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Archive for December, 2010

Penn State researchers have found that native pollinators, like wild bees and wasps, are infected by the same viral diseases as honey bees and that these viruses are transmitted via pollen. This multi-institutional study provides new insights into viral infections in native pollinators, suggesting that viral diseases may be key factors impacting pollinator populations.

Their research published on December 22nd in PLoS ONE, an online open-access journal.

According to Diana Cox-Foster, co-author and professor of entomology at Penn State, pollinator populations have declined for various reasons, including ribonucleic acid (RNA) viruses, which are emerging as a serious threat. “RNA viruses are suspected as major contributors to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD ), where honey bee colonies die with few or no bees left in the hives. Recent detection of these viral species in bumble bees and other native pollinators indicates a possible wider environmental spread of these viruses with potential broader impact,” explains Cox-Foster.

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Science Daily

Research paper:

RNA Viruses in Hymenopteran Pollinators: Evidence of Inter-Taxa Virus Transmission via Pollen and Potential Impact on Non-Apis Hymenopteran Species

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This is the conclusion of a new paper published in Biology Letters, a high-powered journal from the UK’s prestigious Royal Society. If its tone seems unusual, that’s because its authors are children from Blackawton Primary School in Devon, England. Aged between 8 and 10, the 25 children have just become the youngest scientists to ever be published in a Royal Society journal.

Their paper, based on fieldwork carried out in a local churchyard, describes how bumblebees can learn which flowers to forage from with more flexibility than anyone had thought. It’s the culmination of a project called ‘i, scientist’, designed to get students to actually carry out scientific research themselves. The kids received some support from Beau Lotto, a neuroscientist at UCL, and David Strudwick, Blackawton’s head teacher. But the work is all their own.

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Discover Magazine

Full paper: Blackawton bees

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Researchers are being offered a glimpse of how bees may see flowers in all their ultra-violet (UV) glory.

The Floral Reflectance Database (FReD) was created by researchers at Imperial College London and Queen Mary, University of London.

It enables researchers to “see” plant colours through the eyes of bees and other pollinating insects.

Bees have different colour detection systems from humans, and can see in the UV spectrum.

Details of the free database are published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.

“This research highlights that the world we see is not the physical or the ‘real’ world – different animals have very different senses, depending on the environment the animals operate in,” said Professor Lars Chittka from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences.

“Much of the coloured world that’s accessible to bees and other animals with UV receptors is entirely invisible for us. In order to see that invisible part of the world, we need this special machinery.”

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BBC News

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The European Commission has published a new action plan intended to shed light on reports of declining honey-bee populations across Europe, key pollinators for many of the bloc’s important crop species.

At the same time, one the Europe’s top scientists in the field has warned against mass hysteria, pointing out that most species have experienced epidemics at one stage or another over previous centuries, ultimately with little long-term effect.

“The fact that honey-bee colonies die in large numbers is nothing strange,” the UK’s only professor in the field of apiculture, the University of Sussex’s Francis Ratnieks, told this website.

Biodiversity loss and foreign diseases do present a major challenge for Europe’s honey-bees, said professor Ratnieks, but he added there is “an awful lot of hype about bees” at the moment, stressing that humans ultimately recovered from events as traumatic as the Black Death, the 14th Century pandemic estimated to have wiped out 30-60 percent of Europe’s population at the time.

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EUOBSERVER/Andrew Willis

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