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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Polar Bears, Pollutants, and Erectile Dysfunction

PCBs reduce density of bears' penis bone making for unhard and hard times.

A research team lead by Dr. Christian Sonne, who works at Aarhus University in Denmark, reported their findings in a paper called "Penile density and globally used chemicals in Canadian and Greenland polar bears (link is external)" in the journal Environmental Research. They conclude in the abstract to this essay, "While reductions in BMD (bone mineral density) is in general unhealthy, reductions in penile BMD could lead to increased risk of species extinction because of mating and subsequent fertilization failure as a result of weak penile bones and risk of fractures. Based on this, future studies should assess how polar bear subpopulations respond upon EDC exposure since information and understanding about their circumpolar reproductive health is vital for future conservation."

Hard and unhard times for polar bears

Based on these findings, the title of the print version of the New Scientist essay could well have been "Unhard times for polar bears." On a more serious note, this landmark study shows just how much we affect the lives of other animals in unimaginable ways, making for hard times and threatening their very survival. Polar bears and many other species are getting screwed, or not, and what's even more egregious is that PCBs are very slow to break down, they disperse and accumulate over time. As the authors of this paper note, many pollutants "are known to be endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and are also known to be long-range dispersed and to biomagnify to very high concentrations in the tissues of Arctic apex predators such as polar bears (Ursus maritimus). A major concern relating to EDCs is their effects on vital organ–tissues such as bone and it is possible that EDCs represent a more serious challenge to the species' survival than the more conventionally proposed prey reductions linked to climate change."

I hope that this study is taken more seriously than others that clearly show just how harmful environmental pollutants can be, and more than lip service is given to banning their use and trying to reduce their presence. Polar bears are the poster animals for just how destructive we can be, and their loss is a very sad occurrence as we trounce ecosystem upon ecosystem and their magnificent residents.

Marc Bekoff's latest books are Jasper's story: Saving moon bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring nature no more: The case for compassionate conservationWhy dogs hump and bees get depressed, and Rewilding our hearts: Building pathways of compassion and coexistenceThe Jane effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson) has recently been published. (marcbekoff.com; @MarcBekoff)

John Wesley Powell


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
John Wesley Powell
John Wesley Powell.jpg
Powell as he appears at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Born March 24, 1834
Mount Morris, New York
Died September 23, 1902(1902-09-23) (aged 68)
Haven Colony, Brooklin, Maine
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery, Section 1
Nationality American
Known for Traversing Colorado River of the Grand Canyon
Spouse Emma Dean Powell

Powell served as the second Director of the United States Geological Survey, a post he held from 1881–1894. This photograph dates from early in his term of office.

John Wesley Powell (March 24, 1834 – September 23, 1902) was a U.S. soldier, geologist, explorer of the American West, professor at Illinois Wesleyan University, and director of major scientific and cultural institutions. He is famous for the 1869 Powell Geographic Expedition, a three-month river trip down the Green and Colorado rivers, including the first known passage by Europeans through the Grand Canyon.

Powell served as second director of the US Geological Survey (1881–1894) and proposed, for development of the arid West, policies that were prescient for his accurate evaluation of conditions. He became the first director of the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution during his service as director of the U.S. Geological Survey,[1] where he supported linguistic and sociological research and publications.

Biography

Early life

Powell was born in Mount Morris, New York, in 1834, the son of Joseph and Mary Powell. His father, a poor itinerant preacher, had emigrated to the U.S. from Shrewsbury, England, in 1830. His family moved westward to Jackson, Ohio, then Walworth County, Wisconsin, before settling in rural Boone County, Illinois.

As a young man he undertook a series of adventures through the Mississippi River valley. In 1855, he spent four months walking across Wisconsin. During 1856, he rowed the Mississippi from St. Anthony, Minnesota, to the sea. In 1857, he rowed down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to the Mississippi River, traveling north to reach St. Louis. In 1858 he rowed down the Illinois River, then up the Mississippi and the Des Moines River to central Iowa. At age 25, he was elected in 1859 to the Illinois Natural History Society.

First camp of the John Wesley Powell expedition, in the willows, Green River, Wyoming, 1871.

John Wesley Powell and his wife, Emma, in Detroit in 1862.

Education

Powell studied at Illinois College, Illinois Institute, and Oberlin College, over a period of seven years while teaching, but was unable to attain his degree.[2] During his studies Powell acquired a knowledge of Ancient Greek and Latin. Powell had a restless nature and a deep interest in the natural sciences. This desire to learn about natural sciences was against the wishes of his father, yet Powell was still determined to do so.[2] In 1860 when Powell was on a lecture tour he realized the Civil War was inevitable, that is when he decided to study military science and engineering to prepare himself for the imminent conflict.[2]

Civil war and aftermath

Powell's loyalties remained with the Union and the cause of abolishing slavery. On May 8, 1861, he enlisted at Hennepin, Illinois, as a private in the 20th Illinois Infantry. He was described as "age 27, height 5' 6-1/2" tall, light complected, gray eyes, auburn hair, occupation—teacher." He was elected sergeant-major of the regiment, and when the 20th Illinois was mustered into the Federal service a month later, Powell was commissioned a second lieutenant. He enlisted in the Union Army as a cartographer, topographer and military engineer.[3]

During the Civil War, he served first with the 20th Illinois Volunteers. While stationed at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, he recruited an artillery company that became Battery "F" of the 2nd Illinois Light Artillery with Powell as captain. On November 28, 1861, Powell took a brief leave to marry the former Emma Dean.[4] At the Battle of Shiloh, he lost most of his right arm when struck by a minie ball while in the process of giving the order to fire.[2] The raw nerve endings in his arm would continue to cause him pain for the rest of his life.

