Worker Bees 



Google did a quiz for Earth Day that matched you with an animal, dependent on your personality. The questions were few and pretty broad but obviously related to the behaviour and traits of the animal chosen. The results my friends got were a pangolin, an octopus, a mantis shrimp and a wooly mammoth. A nice touch for earth day, not everyone is a nature buff like myself or people that may be reading this, but everyone loves a good mini quiz and googles creative daily homepage.  My result: a honey bee.

Naturally a hard worker, you still take time to stop and pollinate the flowers

I felt fairly honoured with my little comparison, as bees are vital, hard-working members of the ecosystem. However, on a serious note with the changing landscape, British Bee populations are struggling. Scientists at Lancaster University have found that hives closer to highly farmed areas are surviving on a lower protein diet in the ‘beebread’ produced, compared to those that are found near natural grasslands and habitats such as wild-flower meadows. This poor nutrition can cause bees to be more susceptible to diseases such as the deformed wing virus, particularly early in life. This disease along with 4 other viruses are also now being found in wild bumblebees, studied by researchers associated with Queens University Belfast and Royal Holloway University of London, they highlight the need of an understanding of how these diseases are being transmitted between species.

Thus, landscape composition can impact the population and nutritional ecology of bees, potentially causing reduced immune function and making them more vulnerable to harsher winters.

As Philip Donkersley, researcher at Lancaster Univeristy states ““We don’t suggest that we need to get rid of farming to solve this problem – rather that by modifying the food sources available to bees in agricultural areas we could improve their diet and their chances of survival, which could increase their capacity to pollinate crops.” So the solution isn’t to eradicate farming, or even reduce it, it is to do exactly what we’re doing, studying these insects and to understand them a lot better.

Papers related to post:

Donkersley, P., Rhodes, G., Pickup, R.W., Jones, K.C. & Wilson, K. (2014). “Honeybee nutrition is linked to landscape composition.” Ecology and Evolution, 4(21): 4195 DOI: 10.1002/ece3.1293 McMahon, D., Furst, M., Caspar, J., Theodorou, Brown M.J.F. & Paxton R.J. (2015). “A sting in the spit: widespread cross-infection of multiple RNA viruses across wild and managed bees. Journal of Animal Ecology, 84(3): 615-624 DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12345  Photo credit : National Geographic

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