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Honeybees and alcohol don't mix

NSF Award:

REU Site: Ecology and Behavior of Honey Bees and Solitary Bees  (University of Central Oklahoma)

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For nearly a decade, U.S. honeybee populations have experienced precipitous declines. To learn how environmental toxins, including alcohol, may impact honeybee behavior, an international team of scientists and students examined the pollinators stress levels when exposed to alcohol.

The team found that bees exposed to alcohol and other toxins experience increased levels of heatshock proteins in their nervous system tissue. These results show that sub-lethal levels of alcohol can produce potentially negative effects for natural and commercial honeybee populations.

The study was a collaborative effort between Turkish scientists at Uluda­ University (UU) near Bursa, Turkey, and U.S. scientists and students participating in NSF's Research Experience for Undergraduates program.  The collaboration, now nearly a decade on, has developed into a broader range of molecular-based studies that examine the effects of pesticides on stress levels, as well as studies of the genetic mechanisms underlying foraging behavior. Turkish and American researchers now collaborate with the UU's Beekeeping Development-Application and Research Center.

Images (1 of )

  • a carpenter bee visits chasteberry flowers
  • students examine beehive
  • students record behavior of bees as they forage at artificial flowers
A carpenter bee visits chasteberry flowers.
John F. Barthell, Unviersity of Central Oklahoma
Students examine a beehive.
John M. Hranitz, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
Students record bee behavior at artificial flowers..
John M. Hranitz, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

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