Bees pollinating flowers, new research

This video says about itself:

People, Plants and Pollinators | Nat Geo Live

19 September 2011

Emerging Explorer Dino Martins says that from long-tongued bees to hawk moths, pollinators are the hidden workers that keep the planet running.

By Maria Temming:

Pollen hitches a ride on bees in all the right spots

Hard-to-groom zones line up with where flower reproductive parts touch the insects

2:00pm, September 6, 2017

Bee bodies may be built just right to help pollen hitch a ride between flowers.

For the first time, scientists have identified where and how much pollen is left behind on bees’ bodies after the insects groom themselves. These residual patches of pollen align with spots on bees’ bodies that touch flowers’ pollen-collecting reproductive parts, researchers report online September 6 in PLOS ONE.

Typically, when honeybees and bumblebees visit flowers for nectar, they brush much of the pollen that powders their bodies into pocketlike structures on their legs to carry home for bee larvae to eat. In fact, bees are so good at stashing pollen that less than 4 percent of a flower’s pollen grains may reach the pollen-receiving parts of a second flower of the same species. Given bees’ pollen-hoarding prowess, researchers wondered how they came to play such a significant role in plant reproduction.

So biologist Petra Wester and colleagues put buff-tailed bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) and European honeybees (Apis mellifera) into jars containing pollen grains. As the bees whizzed around, they stirred up the pollen, evenly coating themselves in just a few minutes. When placed in clean jars, the insects groomed themselves. Even after a half hour of grooming, the insects still had pollen caked on some areas of their bodies, including the tops of their heads, thoraxes and abdomens.

“They cannot reach these spots so easily,” says Wester, of Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf in Germany, “similar to the fact that people cannot reach their back so easily.”

Wester and colleagues placed other bees in cages with flowers whose pollen-producing anthers and pollen-collecting stigmas had been stained with fluorescent dyes. When the researchers later examined these bees, they found dye smeared on the same ungroomed areas. These findings suggest that these “safe sites” for pollen on bees’ bodies play an important role in pollination.

Scientists discover the secret to bees’ flawless navigation: here.

Increased agricultural production has likely led to loss, fragmentation, and degradation of flower-rich habitats for pollinators. To counteract these negative effects of modern agricultural practices, efforts to maintain and restore diverse plants in agricultural landscapes — called agri-environmental schemes — have been implemented in numerous European countries: here.


Bee at its nest video

This 25 august 2017 video is about a Megachile versicolor bee at its nest.

Henk Brem from the Netherlands made this video.

Bee on cornflower

This 18 July 2017 video shows a bee on a cornflower, in the Heemtuin garden in Hengelo in Overijssel province in the Netherlands.

Monique Loman made this video.

Bee comes out of nest, video

This video shows an Andrena nitida bee coming out of its nest.

Jan Willem Niemeijer in the Netherlands made this video.

Bumblebee football video

This video says about itself:

Watch a bee score a goal | Science News

23 February 2017

In experiments, buff-tailed bumblebees learned how to roll a ball to a goal (first clip), a task more bees mastered after watching a trained bee do it (second clip). When successful, bees received a sip of sugar solution as a reward.

From Science News:

Score! Bumblebees see how to sink ball in goal, then do it better

Lesson in six-legged soccer tests power of insect learning

By Susan Milius

2:32pm, February 23, 2017

Even tiny brains can learn strange and tricky stuff, especially by watching tiny experts.

Buff-tailed bumblebees got several chances to watch a trained bee roll a ball to a goal. These observers then quickly mastered the unusual task themselves when given a chance, researchers report in the Feb. 24 Science. And most of the newcomers even improved on the goal-sinking by taking a shortcut demo-bees hadn’t used, says behavioral ecologist Olli Loukola at Queen Mary University of London.

Learning abilities of animals without big vertebrate brains often get severely underestimated, Loukola says. “The idea that small brains constrain insects is kind of wrong, or old-fashioned.”

He and colleagues had previously challenged bees to learn, in stages, the not very beelike skill of pulling a string to reveal a hidden flower. Bees eventually succeeded. So the researchers devised an even more fiendish protocol to see how far insect learning could go.

Loukola invented six-legged sort-of soccer (or football for bees in London) in which a Bombus terrestris rolls a yellow ball about the size of its own body down a trackway to a central goal, where researchers dispense sugary rewards. This time, there was no pampering, no working up in stages to full completion of the test. But bees could observe a trained ball roller, a ball moving on its own (thanks to a researcher sliding a magnet under the arena) or get no advance ball-movement hints at all.

The 10 bees that saw an expert bee roll the ball and score three times before their own attempt succeeded in almost every trial at the task. Watching ghostly movement didn’t help as much, and only a few bees happened on the solution on their own. Social learning matters, but Loukola highlights the way bees changed the technique they watched. Most of the successful bees ignored the ball they had seen rolled and instead used one closer to the goal, doing less work for the same reward.

“Fascinating,” says Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex in England, who studies bumblebees. Ball rolling may not be part of routine foraging behavior, but he notes that bees do drag around nesting material, moving backward as they do when playing soccer in the test. And they occasionally remove fat almost ball-like grubs from the nest with a similar technique.

Exactly how the bees solved the problem remains a puzzle, says Bennett Galef of McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, who has studied social learning. He would like to know more details, for instance, about how untrained bees react to a ball.

Loukola often gets a different question: Could he train bumblebees to play a soccer match? He says he could certainly train some to score on one side of an arena and some on the opposite side. Then he might be able to study whether bumblebees could share a ball.