Threatened bees, new The Damned song

This 14 Augustus 2020 punk rock music video from England says about itself:

The Damned – Keep ’em Alive

Taken from The Rockfield Files, the EP available October 16

The summer breeze caresses the leaves, in webs spiders sway
and is this rain comes pouring down or some other spray?

The flowers bloom the crickets chirp and a sparrow calls
Amongst the trees where once were bees there’s no buzz at all

I guess it’s all of us now trying just to keep it alive
In cities nothing but a concrete zoo
Where once it would’ve been nature’s call how many creatures survive
We haven’t got a clue

I guess we know the consequences If we don’t keep em alive
When bees stop buzzing there’s no bread for us to chew
When the cork’s back in the bottle maybe nature will thrive
Then life will start anew

Follow The Damned here.

City bumblebees are bigger, why?

This 2017 video says about itself:

BUMBLEBEES – The Secret World of Bees

From the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg in Germany:

Does city life make bumblebees larger?

August 17, 2020

Does urbanisation drive bumblebee evolution? A new study by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig provides an initial indication of this. According to the study, bumblebees are larger in cities and, therefore, more productive than their rural counterparts. In Evolutionary Applications, the research team reports that differences in body size maybe caused by the increasingly fragmented habitats in cities.

Over the last 200 years, the habitat of bumblebees and other insects has changed dramatically. Now they are less likely to live in rural areas but more likely to be surrounded by roads and concrete walls. “Living in a city can have both benefits and disadvantages for bumblebees. One the one hand, residential gardens and balconies, allotment gardens, botanical gardens and city parks provide rich food sources for bumblebees. On the other hand, cities are significantly warmer than their surrounding rural areas. In addition, impervious surfaces, streets and large buildings create considerably smaller habitats that are isolated from one another. These might pose a challenge to bumblebees,” says Dr Panagiotis Theodorou from the Institute of Biology at MLU, who led the research at MLU and iDiv.

The team of biologists at MLU wanted to find out whether urbanisation is associated with shifts in bumblebee body size with consequences on the ecosystem service of pollination they provide. The scientists collected more than 1,800 bumblebees in nine German metropolitan areas and their rural surroundings and used potted red clover plants as reference for pollination in all locations. Their work concentrated on three locally common bumblebee species: the red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius), the common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum) and the buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris). The researchers measured the body size of every bumblebee they caught and counted the number of seeds produced per red clover plant. “Our results show that bumblebees from more fragmented urban areas were larger compared to their rural counterparts, by around four percent,” says biologist Dr Antonella Soro from MLU. The results were similar for all three bumblebee species.

Body size is linked to an organism’s metabolism, life history, space use and dispersal as well as a major determinant of species interactions, including pollination. “Larger bumblebees can see better, they have larger brains and they are better in learning and memory. They are also less likely to be attacked by predators and can travel greater distances, which is an advantage in a fragmented landscape such as the urban one. In addition, large bumblebees visit more flowers per flight and are capable of depositing a higher number of pollen grains on stigmas, which makes them better pollinators,” says Soro. This might be the explanation of the positive relationship between body size and pollination documented by the researchers. The study gives an indication that the severity of habitat fragmentation could impact a bumblebee’s body size and thus also indirectly influence pollination. According to Theodorou, there are still a lot of open questions regarding the effects of urban-related environmental changes on bees and pollination. Therefore, the team points to the importance of further studies to better understand the evolutionary responses of bees to urbanisation, information that can help improve urban planning.

Stingless bee honey is healthy, new research

This August 2018 video is called Stingless bee honey harvest 🐝

From the University of Queensland in Australia:

Science sweetens stingless bee species honey health claims

July 22, 2020

Summary: Examination of honey from five different stingless bee species across Neotropical and Indo-Australian regions has enabled for the first time the identification of the unusual disaccharide trehalulose as a major component representing between 13 and 44 g per 100 g of each of these honeys. The previously unrecognized abundance of trehalulose in stingless bee honeys is concrete evidence that supports some of the reported health attributes of this product.

