Researchers Determine Pollen Abundance and Diversity In Five Major Pollinator Dependent Crops

Oregon State University Lab Manager September 2, 2019

Ramesh Sagili, Oregon State University associate professor of apiculture and Extension specialist, examines honeybees in Madras, Oregon.CREDIT: LYNN KETCHUM, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Ramesh Sagili, Oregon State University associate professor of apiculture and Extension specialist, examines honeybees in Madras, Oregon.CREDIT: LYNN KETCHUM, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

CORVALLIS, Ore. — A new study provides valuable insights into pollen abundance and diversity available to honeybee colonies employed in five major pollinator-dependent crops in Oregon and California, including California’s massive almond industry.

The study, a collaboration between Oregon State University (OSU) and Texas A&M University, found that almond, cherry, and meadowfoam provide ample pollen to honeybees, but highbush blueberry and hybrid carrot seed crops may not. In addition, California almonds don’t provide as much pollen diversity as other crops, according to the findings, published in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

The western honeybee is the major pollinator of fruit, nut, vegetable, and seed crops that depend on bee pollination for high quality and yield. The findings are important because both pollen abundance and diversity are critical for colony growth and survival of the western honeybee, said study corresponding author Ramesh Sagili, associate professor of apiculture and honeybee Extension specialist in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

“Pollen diversity is important for the growth and development of bees, and low amounts of pollen availability to honeybee colonies can dramatically affect brood rearing,” Sagili said. “Beekeepers that employ their colonies for pollination of crops like hybrid carrot seed and highbush blueberry should frequently assess the amount of pollen stores in their colonies and provide protein supplements if pollen stores are low.”

Nectar and pollen provide essential nutrients for honeybees. A honeybee colony’s protein source is pollen, which has varying amounts of amino acids, lipids, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients obtained from pollen are essential for honeybee larval development. Pollen largely contributes to the growth of fat bodies in larvae and egg development in the queen.

Well-nourished individuals in a honeybee colony are able to withstand the effects of other stressors such as parasites and insecticides, in addition to the long-distance transport of colonies known as “migratory management.” Bees are trucked across the county to pollinate various cropping systems—more than 1 million hives are transported to California each year just to pollinate almonds.

A diet low in pollen diversity hurts a colony’s defense system, which consequently increases disease susceptibility and pesticide sensitivity. During critical crop bloom periods, growers rent large numbers of honeybee colonies to pollinate their crops. Approximately 2.5 million commercially managed honeybee colonies are used for crop pollination in the United States every year.

Some cropping systems may put bees at risk for temporary nutritional deficiency if the crop plant’s pollen is deficient in certain nutrients and bees are unable to find an alternative source of these nutrients, Sagili said.

“It’s crucial for beekeepers and crop producers to understand the pollen abundance and diversity that honeybees encounter during crop pollination,” he said, adding that blueberry and hybrid carrot seed producers can mitigate nutritional deficiencies by providing supplemental food or forage, including commercially available protein supplements for bees.

Renting colonies to growers for pollination services is a significant source of income for commercial beekeepers, but it also requires them to repeatedly transport the colonies between crops throughout the growing season. In this study, the research team collaborated with 17 migratory commercial beekeepers for pollen collection from honeybee colonies in five different cropping systems from late February to August of 2012.

They installed pollen traps on at least five colonies at each site and collected pollen from the colonies at the height of the blooming season.

They found that California’s vast almond footprint—1 million acres and counting—provides more than enough pollen for the nearly 2 million honeybees employed to pollinate the orchards, but pollen diversity was low when compared with other crops.

“We think the reason for that is almonds bloom early in the year when there are so few plant species in bloom, so bees have few other forage options and primarily rely on almond pollen,” Sagili said. “There are parts of the northern and southern ends of California’s San Joaquin Valley where there are no other crops in bloom when almond trees bloom, which may further contribute to poor availability of diverse pollen.”

Study co-authors are Ellen Topitzhofer, Hannah Lucas, Priyadarshini Chakrabarti, and Carolyn Breece—all researchers at OSU’s Honey Bee Lab—and Vaughn Bryant at Texas A&M’s Palynology Laboratory.

The Oregon State Beekeepers Association provided funding for the study.

https://www.labmanager.com/news/2019/08/researchers-determine-pollen-abundance-and-diversity-in-five-major-pollinator-dependent-crops?fbclid=IwAR25BLUNpAsa1gGhpLtLh-uuzDQu_La7RHMeRBFGy28H6cCJWH0yeKoKHgk#.XYveelVKjIW

Related: https://academic.oup.com/jee/article/112/5/2040/5522909

LA County Fair Bee Booth 2019 - Catch the Buzz About Bees!

