Archive for the ‘pollinators’ Category

RAZOR 19:37, 18-Oct-2021Translate How these bees are reducing the need for harmful pesticidesCGTN


How can the world be fed without the use of pesticides? One company thinks it has the answer – and bees are going to help it achieve this. 

The company BeeVT, or Bee vectoring technology, has developed a natural fungicide to treat certain crops. And instead of spreading it with fossil fuel-run machines it has got bees on board, harnessing their natural pollination process to deliver targeted crop controls.09:4838

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Science News from research organizations

First global estimate of importance of pollinators for seed production in plants

About 175 000 plant species — half of all flowering plants — mostly or completely rely on animal pollinators to make seeds and so to reproduce

Date:October 13, 2021Source:Stellenbosch UniversitySummary:Without pollinators, a third of flowering plant species would produce no seeds and half would suffer an 80% or more reduction in fertility. Therefore, even though auto-fertility is common, it by no means fully compensates for reductions in pollination service in most plant species.Share:FULL STORY

About 175,000 plant species — half of all flowering plants — mostly or completely rely on animal pollinators to make seeds and so to reproduce. Declines in pollinators could therefore cause major disruptions in natural ecosystems, including loss of biodiversity.

This is the finding from a paper, “Widespread vulnerability of plant seed production to pollinator declines,” published in the journal Science Advances on 13 October 2021.

Dr James Rodger, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU) and lead author, says this is the first study to provide a global estimate of the importance of pollinators for plants in natural ecosystems.

The study, involving 21 scientists affiliated with 23 institutions from five continents, was led by Dr James Rodger and Prof Allan Ellis from Stellenbosch University (SU). It is a product of the Synthesis Centre for Biodiversity Sciences (sDiv) in the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research.

Prof Tiffany Knight from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research and a senior co-author, says recent global assessments of pollination have highlighted a knowledge gap in our understanding of how dependent plants are on animal pollinators: “Our synthetic research addresses this gap, and enables us to link trends in pollinator biodiversity and abundance to consequences for plants at a global level,” she explains.

While most plants are animal-pollinated, most plants also have a bit of auto-fertility. This means they can make at least some seeds without pollinators, for example by self-fertilisation. However, until this study, the question, “How important are pollinators for wild plants?” did not have a clear answer at the global level.

The researchers used the contribution of pollinators to seed production — measured by comparing seed production in the absence of pollinators to seed production with pollinators present — as an indicator of their importance to plants. Data on this existed but were spread out in hundreds of papers each focusing on pollination experiments on different plant species. To address this problem, researchers at various institutions started to consolidate the information in databases: Dr Rodger developed the Stellenbosch Breeding System Database as a postdoctoral fellow in SU’s Department of Botany and Zoology; Prof Tiffany Knight, Prof Tia-Lynn Ashman and dr Janette Steets led the sPLAT working group that produced the GloPL database; and Prof Mark van Kleunen and Dr Mialy Razanajatovo produced the Konstanz Breeding System Database. All three databases were combined in a new database for the current study. It includes data from 1 528 separate experiments, representing 1 392 plant populations and 1 174 species from 143 plant families and all continents except Antarctica.

The findings show that, without pollinators, a third of flowering plant species would produce no seeds and half would suffer an 80% or more reduction in fertility. Therefore, even though auto-fertility is common, it by no means fully compensates for reductions in pollination service in most plant species.

“Recent studies show that many pollinator species have gone down in numbers, with some even having gone extinct. Our finding that large numbers of wild plant species rely on pollinators shows that declines in pollinators could cause major disruptions in natural ecosystems,” Dr Rodger warns.

Prof Mark van Kleunen, from the University of Konstanz and a co-author, says it is not a case of all pollinators disappearing: “If there are fewer pollinators to go around, or even just a change in which pollinator species are most numerous, we can expect knock-on effects on plants, with affected plant species potentially declining, further harming animal species and human populations depending on those plants. Pollinators aren’t only important for crop production, but also for biodiversity.

“It also means that plants that do not rely on pollinators, like many problematic weeds, might spread even more when pollinators continue to decline,” he adds.

Dr Joanne Bennet, a co-author from the University of Canberra who curated the GloOL database, says another disconcerting factor is the positive feedback loop that develops if pollinator-depending plants decline or go extinct: “If auto-fertile plants come to dominate the landscape, then even more pollinators will be negatively affected, because auto-fertile plants tend to produce less nectar and pollen.”

All is not doom and gloom, though, according to Dr Rodger. Many plants are long-lived, opening a window of opportunity to restore pollinators before plant extinctions occur from lack of pollinators.

