Tag Archives: bees

The Remarkable Bee Brain: Why Humans and Bees May Share the Same Love for Novelty-Seeking Activities

The Remarkable Bee Brain

While we know that bees live in highly organized, efficient societies with each bee performing distinct duties in the colony in the service of the queen, researchers have come to the conclusion that some bees, like novelty-seeking humans display exploratory tendencies, indicating that some bees respond in the same way some humans do to thrill-seeking activities.

In a 2012 study published in the journal Science, University of Illinois professor and Institute for Genomic Biology director, Gene Robinson, along with a team of graduate students, discovered that humans and bees share some of the same gene activity patterns in molecular pathways related to thrill-seeking and an innate sense of adventure, formerly thought only to exist in humans and other vertebrates.

Only a few bees in a swarm exhibit the drive to find new food sources and new homes

Bee adventurers “go the extra mile” for the survival of their colonies. In bee hives, only certain bees leave hives to hunt for new food sources and to find new accommodations once populations outgrow their current hives.

These “scout” bees, all females, take the initiative to fly out and hunt for new nests at a critical point when the hive divides and swarms of bees must find new homes in order for the hive to survive. Only about 5% of the swarm feels a higher calling and researchers also found that these nest scouts were, incidentally 3.4 times more likely to become food scouts, as well.

The fact that some scout bees will fly out repeatedly to find different sources for food and will also engage in missions, in search of new lodging points to “the gold standard in personality behavior,” according to Robinson. That standard showing “the same tendencies in different contexts,” points to bees exhibiting personality traits. That one bee might be predisposed to certain exceptional behavior, while others are not, suggests that bees might, in fact, possess personalities.

Researchers studied the gene activity in bees’ brains with surprising results

In the Illinois study, researchers set out to determine “the molecular basis for these differences in honey bee behavior,” using “whole-genome microarray analysis to look for differences in the activity of thousands of genes in the brains of scouts and non-scouts.”

While Robinson said that given all bees are foragers, non-scouts and scouts alike, they expected to see some differences in gene activity in scouting and non-scouting brains, but they were surprised at the degree of differences in brain activity between the two study groups.

Researchers are trying to understand what makes human and other animals seek novelty experiences

Studying what makes humans and other animals engage in novelty-seeking behaviors, researchers are tossing around theories related to how thrill-seeking behavior is associated with the brain’s reward system, in response to certain experiences.

Robinson’s team found similarities in bees’ brains related to regulating novelty-seeking in vertebrates

Because researchers in the University of Illinois study found “many of the differentially expressed genes,” in bee brains that related to GABA signaling in humans and other vertebrates, they narrowed their focus to catecholamine, glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, as these neuro-transmitters are “involved in regulating novelty-seeking and responding to rewards in vertebrates.”

Testing their theories, Robinson and associates subjected groups of bees to these chemicals to determine whether or not changes in brain signaling caused novelty-seeking behavior in bees. The research group found that the chemicals glutamate and octopamine increased scouting behavior in previously non-scouting bees, that is to say, bees that had never scouted before. The team also concluded that when they blocked dopamine signaling, scouting behavior decreased.

Similar genetic tool kits evident in behavioral evolution of humans and other animals

Robinson said that this study showed that novelty-seeking behavior in humans, other vertebrates and now insects it appears, evolved along parallel genetic pathways.  Nature’s genetic “tool kit – the genes encoding certain molecular pathways,” may be responsible for thrill-seeking behavior in different species, each adapting their own definition of novelty-seeking behavior to their own social structures. Evidently, the same molecular pathways have been used repeatedly in the evolution to generate novelty-seeking behavior.

Bees and other stinging pests

While honeybees are essential to our survival as the globe’s most significant pollinators and do not usually attack people and pets, unless their colony is threatened, they still pose threats to human health as their venom can cause serious allergic reactions in sensitive people. Also, in recent years, feral bees that existed peacefully among ranchers and farmers, for decades are now showing aggression to people and animals, leading scientists to believe that all feral US bee populations have become Africanized.

