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

5 thoughts on “What I learned at the Bumblebee Working Group Meeting

  1. Dr Raymond J C Cannon

    I’d love to know what 737,914 bramble flowers equate to in terms of grammes of nectar!

  2. Emily Scott

    “The equivalent of 737,914 bramble flowers are needed to provide the resources support a single colony of Buff-tailed Bumblebees for one year”

    Wonder how many bushes that would be roughly… sounds like an awful lot and reinforces how desperately the bees need our remaining flowers.

  3. Clem

    On the route of transmission of honey bee diseases to bumble bees… my guess – the culprit is that hegemonic hymenopteran martial art – the Bumble Rumble.

    What, you’re not persuaded? It is a testable hypothesis. For what it’s worth, until now if one were to Google “hegemonic hymenopteran martial art” it would offer no hits (not sure why… but that was the case when I checked)… Obviously now Google will return your blog. Congrats!

    Yeah, I missed April 1. I’ll try harder next year.

  4. Pingback: Six bees, one stone: recent pollinator-related talks and workshops | Jeff Ollerton's Biodiversity Blog

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