Despite the loss of an arm, he returned to the Army and was present at Champion Hill, Big Black River Bridge on the Big Black River and in the siege of Vicksburg. Always the geologist he took to studying rocks while in the trenches at Vicksburg.[5] He was made a major and commanded an artillery brigade with the 17th Army Corps during the Atlanta Campaign. After the fall of Atlanta he was transferred to George H. Thomas' army and participated in the battle of Nashville. At the end of the war he was made a brevet lieutenant colonel, but preferred to use the title of "Major".[5]

After leaving the Army, Powell took the post of professor of geology at Illinois Wesleyan University. He also lectured at Illinois State Normal University for most of his career. Powell helped expand the collections of the Museum of the Illinois State Natural History Society, where he served as curator. He declined a permanent appointment in favor of exploration of the American West.[6][7]

Adventures

Expeditions


Powell (right) with Tau-gu, a Paiute, 1871–1872.

After 1867, Powell led a series of expeditions into the Rocky Mountains and around the Green and Colorado rivers.
One of these expeditions was with his students and his wife, to collect specimens all over Colorado.[2] In 1869, he set out to explore the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon. Gathering nine men, four boats and food for 10 months, he set out from Green River, Wyoming, on May 24. Passing through dangerous rapids, the group passed down the Green River to its confluence with the Colorado River (then also known as the Grand River upriver from the junction), near present-day Moab, Utah, and completed the journey on August 30, 1869.[7]

The expedition's route traveled through the Utah canyons of the Colorado River, which Powell described in his published diary as having
". . . wonderful features—carved walls, royal arches, glens, alcove gulches, mounds and monuments. From which of these features shall we select a name? We decide to call it Glen Canyon."
One man (Goodman) quit after the first month, and another three (Dunn and the Howland brothers) left at Separation Canyon in the third. This was just two days before the group reached the mouth of the Virgin River on August 30, after traversing almost 930 mi (1,500 km). The latter three disappeared; historians have speculated they were killed by the Shivwitz band of the Northern Paiute or by Mormon settlers.[8][9][10] How and why they died remains a mystery debated by Powell biographers.

Powell retraced part of the 1869 route in 1871–1872 with another expedition that traveled the Colorado River from Green River, Wyoming to Kanab Creek in the Grand Canyon.[11] This trip resulted in photographs (by John K. Hillers), an accurate map and various papers. At least one Powell scholar, Otis R. Marston, noted the maps produced from the survey were impressionistic rather than precise.[12] In planning this expedition, he employed the services of Jacob Hamblin, a Mormon missionary in southern Utah and northern Arizona, who had cultivated excellent relationships with Native Americans. Before setting out, Powell used Hamblin as a negotiator to ensure the safety of his expedition from local Indian groups. Powell believed they had killed the three men lost from his previous expedition. Wallace Stegner states that Powell knew the men had been killed by the Indians in a case of mistaken identity.[8]

Members of the first Powell expedition:
  • John Wesley Powell, trip organizer and leader, major in the Civil War;
  • J. C. Sumner, hunter, trapper, soldier in the Civil War;
  • William H. Dunn, hunter, trapper from Colorado;
  • W. H. Powell, captain in the Civil War;
  • G.Y. Bradley, lieutenant in the Civil War, expedition chronicler;
  • O. G. Howland, printer, editor, hunter;
  • Seneca Howland;
  • Frank Goodman, Englishman, adventurer;
  • W. R. Hawkins, cook, soldier in Civil War;
  • Andrew Hall, Scotsman, the youngest of the expedition;
  • F.M. Bishop, cartographer.

Charles Doolittle Walcott, John Wesley Powell, and Sir Archibald Geikie on a geological field excursion to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, May 1897.

After the Colorado

In 1874, the intellectual gatherings Powell hosted in his home were formalized as the Cosmos Club. The club has continued, with members elected to the club for their contributions to scholarship and civic activism.

In 1881, Powell was appointed the second director of the US Geological Survey, a post he held until 1894. He was also the director of the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution until his death. Under his leadership, the Smithsonian published an influential classification of North American Indian languages.[13]

In 1875, Powell published a book based on his explorations of the Colorado, originally titled Report of the Exploration of the Columbia River of the West and Its Tributaries. It was revised and reissued in 1895 as The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons.

