Tag Archives: pollinators

Natural orchards improve bee diversity and improve apple production

Apple orchards surrounded by agricultural lands are visited by a less diverse collection of bee species than orchards surrounded by natural habitats, according to a new study led by Cornell University in the United States.

By looking at 10 years of data from 27 apple orchards in New York state the researchers found that apple production suffers when fewer, more closely-related species of bees pollinate an orchard. Production improves in orchards surrounded by natural habitats, which then draw a broader selection of species to apple blossoms. The study looked at the types of landscapes that surrounded the orchards, measured apple production and surveyed the species of bees that visited each orchard.

“Orchards that have bee communities that are more closely related to each other did worse in terms of their fruit production, and the communities that are more broad across the phylogeny did much better,” said one of the report’s authors, Dr Heather Grab. 

Species of bees exhibit different behaviours in how and when they pollinate flowers. Some species approach from the side, others from the top, and they each may feed at different times of day and with varied frequencies, all of which affect how completely an apple flower is pollinated.

Organs in apple flowers must receive a certain number of pollen grains in order to develop a full complement of seeds. When seeds do well, the tissue that supports those seeds, the fleshy part of the fruit, is also more fully developed. “If only half of the seeds mature fully, then the fruit is misshapen,” which in turn affects weight and saleability, Grab added.

Photo Caption: A carpenter bee visiting an apple flower

Photo Credit: Cornell University

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Co-op suppliers set up ‘bee roads’

Farmer suppliers to the Co-op have planted more than 1,000 miles of hedgerows to form part of a network of ‘bee’ roads across the UK.

Using its new environmental-impact measurement tool Enviro-Map, the Co-op says that seven different producer groups have created the following environmental features:

  • 1000 miles (1633 km) of hedgerows which are actively managed across the farming groups
  • 1,400 hectares of native, coniferous and broadleaf woodland
  • 455 hectares of watercourses and wetlands
  • 116 hectares of wildflower meadows
  • 100 devices, such as bird boxes, bee hives and beetle banks, on farms to encourage wildlife

Matt Hood, Co-op’s trading director, said: “The need to create a more sustainable approach to farming and food production is just as important as producing high-quality; fairly-priced food and we can only achieve this with regular and reliable measurement of our producers. We are delighted to see that in year one alone, they are already offsetting their farming practises by contributing heavily to improved biodiversity levels which are so utterly critical to the air we breathe and the water we drink.”

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The post Co-op suppliers set up ‘bee roads’ appeared first on Hort News on 21 June 2018.

‘Bee friendly’ plants contain pesticides says study

A new study by scientists from the Universities of Sussex and Padua in Italy has highlighted that many garden plants which are marketed to the public as being ‘pollinator friendly’, may in fact contain pesticide residues which could be harmful to the insects.

In a paper published in Environmental Pollution, the researchers said, ‘These plants are often treated with pesticides during their production. There is little information on the nature of pesticide residues present at the point of purchase and whether these plants may actually pose a threat to, rather than benefit, the health of pollinating insects.

‘This study screened leaves from 29 different ‘bee-friendly’ plants for eight insecticides and 16 fungicides commonly used in ornamental production. Only two plants (a Narcissus and a Salvia variety) did not contain any pesticide.’

Although the authors admitted that, ‘The net effect on pollinators of buying plants that are a rich source of forage for them but simultaneously risk exposing them to a cocktail of pesticides is not clear,’ retailers said they were addressing the issue.

In a statement to The Independent, B&Q said, ‘All our plant ranges are grown in line with current regulations. The research referenced was carried out last year. We announced in April 2017 that our flowering plant range, available from February 2018, will be grown free from all nine neonicotinoid pesticides.’

Aldi also questioned some of the claims in the study: ‘Since October 2016, Aldi has not sold any bedding plants with neonicotinoids,’ it said in a statement. ‘“In addition, we have never sold any plants under the RHS Perfect for Pollinators programme.’

