, and then to do this over and over for two foraging years," Couvillon says. "Instead, we have let the honeybees do the hard work of surveying the landscape and integrating all relevant costs and then providing, through their dance communication, this biologically relevant information about landscape quality."

Read at...
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140522123453.htm

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell PressNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Margaret J. Couvillon, Roger Schürch, Francis L.W. Ratnieks. Dancing Bees Communicate a Foraging Preference for Rural Lands in High-Level Agri-Environment SchemesCurrent Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.03.072

Decoding Waggle Dances to Determine Where Honey Bees Forage

University of Sussex     4/17/14

The number of bee hives in the UK has declined by nearly 75 per cent in the past century, from approximately one million to 280,000. One major reason for this is change in land use leading to fewer flowers. Fields of wheat and barley now have few weeds. Fields of grass now have few wild flowers and clover is less used. hay meadows are increasingly rare and much of the heather moorland has been ploughed up or lost to urbanisation. To stay in business, commercial beekeepers need hives to produce reasonable honey crops.

Successful honey bee foragers make waggle dances when they return to the hive. These dances tell nestmates the direction and distance of profitable flower patches. The dances can also be decoded by researchers, using observation hives and video cameras. Honey bees literally tell the researchers where they have been foraging - they are the only animals doing this. Decoding dances provide an effective means of investigating honey bee feeding ecology. Previous LASI research has shown that honey bees fly up to 14km to highly rewarding patches of heather. By decoding waggle dances we will be able to determine which parts of the landscape are good for honey bees, and how this varies in different seasons and months. This information will be of value to people who are responsible for growing plants and who want to make Britain a more bee and insect friendly country, including farmers, land managers, parks departments, and gardeners. Because honey bees are generalist foragers, foraging on plants also visited by other pollinating insects, the results of this project will help other insect species including bumble bees, other wild bees, butterflies and hoverflies.

Decoding bee dances will also be used to investigate the stress caused by moving hives. Beekeepers often move hives by truck, and it is suggested that the stress caused by moving hives can be harmful. One form of stress on the bees will be the need to “relearn” where to forge in a new location.

Main aims

To determine the habitats and distances from the hive that honey bees collect food, the plants that they visit, and to make recommendations for land use in both rural and urban areas that benefit honey bees and beekeepers.

Read more... 
http://www.sussex.ac.uk/lasi/sussexplan/dances

 

Summer Blues for Bees According to University of Sussex Research

The Argus News   4/18/14

Summer is the most challenging season for honey bees to collect nectar and pollen, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Sussex Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) spent two years filming honey bees in its glass-fronted observation hives.

They then decoded their waggle dances to discover how far the bees were having to fly to find sources of food during different seasons.

The waggle dance, in which the bee waggles its abdomen while moving in a figure of eight pattern, is performed by returning forager bees in the hive to tell its nest mates where to find good sources of pollen and nectar.

The dance indicates the distance to a patch of flowers from the hive and the direction from the hive.

The bees were able to access the surrounding downland countryside and Brighton and Hove through tube tunnels that opened to the outside of the lab.

By examining the waggle dance data, researchers found that in summer, honey bees were covering areas 22 times greater than in spring and six times greater than in the autumn.

The study also showed summer is probably a harder season both because there are fewer flowers but also because there are more insects active at that time, competing with each other for nectar and pollen.

Margaret Couvillon, who led the research, said: “We eavesdropped on what the bees were communicating to each other about where to find good food.

“What they told each other shows that they are finding it harder to find food in the summer than in the spring or autumn.

“In any conservation work, it is important to know where the animal collects its food.

“Some researchers attach tracking devices to the animals they study, which we cannot do because the honey bees are too small.

“But we also don’t have to because the honey bee is the only animal that tells you directly where it has collected food.”

The results could be used to focus efforts to help bees better, researchers say.

Read at...

http://m.theargus.co.uk/news/11157720.Summer_blues_for_bees/

Scientists Decode Honeybee 'Waggle Dance'

 The Guardian   By Alison Benjamin   April 3, 2014

Unique form of communication allowed researchers to map the distance and location where bees foraged from month to month 

A honeybee who has found a good source of nectar or pollen performs a waggle dance to tell her nestmates where she has foraged. Here she repeatedly communicates that the profitable food location is at approximately 750m from the hive and about 270 degrees from the sun's azimuth

Honeybees fly much longer distances in the summer than in the spring and autumn to find good sources of food, a new study has found.

Researchers at Sussex University spent two years decoding the "waggle dance" of thousands of honeybees, a form of communication by which the bees tell their nestmates where to go to get the best source of food to bring back to the hive.

By measuring the angle of the dance in relation to the sun and the length of time the bee waggled its abdomen while moving in a figure of eight pattern, researchers have been able to map the distance and location where bees forage from month to month.

