Grassland studies, radar-tracked bumblebees offer clues for protecting pollinators

Image of bee flying away from flower.

(Horizon) Studying exactly how declining pollinator populations affect biodiversity is a challenge, as is studying any changes to bee behavior and foraging. One way to study an animal’s behavior is to track it. But this is tricky with bumble bees. Unless you use a radar system to pinpoint the position of the bee every few seconds…

Minnesota wraps up 30-year biological ‘census’

Image of researcher in forest.

(Minnesota Public Radio) The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is putting the finishing touches on the state’s first comprehensive survey of this corner of the earth. Hundreds of scientists have spent more than three decades scouring the state, county by county, for rare and common plants and animals, as well as intact ecosystems that represent the land as it once was. “And what we’ve found is a mix of not so good news and good news.”

Israeli farmers deploy pollinating drones to fill Covid-19 labor shortage

Image of drone flying over date trees.

(The Jerusalem Post) Date farmers located in the Jordan Valley and Arava have deployed an innovative solution to overcome labor shortages caused by the coronavirus outbreak: aerial pollination using drones. The drone operators are Israeli Blue White Robotics and New York-based Dropcopter, who have successfully tested drone-based palm pollination in recent months at the Arava Institute. The experiment at the desert research facility was carried out in response to declining bee populations. Aerial pollination has become increasingly important due to recent flooding in the Jordan Valley, which has prevented ground pollination in many areas.

Dramatic loss of food plants for insects in Zurich

Image of bumble bee on woody burdock.

(EurekAlert/University of Bonn) A team of German and Swiss researchers have demonstrated that the diversity of food plants for insects in Zurich has dramatically decreased over the past 100 years. Overall, all plant communities have become much more monotonous, with just a few dominant common species. This means that bees, flies and butterflies are increasingly deprived of their food base. 250 volunteers helped map the flora and process historical records.

Endangered Species Act protection sought for Suckley’s cuckoo bumble bee

Image of Suckley's bumble bee.

(Center for Biological Diversity) The Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned for Endangered Species Act protection today for the critically imperiled Suckley’s cuckoo bumble bee, which has declined by more than 90 percent. The bee is unusual in that it is a “cuckoo” or social parasite that takes over the nests of other bumblebees. Due to habitat loss, Suckley’s now mostly survives on public land, where it is still threatened by grazing, over-use of pesticides and fire suppression.

Entobarbie: Getting up close with insects and being awed by them

Image of Entobarbie in her lab with mason bee tube.

Are you following Entobarbie on the socials? If not, you’ll want to check her out. The accounts on Instagram and Twitter feature Barbie (yes, the classic doll) engaging with real, living insects both in a Barbie-sized lab and out in the real-sized world of flowers and grass. These entomological vignettes are presented through absolutely incredible photography and with the language of a scientist. Here is a Bee Report exclusive interview with the creator of this entomological influencer – who wishes to remain anonymous for the time being. It includes photos that Entobarbie took just for this story. Enjoy!

Researchers develop advanced cloning techniques to replenish threatened plants

Image of Hill's Thistle with bee on it.

(University of Guelph) Researchers used advanced cloning techniques to give the threatened Hill’s thistle a fighting chance at population recovery. A lack of suitable habitat due to the encroachment of trees and shrubs, as well as cottage development and quarrying activity in its natural habitat, have contributed to the decline. The Hill’s thistle grows in scarce Great Lakes areas known as open alvar grasslands. In Canada, the flowering plant is known to support the life cycles of rare bees and other pollinators.