Helpful insects and landscape changes

Image of potato beetle.

(Michigan State University) “One of the take-homes from our review is that natural enemies can be more abundant when agricultural landscapes are made up of smaller farm fields. Some natural enemies need resources found in other habitats or in crop field edges. We think when habitat patches are small, they are more likely to find their way back and forth between these habitats and crop fields, or from one crop field into another.”

Decade-long drought in Chile wipes out hives as bees are left without flowers

Image of honey bees at bee feeder.

(Reuters) “There’s no water anywhere. The bees are suffering just the same as cattle, crops and people.” Concern over the impact of changing environments on bees has reached the highest levels of government in Chile. The country has already unleashed millions in aid for drought-stricken farmers. In August, it said it would include a line item in future agency budgets to account for the ‘costs’ of climate change.

Insect decline more extensive than suspected

Image of farmland.

(Technical University of Munich) Researchers collected more than one million insects at 300 sites. They were able to prove that many of the nearly 2,700 investigated species are in decline. In recent years, certain rare species could no longer be found in some of the regions studied. Both in forested areas and grasslands, the scientists counted about one third fewer insect species after 10 years.

Using probiotics to protect honey bees against fatal disease

Image of honey bees at entrance to hive.

(Western University) A group of researchers combined their expertise in probiotics and bee biology to supplement honey bee food with probiotics, in the form of a BioPatty, in their experimental apiaries. The aim was to see what effect probiotics would have on honey bee health. In the bee hives treated with probiotics, pathogen load was reduced by 99 percent, and survival-rate of the bees increased significantly.

Robust evidence of declines in insect abundance and biodiversity

Image of meadow plant bug on leaf.

(Nature) Rumors of insect declines have been around for some time. However, much of this evidence has come from biodiversity databases — records of species sightings, mostly collected by volunteers, and usually gathered in a haphazard fashion. Seibold and colleagues finally fill the gap by reporting species richness, abundance and biomass for a wide range of arthropod taxa recorded using standardized sampling. The results show clear evidence of substantial declines in arthropod abundance and biodiversity.

Unpopular opinion: saving honey bees does very little to save the bees

Image of garden path.

(Garden Ecology Lab, Oregon State University) “I am not suggesting that you extinguish honey bees from your garden. What I am asking, instead, is that you take the time to learn about and to notice some of the other 80+ species of bee that you might find in your garden… The first step to saving something you love is to be able to recognize it and to call it by name.”

Preserved pollen tells the history of floodplains

Image of floodplain.

(American Society of Agronomy) For soil scientists, pollen can be an invaluable tool. By tracking fossil pollen in soil, scientists can look back in time to better understand past land use and climate dynamics. For example, when European settlers cleared forests in the eastern United States and planted crops, the pollen profile in soil changed. Scientists are now exploring how effectively they can use the pollen fossil record in different landscapes.