Bees get busier when they ‘learn’ the following day will be rainy, say researchers from China. The paper is published in the journal Insect Science.
Bees will perhaps never cease to amaze. You will find in the spectacular organisation of their colonies a great force at work inspiring the tiny creatures to achieve great tasks. They are the epitome of the saying that size really does not matter. Yet another study provides insight into a fantastic way in which they interact with their environment to earn their livelihood and survive and live in this world.
It is little wonder why the idiom “busy like a bee” exists. It turns out that the insect does not mind carrying the burden of additional work. The new findings demonstrate that bees will work harder when they find signs of the possibility of a rainy weather to come the following day.
The team led by Xu-Jiang He from the Jiangxi Agricultural University in Nanchang, China, attached tiny radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags onto hundreds of worker honeybees from 3 hives. This was used to identify when the bees would leave their homes, and stop working by the evening; the time they spent outside was also calculated.
The results indicate that in situations where the next day was rainy, they would spend more time outside looking for food and ending at a later time. Apparently, the bees would take into consideration environmental changes like humidity, temperature, and pressure that characterise the imminence of rain.
According to honey expert Gene Robinson from the University of Illinois, this is unusual because bees do not normally have the need for extra food supplies because they are already a “hoarding species”. He argues that other factors like flower blooming times might be involved and not identified by the researchers because the latter monitored the bees for 34 days only. On the other hand, if the findings of the Chinese scientists are confirmed, it would lead to a greater understanding of the foraging behaviour of the bee. Furthermore, the knowledge could be put to use for the management of climate change with respect to human activity and the effects thereof on bees.