Catch the Buzz

A Stiff Breeze Is No Match For A Honey Bee Swarm

A stiff breeze is no match for a clump of honey bees, and now scientists are beginning to understand why.

When scouting out a new home, the bees tend to cluster together on tree branches or other surfaces, forming large, hanging clumps which help keep the insects safe from the elements. To keep the clump together, individual honey bees change their positions, fine-tuning the cluster’s shape based on external forces, a new study finds. That could help bees deal with such disturbances as wind shaking the branches.

A team of scientists built a movable platform with a caged queen in the center, around which honey bees clustered in a hanging bunch. When the researchers shook the platform back and forth, bees moved upward, flattening out the clump and lessening its swaying, the team reports in Nature Physics.

The insects, the scientists hypothesized, might be moving based on the strain — how much each bee is pulled apart from its neighbors as the cluster swings. So the researchers made a computer simulation of a bee cluster to determine how the bees decided where to move.

When the simulated bees were programmed to move to areas of higher strain, the simulation reproduced the observed flattening of the cluster, the researchers found. As a bee moves to a higher-strain region, the insect must bear more of the burden. So by taking one for the team, the bees ensure the clump stays intact.


New Tick Found On East Coast. Beekeepers Outside, Check Twice When Coming In!

Haemphysalis longicornis. Engorged female. Commonsource, Wikimedia Commons

An invasive tick species first identified inside the US in New Jersey last Fall has apparently survived the Winter and has now popped up in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Virginia, West Virginia, and New York. So far, the longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis), which transmits several serious illnesses in Asian countries, has not been found to carry any diseases in the US. But swarms of the arachnids have been known to suck so much blood from livestock that they cause anemia, or even kill the animals.

“The jury’s still out on how big a threat this is,” Ben Beard, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s deputy director of vector-borne diseases, tells The New York Times. “But we think it’s a very important question to address.”

The tick was first found in 2017 when a woman went to a Hunterdon County, New Jersey, public health department after she sheared a sheep and found ticks on herself. An entomologist with the department tells The Times that she turned out to be covered with more than 1,000 of the animals, which were frozen and later identified by Andrea Egizi of Rutgers University.

Trib LIVE notes that the ticks reproduce asexually, and can lay 2,000 eggs after feeding. They are very small and difficult to distinguish from other species. Pennsylvania state veterinarian David Wolfgang tells the outlet, “Scientists don’t yet know how this species will adapt to the North American climate and animal hosts, but we know it survived New Jersey’s Winter and has infested sheep and cattle in this region.”

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