The silence of the microfauna

A generation ago Rachel Carson warned us of bird die-offs from pesticides in the classic “Silent Spring”. Now, a new silence might be rocking the world, and causing an increasingly creepy silence: flying insects are dying at an alarming rate and in staggering amounts. A study published last fall documented a 76% decline in total seasonal biomass of insects in Germany, and speculated how widespread their result might be.

Unfortunately, that question is difficult to even approach because of another problem: a global decline of field naturalists who study these phenomena.

Want to learn more about this awkward intersection? Read about it here!

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Who’s a smart bee?

In the ongoing question of “what makes human’s special?”, biologist have recently demonstrated that honey bees have the ability to conceptualize zero.

The bees in the study were trained, one group to fly towards displays with higher quantities of black shapes, and one towards cards with fewer shapes. Once the second group was trained to recognize “lower” number of black spots, they introduced blank cards. The bees were then able to recognize that the absence of black spots is less than low number of spots.

This phenomenon is referred to as the “numerical-distance-effect” and has been observed in children and primates. So bees have at least the conceptual ability of a smll child.

Good job bees! Read more about it here.

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Building a backup bee

The director of bee biology for the Wonderful Company, Gordon Wardell, is working on a magnificent experiment. He is trying, across a vast grove of pistachios, to develop an alternative insect pollinator.

With the decline of honey bee populations (due to many things, including (and likely prominently) because of viruses!), the need for an alternate has become critical. Not just for pistachios, but for almonds, which rely exclusively on honeybees for pollination.

Want to know more about this crazy idea (trust me, this one is a long shot)? Read about it here.

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Breeding a better bee

One problem with honey bees is that we move them around so much. Specifically half of the bees in the US go to California during a critical 22 day period to pollinate the almond orchards.

This means that most bees are best adapted to survive in the California, which means that the PNW bees don’t really thrive in their colder than optimal environment.

Well one bee keeper is taking it upon himself to stop honey production and focus on making queens that are best suited for the Washington and PNW environment! Read about it here.

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Save the (Wild) Bees

The domesticated honey bee dominates headlines as beekeepers struggle to stop mass die-offs. But they are not the only pollinators out there, and not the only bees that are declining.

“The needs of wild bees are so different that, as some experts say, raising honeybees to save pollinators is like raising chickens to help birds.”

Want to know more? Read about it here.

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Ocean Bees

Yes, you read that correctly. There are bees. In the ocean.

Well, sort of. Similar to land plants, sea grasses need pollinating. But it’s long been assumed that pollination is facilitated by the current, and the pollen just floats from one plant to the next.

But it turns out that some crustaceans are actually pollinating the grass. Making them the bees of the ocean.

Read about it here!

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