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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...

Flower colours and insect visitors

Flower colours and insect visitors

by Chris ~ 17 May, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Flowers are the means by which plants attract pollinators.   Pollinations leads to fertilisation and fertilisation leads on to seed formation and the propagation of the species.   For plants, like sunflowers, the pollinators are insects - so the plant displays something bold and eye catching for them.   However, the brilliant yellow and orange colours that we see are not what an insect sees or is attracted by.   Insect eyes (compound eyes) see the world very differently - one key difference is that unlike us, insects can see ultra-violet light.   Sunflowers (and many other plants) take advantage of this fact by incorporating UV absorbing pigments in their structure; so what we see as a ring of colour with a darker centre is for insects a more complex set of of rings. 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...

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...

honey bee on lavender

Pollution, bees and foraging.

by Lewis ~ 27 July, 2016 ~ 2 comments

Sadly, our air is polluted with many different chemicals from anthropogenic sources - particularly the burning of fuels.  Many of these chemicals have been implicated as exacerbating a number of health conditions - notably heart disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), stroke and lung cancer.  Common pollutants are particulates (from diesel), ozone and nitrogen oxides.  These pollutants not only affect us but also many different plants and animals.

Recent research at Penn State University has revealed that ozone interacts with plant scents (volatile oils) and degrades them.  As a result the scents are less effective in attracting pollinators (bees and bumblebees) to the flowers. 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...

Catching moths in your woodland

Catching moths in your woodland

by Angus ~ 16 October, 2014 ~ one comment

Moths are attracted to the light and are largely nocturnal.  So a woodland owner can trap and identify moths - if they have the right moth-catching equipment.  Woodland owners, Heather and Rodney have developed a brilliant home-made moth trap, which uses a mercury vapour bulb and is powered by a generator.  This has saved them the cost of buying a commercial moth trap, (at a cost of about £200); it has also given them a trap which is much more suited to their needs.

Using this device, Heather has identified over 350 different moth species over the last couple of years, such as the large grey Clifden Nonpareil (see image below).  It turns out that moths are really important in woodlands as they pollinate many plants and provide food for small mammals, spiders and bats. Read more...

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