Trust Truly Nolen

Although bee activity decreases in cooler climates, during the fall and winter, in warmer areas, bee activity continues all year long. In Southern parts of the US, bees are as common in the fall as leaves changing. Considered nuisance pests around your home or business any time of year, bees and wasps should be handled by a professional pest control company.  Truly Nolen eliminates bees and wasps on your property and offers beehive removal and other programs, such as scout traps to deter bees from settling in too close for comfort to you and your loved ones. Contact Truly Nolen to schedule a free pest inspection and to determine an appropriate plan to keep your home pest-free, throughout the year.

Bee & Wasp Control: Infrastructure of a Bee’s Nest and Why You Don’t Want to Mess with It

bee and wasp control
As backyard entertaining brings the indoors outdoors this summer, your backyard or pool deck may play host to quite a few cookouts and pool parties. But sometimes, uninvited bees or wasps can disrupt summer fun activities. Because bees and wasps pose health threats to humans and pets, Truly Nolen recommends contacting a reliable and reputable professional pest control company to address your bee and wasp concerns.

Wild bee colonies Africanized

Also, with the sudden threat to honeybee populations worldwide, the thought of relocating a bee colony to an apiary may sound like a good idea to environmentally-aware homeowners but in Modern Farmer’s interview with Reed Booth, Southern Arizona’s Killer Bee Guy, Booth said beehives and nests found under eaves, in walls, in sheds and other places on homeowners’ properties should be eradicated as most wild bee colonies in the US have become Africanized. This means that due to the interbreeding of wild European honeybees with wild Africanized honeybees, the bees are much more aggressive and will attack people and pets. Pest professionals, such as Truly Nolen, know how to remove killer bees from your property, safely.

Honeybees vital to world’s crops and food supply

As the globe’s most important plant pollinators, honeybees play a vital role in contributing to over one-third of the planet’s food sources. Pollinating US crops at an estimated 10 billion dollars’ worth annually, honeybees produce honey collected from flower nectar. Bees depend on the honey they produce from flower nectars to nourish their young and provide sustenance for adult bees. While professional honey collection by beekeepers provides us with honey, beeswax, pollen, propolis and royal jelly, beekeeping is a highly specialized enterprise, conducted by trained apiarists.

Honeybee social structure

A honeybee colony’s highly sophisticated and social structure includes individuals performing specific tasks for the ultimate good of the colony. Divided into three castes, honeybee colonies consist of one queen, 20-80 thousand infertile female worker bees and 300 to 800 fertile male drones, whose only job description appears to be mating with the queen to produce more bees. Along with the adult bees, honeybee colonies also include about 500 eggs, along with 25-30 thousand immature bees in “various stages of development,” according to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation’s website.

Inside the beehive

In familiar honeycomb-shaped nests, with their signature hexagonal shaped cells, worker bees raise the next generation of worker bees, in smaller cells at the bottom of the honeycomb. The upper, larger comb cells store pollen and honey to nourish the colony.

Sometimes nests require the construction of queen cells devoted to raising queen bees.

Worker bees

Even though they will never mate, the workers, do however “possess organs necessary for carrying out the many duties essential to the wellbeing of the colony,” says the FAO website article. Worker bees come equipped with:

  • Longer tongues than queens and drones used to extract nectar from flowers
  • Large honey stomachs for transporting nectar from plants to the hive
  • Pollen baskets on legs to carry pollen back to the hive
  • Glands in their heads that produce royal jelly to feed the larvae
  • Thorax glands that secrete enzymes needed to ripen honey
  • Four sets of wax glands for comb construction and sealing off honey cells
  • Highly developed stingers that allow them to defend the colony efficiently

Additionally, sterile female adults perform the bulk of the work in a bee colon. As immature bees, worker bees take care of the queen and the brood, performing these tasks and many duties inside the nest as house bees, including:

  • Cleaning the cells for future eggs
  • Cleaning the hive
  • Making sure the hive stays cool and ventilated for optimal honey production
  • Building comb cells for honey, water and propolis storage
  • Assisting in honey conversion
  • Packing the combs with supplies, including water, nectar and honey
  • Guarding the hive against all threats from other bees and predators
  • Performing orientation flights as training to become foraging field bees
  • Executing intruders or colony members marked as potential threats to the harmony of the hive

Executions “may be performed to eliminate strange bees, to kill or drive away old and sick bees, to discourage other hive predators from entering the hive, to remove sick or unwanted unemerged brood, to eliminate useless drones, and to kill unwanted or strange queens.”

