660 Species Of Bees Live In Newly Shrunk National Monument

National Geographic By Katarina Zimmer December 17, 2018

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument supports hundreds of bee species, possibly because of its diversity of flowers. This newly discovered bee biodiversity hotspot is at risk now that the monument has been shrunk. Photograph by Olivia Messinger Carril

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument supports hundreds of bee species, possibly because of its diversity of flowers. This newly discovered bee biodiversity hotspot is at risk now that the monument has been shrunk. Photograph by Olivia Messinger Carril

Scientists have found a striking diversity of bees, in the most extensive study of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to date.

AT FIRST GLANCE, it might not seem as if life thrives in the dry, otherworldly expanses of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The high, rugged patch in southern Utah is mostly known for its jagged cliffs, steep canyons, and vast, arid deserts. But bee biologist Olivia Messinger Carril knows better.

For four years, she and a team of volunteers spent nearly every summer day combing the Delaware-sized area, bit by bit, in search of bees the untrained eye might miss. The main result: An awful lot of bees live there.

Not just your ordinary yellow-and-black striped ones. There were iridescent blue mason bees, purple bees, green bees, and brilliant red bees. Bald bees, hairy bees, “big bumblers you can hear coming from a mile away, and tiny, tiny little ones that are the size of a comma in the books you’re reading,” says Carril, a science teacher at Santa Fe Girls School who does research on the side.

All in all, a whopping 660 species live within the monument’s boundaries. That’s nearly every fifth bee species in North America. Forty-nine of these were entirely new to science, according to the recently published research.

Why this remote patch of Utah is such a busy place for bees is somewhat of a mystery. It likely mirrors the diversity of desert flowers the insects pollinate, as well as the range of habitats…

Continue reading: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2018/12/bee-city-at-risk-after-grand-staircase-escalante-divided/


Shrinking of Utah National Monument May Threaten Bee Biodiversity

Smithsonian.com By Brigit Katz December 17, 2018

The Grand Staircase-Escalante is home to 660 bee species, 84 of which will live outside of protected land under changes

From left, small and large carpenter bees (Ceratina and Xylocopa, respectively, visit a wild rose in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. (Joseph S. Wilson, USU)

From left, small and large carpenter bees (Ceratina and Xylocopa, respectively, visit a wild rose in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. (Joseph S. Wilson, USU)

In December of last year, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation announcing his plans to shrink Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to nearly half of its original size. Comprising a remote and beautiful stretch of canyons, cliffs and desert, the monument is home to a huge range of biodiversity, including hundreds of bee species. And some of those buzzing critters could be imperilled by the planned modifications, according to a new study.

As Katarina Zimmer reports for National Geographic, research published last month in the journal PeerJ found that 660 bee species make their home in the Grand Staircase-Escalante, among them 49 species that are new to science. Over the course of four years, scientists catalogued black and yellow bees, red bees, turquoise bees, social bees, solitary bees, bees that nest in the ground, and bees that nest in cavities and twigs. It is not clear why so many bee species have chosen to make their home in the monument, but they may be attracted to the diversity of the landscape, which offers a range of habitats and desert plants.

Most of the bees were found to dwell in geographically isolated locations, prompting the researchers to wonder how the administration’s proposed changes to Grand Staircase-Escalante will affect bee populations that live there. According to Emily Birnbaum of the Hill, the plan involves splitting the monument into three smaller ones, which could in turn open newly unprotected land to human development, like mining, road construction and natural gas extraction.

As part of a follow-up study published this month, also in PeerJ, a number of the researchers involved in the first report studied the distribution of bees across old and new boundaries. They found that most of the bees—87 percent of the 660 species—live in areas that will continue to lie within the monument once its boundaries are reduced. But “that leaves about 84 species no longer inhabiting protected land,” says Joseph Wilson, an evolutionary ecologist at Utah State University and lead author of the new study.

Some of these bees are unique “morphospecies,” or individuals that don’t match any known species, and others still have not been described. A number of newly excluded bee species also represent the northern or southern extent of their range in the region, which is important because “they can provide valuable information about how bee species might respond to climate change,” according to the study authors.

The researchers are also worried about possible threats to Grand Staircase-Escalante’s bees because, as pollinating insects, bees play a crucial role in their ecosystems. Indeed, the decline of honeybees across the globe, due largely to the use of bee-killing pesticides has sparked acute concerns about biodiversity loss and detrimental impacts on food production.

