Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ecologists get first bumblebees' eye view of the landscape

Date:
August 22, 2013
Source:
British Ecological Society (BES)
Summary:
Ecologists have produced the most detailed picture yet of how bumblebees use the landscape thanks to DNA technology and remote sensing. The results – which come from the largest ever study of wild bumblebee nests – could help farmers and policy makers ensure the countryside is better suited to the needs of these vital but declining pollinators.

Bombus ruderatus.
Credit: Copyright Claire Carvell

Ecologists have produced the most detailed picture yet of how bumblebees use the landscape thanks to DNA technology and remote sensing. The results -- which come from the largest ever study of wild bumblebee nests -- could help farmers and policy makers ensure the countryside is better suited to the needs of these vital but declining pollinators.

Despite their size and often conspicuous colouring, bumblebees are difficult to study in the wild because their nests are almost impossible to find. To work out how far bumblebees forage from their nests, a team of ecologists from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), University of East Anglia, University of Bristol, and Institute of Zoology instead took advantage of bumblebees' unusual genetics.

According to Dr Matt Heard of CEH: "All workers in a bumblebee colony are daughters of a singly-mated queen, which means they are highly related in genetic terms. We decided to exploit this interesting aspect of their biology using a novel combination of genetics, field studies and landscape modelling."

The team sampled DNA non-lethally from live wild bumblebees, including 2577 worker and 537 queen bees of five different species. Back in the laboratory they genotyped the samples, which allowed them to estimate how closely related the bees were across the landscape and group sisters, mothers and daughters into more than 2000 colonies.

This information was then overlaid onto detailed images of the study landscape taken by airborne remote sensing. The maps allowed the team to estimate the location of each colony as well as how far each bumblebee travelled to find food. These distances varied between averages of 268m to 553m depending on species, but were much greater, over 2km, for colonies in parts of the landscape with fewer flowers.

The results are important because they will allow policy makers and farmers to improve conservation schemes. "By using the secrets hidden within the DNA of bumblebees we can start to understand how queens and their colonies are using the landscape around them. Most importantly, we can ask whether conservation schemes to improve the countryside for bees, like planting more flowers on farmland, are having a positive effect. For example, reducing the distance that bumblebees have to fly to find food might increase their chances of survival into the next generation because they can devote more energy to reproduction," explains Dr Heard.

"Our findings could help land managers to plan schemes to help conserve bumblebee populations in both agricultural and urban areas, and to enhance pollination services for crops and biodiversity."

Under current agri-environment schemes, the UK Government pays farmers to manage their land for the benefit of particular habitats and species. However, the area targeted for bees and other pollinators is less than 0.1% of the total managed area. Bumblebees are among the most important pollinators of many food crops and wild plants.

The next stage of the research is to use mathematical models to produce a "bees' eye view" of the landscape. Dr Claire Carvell, the project leader, says "Ultimately we want to be able to predict which types of landscapes work best for bumblebees and how these can be created against the backdrop of modern farming and the need for sustainable food production," .

Dr Heard will present the team's findings to INTECOL at ExCel, London on Thursday 22 August 2013. He and Dr Carvell are working with Professor Andrew Bourke at the University of East Anglia, Dr Seirian Sumner and Dr Stephanie Dreier at the University of Bristol, and Dr Jinliang Wang at the Institute of Zoology. The research is funded by the national Insect Pollinators Initiative.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by British Ecological Society (BES). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

British Ecological Society (BES). "Ecologists get first bumblebees' eye view of the landscape." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130822090035.htm>.
British Ecological Society (BES). (2013, August 22). Ecologists get first bumblebees' eye view of the landscape. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130822090035.htm
British Ecological Society (BES). "Ecologists get first bumblebees' eye view of the landscape." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130822090035.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Rare Lion Cubs Make Debut at Belgrade Zoo

Raw: Rare Lion Cubs Make Debut at Belgrade Zoo

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) Two white lion cubs were born in Belgrade zoo three weeks ago. White lions are a rare mutation of a species found in South Africa and some cultures consider them divine. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

Buzz60 (Oct. 17, 2014) Feeling down? Reach for the refrigerator, not the medicine cabinet! TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) shares some of the best foods to boost your mood. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sweet Times for Hard Cider Makers

Sweet Times for Hard Cider Makers

AP (Oct. 16, 2014) With hard cider making a hardcore comeback across the country, craft makers are trying to keep up with demand and apple growers are tapping a juicy new revenue stream. (Oct. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Meet Garfi the Angry Cat

Meet Garfi the Angry Cat

Buzz60 (Oct. 16, 2014) Garfi is one frowny, feisty feline - downright angry! Ko Im (@koimtv) introduces us to the latest animal celebrity taking over the Internet. You can follow more of Garfi's adventures on Twitter (@MeetGarfi) and Facebook (Garfi). Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins