HOBOS HOneyBee Online Studies

Inhalt

05/30/2016

Column of Juergen Tautz: Bees as pest controllers

Wherever bees fly, caterpillars are severely disturbed, eating up to 70 percent less leaf mass in those areas.

Ravenous caterpillars can cause extensive damage to gardens and fields when the plump insects gorge themselves on the leaves of cabbage, lettuce & Co. However, the protein-rich bugs themselves are treasured prey. They must stay on the alert for wasps from the Vespidae family and other predators. With an “early warning system” made up of fine hairs, they can detect air movement caused by the beating wings of an approaching wasp. The caterpillars then drop to the ground or remain motionless. This keeps them out of danger – since the wasps only hunt prey that moves.  Honeybees have approximately the same body size as wasps and beat their wings at about the same frequency. The caterpillars’ simple sensory hairs cannot distinguish between a dangerous wasp and a harmless honeybee. If bees frequently fly around in close proximity, this means constant stress for the caterpillars. The consequence: They eat up to 70 percent less leaves than caterpillars living in a “bee-free” environment. The following experiment was conducted on this phenomenon (Tautz, J. & M. Rostas: Honeybee buzz attenuates plant damage by caterpillars. Current Biology 18, R1125-R1126, 2008):  Bell peppers and soy beans were growing in two large cages. Both cages were occupied by the caterpillars of a owlet moth (Noctuidae), which is one of the major pests that plagues vegetable farmers. In one cage, the caterpillars were allowed to munch away undisturbed. In the other cage, honeybees could fly in to visit feeding stations that had been set up just for them. The air traffic disturbed the caterpillars so much that they consumed up to two thirds less leaves than the caterpillars in the other cage.  This effect could be especially beneficial to gardeners and farmers if they were to adorn their cultivation areas in a special fashion – namely, with colorful wild flowers. The flowers would serve to entice more bees.  This newly described role honeybees play in complex natural events was even worthy of an article and matching cartoon in the New York Times.

Latest News:

05/30/2016

Column of Juergen Tautz: Bees as pest controllers

Wherever bees fly, caterpillars are severely disturbed, eating up to 70 percent less leaf mass in those areas.

05/22/2016

Column of Juergen Tautz: Observation hives – Windows into life inside a bee colony

The large majority of our honeybees’ lives takes place in secret. Bustling air traffic can be observed throughout the day at the...

Supporters, Sponsors and Partners: