Have you heard the buzz about bee colonies collapsing?

Entomologist Noah Wilson-Rich wanted to study ways to keep bees healthy, but grant money proved elusive. In this podcast, Ari Daniel Shapiro ventures into a cloud of honey bees to learn about the unique way one bee scientist is managing to help bees and fund his research at the same time.

Download a transcript of this podcast

Image Credit: John Baker, Flickr: EOL Images. CC BY.

Harvard MCZThe One Species at a Time podcast series is supported by the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology.

libutron

libutron:

A story of ants, bees and orchids: the Bucket Orchids

The genus Coryanthes (Asparagales - Orchidaceae) has one of the most complex flowers structures of the highly diverse orchid family. Sepals and tepals are usually turned back and soon wither after anthesis (the period during which a flower is fully open and functional).

The fleshy lip of the Coryanthes flower is composed of three parts: the cup shaped hypochil (the lower part of the lip), the partially covered, tubular mesochil (the intermediate or middle part of the lip), and the bucket-like enlarged epichil (the terminal part of the lip), which is filled up to the “exit” with a fluid, secreted by two broadly-falcate protuberances, called pleuridia, at the base of the column.

Coryanthes species grow on trees, and exclusively in ant nests of the genera Azteca, Campanotus, and Crematogaster, in so-called “ant-gardens”. These arboreal communities can reach diameters of 150 cm with the ant nest comprising 80 cm. Both organisms share a destiny because the plant is condemned to death if the associated ant colony dies. The plants offer nectar in extrafloral nectaries and provide a framework for nest construction with their root system, while the ants defend the plants against herbivores and additionally fertilize them with vertebrate feces. This abundant provision of nutrients by the ants allows the plants to grow rapidly.

All Coryanthes species are pollinated by males bees of the genera Euglossa, Eulaema, and Euplusia. The bees are attracted by the odor of the flowers and swarm around them. They land on the hypochil of the flower and try to  get below the hood to seek the fragrance compound. In trying to obtain a footing on the waxy, smooth mesochil they loose their footing and fall in the bucket-like epic hill which is filled with a mucilaginous fluid, where their wings are moistened. The only way to escape is crawling out through a tunnel, formed by the epichil of the lip and the column. The pollinator touches first the stigma and afterwards the sticky viscidium, which glues the whole pollen mass (pollinium) on him. After a second “error”, the flower is pollinated.

These photos show the species Coryanthes speciosa and the Orchid Bees, Euglossa tridentata (Apidae - Euglossini) on Coryanthes speciosa. 

References: [1] - [2] - [3]

Photo credit: [Top: ©Eerika Schulz | Locality: Royal Gardens, Hannover, Lower Saxony, Germany, 2013] - [Bottom: ©Ian Morton | Locality: Hickatee Cottages, Punta Gorda, Toledo District, Belize, 2002]

The incredible honey hunters of the Himalayan foothills
by Bec Crew
Twice a year, locals in central Nepal risk their lives high up in the Himalayan foothills to harvest honey produced by the world’s largest honeybee.
Growing up to 3 cm (1.2 in) in length, the Himalayan cliff honey bee of Nepal is the world’s largest honeybee. 
Found only in the foothills of the Himalayas, building their homes at altitudes of between 2,500 and 3,000 m (8,200 and 9,800 ft) and foraging as high up as 4,100 m (13,500 ft) above the ground, these insects have a unique ability to thrive at incredible heights.
The Himalayan cliff honey bee is the only species in the world to produce a type of honey called red spring honey, and it cannot be reproduced by commerical beekeepers due to the high altitudes that give it its unique properties. Said to be "intoxicating and relaxing", red spring honey is understandably very valuable, and twice a year, honey hunters from the Gurung population of Nepal risk their lives to harvest it up in the foothills…
(read more: Science Alert! - Australia and New Zealand)
photo by Andrew Newey

The incredible honey hunters of the Himalayan foothills

by Bec Crew

Twice a year, locals in central Nepal risk their lives high up in the Himalayan foothills to harvest honey produced by the world’s largest honeybee.