But for now, it is not known how the shrinking of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument will impact the bees that live there. None of the excluded species seem to be currently threatened, and few are universally rare, occurring in other regions of the western United States. And while bees perform “a critical ecological service as pollinators,” the study authors write, “the role of these specific bees in maintaining functioning plant–pollinator networks has not been evaluated to any extent.”

Further study is needed, in other words, to fully assess the ramifications of the proclamation. It is not even clear if the proposed modifications will happen. Native American and conservation groups have filed lawsuits against the president, arguing that his plans to reduce the Grand Staircase-Escalante and another Utah monument, Bears Ears, are illegal and exceed the president’s authority.

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/shrinking-utah-national-monument-may-threaten-bees-180971052/#0hvJV4Aril3E0d1B.99

Additional Related Articles:
https://phys.org/news/2018-12-bees-grand-staircase-escalante-national-monument.html https://phys.org/news/2018-11-utah-grand-staircase-escalante-national-monument.html

Where Have All The Flowers Gone: Complexity and Worldwide Bee Declines

Bee Culture - Catch the Buzz    January 23, 2016

Over the past two decades, bee declines worldwide have drawn international attention. Managed honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies decreased by 25% over 20 years in Europe and 59% over 58 years in North America, and many bumble bee populations in Europe and North America have gone locally extinct, resulting in dramatic range contractions. It is important to note that not all bees in allplaces are declining. Some populations are actually growing, and there are many more for which data are insufficient or nonexistent. However, given the potential agricultural and ecological consequences, several governmental agencies, including the Obama administration, have issued initiatives to combat dwindling bee populations. As we attempt to pinpoint why bees are declining and how we can help them...

Continue reading: http://goo.gl/aEa1z3

Ncole Miller-Struttmann Assistant Professor of Biology at SUNY – Old Westbury

Posted January 11, 2016 by Alexandra (Sasha) Wright in Climate ChangeEcologyGuest PostPLoS

Bee Behavior Tracked by Tiny Tracker

BBC News   By Zoe Kleinman   March 24, 2015

A tiny new tracker designed to monitor bee behaviour is being tested by ecologists at Kew Gardens in London.

It is made from off-the-shelf technology and is based on equipment used to track pallets in warehouses, said its creator Dr Mark O'Neill.

Readers, used to pick up a signal from the kit, are connected to Raspberry Pi computers, which log the readings.

The device has a reach of up to 2.5m (8.2ft). Previously used models were restricted to 1cm (0.4in).

The tracker consists of a standard RFID (radio frequency identification) chip and a specially designed aerial, which Dr O'Neill has created to be thinner and lighter than other models used to track small insects, allowing him to boost the range.

The engineer, who is technical director at the Newcastle-based tech firm Tumbling Dice, is currently trying to patent the invention.

"The first stage was to make very raw pre-production tags using components I could easily buy", he said.

"I want to make optimised aerial components which would be a lot smaller."

"I've made about 50 so far. I've soldered them all on my desk - it feels like surgery."

The average "forage time" for a worker bee is around 20 minutes, suggesting they have a forage range of around 1km (0.6 miles) , Dr O'Neill explained.

The idea is to have readers dotted around a hive and flower patch in order to track the signals as the bees move around freely in the wild.

Chilled bees

The tiny trackers, which are just 8mm (0.3in) high and 4.8mm (1.9in) wide, are stuck to the bees with superglue in a process which takes five to 10 minutes. The bees are chilled first to make them more docile.

"They make a hell of a noise," acknowledged Dr O'Neill.

He told the BBC he hoped that the trackers - which weigh less than a bee and are attached at their centre of gravity so as not to affect their flight - would remain attached for their three-month expected lifespan.

The bees are chilled before the trackers are attached.

They have only been fitted to worker bees, which do not mate.

"If an animal ate one, I guess it would have a tracker in its stomach," Dr O'Neill said.

"But the attrition rate for field worker bees is very low. Most die of old age - they are very competent, and good at getting out of the way."

Dr Sarah Barlow, a restoration ecologist from Kew Gardens, was involved in testing the as-yet unnamed trackers.

"These tags are a big step forward in radio technology and no one has a decent medium to long range tag yet that is suitable for flying on small insects," she said.

"This new technology will open up possibilities for scientists to track bees in the landscape.

"This piece of the puzzle, of bee behaviour, is absolutely vital if we are to understand better why our bees are struggling and how we can reverse their decline."

