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

Chernobyl’s Secret Wildlife



Eurasian lynx, Racoon dog, European grey wolf and Brown bears are just some of the species that have been seen to thrive in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ), adapting to the absence of human interference.

Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx)
Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx)

Camera traps, automatic cameras that are triggered when an animal walks passed the camera are becoming a key tool in wildlife research and conservation. By estimating abundance and forest ecology we can use data from camera traps to understand population dynamics within an area, particularly in an area such as the CEZ which is deemed unsuitable for humans.

Eurasian elk (Alces alces)
Eurasian elk (Alces alces) mother and baby

Home to a high diversity of wildlife, the CEZ is an area of contaminated landscape that the project Transfer, Exposure, Effects (TREE) hopes to “reduce uncertainty in estimating the risk to humans and wildlife associated with exposure to radioactivity, and to reduce unnecessary conservatism in risk calculations”.


They have so far recorded 12 mammalian species.

These cameras have also recorded the first ever sighting of a Brown Bear in this area.

Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)
First ever sighting of a Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) in the CEZ.

Yes, the animals are thriving but are they affected by the radioactive exposure as they move through the 30km zone? Considering this, ultimately Scientists associated with the project hope to use this data to answer this question by radio collaring suitable species.

European grey wolf (Canis lupus lupus)
European grey wolf (Canis lupus lupus)
Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus)
Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus)

I look forward to seeing more photos from this project and future results of how the animals are adapting to the environment.

Here are some more photos caught by the cameras in the zone. They show that the species are adapting well, travelling in large groups and camouflaging into the surrounding terrain.

Wild boar (Sus scrofa)
Wild boar (Sus scrofa) showing strong camouflage skills in the zone.
European grey wolf (Canis lupus lupus)
European grey wolf (Canis lupus lupus) also disappearing into the background
Racoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides)
Racoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides)
Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)
Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) looks directly at the camera trap
Eurasian elk (Alces alces) The CEZ, as also stated by the BBC, suffers from poaching problems. You can see a gun shot wound on this Elk.
Eurasian elk (Alces alces)
The CEZ, as also stated by the BBC, suffers from poaching problems. You can see a gun shot wound on this Elk.
European pine martin (Martes martes)
European pine martin (Martes martes) exploring the snowy terrain
Red deer (Cervus elaphus)
Red deer (Cervus elaphus) travelling in groups.
Asian badger (Meles leucurus)
European badger (Meles leucurus) using a natural crossing
European crane (Grus grus)
European crane (Grus grus)
Elk (Alces alces)
Eurasian elk (Alces alces)

Some of my personal favourites were the photos caught of the Pzrewalski’s horse, which were purposely released as part of a conservation programme and have seen to be doing well, travelling in large groups and moving long distances within the zone.

Przewalski's horse (Equus ferus przewalskii)
Przewalski’s horse (Equus ferus przewalskii)

Links related to post:

TREE Webcam Page

BBC Article

All photo credits: Sergey Gashchak (Chernobyl Center, Ukraine)

Featured photo – European grey wolf (Canis lupus lupus)