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UC Davis Entomologist Lynn Kimsey Discovers New Species of Wasp: Gigantic Wasp With Long, Powerful Jaws

DAVIS–A warrior wasp? A wasp with jaws longer than its front legs?

The new species of wasp that Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, discovered on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, has scientists abuzz.

The jaw-dropping, shiny black wasp appears to be the “Komodo dragon” of the wasp family.

It’s huge. The male measures about two-and-a-half-inches long, Kimsey said. “Its jaws are so large that they wrap up either side of the head when closed. When the jaws are open they are actually longer than the male’s front legs. I don’t know how it can walk. The females are smaller but still larger than other members of their subfamily, Larrinae.”

Kimsey discovered the warrior wasp on the Mekongga Mountains in southeastern Sulawesi on a recent biodiversity expedition funded by a five-year grant from the International Cooperative Biodiversity Group Program.

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Most of us are aware of the crisis facing the honeybee, but there are hundreds of lesser known species that need help.

On a rainy, windswept summer’s afternoon I find myself on the banks of the river Thames in Barking, east London, with a tape measure in hand, adjudicating at a Guinness world record attempt. I have been asked to measure the length, height and depth of a large wooden structure made out of more than 20,000 pieces of bamboo and 200 logs. It has taken local volunteers three weeks to cut, saw and drill into the wood and create what they hope will be the world’s largest bee house.

There is enough room in its interior for hundreds of residents who, it is hoped, will make their nests in the numerous holes and tunnels in the wood. Yet few if any of these bees will be recognisable to the public, for none of them make honey for our consumption, nor spend the summer buzzing from one brightly coloured flower to the next in our parks and gardens.

These lesser known bees are solitary insects that, as their name suggests, live alone rather than in large colonies like honeybees or bumblebees. Many survive for just a few weeks – enough time to mate, make a nest and lay their eggs. But, like their more sociable cousins, they perform vital pollination services while they busily collect nectar and pollen from plants to feed their offspring.

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guardian.co.uk | The Observer

Bumblebees, solitary bees and other wild pollinating insects are much more important for pollinating UK crops than previously thought, say researchers.

They found that honeybee populations have nose-dived so dramatically in recent years that they can only do half as much pollination as they did in the early 1980s.

Where honeybees used to provide around 70 per cent of the UK’s pollination needs they now only pollinate a third. At worst, that figure could well be more like 10 to 15 per cent.

Paradoxically over the last 20 years, the proportion of UK crops that rely on insects for pollination has risen from just under 8 per cent in the early 1980s to 20 per cent in 2007. And over the same period, yields of insect-pollinated crops, which include oil seed rape and field bean, have gone up by 54 per cent.

This means that honeybees can’t be solely responsible, or aren’t the only important pollinator.

So if honeybees aren’t pollinating the crops, what is? The researchers think that other important pollinating insects, such as bumblebees, hoverflies and solitary bees must be making up the shortfall.

‘Our finding suggests that wild insect pollinators make a much bigger contribution to UK crop pollination than previously thought,’ says Tom Breeze from the University of Reading, lead author of the study.

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Planet Earth Online

Research paper: T.D. Breeze, A.P. Bailey, K.G. Balcombe and S.G. Potts, Pollination services in the UK: How important are honeybees?, Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, published online 20 May 2011, doi:10.1016/j.agee.2011.03.020

More information here:
http://pencilandleaf.blogspot.com/2011/06/buzz-at-heligan.html
http://www.heligan.com/news-events/event-detail/buzz-…-a-celebration-of-british-bees-and-their-flowers/

The project Status and Trends of European Pollinators (STEP) will document the nature and extent of these declines, examine functional traits associated with particular risk, develop a Red List of important European pollinator groups, in particular bees and lay the groundwork for future pollinator monitoring programmes.  STEP will also assess the relative importance of potential drivers of such change, including climate change, habitat loss and fragmentation, agrichemicals, pathogens, alien species, light pollution, and their interactions. STEP will measure the ecological and economic impacts on declining pollinator services and floral resources including effects on wild plant populations, crop production and human nutrition. It will review existing and potential mitigation options, providing novel tests of their effectiveness across Europe. The work will build upon existing datasets and models, complemented by spatially-replicated campaigns of field research to fill gaps in current knowledge. STEP will integrate the findings into a policy-relevant framework, creating Evidence-based Decision Support tools. It will also establish communication links to a wide range of stakeholders across Europe and beyond, including policy makers, beekeepers, farmers, academics and the general public. Taken together, the research programme will improve our understanding of the nature, causes, consequences and potential mitigation of declines in pollinator services at local, continental and global scales.

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STEP is funded by the European Commission as a Collaborative Project within Framework 7 under grant 244090 – STEP– CP – FP. More information on the STEP website: www.STEP-project.net

Further reading:

Developing European conservation and mitigation tools for pollination services: approaches of the STEP (Status and Trends of European Pollinators) project. Potts S.G. et. al. Journal of Apicultural Research 50: 152-164. 2011 [Link to PDF]

Get Britain Buzzing

Buglife President Germaine Greer, Wildlife Presenter Bill Oddie and former Prime Minister Tony Blair today become ambassadors for a new campaign at The Royal Society in London to help ‘Get Britain Buzzing’. The campaign led by Buglife hopes to highlight the crisis facing pollinating insects such as bees, hoverflies and moths.

The launch event is taking place this afternoon with a recorded message from Tony Blair followed by a series of talks on pollinators and a performance from Insect Circus a spectacular combination of physical theatre, circus skills and extraordinary insect costumes.

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Buglife

Bumblebees, honeybees, butterflies and other pollinating insects are in decline worldwide. So what better way to help stem their decline than by installing a bumblebee nest box in your garden? The only trouble is they don’t work.

That’s the conclusion of a study to find out if bumblebee nest boxes do the job they’re supposed to.

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Planet Earth Online

Research Paper: Gillian C. Lye, Kirsty J. Park, John M. Holland and Dave Goulson, Assessing the efficacy of artificial domiciles for bumblebees, Journal for Nature Conservation, Available online 21 April 2011, doi:10.1016/j.jnc.2010.11.001