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Honey Bees Show a Taste for Soybean in New Study

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Soybean’s reputation as a poor source of nectar for honey bees may be undeserved, as a study of honey bee pollen samples and waggle dances shows a clear attraction to nearby soybean fields. Shown here is a honey bee (Apis mellifera) probing a soybean flower for nectar. (Photo by Sreelakshmi Suresh)

By Ed Ricciuti

Ed Ricciuti

Among beekeepers, soybeans have been commonly viewed as a poor source of nectar for honey bees, but scientists at Ohio State University suggest this key crop does not deserve its bad rap.

That’s good news for honey bees (Apis mellifera) and for the people who raise them, because since the 1960s soybean production has increased by a factor of 13 worldwide, with almost 90 million acres cultivated in the United States alone.

“Future research efforts aimed at enhancing mutual interactions between soybeans and honey bees may represent an unexplored pathway for increasing soybean production while supporting honey bees and other pollinators in the surrounding landscape,” the researchers write in a study published in September in the Journal of Economic Entomology. “Beekeepers may be unknowingly harvesting a substantial amount of soybean honey.”

At first glance, say the researchers, soybean plants do not seem attractive to honey bees, which rarely are seen foraging among them. However, bees may actually be bustling undetected among the small, pink soybean flowers, hidden beneath a thick canopy of leaves. Moreover, the amount of nectar produced by different varieties of soybeans varies, so some are more productive than others.

To analyze the role that soybean blossoms play in honey production, researchers at Ohio State University analyzed pollen in honey samples from apiaries near Ohio soybean fields on a microscopic and molecular level and paired those results with observations of honey bees’ waggle dances. Shown here are magenta-stained soybean pollen grains found in honey samples. (Photos courtesy of Chia-Hua Lin, Ph.D.)

“In this study, we found that honey bees actively forage in soybeans in Ohio, and that soybean blossoms play an important role in honey production,” says Chia-Hua Lin, Ph.D., a research scientist at Ohio State’s Rothenbuhler Honey Bee Lab and lead author of the study.

A honey bee (Apis mellifera) approaches a soybean blossom. (Photo by John Ballas)

The Ohio State team reached its conclusion after a two-pronged approach to determine the value of soybean agriculture to honey bees. The team analyzed pollen in honey samples from apiaries near Ohio soybean fields on a microscopic and molecular level. The researchers paired these results with observations of honey bees’ waggle dances in two experimental colonies near soybean crops at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center near London, Ohio. The waggle behavior is an instinctively choreographed dance by which honey bees tell their hive mates the location of nectar sources. The length of a line along which a bee waggles indicates the distance from the hive. The angle from a line perpendicular to the ground, taken in flight away from the position of the sun, shows the direction.

Results showed soybean pollen in the honey that increased in proportion during the July-August blooming period. Overall, say the researchers, “Soybean pollen was detected … in 17 (55 percent) of the 31 samples analyzed.”

The strong preference of honey bees for soybeans was striking. Honey bees studied “preferred soybean fields over other foraging habitats between 0.5 and 1.5 kilometers from the hive,” according to the research. Outside of those parameters, whether bees foraged among soybeans or other sources of nectar was a toss-up, with the proportion of soybean nectar depending on its availability. At no distance did bees show a preference for non-soybean habitats over soybean fields.

Waggle dancers were videoed and analyzed with special software. In general, bees preferred soybean fields for foraging over other habitat types. The closer to the hive bees foraged, the more likely they were to home in on soybeans.

Chia-Hua Lin, Ph.D., in beekeeping suit holding frame from open honey bee hive box, as two other colleagues in beekeeping suits observe
researchers at a table in a conference hall with lab equipment, one peering into a microscope

All in all, the findings point to soybean crops as a significant resource for honey bees and perhaps other bee species. “Although our study only examined the use of soybeans by honey bees, an ample supply of soybean nectar could also support wild, unmanaged pollinators in the ecosystem,” say the scientists.

An individual soybean flower can produce up to 0.5 microliters of nectar, and a single plant can have up to 800 flowers. The recommended density for growing soybeans is about 250,000 to 300,000 plants per 2.5 acres.

In the long run, the value of soybean nectar to honey bee populations will have a payback for soybean growers. Greater pollination by bees will considerably increase soybean yield.

Says Lin, “There is no doubt that the extensive areas of flowering soybeans can supply a substantial nectar flow for bees in mid-summer. Our next big question is, how do we harness the pollination services provided by bees to increase soybean yield? We are currently working with soybean farmers and beekeepers to study management strategies that will benefit both stakeholders and improve sustainability in the corn-soybean agroecosystem.”

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Soybean is a Common Nectar Source for Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in a Midwestern Agricultural Landscape

Journal of Economic Entomology

Ed Ricciuti is a journalist, author, and naturalist who has been writing for more than a half century. His latest book is called Bears in the Backyard: Big Animals, Sprawling Suburbs, and the New Urban Jungle (Countryman Press, June 2014). His assignments have taken him around the world. He specializes in nature, science, conservation issues, and law enforcement. A former curator at the New York Zoological Society, and now at the Wildlife Conservation Society, he may be the only man ever bitten by a coatimundi on Manhattan’s 57th Street.

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Plant turns suspected crop pest into pollinator

“Remarkable evolutionary shift” shows how adaptable plants can be

https://players.brightcove.net/53038991001/a7scWzO7u_default/index.html?videoId=6313763259112FLORIAN ETL

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The agricultural pests known as plant bugs can be a farmer’s worst enemy. These winged insects—the size of a pea or smaller—suck the sap from apples, lettuce, and other crops, causing millions of dollars in damages globally each year.

A Costa Rican flower has turned this foe into friend, however, according to a new study. One species of the so-called arum plant has evolved to attract a species of plant bug instead of a typical beetle pollinator, helping them spread their pollen far and wide. The find is the first known example of a plant harnessing plant bugs to help them reproduce.

“This is a totally new finding for ecology and evolutionary biology,” says Zong-Xin Ren, an evolutionary ecologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’s Kunming Institute of Botany who was not involved in the work. The study “shows that flowering plants have evolved specialized relationships with pollinators outside of the usual suspects of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds,” adds Jeff Ollerton, a Denmark-based evolutionary biologist and author of a book about pollinators.

The find comes thanks to a fortuitous all-nighter. Florian Etl, a graduate student working with evolutionary biologist Jürg Schönenberger at the University Vienna, was investigating the role of beetles in pollinating several related flowering plants in the lowland rainforests of Costa Rica. The plants look a lot like the calla lilies often sold by florists; in that the flower is a tall stalk partially surrounded by a large, modified leaf—white or purple in calla lilies, but usually green in these Costa Rican plants.

Typically, arum plants heat up at night and release an evening perfume that lures beetles to them. But on that fateful night, researchers waited all night for that to happen to one arum species in the rainforest, Syngonium hastiferum. Only in the morning did it give off an intense scent, and it wasn’t beetles that were attracted—it was plant bugs.

Intrigued, Etl performed a chemical analysis of this morning perfume. Colleagues at the University of Regensburg synthesized its major component: a previously unknown chemical they named gambanol.  

When Etl coated white paper cones with the chemical, the cones attracted large numbers of the plant bugs, he and colleagues report this month in Current Biology. Moreover, when Etl covered the arum plant’s natural flowers with a fine mesh to exclude the plant bugs, no seeds were produced. “This suggests plant bugs play a key role in the pollination process,” Ren says. 

Etl discovered other clues that pollination was different in Syngonium hastiferum. Unlike its relatives, the plant did not produce sterile flowers that serve as food treats for the beetles, rewarding them for their services. Its pollen was also spiny and powdery instead of the usual smooth and sticky, so it sticks but does not get stuck among the hairs of the plant bug’s body. (Beetles are smooth, so it’s advantageous for pollen to be sticky.)  Finally, the plant bug pollinator is also new to science, says Etl, who has tentatively put it into the same genus, Neella, as other plant bugs known to attack these plants.

The switch from being pollinated by a beetle to a plant bug “represents a remarkable evolutionary shift,” says Regis Ferriere, a theoretical ecologist at the University of Arizona. That’s because it involved changing many traits, he says: the timing and makeup of scent produced, as well as the type of pollen.  

Plant bugs are the common name for a group of insects containing about 15,000 species. Given this number and the dozens of arum species, Ren expects more such relationships are just waiting to be discovered. Indeed, Etl is continuing his all-night vigils in hopes of finding them.

It’s not clear how this discovery could help farmers fight plant bugs, and indeed the plant bugs that pollinate Syngonium hastiferum consume its sap, too. But the discovery conveys an important conservation message, Ollerton says. ”Attempts to conserve pollinators need to go beyond just ‘Save the Bees’ campaigns.”


doi: 10.1126/science.adf3203

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Elizabeth Pennisi

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Liz Pennisi is a senior correspondent covering many aspects of biology for Science.

