Monthly Archives: October 2020

SCAPE 2020 – pollinators & pollination conference: here’s the programme

There’s still a few hours left in which to register to attend the SCAPE 2020 pollinators and pollination conference. Follow the links on the website:

The programme is more or less finalised and is shown below. We have an amazing range of topics being presented from both established and early career researchers, including two keynote lectures, plus posters. It’s going to be a very exciting weekend of science!


Talk types:

K = Keynote

ST = Standard (10 minutes talk + 5 for questions)

F = Flash talk (5 minutes, no questions)

Friday 6th November – all timings are GMT (London) time

09.00 –09.15 Jeff OllertonOpen conference and welcome 
09.15 –10.15KLynn DicksUnderstanding the risks to human well-being from pollinator declineK.01
10.15 –10.30 Comfort breakTime to top up your coffee 
Session 1 Chair: Jeff OllertonAgriculture – 1 
10.30 – 10.45STKe ChenIndirect and additive effects of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on insect pollination and crop yield of raspberry under different fertilizer levels1.01
10.45 – 11.00STJulia OstermanEnhancing mason bee populations for sweet cherry pollination1.02
11.00 – 11.15STIdan KahnonitchViral distributions in bee communities: associations to honeybee density and flower visitation frequency1.03
11.15 – 11.30STAnna Birgitte MilfordWho takes responsibility for the bees?1.04
11.30 – 11.45STEmma GardnerBoundary features increase and stabilise bee populations and the pollination of mass-flowering crops in rotational systems1.05
11.45 – 12.00STStephanie MaherEvaluating the quantity and quality of resources for pollinators on Irish farms1.06
12.00 –12.05FThomas TimberlakePollinators and human nutrition in rural Nepal: experiences of remote data collection during a global pandemic1.07
12.05 –12.15 Comfort break  
Session 2 Chair: Jane StoutAgriculture – 2 
12.15 – 12.30STMichael ImageThe impact of agri-environment schemes on crop pollination services at national scale2.01
12.30 – 12.45STNicola TommasiPlant – pollinator interactions in sub-Saharan agroecosystems2.02
12.45 – 13.00STTal ShapiraThe combined effects of resource-landscape and herbivory on pollination services in agro-ecosystems2.03
13.00 – 13.15STMárcia Motta MauésDespite the megadiversity of flower visitors, native bees are essential to açai palm (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) pollination at the Amazon estuary2.04
13.15 – 13.30 STSabrina RondeauQuantifying exposure of bumblebee queens to pesticide residues when hibernating in agricultural soils2.05
13.30 –13.35 FMaxime EeraertsLandscapes with high amounts of mass-flowering fruit crops reduce the reproduction of two solitary bees2.06
13.35 – 13.40FPatricia Nunes-SilvaCrop domestication, flower characteristics and interaction with pollinators: the case of Cucurbita pepo (Cucurbitaceae)2.07
13.40 – 14.30 Lunch break  
Session 3 Chair: Mariano DevotoNetworks and communities 
14.30 – 14.45STKit PrendergastPlant-pollinator networks in Australian urban bushland remnants are not structurally equivalent to those in residential gardens3.01
14.45 – 14.50FKavya MohanStructure of plant-visitor networks in a seasonal southern Indian habitat3.02
14.50 – 14.55FOpeyemi AdedojaAsynchrony among insect pollinator groups and flowering plants with elevation3.03
14.55 – 15.10STYael MandelikRangeland sharing by cattle and bees: moderate grazing does not impair bee communities and resource availability3.04
15.10 – 15.25STFelipe Torres-VanegasLandscape change reduces pollen quality indirectly by shifting the functional composition of pollinator communities3.05
15.25 – 15.40STIsabela Vilella-ArnizautQuantifying plant-pollinator interactions in the Prairie Coteau3.06
15.40 – 15.55 Comfort break  
Session 4 Chair: Nina SletvoldConservation perspectives – 1 
15.55 – 16.10STLise RoparsSeasonal dynamics of competition between honeybees and wild bees in a protected Mediterranean scrubland4.01
16.10 – 16.25STPhilip DonkersleyA One-Health model for reversing honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) decline4.02
16.25 – 16.40STNicholas TewNectar supply in gardens: spatial and temporal variation4.03
16.40 – 16.55STPeter GraystockThe effects of environmental toxicants on the health of bumble bees and their microbiomes4.04
16.55 – 17.10STHauke KochFlagellum removal by a heather nectar metabolite inhibits infectivity of a bumblebee parasite4.05
17.10 – 17.25 Comfort break  
Session 5 Chair: Anders NielsenConservation perspectives – 2 
17.25 – 17.40STMiranda BanePollinators on Guernsey and a Pesticide-free Plan5.01
17.40 – 17.55STJamie WildmanReintroducing Carterocephalus palaemon to England: using the legacy of a locally extinct butterfly as a (morpho)metric of future success5.02
17.55 – 18.10STSjirk GeertsInvasive alien Proteaceae lure some, but not other nectar feeding bird pollinators away from native Proteaceae in South African fynbos5.03
18.10 – 18.25STSissi Lozada GobilardHabitat quality and connectivity in kettle holes enhance bee diversity in agricultural landscapes5.04
18.25 –18.45 Comfort break  
18.45 – 23.59 Themed discussion rooms open  