“We lack high quality long-term monitoring data on pollinators in Africa for example, including South Africa, although some work has been started in this regard. We hope that our findings will stimulate more of this kind of research, so that we can detect pollinator declines and mitigate their impacts on biodiversity,” Dr Rodger concludes.make a difference:

Story Source:

Materials provided by Stellenbosch University. Original written by Wiida Fourie-Basson. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. James G. Rodger, Joanne M. Bennett, Mialy Razanajatovo, Tiffany M. Knight, Mark van Kleunen, Tia-Lynn Ashman, Janette A. Steets, Cang Hui, Gerardo Arceo-Gómez, Martin Burd, Laura A. Burkle, Jean H. Burns, Walter Durka, Leandro Freitas, Jurene E. Kemp, Junmin Li, Anton Pauw, Jana C. Vamosi, Marina Wolowski, Jing Xia, Allan G. Ellis. Widespread vulnerability of flowering plant seed production to pollinator declinesScience Advances, 2021; 7 (42) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd3524

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The yellow-legged Asian hornet (Vespa velutina nigrithorax) is an
invasive species that poses a particular threat to the European honey
bee (Apis mellifera). This study reports on the management of Asian hornet
incursions in the UK, including the use of nest dissection and microsatellite
marker analysis (a form of genetic testing) to determine the relatedness and
reproductive status of detected nests and hornets.

The yellow-legged Asian hornet (Vespa velutina nigrithorax) is an invasive species in Europe. Once
established, the hornet presents a threat to native invertebrate species — particularly the European
honey bee (Apis mellifera), which is vulnerable to predation. Since 2004, Asian hornet populations
have colonised parts of France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Germany and some of the Channel
Islands. Their nests and lone individuals have also been detected in other countries, including the UK.
Pollinators are vital for our food production. By helping plants to reproduce, pollinators supporting a
supply of healthy and economically valuable food for humans, while supporting entire ecosystems.
The EU Pollinators Initiative is a strategy for Member States to address the decline of pollinators in
the EU and to support global conservation efforts.

In the study, British researchers describe the management of Asian hornet incursions, including the
use of nest dissection and microsatellite marker analysis (a form of genetic testing) to determine
the relatedness and reproductive status of detected nests.

In the UK, the Non-Native Species Secretariat and National Bee Unit respond to all reports of foraging
Asian hornets and use trajectory tracking techniques to locate and destroy nests. Between the time
of the first detection in 2016 and the end of 2019, a total of nine nests were detected. Lone adult
individual hornets were sampled from seven additional sites during the same time period.

After destruction, all nests were sent to a laboratory for dissection. For each, the number of adult
hornets, sex ratio, and mass of individuals was recorded. The diameter of the nest and each
individual comb was also measured, and the life stages present in the nest were determined.
Tissue samples from the nests and lone adult hornets were then collected for microsatellite
marker analysis. Microsatellites are segments of DNA where a short section of the nucleotide (a
basic building block of nucleic acid — an organic substance present in living cells such as DNA)
sequence repeats and are useful for measuring genetic variation.

The results of these analyses suggest that the Asian hornet has not established a population in
the UK, and that the detected nests and lone individuals are likely the result of separate incursions
from the European continent. None of the nests were found to have produced the next generation
of queens, and follow-up monitoring in affected regions detected no new nests in later years.
Diploid males (i.e. those having two identical chromosomal sets — indicative of inbreeding) were
also found in many UK nests, while microsatellite analysis showed that nests had low genetic
diversity and the majority of queens had mated with only one or two males. All nests were found
to have derived from continental Europe, rather than from Asia or elsewhere in the UK.

The researchers report such insights are used to guide real-time decision making in the UK. Data
on the reproductive status of the nest are used to inform the level of monitoring in the area
implemented in subsequent years. Determining whether captured individuals belong to one or
more nests also enables inspectors on the ground to know how many nests they are searching
for. For this reason, this research may be of interest to policymakers, particularly those concerned
with the management and control of invasive species and the protection of European apiculture

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New species has longest tongue of any insect

Malagasy moth uses its giant proboscis to get into orchids

A long proboscis of a Wallace Sphinx moth compared to a Morgan’s Sphinx moth


On the island of Madagascar there lives a large moth with a tongue long enough to make Gene Simmons green with envy. Its name? Xanthopan praedicta. Its business? Sucking the pollen out of a very long and skinny orchid.

This moth’s whole history is absurd. Charles Darwin predicted its existence when he first saw the shape of the Angraecum sesquipedale orchid (which apparently prompted him to exclaim, “Good heavens, what insect can suck it?”). About 2 decades later, in 1903, the moth was actually discovered, and ever since, the Malagasy variant has been considered a subspecies of its mainland counterpart, X. morganii. But no longer.

Using a slew of morphological and genetic tests, scientists argue the island moth is substantially different enough from its mainland counterpart to merit its elevation to the species level, the Natural History Museum announced yesterday.

Working with a combination of wild moths and museum specimens, the team reports that DNA barcoding, a technique that can be used to identify organisms by looking at DNA sequence differences in the same gene or genes, shows the moth’s genetics differ by as much as 7.8% in key gene sequences, which actually makes the morganii moths more closely related to a few other mainland subspecies than praedicta.

