8 things I learned from the Parliamentary Pollinators Update seminar – UPDATED

POST event December 2015

As I advertised a couple of weeks ago, last Wednesday I was in London to take part in a Pollinators Update seminar at the Houses of Parliament organised by the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST).  It was a very interesting event and good to catch up with some of the latest ideas about pollinators and their conservation.  However it’s been a busy week since then and I’ve not had time to post a full account of the seminar, which was attended by over 40 people.  So I’ve decided to write a brief summary of eight things I learned that day from my fellow speakers* and from the day in general; in some cases I’ve linked to the original sources where available:

1.  About 46% of Europe’s bumblebees have declining populations (see the European Red List for Bees that I highlighted in an earlier post)

2.  Around 2% of the world’s bee species do 80% of the crop pollination (Kleijn et al. (2015) Nature Communications)

3.  Pollinators other than bees perform 39% of the flower visits to crops (Rader et al. (2015) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

4.  By 2100 the Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius), one of the commonest species in Europe, may be extinct across most of the continent due to climate change (Rasmont et al. (2015) Climatic Risk and Distribution Atlas of European Bumblebees)

5.  Only 6.6% of Entry Level Stewardship agreements by farmers across England included plans to grow nectar- and pollen-rich flower mixes.

6.  Criticism of laboratory studies of the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides are just as illogical as criticisms of field studies: both have their limitations and advantages, and both are needed.

7.  A panel of four experts on pollinators and pollination will largely agree about the answers to most questions an audience asks.

8.  A Westminster seminar such as this will attract very few MPs if it clashes with an important debate in the House of Commons, in this case about future military action in Syria.

UPDATE: here’s a number 9 suggested by Simon Potts: we all strongly support and encourage the setup of an All Party Parliamentary Group on “Pollinators” not just “honeybees” or “bees”.


*With thanks to my fellow panelists Simon Potts, Claire Carvell and Richard Gill, and to Kirsten Miller and the POST team for organising the event, and for the photograph of the panel in action.


7 thoughts on “8 things I learned from the Parliamentary Pollinators Update seminar – UPDATED

      1. navasolanature

        Navasola is in a mountain range at 700m above sea level but seems to be getting hotter in the summer now. We have lots of fancy wasps and the big black carpenter bees.

  1. Viewfinder Visuals

    When I first read that 2% of wild bees species were responsible for 80% of the crop pollination done by wild bees I was a little sceptical – that’s about 6 species in the UK. To a layperson the sampling seems small, 1,394 crop fields in five continents which if I understand it correctly gives an average of 14 fields per continent for each of the 20 species of crop in the study.

    That said, I pondered why so few species were doing most of the work. My first thought was the difference in lifecycles between bumblebees and solitary bees. Bumblebees are social insects and their nests can consist of up to 500 female workers who forage throughout most of the daylight hours from early Spring to late Autumn.

    The lifestyle of solitary bees are more varied but generally a single female lays her eggs with a store of pollen that she has collected. Many species are only active for a few months in the spring. Factors such as the distance that they forage and nesting requirements could also partly explain their low numbers on crops.

    It may also be that social bees are able to withstand losses from modern agricultural practices such as Neonicotinoids to a greater degree than solitary bees. In which case this study demonstrates just how much the agricultural environment has become reliant upon a few robust species.

    That these 6 species are the most exposed to agricultural chemicals in my opinion should be ringing alarm bells. The study does not list the species responsible for the majority of the crop pollination. However a search of other material suggests that three of our common bumblebees, Bombus terrestris, pascuorum and lapidarius are amongst them. That we are starting to see the transfer of honeybee diseases to bumblebees is therefore another worrying development. Add to that the known effects of a warming climate on bumblebee species and we should all be concerned that we will eventually add one straw too many to the bee’s back.

  2. Steve Hawkins

    From: Jeff Ollerton’s Biodiversity BlogSent: Thursday, 10 December 2015 09:03To: steve.a.hawkins@ntlworld.comReply To: Jeff Ollerton’s Biodiversity BlogSubject: [New post] 8 things I learned from the Parliamentary Pollinators Update seminarDo you listen to TWiM?The most recent podcast discusses the implications from research that discovered that a Brazilian stingless bee needs a particular microfungus‎ growing in its brood cells in order for the brood to develop and it’s food not to be spoiled by other microbes.As this was an unexpected finding, the question is open as to whether this is a general requirement for brood cells, and, therefore, fungicide spraying might be just as bad as neonicotinoids.http://www.microbeworld.org/podcasts/this-week-in-microbiology/archives/2035-twim-116Regards,Steve Hawkins

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    jeffollerton posted: ”

    As I advertised a couple of weeks ago, last Wednesday I was in London to take part in a Pollinators Update seminar at the Houses of Parliament organised by the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST).  It was a very interesting event and “


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