Saturday 7th November – all timings are GMT (London) time

08.55 – 09.00 Jeff OllertonReminders and announcements 
Session 6 Chair: Jeff OllertonConservation perspectives – 3 
09.00 – 09.15STPaolo BiellaThe effects of landscape composition and climatic variables on pollinator abundances and foraging along a gradient of increasing urbanization6.01
09.15 – 09.30STJames RodgerPotential impacts of pollinator declines on plant seed production and population viability6.02
09.30 – 09.45STEmilie EllisMoth assemblages within urban domestic gardens respond positively to habitat complexity, but only at a scale that extends beyond the garden boundary6.03
09.45 – 10.00STSamuel BoffNovel pesticide class impact foraging behaviour in wild bees6.04
10.00 – 10.15 Comfort breakTime to top up your coffee 
Session 7 Chair: Jon AgrenConservation perspectives – 4 
10.15 – 10.20FMaisie BrettThe impacts of invasive Acacias on the pollination networks of South African Fynbos habitats7.01
10.20 – 10.25FJoseph MillardGlobal effects of land-use intensity on local pollinator biodiversity7.02
10.25 – 10.30FSusanne ButschkauHow does land-use affect the mutualistic outcomes of bee-plant interactions?7.03
10.30 – 10.35FElżbieta Rożej-PabijanImpact of wet meadow translocation on species composition of bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Apiformes)7.04
10.35 – 10.40FLorenzo GuzzettiMay urbanization affect the quality of pollinators diet? A case-study from Milan, Italy.7.05
10.40 – 10.45FEmiliano PioltelliFunctional traits variation in two bumblebee species along a gradient of landscape anthropization7.06
10.45 – 11.00 Comfort break  
Session 8 Chair: Marcos MendezPollinator behaviour – 1 
11.00 – 11.15STHema SomanathanForaging on left-overs: comparative resource use in diurnal and nocturnal bees8.01
11.15 – 11.30STSajesh VijayanTo leave or to stay? Answers from migratory waggle dances in Apis dorsata8.02
11.30 – 11.45STBalamurali MGSDecision making in the Asian honeybee Apis cerana is influenced by innate sensory biases and associative learning at different spatial scales8.03
11.45 – 12.00STGemma VillagomezResource intake of stingless bee colonies in a tropical ecosystem in Ecuador8.04
12.00 – 12.15STOla OlssonPollen analysis   using deep learning – better, stronger, faster8.05
12.15 – 13.00 Lunch break  
Session 9 Chair: Magne FribergPollinator behaviour – 2 
13.00 – 13.15STShuxuan Jing‘Interviewing’ pollinators in the red clover field: foraging behaviour9.01
13.15 – 13.30STOcéane BartholoméeHow to eat in the shade? Bumblebees’ behavior in partially shaded flower strips9.02
13.30 – 13.45STManuela GiovanettiMegachile sculpturalis: insights on the nesting activity of an alien bee species9.03
13.45 – 14.00    STZahra MoradinourThe allometry of sensory system in the butterfly Pieris napi9.04
14.00 – 14.05FPierre TichitNew insights into the visual ecology of bees9.05
14.05 – 14.10FFabian RuedenauerDoes pollinator dependence correlate with the nutritional profile of pollen in plants?9.06
14.10 – 14.15FHannah BurgerFloral signals involved in host finding by nectar-foraging social wasps9.07
14.15 – 14.30 Comfort break  
Session 10 Chair: ‪ Amy ParachnowitschFloral scent 
14.30 – 14.45STHerbert BraunschmidDoes the rarity of a flower´s scent phenotype in a deceptive orchid explain its pollination success?10.01
14.45 – 15.00STYedra GarcíaEcology and evolution of floral scent compartmentalization10.02
15.00 – 15.15STManoj Kaushalya RathnayakeDoes floral scent changes with pollinator syndrome?10.03
15.15 – 15.20FHanna ThostemanThe chemical landscape of Arabis alpina10.04
15.20 – 15.25FLaura S. HildesheimPatterns of floral scent composition in species providing resin pollinator rewards10.05
15.25 – 15.30FChristine Rose-SmythDoes Myrmecophila thomsoniana (Orchidaceae) use uncoupled mimicry to obtain pollination? 10.06
15.30 – 15.45 Comfort break  
Session 11 Chair: Renate WesselinghPollination ecology and floral evolution – 1 
15.45 – 16.00STRachel SpiglerAdaptive plasticity of floral display and its limits11.01
16.00 – 16.15STWendy SemskiIndividual flowering schedules and floral display size in monkeyflower: a common garden study11.02
16.15 – 16.30STCarlos MartelSpecialization for tachinid fly pollination and the evolutionary divergence between varieties of the orchid Neotinea ustulata11.03
16.30 – 16.45STMarcela Moré  Different points of view in a changing world: The tobacco tree flowers through the eyes of its pollinators in native and non-native ranges11.05
16.45 – 17.00 Comfort break  
17.00 – 18.00 Poster discussion rooms openA chance to talk with the author of the posters 
18.00 – 23.59 Themed discussion rooms open   

