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)


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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.



Filed under Bees, Biodiversity, Birds, Honey bees, Pollination, Tenerife, University of Northampton

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.

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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


Filed under Bees, Biodiversity, Honey bees, Pollination, Urban biodiversity

“Progress in pollination and pollinator research” meeting – University of Reading – 20th April

Skipper on ragwort - cropped

There is to be a joint meeting of the Royal Entomological Society’s Insect Pollination and Insects & Sustainable Agriculture Special Interest Groups on “Progress in pollination and pollinator research” at the University of Reading, 20th April 2016.  Unfortunately I can’t make it (I have meetings at the university all that day and need to get myself organised before heading off to Tenerife for field work on the 22nd) but I thought I’d advertise what looks like a very interesting one day conference.

The programme for the meeting is below and registration is open.  Please register before the meeting via The Royal Entomological Society using the form which can be downloaded from the RES website:

The registration fee will be £20 and includes lunch and all refreshments.

Convenors are Mike Garratt (Insect Pollination SIG) and John Holland (Insects & Sustainable Agriculture SIG) so please contact them if you’d like further information.


9.30-9.55 – Registration & Coffee

9.55-10.00 – Welcome

10.00-10.20 – Ecological intensification, pollinator diversity, and crop yield gaps in small- and large-holdings (Lucas Garibaldi, Instituto de Investigaciones en Recursos Naturales, Agroecología y Desarrollo Rural, Argentina)

10.20-10.40 – Welfare impact of pollinator decline on the international trade (Nicola Gallai, Ecole Nationale de Formation Agronomique, France)

10.40-11.00 – Conserving one beneficial at the cost of another; does success in promoting pollinators risk farmers ignoring other beneficial insects? (Mark Ramsden, ADAS)

11.00-11.20 – Coffee break

11.20-11.40 – Quantification of the floral landscape in agro-ecosystems and its effect on bumblebee colonies (Ellen Rotheray, University of Sussex)

11.40-12.00 – How many Bumblebees can our landscapes support? Using bumblebee colony models as a conservation management tool in agricultural landscapes (Grace Twiston-Davies, University of Exeter)

12.00-12.20 – Are current agri-environment schemes providing appropriate resources to the wider farmland bee community? (Thomas Wood, University of Sussex)

Short presentations:

12.20-12.25 – Pollination studies in the QuESSA Project (John Holland, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust)
12.25-12.30 – Pollinator initiatives and research at the Royal Horticultural Society (Andrew Salisbury, RHS Garden Wisley)

12.30-12.35 – Collating evidence on plant traits and ecosystem services to inform multifunctional field margin design (Claire Blowers, Harper Adams University)

12.35-12.40 – Rare bee species and agriculture (Steven Falk, Freelance Entomologist)

12.40-12.45 – Fenland ditch banks as pollinator refuges: Environmental variable influence on pollination service measurements (Hilary Conlan, Anglia Ruskin University)

12.45-12.50 – What’s for dinner? Investigating the foraging preferences of honeybees using pollen DNA metabarcoding (Natasha de Vere, National Botanic Garden of Wales)

12.50-13.00 – Questions

13.00-13.45 – Lunch

13.45-13.50 – The National Pollinator and Pollination Monitoring Framework (Claire Carvell, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology)

13.50-13.55 – Impacts of climate change on plant-pollinator interactions in agro-ecosystems (Ellen Moss, Newcastle University)

13.55-14.00 – Reproductive resilience through outcrossing: pollen movement by insects is more important when plants are under stress (Jake Bishop, University of Reading)

14.00-14.05 – DNA metabarcoding reveals pollen transport by Eristalis hoverflies in grasslands (Andrew Lucas, National Botanic Garden of Wales)

14.05-14.10 – Raspberry pollination (Anders Nielsen, University of Oslo)

14.10-14.15 – Interaction between pollinators and pesticide use in agricultural crops: An ecological-economical modeling approach in South West France (Giorgos Kleftodimos, University of Toulouse)

14.15-14.20 – Estimating the net economic consequences of losing pollination services: evaluating contributions from single protected areas (Fabrizia Ratto, University of Southampton)

14.20-14.30 – Questions

14.30-14.50 – Insect pollinators: utilisation of resources through space and time in an intensive grassland landscape (Lorna Cole, SRUC)

14.50-15.10 – Insecticides and pollinators – Are they really incompatible? (Lin Field, Rothamsted Research)

15.00-15.20 – Monitoring the effects of chronic, larval exposure to neonicotinoids on the solitary bee Osmia bicornis (Beth Nicholls, University of Sussex)

15.20-15.30 – Discussion and close of meeting

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Filed under Bees, Biodiversity, Butterflies, Climate change, Ecosystem services, Honey bees, Hoverflies, Pollination, Wasps

Special issue of Leaf Litter devoted to pollinators

Leaf Litter

A short while ago I was interviewed by an American journalist as part of a special issue of the online newsletter Leaf Litter devoted to pollinators.  Produced by a conservation planning and ecological restoration organisation called Biohabitats, this special issue includes:

» Thoughts on Pollinators
» Expert Q&A: Jeff Ollerton
» Expert Q&A: Jerome Rozen
» Expert Q&A: Eugenie Regan
» Inspiration: Promising Progress With Pollinator Habitat
» Non-Profit Spotlight: The Xerces Society
» Video: An ecological planner walks into a cider mill…
» How Saving Pollinators Can Save Water and Fish Resources
» Biohabitats Projects, Places, and People

Here’s a link to Leaf Litter.

