Invasive Ants Destroy Plant Sex Lives



For all of the amazing symbioses ants and plants share, there is one thing ants seem to get in the way of… plant sex. That’s right, plants have found a use for ants in pretty much every way except for when it comes to reproduction (with some exceptions of course). Ants being what they are, they can easily become a force to be reckoned with. For this reason, many plant species have co-opted ants as defense agents, luring them in with nectar-releasing glands, a resource that ants guard quite heavily. 

When it comes to flowering, however, ants can become a bit overbearing. Research done at the University of Toronto shows that the invasive European fire ant has a tendency to guard floral nectar so heavily that they chase away pollinators. By observing fire ants and bumblebees, they found that ants change bumblebee foraging behaviors. The fire ants often harassed and attacked bumblebees as they visited flowers, causing them to spend significantly less time at each flower, a fact that could very well result in reduced pollination for the plant in question. 

This reduction in pollination is made even more apparent for dioecious plants. Since ants are after nectar and not pollen, male flowers received more bumblebee visits than nectar-producing female flowers. This could become quite damaging in regions with heavy fire ant infestations. 

As it turns out, the ants don’t even need to be present to ward off bumblebees. The mere scent of ants was enough to cause bumblebees to avoid flowers. They apparently associated the ant smell with being harassed and are more likely to not chance a visit. Of course, this study was performed on using an invasive ant species. Because so many plant species recruit ants for things like protection and seed dispersal, it is likely that under natural conditions, the benefit of associating with ants far outweighs any costs to reproductive fitness. More work is needed to see if other ant specie exhibit such aggressive behavior towards pollinators. 

Photo Credit: Lalithamba (https://www.flickr.com/people/45835639@N04)

Further Reading:

 http://www.researchgate.net/profile/James_Thomson13/publication/259319739_Ants_and_Ant_Scent_Reduce_Bumblebee_Pollination_of_Artificial_Flowers/links/554b8fd90cf21ed213595eff.pdf

Protect the bees !

I found this :

“Despite the fact that bee-killing pesticides are banned in the EU, the UK government just gave the go-ahead to farmers to plant these toxic-soaked seeds anyway. Any day now, Bayer and Syngenta’s toxic bee-killing seeds could be planted – wreaking even more havoc on our bees.

Instead of listening to us, the government listened to corporations like Syngenta and Bayer – sidelining its own scientists who have warned how dangerous these chemicals are to bees and other pollinators.

Hundreds of thousands of people across the country have already signed petitions to the UK government to stop harming our bees, and the government is feeling the sting. A massive public outcry could force the government to back down and protect bees.

Please join me in signing the petition to tell the government to save our bees. 

http://action.sumofus.org/a/neonics-uk/?sub=mtl 

Thank you.”

Bees are so important !! I’m not even in the UK but please sign that petition so our little life-keepers will be protected !! Please signal boost ! :0

Sorry I’m not good at doing those kind of posts but here it is so important ! Thank you very much !!

4

Productive Procrastination - July // Sewing Sundays

I wasn’t going to do any sewing this Sewing Sunday, since Rachel is snowed under with the New Zealand International Film Festival in Wellington and my human ethics application is due on August 3rd. That said, I’ve had a couple of really bad days mental-health-wise and needed something fun to work on. 

It was Feminist Week on campus last week and I pretty much put everything on hold to make sure it all went to plan (including photographing every event we put on - phew! It was a lot of photo editing in a short space of time!) Explaining that Feminists @ Waikato don’t hate men, burn bras (that shit’s expensive), nor subscribe to your average 4chan brand of feminism to every dude-bro and his dog really took it out of me. It made me realise how much time and effort we put in to dispelling stereotypes and myths about feminism, energy that I feel could be better spent actually making improving the lives of women rather than educating people who should struggle with cognitive dissonance and refuse to use Google…

So I made a little bag with bees on it! It was going to be for my pencils, but my beautiful friend Hazel has had a rough time of it lately, so I felt it might be better as a the-world-isn’t-all-bad-there’s-bees gift. I used this pattern as a rough guide and this tutorial for my bees. My boyfriend worked out the hexagons for me and I made a light box to trace them onto the material out of my bedside lamp and a clear cake tin. The bees and honeycomb are all hand stitched including the zip AND it’s even lined! The yellow material was left over from a dress my mum made for a wedding I went to, and the lining and the zip we had lying around!

“Elves prowled the castle gardens. They’d killed the fish in the ornamental pond, eventually. Mr. Brooks was perched on a kitchen chair, working at a crevice in the stable wall. He’d been aware of some sort of excitement, but it was involving humans and therefore of secondary importance. But he did notice the change in the sound from the hives, and the splintering of wood. A hive had already been tipped over. Angry bees clouded around three figures as feet ripped through comb and honey and brood. The laughter stopped as a white-coated, veiled figure appeared over the hedge. It raised a long metal tube. No one ever knew what Mr. Brooks put in his squirter. There was old tobacco in it, and boiled-up roots, and bark scrapings, and herbs that even Magrat had never heard of. It shot a glistening stream over the hedge which hit the middle elf between the eyes, and sprayed over the other two. Mr. Brooks watched dispassionately until their struggles stopped. “Wasps,”he said.”

-Sir Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies