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Honey bees have 30 percent better Eyesight than previously recorded: Study

The findings suggest that honey bees can spot a potential predator, and thus escape, far earlier than what we thought previously

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Sydney April 7, 2017: Honey bees have 30 per cent better eyesight than has been previously recorded, suggest results of “eye tests” given to the flying insects.

The findings suggest that they can spot a potential predator, and thus escape, far earlier than what we thought previously.

The researchers believe that the results, published in the journal Scientific Reports, could provide insights into the lives of honey bees, and new opportunities for translating this knowledge into fields such as robot vision.

“We’ve shown that the honey bee has higher visual acuity than previously reported. They can resolve finer details than we originally thought,” said one of the researches Steven Wiederman from Adelaide Medical School, University of Adelaide in Australia.

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“Importantly, these findings could also be useful in our work on designing bio-inspired robotics and robot vision, and for basic research on bee biology,” he added.

The researchers set out to answer two specific questions: first, what is the smallest well-defined object that a bee can see? (its object resolution); and second, how far away can a bee see an object, even if it cannot see that object clearly? (maximum detectability limit).

To do so, the researchers took electrophysiological recordings of the neural responses occurring in single photoreceptors in a bee’s eyes.

The photoreceptors are detectors of light in the retina, and each time an object passes into the field of vision, it registers a neural response.

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“We found that in the frontal part of the eye, where the resolution is maximised, honey bees can clearly see objects that are as small as 1.9 degree — that’s approximately the width of your thumb when you stretch your arm out in front of you,” Elisa Rigosi from Lund University in Sweden said.

This is 30 per cent better eyesight than has been previously recorded, she said.

“In terms of the smallest object a bee can detect, but not clearly, this works out to be about 0.6 degree — that’s one third of your thumb width at arm’s length,” Rigosi said.

“These new results suggest that bees have the chance to see a potential predator, and thus escape, far earlier than what we thought previously, or perceive landmarks in the environment better than we expected, which is useful for navigation and thus for survival,” she added.

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This research offers new and useful information about insect vision more broadly as well as for honey bees, Wiederman said. (IANS)

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Honeybees Finding It Harder to Eat at America’s Bee Hot Spot

The conservation lands of the Northern Great Plains were a go-to spot

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FILE - Volunteers check honeybee hives in Mason, Ohio, May 27, 2015.
FILE - Volunteers check honeybee hives in Mason, Ohio, May 27, 2015. (VOA)

Bees are having a much harder time finding food in the region known as America’s last honeybee refuge, a new federal study found.

The country’s hot spot for commercial beekeeping is the Northern Great Plains of the Dakotas and neighboring areas, where more 1 million colonies spend their summer feasting on pollen and nectar from nearby wildflowers and other plants.

But from 2006 to 2016, more than half the conservation land within a mile of bee colonies was converted into agriculture, usually row crops such as soybeans and corn, said the study’s lead author Clint Otto of the U.S. Geological Survey. Those crops hold no food for bees.

For more than a decade, bees and other pollinators in America have been dwindling in numbers because of a variety of problems, including poor nutrition, pesticides, parasites and disease. And outside experts said this study highlights another problem that affects the health of bees.

This area — which Otto called “America’s last honeybee refuge” — lost about 629 square miles (1,630 square kilometers) of prime bee habitat, according to the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

And bees that have a hard time finding food are less likely to survive the winter, Otto said. They may not be hungry, he said, but they aren’t healthy either.

John Miller, in his 49th year as a North Dakota commercial beekeeper, said the Dakotas and Minnesota were once the last best place for bees.

“Now they are the least worst,” he said.

FILE - A honeybee packs pollen from this almond tree blossom before returning to her hive.
FILE – A honeybee packs pollen from this almond tree blossom before returning to her hive. (VOA)

Miller, whose business was started in 1894 by his great-grandfather, has watched the average colony honey production drop from 120 pounds per hive 30 years ago to about 50 pounds now. But the price has gone up five-fold, and beekeepers like Miller are getting paid to truck their bees to California to pollinate crops there, mostly almonds.

The federal government pays farmers to keep some land wild and that benefits bees that feast on grasslands, flowers and weeds, Otto said. But the conservation program has a cap on how much land it will pay for — and during the ethanol boom, farmers found they could make more money in corn and soybeans.

“Commercial beekeepers are scrambling to try to find places to take their bees when they are not in a crop requiring pollination,” U.S. Department of Agriculture bee researcher Diana Cox-Foster, who was not part of the study, said in an email.

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“The conservation lands of the Northern Great Plains were a go-to spot,” she wrote.

More than one-third of America’s commercial colonies spend summer in the Northern Great Plains. The area east of the Dakotas is too developed, and the weather to the west is too dry, Otto said.

Bees are crucial pollinators for more than 90 percent of the nation’s flowering crops, including apples, nuts, avocados, broccoli, peaches, blueberries and cherries.

“Without honeybees,” Otto said, “our dinner plate looks a lot less colorful.” (VOA)