Meet a bee with a very big brain

Image of shaggy bee on flower.

(New York Times) Just like mammals or birds, insect species of the same size may have different endowments inside their heads. Researchers have discovered some factors linked to brain size in back-boned animals. But in insects, the drivers of brain size have been more of a mystery. A new study has scrutinized hundreds of bee brains for patterns. Bees with specialized diets seem to have larger brains, while social behavior appears unrelated to brain size. This means when it comes to insects, the rules that have guided brain evolution in other animals may not apply.

Even bees argue over where to get dinner

Image of honey bee being held by fingers.

(Arizona State University) There’s a learning behavior called latent inhibition. It screens out irrelevant stimuli, allowing the mind to focus on the most pressing and practical issues. If you’ve ignored emails to get a report in on deadline, you’re familiar with it. Honey bees with high latent inhibition forage at the same trusted spots, day in and day out. Low latent inhibition bees learn new and familiar food locations equally well. What happens in the bee world in a mixed colony? Who wins out?

Honey bees can’t practice social distancing, so they stay healthy in close quarters by working together

Image inside a honey bee hive.

(The Conversation) “As behavioral ecologists who have studied social interactions in honey bees, we see parallels between life in the hive and efforts to manage COVID-19 in densely populated settings. Although honey bees live in conditions that aren’t conducive to social distancing, they have developed unique ways to deal with disease by collectively working to keep the colony healthy.”

Strange, spiral bee combs look like fantastical crystal palaces. Now we know why.

Image of the spiral combs.

(Live Science) How did these Tetragonula bees become the Frank Lloyd Wrights of the insect world? Does each colony employ its own master architect, charged with guiding his comb’s construction — or does each worker bee merely follow an unconscious set of individually-encoded building rules? According to a new study, “These combs follow the same basic rules that cause crystals to grow up in a spiral pattern.”

Group genomics drive aggression in honey bees

Image of honey bees.

(University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) Researchers often study the genomes of individual organisms to try to tease out the relationship between genes and behavior. A new study of Africanized honey bees reveals, however, that the genetic inheritance of individual bees has little influence on their propensity for aggression. Instead, the genomic traits of the hive as a whole are strongly associated with how fiercely its soldiers attack.

How does an intersex bee behave?

Close up image of gynandromorph bee.

(Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) In a neotropical forest in Panama, an unusual bee was born. Its form was that of a male on one half and a female on the other half. Given the singularity of the occurrence, the group decided to describe an aspect of its behavior that hadn’t been previously studied in gynandromorphs: the circadian activity – the internal clock that drives an organism’s daily activities.