Social Bees Mark Dangerous Flowers with Chemical Signals
Scientists already knew that some social bee species warn their hivemates when detecting the presence of a predator near their hive, which in turn causes an attack response to the possible predator. Researchers at the University of Tours (France) in collaboration with the Experimental Station of Arid Zones of Almeria (Spain) have now demonstrated that they also use chemical signals to mark those flowers where they have previously been attacked.
Researchers at the University of Tours (France) and the Experimental Station of Arid Zones of Almeria (EEZA-CSIC) conducted an experiment to study whether bees are capable of using evasive chemical signals to mark those flowers where they have previously been attacked. For this purpose, they simulated a predator attack and observed whether the bees advised the rest of their hivemates of the danger of gathering nectar at a certain plant.
“Evasive alarm pheromones provoke an escape response in insects that visit a particular flower and until now, we were not sure of the role that these pheromones played in social bees. Our results indicate that, unlike solitary bees, social bees use this type of alert system on flowers to warn their sisters of the presence of a nearby predator,” as explained to SINC by Ana L. Llandres from the University of Tours and lead author of the study published in the ‘Animal Behaviour’ journal.
In order to determine whether social and solitary bees responded to these olfactory alarm signals, an experiment was performed using individuals from both types and from different countries: Australia, China, Spain and Singapore.
In some plants the predator attack was simulated by trapping the bees with pincers whereas in other cases control plants were used in which no attack took place.
“Solitary bees responded similarly in the case of flowers that had been attacked by control predators and control flowers. However, social bees responded very differently,” explains L. Llandres. “Despite approaching both types of flower, the probability of landing on control flowers was much higher.” The scientists also detected that the probability of social bees rejecting flowers was much greater if a predator attack had been previously simulated.
This study supports the idea that the sociability of bees is linked to the evolution of warning signals.
Ana L. Llandres, Francisco G. Gonzálvez, Miguel A. Rodríguez-Gironés. “Social but not solitary bees reject dangerous flowers where a conspecific has recently been attacked”, Animal Behaviour 85: 97- 102, 2013.
Researchers ID Queens, Mysterious Disease Syndrome as KeyFactors in Bee Colony Deaths
by MATT SHIPMAN
(Courtesy North Carolina State University News Service, Raleigh, NC)
A new long-term study of honey bee health has found that a little-understood disease study authors are calling “idiopathic brood disease syndrome” (IBDS), which kills off bee larvae, is the largest risk factor for predicting the death of a bee colony.
“Historically, we’ve seen symptoms similar to IBDS associated with viruses spread by large-scale infestations of parasitic mites,” says Dr. David Tarpy, an associate professor of entomology at North Carolina State University and co-author of a paper describing the study. “But now we’re seeing these symptoms – a high percentage of larvae deaths – in colonies that have relatively few of these mites. That suggests that IBDS is present even in colonies with low mite loads, which is not what we expected.” The study was conducted by researchers from NC State, the University of Maryland, Pennsylvania State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The study evaluated the health of 80 commercial colonies of honey bees (Apis mellifera) in the eastern United States on an almost monthly basis over the course of 10 months – which is a full working “season” for commercial bee colonies. The goal of the study was to track changes in bee colony health and, for those colonies that died off, to determine what factors earlier in the year may have contributed to colony death. Fifty-six percent of the colonies died during the study.
“We found that colonies affected by IBDS had a risk factor of 3.2,” says Dr. Dennis vanEnglesdorp of the University of Maryland, who was lead author on the paper. That means that colonies with IBDS were 3.2 times more likely to die than the other colonies over the course of the study.
While the study found that IBDS was the greatest risk factor, a close runner-up was the occurrence of a so-called “queen event.”
Honey bee colonies have only one queen. When a colony perceives something wrong with its queen, the workers eliminate that queen and try to replace her. This process is not always smooth or successful. The occurrence of a queen event had a risk factor of 3.1.
“This is the first time anyone has done an epidemiological study to repeatedly evaluate the health of the same commercial honey bee colonies over the course of a season,” Tarpy says. “It shows that IBDS is a significant problem that we don’t understand very well. It also highlights that we need to learn more about what causes colonies to reject their queens. These are areas we are actively researching. Hopefully, this will give us insights into other health problems, including colony collapse disorder.”