Catch the Buzz About Bees at the Bee Booth at the LA County Fair. Honey bees are one of the most fascinating creatures on the planet. Step inside the bee booth and you'll hear the 'buzz of the bees'. Peer inside our live observation hive for an exciting look at what goes on inside a beehive. Our experienced beekeepers will explain how bees communicate through sent and the 'waggle dance,' how they travel for miles to gather nectar to make honey, learn about the different jobs worker bees do, the duties of the drones, and how a bee becomes a queen. See if YOU CAN FIND THE QUEEN!

The exquisite macro-photography of Kodua Galieti shows the amazing intricacies of bees.

Come, meet the bees!

[Many thanks to Lia @OlivewoodBees Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/olivewoodbees/ for this wonderful video peek inside the Los Angeles County Fair Bee Booth!]

THE BEE BOOTH’S-A-BUZZING!

a sweet welcome!

a sweet welcome!

CONGRATULATIONS! FIRST TO FIND THE QUEEN TODAY!

CONGRATULATIONS! FIRST TO FIND THE QUEEN TODAY!

EXCITEMENT IN THE BEE BOOTH!

EXCITEMENT IN THE BEE BOOTH!

SWEET HONEY IN THE COOL MIST!

SWEET HONEY IN THE COOL MIST!

2 WEEKENDS LEFT FOR THE LA COUNTY FAIR!

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Pomona Fairgrounds
1101 West McKinley Avenue
Pomona, CA 91768
(The Bee Booth is located across from the “Big Red Barn”)
https://www.lacountyfair.com/

Fair Runs August 30 - September 22, 2019
(Closed Mondays & Tuesdays)
Fair Times & Schedule for the General Public

Scientists Use Honey and Wild Salmon to Trace Industrial Metals in the Enviroment

ScienceMag August 21, 2019

Credit: Dominique Weis

Credit: Dominique Weis

Scientists have combined analyses from honey and salmon to show how lead from natural and industrial sources gets distributed throughout the environment. By analysing the relative presence of differing lead isotopes in honey and Pacific salmon, Vancouver-based scientists have been able to trace the sources of lead (and other metals) throughout the region. Scientists in France, Belgium and Italy are now looking to apply the same approach to measure pollutants in honey in major European cities. The research* is being presented at the Goldschmidt conference in Barcelona.

Scientists have long known that honey bees pick up small amounts of metal elements (i.e., iron, zinc, and pollutants such as lead, and cadmium) when they alight on flowers and leaves. They carry these metals back to the hive where tiny amounts are incorporated into the honey. However, this is the first time researchers have been able to establish clearly the sources of the metals carried by the bees and their products, making them reliable biomarkers for environmental pollution.

“We’ve found that we can let the bees do the hard the work for us: they go to thousands of sites where metal-containing dust particulates might land, then bring samples back to a central hive. From there we can take the honey to have it analysed and begin to identify the source of pollutants like lead” said Ph.D. candidate Kate Smith, part of a team working at the Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research (University of British Columbia).

Once they have sampled the honey gathered by the bees, it is taken to a specialised geochemistry lab to be analysed using a high-resolution ICP-MS (Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry) instrument. This allows scientists to distinguish between different types (isotopes) of certain metal pollutants, like lead.

Smith continued, “Looking at the lead isotopic composition of the honey samples, we can tell the difference between honey gathered in the city centre of Vancouver and honey gathered in rural areas. We see that the trace amounts of lead in urban honey samples contain higher 208Pb/206Pb ratios that have no local natural equivalent, indicating that they come from man-made sources like aging city infrastructure and fuel combustion (e.g. cars and ships). Lead ratios measured in rural honey, on the other hand, reflect those of natural sources, like the local geology or particulates from nearby forest fires.”

Presenting the work on salmon, postdoctoral researcher Dr. Miling Li added “This work with honeybees is mirrored in initial findings from shellfish and salmon. Juvenile salmon breed and live in remote freshwater ecosystems in British Columbia, and their lead composition reflects that found in nature, e.g. the nearby Garibaldi volcano range. Adult salmon that forage in the open ocean off the BC coast reveal isotopic compositions consistent with downtown Vancouver honeys. This indicates that Pacific salmons were exposed to lead during their sea life mostly from anthropogenic sources in the Northeast Pacific Ocean.”

Although we can identify the sources of lead, the lead concentrations in both the honey and salmon from Vancouver and the surrounding areas are extremely low and well below the reported world-wide average of lead in honey.