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Bumblebees dislike flying into red light, hoverflies are not as picky

Now that the energy transition is being accelerated due to current conditions, the need to switch to other light sources has suddenly become much more urgent. Great strides have already been made in researching the light spectra and light intensity and how they affect plant growth.

However, for crops in which pollination plays a crucial role in good yield and quality, knowledge about the functioning of pollinating insects under certain light conditions is still lacking, even though they can play an essential role in the dark winter months.

Within the project ‘LEDs pollinate,’ funded by ‘Kas als Energiebron,’ researchers have looked at how bumblebees and experimental hoverflies behave under different light spectra in a background of limited daylight such as on a Dutch winter day. It became clear that the bumblebees strongly prefer the spectrum with a lower proportion of red light. Approximately 70% of the bumblebees flew to the greenhouse section with less red light in the spectrum. In contrast, there was no preference for a greenhouse section under natural light conditions, and they flew around randomly.

In the cage experiment with six different light spectra, the bumblebees foraged only under the spectrum that mimicked daylight (B:G:R:FR 22:26:26). The hoverflies suitable for pollinating soft fruit crops did not distinguish between the different spectra and foraged under all light conditions. With these initial results, growers can already gain insight into the requirements they should set for their new lighting plans.

Source: WUR

Publication date: Tue 5 Jul 2022

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Virginia Tech earns Bee Campus USA certification for its work with pollinators and vision for conservation

“The importance of Bee Campus is making a long-term commitment with a long-term vision to ultimately create a sustainable habitat for pollinators” said entomologist Margaret Couvillon.

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17 JUN 2022

Approximately a6 minute read

Lavender Planting at Hillcrest Hall for Bee Campus USA certification.
Students, faculty, and staff worked together to plant lavender behind Hillcrest Hall to make the area more pollinator friendly. Photo by Sarah Myers for Virginia Tech.

For the first time, Virginia Tech earned the Bee Campus USA certification for commitment to sustaining native insect pollinators, a designation that further cements the university’s Climate Action Commitment to create a green and sustainable campus. The initiative is sponsored by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

“Over the next few years, our committee will work toward designing and implementing projects and education opportunities that will help make our world more bee-friendly,” said Margaret Couvillon, assistant professor of pollinator biology in the Department of Entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who serves as chair of the committee that organized the certification.

Bee Campus USA certification requirements serve as a guideline for affiliated campuses such as Virginia Tech to increase their commitment to preserving these native pollinators. This is achieved through a long-term plan to increase native plant habitat, provide pollinator nesting sites, reduce pesticide use on campus, and develop pollinator conservation education and outreach opportunities for the campus community.

“This is another recognition of our efforts in the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities and across the university to advance campus sustainability,” said Matt Gart, grounds manager. “To support pollinators on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus, we consciously select mostly native plants and shrubs that require minimal maintenance and pesticides. We also allow perimeters of campus – such as the area beyond the grass shoulders along Southgate Drive to Route 460 – to grow as a meadow with infrequent mowing.”

Pollinators are responsible for the reproduction of at least 85 percent of the world’s flowering plants. A third of all food humans eat comes from plants that rely on pollinators, with native insect pollinators contributing a large portion of this pollination. In the United States, native pollinators contribute to the yearly reproduction of an estimated $3 billion worth of crops.

Unfortunately, research shows these native insect pollinator populations are declining worldwide, due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. Global efforts are needed to preserve these insects and ensure farms are still able to produce the crops the world needs.

The Virginia Tech Bee Campus Standing Committee is composed of 17 dedicated and enthusiastic students, faculty, and staff from many different disciplines across campus.

“I’ve never seen a program get up and running as fast as Bee Campus at Virginia Tech. In less than a full academic year, we were able to get accepted as a Bee Campus affiliate. We could not have done it without the support and excitement from all of the students who have gotten involved along the way,” said Emily Vollmer, the sustainability coordinator in the Office of Sustainability, which is part of the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities and a driving force behind Virginia Tech’s Bee Campus USA certification. 

The Virginia Tech Bee Campus USA Committee
The Virginia Tech Bee Campus Standing Committee. Photo by Sarah Myers for Virginia Tech.

This certification also works toward fulfilling aspects of the 2020 Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment. The commitment seeks to achieve carbon neutrality by changing the university’s physical infrastructure, collective and individual behaviors, and educational mission. By becoming affiliated with Bee Campus USA, Virginia Tech will work closer to reaching Goals 6 and 10 of the Climate Action Commitment.

Goal 6 seeks to ensure that Virginia Tech’s agricultural, forestry, and land use operations will be carbon neutral by 2030. Reducing the use of carbon-emitting pesticide treatments will help contribute to this goal.

