Good news for honeybee apiaries. Colony Collapse Disorder, the multi-billion dollar plague of honeybee farms and a threat to ecological well-being may be a thing of the past thanks to new discoveries by researchers out of Spain. It seems a bug has been bugging the bees in the form of a microsporidia parasite called Nosema ceranae.
Dr. Mariano Higes and his team ruled out popular suspicions of pesticides and the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus as possible causes of the disorder,instead determining bees from the two apiaries were dying solely from infections by the pesky parasite. Subsequently, all colonies treated with the antibiotic, flumagillin, completely recovered. This marks a pretty significant breakthrough in an ecological mystery that has spanned the globe and threatened the agricultural industry.
“Now that we know one strain of parasite that could be responsible, we can look for signs of infection and treat any infected colonies before the infection spreads” said Dr Higes, principle researcher, in a press release.
The complete study can be reviewed in the journal Environmental Microbiology Reports, a new publication from the Society for Applied Microbiology.
Click the following links for a few interesting articles about Colony Collapse Disorder (Silence of the Bees, hcn.org) as well as some past research on the Nosema ceranae parasite.
The honeybee might very well be the math whiz of the insect world. New research out of The Vision Centre in Australia has experimentally proven that bees can count to four, recognizing different numbers of patterns and shapes. The findings highlight a skill especially important for social insects, such as the bee, that travel long distances to find food.
Researchers trained the bees to play a game of memory while traveling through a Y-shaped maze signposted with various numbers of symbols and patterns. These patterns matched up with patterns on a second signpost which signaled a honeybee reward. Dr. Shaowu Zhang, Chief Investigator of The Vision Centre, said they controlled for elements that could otherwise influence bees’ pathfinding, such as smell or color.
In the study, bees figured out what the various signs of patterns meant based on counting. And it’s a technique that might translate to the natural world in the form of remembering landmarks — a cluster of three trees for instance.
“There has been a lot of evidence that vertebrates, such as pigeons, dolphins or monkeys, have some numerical competence – but we never expected to find such abilities in insects,” said Dr. Zhang.
What’s the buzz for the honeybees future? Finding out if they are capable of doing simple arithmetic of course.