But what about the tongues? The Malagasy moths take the prize here, with proboscises that measure 6.6 centimeters longer on average, as seen in the picture above. Adding to their legend, the team also reported finding one individual praedicta specimen with a proboscis that measured a whopping 28.5 centimeters when fully stretched, which would constitute “an absolute record” for any moth tongue ever measured. Congratulations!

doi: 10.1126/science.acx9280




David Shultz


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Science News from research organizations

More support needed for pollination services in agriculture

Date:September 23, 2021 Source: University of Göttingen

Summary: The global decline of pollinators threatens the reproductive success of 90 per cent of all wild plants globally and the yield of 85 per cent of the world’s most important crops. Pollinators — mainly bees and other insects — contribute to 35 per cent of the world’s food production. The service provided by pollinators is particularly important for securing food produced by the more than two billion small farmers worldwide. An agroecologist points out that yields could be increased if pollinators were encouraged. Share: FULL STORY

The global decline of pollinators threatens the reproductive success of 90 per cent of all wild plants globally and the yield of 85 per cent of the world’s most important crops. Pollinators — mainly bees and other insects — contribute to 35 per cent of the world’s food production. The service provided by pollinators is particularly important for securing food produced by the more than two billion small farmers worldwide. An agroecologist at the University of Göttingen points out that yields could be increased if pollinators were encouraged. The article was published in One Earth.

Current estimates put the value of pollination services at around 200 to 400 billion US dollars per year. Smallholder farmers, whose fields are less than two hectares, represent about 83 per cent of all farmers. They benefit from pollination services much more than farmers with large fields. If the fields are smaller than two hectares, any shortfall in yields can be reduced much more efficiently through pollination than in large fields. Many smallholder farmers live in the Global South and suffer from hunger or malnutrition. Crops that are dependent on pollinators, such as fruits and nuts, contain nutrients that are particularly important for health. “Pollination services in agriculture should be given more attention, in addition to pest regulation and good nutrient supply,” claims author Professor Teja Tscharntke, Head of the Agroecology Group at Göttingen University. The benefits are not limited to an increase in how much fruit can be produced: its quality can also be improved, for instance, in terms of nutrient content or how long it can be stored. Smallholder agroforestry systems in the tropics are particularly well suited for this and stand out due to their comparatively species-rich pollinator communities.

“More needs to be done to halt the decline of pollinators, which are mostly bees and other insects. The stress to pollinators caused by agrochemicals, large monocultures and the loss of semi-natural habitats should be minimised,” says Tscharntke. “However, considerable research efforts are still needed to make agricultural landscapes productive and, at the same time, species-rich — in particular to improve the situation in the tropics.

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Breeding Honey Bees for Adaptation to Regionalized Plants and Artificial Diets

USDA Agricultural Research Service sent this bulletin at 10/04/2021 09:10 AM EDT

View as a webpageARS News ServiceARS News ServiceA honey bee on a flowerA honey bee gathering pollen from a zinnia flower.Breeding Honey Bees for Adaptation to Regionalized Plants and Artificial DietsFor media inquiries contact: Kim Kaplan, 301-504-1637October 4, 2021Honey bees could be intentionally bred to thrive on plants that are already locally present or even solely on artificial diets, according to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (ARS) study.ARS researchers found individual bees respond differently to the same diet and that there is a strong genetic component involved in how they respond to nutrition. This points directly to the concept that managed bees can be intentionally bred to do better on different diets, whether you are talking about an artificial diet or a diet based on specific plants already growing in an area, explained lead researcher Vincent A. Ricigliano. He is with the ARS Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Research Laboratory in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.”Urban development, modern agricultural systems and environmental alterations due to climate change, invasive plants, and even local landscaping preferences have all had a hand in regionalizing plants that dominate available pollen. It could potentially be more beneficial to tailor honey bees to do better on what is already available instead of working hard to fit the environment to the bees,” Ricigliano said.The overall aim would be breeding to improve nutrient use by managed honey bees, like we have done for poultry and cattle breeding programs, Ricigliano explained.”Now that we know there is room for genetic adaptation to diet, we could also look at breeding honey bees with improved nutrient efficiency or identifying genotype biomarkers that respond to various supplements to promote honey bee health,” he added.In most commercial apiaries, honey bees do not have the opportunity to naturally breed to adapt to local conditions because commercial beekeepers typically replace the queen in each colony every year. The queen in a colony is the only bee that lays eggs to produce the next generation.Beekeepers usually purchase new queens already inseminated from a handful of queen breeders in the United States. As a result, honey bees across the country generally have the same range of genes for nutritional responses without any specialized adaptation.Honey bees have already been successfully bred for a very few selected traits, among them Varroa mite resistance. Varroa mites are among the single largest problem afflicting honey bees in the United States today.”It was a little surprising to find when we started this study that, despite a sizable body of research pertaining to honey bee nutrition, relatively little is known about the effects of genetic variation on nutritional response,” Ricigliano said.His next step is to refine knowledge about what genes control which nutrient and metabolic pathways and where the greatest amount of genetic variation exists so that breeding plans can be specific and scientifically guided.The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $17 of economic impact.Interested in reading more about ARS research? Visit our news archiveU.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
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eCropsCrop TopicsInsects Shedding light on nocturnal pollinators

