Bumblebee workers, caring for young, sleep less

This 2017 video says about itself:

Taking a close look at the behavior and biology of the BUMBLEBEES; experiencing their unique abilities and survival techniques.

Copyright: NAT GEO WILD

From ScienceDaily:

Bumble bee workers sleep less while caring for young

October 3, 2019

All animals, including insects, need their sleep. Or do they? That’s the question researchers reporting October 3 in the journal Current Biology are exploring in sleep studies of a surprising group of subjects: brood-tending bumble bee workers. Their studies show that worker bees tending pupae sleep much less than other bees do, even when caring for offspring that aren’t their own.

“Our findings show that sleep is more plastic and less rigid than is commonly accepted,” says corresponding author Guy Bloch of Hebrew University. They also highlight the value in studying sleep in diverse species in nature, not just a handful of “model organisms” in the lab, the researchers say.

Insect sleep looks much like sleep in people and other animals. They stop moving, take on a typical sleep posture, and become less responsive to noise or touch. When humans, rodents, or flies are sleep deprived, it compromises their health and performance.

But the new study suggests there may be ways around that in some cases. Bloch and colleagues had earlier shown that bees adjust their activities depending on their role in the colony, with foragers showing a strong circadian rhythm and “nurse” bees tending the brood around the clock. They wondered how that sleep loss affected them.

To find out in the new study, the researchers — including first author Moshe Nagari — combined video recordings, detailed behavioral analyses, sleep deprivation experiments, and response threshold assessments to characterize the sleep behavior of bumble bee workers. Their studies show that bumble bees tending young do indeed sleep much less. That’s true even when the brood don’t need to be fed and when the young are not their own.

The evidence suggests that substances produced by the pupae drive the reduction in sleep. Surprisingly, however, when the pupae and their substances were removed, those bees did not show the expected sleep rebound. It suggested that they weren’t sleep deprived in the expected way.

“The fact that the nursing bees sleep so little, even when caring for pupae that do not need to be fed was the most surprising,” Nagari says. “Before this study, we assumed that the main functions of activity around the clock without circadian rhythms in nurse bees is to provide improved feeding to the developing larvae, enabling them to grow rapidly.”

The findings add to emerging evidence showing that under some natural conditions, animals can give up sleep, the researchers said. For example, they noted that birds sleep less during their seasonal migrations. Some male birds and fruit flies will forgo sleep to give themselves more time to mate. And some cavefish have evolved to sleep less compared with related species of fish that live in open water habitats.

The findings in bees raise questions about whether the sleep loss comes at a cost in terms of health or cognitive performance.

“If there is no cost for sleep loss, it means that the brood-tending bees have mechanisms allowing them to significantly reduce sleep without a cost to the brain and other tissue,” Bloch says. “This of courses raises the question about what exactly are these mechanisms and what is the basic function of sleep.”

This work was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF).

Saving bees from Bayer pesticides and mites

This 28 August 2019 video says about itself:

How Close Are We to Saving the Bees?

Correction: Our Interview with Dr. Villalobos & scenes at the University of Hawaii at Manoa were filmed by Jonathan Keao, whose name was misspelled in the credits. We apologize for this error. Find more of Jon’s work here.

Beekeepers are losing 40-45% of their colonies each year, so scientists, farmers, and engineers are foraging for answers and creative solutions to save the bees. But how close are we?

A lack of bees would impact more than just our ability to access honey. Without bees, up to 1/3 of crops could be affected. A world sans bees could jeopardize our entire economy, health, and your second cup of coffee.

The last time you heard about bees in the news, it might have been connected with colony collapse disorder, or CCD. CCD was a series of strange, sudden disappearances of entire colonies––where workers left behind a queen, some young, and plenty of food.

And while scientists haven’t pinned down what the cause of CCD is, researchers agree it is a combination of the perilous Ps.

The perilous Ps (parasites, pathogens, pesticides, and poor nutrition) combined are a major threat to bee health.

While being able to monitor beehives in real time with sensors like Nectar is helpful in uncovering which one of the four Ps is potentially affecting the colonies, we also need to figure out how to prevent the problems from happening in the first place.

Some ideas include helping bees fight off different viruses by providing them with a super vitamin and improving bees’ nutrition.

Learn more about the perilous Ps, the technology being created to monitor hives, and what is being done to help save the bees, on this episode of How Close Are We?

On-the-job exposure to high levels of pesticides raised the risk of heart disease and stroke in a generally healthy group of Japanese American men in Hawaii, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the open access journal of the American Heart Association: here.

Wild bees news update

This 2013 video says about itself:

Squash Bee Identification: squash bees and honey bees

Squash bees (Peponapis pruinosa) are found in Central and North America. In this short video, I provide tips on how to tell squash bees (Peponapis pruinosa) from honey bees. I don’t mention it in the video, but an additional factor to consider is the shape of the bee’s abdomen. If you are looking at the bee from behind the honey bee’s abdomen is torpedo shaped while the squash bee’s abdomen looks a little flatter and wider – one might even say a squashed torpedo shape.

