CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers in the Oregon State University College of Engineering have harnessed the power of artificial intelligence to help protect bees from pesticides.
Cory Simon, assistant professor of chemical engineering, and Xiaoli Fern, associate professor of computer science, led the project, which involved training a machine learning model to predict whether any proposed new herbicide, fungicide or insecticide would be toxic to honey bees based on the compound's molecular structure.
The findings, featured on the cover of The Journal of Chemical Physics in a special issue, “Chemical Design by Artificial Intelligence,” are important because many fruit, nut, vegetable and seed crops rely on bee pollination.
Without bees to transfer the pollen needed for reproduction, almost 100 commercial crops in the United States would vanish. Bees' global economic impact is annually estimated to exceed $100 billion.
“Pesticides are widely used in agriculture, which increase crop yield and provide food security, but pesticides can harm off-target species like bees,” Simon said. “And since insects, weeds, etc. eventually evolve resistance, new pesticides must continually be developed, ones that don't harm bees.”
Graduate students Ping Yang and Adrian Henle used honey bee toxicity data from pesticide exposure experiments, involving nearly 400 different pesticide molecules, to train an algorithm to predict if a new pesticide molecule would be toxic to honey bees.
“The model represents pesticide molecules by the set of random walks on their molecular graphs,” Yang said.
A random walk is a mathematical concept that describes any meandering path, such as on the complicated chemical structure of a pesticide, where each step along the path is decided by chance, as if by coin tosses.
Imagine, Yang explains, that you're out for an aimless stroll along a pesticide's chemical structure, making your way from atom to atom via the bonds that hold the compound together. You travel in random directions but keep track of your route, the sequence of atoms and bonds that you visit. Then you go out on a different molecule, comparing the series of twists and turns to what you've done before.
“The algorithm declares two molecules similar if they share many walks with the same sequence of atoms and bonds,” Yang said. “Our model serves as a surrogate for a bee toxicity experiment and can be used to quickly screen proposed pesticide molecules for their toxicity.”
The National Science Foundation supported this research.
‘Bee' thankful for the evolution of pollen
Missouri U. researchers discover wildflower's spiny pollen
adapts to help plants reproduce
Over 80% of the world's flowering plants must reproduce in order to produce new flowers, according to the U.S. Forest Service. This process involves the transfer of pollen between plants by wind, water or insects called pollinators -- including bumblebees.
In a new study, researchers at the University of Missouri discovered spiny pollen -- from a native wild dandelion species in the southern Rocky Mountains -- has evolved to attach to traveling bumblebees. Using a highly detailed electron scanning microscope, the research team could observe the microscopic surface of the spiny pollen, which otherwise looks like yellow dust to the naked eye.
"The spiny pollen actually acts like Velcro," Lynn said. "So, when bees are harvesting pollen for food, this pollen is sticking to their hair. It's a great example of mutualism where the plant needs the pollinator to reproduce and the pollinator needs the plant for its food."
The researchers plan to study how a bumblebee's hairs contribute to this process.
For more on how clever plants are, check out Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire.
If you're sticking close to home these days and looking for something to do (or looking for something for kids to do) the Xerces Society has several bee monitoring guides and tools worth checking out.
Developed for conservationists, farmers, land managers, restoration professionals, and community scientists, the Bee Monitoring Protocol and Community Science Guides are useful for documenting how native bee communities change through time in pollinator habitats. The publications include an introduction to bee identification, a detailed monitoring protocol, and data sheets for different habitat types.
We will dive into the fascinating world of bees – managed and wild - and learn about the current research to keep them healthy from leading experts in the field. You will also get an opportunity to tell us your concerns about bees and pest management in agriculture and discuss how we can shape the future of CA agriculture together.
Apr 8, 2020 09:00 AM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)
From Integrated Pest Management to Integrated Pest and Pollinator Management: An update on current research on pollinator health
(April 8, 2020 from 9:00 to 11:30 am)
We will dive into the fascinating world of bees—managed and wild—and learn about the current research to keep them healthy. You will also get an opportunity to ask questions and tell us your concerns about bees and pest management in agriculture.
Presenters: Dr. Boris Baer and Dr. Quinn McFrederick
Panelists: Dr. Monique Rivera and Dr. Barbara Bar-Imhoof
Please take the pre-webinar survey – this will help us understand more about what future workshops/webinars should include.
2.5 CEUs (other) from the California DPR are approved. To obtain the CEUs you have to participate in the entire webinar. Register at https://ucanr.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ZwOHzICaRxi9NGkgvNT5Pg
UC Ag Experts Talk: Citricola Scale
(April 8, 2020 from 3:00 to 4:00 pm)
Dr. Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell will discuss the key stages of citricola scale and how they damage citrus, weather trends that help reduce citricola scale, chemical control choices and their relative efficacy, coverage, and timing of treatments, and monitoring for resistance and methods to manage resistance.
1.0 CEU (other) from the California DPR and CCA is approved. Register at https://ucanr.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_1_rXqm40SZ6Gm7PXWCdXtA
Recordings of the past webinars are available on UC IPM YouTube channel
CE hours are NOT available for recorded webinars.
The California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP), directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the University of California-Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is hosting two short courses in early August: one on “Planning Ahead for Your First Hives” and the other, “Working Your Colonies.”
Each will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. The deadline to register is Thursday, Aug. 1.
“These courses are foundational to beekeeping husband excellence,” said Wendy Mather, program manager. “They are great for folks who are thinking about getting bees next season, as well as those who currently have bees and want to ensure they're doing whatever they can to ensure the success of their hives.”
The classes are not required to become a California Master Beekeeper, but are highly recommended, as “they will help folks prepare to become a science-based beekeeping ambassador,” Mather said. Instructors are Elina Niño and CAMPB educational supervisor Bernardo Niño, a staff research assistant in the Niño lab.
Planning Ahead for Your First Hives
“Planning Ahead for Your First Hives” will take place Saturday, Aug. 3 and will include both lectures and hands-on activities. Participants will learn what's necessary to get the colony started and keep it healthy and thriving. They will learn about bee biology, beekeeping equipment, how to install honey bee packages, how to monitor their colonies (that includes inspecting and monitoring for varroa mites) and other challenges with maintaining a healthy colony.
The course is limited to 25 participants. The $105 registration fee covers the cost of course materials (including a hive tool), lunch and refreshments. Participants can bring their bee suit or veil if they have one, or protective gear can be provided. For more information or to register, see https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/572.
Working Your Colonies
“Working Your Colonies” will take place Sunday, Aug. 4 and will include both lectures and hands-on activities. Participants will learn what is necessary to maintain a healthy colony. Lectures will cover advanced honey bee biology, honey bee integrated pest management, and products of the hive. Participants also will learn about queen wrangling, honey extraction, splitting/combined colonies, and monitoring for varroa mites.
The course is limited to 25 participants per session. The $175 registration fee covers the cost of course materials, lunch and refreshments. For more information or to register, see https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/559.
Participants can bring their bee suit or veil if they have one, or protective gear can be provided. All participants are to wear closed-toed and closed-heel shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
The California Master Beekeeping Program uses science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping. For more information, contact Mather at firstname.lastname@example.org.