In the early 1900s the journals of the crew began to be published starting with Dellenbaugh's "A Canyon Voyage" in 1908, followed by the Thompson diary in 1939.[2] Finally Bishop, Steward, W. C. Powell, and Jones' diaries were all published in 1947.[2] These diaries made it clear Powell's writings contained some exaggerations and recounted activities that occurred on the second river trip as if they occurred on the first. They also revealed Powell used a life jacket while the other men did not.[14]

Views and ideas

As an ethnologist and early anthropologist, Powell was a follower of Lewis Henry Morgan.[15] He classified human societies into "savagery," "barbarism" and "civilization".[16] Powell's criteria were based on consideration of adoption of technology, family and social organization, property relations, and intellectual development. In his view, all societies were to progress toward civilization. Powell is credited with coining the word "acculturation", first using it in an 1880 report by the U.S. Bureau of American Ethnography. In 1883, Powell defined "acculturation" as psychological changes induced by cross-cultural imitation.

Powell was a champion of land preservation and conservation. It was his conviction that part of the natural progression of society included making the best use of the resources. Powell created Illinois State University's first Museum of Anthropology and it was called the finest in all of North America at the time.[17]

Powell' s expeditions led to his belief that the arid West was not suitable for agricultural development, except for about 2% of the lands that were near water sources. His Report on the Lands of the Arid Regions of the United States proposed irrigation systems and state boundaries based on watershed areas to avoid disagreements between states.[18] For the remaining lands, he proposed conservation and low-density, open grazing.[15]

Powell's Profile, a rock formation named for John Wesley Powell in Knowles Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah.

The railroad companies, who owned vast tracts of lands 183,000,000 acres (740,000 km2) granted in return for building the railways, did not agree with Powell's views on land conservation. They aggressively lobbied Congress to reject Powell's policy proposals and to encourage farming instead, as they wanted to cash in on their lands. The US Congress went along and developed legislation that encouraged pioneer settlement of the American West based on agricultural use of land. Politicians based their decisions on a theory of Professor Cyrus Thomas who was a protege of Horace Greeley. Thomas suggested that agricultural development of land would change climate and cause higher amounts of precipitations, claiming that "rain follows the plow".

At an 1883 irrigation conference, Powell would prophetically remark: "Gentlemen, you are piling up a heritage of conflict and litigation over water rights, for there is not sufficient water to supply the land."[19] Powell's recommendations for development of the West were largely ignored until after the Dust Bowl of the 1920s and 1930s, resulting in untold suffering associated with pioneer subsistence farms that failed due to insufficient rain.

Powell firmly believed that the inhabitants of the North American continent before Columbus were in all instances barbaric and any evidence supporting a civilized society before that time should be discarded. This belief was known as the Powell doctrine and as a director of the Smithsonian he was in a position to enforce this view. His views became known as the Powell Doctrine, and were codified in his paper "On Limitations To The Use Of Some Anthropologic Data." [20]

Legacy


John Wesley Powell was honored on a U.S. commemorative stamp in 1969.

Maud Powell, niece of John Wesley Powell, photographed at his monument, Grand Canyon, Arizona, 1918.
  • In recognition of his national service, Powell was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
  • Lake Powell, a man-made reservoir on the Colorado River, was named for Powell.
  • He is the namesake of Powell Peak.[21]
  • Powell Plateau, near Steamboat Mountain on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon was also named in his honor.
  • Powell, Wyoming Major Powell never explored the Powell flats given his name.[22]
  • In Powell's honor, the USGS National Center in Reston, Virginia, was dedicated as the John Wesley Powell Federal Building in 1974. In addition, the highest award presented by the USGS to persons outside the federal government is named the John Wesley Powell Award.
  • The residential building of the Criminal Justice Services Department of Mesa County in Grand Junction, Colorado, is named after John Wesley Powell.[23]
  • John Wesley Powell Middle School is located in Littleton, Colorado.[24]
  • Powell Jr High School is located in Mesa, Arizona.
  • He was portrayed by John Beal in the 1960 film Ten Who Dared.
  • Powell is the subject of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils song "Mr. Powell", which is on the The Car Over the Lake Album[25]

Confessions of former Monsanto employee: “I’m freaking proud of it”

| May 20, 2015 |
Yes-I-used-to-work-for-Monsanto.1

In March, National Geographic published an issue called “The War On Science,” and of all the cities in the entire United States, can you guess which city was called out in the very first paragraph of that article for its anti-science tendencies? Oh yes: it was Portland. 

The article went on to say, “We live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge … faces organized and often furious opposition. Empowered by their own sources of information and their own interpretations of research, doubters have declared war on the consensus of experts… And there’s so much talk about the trend these days … that science doubt itself has become a pop-culture meme.”

Nowhere is this culture more alive than in the city where I live. We’re one of only a few major American cities that don’t fluoridate our water, despite the scientific and medical consensus that it is a cheap and safe way to improve dental health for everyone. We also just narrowly avoided being one of the first states in America to label GMOs; the vote literally came down to less than half a percentage point – I’m almost certain it will return to the ballot and possibly pass next time. There’s a county in Oregon that has banned the growth of GMOs, and there’s another county currently trying to do the same on a ballot measure next week, even though the state has passed legislation to prohibit county-by-county bans. To get around that, Benton County is trying to give legal rights to plants.