Shedding light on nocturnal pollinators

Stephen Robertsonnight-pollinators_51501080460_o.jpgMythimna unipuncta, also known as the armyworm moth, has long thought to have been an agricultural pest but a three-year study at the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station shows the moth belonging to the family Noctuidae actually does as much pollination at night time as honeybees during the day.UA graduate study shows the importance of nocturnal pollinators.

John Lovett, U of A System Division of Agriculture | Oct 04, 2021

For millions of years, there has been a night shift at work pollinating flowering plants and fruit trees. But only recently have they started to get a little credit for their contributions to agriculture.

Moths may not provide a sweet treat like their daytime counterparts, the honeybees, but pollination research on apples conducted by Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station researchers shows nocturnal pollinators are equally as important to nature’s system with flowering plants.https://ef1cd83e4f20584bdb423168d7eb02a8.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

stephen-robertson_51501066460_o.jpgStephen Robertson received his doctorate in entomology from the University of Arkansas in 2021 following a three-year study on nocturnal pollinators. The study showed moths and other nocturnal pollinators provided sufficient pollination for apple trees, opening up a new branch of study on nocturnal pollinators on food crops. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Stephen Robertson)

Highlighted in July by the Journal of Economic Entomology and the Entomological Society of America, the three-year study led by Stephen Robertson, former 

University of Arkansas graduate assistant in the department of entomology and plant pathology, found nocturnal pollinators like moths are just as capable of pollinating apple trees at night as are bees during the day.

“They are the unsung heroes of pollination,” Robertson said. “If you look at the diversity and the sheer numbers of moths out there, the other pollinators pale in comparison. So, you’re talking about a massive group of animals that probably contribute not just to fruit crops or crops in general … but to pollination overall they may just be the most important pollinators as a group.”

The night shift

The night shift could be at work on many other food crops as well, he said. Robertson’s study is among the first to examine nocturnal pollination in agriculture and the first recorded study on night pollinators for apples. Robertson said apples were chosen because they are one of the top three food crops in the United States.

The entomologist noted in his dissertation that the world’s food growers are shifting to more food crops that require pollination, including soybeans. His study sheds valuable light on the night flyers as being more beneficial to production stability than previously recognized.night-pollinators_51499360522_o.jpg

Nocturnal pollinators, like this moth in the Eupithecia family, were long thought to have little food crop value. But a three-year study on apple trees at Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station shows nocturnal pollinators do just as much pollinating as honeybees during daylight hours.Ashley Dowling, professor of entomology for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, which is the research arm of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said the night pollinator study is important because it shows how much is really going on behind the veil of night. It could also help save declining numbers of night pollinators, much like efforts are being made to save honeybees, “a non-native insect in the U.S.” that has become the predominant pollinator in agriculture, Dowling added. 

“As a reaction to the loss of honeybees across the country, strategies to ‘help’ the honeybees have been implemented, such as using pesticides on certain crops in the evenings when honeybees are not visiting flowers,” Dowling wrote. “This may protect the honeybees, but now it is the night pollinators coming into direct contact with pesticides.”

Another paradox this study highlights is that two of the most common moths found at night in the apple orchard were Mythimna unipuncta and Peridroma saucia, the adult forms of the true armyworm and variegated cutworm, respectively. As larvae, the true armyworm and variegated cutworm are pests that forage on vegetation.

Dowling concludes that more research on nocturnal pollinators is needed to determine which crops most benefit from night pollination “so management practices can be implemented based upon pollination science rather than an all-out effort to save honeybees.”

Robertson’s suggestion to farmers is to follow Integrated Pest Management practices that consider an economic threshold on the use of insecticides.

Right time, right place

In the spring of 2016 when Robertson was working on a study to make insect traps more efficient, he made an important observation.

“I started to catch more moths during the period of fruit bloom and thought ‘OK this is weird,’” Robertson said.Stephen Robertsonnight-pollinators_51500868759_o.jpg

Udea rubigalis, a moth that is about the size of a human fingernail, is among the night pollinators observed in a three-year study at the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station that shows as much pollination work is being done under the veil of night as during the day by honeybees.He started to examine things more closely at night. He checked out blueberries and blackberries where moths also congregated. Being in the right place at the right time to make an enlightened observation can be everything in a scientific project, Robertson said about how he “stumbled onto it.”