The paper, “Idiopathic brood disease syndrome and queen events as precursors of colony mortality in migratory beekeeping operations in the eastern United States,” was published in the February issue of Preventive Veterinary Medicine. Co-authors of the study include Dr. Eugene Lengerich of Penn State and Dr. Jeffery Pettis of USDA. The work was supported by USDA and the National Honey Board.
Bees Get a Buzz from Caffeine
Scientists have today shown that caffein improves a honey bee’s memory and could could help the plant recruit more bees to spread its pollen.
Publishing in Science the researchers show that in tests honeybees feeding on a sugar solution containing caffeine, which occurs naturally in the nectar of coffee and citrus flowers, were three times more likely to remember a flower’s scent than those feeding on just sugar.
Study leader Dr Geraldine Wright, Reader in Neuroethology at Newcastle University, UK, explained that the effect of caffeine benefits both the honeybee and the plant: “Remembering floral traits is difficult for bees to perform at a fast pace as they fly from flower to flower and we have found that caffeine helps the bee remember where the flowers are.
“In turn, bees that have fed on caffeine-laced nectar are laden with coffee pollen and these bees search for other coffee plants to find more nectar, leading to better pollination.
“So, caffeine in nectar is likely to improve the bee’s foraging prowess while providing the plant with a more faithful pollinator.”
In the study, researchers found that the nectar of Citrus and Coffea species often contained low doses of caffeine. They included ‘robusta’ coffee species mainly used to produce freeze-dried coffee and ‘arabica’ used for espresso and filter coffee. Grapefruit, lemons, pomelo and oranges were also sampled and all contained caffeine.
Co-author Professor Phil Stevenson from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the University of Greenwich’s Natural Resources Institute, UK, said: “Caffeine is a defense chemical in plants and tastes bitter to many insects including bees so we were surprised to find it in the nectar. However, it occurs at a dose that’s too low for the bees to taste, but high enough to affect bee behavior.”
The effect of caffeine on the bees’ long-term memory was profound with three times as many bees remembering the floral scent 24 hours later and twice as many bees remembering the scent after three days.
Typically, the nectar in the flower of a coffee plant contains almost as much caffeine as a cup of instant coffee. Just as black coffee has a strong bitter taste to us, high concentrations of caffeine are repellent to honeybees.
Dr Wright added: “This work helps us understand the basic mechanisms of how caffeine affects our brains. What we see in bees could explain why people prefer to drink coffee when studying.”
Dr Julie Mustard, a contributor to the study from Arizona State University, explains further: “Although human and honeybee brains obviously have lots of differences, when you look at the level of cells, proteins and genes, human and bee brains function very similarly. Thus, we can use the honeybee to investigate how caffeine affects our own brains and behaviors.”
This project was funded in part by the Insect Pollinators Initiative which supports projects aimed at researching the causes and consequences of threats to insect pollinators and to inform the development of appropriate mitigation strategies.
Population declines among bees have serious consequences for natural ecosystems and agriculture since bees are essential pollinators for many crops and wild flowering species. If declines are allowed to continue there is a risk to our natural biodiversity and on some crop production.
Professor Stevenson said: “Understanding how bees choose to forage and return to some flowers over others will help inform how landscapes could be better managed. Understanding a honeybee’s habits and preferences could help find ways to reinvigorate the species to protect our farming industry and countryside.”
National Honey Board Offers Promotional Items to Industry Members
Firestone, Colo., March 11, 2013 – The National Honey Board (NHB) announced that it has produced three new promotional items that are available for purchase.
The promotional items were created to showcase honey’s versatility. The NHB focused on items that would span some of honey’s many applications, including culinary, beauty and more. The items also feature the Honey ONE logo, to remind people that honey is just one ingredient, the way nature intended.
The items available include a black polyester foldaway tote bag that’s perfect for the grocery store or farmer’s market. The tote folds into a carrying pouch with drawstring and has 18” shoulder straps. Next is an all-silicone spoon that is ideal for stirring pasta, soups, sauces and more and is 11-1/8” x 2-3/16” x 11/16” in size. The longer handle keeps your hands further away from the heat to help prevent steam burns. Finally, for the first time ever, the NHB is offering their signature honey and vanilla lip balm. This formula is specially created for the NHB and is made from all-natural ingredients, including honey and beeswax.
“We are pleased to offer these promotional items to the honey industry,” said Catherine Barry, marketing director at the National Honey Board. “These items are a continuation of our effort to provide materials to the industry to help promote honey. With items that are useful for everyday life, we hope that people will enjoy using them and they’ll continue to utilize honey throughout their day.”