Except maybe that’s changing. Why? Because there’s a new grass-roots movement that’s standing up to March Against Monsanto and making an effort to help people better understand GMOs. This Saturday, for the first time, there will be a group of pro-GMO people (YES! Pro-GMO people in Portland!) standing up for science. They’ll be standing right next to a horde of protesters carrying posters with sculls and crossbones, blaming GMOs for every health problem under the sun, and accusing Monsanto of controlling the food supply and killing bees, butterflies, and everything in between. 

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.07.10 AMThe pro-GMO group will be holding signs that say, “I heart GMOs” and “Ask me about GMOs.” They’ll be handing out leaflets that talk about all the amazing things GMOs have actually done:  like resurrecting the American chestnut tree from the brink of extinction, saving the Hawaiian papaya, and reducing carbon emissions associated with agriculture equivalent to removing almost 12 million cars from the road for one year. They’ll be approachable. They’ll be honest. And they’ll be accurate. They’ll be everything that March Against Monsanto isn’t. 
They’ll March Against Myths About Modification. (That’s their name, MAMyths.)

Now that is the kind of movement I can get on board with. And it couldn’t come at a more necessary time. I really believe that in my lifetime, we’ll be facing problems that have the potential to make or break our species. I could give you a bunch of statistics here, but the bottom line is that we have too many people for this planet to support. 
We’ll need to make some drastic changes if we want to stay on this planet at all. There are lots of ideas about how we’re going to make that happen, but one thing is for sure: we already have a technology that has the potential to help address many of those problems. Is it the magic bullet? No. Can biotechnology feed every starving person in Africa? No. But it can help. If only we’ll let it.

How can we convince people that GMOs are not evil? How can we convince people that the story is not about Monsanto, or chemicals, or patents? The story is about the next generation of GMOs and their potential to help. Here are some examples of what I mean:
  • rice with beta-carotene that could help the 124 million children in the world who are chronically deficient in vitamin A, a deficiency that accounts for about one-quarter of the total global burden of disease from malnutrition
  • insect-resistant eggplant that would allow farmers in Bangladesh to spray less pesticide where pesticide poisoning is a chronic health problem
  • cassava (a staple for millions of people in developing countries) with increased protein, beta-carotene and other nutrients
  • crops that are self-fertilizing that would allow farmers in developing countries who don’t have fertilizer to grow more productive crops
  • crops that can photosynthesize better and produce 50 percent more food per acre
  • drought-resistant crops that can produce more with less water
Fork-and-knifeSome of those are ten or more years away from development, but some of them, like Golden Rice and  Bt eggplant, already exist but are being blocked somewhat in part to hysteria fueled by activists like March Against Monsanto.

That brings me back to this Saturday in Portland. This is where we can help. This is right here, right now. For a long time, academics and scientists have been doing what I call the “soft sell.” They’ve been rather quietly and calmly explaining the science, the safety, and the benefits of GMOs and hoping that eventually it catches on. And maybe for some, it is working. But it’s not working fast enough. We are badly losing the information war on GMOs. Perhaps now is the time to be a little more forceful, and that’s exactly what MAMyths is doing. They’re standing up proudly and loudly to say, “I support GMOs and I want to tell you why.”

Of course, that’s a little scary. Especially in a city like Portland where people might get a little riled up over that. But the good news is they have the facts on their side.  And, even better, they’re real people who aren’t backed by industry. They’re people just like me: with children whose health we care about, who have a very serious vested interest in the sustainability of our food supply.

It’s MomSense is the nom de plume of a mother and former Monsanto employee. She has chosen not to reveal her name because of threats against people who express their support for crop biotechnology.

Honey bee


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Apis mellifera flying.jpg
European honey bee carrying pollen back to the hive

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Apidae
Subfamily: Apinae
Tribe: Apini
Latreille, 1802
Genus: Apis
Linnaeus, 1758
Species
  • Subgenus Megapis:
  • Subgenus Apis:
A honey bee (or honeybee), in contrast with the stingless honey bee, is any member of the genus Apis, primarily distinguished by the production and storage of honey and the construction of perennial, colonial nests from wax.
Honey bees are the only extant members of the tribe Apini, all in the genus Apis. Currently, only seven species of honey bee are recognized, with a total of 44 subspecies,[1] though historically, from six to eleven species have been recognised. Honey bees represent only a small fraction of the roughly 20,000 known species of bees. Some other types of related bees produce and store honey, but only members of the genus Apis are true honey bees. The study of honey bees is known as apiology.

Origin, systematics and distribution


Distribution of honey bees around the world

Morphology of a female honey bee

Apis dorsata on comb

Honey bees appear to have their center of origin in South and Southeast Asia (including the Philippines), as all the extant species except Apis mellifera are native to that region. Notably, living representatives of the earliest lineages to diverge (Apis florea and Apis andreniformis) have their center of origin there.[2]

The first Apis bees appear in the fossil record at the EoceneOligocene boundary (34 mya), in European deposits.
The origin of these prehistoric honey bees does not necessarily indicate Europe as the place of origin of the genus, only that the bees were present in Europe by that time. Few fossil deposits are known from South Asia, the suspected region of honey bee origin, and fewer still have been thoroughly studied.