Then a friend told him of a peach tree at a Fayetteville wildlife refuge attracting moths. The presence of thousands of moths on the peach tree gave him the idea to look further into the night movements of nocturnal pollinators.

“It was a cool moment, and when I talk about it, it’s hard to convey, but if you saw the tree itself covered in moths and … then you see it, and you’re like ‘How has this been not studied? How has this been left out?’”


On closer inspection, the attributes of moths as pollinators start to add up. One of the pivotal moments for Robertson came in 2019 with the release of a study led by Akito Kawahara at the University of Florida showing the tight co-evolution of moths and angiosperms, or flowering plants.

“I’d already thought maybe there’s something else going on here but once that paper came out it solidified it for me,” Robertson said of the Kawahara study. “The relationship is tight. It’s been around for millions of years. We’re talking hundreds of millions of years, so it’s extremely important.

Moths are highly specialized insects for pollination. Some nocturnal moths even have a specific relationship with some plants that depend on them for reproduction. Robertson said the classic example of this is between Darwin’s star orchid and the hawkmoth. Other plants are attractive to daytime pollinators, but receive the best inputs from nocturnal moths, he adds.

Adding to their value as pollinators, moths migrate, and their hairy bodies can carry pollen up to 1,000 miles, about the distance from Florida to New York City. This aids in gene flow for angiosperms, Robertson noted. Meanwhile, bees usually stick to a 6-mile radius.

Robertson said more studies are needed on nocturnal pollinators to get a better grasp of their abilities. The research he would like to see done includes investigating moth behaviors on all fruit crops.

“It’s a wide-open door,” Robertson said. “Because of the impact of apples, I think this kicks the door wide open. I suspect everything that has been done on diurnal pollinators can be done with nocturnal pollinators, so we’re talking a massive branch of unstudied, unsung heroes.”

A small amount of research had been conducted on night pollinators before this, but not on a major food crop plant like apples. Previous studies Robertson noted were on cloudberry, a relative of blackberry and raspberry, and lowbush blueberry. Neither are typically found at your local grocery store.

Nocturnal pollination studies have also been done on a plant grown for biofuel, Jatropha curcas, and Aquilaria crassna, which is grown for fragrant resins. Others included those on four gourd and cucumber species in Asia, Robertson said.

Robertson recently took a job in Estelline, South Dakota as a research specialist with Ecdysis Foundation, a nonprofit research organization focused on regenerative agriculture.Source: University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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Entomology Today

P.M. Pollinators: Study Shines Light on Nocturnal Insects’ Role in Apple Production


A study on apple pollination, published in July 2021 in the Journal of Economic Entomology, highlights the valuable role that moths and other nocturnal insects play in pollinating crops and other plants. “What happens at night—where we’ve been somewhat ignoring it, somewhat dismissing it—there’s actually something going on. It’s potentially highly valuable input to fruit production,” says the University of Arkansas’ Stephen Robertson, Ph.D., lead author on the study. Shown here is an armyworm moth (Mythimna unipuncta) on an apple flower. (Photo by Stephen Robertson, Ph.D.)

By Paige Embry

Paige Embry

Insects are indispensable members of the world. They serve as breakfast, lunch, and midnight snack for a host of other animals. They chow down on everything from poop to wood, freeing up the nutrients for re-use. Some even prey on other insects, helping prevent pests from running amok. And, of course, insects also help pollinate 80 percent or more of the world’s flowering plants, including around three-quarters of agricultural crops that we humans value.

This last insect job has received a lot of attention and research dollars, but most of the focus has been on daytime pollinators. Pollinators that fly at night—and, yes, there are a lot of them—have gotten much less scrutiny. A study published in July in the Journal of Economic Entomology took a look at nighttime pollinators, in particular at their impact of both on apple tree pollination in Arkansas as compared with their daytime counterparts. The results were illuminating—both for how much pollination happened at night and who was responsible.

Stephen Robertson, Ph.D.

The study took place over two years, and the researchers used four treatments: closed (flowers bagged day and night), open (no bag), diurnal (bagged at night, to allow only daytime pollinator visits), and nocturnal (bagged during the day, to allow only nighttime visits). Stephen Robertson, Ph.D., just completed his doctorate at the University of Arkansas and is the lead author of the paper. Every day during bloom (except during thunderstorms) he went out to the orchard at sunrise and sunset to take bags off some branches and put them on others. After bloom was over, Robertson and his colleagues counted fruit set, prodding each baby fruit with a finger to see if it was truly set or would fall off. They removed the set fruits and counted the seeds. “Seed set,” the authors write, “is a direct proxy of the level of pollination.”

Last, they looked to see if at least one flower per cluster had set fruit. Growers would rather have one pollinated flower each in five different clusters instead of five flowers in one cluster because, the authors write, “Growers typically reduce the number of developing fruit to one per cluster to ensure tree resources are devoted to fewer apples, thus generating higher quality and more valuable fruit.”

