Nav: Home

Bees need it colorful

August 22, 2018

Scientists so far assumed that habitats with intensive agricultural use are generally bad for bees, because of the exposure to pesticides and the very limited choice of food resources and nesting places. The world-wide extinction of bees was to some extent put down to this factor. But bees are well able to thrive in agriculturally used areas, under the condition that they have access to what is called habitat islands with a high plant biodiversity.

This was now demonstrated for the first time in a study by scientists of the University of Würzburg, together with other German and Australian researchers. They published their results in in "Scientific Reports".

Social bees were examined

"Tetragonula carbonaria" is the name of an Australian stingless bee that scientists have examined for more than two years. "We used it to examine in an exemplary way whether the fitness and the reproductive success of social bees depends on the plant biodiversity surrounding them and the related quality of food resources," says Dr. Sara Leonhardt, in charge of the study at the University of Würzburg. Social bees include, among others, honey bees and stingless bees. They are responsible for a large part of the pollination performance worldwide.

To perform the study, scientists installed bee colonies in three different habitats. "We chose natural forests, urban gardens and macadamia plantations with intensive agricultural use and observed the growth and the production of worker bees, queens and new colonies," says Dr. Benjamin Kaluza, lead author of the study. They also analyzed the nutritional quality of the pollen and honey collected, and charted the plant biodiversity in these habitats.

Decline of biodiversity as a cause for bee extinction

What they found was: The bees' quality of life was highest in gardens and biodiverse forests, and lowest in plantations. As the plant biodiversity declines, bees produce less offspring, so that colonies shrink in size. "Bees need diversity," says Kaluza. "Only in environments rich in plant species do they find continuously sufficient, balanced and high-quality food and other resources."

Leonhardt explains that even small habitat islands with a high diversity of blooming plants in flight distance are sufficient for this effect to be apparent. "It allows them to compensate the negative influence of both pesticides and monocultures," she says, and adds: "This result means that the worldwide massive decline of biodiversity could be one of the main causes of bee extinction."

What follows from their findings: "What we hope for now is, of course, more protection and restoration of biodiverse habitats, especially in regions intensive agricultural use, such as plantations," says Kaluza.
-end-
Cooperation with other researchers

The research project received financial support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. Participants were Professor Helen Wallace from the University of the Sunshine Coast (Australia), Dr. Tim Heard, bee consultant from Brisbane (Australia), Dr. Vanessa Minden from the University of Oldenburg and Professor Alexandra-Maria Klein from the University of Freiburg. Sara Leonhardt and her team now want to carry out further research to examine how exactly bees locate their resources and how they profit from the different resources.

University of Würzburg

Related Biodiversity Articles:

Mapping global biodiversity change
A new study, published in Science, which focuses on mapping biodiversity change in marine and land ecosystems shows that loss of biodiversity is most prevalent in the tropic, with changes in marine ecosystems outpacing those on land.
Bee biodiversity barometer on Fiji
The biodiversity buzz is alive and well in Fiji, but climate change, noxious weeds and multiple human activities are making possible extinction a counter buzzword.
What if we paid countries to protect biodiversity?
Researchers from Sweden, Germany, Brazil and the USA have developed a financial mechanism to support the protection of the world's natural heritage.
Grassland biodiversity is blowing in the wind
Temperate grasslands are the most endangered but least protected ecosystems on Earth.
The loss of biodiversity comes at a price
A University of Cordoba research team ran the numbers on the impact of forest fires on emblematic species using the fires in Spain's Doñana National Park and Segura mountains in 2017 as examples
Biodiversity and carbon: perfect together
Biodiversity conservation is often considered to be a co-benefit of protecting carbon sinks such as intact forests to help mitigate climate change.
The last chance for Madagascar's biodiversity
A group of scientists from Madagascar, UK, Australia, USA and Finland have recommended actions the government of Madagascar's recently elected president, Andry Rajoelina should take to turn around the precipitous decline of biodiversity and help put Madagascar on a trajectory towards sustainable growth.
Biodiversity draws the ecotourism crowd
Nature -- if you support it, ecotourists will come. Managed wisely, both can win.
Biodiversity for the birds
Can't a bird get some biodiversity around here? The landscaping choices homeowners make can lead to reduced bird populations, thanks to the elimination of native plants and the accidental creation of food deserts.
Biodiversity can also destabilize ecosystems
According to the prevailing opinion, species-rich ecosystems are more stable against environmental disruptions such as drought, hot spells or pesticides.
More Biodiversity News and Biodiversity Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.