Links to share: Pollinator papers edition

You may be thinking that robots can replace bees for crop pollination, but there are a lot of good reasons why that will not work. I know that Walmart has a patent for pollinating drones…although I do not underestimate humanity’s ability to develop new and clever technologies, if we want diversity in our diets (and we do), then we need a diversity of pollinators, and that would be too expensive, in the long run: Robotic bees for crop pollination: Why drones cannot replace biodiversity

Even in the eusocial hive of the honeybee there are rebels…these rebel workers are more likely to be reproductive, and more likely to be “selfish”. They delay the onset of foraging behaviour and collect more nectar than pollen, compared to other workers: Honeybee rebel workers invest less in risky foraging than normal workers

Finally a satisfying experiment that shows support for the “magnet hypothesis” in pollinator visitation. Pollinators are more likely to visit less attractive flowers when they are surrounded by more attractive flowers! (But the pollen they receive is “contaminated”…the impact of this on fitness is not assessed): Effects of spatial patterning of co-flowering plant species on pollination quantity and purity

Bumblebees are more successful in urban environments than agricultural environments…could be lower pesticide exposure, or more flowers in urban areas compared to intensive agricultural fields. In a source/sink context, this might mean that urban areas support the bees that pollinate agricultural fields, which is an argument for a complex landscape matrix: Lower bumblebee colony reproductive success in agricultural compared with urban environments

To contrast the above study, this solitary bee had a higher body mass when the oilseed rape fields increased in the landscape. So if you wanted a simple answer, sorry: Current and previous spatial distributions of oilseed rape fields influence the abundance and the body size of a solitary wild bee, Andrena cineraria, in permanent grasslands

A really cool project by Neal Williams’ team out at UC Davis where they work with engineers to weigh bumblebees (to determine how well fed they are) (press release): Entomologists, Engineers Work Together to Weigh a Bee

NPR picking up on work by Rebecca Irwin and David Inouye at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab showing phenological mismatches between bees and flowers (they respond to a changing climate differently and do not always emerge at the same time, with bonus marmots): Spring Is Springing Sooner, Throwing Nature’s Rhythms Out Of Whack

A nice little video on exclusion experiments and how they demonstrate pollinator dependence:

I had to share this incredibly lovable Australian beekeeper and his interpretation of almond pollination:

Bonus: Because ants are close relatives of bees (and maybe my first nature love as a little kid), Nat Geo story about one of my science crushes, Corrie Moreau: Meet the Woman Making Ants the Next Big Thing in Biology


Green eyes, long legs, Poecilobothrus nobilitatus

I love these little long-legged flies (Dolichopodidae), always one of my favourite fly families. This species is distinctive because a) it’s really common b) the males have white wing tips and c) they do a little mating dance.

This is Poecilobothrus nobilitatus

Poecilobothrus nobilitatus
Poecilobothrus nobilitatus
Poecilobothrus nobilitatus
Poecilobothrus nobilitatus
Poecilobothrus nobilitatus
Poecilobothrus nobilitatus
Poecilobothrus nobilitatus

Lyrics to share: Icarus, by the Staves

Day 2 of my lyrics sharing blog game is going to be The Staves, a band which is, arguably, only so amazing because of their angelic harmonies. This is my favourite Staves song, but they have some great ones (like Tired as ****). I always loved this song, not only becuase of the gorgeous sound, but also because the lyrics are so relatable.

“Icarus”, by the Staves

Ideas hang before me,
All but a breath away,
They flicker into being
And then begin to fade.

And when I’m tired of sitting,
I drag my bones to bed,
And when I’m tired of sleeping,
I think of them instead.

They’re only words.
Don’t have to shout to be heard.

I have not seen the light for days.

Like Icarus before me,
These wings are not my own,
And I am soaring skyward
Just to tumble home.

Moment has gone.
I’m not the best at moving on.
Nothing to say –
No-one would listen anyway.


I have not seen the light for days.
I have not seen the light for days.
I have not seen the light for days.
And nights.
For days.

Lyrics to share

I’ve been nominated for one of these blog games where we share ideas on a certain them and this one is song lyrics! Lyrics are pretty close to poetry (well for the sorts of songs I enjoy), so this is an easy leap for me. I have a good friend who pays more attention to the instrumental aspects of music…I like those too and enjoy lyric-less classical music, but I find that when there are lyrics in music, I pay a lot of attention to them.

One of my favourite lyrical song writers is Laura Marling. I always joke, however, that I can’t listen to too much Laura Marling music at once…too much food may give you heart burn, but too much Laura Marling gives me heart-ache. It’s difficult to pick a favourite Laura Marling song, but some are certainly more or less appropriate for sharing. 😉

I love basically every lyric to this song, but I once heard an interview with her where she said she felt it was immature and was embarrassed by it. So take that as you will.

