Is it time to put the brakes on the beekeeping boom? Bumble bees stay on task with caffeine. Red mason bees think oak is a-ok. Learning optimal honeycomb design.

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Conservation

‘Honeybees are voracious’: Is it time to put the brakes on the boom in beekeeping?

(The Guardian) There is growing concern from scientists and experienced beekeepers that the vast numbers of honey bees, combined with a lack of pollinator-friendly spaces, could be jeopardizing the health and even survival of some of about 6,000 wild pollinators across the UK. Last year, Kew Gardens’ State of the World’s Plant and Fungi report warned: “Campaigns encouraging people to save bees have resulted in an unsustainable proliferation in urban beekeeping. This approach only saves one species of bee, the honeybee, with no regard for how honeybees interact with other, native species.”

Detroit bumbles over 12 million imported bees

(Wall Street Journal) There has been an effort over the past five years to bring about 12 million honey bees to metro Detroit. The nonprofit behind it says pollination stations that house hives around the city support the rising number of urban farms that offer residents much-needed fresh produce. But the effort has riled critics who are rushing to the defense of Detroit’s native bees. Some environmentalists accuse the nonprofit of “bee washing”, or glossing over the fact that local bees are facing competition from the newcomers that might spread disease and eat the nectar bees need to survive.

Why beekeeping is booming in New York: ‘A hive is a box of calm’

(New York Times) It turns out the hobby is a great pandemic coping technique. But too many honey bees in the city could also pose an environmental threat.

Third annual Backyard Bumble Bee Count has begun

(Twitter, Elaine Evans @fuzzybumblebee) “It’s time for the Backyard Bumble Bee Count. All you need to do is grab pics of adorable bumbles and share on @inaturalist”

We need to figure out what’s happening to the bugs — before it’s too late

(Washington Post) “Elsewhere in the United States, some studies have reported stark declines in insects, while others have not. Thus, both the magnitude and causes of the insect die-off in this country are murky. Yet we need to pay close attention to what’s going on. Any widespread, large drop in insect abundance could have lasting, severe consequences on a par with other, better-known environmental threats.”


Economics

Drought has beekeepers worried bees won’t make enough honey to survive

(Steamboat Pilot) As drought has ranchers looking woefully at hay barns that should be fuller than they are, beekeepers find themselves in the same boat, with many honeycombs nearly bare of the nectar and honey the bees need to survive the winter. “My hives are producing no drones, and I have no idea why. I think it has something to do with (drought), but then they are making queens. Queens without drones are useless.”

Business founded by NC State alum brings bees to downtown Raleigh

(ABC 11) “I just wanted a place to put beehives and companies had space when I was in college, so that’s how it all started.” Bee Downtown has now installed 350 hives at more than 70 corporation campuses all over the southeast. Each of them providing an opportunity to learn and share their knowledge.


Science

Caffeine boosts bumble bees’ focus and helps them learn

(Scientific American) Commercial bumble bees sometimes stray from the farm fields and crops they’re supposed to be pollinating to peruse nearby wildflowers. Now, scientists have found that – like for many humans – a jolt of caffeine helps bees stay on task and get the job done more efficiently.

The high importance of trees and oilseed rape for solitary bee reproduction

(Twitter, Johanna Yourstone @Johanna_Yourbee) “The red mason bee uses and benefits from oilseed rape, trees & buttercups. In particular, they seem to think oak is A-OK. The study underlines how important spatiotemporal diversity of flowers is for bees” Original paper

OSU study will provide insight into optimal nutrition for bees

(Oregon State University) A new grant will allow researchers to study the nutritional value of more than 100 bee-pollinated crops, native plants and commonly used ornamental plants, a project that could help scientists better understand the global decline of bee populations.

University of Arkansas student researching ways to help wild bees in decline

(KUAF, audio) On a plot of pasture at the University of Arkansas – Fayetteville Experimental Station, Olivia Kline has built a dozen wild bee habitats filled with various forage to observe how well they thrive. Her research results will be shared with farmers and gardeners to help sustain native bee populations on the Ozarks and across the U.S.

Bees, mites and viruses: assessing the risk to South African crop pollinators

(The Conversation) “The continents of South America and Africa have not recorded major honey bee colony losses associated with the varroa mite, the number one pest of honey bees in the northern hemisphere. We investigated why varroa was not a problem in South Africa. One factor may be the presence or absence of the deformed wing virus, since it is this pathogen – when transmitted by varroa – that kills the infested colony.”

New citizen-science project explores little-known behavior in monarch butterflies

(Entomology Today) Monarchs may be the most widely known butterflies in the United States, but one of their behaviors – although exhibited in plain sight – has gone nearly unnoticed. That changed in 2019 when Maryland gardener and nature writer Nancy Lawson spotted one of the large, orange-and-black butterflies doing something odd. Rather than engaging in the predictable feeding on a milkweed flower, this male monarch perched on a boneset plant, scratching at a withered leaf and then extending its proboscis onto the scratched area. “It just didn’t follow the pattern,” she says.

Southeastern US herbaria digitize three million specimens, now freely available online

(EurekAlert, Botanical Society of America) A network of over 100 herbaria spread out across the southeastern United States recently completed the task of fully digitizing more than three million specimens collected by botanists and naturalists over a span of 200 years. The project is part of a larger, ongoing effort by natural history institutions worldwide to make their biological collections easily accessible to researchers studying broad patterns of evolution, extinction, range shifts, and climate change.


Society/Culture

Community rallies to save homeless swarm of 17K honeybees found on sign in Michigan town

(MLive) An online post about the homeless swarm of honey bees that interrupted cousins Joe and Laure Panici’s tennis match unexpectedly caught the attention of many in the community and kickstarted an effort to save the bees. With the expertise of a beekeeper, the effort was a success story.

The bees have come for Kyle Richards

(Vulture) Richards discovered a hive at her house, and unfortunately they discovered her as well. Kyle had a whole Nicolas Cage Wicker Man moment. The bees chased her, and Richards could only escape them by jumping into her own pool. Her EpiPen failed to inject, but luckily Richards was taken to the hospital after firemen responded to the 911 call.


Technology

Engineers may learn from bees for optimal honeycomb designs

(Cornell Chronicle) Perfect hexagonal structures inspired by honeycombs in bee nests are widely used to build everything from airplane wings, boats, and cars, to skis, snowboards, packaging and acoustic dampening materials. Challenges arise when space constraints or repairs require engineers to keep a structure mechanically strong when linking together industrial honeycomb panels that each have cells of different sizes. High performance computers used with 3-D printers may solve this problem in the future, but could bees provide a more efficient and adaptable strategy? A new study finds they can.

Growers use drones as robotic pollinators

(Capital Press) Three U.S. companies have teamed up to pollinate crops, including fruit and nut trees, using aerial drones that swoop over trees and drop dry pollen onto blossoms. Through trials, independent research has demonstrated that this project's supplemental pollen can increase cherry set by 40%, almonds by up to 59% and can increase the size and sweetness of apples. The service benefits honey bees, too, which appear less stressed with supplemental pollen.


One More Thing…

“Super exciting find by a @MNBumbleBees volunteer. Last record I know of for Bombus melanopygus in MN is from 1940!” From Elaine Evans @fuzzybumblebee via Twitter.