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July 31, 2015 - ABJ Extra
How Bees Naturally Vaccinate Their Babies
Researchers discover process bees use to protect their offspring
Arizona State University
With the discovery of how bees naturally vaccinate their babies, researchers can now develop the first vaccine for insects. This vaccine could be used to fight serious diseases that decimate beehives. This is an important development for food production.
Credit: Christofer Bang
Researchers from Arizona State University, University of Helsinki, University of Jyväskylä and Norwegian University of Life Sciences made the discovery after studying a bee blood protein called vitellogenin. The scientists found that this protein plays a critical, but previously unknown role in providing bee babies protection against disease.
The findings appear today in the journal PLOS Pathogens.
"The process by which bees transfer immunity to their babies was a big mystery until now. What we found is that it's as simple as eating," said Gro Amdam, a professor with ASU's School of Life Sciences and co-author of the paper. "Our amazing discovery was made possible because of 15 years of basic research on vitellogenin. This exemplifies how long-term investments in basic research pay off."
Co-author Dalial Freitak, a postdoctoral researcher with University of Helsinki adds: "I have been working on bee immune priming since the start of my doctoral studies. Now almost 10 years later, I feel like I've solved an important part of the puzzle. It's a wonderful and very rewarding feeling!"
How it works
In a honey bee colony, the queen rarely leaves the nest, so worker bees must bring food to her. Forager bees can pick up pathogens in the environment while gathering pollen and nectar. Back in the hive, worker bees use this same pollen to create "royal jelly" -- a food made just for the queen that incidentally contains bacteria from the outside environment.
After eating these bacteria, the pathogens are digested in the gut and transferred to the body cavity; there they are stored in the queen's 'fat body' -- an organ similar to a liver. Pieces of the bacteria are then bound to vitellogenin -- a protein -- and carried via blood to the developing eggs. Because of this, bee babies are 'vaccinated' and their immune systems better prepared to fight diseases found in their environment once they are born.
Vitellogenin is the carrier of these immune-priming signals, something researchers did not know until now.
First edible vaccines for bees
While bees vaccinate their babies against some diseases, many pathogens are deadly and the insects are unable to fight them.
But now that Amdam and Freitak understand how bees vaccinate their babies, this opens the door to creating the first edible and natural vaccine for insects.
"We are patenting a way to produce a harmless vaccine, as well as how to cultivate the vaccines and introduce them to bee hives through a cocktail the bees would eat. They would then be able to stave off disease," said Freitak.
One destructive disease that affects bees is American Foul Brood, which spreads quickly and destroys hives. The bacterium infects bee larvae as they ingest food contaminated with its spores. These spores get their nourishment from the larvae, eventually killing them.
This disease is just one example where the researchers say a vaccine would be extremely beneficial.
Why this discovery is important to humans
It's widely known that pollinators, including bees, are facing serious environmental dangers.
During the past six decades, managed honey bee colonies in the United States have declined from 6 million in 1947 to only 2.5 million today. Not only are bees affected by diseases, they have been decimated by a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder. Researchers don't know exactly what causes this, but pesticides, pests, pathogens and nutrition problems may all be contributing factors.
According to a 2014 report by the U.S. government, pollinators are instrumental for a healthy economy and critical to food security, contributing 35 percent of global food production. In North America, insects pollinate 87 of the top 115 food crops and honey bees are vital in keeping fruits, nuts and vegetables in our diets.
Humans depend on bees and other pollinating insects for a huge portion of their food supply. Insect vaccines could play an important role in helping to combat colony collapse disorder, in addition to fighting a variety of diseases.
All egg-laying species have vitellogenin
This discovery could have far-reaching benefits for other species, as well as substantial, positive impacts on food production. All egg-laying species including fish, poultry, reptiles, amphibians and insects have vitellogenin in their bodies.
The food industry could implement the use of natural vaccines that would not only be inexpensive to produce, they could easily be used in developing countries.
"Because this vaccination process is naturally occurring, this process would be cheap and ultimately simple to implement. It has the potential to both improve and secure food production for humans," said Amdam.
