EZezine


 

CATCH THE BUZZ – Returns

After 6 weeks of cooped up energy, something had to get out…below are some of the stories the Buzz has landed…and, without apologies, comments from the sick bed. No matter what, all of us at the BUZZ wish you and yours a Happy and Healthy New Year.

 

Project Apism Makes Changes

Dan Cummings

 On Dec. 27th, Dan Cummings stepped down from his role as Project Apis  M (PAm)Board Chairman. Dan co-founded the non-profit organization in 2006 as a 'new vision' to direct research to enhance the health of honey bees while improving crop production. Under Dan's leadership PAm has experienced tremendous growth and has had a direct impact on the beekeeping industry. In 6 short years, under Dan's guidance, PAm had 41 board meetings, undertook 37 projects and funded research studies totaling $661,203.  Dan was also instrumental in successfully bidding on and receiving $1,043,024 in grant funding, as well as, acquiring $655,000 in corporate funding.  Dan will remain on the PAm board and will continue to lend his expertise and support.  Thank you, Dan, for your leadership the past 6 years.

NEW PAm Board Chairman

Dr. Gordon Wardell was  voted in as Project Apis m. Board Chairman.  Gordy is a bee biologist for Paramount Farming and  President of the South Valley Bee Club.  Bee Culture did a story last summer on Gordy, Paramount and the almond industry, including Pam, last summer. A beekeeper, himself, he has served as a PAm Scientific Advisor and has authored numerous scientific publications on honey bees.  Dr. Wardell is very qualified to lead PAm into the future and to continue the vision of Project Apis m.  Congratulations Dr. Gordon Wardell.

Good People Doing Good Things For Beeekeepers.

 

Bumblebees do best where there is less pavement and more floral diversity

Well, Duh! Sometimes You have to wonder, but we suppose it makes sense…

Landscapes with large amounts of paved roads and impervious construction have lower numbers of ground-nesting bumblebees, which are important native pollinators, a study from The University of Texas at Austin and the University of California, Berkeley shows. – Well, Duh!

Smaller Colorado River projected for coming decades, study says
Some 40 million people depend on the Colorado River Basin for water but warmer weather from rising greenhouse gas levels and a growing population may signal water shortages ahead. In a new study in Nature Climate Change, climate modelers at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory predict a 10 percent drop in the Colorado River's flow in the next few decades, enough to disrupt longtime water-sharing agreements between farms and cities across the American Southwest – food or showers….who wins, we wonder?

From farm to table, mealworms may be the next best food

Insect protein may be a more sustainable alternative to milk, chicken, pork and beef

Food enthusiasts interested in sustainable farm practices may soon have a new meat alternative: insects. Beetle larvae (called mealworms) farms produce more edible protein than traditional farms for chicken, pork, beef or milk, for the same amount of land used, according to research published December 19 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Dennis Oonincx and colleagues from the University of Wageningen, Netherlands.

The researchers compared the environmental impact of meat production on a mealworm farm to traditional animal farms using three parameters: Land usage, energy needs, and greenhouse gas emissions. From the start of the process to the point that the meat left the farm, they found that mealworms scored better than the other foods. Per unit of edible protein produced, mealworm farms required less land and similar amounts of energy.

Commenting on their results, Oonincx adds, "Since the population of our planet keeps growing, and the amount of land on this earth is limited, a more efficient, and more sustainable system of food production is needed. Now, for the first time it has been shown that mealworms, and possibly other edible insects, can aid in achieving such a system."

Can I get those with BBQ Sauce to go?

Eating egg yolks adds nutritious benefits

New research suggests that consuming whole eggs may improve blood lipids – YAY! The chickens can stay!

