Bees Delay Flight

BEES ON A PLANE! Flight delayed after “thousands” of insects cling to aircraft

— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 22, 2017

A flight out of Miami International Airport was delayed yesterday after a swarm of bees decided to attach itself to one of the plane’s wings, either looking for a free ride, or just trying to mess with some foolish humans who thought they knew about flying.

According to Miami News 7, a midday American Airlines flight out of Miami International Airport, headed to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, had to remain grounded…

Bees Have Emotions and Moods. But Do They Have Feelings and Consciousness?

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The honeybee is in deep trouble. Colony collapse disorder (CCD), a condition whose cause isn’t known, has occurred in 42% of colonies within the US, since 2015. CCD occurs when worker bees mysteriously disappear, leaving a queen and her young with no one to tend to them. Invasive species, the loss of habitat, gut parasites, certain pesticides, and other causes have been considered, but nothing is definitive yet.

Research is ongoing. The Obama administration did enact some measures to help protect bee populations which so far remain in place. But they won’t be enough. Without knowing what’s causing CCD, there can be no definitive plan in place to reverse it.

That’s a serious blow to our agricultural industry and could have disastrous consequences for our food supply. 70% of food bearing plants are pollinated by bees. Harvard scientists have a technological fix in place. They’ve developed a type of micro-robot to replace these crucial pollinators, nicknamed robobees. In truth, no one really knows if they can do the job.

What’s more, who will pay for the additional service, which nature normally provides for free? Most likely, the cost will be passed along to the consumer. That means higher food prices, at a time when more and more jobs are disappearing, and wages continue to come back at a crawling pace.

To combat the loss of the honeybee population and perhaps preserve their supply chain and mascot, Cheerios has launched a campaign called #BringBacktheBees. They’ve partnered with a seed company, and have already given away 100 million wildflower seeds to interested parties in the general public. By reestablishing the bees vanishing habitat, they hope to bring these insects back from the brink. Though they’ve already reached their goal, they still have more seeds to give away, should you be interested.

Colony collapse disorder (CCD) in France. Getty Images.

Perhaps we’d hear a far greater outcry and more would be invested, if the problem was packaged in a way that pulls at the heartstrings, rather than engages the intellect. Usually, we think of invertebrates as incapable of advanced emotions. Some of the latest experiments with bees however, are challenging this assumption.

These prodigious pollinators show a remarkably advanced understanding of patterns, can anticipate future ones, be taught behaviors, and we now have evidence that they display a range of emotions, even moods. Today, the bee crisis is packaged thusly—these service-providing drones are being snuffed out by a sterilized acronym. Instead, why not portray it as fellow, sentient beings suffering from an epidemic? This is Ebola for bees, people!


Antibiotics Raise Mortality Risk for Honeybees, Study Finds

Efforts to protect honeybees may be doing more harm than good. Scientists say the antibiotics routinely administered by beekeepers wipe out beneficial bacteria in the bees’ guts, making them vulnerable to other pathogens. They published their findings in the journal PLOS Biology.

These are hard days for honeybees, and apiarists are doing all they can to keep their charge healthy and safe. Twice a year in North America, Asia, and parts of Europe, many beekeepers dose their hives with preventative antibiotics. The drugs may be dusted on the hive or added to the bees’ food to ensure that each insect gets its medicine.

But, as we’re learning in humans, blanket treatment with antibiotics is not really a great option. The more antibiotics we use, the faster pathogens develop antibiotic resistance, and the drugs kill helpful bacteria along with the harmful stuff they’re meant to treat.

Scientists wondered if the same was true for bees. To find out, they brought about 800 bees from long-established hives into the laboratory and split the bees into two groups: the treatment group, marked with a dot of pink paint, and the control group, marked with a…

Cool Jobs: Abuzz for bees

honeybee apiary
honeybee apiary

On a hot September day, Bernardo Niño stands in a yard surrounded by wooden boxes. Each is only a little bit bigger than a shoebox. Stacked one atop the other, they form towers a little more than a meter (about 3 feet) high. Each box holds about 10 screens inside wooden frames. This is where worker bees build honeycombs.

Hundreds of the bugs buzz around the mesh veil that obscures and protects Niño’s face. He calmly lifts a wooden frame from one of the hives. He holds it up to his face to get a closer look. Hundreds more busy worker bees scurry across the screen’s surface.

“There, this one isn’t looking good,” Niño says, pointing to a bee. There’s a tiny red spot on its body about the size of a pinhead. There’s something wrong with its wings, too. Normally long and flat, these wings are crumpled like a wad of paper.

Varroa mite on bee
The little red bump on this honeybee’s body is a varroa mite. These parasites latch onto honeybees and suck their “blood.”

