12 November, 2015

Thesis, deconstruction and new synthesis: the changing face of applied pollination

By Peter Kevan

Beetle (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus) on
Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan)
Since the first 18th Century scientific accounts of how pollination works it has risen in respectability in botany, zoology, evolution and ecology.  Pollination biology provided huge opportunities for focussed research in basic and applied sciences so that disciplinary solitudes arose.  Botany and zoology tended to be separate within biology as well as in agronomy and apiculture.  Over the history of pollination biology, which can be placed into six inter-related facets, philosophical, social, scientific, technical, political and business agendas have hampered, and continue to hamper, objective science.  Nevertheless, modern interdisciplinary approaches to pollination ecology, its inherent co-evolutionary principles, and the current “pollination” crisis have become a scientific and social unifying force that cannot but lead to new knowledge, insights and, I hope, wisdom (new synthesis). 

Read the scientific publication in JPE.

10 November, 2015

Pollination syndromes - A response to Aguilar et al.’s (2015) critique of Ollerton et al. (2009)

by Waser, Ollerton and Price

Bumble bee and butterfly in Tenerife
Pollination syndromes continue to attract much discussion and debate in the scientific literature, and in their reply to Ollerton et al.'s (2015) Journal of Pollination Ecology critique, Aguilar et al. (2015) take issue with both the critique and an earlier paper (Ollerton et al. 2009). In our response to their reply we point out that what Aguilar et al. (2015) seem to see as fatal flaws in the earlier study (Ollerton et al. 2009) are in fact no such thing, and stem from a misunderstanding of that paper. No doubt the discussion of pollination syndromes will continue for some time to come.

Read the scientific publication in JPE.

09 November, 2015

A restraining device to aid identification of bees by digital photography

by James D. Thomson and Jessica L. Zung

Although pinned voucher specimens are the “gold standard” for identifying insects in surveys, in some circumstances it may be undesirable to kill the study subjects.  If insects can be caught be net and then released, digital photographs can record details that improve the accuracy of identifications.   We describe a simple piston-and-cylinder holding chamber that quickly, temporarily, and harmlessly restrains bees or similar insects for portraiture in the field.  Tested in large surveys of bumble bees in Colorado USA, this device was able to prevent a substantial number of misidentifications. 

Photograph: Students netting bumble bees near the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Colorado.  Recent surveys along elevational transects have been conducted for comparison to similar surveys carried out in 1974 (see Pyke GH, Inouye DW, Thomson JD (2011) Activity and abundance of bumble bees near Crested Butte, Colorado: diel, seasonal, and elevation effects. Ecological Entomology 36:511–521).  Because many pollination researchers work at the RMBL, its Research Committee asks investigators to minimize the killing of specimens.

Read the scientific publication in JPE.