It is estimated that 34% of Americans are affected by an increasingly prevalent condition known as metabolic syndrome which is a combination of at least three of the following risk factors: large waistline, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar.(i) These individuals have a variety of risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Decades of mixed messaging regarding dietary cholesterol have led to avoidance of certain foods, such as eggs, particularly among individuals who are faced with health conditions. However, a recent study published in Metabolism suggests that including whole eggs as part of a weight loss diet may have positive effects on lipoprotein profiles for individuals with metabolic syndrome.(ii)

In this study, middle-aged men and women with metabolic syndrome consumed either three whole eggs or an equivalent amount of egg substitute daily as part of a carbohydrate-restricted, weight loss diet.(ii) Although participants eating the whole eggs were consuming twice as much cholesterol as they had at the beginning of the study, the researchers observed no effects on total blood cholesterol or LDL cholesterol levels after 12 weeks on the diet. All participants, including those consuming whole eggs, had improved lipid profiles with decreases in plasma triglycerides and increases in HDL cholesterol.

"Eating egg yolks was actually associated with enhanced health benefits in these high-risk individuals," explains Dr. Maria Luz Fernandez, lead study author and Professor at the University of Connecticut, "Subjects consuming whole eggs had greater increases in HDL cholesterol and more significant reductions in the LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio than those who ate the cholesterol-free egg substitute."

Luckily, it's easy to create a nutritious breakfast. Pair eggs with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods as part of an overall healthy diet. For more nutrition and healthy living tips, visit www.EggNutritionCenter.org. The Egg Nutrition Center is a National Strategic Partner of the USDA's MyPlate program which helps Americans follow the Dietary Guidelines by providing resources and tips to build a healthy plate. OK, the chickens get to stay.

Your Christmas tree and its genome have remained very much the same over the last 100 million years
A study published by University Laval researchers and their colleagues from the Canadian Forest Service reveals that the genome of conifers such as spruce, pine, and fir has remained very much the same for over 100 million years. This remarkable genomic stability explains the resemblance between today's conifers and fossils dating back to the days when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Noel, Everybody.

Prickly holly reveals ability to adapt genetics to environmental change

Prickly holly leaves are a traditional Christmas decoration, from wreaths adorning homes, to greeting card scenes. Yet, look closer at a holly tree and while some leaves are prickly, others are not. Scientists writing in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society believe variations within a single tree are the combined result of herbivore activity and molecular responses to environmental change.

"The ability of an organism to change its characteristics in response to environmental variations is known as phenotypic plasticity and it is a key driving factor in the evolution of a species," said Dr Carlos Herrera from National Research Council of Spain (CSIC) in Seville. "In plants this is often seen in eye-catching changes to leaves and flowers related to variable growing conditions. Every gardener knows that leaves produced in deep shade and under full sun are often very different in size and shape."

However, this variation of leaf forms can also take place within a single tree of many different species, and it is known as heterophylly. Dr Herrera partnered with Ms Pilar Bazaga, also from CSIC, to explore this phenomenon in European holly (Ilex aquifolium) a pioneer species, with a strong ability to accommodate to changing conditions.

"Heterophylly is often witnessed in holly trees, where some leaves are prickly, a defense against herbivores, while others are non-prickly, with smooth margins and no defense," said Dr Herrera. "We wanted to find out if this variation was a response to environmental changes and if this took place without wider genetic change, that is, without alteration of the organism's DNA sequence."

"Heterophylly is a widespread phenomenon occurring in many different types of plants," Dr Mike Fay, Chief Editor of the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. "By coincidence it is also a conspicuous feature of ivy (Hedera helix), another plant associated with Christmas decorations."

Such change is known as epigenetics and to explore the biological mechanics behind this process the scientists turned to methylation, a chemical modification of DNA which does not alter the DNA sequence of an organism, but can have decisive consequences.

DNA methylation profiles, heterophylly and herbivory were studied in 40 holly trees from a forest in South Eastern Spain. 39 were found to be heterophyllous, with branches displaying prickly and non-prickly leaves in neighbouring positions.