Growing up to 3 cm (1.2 in) in length, the Himalayan cliff honey bee of Nepal is the world’s largest honeybee. 

Found only in the foothills of the Himalayas, building their homes at altitudes of between 2,500 and 3,000 m (8,200 and 9,800 ft) and foraging as high up as 4,100 m (13,500 ft) above the ground, these insects have a unique ability to thrive at incredible heights.

The Himalayan cliff honey bee is the only species in the world to produce a type of honey called red spring honey, and it cannot be reproduced by commerical beekeepers due to the high altitudes that give it its unique properties. Said to be "intoxicating and relaxing", red spring honey is understandably very valuable, and twice a year, honey hunters from the Gurung population of Nepal risk their lives to harvest it up in the foothills…

(read more: Science Alert! - Australia and New Zealand)

photo by Andrew Newey

moonstonebeginning
moonstonebeginning:

Bee Watering Station:
A great addition to your garden or back yard 
Bees need water just like we do but often times drown in open water. To make a bee watering station you can either do what is shown in the photo above and fill the bowl of a dog/cat watering jug with stones or you can fill a small dish with marbles and add water to that. That way the bees have something to land on!

moonstonebeginning:

Bee Watering Station:

A great addition to your garden or back yard 

Bees need water just like we do but often times drown in open water. To make a bee watering station you can either do what is shown in the photo above and fill the bowl of a dog/cat watering jug with stones or you can fill a small dish with marbles and add water to that. That way the bees have something to land on!

annmarcaida

annmarcaida:

Disappeared
In metallic vapors
The genteel Monarchs lost
Their way to flower thrones; honey

Bees ghost dance in butterfly shadows
Remembering freedom days
Before slavery, alive, their hives still in trees
Not wooden boxes led by imposed queens

While on diesel truck safari reservations
Coast to coast, vagabond bees
Abandoned butterfly thrones
Disappeared ones

In metallic vapors
That rise over barren orchards
Like the devil’s steam
Smoke gets in your eyes.

*********************************************************

Copyright 2013 by Umar Hassan

Image: OddStuffMagazine.com

KILLING OUR BEES:
Everything we know about Neonic Pesticides is Awful
by John Upton
Neonicotinoid pesticides are great at killing insect pests, which helps to explain the dramatic rise in their use during the past 20 years. They’re popular because they are systemic pesticides — they don’t just get sprayed onto plant surfaces. They can be applied to seeds, roots, and soil, becoming incorporated into a growing plant, turning it into poison for any bugs that might munch upon it.
But using neonics to control pests is like using a hand grenade to thwart a bank robbery.
Which is why the European Union has banned the use of many of them – and why environmentalists are suing the U.S. EPA to do the same.
The pesticides don’t just affect pest species. Most prominently, they affect bees and butterflies, which are poisoned when they gather pollen and nectar. But neonics’ negative impacts go far beyond pollinators. They kill all manner of animals and affect all kinds of ecosystems. They’re giving rise to Silent Spring 2.0…
(read more: Grist.org)

KILLING OUR BEES:

Everything we know about Neonic Pesticides is Awful

by John Upton

Neonicotinoid pesticides are great at killing insect pests, which helps to explain the dramatic rise in their use during the past 20 years. They’re popular because they are systemic pesticides — they don’t just get sprayed onto plant surfaces. They can be applied to seeds, roots, and soil, becoming incorporated into a growing plant, turning it into poison for any bugs that might munch upon it.

But using neonics to control pests is like using a hand grenade to thwart a bank robbery.

Which is why the European Union has banned the use of many of them – and why environmentalists are suing the U.S. EPA to do the same.