Photo Caption: Scientists claim that plants sold as being good for pollinators could actually harm them.

Photo Credit: RHS

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New pollinator projects announced

A year on from its launch, Environment Minister George Eustice has praised the efforts of thousands of people to support the National Pollinator Strategy.

Speaking at a Bee Summit organised by Friends of the Earth and the Women’s Institute on Monday (9 November), Mr Eustice said, “Protecting our pollinators is a priority for this government. They are an essential part of our environment and play a crucial role in food production.”

As part of this Defra has published a new implementation plan for the strategy. Defra has also provided £20,000 in grants to five Local Nature Partnership projects in Hertfordshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Durham and Surrey.

The NFU urged government to recognise the role farmers played in protecting bees. NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “Farmers do fantastic work for pollinators covering thousands of acres of the British countryside. This substantial contribution benefits local biodiversity and brings valuable and vital pollination to crops.”

Photo Credit: NFU

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Wildflower attraction boosts pollinator numbers

Syngenta used European Pollinator Awareness Week (13-19 July) to highlight the role that its Operation Pollinator seed mixtures can play in increasing pollinator populations in field margins and other areas.

“Against a backdrop of declining numbers of pollinating insects, we have seen encouraging results for some species, thanks largely to the efforts of farmers to establish wildflower habitats and the changes in cultivation techniques that help some ground nesting solitary bees,” advised independent entomologist Mike Edwards.

According to the company, monitoring of Operation Pollinator Annual Wildflower Mix habitats has identified a number of valuable solitary bee species, including Andrena flavipes, an important pollinator of oilseed rape, fruit and other crops. The Operation Pollinator Annual Wildflower Mix has now helped to establish more than 400 hectares of new habitat over the past year.

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Countryside Stewardship offers boost to bees

The Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss has said that the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which has a total budget of £900 million, will help protect bees and other pollinators as well as the wider countryside.

Over the next five years the new Countryside Stewardship scheme will offer grants to help improve our environment and countryside – with £85 million set aside to support projects in 2016.

Bees and pollinators are one of four main priorities for the scheme, which is being run on a competitive basis for the first time this year, with applications ranked and money only awarded to those who will make the biggest improvements in their local area. Extra points will be given to agreements working to support bees and pollinators and other farm wildlife.

Elizabeth Truss said, “This is the first ever countryside stewardship scheme that specifically combines help for bees and pollinators as well as wildlife, woodland and rivers. This will mean more margins and meadows with colourful wildflowers in our countryside. Productive farming goes hand in hand with improving the environment.”

However, NFU Vice President Guy Smith warned, “At this late stage, there are still a number of questions about how the scheme will work but we are committed to working with Defra and Natural England on its development and – more importantly – how it will be implemented on the ground.”

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Biodiversity helps wild pollinators

Recent research, headed by David Kleijn of Alterra and Wageningen University, shows that the links between species diversity and pollination are much more complex than previously supposed.

Their work suggests that rare species barely contribute to pollination and that the international debate on biodiversity conservation the current focus on ecosystem services may have a negative effect on the argument for the protection of rare species.

In a large international project, David Kleijn together with 57 fellow researchers studied to what extent ecosystem services are a valid argument for the protection and promotion of biodiversity. The research examined crop pollination by wild bees in farming systems on five continents.

It found that wild pollinators contributed substantially to the production of approximately 20 insect-pollinated crops, including rapeseed, sunflowers, strawberries, broad beans, apples and pears. The contribution of insects to crop yield – the economic pay-off of pollination – was on average more than $3000 dollars per ha.

This knowledge may encourage producers to take measures to promote bees. “But,” says Kleijn, “most of these ecosystem services were provided by a small group of common species. Rare species barely contribute to crop pollination.”

He adds that it is fairly easy to protect common species by sowing flower strips, for example, but this is not true for the protection of rare species. “Rare species may play a less relevant role economically than common species, but this doesn’t mean that their protection is any less relevant,” he adds.

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