Archive for April, 2009

I came across a link to the following article about researcher Anna Dornhaus over at Myrmecos blog, which gives an interesting insight into her work on ants and bees:

Anna Dornhaus is peering into a cardboard nest box only an inch on a side, at a “family” of 100 or so European rock ants. Known as Temnos, the ants — painted in primary colors — are going about their ant chores hauling, foraging, nursing the glistening maggoty brood.

Next to a color-coded Temnos, a rice grain would look like an old-growth log. When the lid on an ant colony is raised, a whiff of dead cockroach — ant chow — wafts by. A quiescent larger queen is a study in brown. “She’s hardly a head of state,” Dr. Dornhaus said. “More like an ovary.”

Nearby are bumblebee hives under glass in which each bee sports a number from 1 to 100 on tiny price-tag-like label attached to its back. [Read full article]

New York Times


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Mites not only inhabit the dust bunnies under the bed, they also occupy the nests of tropical sweat bees where they keep fungi in check. Bees and their young are healthier when mites live-in, report researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and the University of Texas at Austin. Mutually beneficial cleaning relationships have been documented for shrimps and fish that eat parasites on larger fish, but this is the first confirmation of a cleaning relationship between two different species on land. [Read full article]


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A video of paper wasps (Polistinae) at the nest

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An Amazonian ant has dispensed with sex and developed into an all-female species, researchers have found.

The ants reproduce via cloning – the queen ants copy themselves to produce genetically identical daughters.

This species – the first ever to be shown to reproduce entirely without sex – cultivates a garden of fungus, which also reproduces asexually.

The finding of the ants’ “world without sex” is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Anna Himler, the biologist from the University of Arizona who led the research, told BBC News that the team used a battery of tests to verify their findings. [Read full article]

BBC News

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Published online in Environmental Microbiology Reports.

For the first time, scientists have isolated the parasite Nosema ceranae (Microsporidia) from professional apiaries suffering from honey bee colony depopulation syndrome. They then went on to treat the infection with complete success.

In a study published in the new journal from the Society for Applied Microbiology: Environmental Microbiology Reports, scientists from Spain analysed two apiaries and found evidence of honey bee colony depopulation syndrome (also known as colony collapse disorder in the USA). They found no evidence of any other cause of the disease (such as the Varroa destructor, IAPV or pesticides), other than infection with Nosema ceranae. The researchers then treated the infected surviving under-populated colonies with the antibiotic drug, flumagillin and demonstrated complete recovery of all infected colonies.

The loss of honey bees could have an enormous horticultural and economic impact worldwide. Honeybees are important pollinators of crops, fruit and wild flowers and are indispensable for a sustainable and profitable agriculture as well as for the maintenance of the non-agricultural ecosystem. Honeybees are attacked by numerous pathogens including viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. For most of these diseases, the molecular pathogenesis is poorly understood, hampering the development of new ways to prevent and combat honeybee diseases. So, any progress made in identifying causes and subsequent treatments of honey bee colony collapse is invaluable. There have been other hypothesis for colony collapse in Europe and the USA, but never has this bug been identified as the primary cause in professional apiaries.

“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.

This finding could help prevent the continual decline in honey bee population which has recently been seen in Europe and the USA.

This article from EurekaAlert

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British Waterways are encouraging the public to visit their local waterways to record birds, mammals, fish, amphibians and insects. The organisation manages  2,200 miles of rivers and canals, and one of the main focuses for this years survey will be bumblebees. The project is supported by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

Find out more at the British Waterways website.

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