She spoke on "The Importance of People in Pollinator Conservation" to a capacity crowd gathered July 18 in the ARC Ballroom.
“Who needs to act?" she asked. "Farmers, governments, conservationists, researchers, the general public and businesses.”
Quoting noted biologist/author E. O. Wilson, Dicks said that insects are “the little things that run the world.”
Dicks began her presentation by chronicling news media accounts of “insectageddon,” which Cambridge fellow Robert Macfarlane defined on Twitter as “the current calamitous population decline of insect species globally, with catastrophic results for life on earth.”
One news story, by environment editor Damian Carrington of The Guardian, warned that "The world's insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a catastrophic collapse of nature's ecosystems." Carrington, in his Feb. 10, 2019 piece, titled “Plummeting Insect Numbers ‘Threaten Collapse of Nature," wrote that “More than 40 percent of insect species are declining and a third are endangered...The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.”
“Wild insect pollinators have declined in occurrence, diversity, and in some cases, abundance, in Europe and North America,” Dicks told the crowd. “Lack of data for other regions prevents global assessment of status for insect pollinators, but the main drivers of decline are operating everywhere.”
“Why does pollinator decline matter?” she asked. “Eighty-eight percent of wild plant species depend on pollinators. At least half of the crop pollination serves are provided by wild pollinators—half by managed honey bees.”
Farmers, governments, conservationists, researchers, the general public and businesses must get involved, she reiterated.
What Farmers Should Do
For example, she said, farmers should
- Plant flowers for nectar and pollen
- Manage hedges and forest edges for wildlife
- Restore and protect flower-rich native habitats like meadows, scrubland and woodland
- Provide set aside or fallow areas
- Leave field edges and corners to naturally generate
- Provide nesting sites for bees ("bare ground, big old trees and bee hotels")
What the General Public Should Do
The general public's role should be:
- Grow more flowers, shrubs and trees
- Let your garden grow wild
- Cut your grass less often
- Don't disturb insect nest and hibernation spots
- Think carefully about whether to use pesticides
What Governments Should Do
Dicks touched on 10 "pollinator policies" that governments should do:
- Raise pesticide regularly standards
- Promote integrated pest management
- Include indirect and sublethal effects in GM crop risk assessment
- Regulate movement of managed pollinators
- Develop incentives, such as insurance schemes, to help farmers benefit from ecosystem services instead of agrochemicals
- Recognize pollination as an agricultural input in a extension services
- Support diversified farming systems
- Conserve and restore 'green infrastructure” (a network of habitats that pollinators can move between) in agricultural and urban landscapes
- Develop long-term monitoring of pollinators and pollination
- Fund participatory research on improving yields in organic, diversified and ecologically intensive farming
Dicks, in her position at the University of East Anglia, engages in research in entomology, agroecology, management of biodiversity and ecosystem services on farms. (See research profile.)
In addition to addressing pollinator decline and "who needs to act and what should they do," the researcher touched on how to motivate people: "insights from the behavioral sciences; and the importance of local knowledge and culture."
Awareness and Understanding Are Not Sufficient
She offered key insights from behavioral science, noting that "awareness and understanding are not sufficient; decisions are not always rational; social norms are important; peer-to-peer communication within social groups drives behavior change and people must feel ABLE to act in their current context."
Dicks recommended that the attendees become acquainted with the work of the coalition Promote Pollinators (https://promotepollinators.org). An excerpt from the website: "Pollinators play a key role in the conservation of biological diversity, ecosystems, food production and the global economy. The effects of current human activities hamper animal pollination. Promote Pollinators, the Coalition of the Willing on Pollinators, reaches out to potential new partners to develop and implement national pollinator strategies. The coalition believes that country-led politics can foster policy measures and innovative action on protecting pollinators."
She also cited the work of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
Dicks described pollinator decline as "a complex issue." People--including some politicians--have to change to help protect the pollinators and the ecosystem.
How Some Politicians Use Science
Dicks quoted author Mark Avery, former director of conservation at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds: "I have rarely seen a policy argument won through logic and science, even though everybody pretends that they are. No, politicians use science like a drunk uses a lamp post--more for support than for illumination."
The conference, “Multidimensional Solutions to Current and Future Threats to Pollinator Health,” covered a wide range of topics in pollinator research: from genomics to ecology and their application to land use and management; to breeding of managed bees; and to monitoring of global pollinator populations. (See agenda.)