No Apis species existed in the New World during human times before the introduction of A. mellifera by Europeans. Only one fossil species is documented from the New World, Apis nearctica, known from a single 14-million-year-old specimen from Nevada.[3]

The close relatives of modern honey bees – e.g. bumblebees and stingless bees – are also social to some degree, and social behavior seems a plesiomorphic trait that predates the origin of the genus. Among the extant members of Apis, the more basal species make single, exposed combs, while the more recently evolved species nest in cavities and have multiple combs, which has greatly facilitated their domestication.

Most species have historically been cultured or at least exploited for honey and beeswax by humans indigenous to their native ranges. Only two of these species have been truly domesticated, one (A. mellifera) at least since the time of the building of the Egyptian pyramids, and only that species has been moved extensively beyond its native range.
Today's honey bees constitute three clades.[1][4]

Genetics

The chromosome counts of female bees for the three clades are: Micrapis 2N = 16, Megapis 2N = 16, Apis 2N = 32. Drones of all species have 1N chromosome counts. The genome of Apis has been mapped.
Drones (males) are produced from unfertilized eggs, so represent only the DNA of the queen that laid the eggs, i.e. have only a mother. Workers and queens (both female) result from fertilized eggs, so have both a mother and a father. A modified form of parthenogenesis controls sex differentiation. The sex allele is polymorphic, and so long as two different variants are present, a female bee results. If both sex alleles are identical, diploid drones are produced. Honey bees detect and destroy diploid drones after the eggs hatch.

Queens typically mate with multiple drones on more than one mating flight. Once mated, they lay eggs and fertilize them as needed from sperm stored in the spermatheca. Since the number of sex alleles is limited – about 18 are known in Apis – a queen will most likely mate with one or more drones having sex alleles identical with one of the sex alleles in the queen. The queen, then, typically produces a percentage of diploid drone eggs.

Micrapis

Apis florea and Apis andreniformis are small honey bees of southern and southeastern Asia. They make very small, exposed nests in trees and shrubs. Their stings are often incapable of penetrating human skin, so the hive and swarms can be handled with minimal protection. They occur largely sympatrically, though they are very distinct evolutionarily and are probably the result of allopatric speciation, their distribution later converging. Given that A. florea is more widely distributed and A. andreniformis is considerably more aggressive, honey is, if at all, usually harvested from the former only. They are the most ancient extant lineage of honey bees, maybe diverging in the Bartonian (some 40 million years ago or slightly later) from the other lineages, but do not seem to have diverged from each other a long time before the Neogene.[4]

Megapis

One species is recognized in the subgenus Megapis. It usually builds single or a few exposed combs on high tree limbs, on cliffs, and sometimes on buildings. They can be very fierce. Periodically robbed of their honey by human "honey hunters", colonies are easily capable of stinging a human being to death if provoked.
  • Apis dorsata, the giant honey bee, is native and widespread across most of South and Southeast Asia.
    • Apis dorsata binghami, the Indonesian honey bee, is classified as the Indonesian subspecies of the giant honey bee or a distinct species; in the latter case, A. d. breviligula and/or other lineages would probably also have to be considered species.[5]
    • Apis dorsata laboriosa, the Himalayan honey bee, was initially described as a distinct species. Later, it was included in A. dorsata as a subspecies[1] based on the biological species concept, though authors applying a genetic species concept have suggested it should be considered a species.[4] Essentially restricted to the Himalayas, it differs little from the giant honey bee in appearance, but has extensive behavioral adaptations that enable it to nest in the open at high altitudes despite low ambient temperatures. It is the largest living honey bee.

Apis


Eastern honey bee (Apis cerana) from Hong Kong

The eastern species include three or four species. The reddish Koschevnikov's bee (Apis koschevnikovi) from Borneo is well distinct; it probably derives from the first colonization of the island by cave-nesting honey bees. Apis cerana, the eastern honey bee proper, is the traditional honey bee of southern and eastern Asia, kept in hives in a similar fashion to A. mellifera, though on a much smaller and regionalised scale. It has not been possible yet to resolve its relationship to the Bornean A. c. nuluensis and Apis nigrocincta from the Philippines to satisfaction; the most recent hypothesis is that these are indeed distinct species, but that A. cerana is still paraphyletic, consisting of several good species.[4]

The European honey bee originated from eastern Africa. This bee is pictured in Tanzania.

A. mellifera, the most common domesticated species, was the third insect to have its genome mapped. It seems to have originated in eastern tropical Africa and spread from there to Northern Europe and eastwards into Asia to the Tien Shan range. It is variously called the European, western or common honey bee in different parts of the world. Many subspecies have adapted to the local geographic and climatic environments; in addition, hybrid strains, such as the Buckfast bee, have been bred. Behavior, color, and anatomy can be quite different from one subspecies or even strain to another.

