Nature notes: Intelligent little insects
Published 6:12 pm Friday, April 28, 2023
By Sydney Weisinger
One of the most talked about pollinators in the past few years here at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center have been our honeybees.
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We have already learned so much about bees, such as the male bees do not have stingers, the female bees are the ones who go out and collect the nectar and pollen, and that bees communicate with each other through dance! Recently, there was a study that came out that shed more light on this waggle dance.
The waggle dance is such a fun thing to teach people about that we even used it in our Halloween Warm-Up skit! The waggle dance is a figure eight with different tail movements. How many times the bee makes the figure eight or which direction it moves it tail, can indicate many different things. The dance shows other worker bees which direction to fly and the flowers to pick from for the best pollen and nectar. A recent study in the journal Science, shows that bees are social learners when it comes to this dance. What does that mean? When people think of animals such as insects, they think that they are just born with the natural instincts they will need to survive. That is only partially true. The research shows that bees and other insects are capable of imitating one another and are learning how to communicate more efficiently with less errors. This was a type of social behavior that was thought to only be capable in larger brained animals, like birds and monkeys. This research may change the way all insects, especially bees, are considered when talking about the importance of their protection and endangerment status.
There has also been research done on the effects of pesticide exposure on the waggle dance. It has shown that the waggle dance changes and there are more errors in their communication. But still insects struggle to get legal protection due to the fact that they are not classified as wildlife in many U.S. states. Insects represent a huge share of animal species, almost 80%. They may be small but they pack a huge punch when it comes to how much they do for our ecosystem; pollinating, enrich soil, and provide a critical protein source for many species up the food chain. But, they are hard to monitor and there is a lot of diversity among them, leading some people to say that it is too hard to put a protection status on them. Even when some states are trying to make policies to help conserve and protect insects, they usually end up low on the priority list, even though they feed most of the animals higher on the conservation priority list!
We are still learning more every day about the importance of insects, from pollinating to feeding other animals. Hopefully with this new research showing that bees are capable of social learning people will start to look at insects in a new light. Which will hopefully lead to more protection efforts in the future. In the meantime, the pond area at the Hormel Nature Center is a perfect place to look for new and interesting insects. I challenge you to find and learn about one new insect a month this spring and summer, because the more we learn about insects, the more we will want to protect them!
Free Activities at the Nature Center in May
May 2: Evening bird hike with Austin Audubon-all welcome, 6:30-8 p.m.
May 4: Morning bird hike with Austin Audubon-all welcome, 6:30-8 a.m.
May 5: PoliNatives presentation with Don Smith, 6:30-8 a.m.
May 9: Evening bird hike with Austin Audubon-all welcome, 6:30-8 p.m.
May 11: Morning bird hike with Austin Audubon-all welcome, 6:30-8 a.m.
May 12: 1st Astronomy Club Meeting, 8-10 p.m.
May 13: Sola Fide Observatory Open House, 9-11 p.m.
May 16: Evening bird hike with Austin Audubon-all welcome, 6:30-8 p.m.
May 18: Morning bird hike with Austin Audubon-all welcome, 6:30-8 a.m.
May 20: Hormel Nature Center Garage Sale-Auditorium, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
May 27: Canoe/Kayak rentals open for season
May 27: Sola Fide Observatory Open House, 9:30-11 p.m.
May 29: Interpretive Center Closed / No canoe/kayak rentals