Woodlands web updates : 30

Woodlands web updates : 30

Bees and light

Honey bees need to sleep.  Unlike us, they do not sleep for long periods but they take ‘naps’ during the day and the night - within the hive where it is dark.   If the hive becomes over heated, then bees will move outside the hive and beat their wings to fan cooler air into the hive. 

If the bees are exposed to artificial light during the night then there is evidence that their ability to perform the ‘waggle dance’ is impaired.   The dance is important as it tells other bees where to source pollen and nectar.   Cooling of the hive may become increasingly necessary with climate warming (and heat spells), which in turn might expose bees to artificial light at night.  Hives might need to placed away from road sides (hence car lights) and street lights. 

An ancient pine.

The Wollemi pine is rightly described as a living fossil.  It is a plant that has remained unchanged for millions of years.    An almost identical fossil form dates to the Cretaceous period , some 145 million to 66 million years ago.  Whilst the trees were abundant some 8 to 6 million years ago, now only 60 trees exist in the wild (in a canyon northwest of Sydney) and they are at risk of wild fires. The population of these pines has dwindled as the climate in Australia became drier and warmer.  

The genetic make-up of the species has recently been analysed.  It turns out that the tree's 26 chromosomes contain some 12.2 billion base pairs; by comparison, the human genome has 3.4 billion base pairs.  The research also indicated there was very limited genetic diversity within the Wollemi pine population.  The existing trees appear to  have abandoned sexual reproduction, and now reproduce mainly by cloning, suckers emerge from the base of a tree and then grow on to become ‘new’ trees. Whether this remnant population of the Wollemi pine will survive ongoing climate change (and increasing risk of fire) remains to be seen.  The wollemi pine also appears to be susceptible to disease, in particular to Phytophthora cinnamomi, a pathogenic water mold that causes dieback.


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