Here’s “Goodbye England”, by Laura Marling

You were so smart then
In your jacket and coat.
My softest red scarf was warming your throat.

Winter was on us,
At the end of my nose,
But I never love England more than when covered in snow.
And a friend of mine says it’s good to hear you believe in love even if set in fear
Well I’ll hold you there brother and set you straight
I only believe that love is frail and willing to break.

I will come back here,
Bring me back when I’m old.
I want to lay here forever in the cold.
I might be cold but I’m just skin and bones
And I’ll never love England more than when covered in snow.

I wrote my name in your book,
Only god knows why,
And I bet you that he cracked a smile,
And I’m clearing all the crap out of my room,
Trying desperately to figure out what it is that makes me blue,
And I wrote an epic letter to you,
But it’s 22 pages front and back and it’s too good to be used
And I tried to be a girl who likes to be used
I’m too good for that, there’s a mind under this hat,
And I called them all and told them I’ve got to move.

I’m out now
It’s too hard
I’m on my own
It’s too hard

Feel like running
Feel like running,
Running off.

And we will keep you
We will keep you little one,
Safe from harm,
Like an extra arm you are part of us.

You were so smart then
In your jacket and coat
And my softest red scarf was warming your throat.
Winter will leave us,
Left the end of my nose,
So goodbye old England ’till next years snow.

Times when I regret not having my camera

One of the disadvantages of doing my field work by bicycle is that there’s a limit to how much equipment I can carry. With all of my sampling equipment, my pack is heavy enough and full enough that I usually can’t bring my camera. But sometimes I see cool things in the field and then regret not having my camera! It’s a catch 22. Here are some really terrible photos from my crappy little dumb phone of things that made me wish I’d brought my actual camera into the field lately.

Frog with an extra limb!

This frog hopped right out of one of my plots while I was doing observations. He was almost showing me his extra arm and he hung out long enough for me to poke it. It had actual bones in it! Weird!

I learned from twitter that the extra limb can be caused by a parasite, but hopefully it’s not that, since the parasite has not been detected in Ireland yet. The parasite did a lot of damage to North American frog populations.

Wasps scavenging a dead mouse:
Gruesome, I know, but also interesting!

A spinning death match between a white tailed bumblebee and a flower crab spider. This was very dramatic, as the bee was twice the size of the spider. Clearly, the spider had been camouflaged on the yellow flowers and attacked the bee when she landed, but then the bee tried to fly away and the spider refused to let go and they ended up spinning at the end of her line of web until the venom finally killed the bee. Then, the spider had to labour to draw the bee back up into the flower, with great difficulty. Sorry the photos are so unfocused!

There are other things I’ve spotted in the field and not been able to record too…three falcons mobbing a buzzard, a gull chasing a grey heron (twice!), a magpie trying (and failing) to eat a frog, while it made a sound like air being slowly released from a balloon…you never know what you’ll see in the field, even if your field is urban!

Take a hike! (with me?): Howth 2018 edition

These are photos from the beginning of June, but I am just now getting around to posting them.

Back to Howth because I had two very dear friends visit from North America. These are my pals that gave me an honorary Canadian citizenship, complete with a mini Canadian flag, a stuffed moose, and pure maple syrup. Plus, they’re entomologists, so they’re my kind of people. Anyway, both of these guys are brilliant scientists and just super cool in general, so you can imagine how excited I was when they hopped across the pond.

Howth Hike
Howth Hike
Pretty green eyed fly
Howth Hike
Howth Hike
Adorable click beetle
Howth Hike
This is what happens when you hike with entomologists
Howth Hike
The best
Howth Hike
Howth Hike
I’m in love with the sea thrift, but to be fair, I’m not alone. Basically, every photo I’ve seen of the Cliffs of Moher has sea thrift haha
Howth Hike
Howth Hike

Howth Hike

Tractors from a ploughing competition in Sligo

After my Knocknarea hike back in April, I couldn’t resist poking my head in at a ploughing competition going on nearby. I’ve been curious about Irish tractors since I arrived, and this was a good chance to see some interesting ones!
irish tractors
Mostly I see Massey Fergusons and New Hollands around
irish tractors
irish tractors
The 390 is especially common
irish tractors
I don’t know what this adorable little orchard tractor was, but it’s my size!
irish tractors
I’ve never seen these David Brown tractors in the States, I think they’re British…likewise the Nuffield. I couldn’t see what that little one in the middle was, but I love its adorable headlights
irish tractors
irish tractors
Another unnamed one
irish tractors
And of course you can’t beat this classy Porsche!