Regarding phylogeny, this is the most enigmatic honey bee species. It seems to have diverged from its eastern relatives only during the Late Miocene. This would fit the hypothesis that the ancestral stock of cave-nesting honey bees was separated into the western group of East Africa and the eastern group of tropical Asia by desertification in the Middle East and adjacent regions, which caused declines of food plants and trees that provided nest sites, eventually causing gene flow to cease. The diversity of subspecies is probably the product of a largely Early Pleistocene radiation aided by climate and habitat changes during the last ice age. That the western honey bee has been intensively managed by humans for many millennia – including hybridization and introductions – has apparently increased the speed of its evolution and confounded the DNA sequence data to a point where little of substance can be said about the exact relationships of many A. mellifera subspecies.[4]

The Apis mellifera is not native to the Americas, so was not present upon the arrival of the European explorers and colonists. However, other native bee species were kept and traded by indigenous peoples.[6] In 1622, European colonists brought the dark bee (A. m. mellifera) to the Americas, followed later by Italian bees (A. m. ligustica) and others. Many of the crops that depend on honey bees for pollination have also been imported since colonial times.
Escaped swarms (known as "wild" bees, but actually feral) spread rapidly as far as the Great Plains, usually preceding the colonists. Honey bees did not naturally cross the Rocky Mountains; they were transported by the Mormon pioneers[7] to Utah in the late 1840s, and by ship to California in the early 1850s.

An Africanized bee extracts nectar from a flower as pollen grains stick to its body in Tanzania

Africanized bee

Africanized bees (known colloquially as "killer bees") are hybrids between European stock and one of the African subspecies A. m. scutellata; they are often more aggressive than European bees and do not create as much of a honey surplus, but are more resistant to disease and are better foragers.[citation needed] Originating by accident in Brazil, they have spread to North America and constitute a pest in some regions. However, these strains do not overwinter well, so are not often found in the colder, more northern parts of North America. The original breeding experiment for which the African bees were brought to Brazil in the first place has continued (though not as intended). Novel hybrid strains of domestic and redomesticated Africanized bees combine high resilience to tropical conditions and good yields. They are popular among beekeepers in Brazil.

Frame removed from Langstroth hive

Beekeeping

Two species of honey bee, A. mellifera and A. cerana indica, are often maintained, fed, and transported by beekeepers. Modern hives also enable beekeepers to transport bees, moving from field to field as the crop needs pollinating and allowing the beekeeper to charge for the pollination services they provide, revising the historical role of the self-employed beekeeper, and favoring large-scale commercial operations.

Colony collapse disorder

Beekeepers in Western countries have been reporting slow declines of stocks for many years, apparently due to impaired protein production, changes in agricultural practice, or unpredictable weather. In early 2007, abnormally high die-offs (30–70% of hives) of European honey bee colonies occurred in North America; such a decline seems unprecedented in recent history. This has been dubbed "colony collapse disorder" (CCD); it is unclear whether this is simply an accelerated phase of the general decline due to stochastically more adverse conditions in 2006, or a novel phenomenon. CCD is unique due to the lack of evidence as to what causes the sudden die off of adult worker bees, as well as there being few to no dead bees found around the hive.[8]
Research has so far failed to determine what causes it, but the weight of evidence is tentatively leaning towards CCD being a syndrome rather than a disease, as it seems to be caused by a combination of various contributing factors rather than a single pathogen or poison. However, in April 2013, after a report was released by the European Food Safety Authority identifying the significant risks of the class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, the European Union called for a two-year restriction on neonicotinoid pesticides.[9]

A 2007 study linked CCD with Israel acute paralysis virus at a level of statistic significance. IAPV was found in 83.3% of hives with CCD, and has a predictive value of 96.1%, making it one of the most probable candidates as the infectious agent in CCD.[10]

One other possible hypothesis is that the bees are falling victim to a combination of insecticides and parasites. Feral honey bees are prone to high levels of deformed wing virus (DWV). The varroa mite thrives in honey bee colonies by sucking the hemolymph of honey bees, causing open wounds that are susceptible to varroosis. Higher levels of DWV are more prevalent in colonies that are not being treated for varroosis.[11] Tobacco ring spot virus replicates (TRSV) spreads and negatively affects the health of honey bees indirectly. TRSV has a wide host range. It can be transmitted from infected plant hosts, through parasites such as varroa mites, and ultimately affect insects like the honey bee.[12] In January 2012, a researcher discovered Apocephalus borealis larvae, a parasitic fly known to prey on bumble bees and wasps, in a test tube containing a dead honey bee believed to have been affected by CCD.[13]
There have been no effective preventative measures against CCD suggested to date.

Lifecycle


A queen bee: a coloured dot, in this case yellow, is added to assist the beekeeper in identifying the queen.

Honey bee eggs shown in opened wax cells

Drone pupae

Emergence of a black bee (A. m. mellifera)

Eggs and larvae

As in a few other types of eusocial bees, a colony generally contains one queen bee, a fertile female; seasonally up to a few thousand drone bees, or fertile males;[14] and tens of thousands of sterile female worker bees. Details vary among the different species of honey bees, but common features include:

1. Eggs are laid singly in a cell in a wax honeycomb, produced and shaped by the worker bees. Using her spermatheca, the queen actually can choose to fertilize the egg she is laying, usually depending on into which cell she is laying. Drones develop from unfertilised eggs and are haploid, while females (queens and worker bees) develop from fertilised eggs and are diploid. Larvae are initially fed with royal jelly produced by worker bees, later switching to honey and pollen. The exception is a larva fed solely on royal jelly, which will develop into a queen bee. The larva undergoes several moultings before spinning a cocoon within the cell, and pupating.

