In apiological anger news, scientists think they have finally found a cure for the epidemic of calmness currently threatening the worldwide bee community.
Scientists report that they can crank up insect aggression simply by interfering with a basic metabolic pathway in the insect brain, a process far more efficient and effective than traditional bee angering methods like whacking on the hive with a stick, bombarding them with gamma radiation, or making disparaging comments about the Honey Nut Cheerios bee.
The new research follows up on work by Institute for Genomic Biology director Gene “Omic” Robinson. When he and his colleagues looked at brain gene activity in honeybees after they had faced down an intruder, the team found that they got stung repeatedly.
Some insects are more aggressive than others in response to an intruder. Older bees will often use their honeycomb as a hideout, while younger bees are more apt to proactively attack — a response legal in several states after the enactment of stand-your-hive laws.
“People looking at my brain gene activity really oxidates my phosphorylation!”, said one bumblebee in a letter to the editor. The bee requested anonymity by dancing in kind of a figure 8 shape with a wiggle.
After spending time as a Companion of the Doctor, postdoctoral researcher Clare Rittschoff used drugs to get bees addicted to drugs. She saw that aggression increased in the drugged bees if she subsequently tried to get them into rehab.
But the drugs had no effect on chronically stressed bees, according to studies performed on air traffic control bees. “Something about chronic stress changed their response to the drug, which is a fascinating finding in and of itself,” Robinson said, misusing the word “fascinating”.
In separate experiments, Hongmei Li-Byarlay and his youthful ward Jonathan Massey found that reduced oxidative phosphorylation in fruit flies also increased aggression. This result, too, was of little interest, as aggressive fruit flies are still pretty ineffectual.
(Warning: Climate drones claim that angry fruit flies cause global warming, or are possibly the result of global warming, one or the other.)
According to Robinson, the fact that researchers observed these effects in two species that diverged 300 million years ago makes the findings even more compelling to the sort of people who are compelled by divergences that happened when no one was around to see them.
The team reports its findings in the journal Needless Provocations of the National Academy of Sciences.