As the FAO’s info on bees and wasps shows homeowners, bees and wasps do not play. They’re all business. The survival of a bee colony relies on delicately balancing a multitude of factors. For the good of the colony, bees and wasp will kill members of their own colonies, including their queen in order to maintain optimal hive conditions. In light of this information and observations, homeowners should steer clear and avoid attempting to remedy the problem on their own. Instead, homeowners should contact their local Truly Nolen location to schedule a free bee or wasp inspection, when bees and wasps move too close to human and pet living areas.

Entertaining outdoors can be a whole lot of fun this summer, without the threat of bees ruining your outdoor events. Contact Truly Nolen for all of your pest control concerns!

Beware of Bees While at Work in Georgia

Bee Control
A new government report from the U.S. Labor Department – entitled “Fatal injuries and nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving insects, arachnids, and mites” – reveals that bees were responsible for more workplace deaths (52) than spiders, wasps, and ants combined. Although not typically associated with workplace injuries and deaths, occupational injuries from insects, arachnids, and mites were responsible for 83 worker deaths from 2003 to 2010. The majority of these workplace deaths (63%) were due to bees.

Insect-related deaths were most commonly associated with farming, construction, and landscaping. These three types of job categories accounted for two thirds of the deaths. Almost all the deaths were caused by the bugs’ venomous bites and stings. Fatal occupational injuries involving insects are often associated with an allergic reaction and anaphylactic shock.

Federal agencies dedicated to ensuring employees’ health and safety of in the workplace – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – have each recognized insects as a serious workplace hazard. According to NIOSH, thousands of people in the U.S. are stung by insects each year and as many as 100 people die as a result of allergic reactions.

In 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available), Georgia ranked third, behind Texas and California, with 610 cases of reported nonfatal insect-related worker injuries. The pests appeared to particularly target public-sector employees – 35% of all injuries reported were state and local government workers. Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance, transportation, and construction occupations had consistently high counts of nonfatal insect-related cases. Employees in these fields are likely to deal with the natural habitat of insects.

After adjusting for population, Georgia may be the second most dangerous place for nonfatal insect-related worker injuries (behind New Mexico). In 2010, Georgia had 6.3 insect injuries of workers per 100,000 people living in the state.

Safety Tips

Outdoor workers are at risk of being stung by flying insects. Protect yourself by:

  • Wearing light-colored clothing. Avoid cologne or perfume, perfumed soaps, shampoos.
  • If there is a stinging insect flying around, remain calm and walk away as quickly as possible. Go indoors or to a shaded area. Don’t jump around or wave your arms. Swinging or swatting at an insect may cause it to sting.
  • If you can’t leave, stay very still until the insect flies away.
  • If an insect is inside your vehicle, stop slowly, and open all the windows.
  • If a bee, wasp, or hornet is after your food or drink, put down what you are eating/drinking and calmly walk away.
  • Workers with a history of severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings should carry an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen) and wear medical ID jewelry stating their allergy.

First Aid

If a worker is stung by a bee:

  • Immediately remove the stinger by scraping the area with a fingernail, credit card, or other clean sharp-edged tool.
  • Never squeeze the stinger or use tweezers, since squeezing the stinger can inject more venom into the skin.
  • Keep the site clean by washing with soap and water.
  • Apply ice to reduce the swelling and apply a topical anesthetic to reduce the pain and itch.
  • Have someone stay with the worker to be sure that they do not have an allergic reaction.
  • Seek medical attention immediately for allergic reactions.

If you suspect a bee or insect infestation, call Truly Nolen Atlanta for a free inspection.