Science has validated Indigenous wisdom by identifying a rare, healthy sugar in native stingless bee honey that is not found in any other food.

University of Queensland organic chemist Associate Professor Mary Fletcher said Indigenous peoples had long known that native stingless bee honey had special health properties.

“We tested honey from two Australian native stingless bee species, two in Malaysia and one in Brazil and found that up to 85 per cent of their sugar is trehalulose, not maltose as previously thought,” she said.

Dr Fletcher said trehalulose was a rare sugar with a low glycaemic index (GI), and not found as a major component in any other foods.

“Traditionally it has been thought that stingless bee honey was good for diabetes and now we know why — having a lower GI means it takes longer for the sugar to be absorbed into the bloodstream, so there is not a spike in glucose that you get from other sugars,” Dr Fletcher said.

“Interestingly trehalulose is also acariogenic, which means it doesn’t cause tooth decay.”

Dr Fletcher said the findings would strengthen the stingless bee honey market and create new opportunities.

“Stingless bee honey sells now for around AUD $200 per kilogram, which is up there with the price of Manuka and Royal Jelly honey,” she said.

“The high commercial value also makes it a risk for substitution, where people could sell other honey as stingless bee honey, or dilute the product.

“But due to this research, we can test for this novel sugar, which will help industry to set a food standard for stingless bee honey.

“People have patented ways of making trehalulose synthetically with enzymes and bacteria, but our research shows stingless bee honey can be used as a wholefood on its own or in other food to get the same health benefits.”

The work of Dr Fletcher and the research team has led to a new project funded by AgriFutures Australia and supported by the Australian Native Bee Association.

Working with Dr Natasha Hungerford from UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation and Dr Tobias Smith from the School of Biological Sciences the new project will investigate storage and collection, to optimise the trehalulose content of Australian stingless bee honey.

Stingless bees (Meliponini) occur in most tropical and sub-tropical regions, with more than 500 species across Neotropical, Afrotropical and Indo-Australian regions.

Like the well-known Apis mellifera honeybees, stingless bees live in permanent colonies made up of a single queen and workers, who collect pollen and nectar to feed larvae within the colony.

Dr Fletcher said keeping native stingless bees was gaining in popularity in Australia, for their role as pollinators as well as for their unique honey.

As well as having health benefits, stingless bee honey is valued for its flavour and is in high demand from chefs.

Where Australian bees come from

This 2019 video is called Native Australian Homalictus Bee.

From Flinders University in Australia:

Native bees’ exotic origins reveal cross-pollination

June 30, 2020

Ancestors of a distinctive pollinating bee found across Australia probably originated in tropical Asian countries, islands in the south-west Pacific or greater Oceania region, ecology researchers claim.

Describing the likely dispersal corridor for the ancestral lineage of the bee genus Homalictus will help understand the social evolution of the vibrant halictine bees, South Australian, Czech and PNG researchers say in a new paper.

It follows earlier research connecting the origin of other Australian bees to the polar south or Antarctica routes millions of years ago — helping to explain the diversity and complexity of natural ecosystems and their resilience or susceptibility during periods of climate change.

Ecologists are hopeful that the diverse origins of native bees are giving them an edge in withstanding and adapting further to climate change.

“Homalictus bees are a leading generalist plant-pollinator across Australia and as far north as southern China,” says Flinders University PhD candidate, photographer and native bee expert James Dorey.

“Our study highlights the importance of the habitat and ecology of tropical regions, including Papua New Guinea and the Fijian islands, for our endemic species and shows us how these bees might have expanded across the Pacific and possibly higher latitudes of Southeast Asia.”

SA Museum senior researcher Associate Professor Mark Stevens says the ongoing research aims to better understand the origin and radiation of insects and other animals, help environmental management during changing climates and mitigate the effects of further human expansion and habitat destruction.

“Many species historically evolved under different climatic conditions and those different histories may determine how they will cope with new climates,” he says.

“As climates change, species that have narrow thermal tolerances that are unable to adapt either track their preferred climate by moving, or become extinct. We see this in our studies on tropical bees and also in the studies of Antarctic biodiversity.”