Dicks keynoted the conference on Thursday morning, July 18, and Christina Grozinger, distinguished professor of entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research, Pennsylvania State University, delivered a keynote address on Friday, July 19, discussing "Bee Nutritional Ecology: From Genes to Landscapes."
Pollination ecologist and professor Neal Williams and Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, both of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, co-chaired the conference. Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, and events manager Elizabeth Luu coordinated the four-day event.
Presenters from 15 Countries
Williams said that presenters represented 15 countries: Australia, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Colombia, Brazil, Israel, Mexico, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. "And we had at least one attendee from China--although not presenting."
"This was the fourth International Conference on Pollinator Biology, Health and Policy," Williams said. "Each time we try to add new elements that address emerging challenges and new directions in research. This year's sessions felt as fresh and innovative as ever, adding symposia on climate change, innovative monitoring and data collection, and urban bees. By restricting presenters to those who had not presented in the past six years we also added new voices and perspectives."
"We also grew. In the past the conference has been just under 200 attendees. This year it topped 250, and we had to turn away several people because we simply could not fit more into the space. We added a second evening of posters to provide more time to interact. The response was overwhelming with 112 poster presenters!"
Williams said that the conference "also added more explicit policy elements by creating a set of ViewPOINTS documents summarizing key areas in pollinator biology and heath that target policy makers. This has allowed for collaborative interaction across the attendees and a set of deliverable products from our interactions."
The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, directed by Amina Harris, coordinated the conference, with events manager Elizabeth "Liz" Luu serving in the lead role.
"It was an amazing team effort pulling it all together," Williams said. "Liz Luu from the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center (HRC) was in a word, fantastic, keeping every thing and everyone together. The HPC really showed what it can do and what tremendous value it adds to our campus. The organizing committee worked so well together, sharing the load throughout. A great set of colleagues!"
The next International Pollinator Conference will take place at Pennsylvania State University. Grozinger and Rufus Isaacs of Michigan State University launched the conference in 2012. They are held every third year.
That's the title of a seminar tomorrow (Wednesday, May 29) by Laurence Packer, distinguished research professor in the Department of Biology, York University.
His seminar, hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, begins at 4:10 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, off Kleiber Hall Drive. A large crowd is expected.
If you're not familiar with the Atacama Desert, it's a desert plateau in Chile. It's basically a strip of land along the Pacific coast, west of the Andes Mountains.
Rain? That's a rarity.
"Evidence suggests that the Atacama may not have had any significant rainfall from 1570 to 1971," according to Wikipedia. "The desert owes its extreme aridity to a constant temperature inversion due to the cool north-flowing Humboldt ocean current, and to the presence of the strong Pacific anticyclone. The most arid region of the Atacama desert is situated between two mountain chains (the Andes and the Chilean Coast Range) of sufficient height to prevent moisture advection from either the Pacific or the Atlantic Oceans, a two-sided rain shadow."
In his abstract, Packer says: "The Atacama desert is the driest desert in the world and one of the oldest. In the extreme north of Chile, there is a disjunction between the winter rainfall area to the southwest and summer rainfall to the northeast. In this presentation I will explore the role of the origin of the Andes, the separation between Atacama and Patagonian deserts and the origin of the winter-summer rainfall disjunction on bee diversification. I will also compare the evolutionary origins of several groups of bees and their adaptations to their preferred genus of floral hosts – Nolana – which is the most speciose genus of plants in this arid environment."
Packer describes himself as a melittologist--"someone whose main academic passion is the study of wild bees. This means someone who studies bees other than the domesticated honey bees.
If fact, Packer told an ornithologist at an international biodiversity meeting sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: "If all birds dropped dead tomorrow, only chicken farmers and academic ornithologists would be inconvenienced. If all bees died out, there would be worldwide food shortages and perhaps one-quarter of the human population would starve."
In recalling the conversation and the reaction, he quipped: "I'm very good at making myself popular with people."
Seminar host Leslie Saul-Gershenz, associate director of research, Wild Energy Initiative, John Muir Institute of the Environment, UC Davis (she holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis) says "Laurence Packer is a master systematist and specialist on halictid, colletid and really most any bee he encounters in his travels around the world. He is a naturalist-explorer of the some of the most extreme arid regions on the planet. And he is a superb writer on the plight of native bees in the most entertaining way, I think of him as the Oscar Wilde of entomologists." (See news story.)
