Honey Bees Can Get STDs, Too

William Jones-Warner/iStock via Getty Images
William Jones-Warner/iStock via Getty Images

Honey bees may need their own PSAs about sexually transmitted diseases.

Bees, like many animals, are polyandrous, meaning females partner with multiple mates. Queens might mate with as many as 100 males in just a few hours, allowing the species to produce hardier, more genetically diverse offspring. But, it seems, it also leaves them vulnerable to STDs, according to a 2015 study in Nature.

Scientists artificially inseminated 17 honey bee queens with bee semen from colonies infected with two major bee parasites, Nosema apis and N. ceranae. Five of the queens later tested positive for the parasites. Of 13 bees inseminated directly with parasite spores, the spores replicated and established an infection in six of them. On the bright side, none of the 400 eggs laid by Nosema-positive insects carried the infection, so the disease wasn't passed on from mother to offspring.

How did the researchers collect the bee semen, you might ask? “The endophallus was fully everted by applying pressure to the drone thorax and semen released by squeezing the abdomen laterally from the head towards the abdomen,” the researchers wrote. So basically, they squeezed the bees until it came out. Pity the poor research assistant who had to collect that sample.

This is the first quantitative evidence of sexually transmitted diseases in social insect populations, though initial studies had suggested that deformed wing virus could be transmitted venereally between honey bees. Disease transmission is particularly important to understand in bees, since many bee populations are in decline, threatening agricultural production.

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

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A Prehistoric Great White Shark Nursery Has Been Discovered in Chile

Great white sharks used prehistoric nurseries to protect their young.
Great white sharks used prehistoric nurseries to protect their young.
solarseven/iStock via Getty Images

Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) may be one of the most formidable and frightening apex predators on the planet today, but life for them isn’t as easy as horror movies would suggest. Due to a slow growth rate and the fact that they produce few offspring, the species is listed as vulnerable to extinction.

There is a way these sharks ensure survival, and that is by creating nurseries—a designated place where great white shark babies (called pups) are protected from other predators. Now, researchers at the University of Vienna and colleagues have discovered these nurseries occurred in prehistoric times.

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, Jamie A. Villafaña from the university’s Institute of Palaeontology describes a fossilized nursery found in Coquimbo, Chile. Researchers were examining a collection of fossilized great white shark teeth between 5 and 2 million years old along the Pacific coast of Chile and Peru when they noticed a disproportionate number of young shark teeth in Coquimbo. There was also a total lack of sexually mature animals' teeth, which suggests the site was used primarily by pups and juveniles as a nursery.

Though modern great whites are known to guard their young in designated areas, the researchers say this is the first example of a paleo-nursery. Because the climate was much warmer when the paleo-nursery was in use, the researchers think these protective environments can deepen our understanding of how great white sharks can survive global warming trends.