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American scientists have discovered that a fly parasite can turn honey bees into confused zombies before killing them, in an advance that could offer new clues to why bee colonies are collapsing.

So far, the parasite has only been detected in honey bees in California and South Dakota, American researchers reported in the open access science journalPLoS ONE this week.

But if it turns out to be an emerging parasite, that “underlines the danger that could threaten honey bee colonies throughout North America,” said the study led by San Francisco State University professor of biology John Hafernik.

Hafernik made the discovery by accident, when he foraged some bees from outside a light fixture at the university to feed to a praying mantis he’d brought back from a field trip.

“But being an absent-minded professor, I left them in a vial on my desk and forgot about them. Then the next time I looked at the vial, there were all these fly pupae surrounding the bees,” he said.

Soon, the bees began to die, but not in the usual way by sitting still and curling up. These bees kept trying to move their legs and get around, but they were too weak, said lead author Andrew Core, a graduate student in Hafernik’s lab.

“They kept stretching them out and then falling over,” said Core. “It really painted a picture of something like a zombie.”

Further study showed that bees that left their hives at night were most likely to become infected with the fly parasite, identified as Apocephalus borealis.

Once bees were parasitized by the fly, they would abandon their hives and congregate near lights, a very unusual behavior for bees.

More at: http://news.discovery.com/animals/parasite-bees-zombies-010512.html

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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Bee by Edwin Curran

The singing bee comes like a little ship,

And docks beside a rose for cargoed wine,

Its gossamer paddles spinning in the air

A little plane upon the flower vine.

It anchors in the bell upon its quest,

And lulls its motor in the crimson bower,

Then with its honey glides on to the west,

A tiny airplane stealing off a flower.

.

Its paddles fan the wind in silver singing,

A boom of music down the garden dells;

The honey monoplane with motors ringing,

Its gauze propellers purring like soft bells;

And so it dips and soars and dives and noses,

A little ship among the summer roses.

.

by Edwin Curran (1892-????)

The First Bees in Australia

“In 1822 the first hive bees were brought to this part of the world (Sydney), by a Captain Wallace, or Willis, in the ship “Isabella,” according to Haydon. From the bees thus introduced colonies were propagated and distributed inland. In the Government Gazette, of 21st June, 1822, there appeared this advertisement : — “Hive of bees for sale by Mr. Parr. Bees imported by Captain Wallace (or Willis).” In a number of the old Sydney Gazette, dated Friday, 1st November, 1822, there appears this paragraph: — “We congratulate our readersi upon the complete establishment of that most valuable insect, the bee, in this country. During the last three weeks three swarms of bees have been produced from two hives, the property of D. Wentworth, Esq., purchased by him from Captain Wallace, of the ‘Isabella,’ at his estate, Homebush, near Parramatta.”

“In the Sydney Morning Herald, of 10th August, 1863, it stated that at a meeting of the Acclimatisation Society of New South Wales, bees were first brought to this country by Captain Braidwood Wilson, from Hobart Town, in 1831. This was contradicted in a later issue of tTie same paper in these words: — “Bees were brought from England to Sydney in the year 1824, in the ship ‘Phoenix,’ which sailed from Portsmouth in March of that year.” This, too, is evidently a mistake, or perhaps another importation, as is evident from the fact that bees were advertised for sale in 1822, which has already been referred to. In 1840, a settler at Jervis Bay purchased two colonies of beef-‘, for which he paid £4, and engaged two aboriginals to carry the hives on their heads a distance of 40 miles. These were the black or English bees, sometimes termed the; German bee. For most of these dates and extracts I am indebted to Mr. S. M. Mowle, Usher of the Black Rod, of the Legislative Council, who married the only daughter of the late Captain Braidwood Wilson, R.N.”

From: Australian Bee Lore and Bee Culture by Albert Gale 1912.

Christmas Bee Snowflake

Snowflakes are beautiful decorations on Christmas Day. Why not make your own?

Rowse Honey had a lovely site with a bee snowflake design (see picture above).

However, the design has vanished.  I’m asking Rowse to send me a copy if they still have them.  Let’s see!

The old link was:

 

Make the Christmas Bee Snowflake

 

The Beehive Ark

I came across this amazing beehive design at a Woodfair recently.  Please find the full story of this unique design for a top-bar hive below the photograph with the designer’s contact details if you want more information:

My initial inspiration to create a curved hive was from the curved structure of honeycomb created in top-bar hives.
The design re-appropriates traditional clinker boat building techniques, and celebrates long-established craft practices in the UK; beekeeping and clinker boat building.

