All about the bees blog

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this blog are those of the author alone. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors or omissions.

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A closer look at the recent Centre for Ecology & Hydrology pan-European neonicotinoid study

Research in focus: Country-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on honey bees and wild bees. By Woodcock et al (2017), Science 365 (6345), pp. 1393-1395.  DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1190

On the 29th of June, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) published the largest field study to date examining the effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on bees. This much-anticipated study was funded by pesticide manufacturers Syngenta and Bayer, and carried out independently by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) after intense scrutiny of the methodology by researchers at the University of Cambridge.

As with much of the scientific literature on neonicotinoids, the results of this study have been debated fiercely with some controversial reporting from both sides. Bayer have since published a partial re-analysis doubting CEH’s assessments, while Syngenta claim the results to reflect positively on neonicotinoid usage and the mitigating impact of good beekeeping husbandry planting wildflowers around treated fields.

Here, Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s Head of Science, Dr Richard Comont, carefully explores the findings in detail and gives his take on what the results show...

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Industrial-scale wildflower seeding for Great yellows

By Katy Malone, Conservation Officer (Scotland)

For the last couple of years, we’ve been working with Scottish and Southern Energy Electricity Networks (SSEN) and its contractor Balfour Beatty at three new substation sites in Caithness. The substations are needed to carry the huge amounts of power generated from the recent upsurge in the renewable sector in Caithness, and also to replace aging plant. Balfour Beatty contracted an Environmental Consultant, Angus Spirit (Envirassist) to make recommendations and write a plan for the environmental improvement of the site after the substations had been built. Angus contacted me in 2015 as he thought the site could have significant biodiversity benefit for bumblebees and wanted to see if there was anything I could recommend. In particular, could these huge construction sites be made attractive to Great yellow bumblebees?


Thurso south substation just before it goes ‘live’, showing the extensive earth bund surrounding it.

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Buzzing about Crofting Practice

This guest blog has been kindly written by Katie Morrison, a recent graduate from Aberdeen University. Katie recieved a first class grade for her honours thesis in which she investigated how farming practices in the Outer Hebrides impact on bumblebee diversity and abundance. Here she tells us about her findings.

Background

Bumblebees are endearing and charismatic. It is, however, no secret that bumblebees are coming under growing pressure from intensive farming practices throughout Britain. But nestled in the North-West corner of Britain in the Outer Hebrides, rare bumblebees including the Great Yellow (extinct across England & Wales) and Moss Carder are thriving!

The machair of the Outer Hebrides might be unfamiliar to you. Machair (a Gaelic word) is a beautiful coastal habitat consisting of an extensive, low-lying fertile grassland.  Its shell based soil hosts a multitude of flowers throughout the summer but is nearly barren throughout the winter. The floral display is unique across the world hosting some rare orchids, making it a precious habitat globally.Balranald Machair on North Uist (Photo credit: Katie Morrison)

Intensive agricultural is not possible in the Hebrides because of the tough climate (do not be deceived by the idyllic scene above)! The Hebrides is dominated by crofting, a traditional family farming practice carried out on small areas of land, mostly consisting of grazing regimes and rotational cropping. The machair plays a key role in this system.

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West Country Buzz update

By Cathy Horsley, Conservation Officer (West Country)

The West Country Buzz (WCB) project, now in its second year, is working with landowners around the south west to support pollinator-friendly land management.

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Red storm rising

By Ron Rock, Bumblebee Conservation Trust Volunteer

Don’t worry, to the best of my knowledge we are not about to be invaded, at least not by a belligerent force. However, the forces of good are beginning to stir, nest hunting queen bumblebees are on the move, one of which was recently described to me as the size of a B52. If you own a patch of pulmonaria or early flowering comfrey keep an eye open for a small ginger bee with a distinctive high pitched buzz and whizzing flight for this will be a male hairy footed flower bee. This bee jealously guards his chosen flowers, only allowing females of the species to forage in his patch. This way the all black females gain a protected pollen and nectar resource and he gets to perform the function that male bees are designed for, all in all a rather neat arrangement!

Male red mason bee with white moustache             Female red mason bee, larger black face

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