Archive for August, 2009

The great yellow bumblebee (ETA: Bombus distinguendus) – one of Britain’s rarest bees – has been found at its most southerly site in 30 years.

Once widespread, its numbers declined in the face of intensive farming and has clung to survival on Orkney and the Western Isles.

The far north Highlands are home to the last mainland population.

Bob Dawson, of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BCT), has now discovered the species near Lybster, on the east Caithness coast..

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BBC Online


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France faces an invasion of Chinese hornets that could hasten the decline of the honeybee population.

The wasps, known by their scientific name Vespa velutina, could also threaten bee-keepers’ livelihoods, researchers say.

They have spread rapidly in south-western France – a region popular with tourists – and could reach other European countries soon.

The 3cm-long insects are recognisable by their orange heads and yellow feet.

Researchers think they probably arrived in France on a boat carrying ceramic goods from China in 2004.

The most recent study recorded 1,100 nests across the country. The hornet is now firmly established near Bordeaux and has advanced as far north as parts of Brittany in north-western France.

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BBC Online

Note: This article does not refer to the so called ‘Japanese Giant Hornet’ often mentioned in the press. That hornet is Vespa mandarinia and is confined to Japan and the Far East. Also many hornet species have orange/yellow on thier heads and feet including the European hornet Vespa crabro.

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Moving house is thought to be one of life’s most stressful events.

But if that’s the case, the stress levels for moving museums must be off the scale.

Staff at London’s Natural History Museum are currently in the process of shifting more than 20 million plant and insect specimens from its world-famous collections into a giant, eight-storey-high cocoon, which sits at the heart of the new Darwin Centre.

The building opens in September, and it will give the public a chance to get a glimpse at a part of the museum that is normally hidden way behind closed doors.

But moving the collections is an enormous operation. [Find out more]

BBC Website

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Orchids are famous for their deceptions. Most of those with nothing of value to offer their pollinators lure them instead with the scents of more rewarding flowers or potential mates. Now, a report published online on August 6th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, reveals for the first time that a species of orchid, which lives on the Chinese island of Hainan, fools its hornet pollinator by issuing a chemical that honeybees use to send an alarm. [Read full article]


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Ants believed to have a “kamikaze attraction” to electricity have been discovered in one of England’s finest National Trust gardens.

Colonies of lasius neglectus, the so-called Asian super ant, have being found at Hidcote Manor, near Chipping Campden, in Gloucestershire.

It is thought to be the first recorded sighting in the UK, although they have been spotted in mainland Europe.

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See previous article ‘Ant invader knocks on UK’s door

ETA: Useful info on the species here.

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