January 18, 2022

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On an English tree, rare wild bees make a noise

They come from a rare ecosystem – a subspecies that occupies a particular habitat – with its heritage in this area of ​​Oxfordshire dating back hundreds of years with hundreds of years old trees.

“Unusual, the queen is laying eggs! Philip excites Salpani. Halfway through a centuries-old oak tree in central England, he notices rare wild bees through a small hole in the trunk. “It’s a real classroom, it’s amazing, it’s incredible!”

The 55-year-old South African physiologist, who has long been interested in bees, is adamant: ‘These insects, which he has spent the last eighteen months searching for in the bee hive in the garden’s old forest, are far from perfect. Be normal. They are “a rare ecosystem – from a subspecies occupying a particular habitat – a centuries-old lineage in this part of Oxfordshire”.

Felipe Salpani, a 55-year-old South African physiologist, climbs trees to find bees inside trunks.

AFP

Although the DNA test results have not yet been confirmed, the discovery of possible offspring of local bees is already causing excitement in Blenheim and beyond. These people were believed to have largely disappeared due to disease, pesticides and competition with alien species.

Intimidation everywhere

These hymenoptera play an important role in biodiversity due to pollination, which is also important for agriculture. According to Philip Sulfani, bees are overused to meet human consumption needs, causing harm to the environment: the risk of stress or other pests to bees. “The bee has created a hero status, Because it is something we can handle […] But we marketed what we should not have, ”he says.

And native bees are endangered around the world. In the United Kingdom, most of these pests are foreign-origin and live in managed hives, with an estimated one-third of these species becoming extinct in recent decades, especially the verruca mite, which has been wiped out by parasites. Philippe Sulfani believed that Blenheim’s bees did not appear to be affected and thus they were embraced.

Up to 500 bees

The estate has also proven to be an excellent environment for this ecosystem, with large areas not accessible to the general public, such as the absence of managed hives or farming using pesticides. Hundreds of hectares of its ancient trees, mostly preserved, have the largest concentrations of ancient oaks in Europe. Some are 600 years old.

Philip Sulfani has already listed 50 bees in the trees.
Philip Sulfani has already listed 50 bees in the trees.

AFP

Felipe Salpani, a former international cyclist who coaches athletes, began his research there without much confidence. To his surprise, he counted nearly 50 bees in the trees, surprisingly resistant to winter. He estimates their number could reach 500. According to him, some may be up to 200 years old. “Unfortunately, there are not many places like this. “

Short, high hair

Blenheim bees are usually smaller, hairy and darker than those inhabited in the UK. “They don’t know the stress of pesticides, chemicals, survival,” he says. Their existence has global implications: “If it is possible to find local subspecies of bees […], We can learn more about the environment and improve farming practices. “

“Whether in Romania, Bulgaria or France, we need to look at the surviving species and understand the factors that affect bees, be it chemicals, pesticides, human interventions.” Hoping to have the “good amount” of pollination essential for life.

The ancient Low Park Forest in Blenheim Garden is preserved and has four hundred years old trees like this oak tree.
The ancient Low Park Forest in Blenheim Garden is preserved and has four hundred years old trees like this oak tree.

AFP

Nick Pimbridge, head of the Blenheim Forestry Department, said these bees were rarely noticed during the three decades he worked at the site. “We didn’t really care until Philip came in and pointed out that it’s very unique.”

According to Rob Stoneman of the Wildlife Trusts Association, the discovery is “remarkable”: “it shows the value and complexity of our ancient forests and the need to permanently preserve these unique habitats.”

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