The beehive is created using overlapping strips of steam bent oak and chestnut. Chestnut was chosen for the roof and the base of the hive, as it is a species native to Sussex, and has good properties for use outside. The central part of the hive is made from white oak, which is traditionally used in clinker boat building.

The hive is about exploring and expanding the possibilities of existing designs to create an aesthetically satisfying and functional form, which could supplement a contemporary garden space.

Despite using unconventional techniques for making a beehive, I have ensured that the construction adheres to the basic principles in order for a top-bar hive to function effectively. A swarm shall be moved into the hive next spring, and as a continuation of the project, the bees will be documented living in it.

If you’d like to ask anything about the beehive, please contact at: kayleywillcocks(at)hotmail(dot)co(dot)uk

Bees Don’t See Red!

What colors creatures see has long interested scientists, and aside from us, more is known about what colors bees see than any other living thing.  Like us, bees are trichromatic.  Whereas we base our color combinations on red, blue, and green, bees base all their colors on UV, blue , and green.  Just as color blind people do not see red or green, and therefore experience the world of color differently, bees also perceive the world in colors entirely different from ours.  Bees do not see red and have a hard time distinguishing it from surrounding green leaf backgrounds.  Bees that frequent red flowers are either perceive them in color they can see, or the red flower is not being lost against a green background.  Even though bees don’t see red, they can see other reddish wavelengths such as orange and yellow.

The light spectrum bees see is from 600 – 300 nm. The colors bees see are blue-green, blue, violet, and ultraviolet, with research showing our purple followed by our violet then our blue as their favorites. Mixing ultraviolet wavelengths with the wavelengths of colors they can and can’t see, gives bees a world of color different from our own.   If deprived of UV light, bees lose interest in foraging, and remain in the hive until forced out by severe food shortages.

Bees not only see flowers in different colors than we do, bees also see ultra-violet light patterns, invisible to us, at the center that are a different color than the rest of the flower.   From a bee’s-eye-view, the UV colors and patterns in a flower’s petals dramatically announce the flower’s stash of nectar and pollen.  These UV patterns serve as a landing zone, guiding the bees to the nectar source.

we see 
bees see
add in UV
red black uv purple
orange yellow/green*
yellow yellow/green* uv purple
green green
blue blue uv violet
violet blue uv blue
purple blue
white blue green
black black

*even the experts don’t agree as to what colour the bee sees!

Below is a fantastic link of photographs of flowers taken with Ultraviolet filters showing the landing patterns and flouresence.
The color of these uv flowers is dependant on the filter used by the photographer, and is not the color perceived by the bee.
Here is a picture of Arnica angustifolia Vahl as a human might see it:
And here is a picture of the same flower as a bee might see it – with an ultraviolet “bullseye” pattern to attract the bee:

The following animation takes my vote for the best animated bee movie ever:

Here is some background on Dot’s story (running away from her world as it is being destroyed – and saved by a bee!).

It also gives some great insights into the world’s smallest film (even though it is a subtle advert for Nokia mobile phones) and brings together cutting-edge medical technology with 3D printing. Totally awesome!

Vote for it on the Webby Awards here!

Global Bee Emergency!

CLICK HERE or on the photo below to sign the petition to save bees and our crops and send this link to everyone you know!

Quietly, globally, billions of bees are dying, threatening our crops and food. But a global ban of one group of pesticides could save bees from extinction.

Four European countries have begun banning these poisons, and some bee populations are recovering. But chemical companies are lobbying hard to keep all killer pesticides on the market. A global outcry now for a ban in the US and EU, where debate is raging, could provoke a total ban and a ripple effect around the world.

Let’s build a giant global buzz calling for these dangerous chemicals to be outlawed in the US and EU until and unless they are proved to be safe.

CLICK HERE to Sign the petition to save bees and our crops and send this to everyone.

More at: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/call-to-ban-pesticides-linked-to-bee-deaths-2190321.html

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 4 fully loaded ships.

 

In 2010, there were 21 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 207 posts. There were 13 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 3mb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was November 1st with 197 views. The most popular post that day was St. Ambrose, Patron Saint of Beekeepers.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were en.wikipedia.org, bee-hexagon.net, linkedin.com, facebook.com, and thebeespace.net.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for egyptian gods, melissae, aphrodite, top bar hive, and patron saint of beekeepers.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

St. Ambrose, Patron Saint of Beekeepers March 2008
2 comments

2

Tears of Ra, the Sun god August 2007
5 comments

3

Symbol of the Bee on Napoleon I’s Coat of Arms January 2008

4

Aphrodite and her Melissae in Ancient Greece January 2008
9 comments

5

Beekeeping in Ancient Egypt February 2008
9 comments