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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...

wasp

Why wasps ?

by Lewis ~ 28 January, 2018 ~ one comment

Generally speaking, honey bees and bumblebees have a "good press", wasps do not.  Bees are associated with honey and the pollination of flowers and fruit trees.  Wasps are often associated with being stung and with disrupting our meals when dining "al fresco".

Why is it that wasps want to invade our space and our meals?   

Wasps, like bees, like sugary things (e.g. nectar).  During the Spring and Summer, wasps can obtain sugars from the larvae that they are rearing back in their nest. The worker wasps hunt for insects in our gardens amongst the flowers and vegetables, and take back their prey to the nest.  The prey is then fed to the larvae - which need a protein-rich diet in order to grow.   In return,  the larvae secrete (from their salivary glands) a sugar-rich fluid and the adults feed upon this. Read more...

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...

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