July 24, 2015 - ABJ Extra
Losses of Honey Bee Colonies Over the 2014/15 Winter
The honey bee research association COLOSS(1) has today announced the preliminary results of their international study of colony losses over the 2014-15 winter. Data were collected from 31 countries. Egypt, Russia and the Ukraine participated for the first time in this initiative, which is the largest and longest running international study of honey bee colony losses. In total 23,234 respondents provided overwintering mortality and other data of their colonies.
Preliminary results from an international study
Collectively, all responding beekeepers managed 469,249 honey bee colonies. 67,914 of these colonies were dead after winter and an estimated 3 % of these colonies were lost because of unsolvable queen problems after winter. A preliminary analysis of the data shows that the mortality rate over the 2014-15 winter varied between countries, ranging from 5 % in Norway to 25 % in Austria, and there were also marked regional differences within most countries. The overall proportion of colonies lost (including colonies with unsolvable queen problems after winter) was estimated as 17.4 %, which was twice that of the previous winter.
The protocol used to collect this COLOSS data has been internationally standardized to allow comparisons and joint analysis of the data. A more detailed analysis of risk factors calculated from the whole dataset , as well as further colony loss data from other countries, will be published later in the year.
International Data Coordinator for the COLOSS Monitoring and Diagnosis Working Group Romée van der Zee from the Dutch Centre for Bee Research says: “North European countries have traditionally had lower losses, compared to west and central European countries. This can partly be explained by the later start of the breeding season of their honey bee colonies due to low temperatures in March/April, as was the case in 2014. This later start limits the number of brood cycles of the varroa mite, one of the main parasites of honey bees. However, honey bee colony loss is a multifactorial problem. There is clearly also a variation in losses between areas, which is not dependent on the varroa mite. One of the main aims of our network is to identify and describe such areas.”
1. COLOSS is a honey bee research association formerly funded by the European Union COST Programme (Action FA0803) and currently by the Ricola Foundation – Nature & Culture, which aims to explain and prevent massive honey bee colony losses. COLOSS does not directly support science, but aims to coordinate international research activities across Europe and worldwide, promoting cooperative approaches and a research programme with a strong focus on the transfer of science into beekeeping practice. COLOSS has 552 members drawn from 78 countries worldwide. Its President is Prof. Peter Neumann of the University of Bern, Switzerland.
July 24, 2015 - ABJ Extra
Pesticides Found in Most Pollen Collected from
Foraging Bees in Massachusetts
Boston, MA -- More than 70% of pollen and honey samples collected from foraging bees in Massachusetts contain at least one neonicotinoid, a class of pesticide that has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which adult bees abandon their hives during winter, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The study will be published online July 23, 2015 in the Journal of Environmental Chemistry.
"Data from this study clearly demonstrated the ubiquity of neonicotinoids in pollen and honey samples that bees are exposed to during the seasons when they are actively foraging across Massachusetts. Levels of neonicotinoids that we found in this study fall into ranges that could lead to detrimental health effects in bees, including CCD," said Chensheng (Alex) Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School and lead author of the study.
Since 2006, there have been significant losses of honey bee colonies. Scientists, policymakers, farmers, and beekeepers are concerned with this problem because bees are prime pollinators of roughly one-third of all crops worldwide.
Previous studies analyzed either stored pollen collected from hives or pollen samples collected from bees at a single point in time. In this study, the Harvard Chan School researchers looked at pollen samples collected over time--during spring and summer months when bees forage--from the same set of hives across Massachusetts. Collecting pollen samples in this way enabled the researchers to determine variations in the levels of eight neonicotinoids and to identify high-risk locations or months for neonicotinoid exposure for bees. To do so, the researchers worked with 62 Massachusetts beekeepers who volunteered to collect monthly samples of pollen and honey from foraging bees, from April through August 2013, using pollen traps on the landings of beehives. The beekeepers then sent the samples to the researchers.
The researchers analyzed 219 pollen and 53 honey samples from 62 hives, from 10 out of 14 counties in Massachusetts. They found neonicotinoids in pollen and honey for each month collected, in each location--suggesting that bees are at risk of neonicotinoid exposure any time they are foraging anywhere in Massachusetts.
