Bumble bee declines points to mass extinction

Image of bumble bee on orange flower.

(The Guardian) A study suggests the likelihood of a bumble bee population surviving in any given place has declined by 30 percent in the course of a single human generation. The researchers say the rates of decline appear to be “consistent with a mass extinction”. The team used data collected over a 115-year period on 66 bumble bee species across North America and Europe to develop a model simulating “climate chaos” scenarios. They were able to see how bumble bee populations had changed over the years by comparing where the insects were now to where they used to be.

Bumble bees carry heavy loads when flying in ‘economy mode’

Image of bumble bee approaching flower.

(University of California, Davis) Bumble bee can carry up to 80 percent of their body weight when flying. And yet they get more economical in terms of expending energy when heavily loaded – which doesn’t make any sense in terms of energetics. “This has given us an appreciation that it’s a behavior, they choose what to do. Even the same bee on a different day will pick a new way to flap its wings.”

Wasps’ gut microbes help them – and their offspring – survive pesticides

Close-up image of tiny wasp.

(ScienceDaily/Cell Press) Exposure to the widely used pesticide atrazine leads to heritable changes in the gut microbiome of wasps. Additionally, the altered microbiome confers atrazine resistance, which is inherited across successive generations not exposed to the pesticide. Even though these wasps are not natural crop pollinators, the study could have broad implications. Notably, bacterial atrazine-metabolizing genes are also present in wild bee populations exposed to the pesticide.

Mite-destroying gut bacterium might help save vulnerable honey bees

Close up image of mite on honey bee abdomen.

(Science) Researchers are tapping an unusual ally in the fight to bring the bees back: a bacterium that lives solely in their guts. By genetically modifying the bacterium to trick the mite or a virus to destroy some of its own DNA, scientists have improved bee survival in the lab—and killed many of the mites that were parasitizing the insects.

Prescribed burns benefit bees

Image of sweat bee on flowers.

(North Carolina State University) Freshly burned longleaf pine forests have more than double the total number of bees and bee species than similar forests that have not burned in over 50 years, according to new research. The study found that the low-intensity prescribed burns did not reduce the amount of nesting material for above-ground nesting pollinators, and the abundance of above-ground nesting pollinators was not impacted by the fires. Meanwhile, below-ground nesting species appeared to benefit from the increased access to bare soil.