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Archive for January, 2010

A project to protect bumblebees in Pembrokeshire is in the running for a UK prize to expand its work on creating habitat for the endangered species.

The shrill carder bee is only found in six populations across the UK, three of which are in Wales.

The project is near at the Ministry of Defence site at Castlemartin and aims to boost an existing bee group there.

Six schemes across the UK are on the shortlist for the 30,000 euro (£25,000) prize.

The Pembrokeshire project, a collaboration between the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, MoD, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and the Countryside Council for Wales, is the only Welsh entry for the competition, run by the EOG Association for Conservation and Live for the Outdoors website.

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Voting details HERE

Keep updated at the BBCT News Page

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Insect models

Check out these fantastic insect models by Julia Stoess!

I have made it my task to reproduce these fascinating animals in a greatly enlarged and scientifically correct form, so that even the hairs and bristles are true to the original.

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Yesterday afternoon saw the official launch of POSTnote 348 (pdf), on ‘Insect Pollination’, written by the 2009 BES POST Fellow Rebecca Ross. The note summarises the causes and consequences of the declines in UK insect pollinators: a subject that has received growing attention in recent years, as demonstrated by the large audience crowding the seminar room in Westminster.

Chaired by John Penrose MP, the seminar began with a presentation from Dr Liz McIntosh of the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), promoting BeeBase, the Government initiative to register all beekeepers. The ex-President of the British Beekeepers Association Ivor Davis then spoke, pointing at the lack of professional teaching available to beekeepers for the decline in the number of honey bees in the UK – a view echoed by comments from other beekeepers in the room. Whilst welcoming the Government’s pledge to invest £10.5 million into bee research, he expressed concern that it would all be spent on high level research rather than achieving practical, immediate goals.

Dr Simon Potts of the University of Reading then discussed the consequences of pollinator decline. Pollinator services in the UK are valued at around £440 million, or 13 % of the total value of agriculture. As only 10% of this is provided by domestic honey bees, Dr Potts highlighted the economic sense of protecting wild pollinators, at a fraction of the cost that would be incurred trying to replace them. This was theme continued by Dr Claire Carvel of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in her presentation on research into using field margin strips in Countryside Stewardship agri-environment measures to support pollinators. Comments from the floor questioned the practicalities of planting such pollinator friendly margins, for example whether regional eco-types would be considered, and challenged researchers and policy-makers to improve the implementation of these schemes amongst farmers.

Selected points from the POSTnote 348 (pdf) report:

Comparison of Bee Species as Pollinators

  • The relative contribution of different insect species to providing pollination services has never been systematically assessed in the UK.
  • Honeybees are often cited as the most important crop pollinators, however the role of wild bees is being increasingly recognised.
  • Honeybees are a practical solution to pollinating several intensively farmed crops as they can be reliably managed to be locally common when crops are in bloom.
  • Wild bees can be more effective on particular crops than honeybees. In apple orchards, 600 solitary bees can pollinate as well as 2 hives (30,000 honeybees).
  • Wild bee species can be more abundant than honeybees, particularly in semi-natural ecosystems away from hives. A study in British rape fields found bumblebees were twice as abundant as honeybees.
  • Wild bees may act synergistically with managed bees to increase yields.

Recent Trends in British Pollinators

  • Honeybees: Managed hives have declined by 50% in England between 1985 and 20055. High winter colony losses recently, but not unprecedented. Wild honeybees thought to be rare as they are severely affected by an introduced parasite, varroa mite.
  • Bumblebees and solitary bees: Good data are lacking to assess changes in abundance. 50% of areas surveyed have lost species compared with pre-1980, only 10% have gained species. Seven bumblebee species are UK Biodiversity Action Plan priorities, but six remain relatively common and widespread.
  • Butterflies: No change in abundance of generalist species since the 1970s, but specialist species have declined.
  • Moths: 67% of common widespread species have declined since the 1970s8.
  • Hoverflies: Data from the Hoverfly Recording Scheme indicates that 25% of species have declined since the 1980s while 10% have increased.

From the Ecology and Policy Blog, over at the British Ecological Society.

Please take time to read the full report! (4 page pdf)

Table 1: Recent Trends in British Pollinators
Pollinator
Status
Honeybees
Managed hives have declined by 50% in England between 1985 and 20055. High winter colony losses recently, but not unprecedented. Wild honeybees thought to be rare as they are severely affected by an introduced parasite, varroa mite.
Bumblebees and solitary bees
Good data are lacking to assess changes in abundance. 50% of areas surveyed have lost species compared with pre-1980, only 10% have gained species6. Seven bumblebee species are UK Biodiversity Action Plan priorities, but six remain relatively common and widespread.
Butterflies
No change in abundance of generalist species since the 1970s, but specialist species have declined 7.
Moths
67% of common widespread species have declined since the 1970s8.
Hoverflies
Data from the Hoverfly Recording Scheme indicates that 25% of species have declined since the 1980s while 10% have increased.
Others
Insufficient data.

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The decline of honeybees seen in many countries may be caused by reduced plant diversity, research suggests.

Bees fed pollen from a range of plants showed signs of having a healthier immune system than those eating pollen from a single type, scientists found.

Writing in the journal Biology Letters, the French team says that bees need a fully functional immune system in order to sterilise food for the colony.

Other research has shown that bees and wild flowers are declining in step.

Two years ago, scientists in the UK and The Netherlands reported that the diversity of bees and other insects was falling alongside the diversity of plants they fed on and pollinated.

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BBC News

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Check out Val Littlewood’s blog, Pencil & Leaf,  for some lovely illustrations of wasps and bees.

Thanks to Anna for first featuring this..

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