Posts Tagged ‘bees’

How Valuable Are Pollinators?

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Here’s a statistic that will come in handy next time you’re at a one of those cocktail parties where somebody pooh-poohs biological diversity by asking “Who needs insects anyway?” According to a paper in the journal Ecological Economics, the economic value of pollinators, especially bees, is about $217 billion a year. As reported in Science Daily, the study suggests that if it continues, the current decline of pollinators worldwide will have the biggest effect on fruits and vegetables, followed by oilseed crops. Crops that generally don’t depend on pollinators, such as cereals, sugar cane, and spices, would suffer fewer adverse affects.

Be a Bee Watcher

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Well, after years of writing about bee watching, I’m now an official Bee Watcher. Twice a month, from spring through fall, I’ll be observing which bee species visit six native wildflowers I’ve planted on the roof of my Manhattan apartment building: common sunflower, woodland sunflower, mountain mint, milkweed, beebalm and goldenrod. I’m part of a New York City citizen science program that hopes volunteers like me can help researchers understand the challenges facing these essential pollinators, among them parasitic wasps and the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder, which continued to decimate managed honeybee hives over the winter. There has been a lot of focus on honeybees of late, but surprisingly little is known about native bee species. Although they are also believed to be declining, there is little hard data to back this up, because most museum bee collections were made before World War II.

Being a Bee Watcher has its advantages. I’ve gotten free seeds and plants, and I’ve even learned a few things – for example, that North America has a very rich bee fauna, even relative to the tropics. This now includes 26 known introduced bee species in the U.S. and probably more – some of which are potential pests. And who knew that although butterflies and moths (except for migrants) tend to be sparse in urban habitats like mine, bees apparently take much better to city living?

The New York City Bee Watcher program is an outgrowth of the nationwide Great Sunflower Project, which is looking for volunteers. Which means you can be a bee watcher, too.  

A Rose by any Other Name Would not Smell as Sweet

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

And now, another reason why air pollution is bad. It not only wrecks our lungs but also destroys flower fragrance. According to a new study, the scent molecules produced by blossoms bond quickly with ozone and other pollutants, producing chemically altered aromas that no longer smell like flowers. This, according to the researchers, could at least partially explain why wild populations of pollinators, especially bees, are declining in some areas, including California.