Following the proof of concept work in Metro Vancouver (and similar work in Australia, in Sydney and the site of the vast Broken Hill lead mines, the main source of lead added to gasoline in Europe, Asia and many other places in the world), the UBC team has now developed standardised protocols for measurement of lead isotopes in honey to apply the technique to other cities. Experiments are now being set up in Paris, Brussels, and Piacenza, with interest also coming from the U.S. Simultaneously, the UBC team is confirming the efficacy of the Vancouver honey data by monitoring topsoil and air quality near the hives.

Kate Smith said, “Honey is particularly useful because honeybees can be found pretty well everywhere, so we believe that using honey as a proxy measurement for lead pollution may become an important urban geochemistry and environmental tool. This means we need to make sure that we have a framework that gives results of consistent quality from year to year and city to city. This is what we are now testing.”

Research team leader Professor Dominique Weis said “Urban geochemistry has become an important discipline in understanding the spread of heavy metal pollutants in cities, as long as the natural background is well characterized. Lead isotopic analysis is a standard geochemical method that for decades provided a signal dominated by lead that was used as an additive in gasoline. Honey is an effective biomonitor, and allows us to identify the source of some pollutants even at very low levels; we think that this method could become an internationally accepted way of assessing metal sources and distribution in urban environments”.

Airborne lead pollution varies significantly from area to area. It is found naturally at low levels. Major sources of pollution are metal processing, incinerators, and other industrial processes. Lead in gasoline was banned in the 1990s in North America, which caused a significant decrease in airborne lead levels (98% in the USA). Depending on the level of exposure, lead can have significant health effects**.

Commenting, Professor Mark P Taylor***, Macquarie University, Australia, leader of the Australian group working on honey said,

“This research is emblematic of contemporary science because it touches on two emerging key public interests in an increasingly urbanised world: it examines environmental quality by way of assessing anthropogenic changes to trace element sources in the wider environment and it engages citizens directly through the collection and sharing of honey for geochemical analysis. Nothing could be sweeter for science.”

This is an independent comment; Professor Taylor was not involved in this work.

https://scienmag.com/scientists-use-honey-and-wild-salmon-to-trace-industrial-metals-in-the-environment/?fbclid=IwAR0zbMwynvYS6sGZdYdGS8ZQtkleI8Jw19Ub64BrYyprWC063kdDM_DcUYo

How Bees Defend Themselves from Predators

AgNet West By Cathy Isom August 19, 2019

In this part of her series on raising bees, Cathy Isom lets you know about how bees defend themselves. That’s coming up on This Land of Ours.

In this part of her series on raising bees, Cathy Isom lets you know about how bees defend themselves. That’s coming up on This Land of Ours.

Honeybees tend to take excellent care of themselves, however, unlike most animals we care for, we have very little control over what happens when a busy bee leaves its hive in pursuit of pollen.

A honeybee’s primary defense mechanism is its ability to sting a predator, injecting a debilitating, sometimes deadly, venom. Amazingly, only female honeybees can deliver a sting to its enemies, and despite what most people believe, the bee does not die after stinging its attacker, unless it has stung a mammal with fleshy skin– such as a human.

A Japanese honeybee feeds from a garden cosmos flower

A Japanese honeybee feeds from a garden cosmos flower

The Japanese honeybee has come up with an ingenious way to kill larger insects that pose a threat to their hives, like the wasp. If an intruder is nearby, the honeybees will plot to ambush the unwanted visitor. Literally, they get together, hide, and then attack the intruder.

The bees attack the predator by forming a “bee ball” around it and begin flapping their wings to create an intolerable, deadly, environment for the predator. Heat and carbon monoxide from the rapid wing-flapping suffocate and kill the intruder. There is hope that this trait can be bred into other types of bees, but at this time, there has been little success.

Bees actually create their own entrance reducer with propolis— a strong mixture of wax, saliva, and sap. Honeybees have rarely been known to take this action on their own. Most of the reports of a bee-made reducer come after a manmade reducer has been removed.

I’m Cathy Isom…

http://agnetwest.com/how-bees-defend-themselves-predators/

Agriculture’s Increasing Dependence On Pollination, Coupled With A Lack Of Crop Diversity, May Threaten Food Security And Stability

Catch the Buzz By Alan Harman August 12, 2019

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New research suggests global trends in farming practices are undermining the pollinators that crops depend on and putting agricultural productivity and stability at risk,

An international team of researchers has identified countries where agriculture’s increasing dependence on pollination, coupled with a lack of crop diversity, may threaten food security and economic stability.

The study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, is the first global assessment of the relationship between trends in crop diversity and agricultural dependence on pollinators.