These promotional items will be available to industry members for $3.50, $3.00 and $0.75 respectively. To purchase one or all the items, please call Andrea Brening, the National Honey Board’s fulfillment coordinator at 800-553-7162.
The National Honey Board is a federal research and promotion board under USDA oversight that conducts research, marketing and promotion programs to help maintain and expand markets for honey and honey products. These programs are funded by an assessment of one cent per pound on domestic and imported honey.
National Honey Board Offers Sweet Stirrings Honey Cocktail Guide
Firestone, Colo., March 18, 2013 – The National Honey Board’s honey cocktail guide, Sweet Stirrings, is now available for order. Spiral-bound and bar-ready with 50 gorgeous, splash-proof pages, the guide features 32 honey-inspired cocktail recipes, honey simple syrup suggestions and information on honey varietals to boost the cocktail category.
With five tabbed sections for easy reference (Martinis, Highballs, Sours and Frozen Drinks, Smashes and Stick Drinks, and Wine and Ale Cocktails), the Sweet Stirrings guide features cocktail recipes ranging from honeyed-up favorites such as the Best Ever Bloody Mary and Honey Bee-jito, to innovative honey-inspired concoctions like the Lava Lamp Martini, sweet and spicy Peppermelon, and dessert-worthy Brandy Baklava and Apple Pie à la Mode.
“The Sweet Stirrings cocktail guide is designed to be a highly functional yet beautiful piece that inspires everyone, from bartenders to mixologists or anyone looking to spice up their cocktails with honey,” says Catherine Barry, director of marketing for the National Honey Board.
This honey cocktail guide will be available to industry members for $7.00 each. To purchase the Sweet Stirrings honey cocktail guide, please call Andrea Brening, the National Honey Board’s fulfillment coordinator at 800-553-7162.
British Columbia Beekeeping History
Book Review: “A History of
Beekeeping in British Columbia from 1950 to 2000,” Douglas M. McCutcheon, 2013, published by the British Columbia Honey Producers Association, 334 pp.
Bottom line: this is a thoroughly delightful book, and a masterly piece of work. Comprehensive and excellently researched, well written, full of anecdote and information, populated by fascinating characters and significant events, it’s a portrait of five eventful decades in beekeeping history.
McCutcheon’s book begins in 1950, taking up where a previous book “100 Years of Beekeeping in B.C.” by W. H. Turnbull, left off. “A History of Beekeeping in British Columbia” is brilliantly organized, dancing between anecdote, facts, occasions, profiles of significant individuals and compelling stories about the people, places and events that made up 50 years of beekeeping.
McCutcheon follows a brief review of pre-1950’s beekeeping with a general overview of the B.C. government’s Apiary program and the activities of the B.C. Honey Producers Association. He then moves on to a historical time line of projects and activities in B.C. beekeeping, followed by a section about each region in the province and its unique beekeeping environment and beekeepers.
He next writes about the many unique aspects of B.C. beekeeping, from university-level research to pollination, educational conferences to the Bee Masters course, honey shows to the 1999 international conference Apimondia. The book is richly illustrated with photos, has a beautiful and deeply moving front cover of McCutcheon beekeeping with his young grandson, and a back cover with a fine apiary shot surrounded by hexagonal color chips representing the major bee pollen colors from important B.C. bee forage.
We all owe a great of gratitude to Doug McCutcheon for his herculean and highly successful efforts. Buy this book; it’s a real treasure.
Mark L. Winston, FRSC
Academic Director and Fellow
Simon Fraser University’s
Centre for Dialogue
This book review first appeared in Spring 2013 issue of Canadian Hivelights magazine.
Book release date: April 15, 2013
Cost: $29.95, plus shipping
Available for online PayPal orders through the BCHPA web site:
The Honey Connoisseur
by C. Marina Marchese and Kim Flottum
Like wine, cheese, coffee, and chocolate, honey has emerged as an artisanal obsession. Its popularity at farmers’ markets and specialty food stores has soared. Interest in beekeeping and honey is at an all-time high. Retail chains such as Williams-Sonoma have their own artisanal collections that include beekeeping kits. All that’s missing is a comprehensive primer on honey—from the ubiquitous clover to tangy basswood to rich, smoky buckwheat—and how to interpret its color, aroma, and flavor. Now, from honey experts C. Marina Marchese and Kim Flottum, we finally have it, THE HONEY CONNOISSEUR: Selecting, Tasting, and Pairing Honey, With a Guide to More than 30 Varietals.