A noted author, Packer wrote Keeping the Bees: Why All Bees Are at Risk and What We Can Do to Save Them. Packer, who holds a degree in zoology, with honors, from the University of Oxford (1976), received a postgraduate certificate in education in 1977 from the Christ Church College, Canterbury, and a doctorate in 1986 from the University of Toronto. He joined the faculty of York University in 1999. For eight years, he served as one of seven instructors for The Bee Course, an international workshop sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History's Southwestern Research Station. (Robbin Thorp, UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor, was also one of the veteran instructors.)
The Wednesday seminar is the second to last one of the spring quarter. Immo Hansen of New Mexico State University will speak on "Toward Implementation of Mosquito Sterile Insect Technique" at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, June 5 in 122 Briggs. Seminar coordinator is medical entomologist Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He may be reached at at email@example.com.
She's the recipient of a prestigious three-year fellowship, a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, for her research proposal, “Promoting Food Security by Optimizing Wildflower Plantings to Support Wild and Managed Bees.”
This highly competitive fellowship, funded by the Department of Defense, drew more than 3600 applicants. Maureen was one of 69 awardees.
“The fellowship is well deserved,” said Williams, her major professor and a pollination ecologist and a UC Davis Chancellor's Fellow. “Maureen is a talented researcher, who shows a real passion for her research that is combined with a highly analytical meticulous approach.”
Of her project, Williams said: “Her work melds careful field sampling with advanced analysis, including computational optimization modeling. It will move existing research to a new level by exploring the nutritional basis of competitive interactions among pollinators. The project builds from a solid foundation but his highly innovative. Its results should be of tremendous value to the scientific community, but are also highly relevant for decision making to promote sustainable food systems for California and beyond.”
Page received her bachelor's degree in biology, cum laude, from Scripps College, Claremont, Calif., in 2016, and then enrolled in the UC Davis entomology graduate program, with a career goal of becoming a professor and principal investigator.
“I became interested in UC Davis because I was interested in working in Neal's lab,” she related. “After my sophomore year of college, I participated in National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF REU) with the Chicago Botanic Gardens. One of the professors I was working with, Jennifer Ison, told me that my research interests aligned well with the work coming out of Neal's lab and I quickly realized she was right.”
Her dissertation research focuses on using plant-pollinator interaction networks to (1) assess the impact of honey bee introductions on native plant pollination and (2) optimize wildflower plantings to simultaneously support honey bee health and diverse native bee communities.
“I've always loved flowers and I think my love of bees grew out of my academic interest in pollination ecology and a desire to apply my talents towards research that would benefit farmers and pollinator conservation efforts,” said Page, a native of San Francisco but who grew up in Ashland, Ore.
As a volunteer researcher for Southern Oregon University, she worked on a watershed project in the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, and was named the City of Ashland's Conservationist of the Year in April 2012. The city honored her at its Earth Day celebration.
Keenly interested in bee research, Page received a 2013 Scripps Environmental Research Grant to establish a solitary bee monitoring program at the Bernard Field Station in Claremont. She created a reference collection and species list of bee diversity at the field station, gaining experience collecting, pinning and identifying bee specimens. She presented her findings at the Scripps Undergraduate Research Symposium. Page later worked on a project categorizing pollen deposition by the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenkii to California figwort, Scrophularia california.
An average day?
“My field season has started, so on an ‘average day' I'm at one of my lab's wildflower plantings by 7 a.m. and driving home with coolers of bees and flowers around 7 p.m.,” Page said. “The most fun part of my fieldwork is using something called a ‘mobile bouquet' to measure single-visit pollen deposition by different pollinator taxa to different plant taxa.”
Page was awarded a grant from the Davis Botanical Society earlier this year, and won second place in the graduate students' poster competition at the 2018 UC Davis Bee Symposium for her poster, “Impacts of Honey Abundance on the Pollination of Eschscholzia californica. Last year she received a Northern California Botanists' Grant and a Davis Botanical Society Grant.
Eager to reach youth about the importance of pollinators, Page began volunteering in 2016 for the Center for Land-Based Learning, mentoring students from Sacramento High School, and engaging them in hands-on conservation science at Say Hay Farms, a 20-acre family farm in Yolo County. She has taught students at her Davis area field site about the benefits of providing wildflower habitat for pollinators.
The UC Davis doctoral student has also presented lectures at the Hoes' Down Harvest Festival, Yolo County, on “Pollinators on the Farm” and led a kids' bug hunt. She presented an invited lecture on “Beneficial Insects in Home Gardens” to the El Dorado Master Gardeners, part of the UC Cooperative Extension program, and volunteered at their other activities.
Page serves as secretary of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association. In her leisure time, she enjoys “baking, rock climbing, learning new things, and sketching--mostly-flowers, bees, and sometimes butterflies.”
