Social immunity of bees

by Liza Lester, ESA communications officer A honey bee (Apis mellifera) afflicted with Varroa destructor, a parasitic mite that sucks away its vital, blood-like hemolymph, often passing along viruses in the process, and leaving open wounds. The mite spreads by bee-to-bee contact, accelerated by yearly circuits of agricultural bee broods transported to pollinate almonds and blueberries and other crops. Varroa is a suspect in the still...

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So What Do You Do? On answering the big conference question

This post contributed by Nichole Bennett, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin This year’s ESA meeting was my first big meeting as a graduate student. While absorbing late-breaking ecology research is my favorite part of big conferences, I know that the opportunity for networking is equally important. So, at my first social event, I adjusted my nametag and stretched out my hand to as many ecologist strangers as...

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Environmental justice: Merging Earth stewardship with social justice

Can social justice be achieved (at least partially) through the advancement of environmental stewardship? Both the executive branch of the federal government and a number of local community outreach organizations across the country believe it’s certainly an effective avenue to take when working to ensure our nation’s communities have equal input into the policy proposals that impact our natural surroundings. One of those organizations...

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The evolution of beer yeasts, seedy pants and vampire bat venom-turned medicine

Beer yeasts: Researchers at Lund University in Sweden tracked the history of two yeasts—Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Dekkera bruxellensis—used in alcohol fermentation to pinpoint their role in ethanol production. They found that, around 150 million years ago, competition with other microbes, and the overall increase in sugar-rich fruits, encouraged the yeasts to withstand high ethanol concentrations—an adaptation that would allow them...

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Bumblebee advertises infertility to avoid harassment, keep order in the colony

Bombus terrestris Credit: Alvesgaspar Researchers have found that pheromones play a key role in reproduction and social status in the buff-tailed bumblebee colony. Specifically, sterile female workers seem to advertise their infertility with extra pheromones in an attempt to ward off harassment from competing bees. The queen buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) lives for one cycle between winters, and in that time, the colony...

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The phrenologist’s guide to ecological competence

Since Darwin, scientists have been theorizing as to why there is variation in brain size between species and individuals. Does a larger brain, in say humans, indicate advanced cognitive abilities and complex language processing? Or is a smaller brain, such as the Olive-backed thrush’s, adapted to weigh less to accommodate lengthy flights?   In psychology, the field of phrenology has generally been dissolved, and with it, the idea that...

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