James Wilson, collegiate assistant professor and Extension apiculturist in the Department of Entomology, is the pollinator protection and Integrated Pest Management Team leader. His team’s responsibility is to use cutting-edge research to reduce pesticide use focusing on reducing pesticide applications that are most harmful to pollinators. By focusing instead on integrated pest management programs, pesticide applicators will make informed decisions about the most efficient methods for pesticide application, reducing harm to both our environment and pollinator populations.

Goal 10 of the Climate Action Commitment seeks to integrate the commitment into Virginia Tech’s educational mission by way of the Climate Action Living Laboratory. This utilizes the university’s beautiful campus and surrounding area to teach students about climate action initiatives and the importance of preserving our environment. Through pollinator conservation education and outreach, the Bee Campus USA program will raise awareness, involve students in service learning projects, enhance the campus green spaces, and create better habitats for native pollinators. All of these educational and outreach opportunities can only take place in a living laboratory setting.

Vollmer is leading many of these service learning projects, and she places a strong emphasis on student engagement in Bee Campus USA projects.

“The Bee Campus program provides an opportunity for students to get involved with sustainability on campus in a way that works for them. Students are welcome to serve on our committee and develop plans for reducing pesticide use, identify areas for new pollinator habitat, or inventory our current pollinator habitats around campus. They can attend our service learning events throughout the year, or they can simply follow us on social media to get the latest news on our Bee Campus efforts.” Vollmer said.

Virginia Tech Pollinator Walk through Hahn Garden for Bee Campus USA
Emily Vollmer speaks at a pollinator walk through Hahn Horticulture Garden. Photo by Sarah Myers for Virginia Tech.

This program has already created a buzz around campus.

In early spring, the committee led a lavender planting behind Hillcrest Hall, which turned a grassy area into a pollinator-friendly garden. Its members also led an educational pollinator walkthrough of Hahn Horticulture Garden, where Couvillon and members of her lab educated attendees about pollinators and plants beneficial to them. Her lab’s research will continue to help inform the committee on the best practices to promote pollinator health and create flourishing gardens for them.

“The importance of Bee Campus is making a long-term commitment with a long-term vision to ultimately create a sustainable habitat for pollinators. But most importantly it brings Hokies together around the shared cause of working to conserve insect pollinators,” Couvillon said.

Looking ahead, there will be three additional student-proposed pollinator gardens planted on the Blacksburg campus, funded through the Office of Sustainability’s Green RFP Program.

To keep up with all the latest about Virginia Tech’s Bee Campus USA affiliation check out our Bee Campus InstagramTwitter, and website.

Virginia Tech has also been a part of Tree Campus USA for 14 years

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Winter Honey Bees Show Resistance to a Common Insecticide

USDA Agricultural Research Service sent this bulletin at 06/21/2022 09:45 AM EDT

View as a webpageARS News ServiceARS News ServiceHoney bees in large cages.
Honey bees feed on imidacloprid during a cage experiment. (Photo by Mohamed Alburaki, ARS)Winter Honey Bees Show Resistance to a Common InsecticideFor media inquiries contact: Jessica Ryan
June 21, 2022Winter honey bees, compared to newly emerged summer bees, have a better ability to withstand the harmful effects of a widely-used insecticide in pest management, according to a recent study published in Apidologie.United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service (ARS) researchers from the Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, found winter honey bees’ consumption of a nearly lethal, imidacloprid-laced syrup did not affect their survival during the study.Imidacloprid is an insecticide made to mimic nicotine and is toxic to insects. This powerful insecticide is widely used in agriculture for pest management control. Honey bees are likely to encounter imidacloprid while foraging in the field or through contaminated hive products.”Although imidacloprid toxicity to honey bees is an important concern for beekeepers, our results provide good news,” said Miguel Corona and Mohamed Alburaki, researchers at the ARS Bee Research Laboratory. “Our research shows that winter honey bees have unrecognized physiological mechanisms to counteract the effects of insecticides.”The study assessed differences in diet behaviors for summer and winter honey bees in a controlled laboratory setting. Researchers provided sublethal doses of the imidacloprid-laced syrup to bees as necessary. Winter bees showed a preference to consuming imidacloprid-laced syrup over untreated sugar syrup while summer honey bees made the safe choice and avoided consuming the laced syrup each time.According to Corona, it is important to study the differences of summer and winter honey bees’ diets.  Honey bee colonies survive extreme seasonal differences in temperature and forage by producing two seasonal phenotypes of workers: summer and winter bees. These seasonal phenotypes differ significantly in their psychological characteristics as well as their susceptibility to disease and ability to handle poisonous substances.”Winter bees and summer bees undergo physiological changes to cope with drastic seasonal changes in temperature and the availability of nutritional resources,” said Corona and Alburaki. “Our results suggest that long-lived winter bees are especially well-adapted to tolerate higher levels of chemical stressors.”Corona said that although the study’s results show that winter bees could tolerate more intoxication by imidacloprid, they are still susceptible to higher concentrations of this insecticide in field settings.The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $17 of economic impact.Interested in reading more about ARS research? Visit our news archiveU.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
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Site logo image Entomology Today posted: ” By Laura Kraft, Ph.D. As gardeners become more interested in seeking out pollinator-friendly plants, the horticulture industry has a growing need to reliably measure and label plants for their ability to attract bees, butterflies, flies, and ot” Entomology Today What’s the Best Way to Measure Pollinator Attractiveness of Cultivated Flower Varieties? Entomology Today Jun 8 What makes a flower worthy of “pollinator friendly” status? And how is that measured? A new study makes strides toward a more standardized and scalable approach for measuring plants’ pollinator attractiveness. Read more of this post   Comment   Unsubscribe to no longer receive posts from Entomology Today.
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‘Honeybees are not endangered and are doing just fine’: Xerces Society says it’s time to end public confusion, refocus on native species

