With a workforce of billions, they contribute more than $15bn (£9bn) to the US economy each year – but as populations decline, can the humble honeybee be saved?
A giant inflatable corn on the cob towers over the hundreds of stalls at the Wisconsin State Fair. Food is the main draw, in what’s a showcase for local produce. The unhealthier, it seems, the better.
Families can be seen piling in mouthfuls of everything from sausages dripping in fat, to cheese curds, and sticky cherry pie. Some of the more unusual delicacies include deep-fried cookies and fish and chips on a stick.
One scientist has produced a guide of where on the body the bee stings hurt the most!
bee sting body map
It’s a great hobby and if you’re really lucky you could make some money (and plenty of honey)
read how one lady started this hobby
Bees are trichromats like humans. But instead of red, green, and blue, their three types of photoreceptors are sensitive to yellow, blue, and ultraviolet light. The ability to see ultraviolet light lets bees spot patterns on flower petals that guide them to nectar. In fact, Nilsson says, bees perceive so much of the ultraviolet range that “they could potentially see more than one color of ultraviolet.”
Unlike human eyes, which have only one lens, bees have compound eyes composed of thousands of lenses that form a soccer-ball-like surface; each lens produces one “pixel” in bees’ vision. That vision mechanism comes at a price—bees’ eyes have extremely low resolution, so their vision is very blurred. Nilsson calls this design “the most stupid way of using the space available for an eye.” If humans had compound eyes that performed as well as our real ones, he says, they’d each have to be as wide as a hula hoop.
This image doesn’t show the fuzziness of a bee’s eyesight—if it did, there wouldn’t be much for us to look at. But the photograph does capture the ultraviolet vision that we lack.
So what is with all the dying bees? Scientists have been trying to discover this for years. Meanwhile, bees keep dropping like… well, you know.
Is it mites? Pesticides? Cell phone towers? What is really at the root? Turns out the real issue really scary, because it is more complex and pervasive than thought.
Twice each year, the Gurung tribespeople of Central Nepal risk their lives collecting wild honey from the world’s largest hives high up on Himalayan cliffs. Travel photographer Andrew Newey recently spent two weeks capturing this ancient but dying art. ancient honey harvesting
The flight of the bumblebee may seem at first to be slow and cumbersome but new research claims these humble insects can reach altitudes higher than the peak of Mount Everest.
Despite their rotund bodies and relatively small wings, researchers from Wyoming found that bees can negotiate air so thin it would kill a human – making them the finest flyers in the insect world.
In a series of experiments, scientists placed wild bees in a flight chamber and while all managed to fly at heights of 7,500m (24,606ft), two exceed heights of 9,000m (29,528ft).
new virus linked to colony collapse disorder
A rapidly mutating virus has leaped from plants to honeybees, where it is reproducing and contributing to the collapse of colonies vital to the multibillion-dollar agricultural industry, according to a new study.
Tobacco ringspot virus, a pollen-borne pathogen that causes blight in soy crops, was found during routine screening of commercial honeybees at a U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory, where further study revealed the RNA virus was replicating inside its Apis mellifera hosts and spreading to mites that travel from bee to bee, according to the study published online Tuesday in the journal mBio.
The discovery is the first report of honeybees becoming infected by a pollen-born RNA virus that spread systematically through the bees and hives. Traces of the virus were detected in every part of the bee examined, except its eyes, according to the study.
Commercially cultivated bees pollinate about 90 crops worldwide, a service valued at $14 billion annually. But those colonies have been collapsing, and scientists have attributed that devastation to a deadly cocktail of pathogens, as well as pesticides and beekeeping practices that stress the insect’s immune system.
In California, the $3-billion almond industry spends $239 million annually to rent more than 1 million beehives, and that cost is escalating.
Only about 5% of plant viruses are known to be transmitted by pollen, and fewer still have been known to jump from the plant kingdom to insects. That adds a complex layer to the forces driving colony collapse disorder, scientists warned.
The tobacco ringspot virus acts as a “quasi-species,” replicating in a way that creates ample mutations that subvert the host’s immune response. That phenomenon is believed to be the driving factor of recurring viral infections of avian and swine influenza and of the persistence of HIV, the study noted.
“They have a high mutation rate,” said Yan Ping (Judy) Chen, a bee pathologist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service laboratory in Maryland and lead author of the study. “Because of their genetic diversity, we see a lot of host jumping.”
The virus’ relative role in the demise of colonies has not been measured — it would be difficult to separate it from a cocktail of pathogens and stresses negatively affecting bees, Chen said.
“I want to be cautious,” Chen said. “The cause of colony collapse disorder remains unclear. But we do have evidence that TRSV along with other viruses that we screen on a regular basis are associated with lower rates of over-winter survival.”
Indeed, the new virus, along with the well documented Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus, was correlated with colonies deemed “weak” due to a variety of stresses. It also showed a similar seasonal fluctuation — infection rates rose to a 22.5% high in winter, according to the study.
Varroa mites, a “vampire” parasite, also were found to carry the virus but were not infected, leading researchers to conclude that they aided the spread of the virus within the colony. Whether the mites are more than a mechanical spreader of the virus, however, remains to be studied.
Researchers also are uncertain about whether the infection persists without bees picking up more virus from visited plants, and whether the infected bees can spread the virus to otherwise healthy plants.
“I’d be hesitant to proclaim that this virus is the cause of colony collapse, but it certainly shows the degree of our lack of understanding of the complexity of bee pathogen interactions,” said Randy Oliver, a biologist and beekeeper who has done similar research but was not involved in the study.
Activists have raised concern about a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, which have been banned in Europe. A study last year linked the pesticide class with suppressed immune response and increased reproduction of viruses in bees. Another study found 35 pesticides and fungicides, some at lethal levels, in the pollen collected from bees servicing major food crops in five states, including California. But that study found neonicotinoids only on pollen from a single apple orchard.
A separate study last year found that bees fed with high-fructose corn syrup, instead of surviving winter on their own honey, were more susceptible to microbial pathogens and to the effects of pesticides.
USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency scientists charged with reviewing the scientific literature last year found that pesticides, pathogens, and nutritional deficits, some caused by a lack of natural forage, were the major contributing factors behind colony collapse disorder.