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.

Rare butterflies wintering in the Netherlands


This is a scarce tortoiseshell video from Finland.

In July 2014, there was an invasion in the Netherlands of scarce tortoiseshell butterflies; a species, new for the Netherlands.

Soon, people did not see these rare, usually east European, butterflies any more. Did they fly on to England, or to Belgium? A few scarce tortoiseshells were seen there indeed; but how about all the others?

On 2 August 2014, warden Luc Knijnsberg was in Dutch nature reserve Bergen Zuid. Then, a thunderstorm started. Luc entered an old World War II bunker, now used by bats for wintering. In that bunker, he found thirteen wintering peacock butterflies (yes, August is a summer month, but for some butterflies, winter then starts already). Luc found not only peacocks, a common species, but to his surprise also two scarce tortoiseshells. So, this solved the riddle why so many of them arrived in the Netherlands; and so few in Belgium or England.

So, people counting wintering bats should look out for scarce tortoiseshells as well.

White beetles reflecting light, new study


This video is called Super White Beetle Holds Secret To Whiter Paper And Computer Screens?

From New Scientist:

Beetles so bright, you gotta wear shades

16:33 15 August 2014 by Philippa Skett

What is whiter than white? These beetles, apparently – because their scales make them whiter than paper. No human technology can match their brilliance using such thin material.

The scales of the Cyphochilus and Lepidiota stigma beetles, which are native to South-East Asia, contain tight, complex networks of chitin filaments. Chitin is a substance with a similar molecular structure to cellulose, and it builds the cell walls of fungi and the shells of crustaceans as well as insect exoskeletons.

On their own, the chitin filaments reflect light poorly. But researchers at the University of Cambridge and the European Laboratory for Non-linear Spectroscopy in Florence, Italy, have found that the geometry of a filament network makes the whole thing reflect light extremely efficiently. It reflects light of all colours anisotropically, meaning that it bounces the light in one direction only. That makes the beetles’ scales appear bright white.

“These scales have a structure that is truly complex, since it gives rise to something that is more than the sum of its parts,” said team member Matteo Burresi of the Italian National Institute of Optics in Florence. “A randomly packed collection of its constituent elements by itself is not sufficient to achieve the degree of brightness that we observe.”

What sets the brilliant beetles apart from artificial reflectors, though, is that the scales are ultra-thin. Their individual chitin filaments are just a few thousandths of a millimetre thick, minimising weight and so reducing the energy the beetles need to fly. It may not be too long before these beetles are inspiring a host of new materials that will be whiter than white too.

Journal reference: Scientific Reports, DOI: 10.1038/srep06075.

Two new moth species discovered in the Netherlands


This is an Aedia leucomelas video from Italy.

The Dutch Butterfly Foundation reports today discoveries of two moth species, new for the Netherlands.

One of these is Aedia leucomelas. An individual of this species was found in 1987 near Urmond village, and landed in a butterfly and moth collection. Only now researcher Rob de Vos discovered that moth was this south European and Asian species, which had never been recorded in the Netherlands before.

On 20 July this year, in Friesland province, there was nightly moth research. Over 110 macro moth species were counted. Among them was an Eucarta virgo. This east European and Asian species was new for the Netherlands as well.

Rare bees not rare on Texel island


This video from the USA is called A huge Sand Bee colony near Palmdale, California.

Warden Erik van der Spek on Texel island in the Netherlands reports about a bee species, which is rare in the Netherlands as a whole.

Andrena argentata sand bees, however, are not rare in the sand dunes of Texel. Sometimes, there are colonies of thousands of individuals.

Rare butterflies in the Netherlands


This video from the Czech republic says about itself:

Large Copper – Lycaena dispar (Haworth, 1803) – male

Large Copper – Lycaena dispar (Haworth, 1803) is quite common in SE Moravia where I live and expands from there to the North and also to the West.

SE Moravian population is a part of the continuous range from there to the north of Greece and through Russia to the Far East.

In SE Moravia lives its subspecies Lycaena dispar rutilus (Werneburg, 1864).

Dorsal side of male’s pterygia is fire red with goldy yellow lustre and black comma on the front pterygies.

There are three large copper subspecies. The subspecies rutilus, or rutila, of the video lives in large parts of Europe and Asia.

The subspecies batava lives only in the Dutch provinces Overijssel and Friesland.

The third, smallest, subspecies, Lycaena dispar carueli lives only in the Ardennes hills in the south of Belgium.

The Dutch Butterfly Trust reports today about rare butterfly species. They write that on 8 August 2014, a Lycaena dispar carueli butterfly was seen in Limburg province, closest to the Ardennes in the Netherlands. This was the first time ever for this subspecies.

This video from the Czech republic is called High Brown Fritillary – Argynnis adippe – perleťovec prostřední.

In Groningen province, recently a high brown fritillary was seen. Ever since 1976, only a few vagrants of that species had been recorded in the Netherlands. Maybe, this Groningen butterfly came from the Ardennes as well?

New bee species discovered on Vlieland island


This video from the USA says about itself:

Meet the Natives: Wild Bees

27 August 2013

Follow University of Wisconsin-Madison Entomologist Claudio Gratton as he studies native bees and their habitats in search of new options for pollinating plants.

