Tag Archives: University of Sussex

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

Bumblebee Working Group meeting – University of Sussex – 30th March

Bombus hypnorum

It’s been three years since the last meeting of the semi-formal Bumblebee Working Group, which I hosted at the University of Northampton, and British Bombus researchers  are eagerly looking forward to the next one which is being organised by Professor Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex on 30th March.  There is no charge and if anyone with an interest in bumblebees wishes to attend, please contact Dave.

Here’s the programme for the day, which starts at 10am and finishes at 4.30pm:

Goulson, Dave – Welcome

Williams, Paul  – Bumblebees of extreme environments

Alger, Samantha – RNA viruses in Vermont bumblebees


Baron, Gemma – Impacts of a neonicotinoid pesticide on colony founding bumblebee queens

Becher, Matthias Bumble – BEEHAVE: using bumblebee colony models as a conservation management tool in agricultural landscapes

Breeze, Tom – Knowledge gaps for effectively valuing pollination services

Cresswell, James – New European Union protocols for testing the toxicological impacts of agro-chemicals on bees

Crowther, Liam – Inferring invertebrate dispersal distances from biological records


Rotheray, Ellie – Quantification of the floral landscape in agro-ecosystems and its effect on bumblebee colonies

Nicholls, Beth – Pesticides in rural and urban bumblebee nests

Benton, Ted – Status of the BAP carders in Essex

Ollerton, Jeff – Exceptional urban nest density of the Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum during summer 2014


Raine, Katherine – Chernobyl bumblebees: Understanding fitness consequences of living in the exclusion zone

Jackson, Laurie  – B-lines

Gammans, Nikki – An update on the progress of reintroducing the short-haired bumblebee, Bombus subterraneus