New Research – big bumblebees learn locations of best flowers

Big bumblebees take time to learn the locations of the best flowers, new research shows.

Meanwhile smaller bumblebees – which have a shorter flight range and less carrying capacity – don’t pay special attention to flowers with the richest nectar.

University of Exeter scientists examined the “learning flights” which most bees perform after leaving flowers.

Honeybees are known to perform such flights – and the study shows bumblebees do the same, repeatedly looking back to memorise a flower’s location.

“It might not be widely known that pollinating insects learn and develop individual flower preferences, but in fact bumblebees are selective,” said Natalie Hempel de Ibarra, Associate Professor at Exeter’s Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour.

“On leaving a flower, they can actively decide how much effort to put into remembering its location.

Bumblebee flower

Bumblebees carry out “learning flights” after leaving flowers (credit: Natalie Hempel de Ibarra)

Bumblebees carry out “learning flights” after leaving flowers (credit: Natalie Hempel de Ibarra)

“The surprising finding of our study is that a bee’s size determines this decision making and the learning behaviour.”

In the study, captive bees visited artificial flowers containing sucrose (sugar) solution of varying concentrations.

The larger the bee, the more its learning behaviour varied depending on the richness of the sucrose solution.

Smaller bees invested the same amount of effort in learning the locations of the artificial flowers, regardless of whether sucrose concentration was high or low.

“The differences we found reflect the different roles of bees in their colonies,” said Professor Hempel de Ibarra.

“Large bumblebees can carry larger loads and explore further from the nest than smaller ones.

“Small ones with a smaller flight range and carrying capacity cannot afford to be as selective, so they accept a wider range of flowers.

“These small bees tend to be involved more with tasks inside the nest – only going out to forage if food supplies in the colony are running low.”

The study was conducted in collaboration with scientists from the University of Sussex.

The bees were observed in greenhouses at the University of Exeter’s award-winning Streatham Campus, and Professor Hempel de Ibarra thanked the university’s Grounds and Gardens team for their continued support.

The study was funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

The paper, published in the journal Current Biology, is entitled: “Small and large bumblebees invest differently when learning about flowers.”

Feelgood Friday – Positive Pebbles on Streatham Campus

Some positive and heart warming news for a Feelgood Friday!

Pebbles with positive supportive messages have appeared along a pavement at the bottom of Stocker Road on Streatham Campus.

What a lovely initiative and we hope they bring smiles to faces and help people feel less alone.

#bekind #bepositive

Footpath Reinstatement – Topsham Sports Ground

Whilst the sports pitches cannot be used due to the current COVID-19 restrictions, our Grounds Sports Team have continued to take this opportunity to carry out improvement works at our Topsham Sports Ground.

This week they have reinstated the overgrown footpath that runs along the side of the 1st team rugby pitch, by digging out the overgrown grass and levelling it off; reinstating it back to a standard not seen for many years.

Before – overgrown footpath

After – reinstated footpath

 

Season’s Greetings!

Season’s Greetings!

We hope you all have a very happy, peaceful, safe and restful festive period.

We hope you enjoy the University’s Season’s Greetings message:

Celebrating our fantastic Grounds Team staff!

Unfortunately, due to the current restrictions, the annual Grounds Staff Celebration Event could not take place this year.

However, we were determined to still go ahead with the staff awards and pictured are some of the very deserving winners.

The last photo is the creative drum roll done before every award was announced!

We would like to thank EVERYONE in the Grounds Team for all their hard work, dedication and motivation during this very difficult year. You are all absolute stars ⭐⭐

Pitch Improvements – Topsham Sports Ground

Whilst the sports pitches cannot be used due to the current COVID-19 restrictions, our Grounds Sports Team have taken this opportunity to add extra drainage in some of the wet areas at the Topsham Sports Ground.

This is a great initiative by the team and should really help improve our sports pitches so that they are in tip top condition when they can be used again.

 

 

Green Flag Award 2020/21 Winner!

We are delighted to announce that we have again successfully achieved the prestigious Green Flag Award for both our Streatham Campus and our St Luke’s Campus!

The Award is the mark of a quality park or green space which has achieved the international standards for open space excellence.

The Grounds team work hard throughout the year using their extensive skills and experience to nurture our beautiful grounds and we are extremely proud of this achievement and the wonderful grounds that we have the privilege to work in and enjoy.

Sustainable Practices – seed propagation and plants grown in-house

We have been busy with seed propagation this week in our Estate Services Centre Nursery.

The cuttings are soft-wood material using the techniques of nodal, heel and mallet cuttings.

This important work, of growing plants in-house and planting them on campus and by residences, means that we are reducing our carbon footprint, working within our sustainability practices and reducing costs.

  

RoSPA Best New Entry UK Winner

We are delighted to announce that the University of Exeter’s Grounds Team is the RoSPA Best New Entry UK winner!

This is in addition to the RoSPA Health & Safety Gold Award that we have won.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is a recognised world wide industry leader in health and safety excellence.

These awards recognise the systems and processes we have in place to protect our staff working in areas of potential high risk and that we ensure all our staff understand how to keep themselves and others safe.