Avery Hurt | Discover | May 2, 2022

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Credit: Deborah Shapiro
Credit: Deborah Shapiro

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation. It is posted under Fair Use guidelines.

When Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurred around 2006 and entire colonies of honeybees died, experts and the public alike were justifiably alarmed. The campaign to “save the honeybees” somehow got entangled in our minds with “save the pollinators” and “save the planet.”

It was a misunderstanding. Yes, beekeepers are still struggling, and healthy honeybees are important, especially for commercial agriculture. But honeybees are not endangered.

In fact, there are more honeybees on the planet now than there ever have been. And that, is because we manage them, says Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, an international nonprofit focused on invertebrate conservation.

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Experts may not consider honeybees endangered, but plenty of native bees are. And this means the plants that depend on them for pollination are endangered as well, putting entire ecosystems at risk. Black points out that there are at least 3,600 species of wild bees in North America, and those animals are in serious decline, many of them in danger of extinction.

He adds that this has gotten confusing for people. Some heard about declines in honeybees and kept hives thinking they were helping to save the bees, but Black likens that to raising chickens to save birds.

This is an excerpt. Read the original post here

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These flowers lure pollinators to their deaths. There’s a new twist on how

Two species of jack-in-the-pulpits may use sex scents to lure male fungus gnats

images of A. angustatum, left, and A. peninsulae, right
These two jack-in-the-pulpit Arisaema species may fake out their male gnat pollinators by wafting scents of gnat sex, but the plants (A. angustatum, left, and A. peninsulae, right) are dangerous places for their tiny visitors.K. SUETSUGU/PLANTS, PEOPLE, PLANET 2022

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By Susan Milius

APRIL 19, 2022 AT 9:00 AM

Fake — and fatal — invitations to romance could be the newest bit of trickery uncovered among some jack-in-the-pulpit wildflowers.

The fatal part isn’t the surprise. Jack-in-the-pulpits (Arisaema) are the only plants known to kill their own insect pollinators as a matter of routine, says evolutionary ecologist Kenji Suetsugu of Kobe University in Japan. The new twist, if confirmed, would be using sexual deception to woo pollinators into the death traps.

Until now, biologists have found only three plant families with any species that pretend to offer sex to insects, Suetsugu says online March 28 in Plants, People, Planet. But unlike deceit in jack-in-the-pulpits, those other attractions aren’t fatal, just phony.

The orchid family has turned out multiple cheats, some so seductive that a male insect leaves wasted sperm as well as pollen on a flower. Yet he doesn’t get even a sip of nectar (SN: 3/5/08; SN: 3/27/08). Similar scams have turned up among daisies: A few dark bumps that a human in bad light might mistake for an insect can drive male flies to frenzies on the yellow, orange or red Gorteria petals. Enthusiasm wanes with repeated disappointment though (SN: 1/29/14). And among irises, a species dangles velvety purple petals where deluded insects wallow.