Sunday 8th November – all timings are GMT (London) time

08.55 – 09.00  Jeff OllertonReminders and announcements 
09.00 – 10.00KScott ArmbrusterPollination accuracy explains the evolution of floral movementsK.02
10.00 – 10.15 Comfort breakTime to top up your coffee 
Session 12 Chair: Jeff OllertonPollination ecology and floral evolution – 2 
10.15 – 10.30STKazuharu OhashiThree options are better than two: complementary nature of different pollination modes in Salix caprea12.01
10.30 – 10.45STJames CookWhy size matters in fig-pollinator mutualisms12.02
10.45 – 11.00STYuval SapirWithin-population flower colour variation: beyond pollinator-mediated selection12.03
11.00 – 11.15STHenninge Torp BieFlower visitation of the Sticky catchfly (Viscaria vulgaris) on isles within isle.12.04
11.15 – 11.20    
11.20 – 11.30 Comfort break  
Session 13 Chair: Yuval SapirPollination ecology and floral evolution – 3 
11.30 – 11.45STJonas KupplerImpacts of drought on floral traits, plant-pollinator interactions and plant reproductive success – a meta-analysis13.01
11.45 – 12.00STCarmen Villacañas de CastroCost/benefit ratio of a nursery pollination system in natural populations: a model application13.02
12.00 – 12.15STAnna E-VojtkóFloral and reproductive plant functional traits as an independent axis of plant ecological strategies13.03
12.15 – 12.30STCamille CornetRole of pollinators in prezygotic isolation between calcicolous and silicicolous ecotypes of Silene nutans13.04
12.30 – 12.45STCourtney GormanPhenological and pollinator-mediated isolation among selfing and outcrossing Arabidopsis lyrata populations13.05
12.45 – 13.45 Lunch break  
Session 14 Chair: Rocio BarralesPollination ecology and floral evolution – 4 
13.45 – 14.00STDanae LainaGeographic differences in pollinator availability in the habitats shape the degree of pollinator specialization in the deceptive Arum maculatum L. (Araceae)14.01
14.00 – 14.15  STEva GfrererIs the inflorescence scent of Arum maculatum L. (Araceae) in populations north vs. south of the Alps locally adapted to a variable pollinator climate?14.02
14.15 – 14.30STKelsey ByersPollinators and visitors to Gymnadenia orchids: historical and modern data reveal associations between insect proboscis and floral nectar spur length14.03
14.30 – 14.45STNina JirgalOrientation matters: effect of floral symmetry and orientation on pollinator entry angle14.04
14.45 – 15.00STAlice FairnieUnderstanding the development, evolution and function of the bullseye pigmentation pattern in Hibiscus trionum14.05
15.00 – 15.15 Comfort break  
Session 15 Chair: Maria Clara CastellanosPollination ecology and floral evolution – 5 
