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Bees Scavenge Airborne Bacteria

B. Lighthart, K. Prier, G. M. Loper and J. Bromenshenk
Microbial Ecology
Vol. 39, No. 4 (May, 2000), pp. 314-321
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4251738
Page Count: 8
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Bees Scavenge Airborne Bacteria
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Abstract

An air conditioned wind tunnel system was designed, fabricated, and tested to determine whether tethered bees scavenge microbeads or Bacillus subtilis var. niger spores from aerosols. Tests showed that microbeads and spores were scavenged by bumblebees and honeybees, respectively. Five independent variables and their interactions were used in a stepwise multiple regression. Two of them, the cube root of the electrostatic charge on the honeybee and the dose of the spore aerosol, accounted for most of the statistically significant fit to the model's two dependent variables: the percentage of the dose adsorbed by honeybees and the number of spores adsorbed by the same bees. Both dependent variables increased directly so that an increase in electrostatic charge on the bee (i.e., cube root 32 pC) resulted in an increase (i.e., approximately 1%) in the spore dose adsorbed and the number of spores adsorbed by the bees. It was theorized that the spores were in an adsorption/desorption equilibrium that responded to the concentration "pressure" of the spore aerosol. Further, the charge on the bee affected the adsorption force on the bee's surface, as well as increasing the effective aerosol volume accessible for the bee's scavenging. In short, relating these findings to bees scavenging bacteria from the ambient atmosphere, it appears that the spore exposure (where exposure means the product of the ambient concentration, the time the bee is exposed, and air volume through which the bee flies) controls the number of spores adsorbed by a bee, and the static charge on the bee controls the adsorption/desorption equilibrium and presumably the scavenging volume.

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