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.”

It’s Mothers Day on Sunday 22nd March – order a beautiful bouquet for your wonderful Mum

Don’t forget it’s Mothers Day on Sunday 22nd March!

Make it extra special for your Mum this year and give her a fabulous bouquet of flowers handmade by the talented florists in the Grounds Team, using purely British grown flowers from our local supplier and foliage from our own campus.

The artisan bouquet will contain carefully selected flowers in a range of colours and will be presented in an aqua pac inside a bouquet box, with a card carrying the message of your choice.

It’s a wonderful way of letting your Mum know how special she is and to thank her for all she does.

Delivery to a workplace address on Streatham Campus or St Luke’s Campus on Friday 20th March; for a special price of £28.99.

Orders to be placed via the online store.

Don’t leave your good intentions too late; the last date we can accept orders is 12 noon on Monday 16th March.

 

 

Azara microphylla in flower and it smells divine!

This Azara microphylla, located halfway down Poole Gate on Streatham Campus exact location, is currently in flower and the tiny yellow vanilla scented flowers smell divine!

Do go and enjoy the wonderfully scented flowers for yourself, but don’t take too long as it will only be in flower for a couple of weeks.

Azara is a semi-evergreen shrub from South America and we hold a National Collection of Azara on our Streatham Campus and St Luke’s Campus. Further information on our National Collection can be found on our Grounds webpages.

 

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

Wildflowers Trial – Reed Hall Beds

We are trialling a crop of summer flowering wildflowers at Reed Hall beds this year.

We have had to change the planting scheme and rest the beds this year, as we have had confirmation of a soil borne fungus disease.

We hope you enjoy these colourful wildflowers and we aim to reintroduce the traditional display of spring and summer bedding next year.

Wildflowers at Reed Hall beds July 2019

Wildflowers at Reed Hall beds July 2019

Wildflowers at Reed Hall beds July 2019

Wildflowers at Reed Hall beds July 2019

 

 

Mother’s Day Bouquet

Don’t forget Mother’s Day on Sunday 31st March!

Make it extra special for your Mum this year and give her a fabulous bespoke Mother’s Day bouquet produced by the talented florists in the Grounds Team, using materials from the campus with fresh flowers from local suppliers.

The handcrafted bouquet will contain roses and other carefully selected flowers in a range of colours (or specify your preferred colours when ordering); it’s a wonderful way of showing your Mum how special she is and to thank her for all she does.

The artisan Mother’s Day bouquet, presented in an aqua pac box with wrapping, a bow and a card with your choice of wording, can be delivered to a workplace address on Streatham Campus or St Luke’s Campus on Friday 29th March for a special price of £50.

Orders to be placed via the online store https://store.exeter.ac.uk/product-catalogue/campus-services/floral-bouquets-personal/mothers-day-bouquet-2019

Don’t leave your good intentions too late; the last date we can accept orders is Friday 22nd March.

 

Valentine’s Day Bouquet

Don’t forget Valentine’s Day on Thursday 14th February!

Make it extra special for your loved one this year and give them a fabulous bespoke Valentine’s Day bouquet produced by the talented florists in the Grounds Team, using materials from the campus with fresh flowers from local suppliers.

 The handmade bouquet will contain red roses, gypsophilia, a mix of foliage and other fantastic flowers in reds and pinks to help show someone special how much you care.

 The artisan Valentine’s Day bouquet, presented in an aqua pac box with wrapping, a bow and a card with your choice of wording, can be delivered to a workplace address on Streatham Campus or St Luke’s Campus on either Wednesday 13th or Friday 14th February for a special price of £50.

 Orders to be placed via the online store https://store.exeter.ac.uk/product-catalogue/campus-services/floral-bouquets-personal/valentines-day-bouquet

 Don’t leave your good intentions too late; the last date we can accept orders is Friday 8th February.

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