California farmers relieved bumble bees not listed as endangered — for now

Image of almond orchard.

(Capital Press) The Sacramento County Superior Court ruled last month that the state lacks the authority to list four types of bumble bees as endangered species. Environmental groups called the decision “deeply disappointing;” farm groups lauded it as a “huge victory.” But the ruling may not be the final word. The state may appeal the decision, and environmental groups say they plan to pursue alternative action.

Unexpected similarity between honey bee and human social life

Image of honey bees with barcodes on their backs.

(Phys.org, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) Bees and humans are about as different organisms as one can imagine. Yet despite their many differences, surprising similarities in the ways that they interact socially have begun to be recognized in the last few years. Now, a team of researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, building on their earlier studies, have experimentally measured the social networks of honey bees and how they develop over time. They discovered that there are detailed similarities with the social networks of humans and that these similarities are completely explained by new theoretical modeling, which adapts the tools of statistical physics for biology. The theory, confirmed in experiments, implies that there are individual differences between honey bees, just as there are between humans.

Cataloging Minnesota’s native bees

Image of bee specimen collection.

(The Minnesota Daily) Using the University of Minnesota Insect Collection, a team of bee researchers at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is tracking and studying native bees in the hope of understanding how the insects have been impacted by the climate crisis. Because researchers do not have a comprehensive list of which bees are native to Minnesota, they do not know much about these insects.

Pollinator-friendly solar could be a win-win for climate and landowners, but greenwashing is a worry

Aerial image of solar farm.

(Inside Climate News) Research published by Yale’s Center for Business and the Environment has found that pollinator-friendly solar can boost crop yields, increase the recharging of groundwater, reduce soil erosion and provide long-term cost savings in operations and maintenance. The research also found that by creating a cooler microclimate, perennial vegetation can increase the efficiency of solar panels, upping their energy output.

Wildfires deal another blow to Northern California’s honey bee populations

Image of beekeeper lifting frame from hive.

(San Francisco Chronicle) The flatbed truck was laden with chickens and honey as Caroline Yelle sped away from her Vacaville apiary, away from the flames licking the ridgeline. The honey bees would have to stay behind. By the time she returned, more than half of her 700 bee hives were reduced to ashes. The surrounding hills, once thick with yellow star thistle where the bees gathered pollen, were stone gray and barren from the Hennessey Fire. The wildfires dealt yet another devastating blow to the all-important pollinator already facing myriad challenges, from mite infestations to widespread colony collapse.

In fire-prone West, plants need their pollinators — and vice versa

Image of wildfire on hillside.

(Washington University in St. Louis) A new study grounded in the northern Rockies explores the role of fire in the finely tuned dance between plants and their pollinators. The researchers discovered that wildfire disturbance and plant-pollinator interactions are both important in determining where plants take root and where pollinators are found. But in burned landscapes, plant-pollinator interactions are generally as important or more important than any other factor in determining the composition of species present.

Pesticide deadly to bees now easily detected in honey

Image of honey dripping from stick.

(ScienceDaily, University of Waterloo) Researchers have developed an environmentally friendly, fully automated technique that extracts pyrethroids from the honey. Extracting the pyrethroids with the solid phase microextraction method makes it easier to measure whether their levels in the honey are above those considered safe for human consumption. It can also help identify locations where farmers use the pesticide and in what amounts. The substance has traditionally been difficult to extract because of its chemical properties.