Drugged Bees Still Find Their Way Home
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ScienceShot: Bees Age Faster When They Raise Offspring

Your parents always said you were giving them gray hair. Now, science is backing them up, at least in the case of bees. Researchers have found that nurturing the hive's progeny accelerates aging in the insects. In summer, worker honey bees usually spend several weeks feeding the queen's new larvae (the queen is marked in green). Workers then change careers, living out their days as pollen-collecting foragers. They die a mere 2 weeks after making the switch, showing a steep decline in brain function. But bees born just before winter, without a brood to nourish, live nearly a year. To investigate, researchers placed winter bees in a summerlike environment, both with and without young bees to care for. The bees with a brood played along, feeding the babies and then developing into foragers who died after 2 weeks. But brood-free foragers lived up to 10 weeks with no cognitive decline, the researchers report online today in The Journal of Experimental Biology. They noticed high levels of lipofuscin, an "age pigment," in short-lived foragers and much lower levels in longer-lived bees. These changing levels suggest that, for bees, aging is a dynamic process that can be slowed or even reversed. Maybe that explains why your dad started playing bass in a garage band after you left the nest.

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