The most commonly detected neonicotinoid was imidacloprid, followed by dinotefuran. Particularly high concentrations of neonicotinoids were found in Worcester County in April, in Hampshire County in May, in Suffolk County in July, and in Essex County in June, suggesting that, in these counties, certain months pose significant risks to bees.
The new findings suggest that neonicotinoids are being used throughout Massachusetts. Not only do these pesticides pose a significant risk for the survival of honey bees, but they also may pose health risks for people inhaling neonicotinoid-contaminated pollen, Lu said. "The data presented in this study should serve as a basis for public policy that aims to reduce neonicotinoid exposure," he said.
July 15, 2015 - ABJ Extra
Tagged Bees Causing a Buzz in Disease Research
James Cook University
James Cook University researchers are creating a buzz in bee research, gluing tiny transmitters to the backs of the insects for the first time.
Lead researcher, JCU's Dr Lori Lach, said the team glued Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chips to the backs of 960 bees, providing new insights into how disease affects the threatened insects.
"We just had to hold them in our hands and hope the glue dried quickly. It was actually quite a process - they had to be individually painted, then individually fed, then the tag glued on. Then individually scanned so we knew which tag was on what color and treatment bee and which hive it was going into. It all had to happen within about eight hours of emergence because as the day goes on they start learning how to fly and they get better at stinging."
It was a unique use of the technology and allowed the bees to be monitored individually for the first time.
"No one had looked at bees at this level before, to see what individual bees do when they are sick," said Dr Lach.
Scientists infected half the insects with a low dose of nosema spores, a gut parasite common amongst adult honeybees, while the rest remained disease free.
Using the RFID tags in combination with observations at the hives and artificial flowers, the researchers were able to see how hard the bees worked and what kind of material they gathered.
The species of nosema used in the study (Nosema apis) has long been thought to be benign compared to the many other parasites and pathogens that infect honey bees, and no one had previously looked for the effect of nosema on behavior with such a low dose.
"We knew dead bees couldn't forage or pollinate," said Dr Lach. "But what we wanted to investigate was the behavior of live bees that are affected by non-lethal stressors."
In a just published paper, researchers say infected bees were 4.3 times less likely to be carrying pollen than uninfected bees, and carried less pollen when they did. Infected bees also started working later, stopped working sooner and died younger.
Dr. Lach said nosema-infected bees look just like non-infected bees, so it's important to understand the behavioral changes the parasite may be causing.
"The real implications from this work are for humans. About a quarter of our food production is dependent on honey bee pollination. Declines in the ability of honey bees to pollinate will result in lower crop yields."
July 15, 2015 - ABJ Extra
Oriental Honey Buzzards Might Stop to Smell the Pollen
Buzzard identifies food by the pollen smell, yellow color
Scientists think that raptors, birds that hunt and feed on other animals, may use their sense of smell to detect food, but this has only been demonstrated in one type of vulture. The Oriental honey buzzard, a bird of prey in Taiwan, regularly forages in apiaries for yellow pollen dough, a softball-sized mixture of pollen, soybeans, and sugar that beekeepers provide as a supplementary food for bees. Since pollen dough is not similar to any naturally occurring food, the authors of this study investigated whether the buzzards identify the dough's nutritious contents using their sense of smell, or perhaps in combination with vision. The authors of the study used a series of experiments where individual birds could choose between two doughs that varied in pollen content or color, to test whether buzzards use the scent of pollen to find their food, and whether the food color influences their preference.
The authors found that buzzards almost always chose pollen-containing dough over dough without pollen, when the dough was otherwise identical in size, shape, and yellow color. Vision also seemed to play a role in foraging, as the buzzards preferred yellow over black or green dough if both contained pollen. In addition, buzzards still preferred pollen-containing over pollen-lacking dough when both doughs were black, but at a lower rate than when both were yellow. The authors suggest that buzzards likely identify the dough using their sense of smell, in combination with their vision. The authors conclude that olfaction is likely of far greater ecological importance to this species than previously thought, and should be considered when studying their behavior.
