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AI technology harnessing the hoverflies.

AI technology harnessing the hoverflies.

by Lewis ~ 2 November, 2020 ~ 2 comments

The loss of pollinators, particularly honey bees, may bring about a synergy between pollinators such as hover flies and artificial intelligence technology.  Honey bees (and indeed bumblebee)s have been hit hard by habitat loss, pollution, the  extensive use of pesticides and the spread of viruses and varroa.  Bees provide an important ecosystem service, namely pollination.   bees provide the majority of plant pollination world-wide but the bees are fighting a losing battle and this represents a threat to food supplies.  In the United States, bee hives are 'bussed around' in a somewhat 'cavalier manner', indeed "Hives may be moved multiple times and several thousand miles per year" Read more...

hawkweed

Deadly pollen

by Chris ~ 5 October, 2020 ~ comments welcome

Hawkweeds are wild flowers of dry, grassy places, but also to be found on walls, rocky places, and pavements. Some are regarded as invasive species in some parts of the world. The botanical genus Hieracium is known by the common name : the hawkweeds.  It is thought that the common name derives from the writings of Pliny the elder, who believed that hawks sprinkled sap from the plants into their yellow eyes to dispel dimness. 

The genus is a member of the sunflower / daisy family: the Asteraceae. They are closely related to dandelions (Taraxacum) and sow thistles (Sonchus). There are thousands of different Hawkweeds;  but botanists classify British hawkweeds into about 340 “species”, many of which are quite rare. Identifying them is difficult and best attempted when there is fresh growth and new leaves.  The classification of the hawkweeds is difficult, partly because the plants use apomictic reproduction. This means that seeds that are formed without the usual processes of pollination and fertilisation.  Read more...

Pollution and pollinators.

Pollution and pollinators.

by Chris ~ 18 September, 2020 ~ 2 comments

Plants and animals provide us with many important ecosystem services.   One critical ecosystem service is pollination; this is mainly done by insects - such as bees, bumblebees, moths and hoverflies. Insects are often attracted to flowers by scent, when volatile oils are released that act as chemical signals to ‘tell’ insects about their presence in the environment. This signalling is the result of a relationship between flowers and insects that has evolved over millions of years.  However, in relatively recent times, we (as a species) have been responsible for many changes to the Earth and its atmosphere.  Many gases and materials have been released into the air which have ‘mixed’ with the wide variety of natural scents and smells that are used for plant and animal communication.

One such pollutant at low levels is ozone. Higher up in the atmosphere, the ozone layer prevents too much damaging UV light from reaching the Earth's surface.  However, at ground level, the oxidizing potential of ozone can cause damage to respiratory tissues in animals. Read more...

bumblebee on lavender

Biting bees

by blogs at woodlands ~ 12 June, 2020 ~ comments welcome

In Spring, or earlier if winter has been mild, queen bumblebees emerge from ‘hibernation’, from their nests.  They then need to feed, having more or less exhausted their bodily reserves during the cold of winter.  Their food comes in the form of nectar and pollen - both of which can be in short supply in early Spring.

Whilst the bumblebees may need food, flowers also have a ‘need’-  pollinating agents - particularly bumblebees.   The inter-dependence of flowering plants and insects probably evolved many millions of years ago, back in the Cretaceous Period. Read more...

Natural Capital

Natural Capital

by Ruth ~ 23 November, 2018 ~ comments welcome

We are seeing increasing interest in the forestry industry in ‘Natural Capital’ – defined in simple terms as the wide range of benefits derived from nature.

What is it?
‘Natural Capital’ refers to the value forestry and woodlands offer above and beyond commercial timber value. This includes the benefits and services that a woodland may offer such as cleaner air, flood defence, climate regulation, pollination or recreation and health benefits. This is not a new concept to owners of small woods who have long considered the value of their woodlands to be so much more than value of the trees themselves. 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 ~ 3 comments

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...

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