This weekend I went to my first ever BWARS (Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society) AGM and conference. This took place at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History which was perfectly placed to allow me to go to both days and travel home inbetween. Overall the event was much better than I could have ever anticipated it would be with lots of lovely enthusiastic people sharing a vast amount of knowledge.
The first day was mainly a chance to chat with people while muddling through two new identification keys – one on bumblebees and another on dryinid wasps. I stuck to trying out the bumblebee key which focuses on structural characteristics rather than colours which can be misleading in some cases. With the help of Bex Cartwright and Ian Cheeseborough I felt that by the end of the afternoon I had made some progress. Another thing that struck me was the number of people whose names I recognised, mainly from seeing courses or books advertised. The course really was the place to be surrounded by Britain’s experts on bees, ants and wasps. Most of these people also seemed generally interested in encouraging others too which is essential. I for one would know absolutely nothing about aculeates without the help of others and I don’t think I will ever be an expert on these insects.
Sunday saw the BWARS AGM and some talks from speakers too. I usually see AGMs as boring and events that should be avoided at all costs although I was presently surprised by this one. The BWARS chairman Stuart Roberts spoke passionately about how far the society has came and how we are all part of it and can influence the direction in which we take the society and encourage others to get involved too. After all it is only be working together that we can help conserve and study these fascinating insects. Stuart also spoke about the future of the society in term of publishing new atlases and improving the amount of information that is available on the BWARS website. It was also mentioned that we should try tap more into the social media community through the BWARS Facebook page which I’m hoping to help with.
The first talk was by Thomas Wood and was on bees, wasps and ants on higher level stewardship and entry level stewardship farms. He found that bumblebees were doing best on these farms as the main focus of the schemes seems to be providing floral resources for bumblebees. It seems that different species seem to do better on HLS or ELS farms but overall there wasn’t much of a difference, mainly because lots of HLS floral patches are not managed properly so become less useful to pollinators. Thomas’ talk also highlighted that nesting resources as well as floral resources need to be taken into account, a fact that is often overlooked when conservation measures are put in place.
The next talk was by Nick Issac from the Biological Records Centre, speaking about the long term uses for BWARS data. He spoke about how the data generated by us is being used for large scale scientific projects across the world. He also highlighted some of the biases that current wildlife recording measures in Britain generated include:
- Time – As people improve their identification skills and get more interested in wildlife, the number of records they submit each year tends to increase
- Space – Distribution maps can sometimes reflect where recorders are based, with gaps sometimes being because noone has looked for the species there, rather than it being absent.
- Detectability – With the advent of modern technology and new publications, recording is opened up to new people. This can bias the data as more people take up wildlife recording
- Effort per visit – the more time you spend looking for wildlife on a site, the more you find.
Nick suggested that all of these biases should be included as a inherent part of the model rather than trying to remove the biases, as this gets rid of a lot of the detail of the data. Nick’s main message was that ‘A little bit of metadata would go a long way’, by this he meant that the more we know about how species are recorded, the more we can get from the data and the more we can inform and shape policy.
Continuing on the policy theme, Claire Carvell spoke about the NPPMS (National pollinator and pollination monitoring scheme). The aims of this scheme is to provide a sustainable monitoring framework in which citizen scientists and professionals can measure changes in pollinator populations and then carry out analyses on how this effects crops and windflowers. This framework would allow us to work out how abundant pollinators are by choosing sites representative of Britain and then use robust and realistic survey methodologies to provide a sampling framework which we can use to the produce costed protocols to inform policy. The importance of citizen scientists was also highlighted. I count myself as a citizen scientist yet I have made some important discoveries so don’t see why people should be discounted just because they are not paid for a job.
Overall I had a great weekend and learnt alot and met some lovely knowledgeable people, one day it would be nice to be half as knowledgeable as them. I look forward to seeing what I can do to support BWARS more in the next year and look forward to spring when solitary bees will once again fill the air with the buzzing of wings. For more information about BWARS, please visit the website and give us a like on Facebook