Wasps – the good, the bad and the downright irritating

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A wasp taking a break from foraging to have a drink. Flensshot via Pixabay

Whether trying to cajole one out of your office or running for cover after it seems a little too interested in your food we have likely all encountered the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) more than once during this particularly wasp-heavy summer.  But did you know that this is just one of 9000 species of wasp found in the UK and without a microscope you’re unlikely to ever see the vast majority of them. You might also not know that they provide us with great ecological services including pollination of both our crops and wildflowers as well as controlling insect populations which spread human and agricultural diseases.

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To bee or not to bee

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Honeybee on apple blossom. Image Credit: Myriams-Fotos via Pixabay (CC0)

This Sunday the UK celebrated World Bee Day (May 20th); the first year of the now to be annual UN awareness event aimed at increasing our sensitivity to the global importance and increasing struggle of pollinators. Whilst the event hopes to increase understanding of pollinators generally, including butterflies, moths, birds and bats, the focus is strongly on wild and managed bees for their economic importance. And justly so; bees visit over 70 crops in the UK alone and are worth billions worldwide in the pollination service they provide. However, it would be difficult to miss the worryingly-frequent headlines warning of bee decline both in the UK and globally as a result of human activities.

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Buzzing activity around pollinator health

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Yesterday I cherished the start of spring in England by attending an event devoted to pollinators and pollination at the University of Reading. Most presentations at this meeting organised by the Royal Entomological Society were understandably about bees, but we also heard a few talks highlighting the importance of other pollinator groups.

For about five years now the media has been broadcasting alarming news about declining bee populations especially in Europe and North America. While the amounting evidence points to neonicotinoid insecticides being a major cause for the decline, I learnt yesterday that the situation is actually rather complex, other stressors are also involved, and scientists are still eagerly trying to form a complete understanding of the issue.

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Beekeepers March on Whitehall

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Wallingford is not only where our community of bloggers resides, but it is also home to Rowse Honey, the ‘UK’s leading honey company’. For honey-lovers everywhere, attention will have been drawn to
a BBC news bulletin yesterday announcing that English honey supplies could run
out by Christmas (BBC, 2008).

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Pollinator Presence Plummets

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National Wildlife Week in Canada was from 6-12 April and this
year’s theme was pollinators. Hot on its heels was National Pollinator Week in Washington D.C.
from 22-28 June. I am pleased to see an upkeep of the pollinator profile.
This is hardly surprising given the importance of these industrious workers.
Their increasing decline makes profile lifters such as these of the utmost
importance.

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