Honey bee reproduction, new research


This video is called Honey Bees – Life Cycle.

From Wildlife Extra:

Researchers discover what causes honeybees to prepare for reproduction

When a colony of honeybees reaches the first stage in its reproductive cycle it builds a special type of comb used for rearing male reproductive bees, called drones. But what triggers that first stage?

A team of experts from the Department of Neurobiology and Behaviour at Cornell University, led by Michael Smith, set out to answer that question, reports the journal Naturwissenschaften – The Science of Nature.

Reproduction isn’t always a honeybee colony’s top priority. Early in a colony’s development, its primary focus is on survival and growth.

However, when the colony reaches a certain stage, its workers start investing in reproduction. The first step is building cells of drone comb, the special comb made up of large cells in which the drones are reared.

Drones develop from unfertilised eggs. Their sole purpose in a colony is to mate with virgin queens from other colonies, thereby spreading the genes of the colony that produced the successful drones.

Virgin queens in turn need to mate with drones before they can lay fertilised eggs that will become worker bees.

Queens will mate with over a dozen drones during their single nuptial flight, after which they are stocked with sperm for life.

Smith and his team were puzzled about precisely which colony features kick-start this key process of drone comb building.

Is it the number of workers in the colony? Is it the total area of worker comb? Or is it the number of brood in the colony? Or the size of the colony’s honey stores?

The Cornell University researchers found that while every colony built worker comb (non-reproductive comb), not every colony built drone comb (reproductive comb).

They discovered that an increase in the number of workers stimulated them to start constructing drone comb. This was seen whenever colonies contained 4,000 or more worker bees.

The researchers are still left wondering about precisely how an individual worker bee ‘knows’ how many other workers there are in its colony.

They speculate that this might have to do with how crowded individuals feel while working side-by-side in the hive. Further research is currently being conducted to shed more light on this mystery.

“Colonies with more workers built a greater proportion of drone comb, whereas colonies with more comb, more brood, or more honey stores, did not do so,” Smith said. “We estimate that a colony needs approximately 4,000 workers to invest in building drone comb.”

The researchers believe that their findings are also relevant to other social systems in which a group’s members must adjust their behaviour in relationship to the group’s size.

Bees follow queen, video


This video is about a queen bee which has landed on a building; her ‘subjects’ follow.

If a young queen is born in a bee hive, then about half of the honeybees will follow the old queen in searching a new place to live.

Niklas Haverkate from the Netherlands made the video.

Honeybees on the move, video


This is a video about a honeybee colony which had temporarily settled on a pole in the countryside in the Netherlands.

Luuk de Greef made the video.

Local honey bees are far more likely to flourish than imported honey bees say scientists: here.

Bee cleaning itself, video


This is a video about a honeybee cleaning itself.

The video is by T. Niesten from the Netherlands.

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New honey bee research


This video is called Honey bees – Natural History 1.

And this video is the sequel.

From Wildlife Extra:

A single gene splits the workers from the queens in honey bees

January 2013: Just a single gene separates the workers from the queens in honey bees scientists have identified.

A team of scientists from Michigan State University and Wayne State University discovered the gene, which is responsible for leg and wing development, plays a crucial role in the evolution of bees’ ability to carry pollen.

“This gene is critical in making the hind legs of workers distinct so they have the physical features necessary to carry pollen,” said Zachary Huang, MSU entomologist. “Other studies have shed some light on this gene’s role in this realm, but our team examined in great detail how the modifications take place.”

“The gene in question is Ultrabithorax, or Ubx. Specifically, the gene allows workers to develop a smooth spot on their hind legs that hosts their pollen baskets. On another part of their legs, the gene promotes the formation of 11 neatly spaced bristles, a section known as the “pollen comb.”

While workers have these distinct features, queens do not. The research team was able to confirm this by isolating and silencing Ubx, the target gene. This made the pollen baskets, specialized leg features used to collect and transport pollen, completely disappear.

The scientists published the results in the current issue of Biology Letters.

See also here. And here.

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Young great crested grebes and honeybee


This video is called Great Crested Grebes with babies – Wildlife (HD quality).

This morning, two adult great crested grebes swam under the bridge.

Their two chicks, about half their parents’ size, followed them.

The butterfly-bush flowers nearest to the road are almost finished; I did not see insects there.

On the other butterfly-bush flowers, a honeybee.

Silver Y moths and bees


This video from Britain is called Silver Y day flying moth.

This morning on butterfly-bush flowers just outside, various silver y moths and honeybees.

Britain: Tiger moths – Have you seen any near you? Here.