Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Wondering about state of the environment? Just eavesdrop on bees

Date:
May 22, 2014
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Want a simple way to monitor wide swaths of the landscape without breaking a sweat? Listen in on the 'conversations' honeybees have with each other, researchers suggest. The scientists' analyses of honeybee waggle dances suggest that costly measures to set aside agricultural lands and let the wildflowers grow can be very beneficial to bees.

This is an image of dancing bees.
Credit: Dr. Roger Schürch

Researchers have devised a simple way to monitor wide swaths of the landscape without breaking a sweat: by listening in on the "conversations" honeybees have with each other. The scientists' analyses of honeybee waggle dances reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 22 suggest that costly measures to set aside agricultural lands and let the wildflowers grow can be very beneficial to bees.

Related Articles


"In the past two decades, the European Union has spent €41 billion on agri-environment schemes, which aim to improve the rural landscape health and are required for all EU-member states," says Margaret Couvillon of the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex. "However, there is little evidence evaluating these schemes. Our work uses a novel source of data -- the honeybee, an organism that itself can benefit from a healthy rural landscape -- to evaluate not only the environment, but also the schemes used to manage that environment."

Couvillon and her colleagues, led by Francis Ratnieks, recorded and decoded the waggle dances of bees in three hives over a two-year period. Bees dance to tell their fellow bees where to find the good stuff: the best nectar and pollen. The angle of their dances conveys information about the direction of resources while the duration conveys distance. Researchers can measure those dance characteristics in a matter of minutes with a protractor and timer.

In all, the researchers "eavesdropped" on 5,484 dances to find that the best forage within the 94 km2 of mixed urban-rural landscape included in the study -- as far as bees and, by extension, other insect pollinators are concerned -- is a place called Castle Hill, which happened to be the only National Nature Reserve in the area. More broadly, High Level agri-environment schemes were the best places for bees.

The researchers were surprised to find that Organic Entry Level agri-environment schemes were the least frequented by bees. According to Couvillon, it may be that the regular mowing required initially to discourage certain plants from growing in those plots might leave few wildflowers for bees.

The study shows that honeybees can serve as bioindicators to monitor large land areas and provide information relevant to better environmental management, the researchers say. It also gives new meaning to the term "worker bee."

"Imagine the time, manpower, and cost to survey such an area on foot -- to monitor nectar sources for quality and quantity of production, to count the number of other flower-visiting insects to account for competition, and then to do this over and over for two foraging years," Couvillon says. "Instead, we have let the honeybees do the hard work of surveying the landscape and integrating all relevant costs and then providing, through their dance communication, this biologically relevant information about landscape quality."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Margaret J. Couvillon, Roger Schürch, Francis L.W. Ratnieks. Dancing Bees Communicate a Foraging Preference for Rural Lands in High-Level Agri-Environment Schemes. Current Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.03.072

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Wondering about state of the environment? Just eavesdrop on bees." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140522123453.htm>.
Cell Press. (2014, May 22). Wondering about state of the environment? Just eavesdrop on bees. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140522123453.htm
Cell Press. "Wondering about state of the environment? Just eavesdrop on bees." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140522123453.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) — In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) — Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) — A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) — The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins