World Bee Day 2024 at the UG


On 20 May, we celebrate World Bee Day. To mark the occasion, we invite you to a short conversation with Dr Paulina Kozina from the Department of Invertebrate Zoology and Parasitology at the UG Faculty of Biology.


Julia Bereszczyńska: - What is the role of the bees that inhabit the UG campus?

Dr Paulina Kozina: - On the UG campus, we observe representatives of the Apidae family, i.e. bees, but also many other species of wild bees. Bumblebees are abundant, such as the ground bumblebee Bombus terrestris, the stone bumblebee B. lapidaries, and the red bumblebee B. pascorum. At the present time, there is an interesting bee, the hairy-footed flower bee Anthophora plumipes, which can sometimes be mistaken for a bumblebee (it has very dense fur), and which catches the eye because of its distinctive, elongated and splayed second pair of legs. Apart from this, we will meet many furrow bees (Halictus ), leafcutter bees (Megachile) or mining bees (Andrena). My personal favourite is the so-called pantaloon bee or hairy-legged mining bee, Dasypoda hirtipes, a Hymenoptera that has 'breeches', i.e. numerous hairs on its hind legs. They appear on campus because of the available food base and pollinate plants. Not only those that please our eyes with their flowers, but also the trees and shrubs from which we later obtain fruit. Another function of these insects on campus is didactics. Puzzling? Yes, bees are a didactic subject. In what way? We use the campus grounds when we conduct field classes. Students learn to observe these insects and identify them, which contributes to their conservation. Although I will honestly admit that there could be more places with native plants so that the food base for the bees is more extensive.


- What would happen if there was a shortage of bees?

- The first thing that springs to mind - starvation. Man benefits from the fruits of plants pollinated by invertebrates (here we must also mention butterflies, flies, beetles, and even snails). It has been calculated that their work is worth 4 billion zloty annually. It is thanks to them that we have hundreds of fruits and vegetables on our tables. When pollinators are gone, apples, pears, strawberries, tomatoes, and cucumbers will disappear as well. It is important to remember that some of these have their specific pollinators - for example, we have tomatoes thanks to bumblebees. Hence, it is important to protect not only the honeybee, which is doing well, but all the other wild bees, of which there are more than 470 species! Pollinators are important not only through the food they give us directly, but also indirectly: thanks to them, herbivores (including livestock) have something to eat, farmers can collect the seeds of plants to sow in the following years, and we have groats or oils on our tables. And I think the food argument is the most important one here. We are used to going to the shop and buying products. But when something worrying happens in nature, there is less fruit or vegetables, the prices go up - and that's when we start to be bothered by it. The economic context is definitely more important to us than some wild bees. So it's good to know that it works on a domino effect, and it starts with our everyday choices. From how we take care of the environment, from how we look after it. I think it's our responsibility as the dominant species in the world.


- What do you think we could learn from bees?

- A lot, although I don't know if everyone would want to! We are aware of the hard work of bees. They work in castes (bumblebees, honeybees) or alone, but they always give 100%. Whether sunshine or rain. They faithfully defend their homes, even if they sometimes pay for it with their lives. They are wonderful and fascinating insects that can be discussed for hours.


- Do you at the Faculty of Biology care in any way about the bees living in the Ecopark?

- I think it is important to mention here that the whole academic community cares about the invertebrates on campus. This ranges from the many green spaces, the unmowing of certain areas of vegetation, and the planting of perennials, shrubs and trees, to the Green UG initiative. We are also spreading awareness about them, trying to identify appropriate actions for their protection.


- Could you share some interesting facts about the bees that inhabit the Ecopark?

- The UG campus is inhabited by bumblebees and their nest parasites, which are less talked about, the cuckoo bumblebees (Psithyrus sp.). When we think of parasites, we probably imagine ticks, bedbugs, or lice. These live at the expense of other organisms, using their flesh as a place to live and their blood as food. Nest parasites behave a little differently. Cuckoo bumblebees are very similar to bumblebees (although not the same), not only do they resemble each other in the colour of their hairs and the distribution of them on their body, but they also 'smell' like bumblebees because they produce similar pheromones. This begins with the first bumblebee queens awakening in early spring. They start to make a nest and the first worker bees appear. After a while, the cuckoo bumblebee queens also awake. They find the bumblebee nests, chase away or - in the worst case - kill their queen and 'sit on the throne'. They succeed in doing this because, as I mentioned above, they perfectly resemble bumblebees. In this way, the bumblebees do the slave work and look after the cuckoo bumblebee queen's offspring until the end of the season. For more interesting facts about bees, insects, or invertebrates in general, I invite you to visit my blog Ms Entomologist.

- Thank you for the interview.


Julia Bereszczyńska/Press Team