Niño knows his bees. A research technician, he works for a bee research laboratory at the University of California, Davis. Gently, the man pinches the worker bee with two fingers and lifts it off the frame.

The red spot on this bug is a varroa mite. This pest, Varroa destructor, latches onto honeybees and sucks their hemolymph — or insect blood — the same way that ticks or leeches can suck human blood. As a parasite, the mite lives off of its host, often sapping its energy.

Bees weakened by varroa mites are more likely to get other diseases. One of those diseases is called deformed wing virus. Niño points to the bee’s scrunched-up wings. That virus has left this insect unable to fly.

As many as 60,000 honeybees may share a single colony or hive. And an infestation of these mites can put the entire hive in danger. Last year, U.S. beekeepers lost almost half their hives to parasites and diseases. That adds up to a lot of dead bees. Experts worry that threats to bees could imperil many of our food supplies.

Honeybees pollinate at least 90 North American crops. These include apples, almonds, broccoli and carrots. Overall, bees and other pollinators help to produce more than one-third of the world’s food crops.

Honeybees have fascinated people since the dawn of civilization. Prehistoric rock drawings depict people hunting for honey. Chemical traces from ancient clay pots show that Stone Age people used beeswax. Even today, people still rely on the products bees make possible and the services these insects provide.

Given how important bees are to people, it should come as no surprise that scientists are working to protect honeybee health. Some researchers have also begun probing humanity’s long history with these helpful insects in hopes of improving modern medicine. Still others are studying bees to learn more about flight.

Fighting bee disease

As a research technician, Bernardo helps to do experiments that have been designed by a bee scientist. At the University of California, Davis, that scientist happens to be his wife, Elina Niño.

“I’m the boots on the ground, hands in the hive,” he says. “She’s the brains of the operation.”

Niño lab
Together, Bernardo and Elina Niño study health and disease in these California honeybees.

When California beekeepers have a problem, they come to Elina Niño. As head of the state’s beekeeping extension program, she looks for solutions. Extension programs are usually branches of universities that work with a state’s farmers.

“I guess I became an entomologist by accident,” Elina Niño jokes. In college, she had wanted to become a veterinarian. But watching forensic crime shows piqued her interest in bugs. She realized that those detectives sometimes used insects to help crack murder cases.

In graduate school, she studied whether a pesticide used to keep pesky flies off of cows might harm dung beetles on dairy farms. Those beetles are important to keeping a farm’s soil healthy. Soon, she moved from dung beetles to another helpful insect — the honeybee.

California beekeepers told her that the varroa mite has become their biggest problem. They asked for her help.

To protect their hives, beekeepers need to kill the mites. And pesticides containing human-made chemicals could kill those mites. But they also stunted the queen bees’ growth, Niño found. That’s important, because a queen that is small or weak may not reproduce as well as a healthy one. Plus the varroa mites quickly developed resistance to these pesticides so that they…

6 Simple Ways You Can Help Save the Bees TODAY

Sure, you’ve heard that the bees are in trouble – that they’re disappearing, colonies are dying, even that seven species were recently placed on the endangered species list.

You might be a little unclear on the reasons why this is a problem for humans, so let me sum up: bees are pollinators, which means we depend on them in order to grow much of our produce. Around 30% of the world’s crops rely on cross-pollination to thrive, so if you enjoy things like bananas and coffee, you might want to take a look at the list below.

They’re small things, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference!

#6. Don’t be so quick to pull your weeds

Dandelions and clovers might annoy gardeners, but bees love the substantial nutrients they provide. Dandelions are especially beneficial: they flower early and stay open late, and they house up to 100 florets full of food – and not just for bees. Butterflies, beetles and hoverflies (all pollinators!) love them, too.

#5. Send some emails to your local representatives

There are petitions out there that will let your elected officials know that you care about the disappearing bee population – this one asks the EPA to suspend the use of pesticides, and this site has a whole host of potential actions/petitions. Take it to the streets, people!

#4. Plant a garden with bee-friendly flowers

Score! Bumblebees see how to sink ball in goal, then do it better

Bee on a tiny ball
A buff-tailed bumblebee rolls a yellow ball toward a goal as researchers explore just how odd a task bees can learn and how much observing others helps them succeed.


Even tiny brains can learn strange and tricky stuff, especially by watching tiny experts.

Buff-tailed bumblebees got several chances to watch a trained bee roll a ball to a goal. These observers then quickly mastered the unusual task themselves when given a chance, researchers report in the Feb. 24 Science. And most of the newcomers even improved on the goal-sinking by taking a shortcut demo-bees hadn’t used, says behavioral ecologist Olli Loukola at Queen Mary University of London.