With a one second waggle equating to a foraging distance of 750 metres, the bees dance language revealed that the area they covered in search of food is approximately 22 times greater in the summer (July and August) than in spring (March) and six times greater in summer than in the autumn (October). In the summer the area they cover is 15.2km sq, compared to 0.8km in spring and 5.1km in the autumn.

Honeybees will not waste valuable time and energy travelling to find food if they don’t need to, so the researchers say the results, published in the journal PlOS One, show that the summer is the most challenging season for bees to collect the nectar and pollen from flowers.

“There is an abundance of flowers in the spring from crocuses and dandelions to blossoming fruit trees. And in the autumn there is an abundance of flowering ivy. But it is harder for them to locate good patches of flowers in the summer because agricultural intensification means there are fewer wildflowers in the countryside for bees,” said Frances Ratnieks, professor of apiculture at Sussex University, who supervised the study.

Honeybees face many challenges including increasing lack of forage because of modern farming practices.

The researcher say the results can be used to focus efforts to help bees better. “The bees are telling us where they are foraging so we can now understand how best to help them by planting more flowers for them in the summer,” said Ratnieks.

This video describes the research project Waggle dance distances as integrative indicators of seasonal foraging challenges carried out by Margaret Couvillon, Roger Schürch and Francis Ratnieks at the Laboratory of Apiculture & Social Insects (LASI) in the School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex

Honeybees may also have to forage further in the summer because they have more mouths to feed when the colony expands to 50,000 bees and there is more competition for food from other insects and pollinators including bumblebees.

The glass-fronted observation hives are located at the university campus surrounded by the South Downs countryside and a few kilometres from the city parks and gardens of nearby Brighton and Hove.

The waggle dance clearly show that the bees are heading to the downs in the summer and researchers are currently examining which flowers they are feeding there.

The honeybee dance language was first decoded by Austrian scientist Karl von Frisch who was awarded a Nobel prize in 1973 for the discovery.

Ratnieks said its work will benefit other pollinators, such as bumblebees.

“Mapping the waggle dance will allow us to help other species, because where honeybees find good food, we have already found a plethora of other pollinating insects feeding there,” said Ratnieks. “So we can improve forage for all these insects.”

The Sussex research comes as the the IUCN's latest "red list" of threatened species update warns that 24% of Europe’s 68 bumblebee species are threatened with extinction. According to the Status and Trends of European Pollinators, loss of habitat and wildflowers due to modern farming practices and urban development, plus changes in temperature from climate change, are the main threats to the species.

Read article (and comments) and view video at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/apr/03/honeybees-fly-further-in-summer-to-find-food-study-shows?commentpage=1
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yELA7pvNUQI#t=115
Related articles: 
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0093495
http://www.sussex.ac.uk/newsandevents/?id=24883&intrefk=slideshow&intrefv=slide3

(FYI:  There were numerous comments to this article, such as:

"The waggle dance was first decoded by Austrian scientist Karl von Firsch who was awarded the Nobel prize in 1973 for the discovery."

The question was asked: "Why was it necessary for Sussex academics to spend two years studying the English waggle dance?" 

Response: "You ask why, but if you read the paper linked to in the article it clearly explains why. 
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0093495

Essentially because the waggle dance has been so well studied, it has been decoded. Therefore the waggle dance can be used to work out the foraging distances of the Honeybees.

The study says that most previous studies decoding the waggle dance have only been over a few weeks or months of the much longer year. This it says is partly down to the time consuming nature of decoding the waggle dance. However, advances have made it easier to decode the waggle dance. Therefore they set out to use this methodology to work out the Honeybee's foraging distances for the whole year.

The reason for this study is because of the decline of Honeybees. They wanted to know how far bees foraged at different times of the year and whether more flowers may help in an agricultural landscape, which often has large areas devoid of food (flowers) for foraging bees.

In other words it is part of the strategy for understanding and reversing the decline of Honeybees. The decline of Honeybees has a great cost, and if they decline even more, along with wild pollinators it might seriously effect agricultural production (almond production in California is already badly hit), and have major economic impacts.

So you ask how much this costs as if it is a waste of money, when the intention is to save the money being lost due to the decline in Honeybees."

Response: "Thankyou for providing the apparent reason for the work, which was to extend Frisch's work to the whole of the active season. This key piece of information was missing from the article.")

 

Berlin is Abuzz with Mechanical 'Robot' Bees

By Christopher Cottrell   (Special to CNN) June 28, 2012

Berlin, Germany (CNN) - Its brain is the size of a pinhead, but that doesn't stop the common honeybee from knowing basic geometry.

Widely regarded as one of the most intelligent insects on the planet, bees can use their mathematical prowess to communicate the exact location of nearby food to their hivemates via a technique dubbed the "bee dance."

It is the only known instance of symbolic communication in the animal kingdom and today a group of scientists in Germany is trying to build a robot that mimics it. Read more...