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Researcher makes remarkable discovery about behavior of honeybees, yet concerns about their survival remain: 'Nothing can really escape its impact'

"For us, as people who eat things that these [honeybees] pollinate for us … it can have a big effect on food security."

"For us, as people who eat things that these [honeybees] pollinate for us ... it can have a big effect on food security."

Photo Credit: iStock

Researchers have made a stunning discovery about the behavior of honeybees in hot weather, but concerns remain about the ability of the pollinator to adapt to changing temperatures. 

What's happening?

ASU News reported that a team led by former Arizona State University Ph.D. candidate Jordan Glass, now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Wyoming, discovered that honeybees alter their flying patterns in high temperatures. 

By flapping their wings at a more powerful but less frequent clip, they are able to keep cooler as they haul nectar back to their hives. 

Despite the remarkable discovery, Glass believes that honeybees may still be at risk in a warming world because of desiccation, a sweat-like process that bees also use to cool down. 

As he explained to ASU News, the "feisty" creatures can dry out if they lose too much moisture, and increasingly hot, dry conditions make it harder for the bees to regulate their temperatures, putting them in greater danger. 

"Temperature is the most influential abiotic factor that determines a lot of what [animals] do. Nothing can really escape its impact," he said

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Why is this important?

Pantry staples like olive oil and ketchup have already become more expensive as extreme weather linked to a warming planet wreaks havoc on crops. 

If pollinators continue to decline, food insecurity could greatly increase. The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that more than one-third of food crops rely on these creatures to reproduce, with native species of bees even increasing crop yields. 

"For us, as people who eat things that these [honeybees] pollinate for us ... it can have a big effect on food security," Glass told ASU News. 

The demand for food is also expected to grow. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that production will need to increase by 70% by 2050 compared to 2009 levels to support the global population. 

What's being done about this?

Glass told ASU News that he is continuing his research to monitor how the honeybees adapt and investigate if there are additional ways humans can assist these crucial insects. 

You can support these pollinators in a variety of ways. 

Rising global temperatures have made it easier for invasive species to spread, contributing to a loss of biodiversity that impacts how far pollinators like bees have to fly to find food and shelter. Selecting native plants for your yard creates new resting areas for these winged friends and saves you money and time on lawn maintenance. 

Additionally, opting for natural methods of pest control eliminates the harmful planet-warming pollution generated during the manufacturing and transportation of chemical products, as well as keeps the bees, your family, and your pets safe from toxins. 

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