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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...

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...

mowed roadside verge

‘Verging on the ridiculous?’

by Chris ~ 5 September, 2020 ~ one comment

It is clear that wildlife is in decline, not just in the U.K, but across Europe, America - in fact wherever you look. Over the last century, over 90% of meadows have been lost in the U.K.   This decline in natural habitats / ecosystems is largely due to urban growth and the expansion & intensification of agriculture.  Concomitant with the loss of natural habitats is the loss of wildlife.  One particular cause for concern is the ‘disappearance’ or decline in numbers of some many insect species, especially pollinators.  The woodlands blog has reported many times on honeybee and bumblebee numbers.`   Pollinators, such as bees, butterflies or hoverflies,  need to find food (nectar & pollen), plants on which their larvae can feed, sites for nesting, reproduction and over-wintering.

With the growth of cities and agriculture there has been an expansion of transport networks, particularly roads. There are more than 30,000 miles of major roads in UK in 2019, with some 2,300+ miles of that being motorways.   Roads clearly have a number of ecological impacts (dividing up the landscape being one) but they also offer ‘habitats’ alongside the road. Read more...

In praise of hoverflies

In praise of hoverflies

by Lewis ~ 24 May, 2020 ~ one comment

The hoverfly is so named because it does hover, its flight path is  somewhat hesitant, moving along in a sort of zig-zag at times; it is sometimes mistaken for a bee or a wasp due to its colour and 'stripes'. There are roughly some 6,000 species of hoverflies.  Hoverflies are to be found on every continent  with exception of Antarctica (plus some small, remote islands); and in many different biomes .

Like bees and bumblebees, hoverflies are pollinators but bees and bumblebees have had a ‘better press’ - known as being important for the pollination of many fruit and crop species. Now Dr. Wotton and his team [at Exeter University] suggest that hoverflies are sometimes more effective pollinators than bumblebees / bees and that their role in fertilising crops might have been underestimated.   It is thought that hoverflies could prove to be useful pollinators where bees do not ‘perform’ well; i.e. outside of mediterranean or temperate habitats / climates, where temperatures are lower.  The flies carry pollen over considerable distances and may visit isolated plants. Read more...

UK wildlife, gaining ground but losing numbers ?

UK wildlife, gaining ground but losing numbers ?

by Chris ~ 22 May, 2020 ~ comments welcome

Nearly every report that one comes across says that many plant and animal species are under threat.   The causes are many but may be broadly summarised as 

  • Fragmentation, loss or destruction of natural habitats (as a result of intensive and extending agriculture, roadways, railways etc)
  • Pesticides and pollution (e.g. neonicotinoids, eutrophication as a result of fertiliser use)
  • Impacts of climate change

Some of the changes are more obvious in every day terms than others, for example, the drop in insect numbers is revealed by the car windscreen ‘test’ : the splatometer.   A survey of insects hitting car windscreens in rural parts of Denmark [using data collected between 1997 to 2017] found a decline of some  80%. There was a similar decline in the number of swallows and martins, (they depend on insects for their food). Read more...

bbee

Flowers and urban bumblebees

by Chris ~ 13 March, 2020 ~ one comment

The decline of bumblebees and other pollinators has been noted in the woodlands blog on several occasions; they play a key role in the pollination of many crops that we rely upon.

Urban areas are now important habitats for bees, bumblebees and other pollinators as the world becomes increasingly urbanised, and patterns of land management have changed over the last century - with vast swathes of monocultures.  Urban areas can offer a much greater selection of plant species.  Cities can offer diversity to both long tongued and short tongued bumblebees (specialists and generalists respectively) by offering a rich choice of flowering plants.   Specialist bumblebees have long tongues to probe deep into certain flowers, whereas short-tongued, generalist bumblebees can collect nectar / pollen from a variety of flowers. Read more...

The flowers are listening !

The flowers are listening !

by Chris ~ 8 May, 2019 ~ one comment

Sound is part and parcel of life.  The nervous system of animals are attuned to it; it serves to inform them of danger, of food, of mates etc.  We do not think of plants are being sensitive to or responsive to sound - though some people are convinced that talking to plants helps them to grow better (this might be due to an enhanced level of carbon dioxide near to the plants).  However, some recent studies by Professor Lilach Hadany (of Tel Aviv University) and her colleagues suggest that some plants can respond to certain sounds that bees produce. 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...

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