Learning abilities of animals without big vertebrate brains often get severely underestimated, Loukola says. “The idea that small brains constrain insects is kind of wrong, or old-fashioned.”

He and colleagues had previously challenged bees to learn, in stages, the not very beelike skill of pulling a string to reveal a hidden flower. Bees eventually succeeded. So the researchers devised an even more fiendish protocol to see how far insect learning could go.

Loukola invented six-legged sort-of soccer (or football for bees in London) in which a Bombus terrestris rolls a yellow ball about the size of its own body down a trackway to a central goal, where researchers dispense sugary…

Honeybees Go ‘Whoop!’ When They Bump Into Each Other

British scientists say startled honeybees emit a teeny “whoop!” noise when jostled or head-butted by another bee. The team described their findings this week in the journal PLOS One.

Bee societies are astoundingly sophisticated and complex; they’re strict hierarchies in which every bee knows its job and its place. To keep this social machine humming along, bees rely on multiple forms of communication: chemical signaling, electrical impulses, gestures (like their waggle dance), and sound.

One of the most common sounds is a quick little wing-buzz used often in crowded colonies. Bees seem to make this noise when they ask another bee for food and as they interfere with another bee’s waggle dance—a move that tells the second bee to change its plans. Because the buzz seems to be used to abort the waggle dance and any foraging that might follow, scientists call the noise the “stop” signal.

To learn…

Where Does the Word Dunce Come From

Olivia B. asks: Where did the word dunce come from and who came up with the dunce cap?


The word dunce derives from the name of an extremely accomplished religious scholar- John Duns Scotus (1265/66-1308), an influential philosopher and theologian of the High Middle Ages. If you guessed that his ideas and those who touted them were (somewhat unfairly) eventually widely panned as moronic, you’d be correct.

Born near the Scottish village of Duns, from which he took the name, Duns Scotus was ordained into the Catholic Franciscan Order at St. Andrew’s Priory, Northampton, England in 1291. Over the next 17 years, Duns Scotus strongly influenced both religious and secular thought.

One of Duns Scotus’ most notable contributions was the idea that existence was abstract, but it remained the same for all beings and things, only differing in terms of degree. However, he was perhaps most well known for making complex arguments, and in particular to prove the existence of God and the Immaculate Conception. For instance, his long and detailed argument for the existence of God can more or less be summed up as follows:

1) Something, A, is produced.
2) It is produced either by itself, nothing, or another.
3) Not by nothing, for nothing causes nothing.
4) Not by itself, for an effect never causes itself.
5) Therefore, by another; call it B.
6) We return to 2). B is produced either by itself, nothing, or another. The ascending series will either continue infinitely or we finally reach something which has nothing prior to it.
7) An infinite ascending series is impossible.
8) Therefore, a simple first efficient cause exists.

Given his detailed and genuinely well respected analyses in his time, Duns Scotus earned the nickname “the Subtle Doctor,” and an entire school of philosophy, Scotism, was named for him.

Important to the discussion at hand, Duns Scotus was a fiercely devout Catholic who even advocated for the forcible baptism into the One True Church of Jewish children and adults. Along with his extremely intellectual form of reasoning, this strict adherence to Church doctrine and teachings are ultimately what led to him becoming the namesake for dunce, despite the man himself being anything but.

Skip forward approximately 200 years after his death, and in the interim his ideas were still being widely taught and his work still well respected… that is, until the Protestant Reformation had reached England. Even before Henry VIII began the switch from Catholicism to Anglicism, the Reformation was tearing through northern Europe and its ideas, as well as the new thinking that came with the Renaissance, had begun to seep into the island nation.

Nonetheless, traditional Catholics fought back hard, and often relied on Duns Scotus’ theories and way of reasoning in their defense of the Church and its doctrines. However, many of the modern scholars of the late Renaissance saw Duns Scotus’ arguments as “hair splitting”…

Can These Tiny Robots Be the Solution to the World’s Bee Problem?

Bees, in case you hadn’t heard, are dying off at an alarming rate—which is a huge problem when you consider the vital part they play in the world’s ecosystems. Bees account for 80 percent of all insect crop pollination, but beekeepers in the United States estimate that between April 2015 and April 2016, they lost 44 percent of their honeybee population. The situation is so dire that engineers from Poland aren’t willing to wait and see if the bee population recovers; they’re already creating a replacement.

The B-Droid is a project led by Rafał Dalewski of the Warsaw University of Technology’s Faculty of Power and Aeronautical Engineering, and its aim is to pollinate plants robotically. This is the fourth year of the project’s existence, and in that time the B-Droid robot has gone through multiple upgrades. The first model operated on wheels with a computer and cameras mounted on…