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Health

Hardcore bee species builds its nest in ash by an active volcano(!)

Seriously, Science?By Seriously ScienceDecember 2, 2016 12:14 AM
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Photo: flickr/Walter LimBees can fly anywhere, so you'd think they'd have their choice of places to live. Well, these ground-nesting bees are so hardcore that they chose to live in the ash next to an active volcano. But why? In this paper, the authors attempt to explain why the bees might pick such a hazardous location, which is exposed to "continuous, strongly acidic gas emissions." Their conclusion? "Notwithstanding the extreme nature of the site, and the co-occurrence of specialist natural enemies and predators, the possibility exists that the site is selected for its beneficial attributes, such as the loose, well-drained substrate and the absence of vegetation. The converse is that the site is sub-optimal with the population constrained by habitat patchiness and limited dispersal options." We may never know for sure, but one thing is certain -- "Bee Volcano" would be a great horror movie.Persistent nesting by Anthophora Latreille, 1803 (Hymenoptera: Apidae) bees in ash adjacent to an active volcano "Ground-nesting bees use a variety of substrates in which to establish cells and complete their reproductive cycles. Here we document the highly aberrant occurrence of a solitary bee species, Anthophora squammulosa Dours, 1870 (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Anthophorini), nesting within meters of an active volcanic crater in Nicaragua, Central America. The nest location is exposed to continuous, strongly acidic gas emissions (>2.7 ppm of SO2), and sporadic vent clearing episodes that blanket the surrounding area with ash and tephra. An assessment of floral resources available within the expected homing distance of the species was cross-referenced with pollen carried by females returning to their nests. At this site, A. squammulosa appears to forage almost exclusively on a single plant, Melanthera nivea (L.) Small, 1903 (Asteraceae), that is adapted to volcanic acidic rain, despite being widely accepted as a generalist bee in the remainder of its range. Notwithstanding the extreme nature of the site, and the co-occurrence of specialist natural enemies and predators, the possibility exists that the site is selected for its beneficial attributes, such as the loose, well-drained substrate and the absence of vegetation. The converse is that the site is sub-optimal with the population constrained by habitat patchiness and limited dispersal options." Related content: Bumblebees detect electric fields with their body hair.Flashback Friday: Nipple, penis, or nostril — what’s the most painful place to be stung by a bee? (The answer might surprise you.)Scientists explain the amazing process by which bees make hexagonal honeycombs.

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