July 10, 2015 - ABJ Extra
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
How flowers use scent and nectar to manipulate pollinators and herbivores
(Manduca: Lat. "chewer "). A female Manduca sexta hawkmoth lays eggs on the leaves of a tobacco plant after it has pollinated the tobacco flowers. The putative mutualist then
turns into an antagonist, because hungry caterpillars hatch from these eggs.
(Credit: Danny Kessler / Max Planck Institute forChemical Ecology, Jena, Germany)
Some pollinators not only provide fertilization services for flowering plants, they also lay their eggs on the plants' leaves after they have visited the flowers. Voracious caterpillars hatch from these eggs and their enormous appetite can easily kill the plants. So when plants advertise for pollinators they frequently also attract herbivores. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, demonstrated in field trials that the flowers of the coyote tobacco Nicotiana attenuata are able to solve this dilemma. The researchers showed that when flowers produce both scent and nectar and are visited by three different pollinators, their outcrossing increases, which is important for the gene flow between plants. Moreover, both floral traits influenced oviposition by the hawkmoth Manduca sexta, with the amount of nectar being even more influential than floral scent on the decision of female hawkmoths to lay eggs. Natural variations of scent biosynthesis and nectar secretion in wild tobacco populations, including plants whose flowers do not produce any nectar at all, may therefore ensure that the reproductive success is optimized while herbivores are kept at bay. For the first time, scientists examined these two floral traits, scent and nectar, and their influence on pollen vectors and herbivores simultaneously. (eLife, July 2015).
Flowering plants emit odors in order to attract pollinators. Pollinators are rewarded with sweet nectar for their reproductive assistance. However, this interaction is not always based on the "one hand washes the other" principle alone. Some female moths pollinate the flowers and lay their eggs on the leaves of the same plant afterwards. From these eggs, voracious larvae hatch and threaten the survival of the plant. One example of a '"mutualist turned into antagonist" is the tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta, a moth that visits the flowers of Nicotiana attenuata, a wild tobacco species in North and Middle America. Its larvae, however, can cause devastating feeding damage.
As scientists led by Ian T. Baldwin found out, the concentrations and amounts of floral scent and nectar vary in natural populations of Nicotiana attenuata. There are even individual plants that do not secrete any nectar at all. These plants cheat floral visitors by attracting them in the first place, but denying a reward for pollination services. In order to uncouple the influence of floral scent and nectar and to study both traits simultaneously, the scientists used plants that had been genetically altered to not produce benzylacetone, the main component of the floral scent, or nectar. A third group of plants could neither synthesize benzylacetone nor nectar. These plants were modified by using an RNA-interference-based transformation technique (RNAi). Both floral traits were studied simultaneously and independently for the first time.
The researchers examined the influence of these floral traits on outcrossing rates after pollinations by three different pollinators: the tobacco hawkmoth Manduca sexta, the hummingbird moth Hyles lineata, and the hummingbird Archilochus alexandri. A high outcrossing rate is achieved when pollen, and thereby the genetic information of a plant, is transferred from one plant to another. This increases genetic diversity in plant populations.
pollinates coyote tobacco. (Credit: Danny Kessler / Max Planck Institute for
Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany)
While nectar is a sweet reward that makes pollinators fly from flower to flower, floral scent is an attractant that advertises the presence of this reward. The assessment of the experimental data revealed that both scent and nectar make sure that flowers are visited by pollinators more often than plants that lack these traits. Interestingly, scent and nectar had different effects on the pollen transfer service by the three tested pollinators. On the other hand, scent as well as nectar directly influenced oviposition by female Manduca sexta moths. The amount of nectar more than scent affected the decision of female moths to lay their eggs and therefore more Manduca eggs were found on plants that produced large amounts of nectar.
The scientists were surprised that nectar secretion had a larger impact on the egg-laying behavior in female Manduca sexta moths than did floral scent. They hypothesize that hawkmoths use nectar as an indicator to evaluate plant size or health traits which give their offspring a better chance of survival. "Some plants, one the other hand, are cheaters and only feign the presence of a reward. They benefit from nectar producing neighbors and cheated pollinators, thereby substantially reducing herbivory," Danny Kessler, the first author of the study, explains.