Learn more in our related QUEST article.

Warden Arden Bruin reports about discoveries by entomologist Arie Koster about bees on Vlieland island.

After 1980, over forty wild bee species have been seen on Vlieland. Probably there are more, as there has not been that much research.

This year, two species, new for the island, were seen in 2014: European wool carder bee and Hylaeus hyalinatus.

Unfortunately, the moss carder bee was not seen this year, though it had been seen in earlier years.

Colourful Dutch beetles, new book


This video from North Dakota in the USA is called Thistle Tortoise Beetle (Chrysomelidae: Cassida rubiginosa) on leaf.

Dutch entomologist Jaap Winkelman has published a new book. It is available here.

The name of the book is De Nederlandse Goudhaantjes. The word goudhaantje in the title stands for two small bird species living in the Netherlands, goldcrest and firecrest (‘vuurgoudhaantje’).

However, Winkelman’s book is not about birds. As goudhaantje is also the name of a family of mainly colourful beetles, Chrysomelidae or leaf beetles. There are over 35,000 leaf beetle species, according to Wikipedia. About 38,000, according to Winkelman’s book. Of these, 59 species live, or have lived in earlier times, in the Netherlands.

With Winkelman’s book, people will be able to discover all Chrysomelidae of Belgium and the Netherlands.

This video is called Scarlet lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii); a leaf beetle species living in the Netherlands.

Comma butterfly and fly, video


This video is about a fly, laying an egg in a pupa of a comma butterfly in Plantloon nature reserve in the Netherlands.

Christ Grootzwagers made the video.

Purple emperor butterflies in England


This is a video about a purple emperor butterfly feeding in France.

By Peter Frost in England:

Emperor brought down to earth by shrimp paste

Friday 8th August 2014

Peter Frost reveals a secret ritual designed to enhance the survival chances of the rarest of butterflies

At the end of July and for the early days of August something really unusual is happening in Fermyn Woods in the Rockingham Forest between Corby and Kettering in Northamptonshire.

Beneath the high trees, members of a quaintly named organisation called the Purple Empire arrange a special breakfast for some exotic and beautiful inhabitants.

Chief item on the menu will be shrimp paste and members of the Empire have scoured oriental supermarkets and food shops seeking out the most pungent and malodorous varieties.

So who is guest of honour at this morning feast? Why no one less than Britain’s second largest, and most spectacular butterfly — the aptly named Purple Emperor (Apatura iris). Only male butterflies are invited to the feast.

Spectacular the emperor might be, but it is also spectacularly difficult to observe. The colourful males flit high in the tree tops waiting to lure a dull female virgin to mate.

Generations of amateur but skilful lepidopterists have discovered the gloriously coloured male butterflies can be lured down, into camera range by, of all things, smelly and tasty shrimp paste.

There are several reasons why the Fermyn Woods are one of the best places to see this spectacular insect.

The woods are marshy and full of Goat Willow (Salix caprea) and Grey Willow (Salix cinerea) trees, the favourite food plants of the purple emperor’s caterpillars.

The other reason is the pioneering work by one of our greatest countryside writers and illustrators, Denys Watkins-Pitchford, who wrote wonderfully evocative country and children’s books under the pen-name BB.

Like many other wildlife writers BB had realised the huge dangers of excessive usage of DDT and other insecticide sprays so common in the ’60s and ’70s.

He realised they were destroying species like the purple emperor as well as other insects, birds and animals further up the food chain.

Watkins-Pitchford had another far more intensely personal reason for his attitude to agricultural chemical abuse.

In 1974 his wife Cecily became unwell after working in their garden while a farmer was spraying his fields next door. She died a few weeks later.

In the very garden the couple had shared the writer built huge muslin cages where he bred the purple emperor, nicknamed “His Majesty” by butterfly fans. He bought the species back from the edge of extinction.

A male emperor is without doubt one of the most elegant of all our butterflies. From some angles the wings look black with white bands — then as the sunlight catches the wing scales they light up with an amazing regal purple sheen.

The female is a deep brown and does not have any of the showy colour of the male.

If you want to spot an emperor the best time is early morning or in late afternoon. It is then that the males will occasionally flutter down to feed on animal dung, carrion, or even that tempting shrimp paste. This extra diet provides the emperor with much needed salts and minerals.

Males will sometimes spend over an hour feeding in the same place.

They are often found in woodland car parks landing on wet muddy cars.

Strangely they also enjoy sweaty humans and can often land on thrilled watchers to drink beads of salty perspiration.

Most of the time, however, they will be out of sight high in tree canopy feeding on aphid honeydew.

The males tend to congregate in very large oak trees they have used for generations. From such a high point, perhaps on the top of a hill, the males wait to pounce on passing females.

The males vying for the best and highest perches battle it out with purple wings flashing in the sun. It is a wildlife spectacular you will never forget.

When a dowdy virgin female flits by the pair fly off and settle high in the canopy to mate.

Mating over, she flies down to earth while he returns to his high emperor’s throne ready for another chance to pass on his DNA.