Plastic Bees

There has been a flurry of excitement in the media over a recently-published observational study describing the “behavioural flexibility and adaptation” of solitary bees to our “plastic-rich environments”. In a nutshell, during the course of a larger field study looking at wild bees in urban landscapes, researchers in Toronto discovered that some urban Megachile bee species in the city had lined their nest cells with plastic materials. Continue reading

Virtual Issue: Pollinator Ecology

The British Ecological Society has just published a ‘virtual’ journal issue on pollinator ecology, with all articles free to download for any reader, regardless of whether you have subscription access to the society. The articles are drawn from all five of the BES journals and cover all sorts of topical issues to do with honey bee health and biology, pesticide impacts and how management processes impact pollinators in agricultural landscapes.

And if this virtual issue isn’t enough for you, the Journal of Pollination Ecology is another permanently ‘open access’ peer-reviewed journal that publishes articles covering lots of different aspects of the wonderful world of pollination.

So click on the links to read the latest research on what modern life as a pollinator involves!

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Great news for bees…

…with a new review published in the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability!

The authors, including renowned UK bee expert Professor Dave Goulson, present the facts about neonicotinoids and pollinators. They discuss the background to the issue, and present evidence for how these pesticides really affect all insects, including bees. Most importantly, they also explain how previous ‘field tests’ that the big political decisions are being based on, “lack the statistical power” required to be considered as true ‘evidence’.

The authors conclude:

Their wide application, persistence in soil and water and potential for uptake by succeeding crops and wild plants make neonicotinoids bioavailable to pollinators in sublethal concentrations for most of the year.

Not only is this great news for bees, it also shows how imperative it is for governments and regulatory bodies to understand and critically assess ALL the evidence before implementing policy decisions.

© Manu Saunders 2013

More than just bees

Nature never did betray the heart that loved her

William Wordsworth

While I was researching my last piece on the EU’s neonicotinoid ban I came across some quite surprising sentiments. The most unexpected was someone complaining about all “the fuss” over bees.

Of course, the benefits of the ban will not just be for bees. All pollinators are crucial to healthy natural ecosystems and the success of our own food production systems. Bees just happen to be the most productive pollinators, and the most recognisable to us, so they have unwittingly become a symbol for pollinators and beneficial insects in general.

Neonicotinoids obviously also have toxic effects on other insects (that’s why they were created). An important example is mayflies and caddisflies, which are ‘keystone’ indicator species in healthy freshwater ecosystems. They can also cause secondary outbreaks of pest species like mites, because the initial insecticide application killed all the other insects that could have kept the mites in check. Continue reading

Neonicotinoid ban eases the stress on bees

Kudos to the European Union for voting to restrict these insecticides. Although the moratorium is only temporary, and isn’t a total ban, it’s an enormous step in the right direction.

I hope Australia and other countries are galvanised by this news to provide greater support for low-impact agriculture.

Read my whole article on this at The Conversation news analysis site.

© Manu Saunders 2013

Modern agriculture is stressing honeybees

I’ve just had this published at online news site The Conversation. Viva les pollinators!

Modern agriculture is stressing honeybees: let’s go native

Honeybees are in trouble – a stressful lifestyle and an unhealthy diet are being compounded by mite attacks – but we needn’t panic about pollination. Australia has many native bee (and other pollinator) species that could be taking care of business, if we only took better care of them.

What do we mean when we talk about “bees”?

For many, “bee” means the honeybee – any species in the genus Apis, the most well-known of which is Apis mellifera, the European honeybee. It is a generalist pollinator, which means it shows little preference when it chooses flowers to forage on. It could visit (and potentially pollinate) almost any open flower in its foraging range. It is also adaptable to a wide range of environments and is capable of being “domesticated”.

Read the rest of the article

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© Manu Saunders 2013