In fire-prone West, plants need their pollinators — and vice versa

Image of wildfire on hillside.

(Washington University in St. Louis) A new study grounded in the northern Rockies explores the role of fire in the finely tuned dance between plants and their pollinators. The researchers discovered that wildfire disturbance and plant-pollinator interactions are both important in determining where plants take root and where pollinators are found. But in burned landscapes, plant-pollinator interactions are generally as important or more important than any other factor in determining the composition of species present.

Pesticide deadly to bees now easily detected in honey

Image of honey dripping from stick.

(ScienceDaily, University of Waterloo) Researchers have developed an environmentally friendly, fully automated technique that extracts pyrethroids from the honey. Extracting the pyrethroids with the solid phase microextraction method makes it easier to measure whether their levels in the honey are above those considered safe for human consumption. It can also help identify locations where farmers use the pesticide and in what amounts. The substance has traditionally been difficult to extract because of its chemical properties.

Bumble bees’ self-image gets them through tight spots

Image of bumble bee flying among flowers.

(Scientific American) A new study has found that bumble bees measure gaps they need to pass through by flying side-to-side to scan it. When the gap became narrower than their wingspan, the bees took a longer time to scan the opening. And then they did something remarkable: they turned their bodies to fly through sideways. Some of the bees’ bodies did bump the sides of the narrowed opening – but every one of the 400 recorded flights through the gap was a success.

Insects aren’t covered under California Endangered Species Act

Image of Crotch's bumble bee on flower.

(Bloomberg Law) Insects aren’t specifically protected under the state law. But proponents of listing four bumblebees argued that the pollinators fell under the definition of fish—which are eligible, because they are invertebrates and don’t have backbones. But a tentative ruling issued by the presiding judge sided with agriculture industry groups opposing the listing.

First map of bee species around the globe

Global map of bee concentrations.

(ScienceDaily, Cell Press) There are over 20,000 species of bees, but accurate data about how these species are spread across the globe are sparse. However, researchers have created a map of bee diversity by combining the most complete global checklist of known bee species with the almost 6 million additional public records of where individual species have appeared around the world. The team’s findings show that there are more species of bees in the Northern Hemisphere than the Southern and more in arid and temperate environments than in the tropics.

A new project on nectar concentrating

Image of bee on leaf concentrating nectar.

(Twitter, Zach Portman @zachportman) “First – what is nectar concentrating? If you’ve ever seen a bee ‘blowing bubbles’ and sitting around with a drop of liquid in its mouthparts, it’s most likely concentrating nectar… In this project, we wanted to figure out just how widespread nectar concentrating behavior is in bees… For part 2 of the project, we’ve decided to move to iNaturalist, and have created a project that you can join and add observation to if you’re interested.” The iNaturalist project.