Using annual data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization from 1961 to 2016, the study showed that the global area cultivated in crops that require pollination by bees and other insects expanded by 137%, while crop diversity increased by just 20.5%.

This imbalance is a problem, the researchers say, because agriculture dominated by just one or two types of crops only provides nutrition for pollinators during a limited window when the crops are blooming.

Maintaining agricultural diversity by cultivating a variety of crops that bloom at different times provides a more stable source of food and habitat for pollinators.

“This work should sound an alarm for policymakers who need to think about how they are going to protect and foster pollinator populations that can support the growing need for the services they provide to crops that require pollination,” said David Inouye, professor emeritus of biology at the University of Maryland and a co-author of the research paper.

Globally, a large portion of the total agricultural expansion and increase in pollinator dependence between 1961 and 2016 resulted from increases in large-scale farming of soybean, canola and palm crops for oil.

The researchers expressed concern over the increase in these crops because it indicates a rapid expansion of industrial farming, which is associated with environmentally damaging practices such as large monocultures and pesticide use that threaten pollinators and can undermine productivity.

Particularly vulnerable to potential agricultural instability are Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia, where expansion of pollinator-dependent soybean farms has driven deforestation and replaced rich biodiversity that supports healthy populations of pollinators with large-scale single-crop agriculture (monoculture).

Malaysia and Indonesia face a similar scenario from the expansion of oil palm farming.

“Farmers are growing more crops that require pollination, such as fruits, nuts and oil seeds, because there’s an increasing demand for them and they have a higher market value,” Inouye says.

“This study points out that these current trends are not great for pollinators, and countries that diversify their agricultural crops are going to benefit more than those that expand with only a limited subset of crops.”

In Europe, farmland is contracting as development replaces agriculture, but pollinator-dependent crops are replacing non-pollinator-dependent crops such as rice and wheat (which are wind pollinated).

The study says increasing need for pollination services without parallel increases in diversity puts agricultural stability at risk in places such as Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Austria, Denmark and Finland.

In the U.S., agricultural diversity has not kept pace with expansion of industrial-scale soybean farming.

“This work shows that you really need to look at this issue country by country and region by region to see what’s happening because there are different underlying risks,” Inouye says..

“The bottom line is that if you’re increasing pollinator crops, you also need to diversify crops and implement pollinator-friendly management.”

https://www.beeculture.com/catch-the-buzz-agricultures-increasing-dependence-on-pollination-coupled-with-a-lack-of-crop-diversity-may-threaten-food-security-and-stability/

Empty Calories

Bee Informed.jpg

By Dan Wyns July 2, 2019

Foragers gathering fresh sawdust. Photo: Mike Connor

Foragers gathering fresh sawdust. Photo: Mike Connor

Somewhere early on in a “Beekeeping 101” class you’ll learn that honey bees forage for 4 things: nectar, pollen, propolis, and water. The nectar and pollen become honey and bee bread to provide sustenance. Propolis is used as a structural component and also contributes to colony health through immunological activity. Previous blog posts about propolis here and here provide more information. Water is necessary for a variety of purposes including preparation of brood food and evaporative cooling. So in addition to water, bees need 3 substances produced by plants. But do they collect anything else? Of course they do. If you’ve ever seen open syrup feeding, it’s apparent that the bees will forego the flower visitation part of foraging when a sweet liquid is provided. Bees will also readily gather pollen substitute when bulk fed in powder form. While these nectar and pollen surrogates may not be as attractive or nutritious as the genuine articles they are intended to replicate, they can be important in getting colonies through lean times.

Flowers and their surrogates are what the bees should be getting into, but what are they actually getting into? Some beekeepers have a perception that if bees gather it they must need it, but in my time working in and around bees I’ve seen them get into a lot of different things that probably aren’t great for them. One summer we noticed a propolis traps in a yard were yielding a dark brown, almost black propolis with sharp plastic smell instead of the typical red/orange sweet smelling propolis for the area. When we  sat waiting for the construction worker with the Stop/Go sign to allow us through the roadworks where a new topcoat of asphalt was being applied, we noticed bees collecting road tar to use as propolis. This paper detected petroleum derived molecules that matched the chemistry of local asphalt in propolis from urban colonies, confirming that bees will gather sticky stuff other than plant resins. I’ve also seen bees appearing to collect silicon-based caulking product. I’ve often described the physical role of propolis in the colony as bee-glue or caulking, so seeing one bee resort to gathering our version shouldn’t come as a shock if actual resins aren’t available. Bees gather “real” propolis from a variety of botanical sources depending on geography and climate. Some of the most common propolis sources in temperate climates are members of the genus Populus which includes poplars, aspens, and cottonwoods. For more about the role of propolis in the colony and an overview of botanical sources around the world, check out this article.

