Honeybees warn of danger

Honeybees use a waggle dance to communicate to nest mates the location of food and other resources. But what happens when bees sense danger? In a series of experiments, UCSD researchers observed that foraging honeybees attacked by competitors over a food source produced a signal which stopped the waggle dance of nest mates, thereby halting the recruitment of the hive to a dangerous location.

The “stop” signal lasts a tenth of a second, during which the bee vibrates at about 380 times a second, and is frequently accompanied by a head butt or the sender climbing on top of the receiver to deliver the message. Previously, biologists had interpreted this behavior as a “begging call” for food, but now have established its role in producing negative feedback in which actions are stopped for the good of the colony.

The discovery is detailed in the journal Current Biology.

News release

New use for an existing drug

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have discovered a potential new use for the drug closantel, currently the standard treatment for sheep and cattle infected with liver fluke. The drug may combat river blindness, a neglected tropical disease that is the world’s second leading infectious cause of blindness affecting more than 37 million people in Africa, Central and South America, and Yemen. Drug resistance is emerging against the only currently available treatment.

River blindness is caused by threadlike nematode worms transmitted among humans through the bite of a fly. The nematodes multiply and spread throughout the body. Problems arise when the worms die. This stimulates a strong immune system response in infected individuals that unfortunately destroys healthy tissue including that of the eye. The new research showed the potential of clostanel to inhibit the molting process of the disease-causing parasite; a process critical to its development.

The study appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

News release

Ocean waves may trigger ice-shelf collapse

Storms over the North Pacific Ocean may be transferring enough wave energy to destabilize Antarctic ice shelves thousands of miles away when storm-driven swells are transformed into very long-period ocean wave (“infragravity waves”) that travel vast distances.

An international team, headed by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD, collected seismic data on the Ross Ice Shelf that identify signals generated by infragravity waves that originated along the Northern California and British Columbia coasts and modeled how much stress an ice shelf would suffer in response to wave impacts. Researchers conclude that such waves could affect ice shelf stability by opening crevasses, reducing ice integrity through fracturing, and initiating a collapse.

The study is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. News release

New book features local writers

Freelance science writer and La Jolla Light columnist Lynne Friedmann, the director of Science Communications at UCSD Kim McDonald and Carmel Valley-based media relations strategist Cathy Yarbrough share their knowledge in a new book on research communication.

“Explaining Research: How to Reach Key Audiences to Advance Your Work,” by Dennis Meredith (published by Oxford University Press), is the first comprehensive communications guidebook written for scientists, engineers, and physicians describing how to use Web sites, blogs, videos, webinars, lectures, news releases and lay-level articles to reach patients, donors, regulatory agencies, policy makers, or the public at large.

In writing the book, author Meredith drew on his 40-year career in research communications at MIT, Caltech, Cornell, Duke and the University of Wisconsin together with interviews with 45 of the country’s leading science communications experts, including academics, authors, journalists, and public information officers.

More information at

Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.