Flower preferences of male, female bees


This 2015 video says about itself:

Carpenter bees (the genus Xylocopa in the subfamily Xylocopinae) are large bees distributed worldwide. Some 500 species of carpenter bees are in the 31 subgenera.

Their common name is because nearly all species build their nests in burrows in dead wood, bamboo, or structural timbers (except those in the subgenus Proxylocopa, which nest in the ground).

Carpenter bees are traditionally considered solitary bees, though some species have simple social nests in which mothers and daughters may cohabit. However, even solitary species tend to be gregarious, and often several nest near each other. When females cohabit, a division of labor between them occurs sometimes, where one female may spend most of her time as a guard within the nest, motionless and near the entrance, while another female spends most of her time foraging for provisions.

From Rutgers University in the USA:

With flower preferences, bees have a big gap between the sexes

Female and male bees of the same species frequent different flowers, study finds

April 24, 2019

For scores of wild bee species, females and males visit very different flowers for food — a discovery that could be important for conservation efforts, according to Rutgers-led research.

Indeed, the diets of female and male bees of the same species could be as different as the diets of different bee species, according to a study in the journal PLOS ONE.

“As we get a better sense of what makes flowers attractive to different kinds of bees, maybe we can get smarter about bee conservation,” said lead author Michael Roswell, a doctoral student in the lab of senior author Rachael Winfree, a professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

Five years ago, when Winfree Lab members were evaluating federally funded programs to create habitat for pollinators, Roswell noticed that some flowers were very popular with male bees and others with females. That spurred a study to test, for as many wild bee species as possible, whether males and females visit different kinds of flowers.

New Jersey is home to about 400 species of wild bees — not including Apis mellifera Linnaeus, the domesticated western honeybee whose males do not forage for food, Roswell noted.

The scientists collected 18,698 bees from 152 species in New Jersey. The bees visited 109 flower species in six semi-natural meadows with highly abundant and diverse flowers. The meadows were managed to promote mostly native flowers that attract pollinators.

Female bees build, maintain, collect food for and defend nests, while male bees primarily seek mates. Both sexes drink floral nectar for food, but only females collect pollen that serves as food for young bees, so they forage at greater rates than males.

From the flowers’ standpoint, both female and male bees are important pollinators — though female bees are more prolific because they spend more time foraging at flowers.

Before mating, the males of some species travel from the area where they were born. Targeting their preferences for flowers may help maintain genetically diverse bee populations, Roswell speculated.

“We see some intriguing patterns, where certain plant families seem relatively preferred or avoided by male bees, or where males have relatively less appetite for visiting flowers that only produce pollen and not nectar,” he said. “That could help pinpoint the right mix of flowers to improve bee conservation down the road.”

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Saving butterflies with computer games


This 26 June 2014 video from the USA says about itself:

UF/IFAS entomologists are trying to save an endangered butterfly found only in Florida by breeding a captive colony of Schaus’ Swallowtail Butterflies. The goal is release these captive butterflies back into wild to breed and help bring this insect back from the brink of extinction.

From ScienceDaily:

Living room conservation: Gaming and virtual reality for insect and ecosystem conservation

Players explore and search for butterflies using knowledge gained through gameplay

April 18, 2019

Gaming and virtual reality (VR) could bridge the gap between urban societies and nature, thereby paving the way to insect conservation by the means of education, curiosity and life-like participation.

This is what Florida International University’s team of computer scientist Alban Delamarre and biologist Dr Jaeson Clayborn strive to achieve by developing a VR game dedicated to insect and plant species. Focused on imperiled butterflies, their innovative idea: Butterfly World 1.0, is described in the open-access journal Rethinking Ecology.

This February 2019 video is called Butterfly World 1.0 Intro Video.

Butterfly World 1.0 is an adventure game designed to engage its users in simulated exploration and education. Set in the subtropical dry forest of the Florida Keys (an archipelago situated off the southern coast of Florida, USA), Butterfly World draws the players into an immersive virtual environment where they learn about relationships between butterflies, plants, and invasive species. While exploring the set, they interact with and learn about the federally endangered Schaus’ swallowtail butterfly, the invasive graceful twig ant, native and exotic plants, and several other butterflies inhabiting the dry forest ecosystem. Other nature-related VR experiences, including conservation awareness and educational programs, rely on passive observations with minimal direct interactions between participants and the virtual environment.

According to the authors, virtual reality and serious gaming are “the new frontiers in environmental education” and “present a unique opportunity to interact with and learn about different species and ecosystems.”

The major advantage is that this type of interactive, computer-generated experience allows for people to observe phenomena otherwise impossible or difficult to witness, such as forest succession over long periods of time, rare butterflies in tropical dry forests, or the effects of invasive species against native wildlife.

“Imagine if, instead of opening a textbook, students could open their eyes to a virtual world. We live in a time where experiential learning and stories about different species matter, because how we feel about and connect with these species will determine their continued existence in the present and future. While technology cannot replace actual exposure to the environment, it can provide similar, near-realistic experiences when appropriately implemented,” say the scientists.

