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

Reconnecting Habitats

Something I have always been interested in is wildlife corridors.

With increasing habitat fragmentation there is a higher risk of local extinction and by reconnecting habitats we can maintain ecological processes and allow for migration and genetic mixing, particularly for large wide-ranging species.

The threat of isolating populations vulnerability to stochastic events is increased with habitat fragmentation so it is key we are aware what makes an ideal wildlife corridor for various species.

Using equipment such as camera traps we are able to monitor what species may use a certain corridor and how it can be better managed.

For example, Danau Girang Field Centre in collaboration with Sabah Wildlife Department monitored a particular wildlife corridor that link two forest fragments. They recorded 27 species including some rare individuals such as the Sunda clouded leopard and otter civet. In an area that is heavily fragmented due to oil palm plantations it shows the importance of such linkages.


Read more:

Monga bay

See more wildlife corridor pictures


Featured image – Bornean elephant, Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC). Lower Kinabatangan