It’s not just propolis collection where bees make mistakes, sometimes they get it wrong when seeking pollen too. While building woodware in the shop, I’ve seen bees take a lot of interest in the sawdust from both treated and untreated lumber. I’ve never actually seen a forager pack it onto her corbicula, but beekeepers report bees gathering a variety of powdery materials when pollen is scarce. An early study on pollen foraging noted this tendency,  “During periods of pollen scarcity bees are reported to seek substitutes, such as bran, sawdust, and coal dust, which are of no known value for brood rearing.

Just about any sweet liquid is going to get the attention of honey bees, and I’ve seen them investigate many kinds of sodas and juices. This tendency may be a little unnerving to picnickers, but it isn’t really a problem unless there is a more permanent stationary source of sugary liquid that the bees find. One such case happened when some urban bees in NYC found a bit of runoff syrup from a maraschino cherry factory which was only the beginning of the story.

https://beeinformed.org/2019/07/02/empty-calories/

That Big Rig You're Passing Might Just Be Full of Bees

Jalopnik By Andrew P. Collins June 25, 2019

Illustration: GMG Art Department/Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

Illustration: GMG Art Department/Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

There are still cowboys driving livestock across America in 2019. While most of us are snoozing, they’re rolling up to dark fields with trucks full of creatures that are critical to our nation’s agriculture: thousands and thousands of bees.

“Very few people know that this happens, and it happens as a necessity of the way our agriculture’s done,” Apiarist and filmmaker Peter Nelson explained to me. “I see bee trucks when I’m on the road, but most people don’t recognize them because it looks like a truck with boxes covered by a net.”

Nelson’s new movie The Pollinators is all about the bee industry, its huge role in our food system and the dire situation it’s in today. After months embedded with beekeepers documenting the complicated logistics of hauling bees from one end of the country to another, and years raising bees in his own backyard, he’s become something of an authority on the subject.

After watching his film myself, I have a whole new appreciation for this fascinating biological and economic ecosystem. I will now impart some of this wonder to you, before getting back to the part about trucks filled with bees driving down the highway at night.

Bees: We Fear Them, But We Must Love Them (Or We Starve)

Crops that make some of our favorite foods—almonds, broccoli, blueberries, avocados, apples—all need to be pollinated, and they’re pollinated by bees. But it takes armies of the insects to tend the immense commercial farms that get those foods to grocery stores. Since pollination only happens in certain seasons, it’s not practical for most farmers to stock and feed their own bees year-round. There definitely aren’t enough wild bees to get it done. And that’s why we’ve got a bee industry.

Photo: Peter Nelson ( The Pollinators )

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

Wild and farm-raised bees have slightly different lifestyles, but they have a lot of the same problems. Wild bees have to contend with their feeding grounds being paved and plowed for crops they can’t eat. Bees that work for humans for a living are at risk of being poisoned by pesticides designed to protect the plants that the bees are hired to pollinate. And all of them can succumb to parasitic varroa mites. These are tiny bugs that ride on bees and drink their blood, identified by the USDA as one of a bee’s biggest threats.

The importance of both natural and commercial pollination is well documented, as are the threats to their systems. If you want to dive deeper into the science of the situation, The Center for Biological Diversity’s paper Pollinators In Peril from 2017 might be a good place to start.

More recently, the plight of pollinators is starting to sneak its way into pop culture. Even PornHub is using its platform to make people realize how important bees are. But to truly appreciate what’s happening, you’ve got to wrap your head around the scale and significance of the bee industry.

Why Are We Trucking Bees Around, Exactly?

There are more than 90 million almond trees in California. They need to be pollinated every year, and it takes over 31 billion bees to make that happen.

Since there aren’t enough natural pollinators to take care of today’s commercial crops, just like there’s not enough rain to water them without the help of irrigation, the rental bees are brought in. Those same bees could get booked in every other corner of the country too, pollinating different crops in different seasons.

Photo: Peter Nelson ( The Pollinators )

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

After almond season, the bees might get shipped up to the pacific northwest for apples. Then Massachusetts for cranberries, Maine for blueberries, or, some go to North and South Dakota to relax and focus on making honey, as highlighted by an article in The Conversation that notes many beekeepers are based there.

Nelson told me there are approximately 2,000 beekeepers with “more than 300 hives,” which he also explained was about the threshold from where a hobbyist or sideliner beekeeper becomes a serious commercial player. “The biggest beekeeper in the country is about 100,000 hives,” he added.

