On the trail of wild bees

By Christian BlockLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

Pollinator insects play an irreplaceable role in nature and for humans, but across Europe they are in bad shape. Due to a lack of data, it is difficult to say exactly how badly off they are. Researchers hope to change this over the coming years with the first national wild bee atlas under the auspices of the National Museum of Natural History.

The location for the photo shoot could hardly have been more appropriate. For the portrait shoot, Dr Alexander Weigand takes us to the biodiversity room of the National Museum of Natural History. Here, museum visitors learn a lot about the diversity of plants and animals in different habitats or the influences of climate change or environmental pollution.

A research project coordinated by Alexander Weigand also has a lot to do with species richness. To find out which wild bee species still occur in Luxembourg today: This is one of the goals of the first national wild bee atlas. "There has never been such a detailed collection of wild bees at 150 sites or more", Weigand explains. The biologist has been curator of zoology at the "naturmusée" for a little more than two years, and the project is based on the museum's initiative. The background to the project is the decline in insect numbers that has been observed for several years and a growing awareness of the importance of pollinating insects. More and more people are thinking about how they can help bees, for example, and some have certainly found their way to beekeeping. In 2020, 470 beekeepers were registered in the Grand Duchy.

But the many different species of wild bees are often neglected. "In general, the discussion about having to protect bees is indeed somewhat problematic. You definitely have to keep an eye on the wild bee species as well. They are clearly more important for agriculture as a whole and for the entire ecosystems", says Weigand. Furthermore, livestock farming also poses a potential danger if beekeepers do not take good care of their colonies. Viruses or parasites can be transmitted to wild bees. The question of whether there is competition for flowers between the thousands of honey bee colonies and wild bees, in which the latter lose out, is the subject of lively debate among experts.

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