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What the bees see .......

What the bees see …….

by Chris ~ 25 October, 2017 ~ one comment

Flower-visiting insects evolved in the Cretaceous Period (about 100 million years ago) -  a time when the major flower groups (Monocotyledons and Dicotyledons) came into being.  Flowers have a number of “ploys’ to encourage pollinators to visit them - for example, by their colour, scent, reflectance, size, outline, temperature, motion and nectar guides. The latter are markings or patterns on the petals and floral parts to guide bees, bumblebees or other pollinators towards the nectar and to encourage pollination.  This link (click here) shows how a flower might appear to a bee or butterfly - due their sensitivity to U.V light. Read more...

feed the birds .......

feed the birds …….

by Lewis ~ 7 October, 2017 ~ comments welcome

At this time of year, berries and other fruits form a valuable part of the diet of many wild animals, but particularly birds (such as blackbirds, thrushes,  fieldfares and redwings) and small mammals.  They will feast on berries and fruits through the autumnal and winter months.

Many fruits of hedgerow and garden plants are berries.  Botanically speaking, a berry is a fruit formed from the ovary of a single flower and the outer layer of the ovary wall develops into an edible, fleshy portion (the pericarp). Berries are generally juicy, rounded, brightly coloured, they may be sweet or sour, and inside there may be many pips or seeds - they do not have a ‘stone’.  The tissues of the berry will be rich in sugars, starches, some protein and various minerals.  Read more...

Bumblebee survival

Bumblebee survival

by Chris ~ 19 April, 2017 ~ 2 comments

The warmth of recent days has seen bumblebee queens foraging among the Spring flowers.    They have emerged from hibernation.  They now need to feed and then find a place to create a nest.  The queen will then lay eggs, which will become ‘daughter workers’.  Later in the season, males and new queens hatch - they will leave the nest / colony.  The new queens that are fertilised will hibernate after they have fed (heavily hopefully) on nectar and pollen from available flowers.

Researchers at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the University of East Anglia, the Zoological Society of London and University College London, have been studying different generations Read more...

Pollen picking bumblebees.

Pollen picking bumblebees.

by Chris ~ 4 August, 2016 ~ one comment

It has been known for some time that bees and bumblebees are attracted to flowers by their colour(s), scent (volatile oils), shape, nectar and indeed electric fields (see recent post).  However, it has now been shown that bumblebees can pick a plant on the basis of the nutritional content of its pollen.

Anthony Vaudo et al at the Centre for Pollinator Research (Penn State University) recorded the foraging patterns of bumblebees in defined outdoor areas, and then determined the chemical make-up (carbohydrate, protein and lipid levels) of the pollen from the different species present.  They found that the bumblebees went for pollen with a high Protein:Lipid value.    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...

Electric bumblebees

Electric bumblebees

by Chris ~ 15 June, 2016 ~ one comment

Flowers have various ways of tempting pollinating insects to visit them.  Indeed, some have very complex mechanisms to promote pollination and fertilisation, for example, the bee orchid.  In order to attract pollinating bees, the orchid has evolved “bee-look-alike” flowers.  These draw the bees in with the “promise of sex”.  They attempt to mate with the flower, landing on the velvety lip of the flower and pollen is transferred.  The bee leaves ‘frustrated’.  However, the right species of bee doesn't live in the U.K., so here bee orchids self-pollinate. 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 the ‘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...

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