If you want to use a key to identify your bees use the interactive key at www.discoverlife.org or look for Sheffield, R. 1994. The bee genera of North and Central America. Smithsonian Institution Press. Washington.

From the University of Guelph in Canada:

Wild ground-nesting bees might be exposed to lethal levels of neonics in soil

August 26, 2019

In a first-ever study investigating the risk of neonicotinoid insecticides to ground-nesting bees, University of Guelph researchers have discovered at least one species is being exposed to lethal levels of the chemicals in the soil.

Examining the presence of these commonly used pesticides in soil is important given the majority of bee species in Canada make their nests in the ground.

This study focused on hoary squash bees, which feed almost exclusively on the nectar and pollen of squash, pumpkin and gourd flowers.

Researchers found that the likelihood that squash bees are being chronically exposed to lethal doses of a key neonicotinoid, clothianidin, in soil was 36 per cent or higher in squash fields.

That means 36 per cent of the population is probably encountering lethal doses, which is well above the acceptable threshold of 5 per cent, in which 95 per cent of the bees would survive exposure.

“These findings are applicable to many other wild bee species in Canada that nest on or near farms,” said U of G School of Environmental Sciences professor, Nigel Raine, who holds the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation and worked on the study with PhD student and lead author Susan Chan.

“We don’t yet know what effect these pesticides are having on squash bee numbers because wild bees are not yet tracked the same way that honeybee populations are monitored. But we do know that many other wild bee species nest and forage in crop fields, which is why these findings are so concerning.”

Published in Scientific Reports, the study began with Chan collecting soil samples from 18 commercial squash fields in Ontario. Pesticide residue information from these samples and a second government dataset from field crops was used by Chan and colleagues Prof. Ryan Prosser, School of Environmental Sciences, and Dr. Jose Rodríguez-Gil to assess the risk to ground-nesting squash bees.

The research comes as Health Canada places new limits on the use of three key neonicotinoids, including clothianidin, while it decides whether to impose a full phase-out of these pesticides. Neonics have been linked to concerns about honeybee colony health, with research showing these bees can ingest dangerous amounts through nectar or pollen.

“Current risk assessments for insecticide impacts on pollinators revolve around honeybees, a species that rarely comes into contact with soil,” said Raine. “However, the majority of bee species live most of their life in soil, so risks of pesticide exposure from soil should be a major factor in these important regulatory decisions.”

“Until now, no one has examined the risk to bees from neonics in soil despite the fact these pesticides are applied directly to seeds planted into the ground, or sprayed directly onto soil at planting, and can persist for months after application,” said Chan.

“Only about 20 per cent of the neonicotinoid insecticide applied to coated seeds is actually taken up into the crop plant; the rest stays in the soil and can remain there into subsequent seasons.”

Squash bees are at particular risk because they prefer the already-tilled soil of agricultural fields for their elaborate underground homes. And as they build their nests, they move about 300 times their own body weight worth of soil.

Since the bees don’t eat soil, it’s difficult to know exactly how much pesticide residue enters the bees. But the researchers calculated that even if they are conservative and assume only 25 per cent of the clothianidin enters the bee, the risk of lethal exposure in pumpkin or squash crops is 11 per cent — still above the widely accepted threshold of 5 per cent.

The team also examined the exposure risk in field crops, since many ground-nesting bee species live near corn and soybean fields, which use neonics as well. They found that 58 per cent of ground-nesting bees would be exposed to a lethal dose of clothianidin while building their nests even if only 25 per cent of the clothianidin in the soil enters the bee.

“Pumpkin and squash farmers face a dilemma in that they want to protect pollinators, such as the squash bee, because they are vital to crop production, but at the same time need to protect their crops from pests,” said Chan.

“New approaches are needed that allow farmers to control pests and protect pollinators simultaneously. My advice to farmers is if you find an aggregation of squash bees nesting on your farm, protect these key pollinators from exposure to neonicotinoids by either not using them at all, or at least not using them near the aggregation. Creating pesticide-free places to nest will help your population of squash bees to grow over time.”

More than 90 percent of all bee species are not organized in colonies, but fight their way through life alone. They are also threatened. Scientists demand more research on the ecology of these insects: here.

New bee species discovery in the Netherlands

Anthidium septemspinosum bee, photo by Theo Zeegers

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Scientist Theo Zeegers has discovered a bee species, new in the Netherlands. He found it during fieldwork in Ede.

According to the entomologist – who studies insects – the discovery is quite special. …

Zeegers discovered the bee on an industrial estate in the Gelderland province town. “A remarkable place, but in a roadside along the ditch bank where many flowers grow.” He saw the creature among a number of European wool carder bees, which are common in the Netherlands. “There was such a weird beast in between them, that was the new species.”

In total there are now 361 species of bees in the Netherlands.

See also here.

Stingless bee queens endangered by regicide

This 2014 video says about itself:

Stingless bees fighting over a food source

The first clip shows the Brazilian stingless bee Scaptotrigona aff. depilis driving away four Melipona quadrifasciata foragers by lunging at and biting them. The second clip shows more intense aggression, as a Trigona hyalinata forager flings a M. quadrifasciata forager off the artificial flowers. These artificial flowers provide sugar water to the bees.

