Posts Tagged ‘bee Control.’

Tiny Brained Bees Solve a Complex Mathematical Problem

 Bumblebees can find the solution to a complex mathematical problem which keeps computers busy for days.

New research shows that bumblebees can find the solution to a complex mathematical problem which keeps computers busy for days. (Credit: iStockphoto/Alexey Kryuchkov)
 

Scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London and Queen Mary, University of London have discovered that bees learn to fly the shortest possible route between flowers even if they discover the flowers in a different order. Bees are effectively solving the ‘Travelling Salesman Problem’, and these are the first animals found to do this.

The Travelling Salesman must find the shortest route that allows him to visit all locations on his route. Computers solve it by comparing the length of all possible routes and choosing the shortest. However, bees solve it without computer assistance using a brain the size of grass seed.

Dr Nigel Raine, from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway explains: “Foraging bees solve travelling salesman problems every day. They visit flowers at multiple locations and, because bees use lots of energy to fly, they find a route which keeps flying to a minimum.”

The team used computer controlled artificial flowers to test whether bees would follow a route defined by the order in which they discovered the flowers or if they would find the shortest route. After exploring the location of the flowers, bees quickly learned to fly the shortest route.

As well as enhancing our understanding of how bees move around the landscape pollinating crops and wild flowers, this research, which is due to be published in The American Naturalist, has other applications. Our lifestyle relies on networks such as traffic on the roads, information flow on the web and business supply chains. By understanding how bees can solve their problem with such a tiny brain we can improve our management of these everyday networks without needing lots of computer time.

Dr Raine adds: “Despite their tiny brains bees are capable of extraordinary feats of behaviour. We need to understand how they can solve the Travelling Salesman Problem without a computer. What short-cuts do they use?’

Editor’s Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Unlike Us, Honeybees Naturally Make ‘Quick Switch’ in Their Biological Clocks, Researcher Finds

 Unlike humans, honeybees, when thrown into highly time-altered new

New research shows that unlike humans, honeybees naturally make ‘quick switch’ in their biological clocks. (Credit: iStockphoto)

 societal roles, are able to alter their biological rhythms with alacrity, enabling them to make a successful “quick switch” in their daily routines, according to research carried out at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

With people, on the other hand, disturbances to their biological clocks by drastic changes in their daily schedules are known to cause problems — for example for shift workers and for new parents of crying, fitful babies. Disturbance of the biological clock — the circadian rhythm — can also contribute to mood disorders. On a less severe scale, international air travelers all know of the “jet lag” disturbance to their biological clocks caused by traveling across several time zones.

Bees, however, have now been shown to be highly resilient to such change. When removed from their usual roles in the hive, the bees were seen to quickly and drastically change their biological rhythms, according to a study by Prof. Guy Bloch of the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior of the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences at the Hebrew University. His research is published in the current edition of The Journal of Neuroscience.

The changes, he found, were evident in both the bees’ behavior and in the “clock genes” that drive their internal biological clocks. These findings indicate that social environment had a significant effect on both behaviour and physiology.

Circadian rhythm, the body’s “internal clock,” regulates daily functions. A few “clock genes” control many actions, including the time of sleeping, eating and drinking, temperature regulation and hormone fluctuations. However, exactly how that clock is affected by — and affects — social interactions with other animals is unknown.

Bloch and his colleagues Dr. Yair Shemesh, Ada Eban-Rothschild, and Mira Cohen chose to study bees in part because of their complex social environment. One role in bee society is the “nurse” — bees that are busy round the clock caring for larvae. This activity pattern is different from other bees and animals, whose levels rise and fall throughout the day.

Bloch and his team thought that changing the nurse bees’ social environment might alter their activity levels, so they separated them from their larvae. The researchers found that the bees’ cellular rhythms and behavior completely changed, matching a more typical circadian cycle. The opposite also was true, when other bees were transferred into a nursing function.

“Our findings show that circadian rhythms of honeybees are altered by signals from the brood that are transferred by close or direct contact,” Bloch said. “This flexibility in the bees’ clock is striking, given that humans and most other animals studied cannot sustain long periods of around-the-clock activity without deterioration in performance and an increase in disease.”

Because bees and mammals’ circadian clocks use the same clock genes and are similarly organized, the question arises as to whether the clocks of other animals also strongly depend on their social environments. The next step is to find just how social interactions influence gene expressions. Further research into this question may have implications for humans who suffer from disturbances in their behavioral, sleeping and waking cycles.

The research was supported by the Israeli Science Foundation, the Israel-U.S. Binational Science Foundation, and the German Israel Foundation.

Editor’s Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

How do bumblebees get predators to buzz off?

 Bumblebees’ distinctive black and yellow “warning” colours may not be what protects them from flying predators researchers have found.

Toxic or venomous animals, like bumblebees, are often brightly coloured to tell would-be predators to keep away. However scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London and Queen Mary, University of London have found a bumblebee’s defence could extend further than its distinctive colour pattern and may indeed be linked to their characteristic shape, flight pattern or buzzing sound. The study is published in the Journal of Zoology.

Dr Nigel Raine, from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, explains: “The first time a bird eats a brightly coloured bumblebee it gets a nasty surprise. Remembering the bee’s bright colours may help the bird to avoid making the same mistake again. We wanted to test the idea that bumblebee species in the same location converge on a similar appearance to enhance protection from local predators.”

The team compared the loss rates of bumblebee populations with different colour patterns in the same environment — in Sardinia, Germany and the UK. If the colour pattern is important, the researchers expected that predators would be more likely to eat bees which looked very different to those they had previously encountered in their local area. But this is not what they found.

“Predators didn’t seem to target the unusually coloured bees from the non-native populations we tested. Perhaps the bumbling way in which all bumblebees fly, or their distinctive deep buzzing are more important clues to help would-be predators avoid a nasty sting,” says Dr Raine.

Birds see the world very differently to humans, particularly their ability to see light in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum. The team compared the colour patterns of different bumblebee populations and showed that in addition to the bright bands we can see, the white tip of the bumblebee’s tail is very obvious to birds as it reflects strongly in ultraviolet light. Such signals are also important to bees which detect ultraviolet markings on flowers which are invisible to us.

Dr Raine adds, “Although birds can tell the difference between the colour patterns of the different bee populations in our experiments, they probably find it hard to tell them apart in the fraction of a second when a bee flies past. Perhaps it’s better for the bird to steer clear of all animals which look, sound, or fly like a bumblebee to avoid the danger of eating one.”