15.15 – 15.30STJon ÅgrenOn the measurement and meaning of pollinator-mediated selection15.01
15.30 – 15.45STKatarzyna RoguzPlants taking charge: Autonomous self-pollination as response to plants-pollinator mismatch in Fritillaria persica15.02
15.45 – 16.00STMario Vallejo-MarinBees vs flies: Comparison of non-flight vibrations and  implications for buzz pollination15.03
16.00 – 16.15STAgnes DellingerLinking flower morphology to pollen-release dynamics: buzz-pollination in Melastomataceae15.04
16.15 – 16.30STLucy NevardAre bees and flowers tuned to each other? Variation in the natural frequency of buzz-pollinated flowers.15.05
16.30 – 16.35 FGabriel Chagas LanesAn investigation of pollen movement and release by poricidal anthers using mathematical billiards15.06
16.35 – 16.40FRebecca HoeferThe magnitude of water stress and high soil nitrogen decreases plants reproductive success15.07
16.40 – 16.45FMarta BarberisMay ecotonal plants attract less efficient pollinators to stay on the safe side?15.08
16.45 – 17.00 Comfort break  
Session 16 Chair: Jeff OllertonPollination ecology and floral evolution – 6 
17.00 – 17.15STGabriela DoriaPetal cell shape and flower-pollinator interaction in Nicotiana16.01
17.15 – 17.30STNathan MuchhalaThe long stems characteristic of bat-pollinated flowers greatly reduce bat search times while foraging16.02
17.30 – 17.35FJuan Isaac Moreira-HernándezDifferential tolerance to heterospecific pollen deposition in sympatric species of bat-pollinated Burmeistera (Campanulaceae: Lobelioideae)16.03
17.35 – 17.40FJuan José Domínguez-DelgadoDoes autopolyploidy contribute to shape plant-pollinator interactions?16.04
17.40 – 17.45FCaio Simões BallarinHow many animal-pollinated plants are nectar-producing?16.05
17.45 – 17.50FAna Clara IbañezConcerted evolution between flower phenotype and pollinators in Salpichroa (Solanaceae)16.06
17.50 – 18.15 Jeff OllertonPrize announcements, conference handover and close.16.07

Cockroaches as pollinators: a new example just published

When you think of the word “pollinator” what comes to mind? For most people it will be bees, particularly the western honeybee (Apis mellifera). Some might also think of hoverflies, butterflies, moths, bats, hummingbirds…..but cockroaches?! The first published example that I know of which demonstrated that the flowers of a plant are specialised for cockroach pollination is from the mid-1990s. Since then only a handful of well documented cases have come to light, but there are undoubtedly more out there waiting to be discovered, particularly in the wet tropics. Most of the c. 4,600 species of cockroaches are nocturnal, and cockroach-pollinated flowers tend to open at night, which is one reason why they are under documented.

