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Posts Tagged ‘pollination’

“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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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

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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

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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.

[Read full report – 2.27MB PDF]

From United Nations Environment Programme

Some relevant discussion over at Myrmecos blog

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We all know the scene.

You’re just sitting down to relax in your garden on a warm, sunny day, maybe with a chilled glass of wine and a newspaper … and then they attack.

Buzzing at your head in a yellow and black blur, dive-bombing your ears in a desperate hunt for a sugar fix. Whatever you do, they just won’t go away – and nor does the threat of a painful sting.

Wasps are probably the nation’s most hated insect, provoking widespread fear and loathing, and death by rolled up newspaper. But campaigners are about to try and change all that. They want us to learn to love the wasp.

The insect conservation group, Buglife, will tomorrow launch a major campaign to rebrand wasps as “wonderful”. You shouldn’t kill them, the group says, you should learn to be nice to them. [Read full article]

Herald Scotland

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The world may be on the brink of biological disaster after news that a third of US bee colonies did not survive the winter

Disturbing evidence that honeybees are in terminal decline has emerged from the United States where, for the fourth year in a row, more than a third of colonies have failed to survive the winter.

The decline of the country’s estimated 2.4 million beehives began in 2006, when a phenomenon dubbed colony collapse disorder (CCD) led to the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of colonies. Since then more than three million colonies in the US and billions of honeybees worldwide have died and scientists are no nearer to knowing what is causing the catastrophic fall in numbers.

The number of managed honeybee colonies in the US fell by 33.8% last winter, according to the annual survey by the Apiary Inspectors of America and the US government’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

The collapse in the global honeybee population is a major threat to crops. It is estimated that a third of everything we eat depends upon honeybee pollination, which means that bees contribute some £26bn to the global economy.

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Guardian/Observer.

*sigh* Why is it that such articles continue to attribute pollination to honeybees alone? If they did their research they’d discover that are over 20,000 other species of bee, not to mention countless other inverterates responsible for pollination. The only difference between here in the UK and US is many of the US growing areas are virtual monocultures with little room for native plants and their pollinators that would also service the flowering crops.

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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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