Posts Tagged ‘bees’

“Sarah Raven is on a mission to halt the decline in honey bees and insect pollinators with insect friendly flower power in this three part series”

Not to be missed: Bees, Butterflies and Blooms

Also in a related article: Scientist’s highlights efforts to get bees buzzing


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Steven Falk, 2011


For six years between 2003 and 2008, over 100 site visits were made to fifteen chalk grassland and chalk heath sites within the South Downs of Vice-county 14 (East Sussex). This produced a list of 227 bee and wasp species and revealed the comparative frequency of different species, the comparative richness of different sites and provided a basic insight into how many of the species interact with the South Downs at a site and landscape level. The study revealed that, in addition to the character of the semi-natural grasslands present, the bee and wasp fauna is also influenced by the more intensively-managed agricultural landscapes of the Downs, with many species taking advantage of blossoming hedge shrubs, flowery fallow fields, flowery arable field margins, flowering crops such as Rape, plus plants such as buttercups, thistles and dandelions within relatively improved pasture. Some very rare species were encountered, notably the bee Halictus eurygnathus Blüthgen which had not been seen in Britain since 1946. This was eventually recorded at seven sites and was associated with an abundance of Greater Knapweed. The very rare bees Anthophora retusa (Linnaeus) and Andrena niveata Friese were also observed foraging on several dates during their flight periods, providing a better insight into their ecology and conservation requirements. There was evidence that the low coverage of unimproved chalk grassland on the South Downs today following much loss and fragmentation in the last century may have resulted in some serious declines of certain bees and wasps and several probable local extinctions.

Cite as: Falk, S.J. 2011. A Survey of the bees and wasps of fifteen chalk grassland and chalk heath sites within the East Sussex South Downs. 76 pages. Selfpublished.

Report downloadable from the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre:


Also the Bee, Wasp and Ant Recording Society website: www.bwars.com

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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.


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]

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Current evidence demonstrates that a sixth major extinction of biological diversity event is underway. The Earth is losing between one and ten percent of biodiversity per decade, mostly due to habitat loss, pest invasion, pollution, over-harvesting and disease. Certain natural ecosystem services are vital for human societies.

Many fruit, nut, vegetable, legume, and seed crops depend on pollination. Pollination services are provided both by wild, free-living organisms (mainly bees, but also to name a few many butterflies, moths and flies), and by commercially managed bee species. Bees are the predominant and most economically important group of pollinators in most geographical regions.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO)4 estimates that out of some 100 crop species which provide 90% of food worldwide, 71 of these are bee-pollinated. In Europe alone, 84% of the 264 crop species are animal pollinated and 4 000 vegetable varieties exist thanks to pollination by bees. The production value of one tonne of pollinator-dependent crop is approximately five times higher than one of those crop categories that do not depend on insects6.

Has a “pollinator crisis” really been occurring during recent decades, or are these concerns just another sign of global biodiversity decline? Several studies have highlighted different factors leading to the pollinators’ decline that have been observed around the world. This bulletin considers the latest scientific findings and analyses possible answers to this question. As the bee group is the most important pollinator worldwide, this bulletin focuses on the instability of wild and managed bee populations, the driving forces, potential mitigating measures and recommendations.

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From United Nations Environment Programme

Some relevant discussion over at Myrmecos blog

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Scientists have discovered why orchids are one of the most successful groups of flowering plants — it is all down to their relationships with the bees that pollinate them and the fungi that nourish them. The study, published February 1 in the American Naturalist, is the culmination of a ten-year research project in South Africa involving researchers from Imperial College London, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and other international institutions.

The orchid family is one of the largest groups of flowering plants, with over 22,000 species worldwide. New research suggests that there is such a huge range of species because orchids are highly adaptable and individual species can interact with bees, and other pollinators, in different ways.

For example, when orchids Pterygodium pentherianum and Pterygodium schelpei live side by side, Pterygodium pentherianum puts its pollen on the bee’s front legs, whereas Pterygodium schelpei puts it on the bee’s abdomen, as in the photo above. This means that one bee can carry pollen from two distinct species without mixing it.

The study also shows how orchids are able to live harmoniously together, with different species working in partnership with different microscopic fungi in the soil, ensuring they do not compete with each other.

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Science Daily

Research paper citation:

The Effects of Above- and Belowground Mutualisms on Orchid Speciation and Coexistence. Richard J. Waterman, Martin I. Bidartondo, Jaco Stofberg, Julie K. Combs, Gerhard Gebauer, Vincent Savolainen, Timothy G. Barraclough and Anton Pauw. The American Naturalist, Vol. 177, No. 2, 2011.

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Penn State researchers have found that native pollinators, like wild bees and wasps, are infected by the same viral diseases as honey bees and that these viruses are transmitted via pollen. This multi-institutional study provides new insights into viral infections in native pollinators, suggesting that viral diseases may be key factors impacting pollinator populations.

Their research published on December 22nd in PLoS ONE, an online open-access journal.

According to Diana Cox-Foster, co-author and professor of entomology at Penn State, pollinator populations have declined for various reasons, including ribonucleic acid (RNA) viruses, which are emerging as a serious threat. “RNA viruses are suspected as major contributors to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD ), where honey bee colonies die with few or no bees left in the hives. Recent detection of these viral species in bumble bees and other native pollinators indicates a possible wider environmental spread of these viruses with potential broader impact,” explains Cox-Foster.

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Science Daily

Research paper:

RNA Viruses in Hymenopteran Pollinators: Evidence of Inter-Taxa Virus Transmission via Pollen and Potential Impact on Non-Apis Hymenopteran Species

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A decline in pollinating insects in India is resulting in reduced vegetable yields and could limit people’s access to a nutritional diet, a study warns.

Indian researchers said there was a “clear indication” that pollinator abundance was linked to productivity.

They added that the loss of the natural service could have a long-term impact on the farming sector, which accounts for almost a fifth of the nation’s GDP.

Globally, pollination is estimated to be worth £141bn ($224bn) each year.

The findings were presented at a recent British Ecological Society meeting, held at the University of Leeds.

Each year, India produces about 7.5 million tonnes of vegetables. This accounts for about 14% of the global total, making the nation second only to China in the world’s vegetable production league table.

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