Findings — From the October 2009 issue
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As honeybees continued to vanish from their hives, researchers supported by the National Honey Board pointed to pesticide accumulation in beeswax as a contributing factor in Colony Collapse Disorder. The researchers, who also found that beeswax loses half its accumulated mite-killing pesticides when subjected to Cobalt 60 gamma radiation, suggested that beekeepers change their honeycombs more often. Bee inbreeding was rising as populations shrank, leading to freak male bees with excessive chromosomes, lower fertility, and bad work habits. Scottish beekeepers reported the appearance of American Foul Brood (which, unlike European Foul Brood, is incurable), and Cape honeybees breached the Capensis Line, which South Africa’s government maintains to prevent the spread of AFB to African honeybees. In Britain, where the countryside was plagued by bee thefts, authorities planned to re-introduce, from New Zealand, the locally extinct short-haired bumblebee; U.S. entomologists hoped to offset honeybee declines by promoting the solitary blue orchard bee, which can live in Styrofoam. It was discovered that America once had its own native honeybee, Apis nearctica. Scientists found that forcing forager bees to undertake nursing tasks makes them less likely to grow stupid with age, that baby bees’ immune systems are less active if their hives are coated in antimicrobial bee resin, that male orchid bees stick out their legs to remain stable in high winds, and that bumblebees stay aloft through brute force.
Invasive wasps were eating pheasants in Hawaii. “You see them flying with their balls of meat,” said an entomologist of the wasps. “If you have something that can fight back, like a honeybee, then they go straight for the head.” Elephants can be kept at bay by barriers built of beehives. A Rwandan beekeeper started a large fire that caused a number of gorillas to flee to Congo. Scientists were concerned that interspecies kleptoparasitism may threaten Cameroonian lions, whose kills were being stolen by hungry humans. Trichinosis was observed in Siberia among eaters of stray dogs; last year an outbreak in the same region occurred after the locals ate bears. Asia’s pangolins and Florida’s turtles were under threat from Chinese demand for pangolin fetuses and turtle parts. It was determined that every year 100,000 sleeping Bangladeshis are bitten by snakes. Ninety percent of the oysters in France and fifty Irish swans in the Lough of Cork died mysteriously. Body-temperature regulation was found responsible for the flamingo’s one-legged stance and the toucan’s giant beak. Most tomcats are southpaws. Engineers created a “95 percent accurate” thought-controlled wheelchair, a tongue-controlled wheelchair, and a dune buggy for the blind.
Spanish researchers trained people to echolocate with tongue clicks, and biologists found that tiger moths have developed sonar-jamming capabilities to combat bats. Linguists inventoried the consonants of the last ten speakers of Nǀuu and documented their formation of the sounds ʘ, ǀ, !, ǁ, and ǂ, which may allow for better understanding of other “click” languages like !Xóõ. Researchers said that dolphin language obeys the Law of Brevity but were unsure whether a side flip conveys an order or a desire. After fairy penguins were found massacred at Manly Point, the Australian government deployed two snipers to protect them. “It’s like a nightmare you can’t wake up from,” said the chief penguin warden. “In autopsies, they had fresh fish in their tummies.” Ornithologists announced that the Tasman booby, previously thought extinct since the eighteenth century, has actually been alive but consistently misidentified as the masked booby. A global study concluded that people buried face-down between 24,000 b.c. and World War I were most likely being shamed by the living. A French robot in Valencia doffed its black fedora while dancing to “Billie Jean.” Bathwater may be bad for babies.
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