Ophrys speculum, Gorteria diffusa, Iris paradoxa
Until now, luring pollinators with false offers of insect sex has turned up in only three plant families. Hundreds of orchids cheat (including Ophrys speculum, left). So does a daisy with alluring insect-like petal bumps (Gorteria diffusa, middle) and an iris (Iris paradoxa, right) with some dark dangling petals.STEVEN JOHNSON (DAISY) AND JORUN THARALDSEN (ORCHID, IRIS) FROM D.C.J. WONG, J. PERKINS AND R. PEAKALL/FRONTIERS IN PLANT SCIENCE 2022

Two jack-in-the-pulpit species in Japan have now raised suspicions that their family, the arums, should be added to the list of sexual cheats. To visually oriented humans, the 180 or so Arisaema species look like just a merry reminder of evolution’s endless weirdness. Some kind of flappy canopy, sometimes striped, bends over a little cupped “pulpit” with a pinkie-tip stub or mushroom bulge of plant flesh peeping over the rim. Below the rim, swaths of flowers open in succession — male blooms overtaken by flowers with female parts — as the plant grows from slim young jack to big mama.

These oddball flowers depend mostly on pollinators that deserve a much bigger fan base: fungus gnats. These gnats, small as punctuation marks and hard to identify, are true flies. But don’t hold that against them. They don’t stalk picnic spreads or buzz-thump against windows. Pollinating gnats “are very frail,” Suetsugu says, and their wings make no noise a human can hear.

Nor can a human always smell what draws fungus gnats. It’s clear, though, that the varied canopied pulpits can have a strong happy hour lure for those cruising pollinators looking to meet the right gnat. This will go terribly wrong.

A tiny escape hatch deep in the trap stays open during the male phase of flowering, but that two-millimeter hole vanishes during the big mama stage. A gnat can’t overcome the slippery, flaking wax of the plant’s inner wall to climb out.  So any gnat tricked twice is doomed.

Biologists had assumed that jack-in-the-pulpits seeking fungus gnats were perfuming the air with mushroomy, nice-place-to-have-kids scents. Many kinds seem to do so, but homey smells don’t explain an odd observation by Suetsugu and his colleagues. Of the important pollinator species for two Japanese jack-in-the-pulpits (A. angustatum and A. peninsulae), almost all the specks found in the traps were males.

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An odor lure targeting males might mimic a come-hither scent of female gnats, the researchers propose. That’s outright fraud. Even if the hopeful males find a mate in the waxy green dungeon, they and their offspring would starve. They’re stuck in a plant with no fungus to eat. Whatever that ruinous scent is, a human nose can barely detect it, Suetsugu reports.

The notion that biologists have so far overlooked a scent important to other animals seems “more than possible” to Kelsey J.R.P. Byers of the John Innes Centre in Norwich, England. Byers’ work overturned a common assumption that monkeyflowers (Mimulus) had no scent even though hawkmoths, flying at night and known to track odors, visit the flowers.

“We’re such visual creatures,” says Byers, who studies floral scents. We can laugh at how insects mistake some off-color blob of plant tissue for a fabulous female, but we’re missing the odors. Fungus gnats, however, even look like the citizens of a smellier world, with giant guy-style antennae “like an ostrich plume on a hat.”

At least now, modern analytical lab techniques and equipment are opening up the vast sensory world of communication wafting around us. To see if even familiar plants like jack-in-the-pulpits are up to something odd, scientists need to identify the lure itself. Then maybe we’ll understand the irresistible valentine scent of a female fungus gnat.

Questions or comments on this article? E-mail us at feedback@sciencenews.org

CITATIONS

K. Suetsugu.  Arisaema: Pollination by lethal attractionPlants, Planet, People. Published online March 28, 2022. doi: 10.1002/ppp3.10261.

Susan Milius

About Susan Milius

Susan Milius is the life sciences writer, covering organismal biology and evolution, and has a special passion for plants, fungi and invertebrates. She studied biology and English literature.

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Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Talk to shed light on new mite threat

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The Tropilaelaps mite remains offshore, to the relief of beekeepers as they struggle with...

The Tropilaelaps mite remains offshore, to the relief of beekeepers as they struggle with increasing varroa infestations. PHOTO: TIM CRONSHAW

Beekeepers are starting to get edgy about another mite that pairs up overseas with varroa to become a twin pest.

They will learn more about the Tropilaelaps mite when keynote speaker Dr Sammy Ramsey reveals his latest research at the Apiculture New Zealand Conference in Christchurch in June.

The United States academic raised the pest problem in his last visit in 2019, but more has been learned about its interplay with varroa mites.

Varroa is a growing concern among beekeepers. A national survey by the beekeeping industry and Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has revealed that nearly 14% of the country’s bee hives were lost last winter, with nearly 40% of those victims of varroa infestations.

