According to a study conducted by Kings Park and Botanic Garden, Curtin University, and the University of Western Australia, when human impact leaves bees with a lack of food, they don’t make an effort to forage further from home – instead, they start to depend on food sources stored inside the hive.
Bees were numbered and distributed among six hives north of Perth, at the Gnangara Mound. Three hives were located in healthy woodlands with plenty of available food, and the other three hives were only 5km away, in a section of degraded land that had been ravaged by fire. Don Bradshaw, a professor with UWA’s School of Biological Sciences, said the study measured the metabolic rate of the bees to determine how human-initiated change to the environment, like the clearing of large sections of land, would impact the insect’s survival.
The results of the study revealed that the bees from the desolate landscape showed a 30 per cent decrease in metabolism, as well as a 60 per cent lower intake of nectar. These findings were the opposite of what Bradshaw said he had anticipated, which was that the bees in degraded areas would have a faster metabolism – as a result of having to travel further to find food.
“Rather than travel in search of food in degraded areas, the bees foraged less and depended on stored resources inside the hive,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw’s method for determining the metabolic rate of the 76 numbered bees used for the study was initially developed for a study on honey possums.
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