And how many bees does that entail? The typical hives Nelson had seen tended to house about 25,0000 bees. But bee colonies expand and contract over the course of a year. An Oregon State University paper cited by GrowOrganic stated that you could have between 10,000 and 60,000 bees living together.

If bees are comfortable, they can multiply fast. A typical worker bee only lives for about 40 days, but population growth can be fast in the right conditions. A queen can lay up to 1,500 eggs a day when the environment is optimized. So a beekeeper renting hives to farmers could be working with many generations of the insects, at the same hive, over the course of a year.

Photo: Peter Nelson ( The Pollinators )

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

Today beekeepers at big scale make most of their money from pollination services, as opposed to 20 years ago, Nelson told me, when honey production was more lucrative. But as farms expanded and natural bee habitats have contracted, the demand for rental bees has gone up.

Pollination fees vary. “Last year ranged from $175 to $225 per hive for almond pollination,” said Nelson. “And that’s the biggest pollination in the country. Honeybees are essential to almonds, so they command a higher price.”

Almond crops need two hives per acre to be pollinated completely, so the dollar figure starts to swell pretty quickly. The Center for Biological Diversity says “more than $3 billion dollars” changes hands for fruit-pollination services in the U.S. every year.

And yet, sometimes commercial beekeeping business relationships are pretty old-school. “a lot of these contracts or agreements are made on a handshake,” Nelson explained. “Dave Hackenberg, [well-known professional beekeeper, credited as the first to raise awareness about colony collapse disorder] he’s been keeping bees my whole life, and he has some of his regular clients that go back 30 years.”

OK, So Here’s How You Haul Bees

Bees are considered livestock, so people charged with moving them are supposed to be comfortable working with animals. Still, transporting bees presents some unique challenges. Like, if you stop on a warm day, your cargo might just buzz away. That, or get trapped in the net covering the truck’s cargo deck, and that’s just a bad day for everybody.

Photo: Peter Nelson ( The Pollinators )

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

If a bee truck crashes, “it’s a mess,” Nelson told me. It happens, and when it does, beekeepers will try to save their wares. If the queen bee stays in the hive, which they normally do, the rest of the bees will buzz back. But the insects can only get back to their hive if it’s in the same place they left it. If a cleanup crew has to move the hives, or replace them, rounding up all the loose bees can be impossible.

Most bee hauling runs don’t end in that kind of disaster, but they are a lot of work. Let’s say a big rig’s worth of bees need to get from Georgia to California early in the year, for the start of the almond season.

Bees are generally loaded up for transportation at nighttime. That’s partially because the cold slows them down, but mainly on account of that geolocation phenomenon I just mentioned. If the bees go to bed in one place and wake up in another, they apparently don’t care, and go about their business pollinating in the new spot. But if you move the hive while the bees are active, they get confused and lost.

Photo: Peter Nelson ( The Pollinators )

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

Before being heaved onto the deck of an empty flatbed trailer, bees are often calmed down with smoke. (Bees: They’re just like us!) The trick is that beekeepers go around their hives with smoke-dispensing canisters to make the insects think there’s a forest fire.

You might imagine that would send them into an apocalyptic panic, but apparently it has the opposite effect. Kind of. The bees gorge themselves on honey, either in preparation for evacuation or just resignation that doomsday is near, and become significantly more docile than they usually are.

Smoke also “blocks pheromones and makes it harder for them to sting,” says Nelson.

With the bees toked out, about 400 to 425 palletized hives can be stacked onto a semi-truck trailer with a forklift. Multiply that by 25,000 bees per hive, and yeah, you could have more than 10,000,000 on a truck easily.

Once the bees are rolling, their humans like to keep them in motion as much as possible during the day since the wind discourages them from going outside. If beekeepers do have to stop, they try to do it at high elevation where it’s cooler and bees will be more motivated to stay indoors. Once again, I am realizing how bee-like my own existence is... I don’t like to leave the house unless the weather’s soft, either. Also, if my house moved I would definitely get lost.

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

Speaking of weather, that’s the last, and most critical, factor bee haulers have to worry about. If it’s too warm, the bees will escape and die. If it’s too cold, the bees will die. If it rains or snows, that presents its own set of problems.

“The thing that they’re all watching is weather... The almond pollination, that’s probably the riskiest one,” Nelson explained, “because a lot of the distances they cover are long. From Florida, Georgia, Alabama, all the way to Central Valley, California. And then also because of the weather that time of year (January and February) is a little more volatile.”