“What has not been fully appreciated is the movement of bees in the southern hemisphere that included Antarctica as a likely dispersal corridor before it became the glacial continent that it is today.”

Antarctica was the crossroads between South America, Africa and Australia as the supercontinent of Gondwana was breaking up. The last landmass connections between Australia and Antarctica finished about 35 million years ago while the interchange with Asia began about 20 million years ago.

In contrast to the colourful tropical varieties, SA researchers have previously explored the origins of the cooler adapted and less colourful Exoneurine allodapine bees, believed to have originated in Africa but dispersed to Australia about 42-34 million years ago from Antarctica when there was still a land bridge connection to Tasmania.

Co-author on the online Homalictus paper, Associate Professor Mike Schwarz says Australia has the most unusual bee fauna in the world, resulting from three major events — the gradual breakup of Gondwana, then a period when the bees evolved in “splendid isolation,” long before humans arrived.

“Thirdly, there was a northern influx of species from tropical Asia as the Australian continent collided with Asia. “Australia’s complex systems diversity if a key ingredient for survival of our species,” Flinders Associate Professor Schwarz says.

“Hopefully, the diversity of our native bees will make them more resilient to future climate scenarios, which will be critical for agriculture in a changing world.

American carpenter bee crosses Atlantic to Netherlands

This 2009 video from the USA says about itself:

The Eastern Carpenter Bee is often confused with a bumblebee, but has a shiny black abdomen, as opposed to the fuzzy abdomen of the bumblebee. There are over 500 species of carpenter bee around the world and this is the most common one in the eastern United States.

The female is the workhorse of the relationship. She makes a nest by tunneling into wood. Unlike termites, the bees do not eat the wood. They discard the bits or use them to make walls in their nests.

The nest is used as a nursery for the young and a place to store pollen. The female carpenter bee spends her time building the nest, collecting pollen for her brood and laying eggs.

Meanwhile, the male feeds himself and spends time hovering in his territory and protecting it from other males.

These bees are not aggressive and males do not even have stingers. The couple and their young will spend the winter in their nests and emerge in the spring.

They can be considered pests because they burrow into the soft, exposed wood of peoples’ homes. However, they have an important role in pollinating the food we eat and the beautiful flowers we enjoy.”

Translated from EIS Kenniscentrum Insecten in the Netherlands today:

12-JUN-2020 – On a weekday morning, Bram ter Keurs saw a very big bee in his backyard. It turned out to be an eastern carpenter bee: a North American bee species that had never been seen in our country before. It has undoubtedly ended up in the Netherlands through human intervention. If this happens more often, there is a possibility that this spectacular species will gain a foothold.

The discoverer tells

“On June 10, 2020, I am in my backyard in Bunnik (Utrecht province) around 10:45 AM. The sun is shining and it is almost windless. I see an exceptionally large bee foraging on red valerian (Centranthus ruber), purpletop vervain (Verbena bonariensis) and rose campion (Lychnis coronaria). Because of the size and the glossy black abdomen, I immediately think of the violet carpenter bee (Xylocopa violacea). The tip of the wings is smokey grey. After several photos, the bee flies away in a northerly direction.” It soon became clear that this was a female of the eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica). …

Timber trade

The eastern carpenter bee is native to North America. Only a few sightings are known in Northwestern Europe, including one in England in 1996 and one in West Flanders in 2015. These animals are believed to have been carried with wood from North America. A kilometer southeast of the site in Bunnik is a timber business that also imports timber from North America. This may be the source of this observation.

Japanese bees, giant hornets and orchids

This 7 June 2020 BBC video says about itself:

These Japanese bees‘ primary senses are taste and smell. When confronted with an orchid that mimics the scent of a giant hornet, the bees display their deadliest defense mechanism – a swarm.

Solitary bees in Britain

This 2 June 2020 video from Britain says about itself:

Simon King introduces the Interactive Solitary Bee Hive demonstrating its ability to reveal the hidden world of solitary bees. The Interactive Solitary Bee House provides a much-needed resource for solitary bees who can struggle to find somewhere to lay their eggs. Encourage them into your garden by either making your own Bee House or buying a ready-made one and placing it on a south-facing wall where it gets maximum sun in your garden.