THE HONEY CONNOISSEUR (Publication date: June 4, 2013) including engaging explanations and step-by-step instructions on the origin and flavor of more than 30 varietals of honey from Alfalfa to Ulmo, wine and cheese pairings, and as a bonus, several simple, delicious recipes featuring honey. After a brief explanation of how bees pollinate plants and produce honey, the authors introduce terroir, or the way soil, weather, and other natural phenomena can affect the taste of honey. Terroir is a familiar concept to wine lovers, but has not been widely associated with honey until now. Knowing the terroir of a honey varietal informs an understanding of its flavor. This beautifully illustrated book teaches foodies, locavores, and consumers everything they need to know to taste, select, and use a diverse assortment of honey.
Published by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers. www.blackdogandleventhal.com (212) 647-9336. Hard cover, 208 pages - $26.95, ISBN: 978-1-57912-929-3.
Producing Royal Jelly
This fully illustrated guide provides all available practical information on the production of royal jelly and covers in detail:
Why bees produce royal jelly
Therapeutic uses of the product
Detailed methods of production
New larval transfer systems
Storage and sale of the fresh product
Step by step instructions show you how anyone with access to one or more hives can enjoy the satisfaction of producing royal jelly.
About the Author
Dr. Ron vonToor gained an MSc in Crop Protection at Bath University, UK. He has worked as an agricutlure researcher and technology specialist for 18 years in science disciplines including integrated weed and pest management, agronomy and soil fertility. He worked with the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries from 1986-1990 to solve specific problems in the export of honeybees and the production of royal jelly. He gained his PhD in plant pathology at Lincoln University, New Zealand in 2002 and now works as a scientist in crop protection for the New Zealand food research organization.
To order, contact Northern Bee Books, Scout Bottom Farm, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 5JS, Tel: 04422 882751, Email: jerry@
Glorybee’s Social Initiatives Impact Local University’s Bee Research
Eugene, Ore. - Thursday, February 28, GloryBee hosted a honey-themed lunch honoring the OSU Honey Bee Lab and presented the team with a $10,000 check to go towards its research on bee health, nutrition, and parasite control. Funds were raised through the retail sales of GloryBee®Honey and HoneyStix branded products for the “Save the Bee” campaign.
In 2012, GloryBee launched its Social Intiatives campaign as a way to directly impact organizations dedicated to saving the bee and healthy living issues. Founder and CEO Richard Turanski started GloryBee® Honey as a beekeeper due to his love of bees. With the concern of declining bee populations throughout the world, GloryBee has moved forward in efforts to be a part of the “Save the Bee” mission.
In addition to the OSU Honey Bee Lab, GloryBee donated $1,000 worth of equipment to recovering beekeepers impacted directly by Hurricane Sandy. The Brooklyn Grange Bees and a western Massachusetts beekeeper will be able to rebuild their colonies in time for spring due to the generosity of GloryBee®.
As a company dedicated to healthy living, nutrition is at the heart of our mission. The “Healthy Living” campaign donated $3,000 to the School Garden Project of Lane County. Food Corps, a nationwide team of leaders connecting kids to real food, received $5,000 and the Lane Coalition for Healthy and Active Youth (LCHAY) gained $3,500 to help support its efforts to reduce childhood obesity in Lane County. These funds were raised from the retail sales of Aunt Patty’s® products.
Aunt Patty’s® was founded on Pat Turanski’s belief (co-founder of GloryBee) in feeding her family healthy meals using alternatives to refined sugar. As a company, GloryBee feels strongly that childhood obesity is one condition we can positively change with healthy living.
GloryBee Foods started in the family garage of Dick and Pat “Aunt Patty” Turanski in 1975 with the sales of honey farmed in their backyard and has grown to include not only everything to do with bees, but a large assortment of natural ingredients. The dream of providing quality, natural ingredients for their community has grown to include the U.S. and beyond. GloryBee is still a family-owned and operated business in Eugene, Oregon.
PROCEEDINGS OF THE AMERICAN BEE RESEARCH CONFERENCE NOW AVAILABLE!
The 2012 American Bee Research Conference was held February 7-8 at APHIS Headquarters in Greenbelt, MD in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Apiary Inspectors of America. The twenty-sixth American Bee Research Conference will be held in Hershey, PA in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Honey Producers Association in January 2013. To access these abstracts now, click on the link below. These abstracts represent some of the latest bee research being conducted in the United States. Enjoy!