In conclusion, Delamarre and Clayborn note that the purpose of Butterfly World is to build knowledge, reawaken latent curiosity, and cultivate empathy for insect and ecosystem conservation.

Beetle-ant symbiosis in the dinosaur age


Detailed photos of the newly discovered Promyrmister kistneri beetle's morphology through its amber encasement. Credit: Courtesy of the Parker laboratory / eLife

From the California Institute of Technology in the USA:

These beetles have successfully freeloaded for 100 million years

Ancient beetle infiltrated earliest-known ant colonies like its modern relatives

April 17, 2019

Summary: An ancient and rare beetle fossil is the oldest example of a social relationship between two animal species.

Almost 100 million years ago, a tiny and misfortunate beetle died after wandering into a sticky glob of resin leaking from a tree in a region near present-day Southeast Asia. Fossilized in amber, this beetle eventually made its way to the desk of entomologist Joe Parker, assistant professor of biology and biological engineering at Caltech. Parker and his colleagues have now determined that the perfectly preserved beetle fossil is the oldest-known example of an animal in a behaviorally symbiotic relationship.

A paper describing the work appears on April 16 in the journal eLife.

Symbiotic relationships between two species have arisen repeatedly during animal evolution. These relationships range from mutually beneficial associations, like humans and their pet dogs, to the parasitic, like a tapeworm and its host.

Some of the most complex examples of behavioral symbiosis occur between ants and other types of small insects called myrmecophiles — meaning “ant lovers.” Thanks to ants’ abilities to form complex social colonies, they are able to repel predators and amass food resources, making ant nests a highly desirable habitat. Myrmecophiles display elaborate social behaviors and chemical adaptations to deceive ants and live among them, reaping the benefits of a safe environment and plentiful food.

Ants’ social behaviors first appear in the fossil record 99 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period of the Mesozoic era, and are believed to have evolved not long before, in the Early Cretaceous. Now, the discovery of a Cretaceous myrmecophile fossil implies that the freeloading insects were already taking advantage of ants’ earliest societies. The finding means that myrmecophiles have been a constant presence among ant colonies from their earliest origins and that this socially parasitic lifestyle can persist over vast expanses of evolutionary time.

“This beetle-ant relationship is the most ancient behavioral symbiosis now known in the animal kingdom,” says Parker. “This fossil shows us that symbiosis can be a very successful long-term survival strategy for animal lineages.”

The fossilized beetle, named Promyrmister kistneri, belongs to a subfamily of “clown” beetles (Haeteriinae), all modern species of which are myrmecophiles. These modern beetles are so specialized for life among ants that they will die without their ant hosts and have evolved extreme adaptations for infiltrating colonies. The beetles are physically well protected by a thick tank-like body plan and robust appendages, and they can mimic their host ants’ nest pheromones, allowing them to disguise themselves in the colony. They also secrete compounds that are thought to be pacifying or attractive to ants, helping the beetles gain the acceptance of their aggressive hosts. The fossilized Promyrmister is a similarly sturdy insect, with thick legs, a shielded head, and glandular orifices that the researchers theorize exuded chemicals to appease its primitive ant hosts.

Depending on another species so heavily for survival has its risks; indeed, an extinction of the host species would be catastrophic for the symbiont. The similarities between the fossilized beetle and its modern relatives suggest that the particular adaptations of myrmecophile clown beetles first evolved inside colonies of early “stem group” ants, which are long extinct. Due to Promyrmister’s remarkable similarity to modern clown beetles, Parker and his collaborators infer that the beetles must have “host switched” to colonies of modern ants to avoid undergoing extinction themselves. This adaptability of symbiotic organisms to move between partner species during evolution may be essential for the long-term stability of these intricate interspecies relationships.

Honey bees survive Notre Dame Paris fire


This 19 April 2019 video about Paris, France says about itself:

The bees that live on the roof of Notre Dame are alive and buzzing, having survived the devastating fire that ripped through the cathedral on Monday.

Beekeeper Nicolas Geant told CNN that he received a call from the Notre Dame spokesman saying there were bees flying in and out of the hives. “Which means they are still alive!” Geant said.

“Right after the fire I looked at the drone pictures and saw the hives weren’t burnt but there was no way of knowing if the bees had survived. Now I know there’s activity it’s a huge relief!”

Notre Dame has housed three beehives on the first floor on a roof over the sacristy, just beneath the rose window, since 2013. Each hive has about 60,000 bees. Geant said the hives were not touched by the blaze because they are located about 30 meters below the main roof where the fire spread.

The beekeeper Nicolas Geant settled these three hives on the roof of the sacristy of Notre Dame

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

The bee colony that lives on the roof of Notre Dame also survived the fire. There was still uncertainty about this, but the three hives, in which 180,000 honey bees live, were not affected by the fire. The hives were placed on the roof in 2013 as a contribution to biodiversity in the center of Paris. They stood about 30 meters below the tip of the roof that burned down.

According to the beekeeper of Notre Dame, bees can survive a fire by filling themselves with honey as soon as they detect a fire. Insects have no lungs and cannot choke because of smoke. European bees will never leave their hive and will protect their queen at all times, beekeeper Geant says.