The Tropilaelaps mite’s preference for hot climates could work in the favour of New Zealand beekeepers, but it is in Papua New Guinea now — and too close for comfort to the Australian border.

Dr Ramsey is researching the varroa and tropilaelaps mites in Thailand.

He has found they have a complex interplay when they are in the same colony at the same time. Scientists had thought that varroa and tropilaelaps “didn’t play nicely”, but his data shows this is not always the case.

They can reproduce in the same colonies, and in the same cells, and their impact is amplified when they are together.

Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos said varroa was the number one issue for winter losses among beekeepers, but they were always interested in overseas findings about new pests and diseases.

“Beekeepers became more aware of the tropilaelaps mite after Sammy’s presentation in 2019, and I guess it would be fair to say it hasn’t come to the country and it’s probably not warm enough yet here, but that could change with climate change.”

Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos says top overseas speakers will reveal the...

Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos says top overseas speakers will reveal the latest science on bee pest problems at the industry’s conference. PHOTO: APICULTURE NEW ZEALAND

She said a more pressing concern was the small hive mite, which was in Australia, and MPI was looking at ways that beekeepers could be part of its surveillance programme.

The other keynote speaker is another leading US researcher, Dr Jamie Ellis, who will also talk about bee predators and encourage beekeepers to address queen events.

He has found that beekeepers are slow to adopt many strains of bees in the US that are resistant to varroa. These traits are lost quickly if only 10%of beekeepers invest in varroa-resistant queen stock, and industry change was needed.

Hundreds of beekeepers, honey producers and others from across the apiculture industry are expected to attend the two-day conference and trade exhibition.

Mental health advocate and television personality Mike King will also be sharing his advice for getting through difficult times as beekeepers grapple with varroa and market changes.

Ms Kos said beekeepers had gone through a tough spell, with orders having eased after two record years of honey exports, and prices having dropped as particularly manuka production had outstripped demand.

“There is quite a lot of honey in sheds and the problem hasn’t gone away. The health and wellness [factor of honey] is huge around the world and that’s a positive for the industry, but the reality is we have to find more markets.”

She said beekeeping was an isolated profession and the conference would help bring beekeepers together as well as reveal the latest research and science.

This tied in with the conference theme of sharing knowledge and sharing the load for a better future, she said.

tim.cronshaw@alliedpress.co.nz

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Thursday, 07 April 2022 20:18:00

Grahame Jackson posted a new submission ‘ARS-Developed Varroa-Resistant Honey Bees Better Winter Survivors’

Submission

ARS-Developed Varroa-Resistant Honey Bees Better Winter Survivors

USDA-ARS

For media inquiries contact: Kim Kaplan, 301-588-5314

Baton Rouge, La., April 7, 2022—Pol-line honey bees, a type of , are more than twice as likely to survive through the winter than standard honey bees, according to a study published in Scientific Reports at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-08643-w

Although ARS developed Pol-line bees in 2014, this study was the first time that they were tested head-to-head alongside standard honey bee stock in commercial apiaries providing pollination services and producing honey. Colonies’ ability to survive winter without being treated to control Varroa mites was followed in four states: Mississippi, California, and North and South Dakota.

In this study, Pol-line colonies that were given no treatment to control Varroa mites in the fall had a survival rate of 62.5 percent compared to standard bees colonies in commercial apiaries also given no fall Varroa treatment, which had a winter survival rate of 3 percent.

When Pol-line colonies and standard colonies were treated against Varroa mites in both fall and December, Pol-line bees had a winter survival rate of 72 percent while standard bees had a survival rate of 56 percent. So, Pol-line bees still had a better winter survival rate regardless of receiving double Varroa mite treatment.

“These survival results continue to highlight the importance of beekeepers needing to manage Varroa infestations. The ability to have high colony survival with reduced or no Varroa treatments can allow beekeepers to save money and time,” said research molecular biologist Michael Simone-Finstrom, co-leader of the study with research entomologist Frank Rinkevich, both with the ARS Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Research Laboratory in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

This research was the culmination of breeding efforts to develop honey bee colonies with naturally low Varroa populations that began at the Baton Rouge lab in the late 1990s.

Winter colony survival is crucial for beekeepers because in February each year, about 2.5 million honey bee colonies are needed in California to pollinate almond crops. Larger, healthier colonies bring beekeepers premium pollination contracts at about $220 a colony.

Varroa mites can cause massive colony losses; they are the single largest problem facing beekeepers since they spread to the United States from Southeast Asia in 1987. While miticides used to control Varroa exist, resistance is developing to some of them.