Changes in research design between the two years (e.g., different trees used, changes in methods) means each year needs to be looked at separately. In 2017 the clusters that were bagged both day and night (closed) showed nearly 30 percent pollination which can be put down to the potential self-fertility of some of the trees or problems with the mesh bags used that year. Nocturnal pollination rates in 2017 were 57.5 percent, while both diurnal and un-bagged clusters showed pollination rates in the mid-eighties. In 2018, 3.4 percent of closed clusters were pollinated, while the nocturnal, diurnal, and open treatments came out nearly the same (11.3 percent, 12.8 percent, and 10.8 percent, respectively). The vastly different pollination rates between years could be because different trees were used, natural variation in pollinators, or a late freeze in 2018 that killed most of the nearby blooms that acted as pollinizers for the trees being tested.

Atalantycha bilineata on apple flower
armyworm moth (Mythimna unipuncta) on apple flower
Eupithecia sp. moth on apple flower
Chrysopid lacewing on apple flower
Culex sp. mosquito on apple flower
Galgula partita moth on apple flower
Udea rubigalis moth on apple flower
Eupithecia sp. moth on apple flower

However, in both years, similar seed sets show that nocturnally pollinated fruit had similar pollination levels to those pollinated during the day. Although the results were quite varied between the years, they nevertheless show that nocturnal pollinators have the power to contribute to pollination services in apple production—and potentially other crops as well. Robertson says part of why he conducted this study was because he’d learned that moths were visiting both blackberries and a peach tree in the area. Robertson says, “What happens at night—where we’ve been somewhat ignoring it, somewhat dismissing it—there’s actually something going on. It’s potentially highly valuable input to fruit production.”

This study also shows that one grower’s bane may be another’s gift. The dominant night-time visitors were moths in the family Noctuidae, and the two most common have larvae that are considered pests: armyworm (Mythimna unipuncta) and variegated cutworm (Peridroma saucia). In a time where insect declines are increasingly well documented, it may be useful to realize that “pest” insects are not all bad.

Robertson says, “Insects don’t fall into these categorizations [good, bad] so neatly. … There’s more to the story.” In other words: Pest, pollinator, food source, balance keepers—insects—even the same insect—perform a variety of jobs.

“Let’s not dismiss [an insect] based on previous classifications and just hang our hats on this is a bad guy,” Robertson says. “There’s duality associated with this. There’s mutuality associated with all these things.”

Read More

Nocturnal Pollinators Significantly Contribute to Apple Production

Journal of Economic Entomology

Paige Embry is a freelance science writer based in Seattle and author of Our Native Bees: North America’s Endangered Pollinators and the Fight to Save Them. Website: www.paigeembry.com.

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For media inquiries contact: Kim Kaplan, 301-504-1637

ARS News Service ARS News Service Honey bee on an aster flower.

In the fall, in Iowa, honey bees gather pollen from asters and other flowers that were found to have higher levels of some nutrients that may better support bee colonies through a cold winter. Pollens to Fit A Honey Bee’s Every Season For media inquiries contact: Kim Kaplan, 301-504-1637 Whether the pollen honey bees collect comes from spring or fall flowers can be a vital factor in supporting the annual cycle of behaviors that sustain a honey bee colony, according to a study by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service scientists. Biologists know that many animals such as deer or elk have different nutritional requirements throughout the year depending on the season. These differences in nutrient needs are supported by the plants in the areas where the animals live. In the spring, nutrient-packed resources such as plant shoots meet the elevated nutritional demands of rearing young. In the fall, lipid-rich seeds and fruit supply high-calorie reserves that provide fat stores for the during winter. “We thought there might be a similar relationship between honey bee nutritional needs and nutrients in seasonal pollens. In the spring and summer, honey bee colonies concentrate on raising new bees. In the fall, they shift to preparing for a winter that is often spent in the hive surviving the cold. These activities may have different nutritional needs,” explained ARS entomologist Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman, who led the study. She is the research leader of the ARS Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona. “Determining the nutritional needs of honey bees at different times of the year and how they are met with pollens from different seasonal flowers is a key to maintaining the health of honey bee colonies. With more specific information about nutrients in seasonal pollens, seed mixtures for pollinator plantings could be customized by location and season and seasonal pollen substitute diets could be developed,” DeGrandi-Hoffman said. To determine if nutrients in spring and fall pollens differ and if their nutrients align to support seasonal activities, the scientists compared spring and fall pollen collected by bees in central Iowa and southern Arizona. Though the types of flowers from which bees foraged in the spring differed between Iowa and Arizona, the spring pollens were similar in many nutrients, especially in the essential amino acids and many fatty acids needed to rear new bees. One interesting difference between spring pollens from Iowa and Arizona was that spring Iowa pollen had higher levels of the essential fatty acid, omega-3. The study found higher levels of omega-3 were associated with honey bees having larger hypopharyngeal glands (HPG). HPG produce a jelly that is fed to the queen (royal jelly) and young developing bees (larvae); larger HPG make more jelly, which allows more worker bees to be raised. “This suggests clover species, which largely made up the spring Iowa pollen, could be an important nutrient source for colony growth since it provides high levels of omega-3, and therefore clover should be included in pollinator plantings,” DeGrandi-Hoffman said. Fall flowers species not only differed between Iowa and Arizona, so did the nutrients they provided to the bees. Fall pollen from Iowa had higher levels of certain amino acids and lipids (fats). “Higher concentrations of these amino acids and lipids in fall Iowa pollen may better support honey bee colonies confined during the winter” said DeGrandi-Hoffman. “Honey bees are not confined for long periods during southern Arizona winters and may not require the same level of fat stores.” Spring Iowa pollen mostly came from clover species along with honeywort and plains mustards, while fall Iowa pollen primarily came from flowers in the aster family with small amounts from allium, partridge pea, ragweed and goldenrod species. Spring Arizona pollen was exclusively from mustard species, while fall Arizona pollen was mostly wooly bursage (Ambrosia), sandasters and cinchweeds. The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $17 of economic impact.
Interested in reading more about ARS research? Visit our news archive U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Agricultural Research Service