The pesticides don’t just affect pest species. Most prominently, they affect bees and butterflies, which are poisoned when they gather pollen and nectar. But neonics’ negative impacts go far beyond pollinators. They kill all manner of animals and affect all kinds of ecosystems. They’re giving rise to Silent Spring 2.0…

(read more: Grist.org)

Extinct 30 years ago - the short-haired bumble bee takes to the skies 
by Michael Parker
The short haired bumblebee was declared extinct in the UK 30 years ago. But now the species is being re-introduced in the flower-rich meadows and field margins of Kent, writes Michael Parker - helped along by sympathetic local farmers.
A species of bee declared extinct in the UK almost 30 years ago is flying again - thanks in part to the efforts of farmers. Researchers have been restoring the short-haired bumblebee to Romney Marsh and Dungeness over the past three years, and the results are starting to come in.
Nikki Gammans and her team have travelled to Sweden each year since 2012 to collect around 100 queen bees, transport them back to Britain and, after a two week quarantine period, release them into the flower-rich countryside of Kent…
(read more: TheEcologist)
photograph by Nikki Gammans

Extinct 30 years ago - the short-haired bumble bee takes to the skies 

by Michael Parker

The short haired bumblebee was declared extinct in the UK 30 years ago. But now the species is being re-introduced in the flower-rich meadows and field margins of Kent, writes Michael Parker - helped along by sympathetic local farmers.

A species of bee declared extinct in the UK almost 30 years ago is flying again - thanks in part to the efforts of farmers. Researchers have been restoring the short-haired bumblebee to Romney Marsh and Dungeness over the past three years, and the results are starting to come in.

Nikki Gammans and her team have travelled to Sweden each year since 2012 to collect around 100 queen bees, transport them back to Britain and, after a two week quarantine period, release them into the flower-rich countryside of Kent…

(read more: TheEcologist)

photograph by Nikki Gammans

Honeybee Dances Map Healthy Landscapes
Waggling insects could give information that leads to better land-use practices.
by Jennifer S. Holland
Honeybees are all about sharing: When a foraging one finds a great place to eat, she performs a dance for her nestmates that charts a course to the source.
Now the bees’ moves are giving scientists a map as well—one that could lead to better environmental health.
In a paper published today in the journal Current Biology, Margaret Couvillon and colleagues at the University of Sussex in England report on a new technique for assessing landscape health for pollinators—using the pollinators themselves.
"We realized that the honeybee truly is the only animal who can tell you where it has collected good food," Couvillon says. "Listening to the bees could therefore give us information relevant to helping not just them, but also a wide range of pollinators."…
(read more: National Geographic)
photo: Michael Durham/Minden/Corbis

Honeybee Dances Map Healthy Landscapes

Waggling insects could give information that leads to better land-use practices.

by Jennifer S. Holland

Honeybees are all about sharing: When a foraging one finds a great place to eat, she performs a dance for her nestmates that charts a course to the source.

Now the bees’ moves are giving scientists a map as well—one that could lead to better environmental health.

In a paper published today in the journal Current Biology, Margaret Couvillon and colleagues at the University of Sussex in England report on a new technique for assessing landscape health for pollinators—using the pollinators themselves.

"We realized that the honeybee truly is the only animal who can tell you where it has collected good food," Couvillon says. "Listening to the bees could therefore give us information relevant to helping not just them, but also a wide range of pollinators."…

(read more: National Geographic)

photo: Michael Durham/Minden/Corbis

Bumblebees (genus Bombus) 
… are often among the earliest insects seen flying in spring. This is partly because their dense “fur” acts as an insulator, keeping them warm even in cooler temperatures. 
Bumblebees are social insects, like the domestic honeybee or paper wasps. The first ones flying in spring are invariably young queens that have spent the winter in a protected nook. Different species nest in different locations: some search out snug burrows containing loose, soft material in which to build their nests. 
If you’re slow to clean out your nestboxes, you might find one has set up shop in the old bedding. Other species nest in tussocks of grass, or even right on the ground. As with honeybees, the young queen does all the work at first, but once her first brood emerges as adults, they take over collecting pollen and feeding the developing larvae. 
Males and young queens aren’t raised until fall, when they go out on mating flights. Only the new queens survive the winter; the old queens, workers, and males all die with the onset of winter. photo: USGS Bee Inventory & Monitoring Lab (Sam Droege); Flickr
(via: Peterson Field Guides)

Bumblebees (genus Bombus)

… are often among the earliest insects seen flying in spring. This is partly because their dense “fur” acts as an insulator, keeping them warm even in cooler temperatures.