Read at: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-32033766

Cancer Victory Receives Kings Royal Treatment

Auburn Journal   BY Gus Thomson   January 28, 2015

[Note: Bee-Girl, Sarah Red-Laird posted this inspirational story today on Facebook. If you were at the 2014 CSBA Convention, you may have met Justin. Thank you so much, Sarah, for sharing. Note from Sarah: "Justin is not only my bee conservation super twin, he is an amazing person, and a good friend who is real good at fixing busted windshield wipers during epic storms. And his story also goes to show that the relationship he has with the outdoors is mutually beneficial. While he was battling AGAINST cancer, he was also battling FOR something life giving and precious. Read on..."]

Placer Land Trust's Jason Wages honored by Kaiser Permanente, Sacramento Kings
Justin Wages (left), Placer Land Trust inspects the Aeolia Preserve on the edge of the American River Canyon with Jeff Ward, Stewardship Manager
More than 15,000 people watched and cheered Placer Land Trust’s land manager Justin Wages take the court at a Sacramento Kings game to be honored by Kaiser Permanente for his battle back from cancer.

Wages’ story was one of four highlighted by the Kings in partnership with Kaiser Permanente during Cancer Awareness Night.

The Jan. 16 event gave individuals and their supporters and caregivers an opportunity to tell their inspirational stories. For Wages, the night was even more a celebration because it came on the eve of the third anniversary of his last surgery to remove part of his lung, making him cancer-free.

Wages said the event was “incredible” in terms of the lives he could have an impact on by recounting his story. Kaiser Permanente showed a short video telling the story of Wages and his care team during the break after the first quarter. Then the group paraded on the court to thunderous applause.

Part of Wages’ role with the land trust is ensuring seeds are planted to promote future growth of oak woodlands. In fact, he was out with a youth group soon after the Kings game planting acorns on Land Trust overseen property.

Wages said Tuesday that he’s hoping his story will plant the seed of an idea in the minds of Kings fans to get screened for cancer.

“If just one person who was at the game goes in early and is checked out, rather than putting things off, and cancer is caught early, I’ll have made a difference,” Wages said.

Wages, 39, was working part-time at the Auburn-based land trust and attending Sierra College in 2009 when he was diagnosed with stage-four cancer.

“I had school, I had work, and I had cancer,” Wages said. “I couldn’t do all three. I didn’t have a choice about the cancer, so I chose work and Placer Land Trust became my rock.”

Wages underwent chemotherapy and five surgeries, all the while keeping up his work and spirits at the land trust.

“I’d be up at 5 a.m. scattering seeds at one of our preserves and I’d have to go behind a tree to throw up,” Wages said.

Co-workers marveled at his dedication. Placer Land Trust Assistant Director Jessica Daugherty recalled that in the middle of a drought, Wages showed his concern after wildflowers had been planted and there was a possibility they would dry up in the heat.

“Even though he was fresh out of surgery and totally sick, he hiked out there in the heat – with a chemo bag slung over his shoulder – so he could water the seeds,” Daugherty said.

For Wages, the work was his bedrock and his colleagues some of his greatest supporters through some tough times emotionally and physically....

Read the entire article at... http://www.auburnjournal.com/article/1/27/15/cancer-victory-receives-kings-royal-treatment

Pollen DNA Reveals Honey Bee Foraging Habits

Entomology Today   January 13, 2015

Exactly what plants do honey bees visit on their daily forages for food? A research team from Ohio State University has found that the answer lies in the pollen collected by the bees, and they have developed a new method that utilizes DNA metabarcoding to analyze pollen to determine its origin. Their new protocol has been published in the journal Applications in Plant Sciences.

“Understanding honey bees’ pollen preferences can provide insights to what a colony needs and help improve the quality of foraging habitats,” said Dr. Chia-Hua Lin, one of the co-authors.

Their work should provide other researchers with a foundation for uncovering information from pollen DNA, and it will also enable bees to do some environmental science fieldwork.

“A honey bee colony is like an army of research assistants — thousands of enthusiastic, flying research assistants that work all day and trespass with impunity,” said Doug Sponsler, another co-author. “While foraging each day, bees are unknowingly monitoring plants in their surrounding landscapes, some hard to reach by researchers, and collecting valuable data in the form of pollen. They can also serve as bioindicators of pollution and pesticides.”

According to his colleague and co-author Rodney Richardson, traditional methods of analyzing pollen data under the microscope suffer from being difficult, slow, and often imprecise.

“There’s a huge bottleneck in the workflow because ultimately every sample needs the undivided attention of one expert behind a microscope,” Richardson said.

DNA metabarcoding is a promising alternative because it allows rapid identification of the genera or even species present in a mass DNA sample of multiple organisms. The technology has been gaining popularity across many fields of biology, and Richardson and colleagues are among the first to apply it to pollen analysis.

