Genetically engineering the perfect bee – in 1892

Black and white image of apiary in orchard.

(Scientific American) “It is said that there are at least two distinct races of stingless bees in South America, but these races have not much value as honey gatherers, and moreover they build combs with very thick-walled cells, and probably they would not be worth cultivating as compared with the European, Asiatic and African races. But if we can cross our bees with the giant bees of India and obtain a race with a long proboscis and perhaps increased size (if that should prove to be of any advantage), and cross this improved race with the South American stingless bees, we shall then have a race of bees which it will be difficult to improve.”

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.

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.

Water lily genome expands picture of the early evolution of flowering plants

Image of purple water lily.

(Penn State) The newly reported genome sequence of a water lily sheds light on the early evolution of angiosperms. Water lilies have been important to scientists because of their position near the base of the evolutionary tree of all flowering plants. Scientists are interested in the water lily genome to help understand how traits like big showy colorful flowers and floral scents, both of which serve to attract pollinators, have evolved.

Farmed bees are mating with native bees – and that could endanger them

Image of managed bee boxes among plants.

(NewScientist) The hybridization can threaten the long-term survival of the native bees, says Ignasi Bartomeus at the Doñana Biological Station in Seville, Spain. “Diversity is the best insurance against [environmental] perturbations because it creates variability from which to adapt to new situations,” he says. “If we homogenize the genetic diversity of some species, we are losing this insurance.”

Genomes of parasitic mites harming the world’s bees sequenced

Image of Varroa mite on honey bee.

(ScienceDaily) Researchers sequenced the genomes of the two Varroa mite species that parasitize the honey bee. They found that each species of mite used its own distinct strategy to survive in its bee host, potentially overwhelming the bees’ defenses. In addition to pointing to how scientists might vanquish these deadly intruders, the findings also shed light on how parasites and hosts evolve in response to one another.