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honeybee on lavender

A different perspective on the honey bee – Apis mellifera.

by Chris ~ 14 September, 2018 ~ 2 comments

This month a paper appeared in the Science Mag authored by people at the Cambridge Conservation Group; it argues that the present focus on the (western) honey bee (Apis mellifera) is misguided.

The honey bee is indeed the most important single species for crop pollination, and there has been a rapid growth in the number of managed colonies over the last 50 years.  This is especially true in areas where this honey bee species has been introduced.  It was introduced to the Americas in the 1600’s.   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...

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...

Bumblebees - 'neonics' further evidence.

Bumblebees – ‘neonics’ further evidence.

by Chris ~ 3 September, 2017 ~ comments welcome

Back in 2013, the EU imposed a temporary ban on the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops.  This was as a result of claims that nicotine related chemicals had a significant effect on the physiology and behaviour of pollinators - particularly honey bees.   The ban remains in place whilst a review of these chemicals takes place.

Further evidence of the effects of neonicotinoids (other than that already reported in the woodlands’ blog) comes from the research work of Professor Raine * (of the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada) and co-workers.  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...

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...

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