Dr Grace Twiston-Davies, photo by M. Jessop

The way in which we manage our landscapes is having a significant effect on bumblebee survival. There have been recent worldwide declines in bumblebee abundance and species richness due to loss of habitat, loss of forage resources, emerging diseases, and the application of pesticides as well as other factors. Bumblebees are important pollinators of many wild flowers and crops  in agricultural landscapes and therefore their decline raises serious concerns about the future of pollination for biodiversity and food security. This means that we need to understand what resources bumblebees require, spatially and seasonally (what they need, where they need it and when they need it), in order to make policy and land management recommendations for healthy and sustainable agricultural landscapes.

Grace’s work focusses on using BEESCOUT and Bumble-BEEHAVE in digitised landscapes that are as realistic as possible to investigate what we can do to increase bumblebee colony survival in farmland.

Grace describes her BEEHAVE model projects-


Creating realistic digital landscapes for BEESCOUT

WHAT: I have been working with Dr Matthias Becher and Prof Juliet Osborne on creating and applying Bumble-BEEHAVE, a model that represents many bumblebee colonies interacting in a realistic landscape. Using Bumble-BEEHAVE, we can investigate bumblebee colony survival in relation to the landscape scale resource availability of forage flowers. A major challenge has been how to represent complex and seasonally changing forage availability in a realistic way, this is because bumblebees feed on various flower species for pollen and nectar and these flower species differ in flowering date, location and in the quality and quantity of nectar and pollen they produce.

To simulate this in Bumble-BEEHAVE, we have developed a landscape represented as multiple layers of different floral resource species, initially implemented in BEESCOUT. Individual bumblebees then make decisions on what to forage for (nectar or pollen), where to forage and what species to forage on, depending on their past experience and the needs of the colony.

By characterising the landscape using this multi-resource layered method we can explore management and conservation scenarios such as the distribution, concentration and species composition of pollinator-friendly Countryside Stewardship options like wild flower margins.

WHERE: The Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) at the University of Exeter, UK

Prof Juliet Osborne, Dr Matthias Becher and Dr Grace Twiston-Davies


Using BEESCOUT and our new model Bumble-BEEHAVE to help make management decisions

WHAT: We are currently using BEESCOUT and Bumble-BEEHAVE to explore a range of pollinator friendly management options such as Countryside Stewardship in a variety of landscapes. In  order to make bespoke management recommendations we are developing a network of local, regional and national users who can utilise Bumble-BEEHAVE to aid pollinator conservation and management decision making in their own landscapes.

Part of this network includes my current project translating Bumble-BEEHAVE and BEESCOUT to evidenced-based decision making at a regional scale by collaborating with Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in implementing their Pollinator strategy. Here we are working with farmers to create tailor-made management recommendations to enhance Cornwall’s landscapes for pollinator conservation and food production.

WHERE: The Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) at the University of Exeter and Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), UK


Grace Twiston-Davies is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) and is the NERC Knowledge Exchange Researcher on the project “Using bee models to support decision-making in the implementation of the National Pollinator Strategy in Cornwall”. She has specific expertise in applying computer based ecological analyses and models to evidence-based decision making and has previously collaborated with the National Trust during her PhD at the University of Reading to scientifically underpin their landscape-scale biodiversity restoration strategy and activities.