Honey Bees Create a Natural Glue From Spit and Flower Oil to Help Them Carry 'Pollen Pellets' Back to Their Hive

iStock.com/sasimoto
iStock.com/sasimoto

There’s a reason everyone wants to save the bees. They pollinate our crops, give us honey, and inspire medical research. Now, they’re helping scientists figure out how to make stronger adhesives—an endeavor that could improve everything from construction materials to the everyday glues we use.

As part of a new study, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology analyzed the methods by which honey bees get heavy bundles of pollen to stick to their hind legs. Two of these “pollen pellets” can weigh more than a quarter of a bee’s body mass, so it’s crucial that these packages remain properly secured while a worker bee flies back to its hive. “Pollen is a significant nutrient source for bees and their efficient collection and transport is essential for both the plant and animal’s survival,” the researchers wrote in their study, which was sponsored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and published this week in the journal Nature Communications.

To keep their precious cargo from being compromised in a storm or humid weather, the bees use a mixture of spit and flower oil to create an effective, water-resistant adhesive. By drinking nectar, they are able to excrete a sugary saliva that binds the pollen grains together. The plant-based oil, called pollenkitt, is also applied to keep the adhesive properties of the nectar intact while shielding the pollen from humidity.

“It works similarly to a layer of cooking oil covering a pool of syrup,” J. Carson Meredith, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering said in a statement. “The oil separates the syrup from the air and slows down drying considerably.”

This could have a number of practical applications. “Tapes, glues, adhesive sealants, and even caulks used in humid environments either in construction or in consumer products would perform better were they able to withstand changes to humidity,” Meredith tells Mental Floss.

It isn’t entirely unusual for scientists to study animals in hopes of yielding “bioinspired” products that mimic the natural processes they're based on. For example, in 2014 Stanford scientists created gecko-inspired adhesives that can help humans climb glass walls.

You Can Now Go Inside Chernobyl’s Reactor 4 Control Room

bionerd23, YouTube
bionerd23, YouTube

The eerie interior of Chernobyl’s Reactor 4 control room, the site of the devastating nuclear explosion in 1986, is now officially open to tourists—as long as they’re willing to don full hazmat suits before entering and undergo two radiology tests upon exiting.

Gizmodo reports that the structure, which emits 40,000 times more radiation than any natural environment, is encased in what's called the New Safe Confinement, a 32,000-ton structure that seals the space off from its surroundings. All things considered, it seems like a jolly jaunt to these ruins might be ill-advised—but radiology tests are par for the course when it comes to visiting the exclusion zone, and even tour guides have said that they don’t usually reach dangerous levels of radiation on an annual basis.

Though souvenir opportunists have made off with most of the plastic switches on the machinery, the control room still contains original diagrams and wiring; and, according to Ruptly, it’s also been covered with an adhesive substance that prevents dust from forming.

The newly public attraction is part of a concerted effort by the Ukrainian government to rebrand what has historically been considered an internationally shameful chapter of the country's past.

“We must give this territory of Chernobyl a new life,” Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky said in July. “Chernobyl is a unique place on the planet where nature revives after a global man-made disaster, where there is a real 'ghost town.' We have to show this place to the world: scientists, ecologists, historians, tourists."

It’s also an attempt to capitalize upon the tourism boom born from HBO’s wildly successful miniseries Chernobyl, which prompted a 35 percent spike in travel to the exclusion zone earlier this year. Zelensky’s administration, in addition to declaring the zone an official tourist destination, has worked to renovate paths, establish safe entry points and guidelines for visitors, and abolish the photo ban.

Prefer to enjoy Chernobyl’s chilling atmosphere without all the radioactivity? Check out these creepy photos from the comfort of your own couch.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Invasive Snakehead Fish That Can Breathe on Land Is Roaming Georgia

Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A fish recently found in Georgia has wildlife officials stirred up. In fact, they’re advising anyone who sees a northern snakehead to kill it on sight.

That death sentence might sound extreme, but there’s good reason for it. The northern snakehead, which can survive for brief periods on land and breathe air, is an invasive species in North America. With one specimen found in a privately owned pond in Gwinnett County, the state wants to take swift action to make certain the fish, which is native to East Asia, doesn’t continue to spread. Non-native species can upset local ecosystems by competing with native species for food and habitat.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division is advising people who encounter the snakehead—a long, splotchy-brown fish that can reach 3 feet in length—to kill it and freeze it, then report the catch to the agency's fisheries office.

Wildlife authorities believe snakeheads wind up in non-native areas as a result of the aquarium trade or food industry. A snakehead was recently caught in southwestern Pennsylvania. The species has been spotted in 14 states.

[h/t CNN]

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