Quarter of bumble bee species may soon be endangered in US

REUTERS

Reuters reports that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes listing the rusty patched bumble bee among America's endangered species.

Though just one of many species of bumble bee, Bombus affinis's sharp decline is a worry to conservationists. About a quarter of bumble bee species face "a risk of extinction."

The agency attributes the decline to a number of factors, including disease, pesticides, climate change and habitat loss.

Bumble bees, as distinguished from domesticated honey bees, are essential pollinators of wildflowers and about a third of U.S. crops, from blueberries to tomatoes, said Sarina Jepsen of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, which petitioned the government for protection of the insect.

Bumble bees’ annual economic value to farms is estimated at $3.5 billion, according to experts.

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Bees can sense a flower's electric field

Honeybee_landing_on_milkthistle02-1

New research shows that bees can recognize flowers by the plants' tiny electric field that differs between species. The electric field bends the tiny hairs on a bee's body, firing neurons located at the base of the hair. From the journal Science:

Such fields—which form from the imbalance of charge between the ground and the atmosphere—are unique to each species, based on the plant’s distance from the ground and shape. Flowers use them as an additional way to advertise themselves to pollinators...

Electric fields can only be sensed from a distance of 10 cm or so, so they’re not very useful for large animals like ourselves. But for small insects, this distance represents several body lengths, a relatively long distance.

"How bees sense a flower’s electric field" (Science)

"Mechanosensory hairs in bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) detect weak electric fields" (PNAS)

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Bee pulls nail out of brick wall

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Granted, the nail was loose, but it is remarkable to see a bee work it out of the hole. Two questions: what was the nail doing in the hole in the first place, and why was the bee so intent on getting it out?

[via] Read the rest

Insects are conscious, according to study

bee
"Brain scans of insects appear to indicate that they have the capacity to be conscious and show egocentrico, apparently indicating that they have such a thing as subjective experience." That's the finding of study written by Andrew B Barron and Colin Klein, and published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

From the Independent:

They found that in both, consciousness appeared to be associated with the “midbrain”. That part of the brain is the ancient core of the brain, which supports awareness for us and apparently for insects, too.

Though insects have tiny brains, they appear to serve the same function that the midbrain does for humans. They are able to tie together memory, perception and other key parts of consciousness, and use it to decide what to do - which is the same function that human’s brains do.

[via]

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CT scan of a bee's brain

bumble bee brain scan

This bee is clearly smarter than me. [via]

“Bees are known to perform very complex tasks considering the size of their brains and their simplicity compared to high-level organisms,” said Gill. “If we can focus on simple tissues and find the small changes that can have profound effects on behavior, it can give us a basis to start understanding how very small changes to that brain can do that.”
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Meet the psychedelic honey-hunters of Nepal

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"One month a year, giant Himalayan bees, the biggest bees in the world, come to collect nectar from a poisonous flower, giving the honey they make certain medicinal, aphrodisiac, and hallucinogenic properties."

In this short documentary, filmmaker Raphael Treza meets with a Nepalese tribe to learn about this honey, and how they use it. During the making of the film, the translator eats too much of the honey and falls unconscious.

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Police cars covered in bees

Bees
A big-rig containing millions of bees overturned on the highway, and the swarm promptly attached itself to the first responders. The officers decided to remain in their vehicles for the time being, according to reports. [KTLA via Arbroath] Read the rest

Flea loves bees

fleeeeeee

"Pleezus more beezus," writes the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist. At his Los Angeles home, he's keeping three hives with 60,000 bees each. Read the rest

Crashed truck releases millions of bees on highway

bzzzz

A trailer loaded with millions of bees in 400 hives overturned in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho on Sunday. Read the rest

Man survives 500-1000 stings—and the bees are still out there

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A swarm containing tens of thousands of bees descended on a man in Arizona who disturbed their nest, but he survived despite sustaining more stings than can be counted.

From Reuters:

"The number of bees in the shed was unbelievable," DeSantis said. "The deputy who arrived said it was it was like something you’d see in the movies. It was just amazing."

Authorities said the man was working on the property when he was stung and ran to his vehicle, getting help from two passersby who were also stung. They were not hospitalized.

A beekeeper called to the scene was also stung 23 times. He told authorities it would probably take several days to fully contain the bees.

It's a golfing community, which for some reason makes me think a Slugs-style horror B-movie (sorry!) would be a fine thing. Read the rest

What bees taught me about Cambodia

Giant Honeybee Hive in Cambodia
I come from a family of beekeepers, so I had to check out a tour of traditional techniques. But I got more than I expected, and learned a lot about life in rural Cambodia.

Terrorists killed by possessed bees and snakes

Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram, known for kidnapping hundreds of school girls, are fleeing their forest hideouts to escape "mystical bees" and "mysterious snakes" that are physical manifestations of the people they have killed. Read the rest

Brick wall collapses to reveal giant beehive

A brick wall at the Penn Brewery, not far from where I work, collapsed today during an attempt to get to a beehive said to have occupied space behind it "for years." No-one was hurt, and the local news reports that the bees are fine, too. Some of their honey may even find its way into a brew, if it's found to be of sufficient quality. I walked over and grabbed these photos of their handiwork.

The wall will be rebricked after a beekeeper removes the hive on Friday.

Good job this didn't happen during Oktoberfest. Read the rest

Yet another study points to pesticides as cause of bee death disorder

Shutterstock

A new study from Harvard [PDF] points to a class of agricultural pesticides called neonics as a primary cause of honeybee colony collapse disorder, or CCD.

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The Honey Hunters of Nepal

Photo: Andrew Newey.

Here's a stunning series of images by photographer Andrew Newey of Nepalese honey hunters. Newey spent two weeks among the Gurung ethnic group in central Nepal, documenting their traditional beekeeping practices.

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Open Source Beehives: sensor-enhanced hive design

Tristan from OpenPixel sez, "You might have heard that bees are dropping like flies. When we realised the implications of this (which everyone should look into, because it's serious) we borrowed some ideas from the WikiHouse project and applied them to bees - ie. low cost, distributed, open source manufacturing." Read the rest

Bees close up. Very close.

Biologist Sam Droege photographs insects for U.S. Geological Survey’s Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab. Check out the amazing Flickr stream here. The photos are used to track bee populations. Droege's gear includes a camera, 60 mm macro lens, and a StackShot macro rail. The StackShot is used to adjust the camera and take multiple images for later focus stacking, a process in which photos with a narrow depth of field are digitally combined into a single image. Above, Augochlorella aurata, Boonesboro, Maryland. At right, Halictus ligatus coated in pollen, Morris Arboretum, Philadelphia, PA. "Bee-utiful! The Stinging Insect Gets a Close-Up" (Smithsonian) Read the rest

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