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Moorland, heather and bees

Moorland, heather and bees

by David R C ~ 17 September, 2016 ~ one comment

What’s so special about heather moorland to beekeepers?  Heather is a small plant known scientifically as Calluna vulgaris, or more commonly ling heather.  As the beekeeping season is winding down elsewhere, the small purple flowers that are a characteristic feature of moorland’s stunning scenery are just opening.  The nectar they produce results in a highly sought after and delicious honey, making it worth all the hard work (both on the part of the bees and the beekeeper) that goes into producing it. Read more...

Bees, oilseed rape and foraging

Bees, oilseed rape and foraging

by Chris ~ 2 September, 2016 ~ comments welcome

The woodlands' blog has often reported on the problems that face honey bees and bumblebees - our important pollinators (see the list of related blogs in the right hand column on this page). Now there is an important report from the CEH (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology) that has looked at the state of the populations of wild bees such as the furrow bee, mason bee.

Most research to date has focused on the effect of insecticides, particularly the neonicotinoids on the  behaviour of  honey bees and bumblebees.   However, the CEH team was able to use data that had been collected by the bees, wasps and ants recording scheme - their data extended back to 1994 and involved some 62 species.   Read more...

honey bee on lavender

Pollution, bees and foraging.

by Lewis ~ 27 July, 2016 ~ 2 comments

Sadly, our air is polluted with many different chemicals from anthropogenic sources - particularly the burning of fuels.  Many of these chemicals have been implicated as exacerbating a number of health conditions - notably heart disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), stroke and lung cancer.  Common pollutants are particulates (from diesel), ozone and nitrogen oxides.  These pollutants not only affect us but also many different plants and animals.

Recent research at Penn State University has revealed that ozone interacts with plant scents (volatile oils) and degrades them.  As a result the scents are less effective in attracting pollinators (bees and bumblebees) to the flowers. Read more...

Poor pollination and pesticides

Poor pollination and pesticides

by Chris ~ 3 April, 2016 ~ 3 comments

Dr Dara Stanley of New Holloway, University of London has been looking at the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on ‘efficiency’ of bumblebee pollination of apples.  Several studies have already implicated these pesticides in the decline of foraging behaviour of bees / bumblebees.  As some 30% of agricultural crops depend on pollination by bees and  bumblebees, hover flies and other arthropods (with an estimated global value in excess of $350 billion / year) then the effects of these pesticides needs to be evaluated, so that informed debate on the banning or restriction  of their use can take place.

Dr Stanley and associates exposed some bumblebees to ‘low’ levels of neonicotinoids (such as might be found in wild flowers), others were exposed to no pesticide.  Read more...

The birds and the bees,  insecticides and wildlife

The birds and the bees, insecticides and wildlife

by Lewis ~ 24 November, 2015 ~ one comment

The woodlands' blog has often reported on the problems that bees and bumblebees are facing; these range from habitat loss & fragmentation, changing agricultural practices, parasites (varroa) and viruses, climate change and extreme climate events and the use of pesticides (particularly neonicotinoids).

Now there is evidence accumulating that the decline in various bird species  (sparrows, swallows and tree starlings) can be correlated with the use of insecticides.   A group of researchers from Birdlife (Netherlands), the Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology and Radboud University, Institute of Water and Wetland Research have been studying bird population declines at the turn of the century.  Read more...

Plant defences and toxins.

Plant defences and toxins.

by Chris ~ 30 July, 2015 ~ 2 comments

A number of our native plants contains toxic chemicals.  One reason that plants produce such substances is that they help protect against herbivory, i.e. being eaten by various grazing animals (these may vary from sheep, cows, horses to a variety of phytophagous (plant eating) insects).  Some white clovers (Trifolium repens), for example, contain a chemical that releases cyanide when the leaves are crushed or eaten  (under the influence of an enzyme, linamarase) - this affords some protection against being eaten by slugs and snails.   Read more...

The life cycle of bumblebees - Part 2

The life cycle of bumblebees – Part 2

by Chris ~ 24 April, 2015 ~ one comment

The first bees to emerge from the eggs are all females. When they emerge they are ‘white’ and their wings are crumpled. Soon, blood or haemolymph is pumped into the veins of the wings – and the wings expand and then harden.   It takes longer (1 / 2 days) for the body colours to develop.

Before long, some of these young females or workers will venture of of the nest to look for food.   They will also take on responsibility for the next batch of grubs, which the queen will have laid whilst the first generation of workers were pupating. The queen now no longer gathers her own food, but is fed by her worker offspring. Read more...

Bees and butterflies, nectar and nectaries.

Bees and butterflies, nectar and nectaries.

by Chris ~ 20 June, 2014 ~ comments welcome

Nectar is a sugar-rich liquid produced by special glands on a plant.  These glands are usually associated with the flowers - but not always.  Floral nectaries are usually found at the base of the petals so that a visiting insect picks up or deposits pollen whilst collecting the nectar; thus, 'helping' the plant to reproduce / set seed.   Common pollinators are bees, bumblebees, wasps, moths, butterflies and hummingbirds;  less common pollinators are flies, ants, possums and bats. Read more...

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