Fancy Aussie bees flew in from Asia

Image of Australian native bee.

(EurekAlert/Flinders University) Ancestors of a distinctive pollinating bee found across Australia probably originated in tropical Asian countries, islands in the south-west Pacific or greater Oceania region. Describing the likely dispersal corridor for the ancestral lineage of the bee genus Homalictus will help understand the social evolution of the vibrant halictine bees say researchers. Ecologists are hopeful that the diverse origins of native bees are giving them an edge in withstanding and adapting further to climate change.

Temperate insects as vulnerable to climate change as tropical species

Image of insect hotel and garden.

(ScienceDaily/Uppsala University) In previous research, it has been assumed that insects in temperate regions would cope well with or even benefit from a warmer climate. Not so, according to researchers. The earlier models failed to take into account the fact that insects in temperate habitats are inactive for much of the year.

Honey bees could help monitor fertility loss in insects due to climate change

Image of honey bees with egg cells.

(ScienceDaily/University of British Columbia) Heat can kill sperm cells across the animal kingdom, yet there are few ways to monitor the impact of heat on pollinators like honey bees, who can serve as a bellwether for wider insect fertility losses due to climate change. Now, researchers used a technique called mass spectrometry to analyze sperm stored in honey bee queens and found five proteins that are activated when the queens are exposed to extreme temperatures. “Just like cholesterol levels are used to indicate the risk of heart disease in humans, these proteins could indicate whether a queen bee has experienced heat stress. If we start to see patterns of heat shock emerging among bees, that’s when we really need to start worrying about other insects.”

Bees in Fiji point to new evolutionary answers

Close up image of Fijian bee.

(EurekAlert/Flinders University) The adaptation to new habitats and niches is often assumed to drive the diversification of species. But rare bees found in high mountain areas of Fiji provide evidence that they have evolved into many species, despite the fact they can’t readily adapt to different habitats. “Perhaps, if Darwin had studied Fijian bees instead of Galapagos finches, he might have come to rather different conclusions about the origin of species.”

Climatic-niche evolution strikingly similar in plants and animals

Image of scatter plot graphs.

(EurekAlert/Chinese Academy of Science Headquarters) Climatic niches describe where species can occur and are essential to determining how they will respond to climate change. Given the fundamental biological differences in plants and animals, previous research proposed that plants may have broader environmental tolerances than animals but are more sensitive to climate. However, a recent study has found that there are actually “general rules” of climatic-niche evolution that span plants and animals. “This is extremely important, because it warns us to pay more attention to the high extinction risks for both plant and animal species, if we cannot slow down climatic changes caused by humans.”

How warming winters are affecting everything

Graphic of melting North America with different plants and animals.

(Michigan Radio) Winters are warming faster than other seasons across much of the United States. While that may sound like a welcome change for those bundled in scarves and hats, it’s causing a cascade of unpredictable impacts in communities across the country – impacting pollinators and the plants they’re connected with. Temperatures continue to steadily rise around the globe, but that trend isn’t spread evenly across the map or even the yearly calendar.

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.

Want to know what climate change will do in your back yard? There’s a data set for that

Image of person working in field.

(EurekAlert/CIAT) What the global climate emergency has in store may vary from one back yard to the next, particularly in the tropics where microclimates, geography and land-use practices shift dramatically over small areas. A data set created by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture is filling this niche. While it has primarily served agricultural research, the data has also been used to map the potential global spread of Zika (a mosquito-borne disease), to plan investment strategies for international development, and to predict the ongoing decline of outdoor skating days in Canada due to warmer winters.