Stuck at home, scientists discover nine new insect species

Image of scientists in front of microscope in makeshift lab at home.

(Wired) Without a DNA sequencer, two Los Angeles entomologists relied on two of biology’s oldest tools: microscopes and lots of free time. Sifting through thousands of insects previously collected via a citizen science project, they ended up discovering nine new species of small flies. “It definitely makes me appreciate what scientists of the past were able to accomplish with rudimentary tools. I don’t have an ergonomic chair at home; I don’t have a fancy microscope. We are all feeling appreciation for things we take for granted.”

Honey bee lives shortened after exposure to two widely used pesticides

Image of honey bees of comb.

(Oregon State University) The lives of honey bees are shortened – with evidence of physiological stress – when they are exposed to the suggested application rates of two commercially available and widely used pesticides: sulfoxaflor and flupyradifurone. According to the researchers, this is the first study to investigate sub-lethal effects of these active ingredients.

Scientists decode honey bee queen toots and quacks in hive

Image of honey bees on comb.

(BBC) Worker bees make new queens by sealing eggs inside special cells with wax and feeding them royal jelly. The queens quack when ready to emerge – but if two are free at the same time, they will fight to the death. So when one hatches, its quacks turn to toots, telling the workers to keep the others – still quacking – captive.

Recycling old genes to get new traits: How social behavior evolves in bees

Image of sweat bee in tunnel.

( Tropical Research Institute) A team working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute found evidence to support a long-debated mode of evolution, revealing how evolution captures environmental variation to teach old genes new tricks: Sweat bees switch from solitary to social behavior, repurposing ancient sets of genes that originally evolved to regulate the development of other traits.

Genetic identity: A new threat to native bumble bees

Screen shot of the video.

(The Applied Ecologist) In their recently published article, Ignasi Bartomeus and colleagues show how the commercial bumble bee trade is affecting the genetic integrity of native pollinators. They show evidence that hybridization between commercial and native lines is common in southern Spain. What are its implications? What should we do to fix it? They’ve also crafted a wonderful video (with the help of Bartomeus’ kids) to explain it all.

Newly identified gene reduces pollen number of plants

Microscopic image of pollen grains.

(University of Zurich) Producing fewer sperm cells can be advantageous in self-fertilizing plants. An international study led by the University of Zurich has identified a gene in the model plant Arabidopsis that reduces the number of pollen. In addition to supporting the evolutionary theory, these findings could help to optimize plant breeding and domestication in agriculture.