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Insulated urticaria can protect bees from heat waves next summer

Dead drone. Credit: Emily Huxter

It was an eerie sight. Dozens of dead drone bees spread to the ground, literally appearing to explode inside out.


“When a drone dies in shock, it ejaculates naturally,” explains Dr. Allison McCuffy, a postdoctoral fellow at the Michael Smith Institute at the UBC, who has long studied bee health. “They come out and have this elaborate inner ear, which is the size of their own abdomen. It’s pretty extreme.”

McAfee maintains contact with a network of honey producers and beekeepers throughout British Columbia, including Armstrong’s beekeeper Emily Huxter. In the midst of the state’s summer 2021 heat wave, Huxter began to notice dozens of dead drones on the ground. She took pictures of her and emailed them to McAfee. McAfee contacted other beekeepers around BC who had witnessed the same mass death of the drone, raising real concerns about the survival of the colony.

A few years ago, at the laboratory of UBC biochemist Professor Leonard Foster, who works at the Michael Smith Institute, McCuffie discovered a protein marker for honeybees. Heat or pesticide. Proteins act as fingerprints to help you understand how colonies react to different events.

McAfee’s focus has long been the queen bee. It acts as a biomonitor, allowing researchers to understand subtle changes in the environment. However, when she reviewed Huxter’s photos, she realized that the heat stress of the drone could also be a big problem.

Bee researchers have studied heat stress and bee health, but the interior of the colony is temperature regulated. It is a stable environment that maintains a temperature of about 35 degrees Celsius. The Huxter bees should have been able to cope with the warm weather, but the heat waves put them at stake.

“We know that after 6 hours at 42 degrees, half of the drone will die. Thermal stress.. More sensitive ones will begin to perish in a few hours. It’s a temperature they shouldn’t normally experience, but we’ve seen drones feel stressed until they die, “says McAfee.

Most of our diet depends on bee pollination. The estimated economic contribution of honeybees is primarily from pollination services for crops such as canola, apples, blueberries, cranberries and soybeans, which are approximately $ 4 billion to $ 5.5 billion annually in Canada. In 2017, Canada had 10,544 beekeepers managing 789,598 colonies. In total, they produced £ 92 million of honey worth $ 188 million.

Beekeepers not only sell honey, but also breed and sell queens. However, the Queen needed a drone to mate, and McAfee was looking at a picture of the drone’s apocalypse.

Bee colonies generate drones in preparation for “swarming.” This is the process by which a colony is split into two when sufficient resources are available to maintain the new hive. Half of the bees follow the old queen and the other half stay behind to raise the new queen.

From May, the drone will be born and eventually mate with the young queen. Queens mate with multiple males of 10-20 drones. If they have inadequate companions, their colonies will be less genetically diverse and less resistant to disease and other stressors.

Bees ejaculate explosively and die — polystyrene covers can prevent it

Dead drone. Credit: Emily Huxter

The Huxter Queen usually has a mating success rate of about 75-80 percent. However, after the heat wave, only 40 percent of her queens successfully mated.

“Queens sell for over $ 45. Each unmated queen loses income and the number of queens that can be produced in a year is very high,” explains McAfee.

After the first intense heat wave, McAfee and Huxter designed an experiment to test the hive’s insulation in an attempt to protect the hive and drone from the second predicted second small heat wave.

“The other big problem that some beekeepers saw was that half of their” nuclei “, small starter colonies, died during the first heat wave,” says McAfee. “It’s a massive death and tells me that we need to find a better way to protect the bees.”

Huxter installed a temperature logger to measure temperature changes in the colonies every 10 minutes and equipped 18 colonies with two types of insulation.

Bees ejaculate explosively and die — polystyrene covers can prevent it

Honeycomb (control) with no cooling method installed. Credit: Emily Huxter

The six colonies had 2 inch thick Styrofoam on top of the honeycomb. The upper part of the hive receives most of the radiant heat from the sun. Styrofoam is a simple shield that makes it easy to regulate body temperature.

Huxter devised another way to stabilize the temperature. It’s a feeder full of sugar syrup that acts as a bee cooling station. “The bees naturally go looking for water and Hive Cool with a fan with wings. This provides evaporative cooling, just like when you sweat. You should be able to do the same if you give syrup nearby. If it contains sugar, it will drop the syrup faster. “

McAfee and Huxter examined 18 colonies. Six acted as controls, six used Styrofoam insulation, and six supplied a light syrup. The hive with the Styrofoam lid was about 3.75 ° C cooler than the control. The urticaria given the syrup was 1.1 ° C cool. Styrofoam acted as a stabilizer — neither the nighttime lows nor the daytime highs were so extreme. McAfee believes that beekeepers should always consider using Styrofoam lids to protect bees from the heat of summer and the cold of winter.

Research on drone cooling is still in its infancy. She continues to analyze the results of insulation experiments to determine what can be done to help endangered colonies.

Pictures of dead drones on the ground aren’t pretty, but one of the positive consequences of a large one heat The wave of 2021 was that McAfee drew attention to drones in the first place. She now believes that drones may be a better indicator of environmental change than the queen bee.

“Drones have the advantage of being extremely sensitive and easy to see. If the drone is dying, it’s much easier to study the drone than to take the queen from the colony for testing. Also, citizen science. It is also useful for the efforts of. ”


Bees may help monitor the loss of insect births due to climate change


Quote: Insulated urticaria is the heat wave of next summer (2022) obtained from https: //phys.org/news/2022-02-insulated-hives-bees-summer.html on February 23, 2022. May protect urticaria from (February 23)

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Insulated urticaria can protect bees from heat waves next summer

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