Beekeepers will even pre-run their hauling routes, just like Baja racers, to scout good spots to stop and plan their pacing. “A lot of beekeepers will go these exact routes beforehand,” Nelson added, “so they’ll know places where, ‘OK if you need to pull off, this is a good place, because it has an elevation that’s a little bit higher, so it might be cooler and better for the bees to stay in the hive,’” for example.

A 2018 Agweek article cited Miller Honey Farms Vice President Jason Miller as stating his companies hives “lose about two percent of their bees each time they’re moved,” and also mentioned that bee farmers sometimes have to get creative when it comes to finding places to park the bees in down time. The Miller operation apparently rents potato cellars in Idaho as their bees’ winter home.

Photo: Peter Nelson ( The Pollinators )

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

But even if beekeepers manage to keep their bees alive through the cold months, and get them on-and-off trucks safely, they still have to deal with bee bandits.

Yes, beehive theft is a thing. National Geographic recently reported that $70,000 worth of buzzing gold (bees) was heisted from a California farm. In 2016, somebody made off with $200,000 worth of bees in Canada and similar crimes have happened in England, New Zealand and elsewhere.

In the U.S., California’s Rural Crime Prevention Task Force deals with this kind of thing. “These cases are hard to crack because bees don’t have VIN numbers like cars, and we can’t track them by their DNA,” Detective Isaac Torres of the Task Force is quoted saying in that Nat Geo article. But stolen bees do get found, and the California State Beekeepers Association apparently “offers a $10,000 reward for information resulting in the arrest and conviction of a bee rustler.”

How Do We Befriend The Bees, And Earn Their Trust And Respect?

If you’ve read this far, you’ve got an understanding of how hard bees and their keepers have it. Some even say forcing bees to work for us at all is exploitive and wrong. But short of trying to topple the bee industry, it is possible for people to proactively be part of a pollination solution.

Photo: Peter Nelson ( The Pollinators )

Photo: Peter Nelson (The Pollinators)

“One of things I like to suggest to people is to support their local beekeepers,” Nelson told me when I asked him how I could help the bees. “Buy[ing] honey locally, certainly buy[ing] U.S. honey,” helps our bee economy, but planning a garden that’s pollinator-friendly if you have the space for it, and minimizing the use of pesticides around your house goes a long way too.

Not all pollinating bees are honeybees that can fly five miles or get carted thousands of miles across the country. Some local pollinators might just hang out in your yard.

Making good food choices, as in buying food that’s pollinated sustainably, can be difficult to do. It’s a very positive step in helping the environment, though. And now that you know that, you might have some more research to do. But at least, next time you see a truck with stacks of boxes covered by a net, you’ll know what it’s up to!

For a longer look at the life of bees on the road and the people making a lot of your food happen, you really should try to see The Pollinators movie, which you might be able to catch at a film festival soon.

https://jalopnik.com/that-big-rig-youre-passing-might-be-full-of-bees-1834383949

Guest Speaker: Michele Colopy, Program Director Pollinator Stewardship Council

Join Us this evening, Monday, June 3, 2019 for the
Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association Monthly Meeting!

Guest Speaker
Michele Colopy

Michele Colopy Beekeeper.jpg

Michele Colopy has been the Program Director of the Pollinator Stewardship Council since March 2013. Her father was a beekeeper in southeast Ohio. She keeps honey bees in the city, and has replaced her crabgrass front yard with pesticide-free pollinator flowers for her honey bees and native pollinators.

Michele Colopy.jpg

Ms. Colopy holds a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management/Arts Administration. Her nonprofit experience includes work in the performing arts, housing and homelessness, foreclosure prevention, community development, and health and wellness. She is currently the Treasurer of Ohio State Beekeepers Association.

Pollinator Stewardship Council.jpg

The mission of the Pollinator Stewardship Council, Inc. is to defend managed and native pollinators vital to a sustainable and affordable food supply from the adverse impact of pesticides.

As pollination is required for one-third of the nation’s food supply, we strive to accomplish our mission through the following activities:

  • Affect regulatory processes of pesticide risk assessment, label, and enforcement.

  • Provide advocacy, guidance and tools to document the detrimental effect of pesticides on pollinators.

  • Raise awareness about the adverse impact of pesticides on pollinators critical to the supply of food and the ecosystem.

    http://pollinatorstewardship.org/

Propolis Power-Up: How Beekeepers Can Encourage Resin Deposits For Better Hive Health

Entomology Today By Andrew Porterfield April 16, 2019

Propolis is a pliable, resinous mixture that honey bees (Apis mellifera) create by mixing a variety of plant resins, saliva, and beeswax and which they apply to interior surfaces of their hives, namely at points of comb attachment and to seal up cracks and crevices on the interior side of hive walls. Greater propolis production is connected with improved hive health, and a new study finds a few simple methods beekeepers can employ to stimulate increased propolis production.

