Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’

Scientist Brad Lister returned to Puerto Rican rainforest after 35 years to find 98% of ground insects had vanished.  A “bottom-up trophic cascade”, in which the knock-on effects of the insect collapse surge up through the food chain.

“I don’t think most people have a systems view of the natural world,” Lister said. “But it’s all connected and when the invertebrates are declining the entire food web is going to suffer and degrade. It is a system-wide effect.”

To understand the global scale of an insect collapse that has so far only been glimpsed, Lister says, there is an urgent need for much more research in many more habitats. “More data, that is my mantra,” he said.

The problem is that there were very few studies of insect numbers in past decades to serve as a baseline, but Lister is undeterred: “There’s no time like the present to start asking what’s going on.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/15/insect-collapse-we-are-destroying-our-life-support-systems

Social bees are fitter in more biodiverse environments

Benjamin F. Kaluza1, Helen M.Wallace, TimA. Heard, Vanessa Minden,
Alexandra Klein & Sara D. Leonhard

“Bee population declines are often linked to human impacts, especially habitat and biodiversity loss, but empirical evidence is lacking. To clarify the link between biodiversity loss and bee decline, we examined how floral diversity affects (reproductive) fitness and population growth of a social stingless bee. For the frst time, we related available resource diversity and abundance to resource (quality and quantity) intake and colony reproduction, over more than two years. Our results reveal plant diversity as key driver of bee fitness. Social bee colonies were ftter and their populations grew faster in more forally diverse environments due to a continuous supply of food resources. Colonies responded to high plant diversity with increased resource intake and colony food stores. Our fndings thus point to biodiversity loss as main reason for the observed bee decline.”

Read the paper published in Nature:- social_bees_are fitter_in_a more_biodiverse_environment

New report highlights uncertain future for Welsh wild bees

Buglife Cymru is launching the Wales Threatened Bee Report, the first report of its kind to examine the health of our most threatened wild bee species. Alarmingly, the report has found that seven of our bees have gone extinct in Wales, and a further five – such as the Long-fringed mini-mining bee (Andrena niveata) – are on the brink of extinction. Most of the wild bees species assessed by the report have suffered significant declines, including the Shrill carder bee (Bombus sylvarum) whose core populations are now confined to South Wales, raising concerns about the future prospects of these species.

By examining historical and modern data, Buglife Cymru found that many wild bees in Wales are found in fewer places than they have been found in the past, and face an uncertain future. They also found wild bee declines to be evident across the whole of Wales. Buglife Cymru are now calling for action to restore populations of declining wild bees in Wales.

https://www.buglife.org.uk/news-and-events/news/new-report-highlights-uncertain-future-for-welsh-wild-bees?fbclid=IwAR2UNKr1LZ3Tsy4LOtAEpT5tZi-QIKFQlRx5Xlog1jVf5SROgSPfCUJy-bw

What are B-Lines?

The wildlife charity Buglife say – “B-Lines are a proposed solution to the problem of the loss of flowers and pollinators. The B-Lines are a series of ‘insect pathways’ running through our countryside and towns, along which we are restoring and creating a series of wildflower-rich habitat stepping stones.

Much of our wildlife is confined to tiny fragments of habitat and unable to move across the countryside as our climate and landscape rapidly changes. It has been predicted that 40-70% of species could go extinct if action is not taken to enable species to move through the landscape.”

https://www.buglife.org.uk/b-lines-hub

See the map of proposed B-Lines:-

https://www.buglife.org.uk/b-lines-hub/map

Bees develop preference for pesticides

The Guardian newspaper report:-

“Insects’ acquired taste for pesticide-laced food is similar to nicotine addiction in smokers, say scientists.

Bumblebees acquire a taste for pesticide-laced food that can be compared to nicotine addiction in smokers, say scientists. The more of the nicotine-like chemicals they consume, the more they appear to want, a study has shown.  The findings suggest that the risk of potentially harmful pesticide-contaminated nectar entering bee colonies is higher than was previously thought.

In a series of studies, a team of British researchers offered bumblebees a choice of two sugar solutions, one of which was laced with neonicotinoid pesticides.  They found that over time the bees increasingly preferred feeders containing the pesticide-flavoured sugar.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/aug/29/like-nicotine-bees-develop-preference-for-pesticides-study-shows

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/285/1885/20180655

EU pesticide ban failing to protect bee populations

Bees living in suburban habitats are still being exposed to significant levels of pesticides despite the EU ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on flowering crops, new research from University of Sussex scientists shows.

While the introduction of new EU restrictions on the use of neonicotinoid chemicals five years ago has reduced exposure of bees living in farmland, the study found that overall more than half of all pollen and nectar samples collected from bee nests in Sussex, Hertfordshire and Scotland between 2013 and 2015 were contaminated.

Read the press release:-  The Pesticide Ban is Failing

Cities are better for bumblebees than the countryside.

The Guardian newspaper reports a study by Royal Holloway University :-

“Bumblebee colonies fare better in villages and cities than in fields, research has revealed.

Bumblebees are important pollinators, but face threats including habitat loss, climate change, pesticide and fungicide use and parasites. Now researchers say that bumblebee colonies in urban areas not only produce more offspring than those on agricultural land, but have more food stores, fewer invasions from parasitic “cuckoo” bumblebees, and survive for longer.

“[The study] is not saying that cities are necessarily the ideal habitat for bees, it is just that they are doing better in the cities than in the countryside,” said Ash Samuelson, a doctoral student and first author of the research from Royal Holloway, University of London.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/27/bumblebees-thrive-in-towns-more-than-countryside