The team then explored the feeding activity of browsing deer and goats to see if this was the environmental factor driving this genetic diversity. The team found a significant relationship between recent feeding and the growth of prickly leaves, noting that under the height of 2.5 meters, the average reach of an adult red deer, leaves were consistently pricklier.

The results revealed a clear link herbivore activity, phenotypic plasticity and epigenetic changes involving modifications in the methylation status of cytosine, one of the building blocks of DNA molecules. This supports the theory that epigenetic variation alone can be a source of variation in natural plant populations that does not require changes in the DNA sequence.

"An increasing number of studies support the idea that the presence of spines and prickles in plants is a response to herbivore activity, and our research suggests this is the case with holly," concluded Dr Herrera. "The ability of plants to respond to environmental changes through quick epigenetic modifications makes also one to feel a bit more optimistic about plant survival in a quickly changing world."

And if you’ve ever had Holly Honey, you’d want every holly tree protected at all costs, herbivores or not

 

What it is to be a queen bee? More and better food, what else?

 

 

Queen sweat bees 'choose' the role of their daughters, according to a new study published in BioMed Central's open access journal Frontiers in Zoology. The amount of food provided for the developing larvae determines whether the daughter becomes a worker or a new queen.

The sweat bee Halictus scabiosae are a primitive eusocial insect. Eusocial insects have a hierarchical society with a division of labor between reproductive queens and males, and workers. However for H. scabiosae all the adults have retained the ability to reproduce, although their role in the nest may preclude active reproduction.

Foundresses, large queen bees which have survived the winter, set up a new nest in spring. The first generation of offspring are usually smaller bodied female workers, which then help the queen in raising the next generation of reproductive (larger) females and males. However the first brood daughters may also reproduce either within the nest or after dispersing to other nests.

Researchers from the University of Lausanne investigated whether mothers restrict the food available to their first brood in order to ensure that they become workers because they are small sized, possibly easier to dominate, and so less likely to reproduce.

They found that the total amount of pollen and nectar supplied to the first brood was significantly less that to the second brood – in fact the second brood received 1.4 times the amount of provisions than the first. However the amount of sugar provided to the two broods was approximately the same, meaning that the second brood had proportionally more pollen.

Over the two years of the study it became apparent that first brood females were always smaller than second brood females, both in terms of head size and fat reserves, but first brood males were not necessarily smaller that the males from the second brood. Nayuta Brand and Michel Chapuisat who performed this study suggest that this is because the foundress is 'choosing' to feed her first generation of daughters less.

For once,  being the oldest isn’t the best, I guess.

Secrets of gentle touch revealed

In fruit flies, UCSF researchers uncover the molecular basis of our most mysterious physical sense

Stroke the soft body of a newborn fruit fly larva ever-so-gently with a freshly plucked eyelash, and it will respond to the tickle by altering its movement—an observation that has helped scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) uncover the molecular basis of gentle touch, one of the most fundamental but least well understood of our senses.

Our ability to sense gentle touch is known to develop early and to remain ever-present in our lives, from the first loving caresses our mothers lavish on us as newborns to the fading tingle we feel as our lives slip away. But until now, scientists have not known exactly how humans and other organisms perceive such sensations.

In an article published online in the journal Nature, the UCSF team has identified the exact subset of nerve cells responsible for communicating gentle touch to the brains of Drosophila larvae—called class III neurons. They also uncovered a particular protein called NOMPC, which is found abundantly at the spiky ends of the nerves and appears to be critical for sensing gentle touch in flies.

Without this key molecule, the team discovered, flies are insensitive to any amount of eyelash stroking, and if NOMPC is inserted into neurons that cannot sense gentle touch, those neurons gain the ability to do so.

"NOMPC is sufficient to confer sensitivity to gentle touch," said Yuh Nung Jan, PhD, a professor of physiology, biochemistry and biophysics and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at UCSF. Jan led the study with his wife Lily Jan, PhD, who is also a UCSF professor and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

The work sheds light on a poorly understood yet fundamental sense through which humans experience the world and derive pleasure and comfort.

