‘Like sending bees to war’: the deadly truth behind your almond-milk obsession

Image of beekeeper standing next to two hives.

(The Guardian) Commercial honey bees are considered livestock by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But no other class of livestock comes close to the scorched-earth circumstances that these bees face in the toxic chemical soup of California’s Central Valley, fertilizing almonds one blossom at a time. “The high mortality rate creates a sad business model for beekeepers. It’s like sending the bees to war. Many don’t come back.”

Bumble bees exposed to Chernobyl-levels of radiation consume more nectar

Image of bumble bee in testing container.

(British Ecological Society) Researchers found that exposure to chronic low-dose radiation, similar to levels found in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, negatively affects bumble bee energy use by increasing their metabolic rate and food consumption. “An increase in nectar consumption for an individual bee could have important ecological consequences…”

Power lines may mess with honey bees’ behavior and ability to learn

Image of person in field of flowers beneath power lines.

(Science News) In the lab, honey bees were more aggressive toward other bees after being exposed to electromagnetic fields at strengths similar to what they might experience at ground level under electricity transmission lines. Those exposed bees also were slower to learn to respond to a new threat than unexposed bees were.

Using probiotics to protect honey bees against fatal disease

Image of honey bees at entrance to hive.

(Western University) A group of researchers combined their expertise in probiotics and bee biology to supplement honey bee food with probiotics, in the form of a BioPatty, in their experimental apiaries. The aim was to see what effect probiotics would have on honey bee health. In the bee hives treated with probiotics, pathogen load was reduced by 99 percent, and survival-rate of the bees increased significantly.

Deformed wing virus genetic diversity in US honey bees complicates search for remedies

Image of honey bee on yellow flower.

(USDA-ARS) Deformed Wing Virus (DWV), one of the leading causes of honey bee colony losses, is much more genetically diverse in the United States than previously thought. The diverse lineages of this virus are all equally bad for bees, and they make it more complicated to develop antiviral therapeutics, which could be the basis for developing a vaccine for the virus.

Bee defecation on flowers may explain disease transmission

Image of purple flower.

(Entomology Today) It turns out that bees defecate while foraging pollen or nectar, and sick bees may defecate more than usual, possibly transmitting infection through their fecal matter. So researchers set out to determine how important flower shape is to bee defecation patterns, with the hope that this data might help unravel the mysteries of disease transmission among bees.

Robots could save the bees, HubWeek researchers say

Image of honey bees on frame.

(Boston University News Service) Researchers have begun working with local beekeepers nationwide to test Buzz, an app where beekeepers can see real-time information on how their hive is doing and be alerted to any potentially dangerous changes within the hive. “If there’s an infection, there’s medicine in a little component in the smarthive that can release. It will have an ion trap spectrometer that can detect pesticide levels and open a vent. It can communicate to the beekeeper by text, email or phone call when the temperature is dropping in winter so that the bees don’t freeze to death.”

New tool improves beekeepers’ overwintering odds and bottom line

Image of honey bee on sunflower.

(USDA-ARS) This new tool calculates the probability of a managed honey bee colony surviving the winter based on two measurements: the size of colony and the percent varroa mite infestation in September. By consulting the probability table for the likelihood of a colony having a minimum of six frames of bees – the number required for a colony to be able to fulfill a pollination contract for almond growers come February – beekeepers can decide in September if it is economically worthwhile to overwinter the colony in cold storage.