Bees can learn higher numbers than we thought – if we train them the right way

Image of the shapes that honey bees were asked to distinguish the quantities of.

(The Conversation) Bees’ ability to learn number discrimination depends not just on their innate abilities, but also on the risks and rewards offered for doing so. In a structured experiment, honey bees that received feedback for both correct and incorrect responses successfully learned to discriminate between four and higher numbers; bees that only received feedback for correct answers did not show the same success.

Natural causes and neonicotinoids can explain bumble bee deaths under linden trees

Image of trees being covered with nets.

(Xerces Society) A recent study adds valuable information to the effort to understand the natural phenomenon of bumble bees dying under linden (Tilia spp.) trees. Unfortunately, recent media coverage of the study could inadvertently mislead people to believe that it is okay to use neonicotinoid insecticides on Tilia trees—a dangerous misinterpretation of existing science.

Saving heather will help to save our wild bees

Image of bumble bee on flower.

(Phys.org/Royal Holloway, University of London) A new study published today has discovered that a natural nectar chemical in Calluna heather called callunene can act as a medicine to protect bumblebees from a harmful parasite. The parasite, Crithidia bombi, is common among wild bumble bees and can be transmitted between bumble bees on flowers or within the nest.

Researchers investigate the economic impact of colony collapse disorder

Image of honey bees.

(Montana State University) Researchers set out to identify the economic ripple effects of colony collapse disorder by examining trends in four categories: number of commercial honeybee colonies nationwide, honey production, prices of queens and packaged bees and pollination fees charged by commercial beekeepers to growers. The team found some surprising results.

Robots could save the bees, HubWeek researchers say

Image of honey bees on frame.

(Boston University News Service) Researchers have begun working with local beekeepers nationwide to test Buzz, an app where beekeepers can see real-time information on how their hive is doing and be alerted to any potentially dangerous changes within the hive. “If there’s an infection, there’s medicine in a little component in the smarthive that can release. It will have an ion trap spectrometer that can detect pesticide levels and open a vent. It can communicate to the beekeeper by text, email or phone call when the temperature is dropping in winter so that the bees don’t freeze to death.”

Genomes of parasitic mites harming the world’s bees sequenced

Image of Varroa mite on honey bee.

(ScienceDaily) Researchers sequenced the genomes of the two Varroa mite species that parasitize the honey bee. They found that each species of mite used its own distinct strategy to survive in its bee host, potentially overwhelming the bees’ defenses. In addition to pointing to how scientists might vanquish these deadly intruders, the findings also shed light on how parasites and hosts evolve in response to one another.