Honey Come Home

Navigation is a behavior necessary for species to travel from various daily activities to their homes. The diversity in the mechanisms and implementations of navigation techniques depend on the ecology, sensors, and actuators of the species. The regulation of genes plays an important role in navigation behavior of honey bees. In October 2016, seven species of honey bees native to Hawaii were added to the United States Federal list of endangered species. There are various reasons for their decline including habitat destruction and the introduction of nonnative plants species and predators, but the most interesting reason lies in a phenomenon called the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

CCD occurs when the majority of worker bees disappear and leave behind a queen. While the cause of this disorder is unknown there are various stressors that have shown to have an effect on the worker bees’ homing behavior. Pesticides have been shown to cause uncharacteristic honeybee behaviors. Thiamethoxam, a seed treatment insecticide, damages the bees’ homing abilities. The bees are unable to navigate back to their hive, and the loss of these workers within a colony lead to devastation in the eusocial structure of the hive.

Bees have molecular mechanism that are the underlying cause for behavioral plasticity in navigation. Activity of a regulatory gene in the mushroom body increases in response to unfamiliar or changed environments. The disruption in the regulation of this gene is what hinders the individuals ability to pilot themselves home.

As part of the Earth, humans must take action to reverse and prevent furth devistations cause by our chemical usage if we want to maintain any hope on reviving these now endangered species. A number of different methods have been theorized for the restoration and reduction of the effect chemicals are having on honey bees including spraying pesticides at night, using different compounds or less toxic/rapidly degradeable formulas, and building apiaries (a place for bees to be kept) with proper help from beekeepers. The next step is putting these theories into action.

5 thoughts on “Honey Come Home”

  1. I’ve heard about the massive decline in the honey bee population and have always meant to explore it more, so I’m glad I found your post ! The talk about arresting insect development as a way to control insect populations in class today got me thinking. What do you think are some ways we could protect the honeybees without shutting down the insecticide business (which will likely never happen) ?

    1. I am going to be doing some research into this. I find this topic very interesting. The fact that honey bees seem to be such a crutial factor in our everyday life, but not much is being performed to aid in the preservation of the species is a little unsettling.

      1. Agreed ! I suppose a large part of this problem is awareness and understanding. Warning of the potential consequences and speaking up, and getting people to care enough to raise their voice. Lately I feel very fired up about climate change after watching Before the Flood – have you seen it ? I’d like to work in conservation someday as well !

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