New research from Washington University in St. Louis shows that honey bees (Apis mellifera) develop different scent profiles as they age, and the gatekeeper bees at the hive’s door respond differently to returning foragers than they do when they encounter younger bees who have never ventured out before.
Genes inherited from mothers (matrigenes) and fathers (patrigenes) usually work harmoniously in the offspring. However, kin selection theory predicts these genes may be in conflict in interactions among relatives in which they are unequally represented (half-siblings). In honey bees, patrigenes are predicted to favor daughters that lay eggs themselves rather than remaining sterile and rearing their half-sisters’ offspring. An experimental test bears out this prediction.
Pathogens, pesticides and nutritional deficits have previously been identified as stressors linked to colony collapse disorder, but it was a mystery why bee colonies sometimes collapsed so rapidly, leaving bee keepers with an empty hive box. A new study suggests that when a colony is stressed, young bees are forced to become foragers much sooner than they otherwise would and this accelerated development leads to their early death.
Bee populations are declining worldwide. But recently, students in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts worked with PAUSE, a multinational group of scientists, gardeners and beekeepers, to design pollinator-friendly sculpture in St. Louis’ Florissant Community Garden.