Bees use social distancing to protect themselves from parasites

A new study by an international team of researchers from UCL University and the University of Sassari in Italy shows that bees increase social distance when their hive is threatened by a parasite.

The study, published in Science Advances, found that bee colonies responded to the infestation of harmful ticks by changing the use of space and interaction between all nests to increase the social distance between young and old bees.

“Here we present the first evidence that shows that Bees alter their social interactions and how they move around the hive in response to a common parasite..

Bees are a social animal because they benefit from the division of responsibilities and interactions such as mutual grooming, but While these social activities can increase the risk of infection, bees appear to have evolved to balance risks and benefits by social distance.. ”

Among animals, examples of social alienation have been found in many different species that have been separated by millions of years of evolution: from chamomiles that rarely cleanse people with gastrointestinal infections to ants infected with a pathogenic fungus that finds itself in the suburbs. Ants transmit.

A new study has examined whether the presence of the ectopic Varroa destructor parasite in bee colonies causes changes in social organization that can reduce the spread of the parasite in the hive. Among the risk factors that affect bees, Varroa mite is one of the main enemies that causes a number of harmful effects on bees on a single and colony scale, including virus transmission.

Bee colonies are organized into two main parts: the outer part occupied by nectar and pollen seekers and the innermost part inhabited by nurses, queens and infants. This intracellular spatial separation leads to a lower frequency of interactions between the two parts of each chamber and allows the most valuable individuals (queens, young bees, and infants) to be protected from the outside environment and thus from disease.

By comparing colonies that were or were not infected with the Varroa mite, the researchers found that one of the behaviors, dancing to food, which can increase tick transmission, occurs less frequently in the central parts of the hive if the hive is infected. They also found that cleaning practices in the central hive became more concentrated. Researchers say that in general, nectar-collecting bees (older bees) appear to move toward the periphery of the nest, while young nurse and young nurse bees move toward the center in response to the attack. Increase the distance between the two groups.

Dr. Michelina Posedo (Dipartimento di Agraria, Sassari University), the lead author of this article, said:The increase in social distance between the two groups of bees in a parasite-infected colony represents a new and in some ways surprising aspect. “Bees have evolved to fight pathogens and parasites.”

Their ability to adapt to the social structure and reduce contact between people in response to the threat of disease allows them to maximize the benefits of social interaction when possible and minimize the risk of infectious disease when needed.

Bee colonies provide an ideal model for studying social distancing and fully understanding the value and effectiveness of this behavior.

When buying honey, we may never have noticed how smart the price of this creature is!