Flowers face many challenges. They have to provide for outcrossing and reproductive success and depend on different pollinating species, all of which have different preferences and behaviors. At the same time, flowers must also make sure that moths won't lay too many eggs on the plant's leaves. "Both herbivores and pollinators contributed to the evolution of floral traits. Therefore it makes little sense to study these traits, scent and nectar, as if they only mediate pollination services," Ian T. Baldwin, the head of the Department of Molecular Ecology, summarizes. His lab developed a comprehensive molecular tool box for the coyote tobacco Nicotiana attenuata.
The combination of these floral traits, scent biosynthesis and nectar production, requires a certain fine-tuning to maximize the fitness of a plant. Large moths, such as Manduca sexta, are probably able to transfer pollen over larger distances in comparison to hummingbirds which are usually found in the vicinity of their nests. Because wild tobacco populations are often found isolated in nature, the transfer of pollen over larger distances is important to ensure outcrossing between these populations.
July 9, 2015 - ABJ Extra
Access to Wildflower Seeds to Create Bee Forage
A honeybee works a purple coneflower, one of the native wildflower species included
in the Feed A Bee bulk seed mix provided by Ernst Conservation Seeds.
“The collaboration with Ernst Seeds is an integral part of our Feed a Bee initiative,” said Dr. Becky Langer-Curry, manager of the North American Bee Care Program. “Their participation in the campaign will help contribute to acres of bee forage that we’re aiming to help establish across the U.S. this year.
Bayer’s initiative with Ernst Seeds is the most recent in a series of collaborations that Bayer is forging as part of its recently launched Feed a Bee campaign (FeedABee.com) that has a goal of growing 50 million flowers and providing additional forage acreage for bees in 2015. One-third of all food eaten by humans is dependent on pollination. Reduced bee habitat has decreased bees’ food options, at a time when a growing world population is putting increased pressure on agriculture. Feed a Bee collaborations will help ensure bees have access to the diverse pollen and nectar sources they need, especially during times when the fruit, nut and vegetable crops they help to pollinate are not in bloom.
Founded in 1964, Ernst Seeds is the largest native seed producer and supplier in the eastern United States. The company sells over 400 species of native and naturalized seeds and live plant materials. Its production operations include more than 8,000 acres in northwestern Pennsylvania, additional farmland in Florida and cooperative growing relationships in Maryland, North Carolina and Oregon.
“We’re proud to partner with Bayer CropScience in the Feed a Bee program,” states Andy Ernst, vice president of Ernst Conservation Seeds. “This ambitious initiative has already seen a remarkable response from groups and individuals who want to improve and increase native habitat for pollinators. With the program still in its early stages, we believe it has tremendous potential to benefit pollinators on a large scale nationwide.”
For more information on Bayer’s bee health initiatives, please visit: http://www.bayercropscience.us/our-commitment/bee-health. You can also follow and share with us on Twitter @BayerBeeCare, on Facebook at facebook.com/BayerBeeCareCenter and view photos on Flickr.
July 9, 2015 - ABJ Extra
Examining the Neonicotinoid Threat to Honey Bees
AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY
The decline of honey bees has been a major concern globally for the past decade. One of the factors that could be contributing to the decline is the use of insecticides -- specifically neonicotinoids -- that persist in rivers and streams. Researchers now report in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters that although sunlight plays an important role in degrading pollutants, its effects on neonicotinoids can diminish dramatically even in shallow water.
Neonicotinoids protect crops from pests, such as whiteflies, beetles and termites. They are a popular tool in a farmer's arsenal, but they end up washing into surface waters and soil. Some research has suggested the insecticides play a role in the disappearance of bees, a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. But scientists didn't fully understand the fate of neonicotinoids in the environment, an important factor in determining how they might contribute to the disorder. Charles S. Wong and colleagues wanted to investigate sunlight's effects on these insecticides in water.
Out of five neonicotinoids the researchers tested in water under simulated sunny conditions, three degraded considerably within minutes.
Two took a few days to break down. But a depth of just 3 inches of water was enough to shield at least one, thiamethoxam, from the degrading effects of the sun. The researchers say that this persistence at shallow depths could increase the chances aquatic life and other wildlife, including bees, could get exposed to the insecticide.
July 6, 2015 - ABJ Extra
Large-scale Bee Monitoring Easier with New Testing Method
Research published today in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution shows that collecting wild bees, extracting their DNA, and directly reading the DNA of the resultant 'soup' could finally make large-scale bee monitoring programs feasible.
This would allow conservationists to detect where and when bee species are being lost, and importantly, whether conservation interventions are working.
The UK's National Pollinator Strategy plans a large-scale bee monitoring program. Traditional monitoring involves pinning individual bees and identifying them under a microscope. But the number of bees needed to track populations reliably over the whole country makes traditional methods infeasible.
This new research shows how the process could become quicker, cheaper and more accurate.
Researchers from UEA worked in partnership with Conservation Grade and the University of Reading in the UK, and the Kunming Institute of Zoology and the China National GeneBank at BGI-Shenzhen in China.
Lead researcher Prof. Douglas Yu, from UEA's School of Biology, said: "Wild bees play a key role in pollinating wild plants and cultivated crops - maintaining both biodiversity and food production. They are however threatened by habitat loss, pesticides, climate change and disease. Safeguarding wild bee populations and their pollination services is therefore a top priority.
"Developing an efficient long-term monitoring program to better understand the causes of their decline is one of the goals of DEFRA's National Pollinator Strategy. This will involve a massive collection of bees across the UK. Traditionally they would be pinned and identified under a microscope, but this is so labor-intensive and error-prone that the resulting data might not be available for years after the collections.
"We need more efficient identification methods if we are to improve our understanding of bee populations and their responses to conservation interventions. The big challenge is that there are hundreds of wild bee species per country, almost 300 in the UK alone. Even with the necessary expertise, it would be impossibly time-consuming to count and identify all the bees in each location - which is where the 'soup' comes in."
The research team took samples of bees from different locations in the Chilterns, the Hampshire Downs and Low Weald. A total of 204 bees were extracted, and the resulting soups put through a DNA sequencer.
The scientists then used a computer program to map the raw DNA reads against the genomes of bee mitochondria, which are found in nearly every animal cell. Each bee species has a distinct genome, allowing the team to identify which species of bees had been present in each sample.
The process did not require taxonomic experts and still proved to be more accurate. Also, by skipping the DNA-amplification step known as PCR, the method was able to estimate the biomass contributed by each species, which opens the way to tracking population trajectories.
Prof. Yu said: "The number of bees that end up in one of my soups is absolutely tiny compared with the populations being studied.
"At present, bees are collected and monitored using traditional methods, which are slow, expensive, and there is a lot more room for error.
"A computer program doesn't have an opinion. It is or it isn't a Bombus lucorum bumblebee, and all the evidence supporting an identification is publicly available.
"Insect soup is a sensitive thermometer for the state of nature. And large-scale bee monitoring programs would really benefit from this type of DNA sequencing. The method can easily be scaled up to track more species, like the 1000 or so total pollinating insects in the UK.
"We can find out where species diversity or abundance is highest - for example in the countryside or in city parks- and how species diversity is affected by farming methods - for example, to see if habitat set-asides support more bees.
"Species biodiversity at any given site can be revealed in a single drop of soup. It's a technique that shaves weeks, months, years off traditional ecological methods, saves money and spares the need for tons of taxonomic expertise.
"We're trying to speed up ecological investigation on a monumental scale."
July 1, 2015 - ABJ Extra
Apimondia Bee Disease Discussion Scheduled
From 30th June to 7th August the TECA Beekeeping Exchange Group will host a moderated discussion on bee diseases and the use of veterinary medicines in beekeeping around the world. The discussion is held in collaboration with the Regional Institute for Animal Diseases of Latium and Tuscany (IZSLT - Italy) and APIMONDIA. Beekeepers are invited to participate in the survey (English, French, Spanish and Italian) that will allow monitoring beekeepers’ knowledge and learning about beekeepers’ challenges related with bee diseases and health.
Find all the useful documents related to the discussion HERE.