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Biodiversity and farming

Biodiversity and farming

by Lewis ~ 22 November, 2019 ~ comments welcome

We are dependent on ecosystem services . At the most basic of levels, early humans benefitted from the ‘products of nature”; that is fruits and seeds to eat, animals to hunt.   Ecosystems, like woodlands, provided shelter from some of the harsher aspects of climate and weather.  Now we can add in ‘services’ such as the provision of medicines, waste removal, nutrient recycling and recreational experiences. Read more...

Medicine for bumblebees

Medicine for bumblebees

by Chris ~ 26 October, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Some 90% of the world's plants, including many food crops, rely on animals for pollination (as opposed to wind or even rarer water pollination). The contribution of honey bees and bumblebees to these pollination services is vital but they are at risk due to:

  • the effects of disease, 
  • climate change 
  • effects of pesticides and 
  • habitat loss / destruction.

Whilst it is sometimes possible to help hives / colonies of the ‘domesticated’ honeybee suffering from parasites / disease, ‘helping’ wild populations is a much more difficult proposition. Read more...

Insect Pollinators in decline

Insect Pollinators in decline

by Lewis ~ 13 April, 2019 ~ one comment

The science journal Nature has published the results of another insect survey, specifically of pollinating insects.   The UK pollinator monitoring scheme looked at some 353 species of bees, bumblebees and hoverflies.  The survey analysed 700,000+ sightings of pollinating insects over thirty years or more (1980 to 2013).  The survey yielded information about the changes in the range of these different pollinators - that is the different parts of the countryside that these insects were found in.  The survey did not attempt to determine actual numbers of bees etc in an area.   There were “winners and losers’ in the survey but the overall picture was somewhat depressing. Read more...

foraging bee

Bumblebees ‘hooked’ on neonicotinoids?

by Chris ~ 1 September, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Researchers at Imperial College, London (Dr Andres Arce, Dr. Richard Gill et al) have been conducting field trials on the foraging behaviour of bumblebees and the effect of neonicotinoids.  As wild bees have a choice on where they feed, the researchers wanted to know if the bees could detect insecticides and learn to avoid them. Read more...

Bumblebee update - brief notes

Bumblebee update – brief notes

by Chris ~ 28 August, 2018 ~ comments welcome

The yellow banded bumblebee (Bombus terricola) is a North American species of bumblebee.  It has been in decline across its range.  This bumblebee is now down to about 10% of its former numbers.   Recently, its genome has been sequenced at York University, Canada.  This genetic analysis shows that the bumblebees are inbreeding.  As bees become more inbred, the face difficulties in maintaining their population numbers.  As population become smaller, there is a greater risk of inbreeding.  Inbred bees have problems in terms of fertility.  Males can become infertile so that if they mate with a queen, there are no offspring or the queen may produce sterile males instead of worker bees. Read more...

Buzz pollination and bumblebees

Buzz pollination and bumblebees

by Chris ~ 11 August, 2018 ~ Comments Off on Buzz pollination and bumblebees

Bumblebees are important pollinators; their bodies are often seen covered with pollen grains.   However, when visiting certain flowers they have a special mechanism for releasing the pollen grains from the anthers (the special sacs on the stamens).    This mechanism is known as sonication or buzz pollination.   When visiting flowers of the potato / tomato family (the Solanaceae) or blueberries, they land on the flower, use their mouth parts to hold onto a stamen and then use rapid contractions of their (thoracic)  flight muscles to make the stamen vibrate.  The effect of these vibrations is to allow the pollen to be released from the tube-like anthers from a pore or small slits (poricidal stamens). Read more...

Flowers, nectar and 'mad honey'

Flowers, nectar and ‘mad honey’

by Chris ~ 13 July, 2018 ~ 3 comments

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

However, nectaries can be found elsewhere on a plant - on leaves, leaf stalks (petioles), stems and fruits; these are extra-floral nectaries. Read more...

The Great British Bee Count (and App) - 2018.

The Great British Bee Count (and App) – 2018.

by Chris ~ 19 May, 2018 ~ one comment

This week saw the start of the 2018 Great British Bee Count.  The aim of the count is to estimate the number of bumblebees and solitary bees that are buzzing around this year.  As the woodlands blog has reported on many occasions, bees and bumblebees are threatened by viruses, mites, pesticides*, inclement weather, habitat loss etc - so a count across the country (from John O'Groats to Land's End) is a 'good thing' informing, for example, the Pollinator Monitoring Scheme how bees and bumblebees are faring across the country.  The information also contributes to the  National Biodiversity Network Atlas  (NBN), which records the current status of all species in the U.K.

To help with this, there is a smart phone App - available for either iPhones or Android Phones.  The App enables you to submit sightings of bumblebees and bees (with photos where possible) Read more...

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