Describing the bumble bee leg lift. Bees and other social insects can teach us about aging. 'Real honey without bees' startup prepares to launch.

Conservation

The endangered rusty patched bumblebee is at the center of a legal challenge over habitat that conservationists say it needs to survive

(Chicago Tribune) Conservation groups are making another push to protect habitat for the endangered rusty patched bumblebee, a creature that once buzzed throughout much of the United States and today is an insect you’re lucky to spot at all. As the legal challenge moves ahead, local efforts to encourage habitat creation for the bee are picking up. And rusty patched hopefuls are still on the lookout for a rare sighting of a bumblebee with a tawny marking below black and yellow stripes.

On declining insect populations

(Ecological Rants) “The rising concern about conservation issues is echoed in recent months by newspaper reports of collapses in insect populations world-wide: the ‘insect Armageddon’. As part of our general concern that the-devil-is-in-the-details, we want to discuss these reports within the general question of how we decide if this simple statement is correct or not, and what methods are needed to establish declining population trends. We require four procedures to decide if a population or a series of populations are declining...”


Economics

‘Real honey, without bees...’ Vegan honey startup MelioBio raises pre-seed round, gears up for soft launch

(FoodNavigator-USA.com) MeliBio, the Berkeley-based startup claiming to make real honey without bees, has closed $850,000 in pre-seed funding as it gears up for a soft launch supplying food service companies with its vegan honey as a branded ingredient later this year.


Policy/Law

Bill aimed at troubled Nebraska ethanol plant advances

(U.S. News, AP) Nebraska lawmakers gave initial approval to a bill that would bar ethanol plants from using chemically treated seed corn to make their product. The measure that lawmakers advanced 43-0 is aimed at the AltEn Ethanol plant in Mead, a town of 567 people about 35 miles west of Omaha. The plant is the only one in Nebraska that uses pesticide-covered seed corn that’s considered unsuitable for other uses, such as animal feed.

Massachusetts issues new rules to restrict some pesticides

(GBH) Earlier this month, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to use regulations to restrict the use of widely used neonicotinoids pesticides that can negatively impact the health of bees and other pollinators. After years of advocacy from local beekeepers, legislators and various interest groups, the state’s Pesticide Board Subcommittee voted to categorize neonics as “restricted-use products” and to remove them from all retail store shelves. A handful of other states have passed legislation restricting neonics, but Massachusettes is the first to do so through regulations.

Maine bill would require transparency about school pesticide

(AP) The proposal would require schools to submit pest management logs to state authorities, and post inspection results publicly.


Science

Describing the leg-lift response in bumble bees

(Twitter, John M. Mola @_JohnMola) “Folks officially documented that little leg-lift thing that bumble bees do when you poke em.” The original paper.

Pollinators mediate floral microbial diversity and network under agrochemical disturbance

(Twitter, Avery Russell @DrAverbee) “Wonder how agrochems affect #flower microbe diversity & network and pollinator visitation?” The original paper.

Yes, spring flowers are blooming earlier. It might confuse bees.

(Washington University in St. Louis) Not all plants are responding to climate change in the same way. Some are blooming earlier. Some might bloom for longer periods stretched across seasons. Where once it seemed like flowers came in successive waves, now the waves are piling up on top of each other. This piling up means that more species are blooming at the same time than in the past. Suddenly bees have a lot more flower options at the same time. And if bees are now transporting pollen between different species of flowers more often, then these conditions could ultimately favor plants that cut out the pollinator middleman entirely.

Bees form scent-driven phone tree to pass along messages

(University of Colorado Boulder) The research highlights how insects with limited cognitive abilities can achieve complex feats when they work together – even creating what looks like a miniature and buzzing version of a telecommunications network.

Extremely rare orchid tricks horny beetles into carrying its pollen

(Smithsonian Magazine) The flower found in southern Africa releases a chemical so irresistible to longhorn beetles that they attempt to mate with it. Several orchid species use sex pheromones to attract bees and wasps and fool them into performing pollination. But this is the first documented occurrence of an orchid tricking a beetle into pollinating it through innuendo alone.


Society/Culture

What can ants, bees, and other social insects teach us about aging?

(Science) A small cadre of researchers have turned to social insects – ants, bees, and termites – to help unravel the mysteries of aging. It’s a developing field that rarely features in conferences on aging biology, where the spotlight is on mice, Drosophila fruit flies, and the minuscule nematode Caenorhabditis elegans – three species researchers have probed and tweaked for well over half a century to learn what controls their life spans. One reason is that many social insects live far longer than these more popular model organisms. Another is the fact that aging in social insects is plastic, changing with social context.

The antiscience movement is escalating, going global and killing thousands

(Scientific American) “Antiscience has emerged as a dominant and highly lethal force, and one that threatens global security, as much as do terrorism and nuclear proliferation. We must mount a counteroffensive and build new infrastructure to combat antiscience, just as we have for these other more widely recognized and established threats.”

Female botanist published the first ever photo book

(Scientific American) Nineteenth-century researcher Anna Atkins collected specimens of algae and imaged them using the then cutting-edge blueprinting process.


Technology

How bees and drones team up to find landmines

(BBC) Thanks to the fact that they can pick up the scent of explosives with their antennae, researchers in countries such as Croatia have spent years perfecting how to use bees as landmine locators. But there’s a problem. As the insects whizz merrily about a mine-contaminated area, it’s extremely difficult for humans to keep track of where they go, not least because chasing bees across a minefield is not a great idea. That’s where the drones come in.

New artificial intelligence technology used to protect bees from varroa mite

(ABC News) Australia has a new weapon in the fight against the varroa destructor mite that has devastated bee populations in other countries and wrecked industries worth hundreds of millions of dollars. A trial is underway at the Port of Melbourne involving new sentinel hives that use high-tech cameras and artificial intelligence to detect the mite on bees that can hitch a ride to Australia on container ships.

Scientific specimens are going online, but much remains hidden in storage

(NPR) In 2011, the National Science Foundation started handing out grants as part of a ten-year push to bring old-fashioned collections into the Internet age. One of the goals was to put specimen records online and into a searchable portal called iDigBio. Now, as that program winds down, experts are pondering what needs to happen over the next decade so that biological collections can continue to become more accessible. That’s why the NSF recently asked for some advice from an expert panel convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.


One More Thing…

From Krispen Hartung (Bird Photography) @krispenhartung via Twitter: “I call this my Millennial Shot, titled the ‘Bee Slayer’, a feisty little Rufous Hummingbird removing a bumble bee from its food source.”