In a new study, published this week in the American Journal of Botany, a team of Chinese, German and British biologists has shown that a species of Apocynaceae from China is the first known example of cockroach pollination in that large family. Here’s the reference with a link to the study; if anyone wants a copy please email me:

Xiong, W., Ollerton, J., Liede-Schumann, S., Zhao, W., Jiang, Q., Sun, H. Liao, W. & You, W. (2020) Specialized cockroach pollination in the rare and endangered plant Vincetoxicum hainanense (Apocynaceae, Asclepiadoideae) in China. American Journal of Botany (in press)

The abstract for the paper follows:


Species of Apocynaceae are pollinated by a diverse assemblage of animals. Here we report the first record of specialized cockroach pollination in the family, involving an endangered climbing vine species, Vincetoxicum hainanense in China. Experiments were designed to provide direct proof of cockroach pollination and compare the effectiveness of other flower visitors.


We investigated the reproductive biology, pollination ecology, pollinaria removal, pollinia insertion, and fruit set following single visits by the most common insects. In addition, we reviewed reports of cockroaches as pollinators of other plants and analyzed the known pollination systems in Vincetoxicum in a phylogenetic context.


The small, pale green flowers of V. hainanense opened during the night. The flowers were not autogamous, but were self‐compatible. Flower visitors included beetles, flies, ants and bush crickets, but the most effective pollinator was the cockroach Blattella bisignata, the only visitor that carried pollen between plants. Less frequent and effective pollinators are ants and Carabidae. Plants in this genus are predominantly pollinated by flies, moths and wasps.


Globally, only 11 plant species are known to be cockroach‐pollinated. Because their range of floral features encompass similarities and differences, defining a “cockroach pollination syndrome” is difficult. One commonality is that flowers are often visited by insects other than cockroaches, such as beetles, that vary in their significance as pollinators. Cockroach pollination is undoubtedly more widespread than previously thought and requires further attention.

A change of career and development of this website

Yesterday was my last day of employment at the University of Northampton, I have stepped down from my professorship to work independently. However I will be staying in touch as a Visiting Professor to complete some projects, supervise my remaining postgraduate researchers, and tidy up the last bits of our REF submission.

It’s been quite a journey over the last 25 years from Nene College > University College Northampton > University of Northampton. I’m proud to have played a part in its development and to have taught some great students along the way. I’ve also made some amazing friends and worked with incredible, talented colleagues. I will miss all of that, but it was time to move on.

So, what of the future? From today I am self-employed as a consultant scientist and writer, focusing on the conservation of pollinators and their plants in our rapidly changing world. No amount of pandemics, Brexits, and American elections can hide the fact that we are having a devastating effect on the nature we rely on to put food on our plates and air in our lungs. The rest of my career is going to be focused on working with individuals and organisations to help to reduce our impact and restore nature.

My philosophy for this is to use the science that I have spent more than 30 years researching and developing, and apply it to the conservation of pollinators and their interactions with plants. At the same time I will continue to take a pragmatic and down to earth approach to thinking about the science that I publish from the perspective of the knowledge and understanding that conservation professionals require to do their work. Some of this is detailed in my book Pollinators & Pollination: Nature and Society (which I hope will be in the shops before Christmas!) but by no means all of it.

Over the next couple of weeks the format of this website will change as I develop it to become more of a shop window for the work I do and the services that I offer. Watch this space!

Guitarchaeology and hidden black histories

Regular readers of my blog will know that I’m an enthusiastic, if not very talented, player of the acoustic guitar. What I love just as much as playing is the history of these instruments and the music that they have made, and in the past I’ve linked this to the main topic of my blog, biodiversity: see this post on restoring an old guitar.

October is Black History Month in the UK so it seems fitting to share this bit of guitarchaeology: Robert Johnson and Johnny Shines in Steele Missouri – A Research Paper by John Seabaugh

In this video essay John pulls together what’s known, and what he has inferred, about a formative period in the lives of two iconic early blues musicians. Give it a read/listen, it’s really interesting.

