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Honey Bees Manage to Stay Cool Even in Hot Summer Days- Study

For the study, the researchers monitored a group of man-made beehives in Harvard University's Concord Field Station.

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Honey bee, beehives
Honey bees live in large, congested cavities, often in tree hollows with narrow openings. Pixabay

Honey bees live in large, congested cavities, often in tree hollows with narrow openings. But thanks to their ventilation strategy they know how to stay cool on hot summer days, says a study by Harvard researchers.

When it gets hot inside the hive, a group of bees crawl to the entrance and use their wings as fans to draw hot air out and allow cooler air to move in, said the study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

The researchers found that bees use environmental signals to collectively cluster and continuously ventilate the hive.

“We have demonstrated that bees don’t need a sophisticated recruitment or communications scheme to keep their nests cool,” said first author of the paper Jacob Peters from Harvard University.

Honey bee, beehives
A combination of measurements and computational models quantify and explain how fanning bees create an emergent large-scale flow pattern to ventilate their nests. Pixabay

“Instead the fanning response of individual bees to temperature variations, and the physics of fluid flow leads to their collective spatial organisation, which happens to lead to an efficient cooling solution,” Peters added.

For the study, the researchers monitored a group of man-made beehives in Harvard University’s Concord Field Station. The research team measured temperature, air flow into and out of the nest, and the position and density of bees fanning at the nest entrance.

“Over millennia, social insects such as bees have evolved to harness and exploit flows and forces and collectively solve physiological problems such as mechanical stabilisation, thermoregulation and ventilation on scales much larger than the individual,” said senior author of the study L. Mahadevan, Professor at Harvard.

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“A combination of measurements and computational models quantify and explain how fanning bees create an emergent large-scale flow pattern to ventilate their nests,” Mahadevan added. (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)