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Around the Colony
Suspension of neonicotinoids in Italy, Bee stings and allergic reactions, Radio tracking of bees,
Earthwatch debate, Anti-tumour activity in propolis, Shortage of bees for Australian almond
orchards, Save Our Bees Campaign
Suspension of neonicotinoids in Italy Anti-tumoral activity of Cuban propolis
Buzz Extra (December 2008) Scientists in Germany are anti-cancer agents. They
reports on the immediate trying to find applications for found an anti-metastatic
suspension of the natural substances and their effect in mice and
authorisation for the use of derivatives in the treatment considerable cytotoxicity in
the neonicotinoid seed of human diseases. human tumour cell lines.
treatment products Their current work involves Plukenetione A has been
clothianidin, imidacloprid studying Cuban propolis as identified as the active
and thiamethoxam, and a source of possible component.
also fipronil, by the Italian
Ministry of Employment,
This is a result of the sampling of dead bees submitted for Ewen Callaway reports on research into reactions to bee
analysis from colonies suffering bee losses during nearby stings (New Scientist on-line, 18 November 2008).
corn sowing. Many tested positive for the pesticides. Three Mübeccel Akdis, an immunologist at the University of Zurich
out of four pollen samples collected from the surrounding in Switzerland, led the study. His team followed a group of
vegetation tested positive for imidacloprid and one to beekeepers for several years to determine how their immune
clothianidin also. systems coped with bee stings. None of the beekeepers
donned protective masks or gloves while handling the bees.
SUPERSMALL RADIO TRACKING FOR BEES IN In late April, the beginning of the season in Switzerland,
THE USA beekeepers showed visible signs of a reaction to the stings
on their skin, including inflammation and swelling. Within a
Zoologist Martin Wikelski is pioneering the use of week, their immune system had muzzled this response, only
supersmall radio tracking tags that fit on the backs of for it to return the following year after the winter break. After
bees, a technological breakthrough that may provide him an average of 13 stings a week, beekeepers quickly
and other scientists with a direct view of the pollinators’ desensitised to the venom.
flight patterns. The team found that cells, called regulatory T-cells, were
produced which dampened the immune attack. The first bee This could one day help them understand what might
stings of the season trigger the production of histamine, abe causing the honey bees’ decline – and how to
chemical that causes inflammation and swelling. As theharness other kinds of bees to protect food
beekeeper is further stung, regulatory T-cells are produced in supplies.
response to the histamine, calming the reaction.
So whereas a normal person’s immune system flares up
when stung, producing inflammation and pain, a
venom-tolerant beekeeper’s extra regulatory T-cells ensure
the response is much more muted. These reborn T-cells
last through the year and obstruct the production of more
People that are so allergic to bee stings that they go into
potentially fatal anaphylactic shock can already benefit from
controlled ‘stings’ in the form of purified bee venom
injections. Understanding how beekeepers cope with stings
should help doctors dose and time this therapy.
Journal of Experimental Medicine. Further details are on
the internet, reference DOI:10.1084/jem.20080193
Page 44 Bee Craft digital January 2009
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