Bumblebees can make flowers bloom early

This July 2016 video says about itself:

Most flowering plants are more than willing to spread their pollen around. But some flowers hold out for just the right partner. Bumblebees and other buzz pollinators know just how to handle these stubborn flowers. They vibrate the blooms, shaking them until they give up the nutritious pollen.

By Susan Milius, May 21, 2020 at 3:02 pm:

Pollen-deprived bumblebees may speed up plant blooming by biting leaves

In a pollen shortage, bees can make tomatoes bloom early by nipping foliage

Here’s a bumblebee tip that might get a slowpoke plant to bloom early. Just bite its leaves.

At least three species of bumblebees use their mouthparts to snip little confetti bits out of plant foliage, researchers report in the May 22 Science. This foliage biting gets more common when there’s a pollen shortage, says Consuelo De Moraes, a chemical ecologist and entomologist at ETH Zurich.

Experiments show that mustard and tomato plants nibbled by Bombus terrestris bees bloomed earlier than unbitten plants by days, or even weeks, say De Moraes and her colleagues. So for the bumblebees, accelerating bloom times could be a lifesaver. When trying to found colonies in early spring, the bees rely on flower pollen as a protein source for raising their young.

Foteini Paschalidou, an ecologist now at France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research in Versailles-Grignon, was the first team member to call attention to the behavior. She was working on a different project with caged B. terrestris bees indoors. At first, De Moraes worried. “Is it something wrong with them?”

The bees’ supplier and some farmers who used them to pollinate crops assured the researchers that nipping happens elsewhere, although the team hasn’t found any accounts in the scientific literature.

To test a link between leaf biting and pollen shortages, the researchers did a caged-bee test. After three days without pollen, bumblebees trapped with nonblooming plants were more likely to poke holes in foliage than a bee group buzzing among plentiful flowers. When researchers swapped the bees’ situations, the insects now trapped without blooms started nibbling leaves.

Tests done on the roof of the lab building with bees free to seek flowers in rooftop planters and elsewhere also found a link between pollen shortage and increased leaf biting, the researchers report.

The notion that bee damage to a leaf could jump-start flowering originally struck coauthor Mark Mescher of ETH Zurich as a long shot. Yet in lab tests, tomato plants punctured five to 10 times by pollen-deprived bees bloomed 30 days earlier on average than undamaged plants. But the speed-up time varied by plant species. For instance, bee-nipped black mustard (Brassica nigra) bloomed only about 16 days early.

The bee-pestered plants’ acceleration is not entirely unprecedented. Some other forms of stress, including drought, skimpy nutrients and assault by leaf-eating insect pests, also have triggered early blooming, Mescher points out. But just what’s going on with the bee bites and how they might tap into the internal clock that triggers a plant to switch from leafing to flowering remain big questions.

So far, the best efforts of human scientists waiting with forceps and a razor on a lab rooftop to mimic bee activity in real time, bite by bite, on comparison plants have produced only modest acceleration in the black mustard, and no meaningful change in the tomatoes. So there might be something special in a bee bite.

In a happy accident, the outdoor trials attracted visits from two other Bombus species that checked out the plants on offer and also nicked holes in leaves. That confirms that leaf nibbling is not just some quirk of a commercial lineage of bees, although two long-time bumblebee watchers — Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex in England and Lynn Adler at the University of Massachusetts Amherst — say they’ve never noticed it.

Goulson says he’s fascinated by the idea. B. terrestris commonly cuts holes in plant parts, but in a slightly different context. Instead of groping for nectar through the natural openings of flowers, these and other bumblebees often just bite little holes through the outer wall of a flower for a sip. “I can imagine that hungry bees unable to find flowers might try biting leaves in desperation,” Goulson says. Flower biting might thus have evolved into leaf biting, though, as Mescher points out, it could have happened the opposite way, too.

With those intriguing ideas buzzing around, clearly now is a great time to go watch bees.