Bumblebees are social insects, like the domestic honeybee or paper wasps. The first ones flying in spring are invariably young queens that have spent the winter in a protected nook. Different species nest in different locations: some search out snug burrows containing loose, soft material in which to build their nests.

If you’re slow to clean out your nestboxes, you might find one has set up shop in the old bedding. Other species nest in tussocks of grass, or even right on the ground. As with honeybees, the young queen does all the work at first, but once her first brood emerges as adults, they take over collecting pollen and feeding the developing larvae.

Males and young queens aren’t raised until fall, when they go out on mating flights. Only the new queens survive the winter; the old queens, workers, and males all die with the onset of winter.

photo: USGS Bee Inventory & Monitoring Lab (Sam Droege); Flickr

(via: Peterson Field Guides)

Beyond Honeybees: Now Wild Bees and Butterflies May Be in Trouble

by Brandon Keim

By now you probably know about the plight of America’s honeybees: the collapsed colonies and dying hives, threatening pollination services to crops and the future of a much-beloved insect.

But it’s not just honeybees that are in trouble. Many wild pollinators—thousands of species of bees and butterflies and moths—are also threatened. Their decline would affect not only our food supply, but our landscapes, too. Most honeybees live in commercially managed agricultural colonies; wild pollinators are caretakers of our everyday surroundings.

“Almost 90 percent of the world’s flowering species require insects or other animals for pollination,” said ecologist Laura Burkle of Montana State University. “That’s a lot of plants that need these adorable creatures for reproduction. And if we don’t have those plants, we have a pretty impoverished world.”

Compared to honeybees, wild pollinators are not well studied, and their condition has received relatively little public attention.  Most people don’t realize that there are thousands of bee species in the United States. Even many butterflies are overlooked, with the plight of just a few species, particularly monarchs, widely recognized…

(read more: Wired Science)

Images: T - Brooke Alexander/Flickr; B - Brandon Keim

Photographer begins epic journey to photograph our nation’s struggling bees
Photographer Clay Bolt is rolling out a huge project, traveling across the United States documenting the state of the nation’s bees, including the species responsible for pollinating our most popular crops.
by Jaymi Haimbuch
Clay Bolt is first and foremost a nature junkie, with a special interest in the more creepy crawly species of our planet. He is also a talented photographer, a fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers, and a founder of Meet Your Neighbours, a worldwide photography project to reconnect people with their local wildlife. Knowing this, it might seem like it was just a matter of time before his latest project was hatched.
Bolt is traveling around the nation documenting North America’s native bees. As we all well know, bees are the most important pollinators of our food crops and yet they are in the midst of a terrifying decline. Bolt’s project will document what’s happening to the species that pollinate our most popular food crops. He talked with us more about his subject, and his upcoming epic trek…

(read more: Mother Nature Network)

Photographer begins epic journey to photograph our nation’s struggling bees

Photographer Clay Bolt is rolling out a huge project, traveling across the United States documenting the state of the nation’s bees, including the species responsible for pollinating our most popular crops.

by Jaymi Haimbuch

Clay Bolt is first and foremost a nature junkie, with a special interest in the more creepy crawly species of our planet. He is also a talented photographer, a fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers, and a founder of Meet Your Neighbours, a worldwide photography project to reconnect people with their local wildlife. Knowing this, it might seem like it was just a matter of time before his latest project was hatched.

Bolt is traveling around the nation documenting North America’s native bees. As we all well know, bees are the most important pollinators of our food crops and yet they are in the midst of a terrifying decline. Bolt’s project will document what’s happening to the species that pollinate our most popular food crops. He talked with us more about his subject, and his upcoming epic trek…

bbsrc

bbsrc:

Bee tongue

A bee extends its proboscis in response to flower scent. It’s part of the bee’s ‘memory test’ in experiments to determine if pesticides are harming them.

Video: Geraldine Wright.

The study is part of the Insect Pollinators Initiative, joint-funded by the BBSRC and other partners.

http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/food-security/2013/130327-pr-pesticide-combination-affects-bees.aspx