This video was filmed by Shawn Kessler at the Fazenda Aretuzina, São Simão-SP, Brazil as part of Elinor Lichtenberg’s PhD research.

From the University of Sussex in England:

Queen bees face increased chance of execution if they mate with two males rather than one

August 20, 2019

Queen stingless bees face an increased risk of being executed by worker bees if they mate with two males rather than one, according to new research by the University of Sussex and the University of São Paulo.

A colony may kill their queen because of the quality of offspring, according to the paper by Professor Francis Ratnieks, from the University of Sussex, along with colleagues Ayrton Vollet-Neto and Vera Imperatriz-Fonseca from the University of São Paulo, published in a leading evolutionary journal, the American Naturalist.

Professor of Apiculture Francis Ratnieks said: “By studying test colonies, we found that queen stingless bees will have an increased chance of being executed by the workers in their colony if they mate with two males instead of the one male they normally mate with.”

“The reasons for this are fairly complex but, in short, it’s due to the genetics of sex determination in bees and the risk of what’s known as ‘matched mating’.”

Queen stingless bees are closely related to honeybees and bumblebees but are only found in tropical countries like Brazil.

While a queen honeybee might mate with ten to twenty males, queen stingless bees normally only mate with one male. According to this new paper, that may be to reduce the chance of execution.

In bees whether an individual egg becomes a male or a female depends on a single genetic locus, known as the sex determination locus. Normal males arise from an unfertilized egg and have only one set of chromosomes, from the mother, and so only one sex allele.

If the egg is fertilized it will have two sets of chromosomes, one from the mother and one from the father. The two sex alleles can be different, in which case it is female, or the same, in which case it will be a diploid male — males who are a genetic dead end as they cannot reproduce and serve no useful function to the colony. What should have become a female worker, who will benefit the colony, is instead a useless diploid male.

When diploid males are produced, the worker bees in the colony can tell that things are not right and they generally execute the queen soon after adult diploid males emerge from their cells.

Diploid males are produced by ‘matched mating’ where the sex allele of a male the queen mates with is the same as one of the queen’s two, different, alleles. In a matched mating, 50% of the fertilized eggs from that male’s sperm will be diploid males.

If a queen bee mates with two males, although her chances of making a matched mating are doubled, the number of diploid males that could be produced decreases from 50% to 25%.

It turns out, however, that worker bees are just as likely to execute a queen who produces 25% diploid males as one who produces 50%.

Professor Ratnieks said: “If a queen mates with two males instead of one, her chance of being executed double. As a result, natural selection favours queens to mate with a single male in stingless bees.”

Interestingly, the researchers found that if a queen were to mate with four males, this would actually reduce her chance of being executed.

If a queen were to mate with four males and there was a matched mating, only 12.5% of the offspring would be diploid males. This low proportion is not enough to cause the workers to execute the queen.

The researchers point out that for stingless bees to evolve from single mating to multiple mating, with 4 or more males, there would need to be an intermediate stage of double mating. As double mating causes higher queen execution, natural selection does not allow this first stage to occur. Stingless bee queens seem to be stuck on single mating.

This study is about Scaptotrigona depilis.

Neonicotinoids killing bees, new research

This 2015 video is called How Neonicotinoids Kill Bees.

Bee populations are declining, and neonicotinoid pesticides continue to be investigated — and in some cases banned — because of their suspected role as a contributing factor. However, limitations in sampling and analytical techniques have prevented a full understanding of the connection. Now, researchers describe in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology a new approach to sample neonicotinoids and other pesticides in plants, which could explain how bees are exposed to the substances: here.

From the University of Exeter in England, 17 July 2019:

More “intensive” beekeeping does not raise the risk of diseases that harm or kill the insects, new research suggests.

Intensive agriculture — where animals or plants are kept crowded together in very high densities — is thought to result in higher rates of disease spreading.

But researchers from the University of Exeter and the University of California, Berkeley found this is not the case for honeybees.

Their study modelled the spread of multiple honeybee diseases and found that crowding many colonies together was “unlikely to greatly increase disease prevalence.”

However, the research only applies to existing honeybee diseases — and the findings suggest intensive beekeeping could accelerate the spread of new diseases.

“Crowding of animals or crops — or people — into minimal space usually increases rates of disease spread,” said Lewis Bartlett, of the University of Exeter and Emory University.

“We carried out this study because beekeepers were worried about this — especially given the many threats currently causing the decline of bees.

“To our surprise, our results show it’s very unlikely that crowding of honeybees meaningfully aids the spread of diseases that significantly harm honeybees.

“Honeybees live in close proximity to each other naturally, and our models show that adding more bees does little to raise disease risk.

“So, beekeepers don’t need to worry about how many bees they keep together as long as there is enough food for them.

“The key is not whether they encounter a disease — it’s whether they are fit and healthy enough to fight it off.”

Although the paper says intensification of beekeeping does not boost diseases among honeybees, Bartlett points out that intensive agriculture — especially use of pesticides and destruction of habitats — harms bee species including honeybees.

The research was partly funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the National Institutes of Health.