Helping honey bees make it through winter with early cold storage

Image of beekeeper with hives in field.

(USDA ARS) Putting honey bees into early indoor cold storage in October rather than November increases their chances of surviving the winter and the colonies emerge readier to pollinate almonds. Overwintering managed honey bee colonies in indoor cold storage in states such as Idaho has become increasingly popular with beekeepers because, in the cold, bees don’t need to forage for food, be fed by beekeepers, or be treated for parasitic Varroa mites — a serious pest of honey bees. This cuts down on beekeepers’ costs and can greatly reduce overwintering colony losses.

Scientists decode honey bee queen toots and quacks in hive

Image of honey bees on comb.

(BBC) Worker bees make new queens by sealing eggs inside special cells with wax and feeding them royal jelly. The queens quack when ready to emerge – but if two are free at the same time, they will fight to the death. So when one hatches, its quacks turn to toots, telling the workers to keep the others – still quacking – captive.

Pesticides disrupt honey bee nursing behavior and larval development

Image of honey bee cells with larvae.

(ScienceDaily/Goethe University Frankfurt) A newly developed video technique has allowed scientists to record the complete development of a honey bee in its hive. Researchers discovered that neonicotinoids caused nurse bees to feed the larvae less often. Larval development also took up to 10 hours longer; a longer development period in the hive can foster infestation by parasites.

Bumble bee disease, reproduction shaped by flowering strip plants

Image of bee on sunflower.

(NC State University) Flowering strips can help offset pollinator decline but may also bring risks of higher pathogen infection rates for pollinators foraging in those strips. Bumble bees exposed to certain plants showed higher rates of infection by Crithidia bombi, a bee pathogen that is associated with reduced bee-foraging abilities as well as mortality in food-compromised bees.

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.”

Some flowers have learned to bounce back after injury

Image of flowers and moth.

(EurekAlert/University of Portsmouth) Mechanical accidents happen to plants fairly often and can, in some cases, stop the plant from being able to attract pollinating insects and so, make seeds. But according to a new study some flowers have a remarkable and previously unknown ability to bounce back after injury, bending and twisting themselves back into the best possible position to ensure successful reproduction within 10 to 48 hours of being knocked over.

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.