Policy buzz

Policy buzz

This week European Commission announced the new EU Pollinator Initiative, the updated and strengthened version of Communication first published in 2018.

The new Initiative identifies actions organized under three overarching priorities: 1. improving knowledge of pollinator decline, its causes, and consequences; 2. improving pollinator conservation and tackling the causes of their decline: and 3. mobilizing society and promoting cooperation and strategic planning.

Activities include finalizing action plans for threatened pollinator species, identification of pollinators typical of habitats protected under the Habitats Directive, mapping of Key Pollinator Areas, devising a blueprint for a network of ecological corridors for pollinators (so-called Buzz Lines), and much more – the total of 42 pollinator actions.

The revised Initiative also addresses climate change as one of the drivers of pollinator decline and sets out to identify the most climate-vulnerable zones for pollinators and devise and implement climate adaptation measures.

The initiative will also – together with other new EU legislation, such as the proposal for Regulation on nature restoration – address causes of extinction (such as chemical pesticides and habitat loss) and establish EU pollinator monitoring. The monitoring program will entail the annual collection of standard data on wild pollinators across the entire European Union, allowing us to measure the success of this initiative, and of our efforts to restore and protect wild pollinators.

Illustration: EU Pollinator Information Hive

Pollinators on the edge: The European Red List of Hoverflies

Pollinators on the edge: The European Red List of Hoverflies

The European Red List of Hoverflies, which provides conservation status for European hoverfly species, was published last week. Hoverflies, the family Syrphidae, are abundant, diverse, and surprisingly handsome flies. Many species are bee or wasp mimics. Hoverflies are also the second most important group of pollinators, right after bees. Being second to bees doesn’t mean we could live without them – hoverflies visit a different spectrum of flowers, fly longer distances, and thrive in different climates and habitats than bees, all of which make them irreplaceable.

In the published Red List, 55 scientists and experts estimate that as many as 314 hoverfly species (about 37%) are threatened with extinction in Europe, and an additional 61 species (about 7%) are near threatened. Only slightly above half of all species are considered of least concern (469 species, 52.7%). About 5% of species are data deficient (DD), meaning we lack the data for assessing them.

For hoverfly conservation, it is important to consider the diverse life strategies of hoverfly species, whose larvae live in a wide range of habitats and have varied diets. Adult hoverflies feed on nectar and pollen, but their larvae can be aphid predators, feed on dead organic matter in wet habitats, eat plants, be associated with old trees, or live in an ant nest. One of the reasons why hoverflies are endangered could be the loss of larvae habitats, especially of old trees and wet habitats.

This assessment also answers the “Now what?” question, what to do with this long list of endangered species? In the accompanying document, authors propose grouping endangered species by their natural history and planning specific population recovery activities for each group. The emphasis is on the conservation of old, veteran trees through changes in forest management, protection and restoration of wet habitats, and promotion of sustainable agriculture – activities that will help many other groups of organisms and the environment.

In addition, hoverflies also still need a good amount of PR, as they are not as well-known and popular as bees or butterflies. If you want to learn more about these beautiful and important flies, we recommend the IUCN Hoverfly Specialist Group. And tell one person today – Have you heard about hoverflies?


Vujić, A., Gilbert, F., Flinn, G., Englefield, E., Ferreira, C.C., Varga, Z., Eggert, F., Woolcock, S., Böhm, M., Mergy, R., Ssymank, A., van Steenis, W., Aracil, A., Földesi, R., Grković, A., Mazanek, L, Nedeljković, Z., Pennards, G.W.A., Pérez, C., Radenković, S., Ricarte, A., Rojo, S., Ståhls, G., van der Ent, L.-J., van Steenis, J., Barkalov, A., Campoy, A., Janković, M., Likov, L., Lillo, I., Mengual, X., Milić, D., Miličić, M., Nielsen, T., Popov, G., Romig, T., Šebić, A., Speight, M., Tot, T., van Eck, A., Veselić, S., Andric, A., Bowles, P., De Groot, M., Marcos-García, M.A., Hadrava, J., Lair, X. , Malidžan, S., Nève, G., Obreht Vidakovic, D., Popov, S., Smit, J.T., Van De Meutter, F., Veličković, N. and Vrba J. (2022). Pollinators on the edge: our European hoverflies. The European Red List of Hoverflies. Brussels, Belgium: European Commission.

Advanced bee taxonomy course

Advanced bee taxonomy course

We spent the last week at Mons University in Belgium, where we learned to identify species of difficult wild bee genera. Together with seven other students from across Europe, we worked on one genus of wild bees per day, all chosen for their taxonomic notoriety: Lasioglossum, Eucera, Andrena, Hyleus, and Bombus.

What makes a genus taxonomically difficult? Usually, these are genera with a large number of species, very subtle differences between them, and/or lack of reliable taxonomic literature. Most often, taxonomic keys are scattered across several publications, some are outdated and do not contain all of the species, and they are written in various foreign languages ​​(and that language is very rarely English).

Although this may sound a bit complicated, the workshop was an amazing experience. We had a different instructor every day, each an expert for a genus that we were working on that day. They all made an effort to clearly outline the most important morphological characters of their genus, the main problems, useful tips for identifying species or species groups, and the best ways to use the literature. After this, we had the rest of the day to work on our own samples. This means that we could work on our most challenging Cro Buzz Klima samples with the support and help of leading taxonomic experts. In addition to all that, we had the opportunity to meet other people who are engaged in research and protection of pollinators in Europe and hear about their work and experiences.

The workshop was organized by members of Denis Mitchez lab from UMONS Zoology department, as a part of the EU Horizon project SPRING (Strengthening Pollinator Recovery through INdicators and monitoring). This was one of several such workshops in a series, with the aim to increase the expert capacities of member states for the implementation of EU pollinator monitoring.