Day 7 – This day was taken up with bee biology and bee health for this observer. Prof. Dr. Karl Crailsheim provided an analysis of the explosion of study about bees in general and honey bees in particular. In 1909 there were few papers on bees, but over the decades especially in the last two there has been a huge increase. In the current decade they are approaching 2,500 papers in 10 years. Mostly these are in English and generally are involving behavior and neurobiology. Apimondia has been greatly involved with its two publications, Apidologie (general biology in focus) and Journal of Apicultural Research (management in focus).
Sequencing the honey bee genome has also provided a huge number of possibilities never before possible, rather as if a cue ball breaks up a rack of pool balls. Surprisingly the honey bee genome is small, 10,000 genes, in comparison to humans (20,000), fruit flies (13,600) and silkworms (18,500). This means the honey bee genome is stable with no need for rapid change. Honey bees also have similarities with humans, including a circadian rhythm and pattern (facial) recognition. They have fewer genes for innate immunity, detoxifying enzymes and gustatory receptors, but more genes for odor receptors (mine detection) and nectar and pollen utilization. The genes for royal jelly appear to have made evolution of sociality possible. Novel micro RNA has been found and via population genetics the origin of Apis in Africa has been confirmed.
Finally the genes for group decision making are being identified (swarming). This includes finding new homes via scouts and following dancers with higher probability, rather like a democracy.
He then introduced Dr. Robert Page as the keynote speaker, who provided the audience with a resume of 18 years (31 generations) of high vs. low pollen hoarding. From this research has come an enormous base of information by comparing high pollen hoarding bees and observing their interactions. These bees store more pollen, collect more pollen, forager earlier (not expected), collect nectar with lower sugar concentration, even water (not expected) and are more successful foragers (not expected). This was matched up with wild bees and the phenotypic architecture (QTL maps) has been studied (at least 4 QTLs).
Other presentations featured introduction of Apis mellifera into Australia (Trevor Weatherhead), the debate about how Apis bees interact/compete with native bees (Norman Carreck), Apis melliera capensis and larval queen selection (Peter Neumann), absconding and swarming in Africanized honey bees (Lionell Goncalves).
Dr. Wolfgang Ritter presided over a bee health seminar in the afternoon, which included information about diseases and pests in general, American foulbrood (Michael Hornitzky), overview of EU regulations (Emma Soto), the European working group on Animal Health (Antonio Nanneti).
The evening was billed as a cultural event, with Gail Robinson, a beekeeper’s wife and story teller, as master of ceremonies. She introduced the Yarra Yarra dancers doing the Werundjeri people’s greeting and smoking ceremony (actually created fire on stage via friction), the Bushdrovers Band (Waltzing Matilda), Cameron Bawden the whip cracker and the Australian Girls Choir.
Dinner this evening was at Lucky Chan after a cruise through the Crown Casino, the biggest in the southern hemisphere. Drizzling most of the day, tomorrow the front is due to be gone and the sun hopefully returns.