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USDA ARS News Service
Honey bee on a mountain mint flower

Gallic acid, a chemical in the pollen of this mountain mint flower, can enhance the honey bee’s gut health.Four Nutrients in Flower Pollens Improve Honey Bee Gut Health

For media inquiries contact: Kim Kaplan, 301-504-1637June 23, 2021
For the first time, four nutritional compounds found in different flowers have been directly proven to enhance gut health of honey bees, boosting their immune system and increasing lifespan, based on a study by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service scientists.“We found that feeding caffeine, kaempferol, p-coumaric acid or gallic acid—all nutritional compounds found in the nectar and pollen of various flowers—improved the abundance and diversity of bacteria in the honey bees’ gut,” explained entomologist Arathi Seshadri. She is with the ARS Invasive Species and Pollinator Health Research Unit in Davis, California.Seshadri chose these four nutrients to test because they are naturally present in flowers favored by honey bees, and they had already been shown to improve honey bee lifespan and tolerance to a common pathogen, Nosema ceranae. Caffeine, for instance, also has been shown by researchers to make bees better learners and improve their memory of rewarding floral scent and nectar quality. This study is the next step in more specifically defining how some nutrients in flower pollen can help bees by showing a connection through improving the gut microbiome.The gut microbiome is the total amount and species of all the microorganisms and all of their collective genetic material present in the gut.“The beneficial impact of these nutrients, found in a wide variety of flowers, has implications for healthier hive management through designing better dietary supplements. It also reemphasizes the need for flowering habitats that can provide bees with access to a rich diversity of pollen and nectar sources,” Seshadri said.While the mechanism is not known for how these four nutrients enhance honey bees’ gut microbiome, p-coumaric acid has been suggested by other researchers to alter gut microbiome diversity by increasing the activity of honey bees’ immunity genes. This perturbs the growth of pathogens acquired while foraging.Example flower sources for these nutrients include: caffeine: citrus and coffee; gallic acid: mint, raspberry, sunflowers and apples; kaempferol: petunias, asters, canola and poppies; and p-coumaric acid: buckwheat, roses, and clover.While caffeine had the single greatest impact, all the four nutrients resulted in the increase in abundance of CommensalibacterSnodgrassella and Bombella bacteria, all of which are considered important core bacteria for a healthy honey bee gut.Changes in the honey bees’ microbiome were seen immediately, just three days after they received the supplements.The growth spurt in the gut microbiome reached a plateau by six days after supplementing the diet with each of the floral nutrients and the levels reset to the original baseline levels when supplements were discontinued.“This fast response shows how much of an impact manipulating honey bees’ diet may have on their microbiome and reiterates the need for diverse flowering plants that can provide bees with ready access to these nutrients,” Seshadri said.

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.
The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $17 of economic impact.

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Karel Bolckmans, COO with Biobest:

“AI and robotics will bring us to the Olympic version of IPM”

“Data-driven growing is a big thing in horticulture in general. Many growers are into autonomous growing, data-driven greenhouse management, and advanced analytics. We’re convinced that this revolution will impact biological crop protection as well”, says Karel Bolckmans, COO with Biobest. “After all, if artificial intelligence (AI) can help you grow more efficiently and achieve higher yields, it will definitely render further improvement to your IPM program as well.”

“Since retailers want to offer a complete produce gamma year-round of for example greenhouse tomatoes and deal with as few suppliers as possible, we’re seeing an evolution towards rapid scale increase of greenhouse operations. Growers need to grow sufficient quantities of a complete offering twelve months per year, from cherry to beef tomato and everything in between. It results in bigger, multi-site, and international companies that can be complex to control. Data-driven growing enables you to keep track”, Karel explains.