“It’s a first attempt that lets other researchers know what to expect, using the ITS2 marker in particular,” said Richardson.

Metabarcoding resulted in higher sensitivity and resolution, and identified twice as many plant families than microscopic analysis of the same pollen samples. However, it lacks the ability to quantitatively assess the relative proportions of each pollen type, something that will need to be addressed in future advancements.

For now, a combination of traditional microscopic analysis with DNA metabarcoding offers a deeper look into bee foraging behavior than either method alone. For scientists, this is only the beginning of uncovering the secret life of bees. For the bees, it is only the beginning of their work as research assistants.

Read & Comments at: http://entomologytoday.org/2015/01/13/pollen-dna-reveals-honey-bee-foraging-habits/

Read more at: Application of ITS2 Metabarcoding to Determine the Provenance of Pollen Collected by Honey Bees in an Agroecosystem

Better Almonds for Bees

The Xerces Society           December 10, 2014

Working with several major food companies, and one of the largest almond producers in the world, Xerces is developing a game-changing strategy for almond production right now in California's Central Valley.

Between much needed rain showers this week, our California habitat specialist Jessa Kay Cruz, is managing a project to install nearly 5 miles of hedgerows and wildflower meadows throughout a 1,000 acre almond orchard. Thousands of flowering, drought-tolerant, native California shrubs are being planted, and hundreds of thousands of wildflower seeds are being sown to create nectar-rich habitat to support the bees that pollinate almonds.

All of this is just step one. In the year ahead we will be installing a first-of-its kind wildflower cover crop system under the trees, developing reduced-risk pest management strategies, and expanding this model to more and more orchards. The net effect, we hope, will be a better landscape for bees in California's almond country.

The Xerces Society

At the CSBA Convention!!! Washington DC - Honey Bee Forage and Nutrition Summit Panel

CSBA Annual Convention    November 18-20, 2014   Hyatt Regency, Valenciay, CA

At the CSBA Convention!!! Panel: "Washington DC - Honey Bee Forage and Nutrition Summit" Wed. Nov. 19, 11:15am. Hear the 'take back to the hive' message from some of those who were there and were invited to participate such as Pete Berthelsen, Gene Brandi, Zac Browning, Christi Heintz, Randy Verhoek. Info on the convention: http://www.californiastatebeekeepers.com/events.html View CSBA Program at: http://www.californiastatebeekeepers.com/2014-annual-convention/2014-Convention-Program-102114.pdf Read PAm report back to the hive at 

Do You Have a Little Land to Spare for the Bee Buffer Project?

Bug Squad Happenings in the insect world    By Kathy Keatley Garvey   September 15, 2014

Do you have a little land to spare, such as a quarter of an acre or up to three acres? For honey bee habitat? 

The Pollinator Partnership, as part of its U.S. Bee Buffer Project, wants to partner with California farmers, ranchers, foresters, and managers and owners to participate in a honey bee forage habitat enhancement effort. It's called the U.S. Bee Buffer Project and the goal is to "borrow" 6000 acres to plant honey bee seed mix.

It will create a foraging habitat of pollen and nectar, essential to honey bee health. And there's no charge for the seed mix.

What a great project to help the beleaguered honey bees!

"Beekeepers struggle to find foraging areas to feed their bees when they are not in a pollination contract," said "idea generator" Kathy Kellison of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, a strong advocate of keeping bees healthy.  "Lack of foraging habitat puts stress on the bees and cropping systems honey bees pollinate. The U.S. Bee Buffer Project will develop a network of honey bee forage habitats in agricultural areas to support honey bee health and our own food systems. We are looking for cooperators with land they are willing to set aside as Bee Buffers."

Kellison points out:

  • Honey bees provide pollination services for 90 crops nationwide.
  • A leading cause for over-winter mortality of honey bee colonies given by beekeepers surveyed is starvation. The nationwide winter loss for 2012/2013 was 31.3 percent.

The requirements, she said, are minimal:

  • Access to an active farm, ranch, forest, easement, set-aside, or landscape
  • Ability to plant 0.25 to 3 acres with the U.S. Bee Buffer seed mix
  • Commitment to keep the Bee Buffer in place
  • Allow beekeepers and researchers on-site

Of course, the benefits to the participants include free seeds and planting information; supplemental pollination of flowering plants; and leadership participation in the beginnings of a nationwide effort to support honey bees. Then there's the potential for enriched soil, reduction in invasive plant species, and enhanced wildlife habitat.

And, we made add, a sense of accomplishment as bees forage on your thriving plants.

