And in keeping with the topic of bees…
I’ve just read a very, very cool paper in Ecology Letters about something I’ve wanted to do myself for some time. It’s a fairly specific piece of work, so it could easily be reproduced elsewhere with different species. My point though is that a hell of a lot more of these types of studies are required.
The study by Carvalheiro and colleagues entitled Natural and within-farmland biodiversity enhances crop productivity examined the role of weedy (ruderal) vegetation in supporting pollinator communities. Using sunflowers as a model crop, they showed rather convincingly how native vegetation patches interspersed amongst crop species can enhance a host of crop production measures, even when larger areas of natural habitats were far away from the crops themselves.
Based on a series of plot experiments, they tested four main hypotheses:
- The distance to natural habitat affects pollination visitor abundance and diversity.
- Plots surrounding or interspersed with ruderal vegetation affect pollinator abundance and diversity.
- The diversity of pollinators visiting sunflowers affects honeybee (the principal pollinators) behaviour.
- The diversity of pollinators affects sunflower production.