Scientists monitor pollinator insects; find several species of interest

Scientists monitor pollinator insects; find several species of interest

Research “essential” for food production, says Coimbra science faculty

A European project to monitor pollinator insects has allowed the discovery of several species of interest in Portugal, a team from the University of Coimbra (UC) that coordinates the research has revealed.

“A year of pollinator sampling in Portugal, carried out under the international project Spring, has allowed the discovery of several species of interest and with limited distribution, and reinforces the urgent need to implement a universal sampling methodology to monitor these insects, essential, for example, for food production,” said the university’s Faculty of Science and Technology (FCTUC) in a statement sent to Lusa.

FCTUC researcher Sílvia Castro stressed the importance of participation in the project, which, “besides contributing with different perspectives of methodology implementation, will stimulate the training of young entomologists (biologists who study insects), so necessary in Portugal”.

Once the first year of sampling is concluded, field work will resume in March 2023, with several training actions and the identification of samples collected in 2022 taking place.

“In addition to the process of preservation and study of the samples, participants will have the opportunity to learn how to distinguish species of bees and flower flies,” said the statement

Led by German scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, the project lays the foundation for a European pollinator monitoring plan by “strengthening the capacity for taxonomic identification of pollinating insects of the Member States” of the European Union.

In Portugal, monitoring is carried out at five sites on the mainland and one in the Autonomous Region of the Azores.

This pilot project “allows for the testing of basic monitoring methodologies for wild bees, butterflies and flower flies, using standardised transects walked by scientists and volunteers and coloured traps”, known as ‘pan-traps’.

In Portugal, alongside Coimbra’s University’s Centre for Functional Ecology, the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF), the Association Biopolis – CIBIO, Tagis – Centre for Butterfly Conservation of Portugal, the Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Change of the University of Lisbon, the municipality of Oeiras and the University of the Azores are participating in Spring.

Sónia Ferreira, from Biopolis – CIBIO, said that “there are indeed some species still to be described in Portugal, and a very high number of species about which very little is known regarding their biology and ecology”.

As examples of “species with interest” already collected in pan-traps, Albano Soares, from Tagis, mentioned the ‘andrena foeniculae’, explaining that it is “an Iberian endemism described for the first time in 2020, still with few records in Portugal and Spain, and that it has already been detected during the transects”.

“The bee species ‘lasioglossum buccale’ had only three records to date in Portugal, (but) this monitoring has already allowed it to be detected in new localities,” he said.

For Conceição Conde, from ICNF’s Preventive Surveillance and Inspection Division in the Alentejo, which is testing the methodology in the Serra de São Mamede Natural Park, with the support of Tagis, “the importance of pollinating insects and the desire to know them better are an enormous motivation” in this work.

In the Azores, monitoring “allowed the analysis of not very diverse pollinator communities, but with several endemisms, being this the only site of the whole Spring project representative of island ecosystems”, said Mário Boieiro, from the Azores Biodiversity Group.