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.”

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.

  

Successful initiative; growing our own cut flowers for bouquets and floral displays

We are delighted to announce that the Grounds team are now successfully growing our own cut flowers at the Estate Services Centre Nursery, which are used for the fabulous bouquets and beautiful floral displays on campus.

This initiative from our talented Nursery and Floristry staff means that we are reducing our carbon footprint, working within our sustainability practices and reducing costs.

We have received excellent positive feedback from our customers, who really embrace the unique personal touch that the displays and bouquets now give as the flowers are grown in-house on our estate.

Photos below show the journey for this initiative; starting from the newly built raised bed right through to a beautiful floral display created with our in-house grown cut flowers.

Newly built raised bed for the cut flowers

Raised bed planted

Wow look at the raised bed now!

Some of the cut flowers which will be used in our bouquets and floral displays

Some of the cut flowers which will be used in our bouquets and floral displays

 

Floral display with our in-house grown cut flowers

 

The end result! A beautiful floral display with our in-house grown cut flowers

Brighten up your workplace by bringing the outdoors in!

The Grounds Team are not just about outdoor plants – do you know that the Grounds Team also grow indoor plants in-house at the Grounds Nursery?

We supply and also maintain these indoor plants for various Colleges and Departments on Streatham Campus and St Luke’s Campus and if you are interested in having some wonderful plants to brighten up your workplace, please contact .

Plants are great for your health and wellbeing!

Some of the indoor plants grown in-house at the Grounds Nursery

Some of the indoor plants grown in-house at the Grounds Nursery

Some of the indoor plants grown in-house at the Grounds Nursery

First Mini Harvest – Grounds Nursery Home Grown Cut Flowers

We are delighted to announce that we have our first mini harvest of Antirrhinums which have been grown in the Grounds Nursery! These flowers will be used in the University’s floristry displays and bouquets.

Antirrhinums grown in the Grounds Nursery

Progress Update – Grounds Nursery Home Grown Cut Flowers

Our first progress update following our post on 5th February 2018 where we reported that our Floristry and Nursery Team have branched out into growing our own cut flowers for our bouquets and displays to complement the flowers bought from our amazing local supplier.

Our Antirrhinums have ignored the wintery weather and begun to bloom in the Nursery and have just begun to make their way into our floristry displays. Once the threat of frost has passed, we will be moving them out into the polytunnel to slow them down a little so we don’t have to use them all at once!

We have been sowing more cut flower seeds and pricking out the seedlings as they get big enough to handle. Now that the worst of the cold weather has (hopefully) passed, they will be shooting up in no time.

Antirrhinums being grown in the Nursery March 2018

 

Antirrhinums being grown in the Nursery March 2018

Limonium sinuatum being grown in the Nursery March 2018

Pennisetum villosum being grown in the Nursery March 2018

Grounds Nursery – Home Grown Cut Flowers

Our Floristry and Nursery Team have decided to branch out into growing our own cut flowers for our bouquets and displays to complement the flowers bought from our amazing local supplier.

They have been busy sowing seeds and preparing ground for a cut flower area at the Grounds Nursery on Streatham Campus, where the container grown plants can be moved in and out of the glasshouses for early blooming.

Our Dianthus (Sweet Williams) have been making their way into our displays since the end of December, along with some of the beautiful foliage we have growing at the Grounds Nursery and on campus.

Look out for our own cut Digitalis (Foxgloves), Antirrhinums (Snapdragons), Helenium, grasses and many more beautiful home grown flowers in your bouquets and displays in the summer. We will be updating their progress on here for you to see!

Antirrhinums being grown in the Grounds Nursery

Delphiniums being grown in the Grounds Nursery

Catananche being grown in the Grounds Nursery

Sweet Williams that were grown in the Grounds Nursery

 

 

 

 

Poinsettias for sale

The University of Exeter’s Grounds Nursery team have been busy growing a variety of Poinsettias in time for Christmas.

  1. Poinsettia Jubilee White
  2. Poinsettia Ice Crystal
  3. Poinsettia Cinnamon Viking

All priced at £3.50

If you would like to purchase a Poinsettia, they will be ready for collection from Monday 5th December.

Please either email  or ring her on 07825 317044.

poinsettia 1 poinsettia 2 poinsettia 3