“We also see that data-driven growing performs much better than growers themselves when it comes to optimizing plant growth. We’ll be moving to grow based on hard data, not on gut feeling.”

“The same is true for IPM. The results of biocontrol-based IPM tools are largely dependent on knowing exactly what is going on in the greenhouse. The better you know how your plants and their pests and their natural enemies are doing, the more efficient and effective you will be able to deploy your crop protection tools and the less chemical pesticides you will need to use.”

Partnerships and own development
In May last year, Biobest launched Crop-Scanner, which comprises a scouting App for recording the location, severity, and identity of pests and diseases in the crop. Clearly visualizing these data via its web-based interface through heatmaps and graphs allows the grower to have a better overview of the situation in his crop while allowing his Biobest advisor to give him the best possible technical advice. More recently, Biobest also entered into a partnership with the Canadian company Ecoation, which developed a mobile data harvesting platform that combines deep biology, computer vision and sensor technology, artificial intelligence, and robotics. “We’ve been in touch for several years now and recently decided to work together on creating IPM 3.0. Their camera’s, sensors, and autonomous vehicles allow us to collect the best possible data which serve as input for an artificial intelligence-based Decision Support System (DSS) that allows us to provide the growers with the best-in-class technical advice regarding integrated pest and disease management (IPM)”, Karel explains.  “At the same time, growers have been struggling with several severe virus outbreaks, of which ToBRFV and COVID were only a few. This has made it harder for us to frequently visit our customers in person to provide them with technical advice. But how to get accurate information from growers about the situation in the crop if you can’t visit them? Ecoation’s web-based user interface allows for remote counseling, thereby rendering frequent on-site technical visits are not necessary anymore.”

There’s more… Earlier this month, Biobest announced their investment in Arugga, Israeli developer of a robotic tomato pollinator. It might look like an alternative for the Biobest bumblebees – and actually, it is. “But our goal is not to sell the most bumblebees or beneficial insects and mites. We want to be the grower’s most reliable provider of the most effective solutions in pollination and integrated pest management in a world characterized by rapid innovation.” Although this might sound like a big change in policy for the company, Karel emphasizes that it is not at all as rash a decision as it might seem. “We’re convinced that having access to more accurate information of the status of pests, diseases and natural enemies in their crop will allow growers to develop more trust in biocontrol-based IPM and therefore reach out less fast to the pesticide bottle.”

We have done extensive research for over three years, studying the available technologies and patents. That way, we concluded that Ecoation made a wonderful match, not only in terms of technology but also when it came to vision and company culture. The same goes for Arugga. Their respective technologies support the development of the horticultural business to deal with the ever-increasing challenges of scale-increase, labor shortage, and market demand.”

The technologies Biobest now participates in go beyond IPM. The Ecoation technology for example also concerns yield prediction, high-resolution climate measurements, and controlling the quality of crop work. “Through the Ecoation technology anomalies can be detected much earlier, that way predicting and preventing outbreaks of pests and diseases. Non-stop measuring everywhere is our ideal. This way we will learn more about the effect of climate on the plant and, more importantly, the effects of the crop protection measures.”

Karel notices an increasing interest of growers in this kind of technology. “There is an increasing market demand for residue-free fruits and vegetables. That’s the direction we’re heading to. Our aim is to help growers do this in the best way possible: with the support of robotics and AI.”

Data collection will convince more growers
He is convinced that the data that can be collected will convince more growers to start using the Ecoation and Arugga technologies. “We see now that pioneers in North America are highly interested and are currently successfully trialing these technologies. But it’s more than that: what we sell, is a production increase because of less plant stress from pests and diseases. Moreover, every single pesticide treatment causes plant stress and therefore negatively influences crop yield. This is very well known among experienced growers. ”

He remembers when a couple of decades ago, they saw the same when growers started switching from chemical crop protection to IPM. “I vividly remember 2006-2007 in Spain when many growers made the switch to biological control. They didn’t want to, they were forced by the retailers after the publication of a report on pesticide residues on Spanish produce by Greenpeace Germany. But at the end of that year, everybody was picking more and better peppers. In Kenya and elsewhere, rose growers who switch to biocontrol-based IPM pick more flowers, with a long stem and a better vase life. However, stories like this have never been scientifically quantified and published but are very well known to everyone in the industry. With our technologies, we will be able to immediately and continuously measure the exact effects of IPM on crop yield. Less work, more objective data. That means harvesting more kilos with less effort. AI and robotics will bring us to the Olympic version of IPM.”For more information:Biobestinfo@biobestgroup.comwww.biobestgroup.com

Publication date: Fri 25 Jun 2021
Author: Arlette Sijmonsma
© HortiDaily.com

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