“We would like to replace reliance on chemical controls with honey bees like Pol-line that have high mite resistance of their own and perform well, including high honey production, in commercial beekeeping operations. Pol-line’s high mite resistance is based on their behavior for removing Varroa by expelling infested pupae—where Varroa mites reproduce—a trait called Varroa-sensitive hygiene (VSH),” said Rinkevich.

“Beyond Pol-line bees, we need to create advanced and easy breeding selection tools that beekeepers can use to select resistance traits in their own bees to promote VSH behavior in honey bees across the country,” Simone-Finstrom said. “The great thing about this particular trait is that we’ve learned honey bees of all types express it at some level, so we know with the right tools, it can be promoted and selected in everyone’s bees.”

Evolutionary ecologist Thomas O’Shea-Wheller, now with the University of Exeter in England, who worked on the study while a post-doc with Louisiana State University under professor Kristen Healy pointed out, “This kind of resistance provides a natural and sustainable solution to the threat posed by Varroa mites. It does not rely on chemicals or human intervention.”

In addition, overall winter survival, the scientists examined the levels of viruses in Pol-line and standard bee colonies that are commonly transmitted by varroa mites.

The Pol-line colonies showed significantly lower levels of three major viruses: Deformed wing virus A, Deformed wing virus B and Chronic bee paralysis virus, all of which can cause significant problems for colonies.

“Interestingly, when we looked at the levels of virus infection separately from the levels of mite infestation, we found there wasn’t a strong correlation between viral loads and colony survival. You could not use the level of these viruses as good predictors of colony losses,” Simone-Finstrom said.

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $17 of economic impact.


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Bees deliver anti-botrytis booster

System using bees to ‘immunise’ strawberries from botrytis to be introduced in UK at online ‘Feel the Buzz’ event

Bees deliver anti-botrytis booster

A bumblebee carrying the BVT all-natural plant protection product directly to a bloom (credit: BVT)

Fresh Produce Journal

  • An innovative bee delivery system that builds up the natural immunity of plants to various fungal diseases, including Botrytis, a global threat to fresh fruit and vegetables, is to be introduced to the UK at an online Agri-TechE event ‘Feel the Buzz’ on 26 April 2022.
  • Canadian company Bee Vectoring Technology (BVT) uses commercially reared bumblebees to deliver a beneficial fungus that boosts the plants immune system, increasing its resilience to botrytis. A tiny amount, just one teaspoon an acre of active ingredient, is delivered directly to the flowers of strawberries while they are being pollinated by the bumblebees, which protects them from infection.

Botrytis can have a devasting impact on the yield of strawberries and other crops. It enters the plant through its flowers or wounds and lays dormant until the conditions are moist, or the plant is weakened. The grey mould spreads quickly in warm damp conditions, so undercover crops are particularly vulnerable.

Ashish Malik, chief executive officer (CEO) of BVT, will talk about this innovative system at Agri-TechE’s Feel the Buzz online event. Previously the VP of global marketing for biologics at Bayer CropScience, where he was responsible for advancing its strategy to develop integrated crop solutions that include biological products together with traditional chemical products, Malik sees potential for the bee vectors to deliver a range of products.

He said: “Bee Vectoring is an innovative all-natural system which helps produce a better berry crop – including higher yields, and better shelf life – all without the use of chemicals. The application of the plant protection product using bees does not use water, and does not require heavy machinery, so no fossil fuels are used either.  It is a breakthrough, environmental system which is giving excellent results.”

The BVT uses both honeybees and bumblebees, with the former optimised for open fields, whilst the latter tend to be a better option indoors and for certain outdoor crops. Bumblebees can carry more powder, fly in colder temperatures, require no maintenance and have hives that last longer (6-10 weeks, their natural life cycle).

Commenting on the technology, Dr Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-TechE, said: “Insects perform a range of services as pollinators and natural predators. There is much discussion of falling numbers, but we are reviewing technologies such as AI and acoustics that can enhance their effectiveness and utility whilst discussing ways that producers can overcome the shortage.”

Ashish Malik will be speaking alongside Tasha Tucker, CEO of Olombria, and Casey Woodward, CEO of AgriSound, Eric Hewitson, BDM of Wyld Networks, and Richard Rogers, Principal Scientist at Bayer, at the Agri-TechE event ‘Feel the Buzz’ on Tuesday 26 April, online. The discussion will include how to encourage pollinators, enhance their efficiency, and even harness them to do additional jobs.
 

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