Imagine If We Could Put THAT in a Bottle?

 

 

The world's big trees are dying

The largest living organisms on the planet, the big, old trees that harbour and sustain countless birds and other wildlife, are dying.

A report by three of the world's leading ecologists in a recent issue of the journal Science warns of an alarming increase in deathrates among trees 100-300 years old in many of the world's forests, woodlands, savannahs, farming areas and even in cities.

"It's a worldwide problem and appears to be happening in most types of forest," says lead author Professor David Lindenmayer of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) and Australian National University.

"Large old trees are critical in many natural and human-dominated environments. Studies of ecosystems around the world suggest populations of these trees are declining rapidly," he and colleagues Professor Bill Laurance of James Cook University, Australia, and Professor Jerry Franklin of Washington University, USA, say in their Science report.

"Research is urgently needed to identify the causes of rapid losses of large old trees and strategies for improved management. Without… policy changes, large old trees will diminish or disappear in many ecosystems, leading to losses of their associated biota and ecosystem functions."

Prof. Lindenmayer says they were first tipped off to the loss of big old trees while examining Swedish forestry records going back to the 1860s. Then a 30-year study of Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) forest in Australia confirmed not only that big old trees were dying en masse in forest fires, but also perishing at ten times the normal rate in non-fire years – apparently due to drought, high temperatures, logging and other causes.

Looking round the world, the scientists found similar trends at all latitudes, in California's Yosemite National Park, on the African savannahs, in the rainforests of Brazil, the temperate forests of Europe and the boreal forests of the far north. Losses of large trees were also pronounced in agricultural landscapes and even cities, where people make efforts to preserve them.

"It is a very, very disturbing trend. We are talking about the loss of the biggest living organisms on the planet, of the largest flowering plants on the planet, of organisms that play a key role in regulating and enriching our world," says Professor Bill Laurance of James Cook University.

"Large old trees play critical ecological roles. They provide nesting or sheltering cavities for up to 30% of all birds and animals in some ecosystems. They store huge amounts of carbon. They recycle soil nutrients, create rich patches for other life to thrive in, and influence the flow of water within landscapes and the local climate.

"Big trees supply abundant food for numerous animals in the form of fruits, flowers, foliage and nectar. Their hollows offer nests and shelter for birds and animals like Australia's endangered Leadbeater's Possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri) – and their loss could mean extinction for such creatures.

"In agricultural landscapes, large old trees can be focal points for vegetation restoration; they help connect the landscape by acting as stepping stones for many animals that disperse seeds and pollen," he says.

The alarming decline in old trees in so many types of forest appears to be driven by a combination of forces, including land clearing, agricultural practices, man-made changes in fire regimes, logging and timber gathering, insect attack and rapid climatic changes, says Prof. Jerry Franklin.

"For example, populations of large old pines in the dry forests of western North America declined dramatically over the last century because of selective logging, uncharacteristically severe wildfires, and other causes," he adds.

The researchers liken the global loss of big trees to the tragedy that has already befallen the world's largest mammals, such as elephants, rhinos, tigers and whales, cautioning that almost nowhere do conservation programs have the time-frames lasting centuries, which are needed to assure the survival of old trees.

"Just as large-bodied animals such as elephants, tigers and cetaceans have declined drastically in many parts of the world, a growing body of evidence suggests that large old trees could be equally imperilled," they warn.

They call for an urgent world-wide investigation to assess the extent of big tree loss, and to identify areas where big trees have a better chance of survival.

So….. The alarming decline in old trees in so many types of forest appears to be driven by a combination of forces, including land clearing, agricultural practices, man-made changes in fire regimes, logging and timber gathering, insect attack and rapid climatic changes…stop clearing land, burning forests, cutting for timber and letting insects have their way.