John kindly sent me a PDF of the paper so I’ve had a chance to study it closely. What especially struck me was the table of Nightclubs in the Bootheel that appears 4 minutes into the video. John lists 28 nightclubs, the names of all but two of which are known from contemporary newspaper reports. The two unnamed clubs both had black owners.

It’s known from occasional written references and oral histories that there were many other music and drinking joints that were owned, and frequented, by the African-American population in this area. But in an era of strict racial segregation the names of these venues were not recorded in any of the white-run media. A big part of black social history is thus undocumented. And given the importance of black music from this time in shaping popular music around the world, the loss of this history is a tragic loss for everyone.  

Recipe: Jeff’s salt-fermented sloes

It has been an exceptional year for wild fruit of all kinds and British hedgerows are painted crimson by hawthorn berries, with splashes of purple-black where the sloes hang in succulent bunches. Sloes are, of course, the fruit of the blackthorn tree (Prunus spinosa) and are perfectly edible. In fact blackthorn is one of the progenitor species for cultivated plums. In Britain we tend to associate sloes with sloe gin. But, if you follow this link, you’ll see that there are lots of other edible uses for the fruit. However sloes are notoriously astringent so they need to be processed in some way before they are palatable.

The mention of umeboshi plums in that section of the Wikipedia article got me thinking because it chimes with things that I have been reading in the new book Fermentation by Rachel de Thample. As I mentioned in this post on sourdough bread from a couple of years ago, I have a longstanding interest in fermented foods and drink that goes back to my time working in a brewery in my home town of Sunderland.

Fermentation talks a lot about lacto-fermentation in which salt is used to prevent the growth of “bad” fungi and bacteria and promote the growth of Lactobacillus. These “good” bacteria then ferment the sugars in fruit and vegetables, releasing lactic acid and increasing the edibility and digestibility of the foodstuffs. Sauerkraut is a good example of this process in action. As well as salt you have to exclude air to make the process at least partially anaerobic.

After a bit of reading I experimented with a basic recipe to lacto-ferment sloes to turn them into something resembling the flavoursome wonders that are umeboshi plums. And do you know, it worked! Lacto-fermenting the sloes transforms their flavour from mouth-puckeringly astringent to sour-and-salty.

Here’s the procedure:

Pick your sloes before they are frosted, discarding any that are shriveled or have been damaged by insects or fungi. Immediately wash them to get rid of any dust and rescue the spiders and other invertebrates that are bound to be flushed off! Put the sloes to one side.

Wash and rinse a glass jar with a tight fitting lid, which is equal to the capacity of the sloes but no more, i.e. you want the sloes to fill it to the top. Sterilisation shouldn’t be necessary as the conditions inside will not be suitable for growth of anything other than the Lactobacillus. But it’s best to rinse out any detergent.

Weigh the sloes and then weigh enough fine sea or rock salt to equal 8% of the weight of the sloes. In other words, for every 100 grams of sloes, you need 8 grams of salt*. Don’t use standard table salt as it usually contains chemicals of various kinds.

Add about a quarter of the sloes to the jar and then sprinkle in a quarter of the salt, put the lid on and invert it a couple of times to distribute the salt. Add another quarter of sloes and salt and invert again. Repeat until you have filled the jar with sloes and salt.

Put the lid on tightly, write the date on the jar or on a label, and put in a cupboard or shelf away from direct light. It’s best to stand the jar on a plate to catch any of the liquor that may come out of the fruit.

Invert the jar a couple of times once a day to keep the salt distributed over the sloes. After a few days a purple liquid will start to build up. This is the water from the sloes being drawn out by osmosis. After four or five days open the jar and try one or two sloes. If you like the flavour, put the jar in the fridge to stop the fermentation. Otherwise let them ferment until the flavour suits you.

At the moment I am just snacking on these sloes but I am sure they could be used in recipes that require a salty-sour note. The liquor that builds up in the jar could also be used to flavour dishes or as the basis for a salad dressing.

*8% salt was based on something that I read which I can’t now find and might be overkill. I am going to try it with 2% to 4% salt and see if that works.