Earth ChangesS


Giant Honeybees Use Shimmering 'Mexican Waves' To Repel Predatory Wasps

The phenomenon of "shimmering" in giant honeybees, in which hundreds - or even thousands - of individual honeybees flip their abdomens upwards within a split-second to produce a Mexican Wave-like pattern across the bee nest, has received much interest but both its precise mode of action and its purpose have long remained a mystery.

giant honey bees
©Wikimedia Commons
A hive of Apis dorsata (giant honey bees).

In a new study published in the journal PLoS ONE this week, researchers at the University of Graz, Austria, and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK, report the finding that shimmering - a remarkable capacity of rapid communication in giant honeybees - acts as a defensive mechanism, which repels predatory hornets, forcing them to hunt free-flying bees, further afield, rather than foraging bees directly from the honeybee nest.

South-East Asian giant honeybees (Apis dorsata) occur in single-comb nests in the open, preferring traditional nest sites with aggregations of hundreds of colonies on trees, rocks or human buildings, which they may revisit over years. Honeybees manage the pool of worker bees in an elaborate trade-off between foraging and defense. The bees' main defensive goal is to make the nest site a shelter zone for colony members, as well as a place of danger for potential predators. In order to set the entry fee for predators as high as possible, and to efficiently safeguard the colony's resources (keeping losses and expenses to a minimum), a plethora of defensive tactics has evolved in giant honeybees, both "aggressive" and "docile" behaviors being employed.


6.2 earthquake in Timor Leste

An earthquake of magnitude 6.2 has struck the highly populated region of Timor Leste in Timor Leste.

Whether international humanitarian aid is needed must be decided by an expert. However, the following automatically calculated elements can help. This earthquake has potentially a low humanitarian impact and the affected region has medium vulnerability to natural disasters.

Monkey Wrench

Ike destroys a number of Gulf platforms

HOUSTON - Federal officials say it appears Hurricane Ike destroyed a number of production platforms and damaged some of the pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico.

Life Preserver

Nearly 2,000 saved post-Hurricane Ike

GALVESTON, Texas - Rescue crews canvassing neighborhoods with dump trucks, helicopters and airboats have saved nearly 2,000 residents who ignored evacuation orders and stayed to face Hurricane Ike, authorities said Sunday.


Old Growth Forests Are Valuable Carbon Sinks

Contrary to 40 years of conventional wisdom, a new analysis published in the journal Nature suggests that old growth forests are usually "carbon sinks" - they continue to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigate climate change for centuries.

©iStockphoto/Robert Koopmans
A west coast British Columbia old-growth rainforest.

However, these old growth forests around the world are not protected by international treaties and have been considered of no significance in the national "carbon budgets" as outlined in the Kyoto Protocol. That perspective was largely based on findings of a single study from the late 1960s which had become accepted theory, and scientists now say it needs to be changed.

"Carbon accounting rules for forests should give credit for leaving old growth forest intact," researchers from Oregon State University and several other institutions concluded in their report. "Much of this carbon, even soil carbon, will move back to the atmosphere if these forests are disturbed."

Bizarro Earth

Heat and drought killing Cyprus' forests

The island's ongoing drought is killing trees, which are increasingly drying up, threatening serious ecological damages.

The Forestry Department is showing increased concerns about the large number of trees that are drying up. The best hope is that the weather conditions will soon change.


Sky explosions? : Bangaloreans in India speculate about mysterious boom and rattling

Bangalore: The city was abuzz with rumours on Friday morning about a low intensity earthquake in parts of the city after residents experienced a mysterious sound and rattling.

Speculations were rather specific and even strangely consistent: that a quake measuring 1.5 on the Richter scale hit Kengeri, HSR Layout and Yelahanka at about 8.30 a.m. These were, however, quickly put to rest by the meteorological centre here, which said it was more likely a quarry blast.

Cloud Lightning

Hurricane Ike wears itself out beating up on Texas

Ike benches
Park benches are strewn about in downtown Houston Saturday during Hurricane Ike.

Galveston, Texas -- Rescuers in Galveston, Texas, were going door-to-door Saturday to check on the estimated 20,000 people who failed to flee Hurricane Ike, which has slowed to tropical storm status.

Cloud Lightning

Hurricane Ike pounds Texas coast

Galveston - Hurricane Ike bore down on the Texas coast late Friday with driving rain, crashing waves and fierce gusts, threatening to rattle the skyscrapers of America's fourth-largest city, shut down the heart of the U.S. oil industry and obliterate towns already flooded with waist-high water.

Though nearly 1 million people evacuated coastal communities in the days leading up to the storm, tens of thousands ignored calls to leave and decided to tough it out. But as wind-whipped floodwaters began crashing into coastal homes, many changed their minds. Galveston fire crews rescued more than 300 people who were walking through flooded streets, clutching clothes and other belongings as they tried to wade to safety.


Texas prepares for an ominous Hurricane Ike

Authorities in the Houston area and along the Southeast Texas Gulf Coast ordered hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate Thursday as Hurricane Ike lumbered toward the coast and threatened to grow even stronger.