This story is not particularly agricultural, but I couldn’t resist it. Brazilian researchers extracted the essential oils from a Piper sp commonly eaten by bats and then smeared the stuff on plastic fruits, which they then distributed in areas of damaged rainforest. The bats were attracted to the fake fruits, though they wouldn’t normally fly in degraded forest. Why go to all this trouble? Because the bats spread lots of seeds via their faeces, and could thus be used to restore the vegetation.

Bee shortage looms

Things don’t seem to be getting any easier for the fruit and vegetable farmers of the US, with a continuing shortage of bees. The number of commercial colonies in the US has halved over the past 25 years, according to the report. And that could show up in the price of almonds. I had no idea that the state of California supplies 80% of the world market for almonds.

Bats to the rescue

The other Economist article I wanted to mention deals with bats and how useful they are to agriculture, as pollinators (e.g. Agave) and – the main point of the piece – as predators of agricultural pests. Work in Texas is actually trying to quantify the benefit that bats bring to famers of cotton and other crops as they munch their way through moth populations in their millions. Always good to be able to put $ values on biodiversity.

Busy bees

A forthcoming Science paper by Charles W. Whitfield, a professor of entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and others looks at the evolution of the honey-bee, Apis mellifera. EurekAlert has a summary and some pithy quotes from the author here. SNPs revealed that the honey-bee originated in Africa and then spread to Europe in two waves, resulting in genetically-distinct though nearly sympatric populations there. No word on whether these migrations could be related to human movements in any way, at least not in the summary.