2. Young worker bees, sometimes called "nurse bees", clean the hive and feed the larvae. When their royal jelly-producing glands begin to atrophy, they begin building comb cells. They progress to other within-colony tasks as they become older, such as receiving nectar and pollen from foragers, and guarding the hive. Later still, a worker takes her first orientation flights and finally leaves the hive and typically spends the remainder of her life as a forager.

3. Worker bees cooperate to find food and use a pattern of "dancing" (known as the bee dance or waggle dance) to communicate information regarding resources with each other; this dance varies from species to species, but all living species of Apis exhibit some form of the behavior. If the resources are very close to the hive, they may also exhibit a less specific dance commonly known as the "round dance".

4. Honey bees also perform tremble dances, which recruit receiver bees to collect nectar from returning foragers.

5. Virgin queens go on mating flights away from their home colony to a drone congregation area, and mate with multiple drones before returning. The drones die in the act of mating. Queen honey bees do not mate with drones from their home colony.

6. Colonies are established not by solitary queens, as in most bees, but by groups known as "swarms", which consist of a mated queen and a large contingent of worker bees. This group moves en masse to a nest site scouted by worker bees beforehand. Once they arrive, they immediately construct a new wax comb and begin to raise new worker brood. This type of nest founding is not seen in any other living bee genus, though several groups of vespid wasps also found new nests by swarming (sometimes including multiple queens). Also, stingless bees will start new nests with large numbers of worker bees, but the nest is constructed before a queen is escorted to the site, and this worker force is not a true "swarm".

Winter survival

In cold climates, honey bees stop flying when the temperature drops below about 10 °C (50 °F) and crowd into the central area of the hive to form a "winter cluster". The worker bees huddle around the queen bee at the center of the cluster, shivering to keep the center between 27 °C (81 °F) at the start of winter (during the broodless period) and 34 °C (93 °F) once the queen resumes laying. The worker bees rotate through the cluster from the outside to the inside so that no bee gets too cold. The outside edges of the cluster stay at about 8–9 °C (46–48 °F). The colder the weather is outside, the more compact the cluster becomes. During winter, they consume their stored honey to produce body heat. The amount of honey consumed during the winter is a function of winter length and severity, but ranges in temperate climates from 15 to 50 kg (30 to 100 pounds).[15]

Foragers coming in loaded with pollen on the hive landing board

Pollination

Species of Apis are generalist floral visitors, and will pollinate a large variety of plants, but by no means all plants. Of all the honey bee species, only Apis mellifera has been used extensively for commercial pollination of crops and other plants. The value of these pollination services is commonly measured in the billions of dollars. Bees collect 66 pounds of pollen per year, per hive.[16]

Honey bee pollinating flowers

A colony of Apis dorsata, the giant honey bee on their comb.
File:Honey Bee Pollinating.webmPollinating flowers

Bee (Apis)

A forager collecting pollen

Bee products

Honey

Honey is the complex substance made when the nectar and sweet deposits from plants and trees are gathered, modified, and stored in the honeycomb by honey bees as a food source for the colony. All living species of Apis have had their honey gathered by indigenous peoples for consumption, though for commercial purposes, only A. mellifera and A. cerana have been utilized to any degree. Honey is sometimes also gathered by humans from the nests of various stingless bees.
In 1911, a bee culturist estimated a quart (about a litre) of honey represented bees flying over an estimated 48,000 miles to gather the nectar needed to produce the honey.[17]

Nectar

Nectar, a liquid high in sucrose, is produced in plant glands known as nectaries. It is an important energy resource for honey bees and plays a significant role in foraging economics and evolutionary differentiation between different subspecies. It was proposed through an experiment conducted with the African honey bee, A. m. scutellata, that nectar temperature impacts the foraging decisions of honey bees.[18]

Beeswax

Worker bees of a certain age will secrete beeswax from a series of glands on their abdomens. They use the wax to form the walls and caps of the comb. As with honey, beeswax is gathered by humans for various purposes.

Pollen

Bees collect pollen in the pollen basket and carry it back to the hive. In the hive, pollen is used as a protein source necessary during brood-rearing. In certain environments, excess pollen can be collected from the hives of A. mellifera and A. cerana. It is often eaten as a health supplement. It also has been used with moderate success as a source of pollen for hand pollination However, pollen collected by bees and harvested for pollination must be used within a few hours because it loses its potency rapidly, possibly because of the effects of enzymes or other chemicals from the bees; hand-collected pollen may remain usable for weeks, if stored promptly under suitable conditions.[citation needed]

Propolis

Propolis or bee glue is created from resins, balsams, and tree saps. Those species of honey bees that nest in tree cavities use propolis to seal cracks in the hive. Dwarf honey bees use propolis to defend against ants by coating the branch from which their nest is suspended to create a sticky moat. Propolis is consumed by humans as a health supplement in various ways and also used in some cosmetics.

Sexes and castes


Sexes and roles in a colony of honey bees

A caste is a different form, morphologically or reproductively, within the same sex of a species. Honey bees have three castes, drones, workers, and queens. There are two sexes: drones are male, while workers and queens are female.

