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.

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.

Stressful environments put bumble bees at risk

Image of bumble bee on flower.

(Animal Ecology in Focus) The causes underlying the ongoing decline of bumble bees have been much debated, and include habitat loss, pesticides, emerging diseases and climate change. A recent paper evaluates how the combined effects of four common environmental stressors interact to affect bumblebees at the individual and colony levels.

Non-native leafcutter bees found in Chicago

Image of non-native leafcutter bee.

(Spartan Newsroom) Thirty of the non-native leafcutter bees were found in a heavily urbanized part of Chicago. How they got to Chicago is uncertain, however. Their presence was previously confirmed in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. “Although we do not know the extent of the impact of nonnative bee species, there is evidence they may compete strongly with native bees for nesting resources.”

Even moderate drought conditions are bad for bees

Image of cracked earth.

(Entomology Today) A new study tested the effect of reduced water availability on a plant used by bees and examined whether changes in plant nutrition content affect honey bees and bumble bees. “We found that water limitation directly impacts the floral resources produced by plants and this can have cascading effects on pollinators consuming the nectar and pollen of affected plants.”

Are pollinators sensitive to climate change, urbanization?

Image of blazing sun over city.

(Bowling Green State University) Newly-funded research will look at how bees are impacted by climate change and urbanization. The research will focus on bees in five sets of paired cities that represent a wide range of temperatures and precipitation. The researchers have identified six groups of bees that are considered “economically important and in large enough quantities in each of the cities.” They plan to study honey bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees, sweat bees, mason bees and leafcutting bees.