Stingless bee species depend on a complex fungal community to survive

Image of stingless bee.

(FAPESP) A new study shows that the larvae of the Brazilian stingless bee Scaptotrigona depilis depend on interactions between three different species of fungus to complete their development and reach adulthood. “The new findings demonstrate that the interactions between these social insects and their microbiota are much more complex than we can imagine. This should serve as a warning against the indiscriminate use of pesticides in agriculture, since many are lethal to fungi.”

Male honey bees inject queens with blinding toxins during sex

Image of honey bees mating.

(University of California – Riverside) They say love is blind, but if you’re a queen honey bee it could mean true loss of sight. New research finds male honey bees inject toxins during sex that cause temporary blindness. To ensure their genes are among those that get passed on, the male bees want to discourage the queen from mating with additional partners – and if she can’t see properly, she can’t fly and encounter other male bees.

Microbes on the menu for bee larvae

Image of bee brood in cells.

(Phys.org/USDA) Nature’s famously busy insect isn’t strictly vegan after all. A team of Agricultural Research Service and university scientists has shown that bee larvae have a taste for “microbial meat.” In fact, the team observed an appetite for microbial meat among brood that spanned 14 species distributed across all major families of social and solitary bees—Melittidae, Apidae and Megachilidae among them. The findings underscore the need to examine what effects fungicide use on flowering crops can have on the microbial make up of pollen fed to brood and, in turn, their development. The research on bee larvae consumption of “microbial meat” can be found here.

A combination of agrochemicals shortens the life of bees, study shows

Close up of bee on flower.

(São Paulo Research Foundation) A new study by Brazilian biologists suggests that the effect of pesticides on bees could be worse than previously thought. Even when used at a level considered nonlethal, an insecticide curtailed the lives of bees by up to 50 percent. The researchers also found that a fungicide deemed safe for bees altered the behavior of workers and made them lethargic, potentially jeopardizing the survival of the entire colony.