Anna Maurizio, Swiss Bee Expert, Born (1900)

Bees are among the world’s most important insects.  And a great deal of what we know about bees comes from the career of Dr. Anna Maurizio, who became one of the world’s leading melissopalynologists.  You do know what a melissopalynologist is, don’t you?

            Anna Maurizio was born in Switzerland on November 26, 1900 (died 1993).  Her father was a professor of botany, and Maurizio followed closely in his footsteps, completing a doctorate on the topic of mycology.  She learned of fungi that  affected the lives of bees.  She started working on bees, and never stopped.  In 1928, she began working in the Bee Section of the Swiss Federal Research Institute for Milk Husbandry, and she remained there for the majority of her career.

Anna Maurizio in 1970 (photo by Hajo1932)

            Her research ranged widely across bee biology.  Studies of pollen dominated the first half of her career, covering the relationships between bees and pollen.  In 1954, she published a major work on the composition, collection, utilization and identifications of pollen that established her as the world’s leading scholar on the subject.  Her knowledge of pollen led in the second half of her career to studies of the linkage between types of pollen and various aspects of bee nutrition, honey characteristics and ecological relationships.  As she wrote,

The relationship between bees and pollen is essential to sustainability (photo by David Lienhard)

“The concept of bienenbotanik (bee botany) comprises the relations of the honeybees with their plant environment.  To this field belong first of all bee plants (secretion of nectar, collection of nectar, production and collection of pollen), poisoning of honeybees by plants, microscopy of honey and pollen and also the relation of apiculture and agriculture.”

            Anna Maurizio pioneered techniques to trace the pollen in honey back to the originating plants—that work is called melissopalynology.  Understanding the pollen composition of honey allows researchers to trace plant use by bees, a fundamental aspect of bee ecology.  From that basic research (her work is still the foundation of much pollen analysis) comes rationales for conserving plant diversity and controlling factors that reduce bee survival.

A typical beehive contains thousands of bees, capable of pollinating millions of flowers every day (photo by Onesine)

            And that work is important for environmental sustainability, because bees play such a large role in the pollination of flowering plants.  According to the Earth Day Network, individuals of the world’s 20,000 bee species (4,000 in the U.S.) pollinate about 35% of the world’s food production, valued at $577 billion U.S. dollars—and more importantly, feeding billions of people.  In total, about 90% of all flowering plants in the world (that’s about 370,000 species) depend on insects, especially bees, for pollination.

            How effective are bees at pollination?  A typical colony of bees includes from 10,000-80,000 individuals.  The Earth Day Network uses 25,000 as an average number, and then suggests the average bee takes 10 trips to and from the hive each day and visits 50-1000 flowers on each trip.  Therefore, one colony can pollinate between 12.5 and 250 million flowers per day!

            Bee populations have been under stress lately.  In the U.S. and Europe, colonies have been losing about 30% of bees annually, for all sorts of reasons—habitat loss, climate change, diseases and chemical pollution.  This rate of loss is well below replacement levels..  However, in other parts of the world (and bees live everywhere, from deserts to polar regions), we know little about the condition of bee populations.

            Looks like we need a lot more melissopalynologists—or maybe just apiculturists—to “bee” working!

References:

Earth Day Network.  2018.  Fact Sheet:  Bees.  Available at:  https://www.earthday.org/2018/05/23/fact-sheet-bees/.  Accessed November 25, 2019.

Encyclopedia.com.  Maurizio, Anna (1900-1993).  Available at :  https://www.encyclopedia.com/women/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/maurizio-anna-1900-1993.  Accessed November 25, 2019.

Louveaux, J.  1990.  L’oeuvre d’Anna Murizio.  Apidologie 21(5):397-416.  Available at:  https://www.apidologie.org/articles/apido/abs/1990/05/Apidologie_0044-8435_1990_21_5_ART0003/Apidologie_0044-8435_1990_21_5_ART0003.html.  Accessed November 25, 2019.

Playfair, Richard.  2019.  How Many Bees Live in a Hive?  School of Bees, February 10, 2019.  Available at:  https://schoolofbees.com/how-many-bees-live-in-a-hive/.  Accessed November 25, 2019.

This Month in Conservation

February 1
Afobaka Dam and Operation Gwamba (1964)
February 2
Groundhog Day
February 3
George Adamson, African Lion Rehabilitator, Born (1906)
February 4
Congress Overrides President Reagan’s Veto of Clean Water Act (1987)
February 5
National Wildlife Federation Created (1936)
February 6
Colin Murdoch, Inventor of the Tranquilizer Gun, Born (1929)
February 7
Karl August Mobius, Ecology Pioneer, Born (1825)
February 8
President Johnson Addresses Congress about Conservation (1965)
February 8
Lisa Perez Jackson, Environmental Leader, Born (1982)
February 9
U.S. Fish Commission Created (1871)
February 10
Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet, born (1944)
February 11
International Day of Women and Girls in Science
February 12
Judge Boldt Affirms Native American Fishing Rights (1974)
February 13
Thomas Malthus Born (1766)
February 14
Nature’s Faithful Lovers
February 15
Complete Human Genome Published (2001)
February 16
Alvaro Uglade, Father of Costa Rica’s National Parks, Born (1946)
February 16
Kyoto Protocol, Controlling Greenhouse-Gas Emissions, Begins (2005)
February 17
R. A. Fischer, Statistician, Born (1890)
February 18
Julia Butterfly Hill, Tree-Sitter, Born (1974)
February 19
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial Established (1962)
February 20
Ansel Adams, Nature Photographer, Born (1902)
February 21
Carolina Parakeet Goes Extinct (1918)
February 22
Nile Day
February 23
Italy’s Largest Inland Oil Spill (2010)
February 24
Joseph Banks, British Botanist, Born (1743)
February 25
First Federal Timber Act Passed (1799)
February 26
Four National Parks Established (1917-1929)
February 27
International Polar Bear Day
February 28
Watson and Crick Discover The Double Helix (1953)
February 29
Nature’s Famous Leapers
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