MOths wired two ways to take advantage of floral potluck

 

 

Moths are able to enjoy a pollinator's buffet of flowers – in spite of being among the insect world's picky eaters – because of two distinct "channels" in their brains, scientists at the University of Washington and University of Arizona have discovered.

One olfactory channel governs innate preferences of the palm-sized hawk moths that were studied – insects capable of traveling miles in a single night in search of favored blossoms. The other allows them to learn about alternate sources of nectar when their first choices are not available.

For moths, the ability to seek and remember alternate sources of food helps them survive harsh, food-deprived conditions. Scientists knew bees could learn, but this is the first proof that moths can too.

The moths, Manduca sexta, are commonly called hawk moths and are found throughout North and South America. As caterpillars they are known as the tobacco hornworms – bright green, thicker than a man's thumb and one alone can eat a tomato plant to the ground. They become moths two to three inches in length and they are important pollinators of night-blooming flowers, Riffell said.

Wind speeds in southern New England declining inland, remaining steady on coast

Climate change, urbanization among possible causes

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – December 5, 2012 – Oceanographers at the University of Rhode Island have analyzed long-term data from several anemometers in southern New England and found that average wind speeds have declined by about 15 percent at inland sites while speeds have remained steady at an offshore site.

Kelly Knorr, a graduate student at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, and Professor John Merrill reported the results of their research today at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

The researchers found that average wind speeds at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I., declined from about 9 knots to 7.7 knots from 1975 to 2011 and from about 8.2 knots to 7 knots at New Bedford Regional Airport in Massachusetts from 1973 to 2011. A 25-year record of wind speeds at a buoy at the mouth of Buzzards Bay, Mass., shows that wind speeds there remained steady at about 15 knots during the period.

Knorr and Merrill suggest several reasons for the decline in wind speeds at inland locations, including changing weather patterns and urbanization.

"If the anemometer height is at about the same level but everything else is growing up around it, like buildings and forests, that would create surface roughness or drag that could decrease wind speeds," said Knorr, an ensign in the U.S. Navy assigned to URI to earn a graduate degree.

The scientists say that climate change may also be a factor. "Southern New England has typically had a long period of frequent winter storms, but with climate change, that pattern of winter weather is shifting to the north, meaning we may be in that pattern less often," said Merrill. "If those mid-latitude storms aren't here as often, average wind speeds will decrease."

Knorr and Merrill say that data from other sites should be analyzed to confirm the trend they found.

"The Department of Energy wants the U.S. to have 20 percent of its electricity generated from wind power by 2030, but if this trend of declining wind speeds is widespread across the country, then that could have a significant effect on the future of wind energy here," said Knorr.

In addition to analyzing the long-term data, the URI oceanographers examined wind profile data from towers at five sites in Rhode Island to determine how wind speeds change at varying heights above the surface. They collected data over 20 months at heights ranging from 30 to 60 meters.

The scientists found that wind speeds increased with height at a much greater rate at inland sites compared to sites along the ocean-facing coast.

"Wind speeds at inland sites are much lower near the ground because of the greater drag at the surface, but there is much less drag the higher you go, so speeds can really pick up," Knorr said. "Over the ocean, wind speeds start out stronger at the surface because there's less drag, and it doesn't increase as quickly the higher you go."

They also found greater variation in wind speeds from daytime to nighttime at inland sites, due to the land-breeze/sea-breeze cycle, which is a phenomenon known by sailors.

"When land heats up in the daytime, the warm air rises and the wind blows in from the ocean to the land," said Knorr. "In the evening it reverses. But at coastal locations, there is less land to warm up, so there is a weaker cycle."

Knorr and Merrill recently installed a permanent tower at the URI Narragansett Bay Campus to begin long-term data collection of wind speeds for further analysis. They also plan to analyze data from a number of other sites where long-term data on wind speeds have been recorded and compare it to the data from their initial sites.

Or, talk less, work more?