Monthly Archives: April 2016

The European Bee Course 2016

Note: I’m not directly involved with this course, I’m just advertising it on behalf of the organisers; please direct any queries to them – details are on the application form (link at the end). 

All of the following text is directly taken from the information that I was sent:

Are you interested in European bees? Join our Super-B training school in Marseille, France in May!


We aim (i) to provide a global overview on the Systematics and the Ecology of European bees including the up-to-date methods; (ii) to train to recognize the morphology of the main European genera by using keys; (iii) to collect wild bees in the field with standard technics (net, pan trap, aspirator); (iv) to prepare a collection of pinned specimens.

THE BEE COURSE is designed primarily for botanists, conservation biologists, pollination ecologists, and other biologists whose research, training, or teaching responsibilities require a greater understanding of bee taxonomy. It emphasizes the classification and identification of more than seventy bee genera of Europe, and the general information provided is applicable to the global bee fauna. Lectures include background information on the biology of bees, their floral relationships, their importance in maintaining and/or improving floral diversity, inventory strategies, and the significance of oligolecty (i.e., taxonomic floral specialization). Field trips acquaint participants with collecting and sampling techniques; associated lab work provides instruction on specimen identification, preparation and labelling.


France, Marseilles, in the beautiful site of the national park of the Calanques:


Super-B budget covers the invitation of the trainers and material. Applicants have to pay for their flights, accommodation (130 euros) and meals (60 euros). A Super-B Grant of 600 EUR is available, this covers all expenses for the course and approximately 300 EUR for a flight.


Arrival the evening of the 16th of May after 6pm, departure the evening of the 20th of May


Co-organised by the University of Mons (Denis Michez) and the University of Aix Marseilles (Benoît Geslin).

5 supervisors: Denis Michez (UMons, Belgium), Nicolas Vereecken (ULB, Belgium), Murat Aytekin (Hacettepe University, Turkey), Stuart Roberts (BWARS, UK) and Benoît Geslin (Université d’Aix-Marseille, France).

15 students, PhD & postdoc in relevant fields will have priority, but undergraduate student can apply.


16th of May from 6pm

Arrival, move to the location with minibus


17th of May

10am: Welcome and presentation of the organization and the goal. Denis Michez

11am: Systematics and diversity of European bees. Denis Michez

12am: Lunch

1pm: Practical courses, determination of bees among insects. All trainers

4pm: Lecture, up-to-date methods to study Bee Systematics. Murat Aytekin

6pm: Dinner


18th of May

10am: How to collect, prepare and determine specimens of long-tongued versus short-tongued bees. Denis Michez

12am: Lunch

1pm: Field trip

4pm: Preparation of the collected material

6pm: Dinner


19th of May

10am: Ecology of bees. Christophe Praz

11am: Bee community. Nicolas Vereecken

12am: Lunch

1pm: Field trip

4pm: Preparation of the collected material

6pm: Dinner


20th of May

10am: Determination of the collected material

12am: Lunch

1pm: Analysis of the data

3pm: Last word

4pm: Departure



Cost project Super-B:

SUPER-B is a COST Action that will bring together scientific and societal communities involved in the conservation and sustainable management of ecosystem services mediated by pollinators. >70 of our crops need insects for optimal pollination; these include many fruits, nuts, oil crops, fibres and vegetables with some producing no yield without insect pollination. The direct economic value of crop pollination by insects in the EU is >14 billion euro annually. Moreover, >80 of wild plant species benefit from animal pollinators for fruit and seed production, making pollination a key service for ecosystem and biodiversity maintenance.

SUPER-B will combine scientific evidence (existing and new knowledge) and social feedback for developing conservation strategies for pollinators. Specifically, the Action will (1) identify the role of insect pollination in agriculture and other ecosystems; (2) clarify best practices for mitigation of pollination loss, and (3) compare and contrast important drivers of pollinator loss (wild and managed species). SUPER-B will contribute towards maintaining natural ecosystems and achieving sustainable use of pollinators in agricultural production. Its results are relevant to all European countries and will be disseminated to a wide community of beneficiaries (scientists, farmers, beekeepers, industry, policy-makers, NGOs and the public).

Here’s the application form for the course:

Bee_course_Cost_Application_form (2)


Six bees, one stone: recent pollinator-related talks and workshops

BBKA lecture April 2016As I write this I’m painfully conscious that (a) it’s a couple of weeks since I last posted on the blog; and (b) I have a long list of things to complete before I head off to Tenerife for ten days of field work on Friday.  The absence of posting has been due to my current work load, including the number of conferences, talks and workshops I’ve been involved with in the past month, which seems to have taken up a disproportionate amount of my time.  It’s all been interesting and useful, however, and reflects the rising activity stemming from the National Pollinator Strategy, and increasing interest in pollinators more broadly.  I’ve certainly learned a lot and hopefully my own expertise contributed to the success of these events.

In this post I thought I’d briefly summarise what I’ve been up to recently, in the process expanding the numerical and phylogenetic parameters of “killing two birds with one stone“:

16th March – took part in a workshop to map the latest phase of Buglife’s B-Lines across Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.  This was a really interesting exercise and I felt that we’d actually achieved rather a lot by the end of the day.  Once the final maps are completed I’ll post a link so you can see where the routes go through these counties and how they meet up.