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Filed under Bees, Biodiversity, Butterflies, Ecosystem services, Gardens, Honey bees, Hoverflies, IPBES, Pollination, Urban biodiversity

Urban Pollinator Knowledge Exchange summary – Bristol 22nd February

P1110838The importance of urban environments for supporting pollinator populations is a topic that I’ve covered several times on the blog, for example: “Urban pollinators for urban agriculture” and “Urban bee diversity – a new study“.  It’s a subject that’s generating a lot of interest at the moment with some really exciting research being published and conservation practice taking place.  However there’s clearly a lot to do if we are really to understand where pollinators are distributed across out townscapes, and how we can best manage urban habitats to support this diversity and increase their numbers – here’s a link to an interesting round table discussion on this very topic.

Recently I was invited to take part in a workshop event co-organised by Defra, NERC, and Dr Kath Baldock from Bristol University entitled: Knowledge Exchange: urban grassland management and creating space for pollinators.  As well as doing a short talk which contextualised the current scientific knowledge on urban pollinators, I facilitated one of the breakout discussion sessions.

The workshop was very well attended with some 50 delegates from a wide range of organisations, including local and national authorities, businesses, NGOs, and universities.  Feedback from those delegates was generally positive and most people learned something about managing urban settings for pollinators, and made some useful connections.  I certainly learned a lot: it’s good to get out of academia sometimes and talk with practitioners.

If you follow this link you’ll find a PDF of the summary from the facilitated sessions, covering topics such as grassland and verge management, the urban edgeland, innovative projects, and green infrastructure.

Over at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s blog, Sam Page has a very nice summary of the whole day which is also worth reading:  Trials and tribulations of managing urban grasslands for pollinators.

Many thanks to all of the organisers for their work in putting on this event.

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Research is Writing is Research is Writing is Research

“this is an interesting approach because it collapses the distinction between doing ‘research’ and writing ‘it’ up”

For years I’ve tried to impress this idea upon my PhD students and postdocs, that writing IS part of the research, and that “writing up” research is, at best, an inaccurate way of describing the process, even in the sciences. It’s had mixed success because it’s a difficult message to get across until they experience it for themselves and appreciate the importance of writing as they go along, even if much of what they write doesn’t end up in the thesis or research paper.

The quote comes from a recent post on Stuart Elden’s Progressive Geographies blog, and he in turn highlights a post by Raul Pacheco-Vega called “What counts as academic writing?”  Both are well worth reading, though Pacheco-Vega’s discipline of writing for two hours every day certainly won’t suit everyone (myself included).



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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 



Filed under Bees, Biodiversity, Ecosystem services, Pollination, University of Northampton

The integration of alien plants in mutualistic plant–hummingbird networks – a new study by Maruyama et al. (2016)

The collaborations with researchers in Brazil and Denmark in which I’ve been involved in recent years, focused particularly on hummingbirds and networks of plant pollinator interactions, have been very productive, most recently seen in a study of the effects of hummingbird feeders on diversity and abundance of the birds.

This collaboration continues with a new study that has just been published in the journal Diversity and Distributions which deals with the way in which non-native plant species are exploited by assemblages of hummingbirds in the New World.  Here’s the abstract:


Aim:  To investigate the role of alien plants in mutualistic plant–hummingbird networks, assessing the importance of species traits, floral abundance and insularity on alien plant integration.

Location: Mainland and insular Americas.

Methods: We used species-level network indices to assess the role of alien plants in 21 quantitative plant–hummingbird networks where alien plants occur. We then evaluated whether plant traits, including previous adaptations to bird pollination, and insularity predict these network roles. Additionally, for a subset of networks for which floral abundance data were available, we tested whether this relates to network roles. Finally, we tested the association between hummingbird traits and the probability of interaction with alien plants across the networks.

Results: Within the 21 networks, we identified 32 alien plant species and 352 native plant species. On average, alien plant species attracted more hummingbird species (i.e. aliens had a higher degree) and had a higher proportion of interactions across their hummingbird visitors than native plants (i.e. aliens had a higher species strength). At the same time, an average alien plant was visited more exclusively by certain hummingbird species (i.e. had a higher level of complementary specialization). Large alien plants and those occurring on islands had more evenly distributed interactions, thereby acting as connectors. Other evaluated plant traits and floral abundance were unimportant predictors of network roles. Short-billed hummingbirds had higher probability of including alien plants in their interactions than long-billed species.

Main conclusions: Once incorporated into plant-hummingbird networks, alien plants appear strongly integrated and, thus, may have a large influence on network dynamics. Plant traits and floral abundance were generally poor predictors of how well alien species are integrated. Short-billed hummingbirds, often characterized as functionally generalized pollinators, facilitate the integration of alien plants. Our results show that plant–hummingbird networks are open for invasion.


The full reference is: Maruyama, P.K. et al. (2016) The integration of alien plants in mutualistic plant–hummingbird networks across the Americas: the importance of species traits and insularity.  Diversity and Distributions (in press).

Happy to send a PDF to anyone who would like one.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Biogeography, Birds, Brazil, Pollination