Bees Needs’: Research and National Case Studies
B-Lines are a strategically mapped nationwide network of potential wildflower habitat designed to help restore our declining populations of bees, butterflies, hoverflies and other pollinating insects. These rivers of wildflowers will criss-cross the country from the South West to the North East enabling pollinators, and other wildlife, to move across the landscape.
Polli:Nation is a UK wide initiative supporting pupils from 260 schools to turn their school grounds and other local walk-to spaces into pollinator friendly habitats.
Click here to see how schools all over the UK transformed spaces in their schools, access to outdoor learning and improved pupil engagement.
Sustainable Management of Orchard Pollination Services (SMOOPS)
Insect pollinators provide a vital ecosystem service pollinating UK crops. Apples are an important component of the UK horticultural industry and provide high value nutritious locally produced food with insect pollinators contributing more than £92M p.a. to UK apple production…
Ground nesting wild bees make a particularly important contribution and top fruit growers have articulated the need to effectively manage pollination services by wild insects in a way that is cost effective in order to maintain production and quality in the face of possible pollinator declines.
To address this challenge the SMOOPS project brings together a team of industry, academic and grower partners including the University of Reading, NIAB EMR, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Avalon Produce, Worldwide Fruit Ltd. and Syngenta. We are designing and testing three pollinator management strategies in commercial apple orchards including establishing flower rich habitats to provide food and shelter for pollinators, providing nesting habitat for ground nesting bees, and adapting the number and placement of ‘polliniser’ trees in orchards to optimise pollination. This project aims to deliver cost effective orchard management advice that will help support populations of wild pollinators as well as promoting stable and resilient pollination services to crops.
The project is moving into its third year and the bee habitats have established well. In spring 2019 the team will be surveying pollinators across the orchards to see how populations have responded to the management interventions. They will also be measuring effects on local apple production in addition to gathering data from growers about their experience of being involved in the SMOOPS project and the practical implications of these management practices. The project results are expected in 2020.
For further details please click here.
Pollination is a key input in UK crop agriculture, underpinning around half a billion pounds worth of crop productivity each year. However, populations of pollinators are threatened by changing land and management practices. Managing the landscape in a more pollinator-friendly way is complicated because of a lack of information on where pollinators are likely to be and where they are most valuable…
The Resilient Pollinators project, a collaboration between the Universities of Reading, Northampton, Huddersfield and Lund, aims to address this by using data from hundreds of fields across the UK to develop and validate models of pollinator habitat quality. Projected across the UK, these models will generate very detailed maps of the UK showing what parts of the country have secure, stable pollinator populations and where there may be shortfalls where growers aren’t getting the best pollination services they could. The project will also look at the impacts of future changes in natural habitats on pollinator populations, the economic benefits of pollinators and the look and feel of the landscape. By understanding these changes, the project will provide guidance on how to provide long-term protection for the UK’s pollinators in a way that benefits everyone.
The project is now into its second year and currently finishing its core ecological models and developing the economic and social science components of the work. The project team will also be engaging with stakeholders to determine what the future for land management in the UK may look like in order to develop the projections of pollinators into the long-term future.
The Resilient Pollinators project is one of 13 projects funded through the Global Food Security’s ‘Resilience of the UK Food System in a Global Context’ programme with support from BBSRC, ESRC, NERC and Scottish Government. This major research programme is looking at solutions to many of the pressures on the UK’s food system. More information here.
PoshBee (Pan-European assessment, monitoring, and mitigation of stressors and the health of BEEes
Click here to read the Posh Bee case study PDF.
Harmful or healthy? Studying how chemicals in nectar and pollen affect bees
Insect pollination services are globally important. 75% of crops require pollination, and as many as 90% of all flowering plants are animal pollinated and are therefore dependent on pollinator foraging. However, there is strong evidence of declines for some wild pollinators in the UK and around the world due to both man-made and natural pressures, with potentially severe impacts on agricultural productivity and natural ecosystem function. Understanding these factors is increasingly urgent, given the recent emergence of new parasites and diseases in pollinators…
Plant chemicals serve as a defence mechanism to reduce herbivore damage and resist diseases. Surprisingly, some of these plant-produced toxic compounds also occur in nectar and pollen, the food of bee larvae and adults, so one might expect them to be a problem for flower visitors, but research at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is looking to see if they have benefits for bees and pollination. Plant compounds have both antimicrobial effects and can be toxic to invertebrates. Therefore, if consumed in nectar or pollen by pollinators, they could potentially exacerbate disease and parasite transmission in bees by weakening their resilience, or conversely, they could ameliorate disease through their antimicrobial activity.
Furthermore, many pollinator diseases are transmitted via flowers, when an infected bee leaves ‘transmission stages’ behind that can then be picked up by the next visitor to that flower. So antimicrobial substances may have an important role in preventing disease spread between pollinators at flowers.
Research is being conducted at Kew by Hauke Koch, the Ann Sowerby Fellow in Pollinator Health at Kew, and Phil Stevenson, NERC Merit Researcher, and will help us to understand if floral resources serve as ‘typhoid Marys’, pharmacies or poison cabinets, in addition to their essential role as a food-resource for bees – answering key questions for pollinator health. The living plant collection at Kew with over 30,000 different kinds of plants, as well as decades of experience in plant phytochemical research, provides an ideal research environment to unravel the role of plant chemistry in bee health.
Phil’s lab at Kew has helped reveal some other surprising effects of nectar chemicals on bees. For example, caffeine in nectar of coffee and citrus flowers can enhance bee memory to help them relocate food and this information is now being used to training commercial bees to be more effective pollinators in strawberry production. Elsewhere toxic nectar in Rhododendron and Aconitum could be an adaptation to help filter out preferred flower visitors to maximise pollen transfer in these species.
For further information please click here.
Sainsbury’s Bee Happy
Since 2006, Sainsbury’s has been working with customers, colleagues and suppliers to create bee-friendly, sustainable habitats as part of its Bee Happy programme. Click here to read the full case study as a PDF.
Jordans Farms Partnership
Farmers who grow oats for Jordans Cereals are part of the Jordans Farm Partnership – a unique collaboration of Jordans farmers, The Wildlife Trusts, Linking Environment And Farming and the Prince’s Countryside Fund. Click here to find out more!