About the episode
Imagine a bee nest. You might see one hanging in a tree now, or on a wall, or you can imagine it in a wooden beehive. But the vast majority of bees live underground. We hardly know anything about these bee nests.
This will change now. Without disturbing the nests too much, the researchers took X-ray images of the nest samples, and we’re finally learning more about what’s going on underground.
This is important because the survival of bees, an animal that forms an indispensable part of our ecosystems, remains at risk. Knowing how they live underground can help better protect the animals. It also teaches us more about how nests affect the soil itself.
In previous studies of these types of nests, everything has usually been excavated. It’s not ideal and it’s not easy either, because the nests sometimes reach meters deep into the ground. Now, 20cm-diameter tubes have been placed in the ground in various nests for a month, and then – because of their size – they have been placed under a hospital CT scanner.
Fortunately, they did not appear to have done much damage to the nests, and the nesting material in the tubes was also intact. Then the tubes were replaced. This was repeated every few months and provides an exceptionally beautiful picture of the nest structures, which appear to vary from species to species and which appear to have a significant influence on soil structure.
This is not a technology that can be widely used of course, but perhaps in a few other places. This allows us to examine, among other things, whether structures vary with soil type and how underground colonies respond to different climatic conditions.
Read more about the research here: Most bees live underground. X-ray images reveal how they build their nests.
“Travel enthusiast. Alcohol lover. Friendly entrepreneur. Coffeeaholic. Award-winning writer.”