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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...

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...

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...

Global warming and the changing seasons.

Global warming and the changing seasons.

by Chris ~ 8 December, 2016 ~ comments welcome

The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been carefully monitored since the 1950’s (for example at Mauna Loa).  For much of recorded history and prior to the industrial revolution, the level of carbon dioxide was about 280 ppm.  However, its current level of 400 ppm represents a significant increase and is probably the highest value for some 800,000 years.  It has risen because of the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, peat etc.) - which release carbon dioxide.  This has contributed to global warming and the phenomenon of climate change.

However, the rise in global temperature has not been quite as great as some calculations / predictions have proposed.  The “greening of the planet” (that is an increase in the number of trees and plants growing on the planet) was held to be responsible for this ‘reduction’ in anticipated temperatures. 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...

Fennel, another umbellifer

Fennel, another umbellifer

by Chris ~ 22 January, 2016 ~ comments welcome

There are a number of plants that have ‘fennel’ in their name.   For example, :

  • Dog Fennel : Eupatorium capillifolium
  • Giant Fennel : Ferula communis
  • Fennel, Sweet Fennel : Foeniculum vulgare
  • Florence Fennel : Foeniculum vulgare azoricum
  • Hog's Fennel : Peucedanum officinale
  • Wild Fennel : Nigella arvensis
  • Bronze Fennel : Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum'

However, it is the various forms of Foeniculum :-  Fennel, Sweet Fennel or Florence Fennel that are ‘best known’ through their use in cooking and / or the making of absinthe.  Such fennel plants are often garden escapes, but Foeniculum vulgare has naturalised, being particularly associated with disturbed ground. and the banks of streams and rivers.  Read more...

Know your bumblebees

Know your bumblebees

by Chris ~ 27 June, 2014 ~ 5 comments

Following on from last week's post, the woodlands blog has often reported on the problems facing honey bees and bumblebees - from the vagaries of climate to the effects of insecticides, such as neonicotinoids.  Whilst it is easy to identify a honey bee and spot a bumblebee, it is somewhat more difficult to say what type of bumblebee might be foraging in your garden or woodland.

There is a lot of information about bumblebees at the bumblebee conservation trust website.  A particularly useful link is "Top tips for bee ID"; tail colour is an important or helpful feature.  Read more...

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