Keystone Species The Pollinators Honey Bees
Friday February 11 2011
BEE – LI EVE !!!
In zoology and nature, Bees are one of thousands of kinds of insects. All insects have six legs and a kind of skeleton on the outside of their bodies, like their relatives, the crab sand lobsters. Bees differ to other insects as they are the only insect that provides food for humans – Honey ! Ecologists call bees the ‘Keystone Species’ because they are pollinators. Consider an arch that has a keystone keeping the two halves together. Removing the ‘keystone’ means the entire arch collapses. This analogue applies to the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in Bees. According to the Journal of Apicultural Research total mortality loss in U.S. beekeepers in 2,009 – 2,010 compiled to 34.4%. And, Albert Einstein said: ” If honey bees become extinct human society will follow in four years.” Newspaper headlines read “Groundbreaking bee study by kids.” The British Royal Society is publishing a report by 8 and 10 year olds at Blackawton Primary School in Devon, England. They investigated : THE WAY BUMBLEBEES SEE COLOURS AND PATTERNS. The children concluded: ” We like bees. SCIENCE IS COOL AND FUN because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before.” The Scientist that recommended publication of the children’s report said: “Although the report lacked statistical analyses, they were cleverly and correctly designed, and hold their own compared to those conducted by highly trained specialists.” The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Vision Science study on “Visual Perception and Cognition in Honey-Bees” used radio frequency chip with ..5 ml weight on the bee’s thorax to monitor traffic entering and exiting the beehive. They captured and released these bees in various locations around the city, but the bees returned this 11 km trip. Bees use sky information: (1) polarization light, (2) celestial cues, and (3) visual cues (i.e., mountain). They may not fly back immediately when released, but when they see a familiar landmark that they remember it helps them back to the beehive. Bees have circadian timed episodic – like memory. The bee’s brain is small, and like humans, they have trichromatic colour vision, motion sensitive vision, and spatial vision. This study concluded that bees are capable of abstracting features of patterns, have visual illusions, and top-down processing. They are able to use symbolic rules for navigating and even form concepts, such as, sameness and differences. Interestingly, Bees have 5 eyes: two compound and 3 tiny ocelli eyes !
The above study is congruent to another study entitled “Pattern Vision of Honey Bees.” In this experiment it was discovered that Bees can experience visual illusions the same as humans. And, Bees have cortical-like processing using directional motion cues. One of their experiments used two circles with different random dots, and the bees found no differences. But, a structured pattern was designed with six dots, and another structured pattern with seven dots and the bees could differentiate between the two structured patterns. In mental processing, bees could be trained to distinguish pattern differences very quickly – for example, vertical and horizontal stripes. This study found visual objects or smells are retrieval cues. Colour was used as an indicator to instruct bees to choose scents: blue = lemon scent; and, yellow = mango scent. And, bees can reverse their preference for a visual pattern with the time of day or with the task. Bees have two pair of wings, and their wings have teeth so they can lock together when they fly. Symbolic dancing and visual odometer occur in Bees: 529 millisecond waggle = flight of 230 metres; 411 millisecond waggle = flight of 184 metres. Recruits respond differently to the dance. Asiatic Bees can communicate (language skills) with European Bees. Bees have a different dialect and a different distance dialect ( 400 metres, 500 metres, and 600 metres). Bees can form concepts and categorize visual stimuli which helps the Honeybee count up to the number 4 by use of sold dots and a circle (mathematics) , and , by use of prior knowledge.
Canada supplies 9% of its honey to the U.S.and in 2,008 that translated to 38 million lbs. You cannot go to court without a legal definition of honey. Canada has a legal definition of honey, and the U.S.A. does not. Also, in 2,008 a change occurred in Canada on how Honey is labelled. That is, products with honey (i.e., cheese, pepperoni) will now be on the label. In raw and pasteurized labels: pasteurized is for appearance, not flavour. The flower where the nectar wax is gathered from determines the flavour and colour of the honey. Honey has natural preservatives which does not allow bacteria to grow. What is interesting is Bees have two stomachs : (1) For eating where they chew with their tongues. Beeswax is formed in special glands on their stomach that secrete the wax pockets. The bee takes and chews it with her mandibles and shapes it to make honeycomb.; (2)The second stomach is a special stomach for storing nectar collected from flowers and water they suck up with their proboscis (straw-like tongues). A marketing issue is “Mysterious Honey” in the U.S. which is honey dumped by China through other countries – Vietnam, Malaysia – which drives prices down. In Canada, Mysterious homey doesn’t pass Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) testing. Many virus’s are affecting the bee. Research in Spain found dead bees in crops of Lavender Fields due to Nosema Ceranae (NC) spore virus that matures in 3 days. This is a parasite fungi in mid gut so nutrients cannot be absorbed and it triggers uncoiling of the spore which develops inside the bee and reproduce. This infection is easily spread, for example, in this study, Birds and Dragonflies that eat bees showed (NC) Infection in their cuticles. The Birds regurgitate the hard cuticle of bees but still contained lots of spores. Therefore, birds are spreading (NC). In this study, eighteen months later the beehives depopulated and collapsed. There are other virus agents that cause morality in bees: Israeli Paralysis Virus; An infection – Chronic Bee Paralysis (CBPV) , Kashmir Bee Virus (KBV) , Nosema Apis Virus, Black Queen Cell Virus (BQCV), Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and, Verereal infection (sperm) in mating. Vurus are transferred from adult to tot bee in the egg. Michael O Malley book entitled: The Wisdom Of Bees highlights businesses would be better organized if we copied the bees.
Source: Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Vision Science
Doug Worrall Photographer