New Bee Species Named After U of G Professor

January 12, 2012 - News Release

If insect ecologist Peter Kevan is considered the bee’s knees, it is for good reason: the University of Guelph researcher’s promotion of pollinators has been rewarded with the naming of a new bee species. The bee, discovered in the Brazilian state of Bahia, will be named Chilicola kevani in his honour.

“I am chuffed about it,” said Kevan, whose leadership in pollinator conservation won him election in 2009 to the Royal Society of Canada and, earlier, the Gold Medal achievement award from the Entomological Society of Canada. “It’s always an honour to receive kudos from my colleagues, but I am particularly pleased about this.”

Kevan says the process of naming a new species is not an easy one.

“First, a new species has to be discovered. Then, taxonomists have to look into it very carefully, using their extensive networks to make sure it is, in fact, something new — that the claim is legitimate. Frequently, somebody will find something that’s new to them and then some evidence of its existence is uncovered in earlier scientific publication.”

His own extensive publications cover almost every aspect of pollination from biodiversity surveys to economic assessments of the importance of pollinators — animals or insects essential to plant reproduction. His most recent article, “Pollinating Bees Can Now Suppress Crop Pests,” appears in this month’s edition of The Grower.

Problems with pollination need to be addressed, Kevan says.

“Because pollination is a vital step in the process by which plants make seeds and fruits, pollination is a critical and early step in food production. When there are problems with pollination, there are problems with food production and supply.”

Kevan was one of the first people to ask questions about pollination conservation in the 1970s in the Maritimes when pesticide poisonings adversely affected the natural pollination system for lowbush blueberry production. Since then, he has investigated pollinators — from insect and plant viewpoints — from the Arctic to tropical rainforests.

From 2003 to 2011, he taught a graduate course in pollination biology that included two weeks of field study in Brazil to students from Europe, North and South America. Last year’s course even had a component on wind pollination in the Amazonian rainforest, where wind pollination is thought not to be important. The students on the course have, over the years, written a number of peer-reviewed publications.

A panel member on the São Paulo Declaration on Pollinators in 1999, the environmental sciences professor has seen his work influence policy and practice. Retired from U of G’s School of Environmental Sciences, Kevan still works on pollination initiatives from the Convention on Biological Diversity from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Status of Pollinators in North America. He also chairs the International Commission for Plant-Bee Relationships and is a vice-president of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign. He is scientific director of the Canadian Pollination Initiative, a multidisciplinary research network funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council that is examining pollinator declines and pollination systems in farms and natural ecosystems in Canada.

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