In some ways, bumblebees are just like us. When they are tending to their queen's offspring, they lose significantly more sleep than they do away from the presence of the brood. In bumblebee colonies, worker bees tend to the queen's eggs as they move into the larval and then pupal stages before becoming adults.
These insects have a grasp of maths that enables them to crack the classic travelling salesman problem as they forage for pollen and nectar. The problem, a benchmark of computer science, poses the question, "Given a list of cities and the distances between each pair of cities, what is the shortest possible route that visits each city and returns to the origin city?" This was the conundrum facing bumblebees let loose on an array of artificial flower feeding stations at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, UK. "We tempted the bees with shortcuts between feeding stations that increased the total distance they travelled to visit all the feeders," said Joe Woodgate at Queen Mary University of London, who led the research.
Researchers in Canada playing detective with the yellow-banded bumblebee's genome have found evidence that inbreeding and disease are the likely reasons for the decline of the species, York University associate professor Amro Zayed says. The team led by Zayed, Sheila Colla and biology researcher Clement Kent believes it is the first time the genome of an at-risk bumblebee has been sequenced. "We took one queen and used new sequencing technology that gave us very long stretches of DNA to sequence and assemble the reference genome for Bombus terricola," the yellow-banded bumblebee, Zayed said. The research, published in the journal Frontiers in Genetics on Monday, found evidence of large-scale inbreeding and signs of disease among the yellow-banded bumblebee population. "Inbreeding is especially bad for bees because it increases the chances of producing sterile males which then drives the decline further," said Zayed.
Just a few decades ago, the rusty patched bumblebee pollinated crops and wildflowers in 28 states. Now, as of Tuesday, it lives on the endangered species list. A statement on the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) website says the species' population has "plummeted" by 87 percent since the 1990s, its range now limited to small pockets in just 13 states. Sam Droege from the U.S. Geological Survey runs a volunteer bee-monitoring network. He says that out of the thousands of bees they've collected in the past decade, they haven't seen a single rusty patched bumblebee.
If it wants to buzz around the ear of the son and brother of two future kings, then it's jolly well going to. Prince Harry was busy giving a speech for his dad's 70th birthday patronage celebration when a bumblebee spooked him and forced him to explain his wild gesticulating. Skip forward to around 4:35 and you'll see Prince Harry bat away a bee as he's giving a speech Just as Harry was talking about his father's "selfless drive to affect change," he found himself being bothered by the bee. So, he waved his arm around in the hope that it would disappear. "To say that--sorry, that bee really got me!" said Harry after appearing to lose his place in his speech.