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Scientists reveal how bees find their way back home
A network of neurons integrates every change in direction and distance on outbound journeys.
Study unravels complex working of the insect’s brain

New research has revealed how the wiring of bees’ brains helps them to find their way back home.

The study unveils how insects locate their hive after long and complicated journeys. It shows that a network of neurons integrates every change in direction and distance on outbound journeys, enabling bees to plot a direct route home.

Bees use visual perception to navigate, but until now it was not understood what goes on inside their brains. The discovery of these neurons has allowed researchers to show, for the first time, how a bee’s brain guides it home.

The neurons are located in an area of the brain called the central complex. This region plays a vital role in controlling the navigation system, which is used by many animals including bees, ants and humans.

Researchers found that the cells combine every element of an outbound journey, creating a memory that bees use to return to the hive by the most direct route.

The team unravelled the complex working of the bee’s brain by studying nocturnal rainforest bees. They strapped tiny electrodes to the bees’ heads to track brain function as they were exposed to a virtual reality simulation of what they see when flying.

The results helped to create a detailed computer model of the bee’s brain, which was tested on a simulated bee and on a robot. Researchers hope the discovery will steer the creation of new algorithms for navigation in autonomous robots that do not need GPS or expensive computer systems.

“The most exciting part of this research was when computer modelling of the ‘spaghetti’ of connections between nerve cells revealed the elegant principle by which bees keep track of their position and steer back home,” explained professor Barbara Webb, of the University of Edinburgh’s school of informatics, who was involved in the study.

“Understanding such a complex behaviour at the level of single neutrons is an important step forward for the science of brain function”.

Published in the journal Current Biology, the study was carried out in collaboration with the University of Lund, Sweden.

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Gucci pledges to go fur-free

News Story 1
 Italian fashion house Gucci has announced that it will no longer use animal fur in its designs. Gucci’s president & CEO Marco Bizzarri made the announcement on Wednesday (October 11) at The London College of Fashion.

The move follows a long-standing relationship with The Humane Society of the United States and LAV - members of the international Fur Free alliance. Gucci’s fur-free policy includes mink, coyote, raccoon dog, fox, rabbit, karakul and all other species bred or caught for fur.  

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Avian flu text alert service launched in Northern Ireland

A new text system to alert bird keepers to the threat of avian flu has been launched in Northern Ireland. The service will enable bird keepers to take action to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity.

Keepers who have already provided NI's Department of Agriculture with a valid mobile number have automatically been subscribed to the service and notified by text. Bird keepers who have not yet received a text should text ‘BIRDS’ to 67300 to register.