Rare Australian Bee Rediscovered

An extremely rare species of bee that hasn’t been seen for nearly a century and was thought to be extinct has been rediscovered by a lone researcher in Australia.

This rare “masked” bee, known as Pharohylaeus lactiferus, is native to Australia and is the only species in the genus Pharohylaeus. It is similar in size to the invasive European honeybee (Apis mellifera). Only six individuals have been previously identified in Australia and the last one was reported in 1923.

A recent survey revealed three geographically isolated populations of the masked bees across Australia’s eastern coast. Each population lives in patches of tropical and subtropical rainforest with a specific vegetation type. It is thought that the bees are particularly dependent on firewheel trees (Stenocarpus sinuatus) and Illawarra flame trees (Brachychiton acerifolius).

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Disappearing Bees

About a quarter of all known bee species haven’t been seen since the 1990s even though efforts by scientists and amateurs to survey them have increased by about 55% since the turn of the century. Eduardo Zattara and Marcelo Aizen of Argentina’s National University of Comahue found that the decline isn’t the same for all bee populations, and the lack of sightings for those missing doesn’t mean the species have gone extinct. The researchers say it just means those bees are now rare enough that people who tend to report bee sightings aren’t coming across them. The destruction of natural habitats, heavy use of pesticides and climate change are likely to be causing the decline, according to Zattara.

Global Warming

Global Warming Blamed for Bee Deaths – Turkey

Millions of bees died due to drought triggered by global warming in southern Turkey’s Mersin, which caused about a 70%-80% decrease in honey production in the province, a beekeepers association head said.

The above-seasonal temperature and abrupt changes have adversely affected beekeeping in Mersin this year. Drought caused not only the deaths of many bees but also became the main reason for a decrease in the number of plants from which bees can receive nutrition to produce honey


Spectacular Hives of Stingless Bees

Some species of stingless bees make stunning honeycomb which resembles the molecular structure of crystals, scientists have discovered. The same mathematical blueprint is followed by a colony of bees and also by the laws of physics, resulting in strikingly similar layouts.

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Bee Recovery

Beekeepers across the U.S. report that their colonies have rebounded from the losses suffered last year.

While the deadly 2018-2019 winter season saw a record 37.7% of the colonies die off, there was only a 22.2% loss last winter, the smallest in the last 14 years. But losses had continued through the summer of 2019, when beekeepers reported a 32% death rate — much higher than the average for summer losses.

Honeybees are threatened by mites, diseases, pesticides and climate change, which experts say are part of the new normal the bee industry must cope with.

More Locusts

Swarms of desert locusts have invaded a suburb of New Delhi for the first time in recorded history, prompting residents to bang pots and pans to ward off the insects.

Neighboring Pakistan has battled infestations for weeks. But since the insects arrived between the last harvest and the next planting season, there have so far not been any reports of significant crop losses.

A new generation of the ravenous insects is now devastating crops that are emerging in East Africa.


Pollination without Bees

Israeli farmers are experimenting with an artificial method of pollinating crops because of fears that disappearing bees could threaten the future of some agriculture.

The method involves tractors pulling a mast equipped with small cannons that shoot out pollen into individual almond trees. The pollen is first extracted from budding trees with a mechanical harvester.

Eylam Ran, CEO of Edete Precision Technologies for Agriculture, says the process can initially help out pollinating bees, then eventually replace them.



Domestic honeybee diseases threaten wild bumblebees

Bee populations around the world are in decline, among them many species of wild bumblebees.

New research by the University of Vermont in the US has found that diseases transmitted by domestic honeybees could be to blame for this.

Lead researcher Samantha Alger, an expert beekeeper and researcher in the university’s Department of Plant and Soil Science and Gund Institute for Environment, found that several of the viruses affecting bumblebees had spread from managed bees in apiaries to nearby populations of wild bumblebees.

Her research had shown that this was occurring due to different species of bees sharing flowers during pollination.

Honeybees (Apis mellifera) were at a high risk, due to numerous factors, including land degradation and the use of pesticides, she said.

Native bee populations such as the rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis) were being listed as severely threatened in terms of the Endangered Species Act in the US, as populations had declined by an estimated 90%.

