Apis Midwife


photo by Nireekshit @Wikipedia Commons

by Abhinav Raina  – Our work in the NICE Lab involves studying the honeybee species Apis Dorsata and the effects of airborne pollution on its physiology. As part of our work, we compare the physiological responses of these bees from different parts of Bangalore based on the pollution levels in their environment. One of the experiments we wanted to conduct was to check the physiological responses of young, newly emerged bees, before they become foraging bees that leave the colony and thereby get exposed to airborne pollution. However, considering  that Apis dorsata are extremely aggressive bees who abscond their colonies and move elsewhere every few months, culturing a colony so as to get young bees is next to impossible, at least for those of us who fear excruciating pain.

Fortunately, last month, the Bee Lab at NCBS, headed by Dr. Axel Brockmann, was kind enough to give us a comb taken from an Apis dorsata colony that still had young larvae not yet emerged. We maintained the comb in an incubator and marked the bees as they emerged so as to indicate their age. As the days passed by, however, the comb began to dry up and hardened the wax. This made it difficult for the bees to emerge from the cells. We began to notice some of them struggling to emerge and dying in the process. So Geetha, the ‘Apis Midwife’, helped these young bees emerge from the cells and I managed to catch on camera what is by far the most adorable thing I have ever seen. Watch how it gets half way out and then struggles to hold on before Geetha pulls it out entirely:



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