Drones

Males or drones are typically haploid, having only one set of chromosomes. They are produced by the queen if she chooses not to fertilize an egg; or by an unfertilized laying worker. Diploid drones may be produced if an egg is fertilized but is homozygous for the sex-determination allele. Drones take 24 days to develop and may be produced from summer through autumn. Drones have large eyes used to locate queens during mating flights. Drones do not have a sting.

Workers

Workers are female bees and have two sets of chromosomes. They are produced from an egg that the queen has selectively fertilized from stored sperm. Workers typically develop in 21 days. A typical colony may contain as many as 60,000 worker bees. Workers exhibit a wider range of behaviors than either queens or drones. Their duties change upon the age of the bee in the following order (beginning with cleaning out their own cell after eating through their capped brood cell): feed brood, receive nectar, clean hive, guard duty, and foraging. Some workers engage in other specialized behaviors, such as "undertaking" (removing corpses of their nestmates from inside the hive).
Workers have morphological specializations, including the corbiculum or pollen basket, abdominal glands that produce beeswax, brood-feeding glands, and barbs on the sting. Under certain conditions (for example, if the colony becomes queenless), a worker may develop ovaries.

Queens

Queen honey bees, like workers, are female. They are created at the decision of the worker bees by feeding a larva only royal jelly throughout its development, rather than switching from royal jelly to pollen once the larva grows past a certain size. Queens are produced in oversized cells and develop in only 16 days. Queens have a different morphology and behavior from worker bees. In addition to the greater size of the queen, she has a functional set of ovaries, and a spermatheca, which stores and maintains sperm after she has mated. The sting of queens is not barbed like a worker's sting, and queens lack the glands that produce beeswax. Once mated, queens may lay up to 2,000 eggs per day. They produce a variety of pheromones that regulate behavior of workers, and helps swarms track the queen's location during the migratory phase.

Defense


Apis cerana japonica forming a ball around two hornets: The body heat trapped by the ball will overheat and kill the hornets.

All honey bees live in colonies where the workers sting intruders as a form of defense, and alarmed bees release a pheromone that stimulates the attack response in other bees. The different species of honey bees are distinguished from all other bee species (and virtually all other Hymenoptera) by the possession of small barbs on the sting, but these barbs are found only in the worker bees. The sting and associated venom sac of honey bees are also modified so as to pull free of the body once lodged (autotomy), and the sting apparatus has its own musculature and ganglion, which allow it to keep delivering venom once detached. The worker dies after the sting becomes lodged and is subsequently torn loose from the bee's abdomen. The honey bee's venom, known as apitoxin, carries several active components, the most abundant of which is melittin, and the most destructive Phospholipase A2.

This complex apparatus, including the barbs on the sting, is thought to have evolved specifically in response to predation by vertebrates, as the barbs do not usually function (and the sting apparatus does not detach) unless the sting is embedded in fleshy tissue. While the sting can also penetrate the membranes between joints in the exoskeleton of other insects (and is used in fights between queens), in the case of Apis cerana japonica, defense against larger insects such as predatory wasps (e.g. Asian giant hornet) is usually performed by surrounding the intruder with a mass of defending worker bees, which vibrate their muscles vigorously to raise the temperature of the intruder to a lethal level.[19] Previously, heat alone was thought to be responsible for killing intruding wasps, but recent experiments have demonstrated the increased temperature in combination with increased carbon dioxide levels within the ball produce the lethal effect.[20][21] This phenomenon is also used to kill a queen perceived as intruding or defective, an action known to beekeepers as 'balling the queen', named for the ball of bees formed.

In the case of those honey bee species with open combs (e.g., A. dorsata), would-be predators are given a warning signal that takes the form of a "Mexican wave" that spreads as a ripple across a layer of bees densely packed on the surface of the comb when a threat is perceived, and consists of bees momentarily arching their bodies and flicking their wings.[22]

Communication

Honey bees are known to communicate through many different chemicals and odors, as is common in insects, but also using specific behaviours that convey information about the quality and type of resources in the environment, and where these resources are located. The details of the signalling being used vary from species to species; for example, the two smallest species, Apis andreniformis and A. florea, dance on the upper surface of the comb, which is horizontal (not vertical, as in other species), and worker bees orient the dance in the actual compass direction of the resource to which they are recruiting.
Apis mellifera carnica honey bees use their antennae asymmetrically for social interactions with a strong lateral preference to use their right antenna.[23][24]

Symbolism

Both the Atharva Veda[25] and the ancient Greeks associated lips anointed with honey with the gift of eloquence and even of prescience. The priestess at Delphi was the "Delphic Bee". The Quran has a chapter titled "The Bee".
A community of honey bees has often been employed throughout history by political theorists as a model of human society:
This image occurs in Aristotle and Plato; in Virgil[26] and Seneca; in Erasmus and Shakespeare; in Marx and Tolstoy.[27]
Honey bees, signifying immortality and resurrection, were royal emblems of the Merovingians, revived by Napoleon.[28] The bee also is the heraldic emblem of the Barberini.