This species had long been a key pollinator of various fruit crops such as cranberries, plums, apples and other agricultural plants.

The research team discovered that two well-known RNA viruses found in honeybees, the deformed wing virus and the black queen cell virus were more prevalent in bumblebees collected less than 300m from commercial beehives.

The study also found that active infections of the deformed wing virus were higher near commercial apiaries, but no deformed wing virus infections were found in the bumblebees collected where foraging honeybees and apiaries were absent.


Plastic Hive

Scientists in Argentina say they have found a wild bee nest made of plastic debris. Mariana Allasino, of the National Agricultural Technology Institute, made the discovery after examining nests at the edges of crops in San Juan province.

One of the nests she and colleagues encountered had been built with bits of blue strips the consistency of plastic shopping bags, along with thicker pieces of other plastic material.

Experts fear the plastic lining of the nest cells could harm the bees by trapping moisture and harboring disease-causing organisms. Others say somewhat disingenuously that the nest indicates that bees can adapt to human influences on their habitats by making use of our rubbish.


Bees take advantage of Wildfires

What looks like total destruction after a wildfire is actually a boon to bees.

Oregon State University researchers found 20 times as many bees in places where trees were wiped out by high-severity fire. Their study published this month is the first to show that the worse fire is for trees, the better it is for bees.

With trees gone, more sunlight hits the ground — triggering an explosion of wildflowers and blooming bushes. The smorgasbord of pollen and nectar sends bee numbers soaring. Trees damaged by wildfire also attracted insects that bore into wood. Cavity-nesting bees were able to turn those holes into homes.


World’s Biggest Bee Not Extinct

You’d think that the world’s biggest bee would be hard to lose track of. But Wallace’s Giant Bee — an Indonesian species with a 2.5-inch (6.4 centimeters) wingspan and enormous mandibles — was last seen by researchers in 1981; it was feared to be extinct.

However, scientists finally spotted the rare bee in January, in the Indonesian province of North Maluku on the Maluku Islands. They detected a solitary female bee after investigating the region for five days, and a photographer captured the first-ever images of a living Wallace’s Giant Bee (Megachile pluto) at the insect’s nest in an active termite mound.

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Locust Swarms

U.N. officials warned that a locust outbreak is spreading along both sides of the Red Sea from Sudan and Eritrea to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

They report that heavy rains from two tropical cyclones in 2018 triggered the breeding of locust swarms, with the insects also spreading as far away as Iran.

“The next three months will be critical to bring the locust situation under control before the summer breeding starts,” Food and Agriculture Organization locust expert Keith Cressman said in the statement.

One small swarm of the insects can chomp through as much plant food in a single day as 35,000 people.

Monarch Realm Expands

A small, secluded colony of monarch butterflies has been found after years of searching by park rangers and conservationists.

Rumors of a possible colony around Mexico’s Nevado de Toluca volcano had spawned numerous searches. But a handful of communal landowners stumbled across the tiny colony just before Christmas.

News of the discovery came as officials announced the wintering population of monarchs in 15 acres of their main habitat in the mountains of Michoacan state had increased by 144 percent over the previous year.

The location of the newly discovered colony is being kept secret and will be patrolled by paid conservation workers.


Aerial Assault

An invasive Asian hornet that has decimated bee populations and killed some humans across the Iberian Peninsula will now be attacked by a fleet of armed drones. Experts are teaching local firefighters how to fill drones with insecticide, then fire the payload into hornets’ nests.

The pest is native to China and has spread southward into Spain at about 20 miles per year since arriving in France two decades ago. Its territory is also expanding elsewhere across Europe.

Stings from the aggressive hornets have killed two people so far in Spain, and the numbers of honeybees and butterflies have plummeted there since 2010.

Victims of Extreme Weather

Increased episodes of severe weather are causing populations of some species around the world to fall, and have even brought on local extinctions, scientists warn.

“The growing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as cyclones, droughts and floods is causing unpredictable and immediate changes to ecosystems,” researcher Sean Maxwell of the University of Queensland said.

Writing in the journal Diversity and Distributions, Maxwell and colleagues say that birds, fish, plants and reptiles are under the greatest threat from stronger and more frequent cyclones. Mammals and amphibians are said to be among the most threatened by drought.