Those interested in participating in this nationwide effort and hosting a Bee Buffer, can visit http://www.pollinator.org/beebuffer.htm to fill out a brief eligibility questionnaire. More information is available from Mary Byrne at the Pollinator Partnership at (415) 362-1137 or mb@pollinator.org.

Go, bees!

Read at... http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=15321

Beekeepers Partner with Land Managers to Access Forage

Ag Alert    By Christine Souza    June 18, 2014

Finding access to forage or natural sources of pollen and nectar for honeybees is already difficult in rainy years, and this year's extremely dry conditions make it even more challenging for California beekeepers to maintain bee health. As beekeepers and others mark National Pollinator Week this week, beekeepers say it's important to continue conversations with land managers about the need for increased access to forage.

Read more... http://www.agalert.com/story/?id=6877

[Note: Our very own Bill Lewis (past-President of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association and current President of the California State Beekeepers Association) is quoted in the article.]

Conservation Agriculture Project Explores New Ways to Bolster Bee Habitat

West Lafayette, Ind. (June 4, 2014) -- Bees are one focus of the newest project from the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC). This project will document the benefits of cover crops as habitat and nutritional sources for pollinators. 

Healthy pollinators are essential to the success of agricultural production systems. The “Economic, Agronomic and Environmental Benefits of Cover Crops” project will examine Midwestern farms’ ability to support bee colonies and help producers to understand their farms’ role in pollinator health.
CTIC is looking for beekeepers in Minnesota, South Dakota, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Ohio who are willing to contribute their expertise to the project. These beekeepers will be paired with farmers who produce bee-nourishing plants, particularly cover crops.  Apiaries then will be established on the farm proportionate to its estimated carrying capacity. Hive health and productivity will be monitored and used to shape the producer’s management plan.
This three-year project is part of a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) and is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and members of CTIC. The project also will examine nutrient cycling, improvements in soil health and other benefits of cover crops.
To become involved in or learn more about the “Economic, Agronomic and Environmental Benefits of Cover Crops” project, visit www.ctic.org/CoverCropMath, or contact Sara Hagmann at765-494-9555 or hagmann@ctic.org.
CTIC is a national not-for-profit organization that champions, promotes and provides information on technologies and sustainable agricultural systems that conserve and enhance soil, water, air and wildlife resources and are productive and profitable. For more information about CTIC, visit www.ctic.org.  

New USDA Conservation Program

CATCH THE BUZZ - Kim Flottum   May 30, 2104

From Secretary Vilsack: This week, USDA and its partners launched a new conservation initiative, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), a program that goes beyond traditional government support for conservation and allows businesses and other for-profit partners to invest in regional conservation projects. RCPP takes conservation off the farm and out of the forest and moves it into the board room. 

The RCPP will competitively award funds to conservation projects designed by local partners and specifically tailored to local needs. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives. 

USDA will invest $1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program, including $400 million this first year. With partners investing alongside us, we hope to leverage an additional $1.2 billion for a total of $2.4 billion invested in conservation projects that improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands. 

In addition to supporting local conservation goals, conservation investments brought by RCPP will also propel growth in communities. Conservation work involves building terraces in fields, restoring wetlands, which means new local jobs. A 2013 study commissioned by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation estimates that last year, conservation activities supported more than 660,000 jobs across the country. The resulting cleaner water and enhanced wildlife habitat also expand opportunities for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation in local communities. The outdoor recreation economy supports 6.1 million direct jobs, $80 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue, and $646 billion in spending each year. 

We can’t achieve these goals without partners of all kinds at the table. Establishing new public-private partnerships through RCPP allows USDA to have an impact that's well beyond what we could accomplish on our own. Together, we will forge a new era of conservation partnership that will both keep our land resilient and water clean and promote tremendous economic growth in our communities. For more information, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.

Aavailable online at http://home.ezezine.com/1636/1636-2014.

This message brought to us by CATCH THE BUZZ: Kim Flottom,  Bee Culture, The Magazine Of American Beekeeping, published by the A.I. Root Company. Twitter.FacebookBee Culture’s Blog.

Got Milk (Weed) for the Bees?

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey    May 29, 2014

Folks are planting milkweed for the monarchs.

The milkweed (genus Asclepias) is the host plant (larval food) for the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). No wonder the monarch is sometimes called "the milkweed butterfly."

The perennial plant is so named for its milky juice, consisting of a latex containing alkaloids and other complex compounds. Carl Linnaeus named the genus for the Greek god of healing, Asciepius.



Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at: http://ucanr.org/blogs/bugsquad/

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

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
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(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. 

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.")