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Research & Technology

Original contributions from Beekeeping Times members.

Serotonin Helps Honey Bees Avoid Toxic Nectars - Newscastle University Study

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Chennai, December 25, 2010: European Commission's CORDIS - Community Research and Development Information Service - report in the News: "Beekeepers have long recognised that honeybees may be susceptible to some natural plant toxins. Now scientists with the Honeybee Lab at Newcastle University in the UK have shown for the first time that serotonin - a neurochemical - plays a role in how honey bees can learn to avoid nectar containing toxins."

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Honey Bees Help Researchers Develop an Autopilot to Guide Aircraft

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Chennai, December 4, 2010: Soccol et al. of the Biorobotics Laboratory, Queensland Brain Institute, Brisbane, say in their paper1: "There is growing evidence that flying insects use optic flow cues to regulate flight speed, to estimate and control height above ground, to guide landing, and to avoid obstacles. There is also considerable interest in incorporating this principle to guidance of aircraft." In a public release news dated August 12, 2009 the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences disclosed that its researchers were involved in development of innovative technologies based on nature-inspired "smart" sensors to manage machines (see news report in this site here). They envisioned that the nature-inspired research could lead to a greater understanding of how to artificially mimic the collective behavior and "intelligence" of a bee colony; foster novel methods for designing and building an electronic surrogate nervous system able to deftly sense and adapt to changing environments; and advance work on small-scale flying mechanical devices.

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Nosema ceranae Infects Several Apis Species

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Chennai, November 15, 2010: Nosema ceranae is now well-known for its role in the colony collapse disorder in Apis mellifera. The parasite, a microsporidian, was first described in 1996 infecting A. cerana bees around Beijing, China. It was identified in 2004 as a parasite in A. mellifera colonies from Spain. It was soon found in several geographically separated honey bee populations in Europe, South and North America, Australia and in Asia. This rapid spread is considered likely due to increasing levels of international trade involving infected material, transport of infected bee colonies across different geographical regions, or, as is reported in a recent paper4, even by the European bee eaters that feed on foraging worker bees.

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Defensin-1 Added by Bees in Honey Kills Bacteria - Study by Amsterdam Researchers

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Chennai, November 7, 2010: A team of researchers from the University of Amsterdam and the Vrije Universiteit Medical Center, Amsterdam discovered in their study to characterize all bactericidal factors in honey, bee defensin-1 that is responsible for killing all bacteria tested by the team, including Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterococcus faecium. The results of this study are published1 in the July 2010 issue of the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). Following is the public release dated June 30, 2010 by EurekAlert on this discovery.

Reference cited:

1. Kwakman, P.H.S., te Velde, A.A., de Boer, L., Speijer, D., Vandenbroucke-Grauls, C.M.J.E., and Zaat, S.A.J. 2010. How honey kills bacteria. FASEB Journal 24 (7): 2576 - 2582. doi:10.1096/fj.09-150789

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Bumblebees Solve 'Travelling Salesman Problem' For Efficient Foraging - University of London Study

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Chennai, October 30, 2010: Bees are known to process information in a cost and time efficient manner, in spite of their brain being several times smaller than the human brain (see report "Bees Perceive Flower Colours at Super Speeds" dated March 17, 2010 in this site).Bumblebee visiting Lavender bloom Researchers at the Queen Mary, University of London and Royal Holloway, University of London have now found in their study of the foraging behaviour of bumblebees, Bombus terrestris, that the bees are capable of optimizing their flight distances that results in an efficient energy saving navigational strategy. Explaining this, Dr. Nigel Raine, lead scientist of the study at Royal Holloway University of London, says (see BBC news dated September 22, 2010): "They visit flowers at multiple locations and, because flight is energetically expensive, they will tend to link up the sequence in which they visit flowers to minimise the search times or the distances they fly." The findings of the study are being published1 in the forthcoming issue of the American Naturalist. Following is the relevant news on this research, issued on October 25, 2010 by the Media Centre of Queen Mary, University of London.

Reference cited:

1. Lihoreau, M., Chittka, L., and Raine, N.E. 2010. Travel optimization by foraging bumblebees through readjustments of traplines after discovery of new feeding locations. The American Naturalist 176. doi: 10.1086/657042

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