The impact of the Australian wildfires has been devastating and terrifying. They pose a very real danger to the country’s immensely diverse insect populations. But the bushfires may have put one species of native Australian bee on the teetering brink of extinction.
(New York Times) One-third of Kangaroo Island, a government-declared bee sanctuary off South Australia, has been burned so far this fire season, threatening the “last remaining pure stock” of Ligurian honeybees in the world. Foreign honeybees have an advantage, because they can abscond with their queen in the face of threats. Native stingless bees can’t — their queens can’t fly.
(ABC) The Ligurian honey bees on Kangaroo Island are believed to be the last remaining pure stock of this insect found anywhere in the world. It’s possible that up to 500 hives could have succumbed to the flames. “That part of the island that was burnt was the main drawcard for keepers to put their hives.”
(EurekAlert/Newcastle University) Previous studies have shown the flush of pollen-producing wildflowers after a fire can benefit the day-time pollinators such as bees and butterflies. In contrast, the team found that night-time moths, which are important but often overlooked pollinators, were much less abundant and with fewer species found after the fire. This is likely due to the moths’ inability to breed in burned areas if host plants are destroyed by fire.
(Oregon State University) “Twenty times more individuals and eleven times more species were captured in areas that experienced high fire severity relative to areas with the lowest fire severity. We detected a large number of bees in recently burned forest patches.”