Wild bee populations have declined significantly since 2008 in Central California and some other key areas of the United States, according to the study led by a University of Vermont researcher and co-authored by UC Davis researchers.
The study, led by Insu Koh of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont, Burlington, suggests that wild bee populations likely declined in areas comprising 23 percent of the nation between 2008 and 2013, a decline associated with conversion of natural wild bee habitat into intensive agriculture.
The researchers determined that 139 key counties, comprising 39 percent of U.S. pollinator-dependent crop area, exhibit a “mismatch between pollination supply and demand,” with large areas of pollinator-dependent crops and low expected abundance of wild bees.
The seven-member team integrated a wild bee habitat model, land cover data and expert knowledge to map U.S. bee abundance and trends. Pollination ecologist Neal Williams of UC Davis led efforts to assess habitat quality.
Their study also shows 39 percent of U.S. croplands that depend on pollinators face a threatening mismatch between rising demand for pollination and a falling supply of wild bees.
“We see striking mismatches in many places between the demand for pollination and the ability of wild pollinators to support that need,” said Williams, an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who helped design the study and led efforts to assess bee habitat quality as part of the Integrated Crop Pollination (ICP) Project (http://icpbees.org/).
“Indeed it is crops where demand has most increased that we estimate greatest decline in wild pollinator supply,” Williams said. “The research is also unique in including uncertainty in our knowledge of the quality of habitat for pollinators and thus recognizes where more effort is needed to understand the vulnerability of pollination services."
Williams (who, by the way is a newly selected UC Davis Chancellor's Fellow, an honor given to outstanding faculty members early in their careers), noted that the paper has the potential to bring wider attention to the correlation between the status of wild bee communities and crop pollination demands nationally.
Indeed, it does and we need to value our wild bees and protect them.
For example, bumble bees effectively pollinate watermelon and tomatoes. Squash bees are specialist bees that pollinate pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and other cucurbits. Leafcutter bees play a major role in pollinating alfalfa, carrots, other vegetables and some fruits.
"Until this study, we didn't have a national mapped picture about the status of wild bees and their impacts on pollination,” Koh said. More than $3 billion of the U.S. agricultural economy depends on the pollination services of native pollinators like wild bees. (See University of Vermont news release.)
It was back in June 2014 when President Obama sounded the alarm in a widely quoted presidential memorandum calling for a national assessment of pollinators to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators.
This latest research zeroes in on that.
The seven-member team also included Claire Brittain of the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; Taylor Ricketts of the Gund Institute and the University of Vermont; Eric Lonsdorf of Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pa.; and Rufus Isaacs and Jason Gibbs of Michigan State University, East Lansing.
The study was completed with support from the Specialty Crop Research Initiative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
Scientists have long been studying alternative pollinators, especially with the decline of the honey bee population and growing concerns about "How will we pollinate our crops?"
Now a newly published study in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) shows that wild bees, which are not affected by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), may serve as alternative pollinators.
You've seen the tiny bees buzzing around on blossoms. At first glance, you may have mistaken them for honey bees. They're not.
Chances are you'll be hearing more about them, though.
ESA's communications director Richard Levine e-mailed us a press release today
reporting the results of a three-year scientific study that took place on 15 southwestern
Most species were from subfamily Halictinae (family Halictidae) and genus Andrena (family Andrenidae)
The journal article, titled "Wild Bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Anthophila) of the Michigan Highbush Blueberry Agroecosystem," was authored by Julianna K. Tuell (
A quote from Tuell in the news release: "This should help growers know what kinds of bees are in the fields so that they can make informed decisions about whether they should modify crop management practices in order to help conserve natural populations of bees."
"Untreated bamboo or reeds are good materials because they provide natural variation in hole diameter to attract the broadest range of species. There are also a number of commercially manufactured options that growers can use, such as foam blocks with pre-drilled holes and cardboard tubes made to a particular diameter to suit a particular species of interest. Drilling different sized holes in wood is another option. If a grower is interested in trying to build up populations of a particular species, there are also details about how to do so available online."
Good idea. On a tour of Yolo County farms last year, we saw many "bee condos," or nesting cavities, for the native pollinators. (See below). They're easy to make. Just like a baseball field attracts players, so will bee condos attract native pollinators. Build them and they will come.
(B y the way ESA now has a presence on Facebook, offering more opportunities for social networking.)
y the way ESA now has a presence on Facebook, offering more opportunities for social networking.)