Seeking the building blocks of pollinator conservation

Image of bumble bee visiting milkweed.

(Great Lakes Echo) Great Lakes researchers are seeking fundamental knowledge about pollinators like bumble bees and butterflies, hoping to reverse their decline. “Part of this project is to create a baseline for future comparison. We’ve been resampling places where pollinators were sampled 50 years or 100 years ago and trying to see how the populations have changed.”

Leaf blowers fatal to declining insects, Germans warned

Image of person blowing leaves.

(BBC) Germany’s Ministry for the Environment said leaf blowers were too loud, polluted the air and posed a fatal threat to insects. The ministry issued the guidance in response to a request by a Green MP. Leaf blowers should not be used unless they are “indispensable”, the ministry said. However, the ministry said it was not planning to ban the devices.

Mowing urban lawns less intensely increases biodiversity, saves money and reduces pests

Image of lawns.

(British Ecological Society) The issue with regular lawn mowing is that it favors grasses, which grow from that base of the plant, and low growing species like dandelion and clover. Other species that have their growing tips or flowering stems regularly removed by mowing can’t compete. Allowing plant diversity in urban lawns to increase has the knock-on effect of increasing the diversity of other organisms such as pollinators and herbivores. Pest species, on the other hand, benefitted from more intense lawn mowing.

Human management helps rare plants, butterflies survive hurricane

Image of Bartram's scrub-hairstreak butterfly.

(NC State) A new study from North Carolina State University shows that ongoing habitat management could help prevent hurricane-driven extinctions. The study found that a rare Florida plant, the pineland croton, weathered the damage from Hurricane Irma better in plots that were under human management than those left alone. This rare plant is the only host plant for two species of endangered butterfly – Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak and the Florida leafwing. Without croton, the butterflies will go extinct.

UK insects struggling to find a home make a bee-line for foreign plants

Image of Burnet moth on non-native flower.

(University of York) Researchers at the University of York discovered that foreign plants – often found in gardens and parks – were supporting communities of British insects, including pollinators. For example, solitary bees were found visiting the flowers of non-native agave-leaved sea holly plants. Not surprisingly, however, the greatest numbers and diversity of insects were typically found on native plant species. “It is important to ensure that at least a third of plants are native, as the research suggests that these plants provide the best home for most insects. However, the presence of some non-native plants may help provide a home for unusual or rare British insects that may be struggling to find a home on our native plants.”

Study sheds light on ‘overlooked’ bee species

Image of solitary bee making nest.

(Phys.org/Angli Ruskin University) The U.K.’s first citizen science project focusing on solitary, ground-nesting bees has revealed that they nest in a far broader range of habitats than previously thought. “This information on nesting behaviour is highly valuable because it puts us in a better position to provide advice to land owners on how to manage their land sympathetically in order to protect these important, ground-nesting solitary bees.”

80,000 wild honey bee colonies nesting in tree cavities in European forests?

Image of wild honey bees flying out of tree cavity.

(Julius-Maximilians-Universität) Wild populations of the western honey bee were widely assumed to be extinct in Europe. “However, recent fieldwork studies reveal that wild honey bees still exist in forests: Their colonies mainly nest in tree cavities.” So far, wild honey bees have only been observed in northern Poland and Germany, but new research estimates there could be as many as 80,000 wild honey bee colonies in European forests.