But the scientists point out that all kinds of plants and animals can be affected by the weather extremes.


Profound Effects of Pesticides on Bees

Whether it’s foraging for food, caring for the young, using their bodies to generate heat or to fan the nest, or building and repairing nests, a bee colony does just about everything as a single unit.

While recent studies have suggested exposure to pesticides could have impacts on foraging behavior, a new study, led by James Crall, has shown that those effects may be just the tip of the iceberg.

The new study that shows exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides — the most commonly-used class of pesticides in agriculture — has profound effects on a host of social behaviors.

Using an innovative robotic platform to observe bees’ behavior, the study authors showed that, following exposure to the pesticide, bees spent less time nursing larvae and were less social that other bees. Additional tests showed that exposure impaired bees ability to warm the nest, and to build insulating wax caps around the colony. The study is described in a November 9 paper in Science.


Bees get hooked on harmful pesticide – study

Bumblebees acquire a taste for food laced with a pesticide known to harm them, according to a study suggesting the chemicals pose an even greater threat to pollinators than previously thought.

In experiments, researchers showed that bees initially put off by sugar water containing neonicotinoids – the most widely-used class of insecticide worldwide – soon started seeking them out to the exclusion of untainted food. The findings were published on Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Neonicotinoids, earlier research has shown, disrupt the ability of bees to reproduce and lower their resistance to disease. Global bee populations are on the decline. And in Southwest China they have become so rare that fruit plantations are no longer being pollinated. Farmers are now doing it themselves.

Global Warming

Bees Affected by Rising Temperatures

The survival of bees is hanging in the balance. Some species are dying off at a record pace, and toxic agricultural chemicals might be to blame. There seem to be many threats to these winged creatures, but climate change may be the final straw for some bee species. If the Earth continues to warm and bees don’t find a way to adapt, some populations could face extinction, according to new research.

A team of scientists found that 30 to 70 percent of mason bees died when they heated up the bees’ environments. This reveals that if temperatures continue to climb, bee populations could begin to die off at faster rates, disrupting ecosystems worldwide, said Paul CaraDonna, an ecologist at Northwestern University.

In the tests conducted in the research, the bees that survived the heat became smaller, lost much of their body fat and suffered from disruptions to their hibernation. These results suggest bees that survived were not healthy and might struggle to find food or a mate.

Local bee populations could possibly substantially decrease or even go extinct in the future because of climate change, according to the research.

Historic Shift Means the Arctic Ocean Could Become Part of the Atlantic

A region in the Arctic Ocean is undergoing a historic identity crisis, as recent climate change has warmed it so much that it might as well be considered part of the Atlantic.

All of the Arctic has been heating up in recent decades, but nowhere is it as dramatic as in the Barents Sea, northeast of Finland. There, temperatures are climbing faster than anywhere else in the Arctic Ocean — not only in the atmosphere but down through the water column, scientists recently reported in a new study.

The northern Barents is also becoming saltier as it warms, mostly because there’s little seasonal melt of sea ice to dilute the water body. These temperature and salinity changes nudge the northern Barents to a state that more closely resembles that of the neighboring Atlantic Ocean, rather than the Arctic, which could have dramatic implications for its marine ecosystems, according to the study.


EU to ban bee-killing pesticides

EU countries voted on Friday for a near-total ban on insecticides blamed for killing off bee populations, in what campaigners called a “beacon of hope” for the winged insects.

Bees help pollinate 90 percent of the world’s major crops, but in recent years have been dying off from “colony collapse disorder,” a mysterious scourge blamed on mites, pesticides, virus, fungus, or a combination of these factors.

The 28 European Union member states approved a ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides after the European food safety agency said in February that must uses of the chemicals posed a risk to honey bees and wild bees.

Dolphins Compete for Fish

Damage to fishing nets caused by dolphins is increasing across the Mediterranean as overfishing forces the marine mammals to compete more with humans for seafood.

Damage to the typically small-scale fishing businesses are now costing thousands, or even tens of thousands, of dollars per year, according to University of Exeter researchers.

Acoustic “pingers” used in an attempt to deter dolphins haven’t worked, and may have acted as “dinner bells” that actually attracted the ocean animals in some cases, the researchers found.