How quickly do flower strips in cities help the local bees?

Insects rely on a mix of floral resources for survival. Populations of bees, butterflies, and flies are currently rapidly decreasing due to the loss of flower-rich meadows. In order to deal with the widespread loss of fauna, the European Union supports “greening” measures, for example, the creation of flower strips.

A group of scientists from the University of Munich, led by Prof. Susanne S. Renner, has conducted the first quantitative assessment of the speed and distance over which urban flower strips attract wild bees, and published the results of the study in the open-access Journal of Hymenoptera Research.

Flower strips are human-made patches of flowering plants that provide resources for flower-visiting insects and insect- and seed-feeding birds. Previous experiments have proved their conservation value for enhancing biodiversity in agricultural landscapes.

The success of flower strips in maintaining populations of solitary bees depends on the floristic composition, distance from suitable nesting sites, and distance from other habitats maintaining stable populations of bees. To study the attractiveness of the flower strips in urban landscapes, the scientists used an experimental set-up of nine 1,000 sq. meters flower strips recently established in Munich by a local bird conservation agency.

“We identified and counted the bees visiting flowers on each strip and then related these numbers to the total diversity of Munich’s bee fauna and to the diversity at different distances from the strips. Our expectation was that newly planted flower strips would attract a small subset of mostly generalist, non-threatened species and that oligolectic species (species using pollen from a taxonomically restricted set of plants) would be underrepresented compared to the city’s overall species pool,”

shared Prof. Susanne S. Renner.

Bees need time to discover new habitats, but the analysis showed that the city’s wild bees managed to do that in just one year so that the one-year-old flower strips attracted one-third of the 232 species recorded in Munich between 1997 and 2017.

Surprisingly, the flower strips attracted a random subset of Munich’s bee species in terms of pollen specialization. At the same time, as expected, the first-year flower-strip visitors mostly belonged to common, non-threatened species.

The results of the study support that flower strip plantings in cities provide extra support for pollinators and act as an effective conservation measure. The authors therefore strongly recommend the flower strip networks implemented in the upcoming Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform in the European Union.

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Original source:

Hofmann MM, Renner SS (2020) One-year-old flower strips already support a quarter of a city’s bee species. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 75: 87-95. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.75.47507

Citizen scientists discover a new water beetle and name it after Leonardo DiCaprio

New animal species are sometimes named after celebrities because of their trademark looks. That’s how we got the blonde-haired Donald Trump moth and the big-armed Arnold Schwarzenegger fly, to name a few. However, some well-known people are enshrined in animal names not for their looks, but rather for what they do for the environment.

This is exactly how a newly discovered water beetle, described in the open access journal ZooKeys, was given the name of Hollywood actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio. The tribute marks the 20th anniversary of the celebrity’s Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) and its efforts towards biodiversity preservation.

The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has become one of the world’s foremost wildlife charities, having contributed to over 200 grassroots projects around the globe devoted to climate change mitigation, wildlife conservation, and habitat preservation.

“We can all have an impact,” says DiCaprio in a special LDF video, “but we have to work together to protect our only home.”

Leo DiCaprio beetleGoing by the scientific name of Grouvellinus leonardodicaprioi, the new water beetle was discovered at a waterfall in the remote Maliau Basin, Malaysian Borneo, during the first field trip initiated by Taxon Expeditions – an organisation which arranges scientific surveys for untrained laypeople with the aim to discover previously unknown species and bridge the gap in biodiversity knowledge.

Having identified a total of three water beetle species new to science, the expedition participants and the local staff of the Maliau Basin Studies Centre voted to name one of them after DiCaprio in honour of his efforts to protect untouched, unexplored wildernesses just like Maliau Basin itself.

“Tiny and black, this new beetle may not win any Oscars for charisma, but in biodiversity conservation, every creature counts,” said Taxon Expeditions’ founder and entomologist Dr. Iva Njunjic.

Maliau Basin Aerial - Photo by Sylvia Yorath

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Original source:

Freitag H, Pangantihon CV, Njunjic I (2018) Three new species of Grouvellinus Champion, 1923 from Maliau Basin, Sabah, Borneo, discovered by citizen scientists during the first Taxon Expedition (Insecta, Coleoptera, Elmidae). ZooKeys 754: 1-21. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.754.24276