23rd March – spoke at a one-day conference on “delivering biodiversity” organised by the Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges at the University of Worcester.  Although I was talking about our bird surveys on the University of Northampton’s new Waterside Campus, pollinators did receive some attention during a workshop on creating wildflower meadows.  I’ll post an update on the Waterside work once we’ve completed the next set of spring surveys.

30th March – spoke at the Bumblebee Working Group at the University of Sussex – have already posted an account of that.

6th April – took part in a”Pollinator Experts Elicitation” workshop at the University of Warwick, along with a group of nine other academics, and members of stakeholder groups such as FERA and the NFU.  Run as part of Warwick’s Food and Behavioural Science Global Research priority groups, the organisers, from the university’s Department of Statistics, used the Delphi Method to assess the likelihood of sustaining pollinator populations under different scenarios of disease, climate change, and habitat degradation.  It was a fascinating process and interesting to see how often experts’ views converged on the same opinion.  Also rather humbling to see the degree of our uncertainty in our forecasts.  The workshop garnered quite a bit of media attention including pieces on the BBC’s Midlands Today and the Farming Today programmes.

8th-9th April – delivered two lectures at the British Beekeepers Association’s Spring Convention at Harper Adams University.  Rather disconcerting to be the least-informed person in the room, given my limited knowledge of bee keeping, but they were a friendly and curious lot with good-sized audiences for my talks on the diversity of bees to be found in urban settings, and the global diversity and functional importance of pollinators.

13th April – spoke to a very receptive audience at the Friends of Linford Lakes Nature Reserve near Milton Keynes, on the topic of “Bees for dinner?  The importance of pollinators in a changing world“.  Great evening and lots of interesting questions afterwards, though my talk was a bit too long (must cut it for next time).

That’s it for now, hope to do some posts from Tenerife while we are there.


IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group annual report 2015

Bombus hypnorum March 2010

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has a Bumblebee Specialist Group which is focused on assessing the conservation status of the c. 260 species within the genus Bombus.  If you follow the link above you can find out more information about the group and a PDF of the most recent annual report for 2015, plus past reports for 2012-2014.

The work of specialist groups such as this is vital for providing evidence as to the true picture of how the world’s pollinators are faring, and what can be done to reverse local and regional declines in their diversity and abundance.

What I learned at the Bumblebee Working Group Meeting

20160330_171209Earlier this week I attended the Bumblebee Working Group Meeting at the University of Sussex, a one day event that takes place every two or three years.  It was a very stimulating day with some really interesting work being showcased; here are some examples of things that I learned that day, some questions that these findings have prompted (and the people presenting):

  • High arctic/montane bumblebees have undergone (and survived) periods of severe climate change in the past – does this mean they are less sensitive than temperate species to future climate change? (Paul Williams).
  • Bumblebees foraging closer to honey bee apiaries are more likely to be infected with a range of bee diseases – presumably picked up from the honey bees, but what is the route of transmission?  (Samantha Alger).
  • Queen Buff-tailed Bumblebees exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides have a 26% reduction in the probability of founding a colony, and the effects vary for other species – are the most sensitive species the ones that have declined the most since the mid-90s? (Gemma Baron).
  • Simulating bumblebee colony dynamics with the Bumble BeeHave model is producing comparable results to field data on male and queen production (Matthias Becher).
  • Environmental Stewardship Schemes appear to enhance bee nest densities on farms where they are situated – but are some species already at saturation point on those farms? (Tom Wood).
  • New, tougher EU guidelines for risk assessment of effects of pesticides on bees have been developed and are being tested at the moment (James Cresswell).
  • The annual spread of the Tree Bumblebee, Britain’s newest bumblebee species, is about 35km per year (Liam Crowther).
  • The equivalent of 737,914 bramble flowers are needed to provide the resources support a single colony of Buff-tailed Bumblebees for one year (Ellie Rotheray).
  • The moratorium on neonicotinoids seems to have had the desired effect of reducing the amount of these pesticides being taken up by bumblebee colonies in pollen and nectar (Beth Nicholls).
  • There have been significant range extensions of some of our rarer bumblebee species in Essex over the last 15 years or so – has this also been happening in other counties? (Ted Benton).
  • Sites with greater levels of radioactive contamination at Chernobyl have fewer older bees – does this mean that the radiation is affecting their lifespans?  (Katherine Raines).
  • Buglife’s B-Lines project continues to develop and gain momentum (Laurie Jackson).
  • The Short-haired Bumblebee reintroduction project has recorded workers every year since 2013.  However there have also been reintroductions of queens from Sweden every year – so are the queens surviving over-winter and founding new colonies? Or are the workers just from the new queens each year? (Nikki Gammans).

Thanks to all the speakers, it was a great meeting, and special thanks for Dave Goulson for his hospitality and for organising the event.

A number of people were tweeting from the event using the hashtag #BBWG16 – follow the link for more comments and some images, including a couple of yours truly in action – one of which I’ve stolen (below).

Jeff at BBWG 2016