Date:23/06/2011 URL:
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Bees: climate change causes concern

— Photo: K.R. Deepak

Effect:Ambient temperature affects bees.

Global warming has led to many plants blooming ever earlier and also before honey bees emerge from hibernation, leading to fears of a long-term decline in pollination.

A combined research group centred at Munich's Technical University (TU) has carried out a study into how bees are dealing with the change in global temperatures.

“We have increasingly noticed an ever growing difference between temperature and flight activity,” said bee expert Juergen Tautz from Wuerzburg University.

Research has shown that the European spring is being pushed forward by 2.5 days every 10 years but it is still not known how exactly the earlier rise in temperatures is affecting the behaviour of bees.

TU doctorate student Raimund Henneken has been investigating how bees are reacting to the higher temperatures. “Bees are directly affected by ambient temperatures and indirectly dependent on climate and the flowering of plants,” he said.

“Accordingly, it is important to observe year by year the behaviour of bee populations early in the spring season. This is the way to see later how the behaviour of bees is affected by climate change.” The project concentrates on swarming, the natural means of reproduction of honey bee colonies. In order for swarming to occur the weather has to be mild for several weeks when about 60 per cent of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen.

Insects also have to be fit and healthy for swarming to take place and the event usually occurs on a warm and sunny day. The information about swarming is essential to Henneken's research. Henneken has received less information from eastern Germany and the coastal regions. “The primary objective of the project is to describe the swarming behaviour of bees in detail,” explains the scientist.

After several years it will then be possible to assess the impact of climate change on the behaviour of bees. Henneken has already noticed a strong correlation between temperature and swarming activity. — DPA

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