Propolis, a mass of plant resins built by honey bees inside their hives, has drawn attention in recent years partly because of its alleged (but as yet unproven) health benefits to humans. But, perhaps more important, it also shows health benefits to bees themselves. Created from resins and other oils and fats collected from trees, propolis helps preserve the structural integrity of a bee hive and protects against

Propolis has also been connected to benefiting honey bee (Apis mellifera) immune systems, saving energy that would otherwise have been used to protect against nest-invading beetles like Aethina tumida or parasites like the Varroa destructor mite, Nosema fungus, and viruses. In the past, some beekeepers have tried to keep their hives “clean” of propolis, believing it impeded with honey-making activities. Today, though, scientists and beekeepers have begun looking at encouraging propolis production to help sustain healthy hives.

In a new study published recently in the Journal of Economic Entomology, three researches—Cynthia Hodges, master beekeeper and co-owner of Hodges Honey Apiaries in Dunwoody, Georgia; Keith Delaplane, Ph.D., entomology professor at the University of Georgia; and Berry Brosi, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental science at Emory University in Atlanta—looked at four different ways to enhance propolis growth in bee hives. The team found that three surface modifications—plastic trap material on the hive wall interior, parallel saw cuts on hive wall interior, and brush-roughened wall interiors—were all equally capable of resulting in increased propolis production, compared to a fourth method, a control, in which the hive wall interiors we left unmodified.

The researchers divided 20 colonies into five apiary sites and randomly applied one of the three texture treatments or control to each colony. Bees in the colonies foraged for propolis resins from plants common to the Appalachian Piedmont in the southeastern U.S., including conifers, oaks, pecan, red maple, yellow poplar, and urban ornamental plants. The researchers then measured extensiveness and depth of propolis deposits in the hives over time.

Their results showed that any hive interior treatment significantly increased propolis deposition compared to a non-treatment control. Sampling over time showed propolis hoarding and accumulation, as well. None of the texture treatments showed significantly different results from each other.

While all treatments resulted in more propolis deposition, the researchers point to the roughened interior of the hive walls as the best method for encouraging deposition. In fact, leaving lumber naturally rough, with no planning or sanding, would provide a simple and effective surface for boosting propolis, they write.

“We come down in favor of roughened or un-planed wood,” says Delaplane, “because, unlike the plastic trap, it will not subtract from the bee space engineered around the walls and combs. What you see in our pictures is the work of a steel brush. Naturally un-planed wood would be much rougher and, I would expect, even better at stimulating propolis deposition.”

Other researchers have shown that propolis development has a strong effect on the members of the bee hive. These other investigations have shown that interior walls painted with propolis extract resulted in colonies with lower bacterial loads and with worker bees that expressed lower levels of immune gene expression. Sustained activation of immune genes comes at an energy cost, which can result in a reduction in brood numbers and pose a threat to overall colony health. Further studies have shown that reduced immune activation (and therefore less energy spent on fighting infection) comes from reduced pathogen loads in high-propolis colonies and not from immune suppression by propolis.

“I don’t know of any beekeepers deliberately encouraging their bees to collect propolis,” says Delaplane, adding that many keepers in the past have tried to clear propolis from their hives. “But today we know that this bias is misdirected. I believe encouraging propolis deposition is one more thing beekeepers can do to partner with biology instead of ignore it.”

https://www.beeculture.com/catch-the-buzz-propolis-power-up-how-beekeepers-can-encourage-resin-deposits-for-better-hive-health/?utm_source=Catch+The+Buzz&utm_campaign=5b74875a68-Catch_The_Buzz_4_29_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0272f190ab-5b74875a68-256252085

https://academic.oup.com/jee/article-abstract/112/2/986/5199372?redirectedFrom=fulltext

Los Angeles Zoo - Spring Fling

LA Zoo 2019 Spring Fling.jpg

Spring Fling

The Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association will be hosting a ‘Honey Tasting’ (like a ‘Wine Tasting’) during the Los Angeles Zoo 2019 Spring Fling. For six weekends beginning Saturday, March 23 through Sunday, April 28, 2019. LACBA members will be on hand offering samples of a variety of local honeys. We’ll also be selling local honey as well as providing education about honey bees and answering questions. We will also have a 30 minute slot every day on the stage next to our Honey Bee Booth to talk about beekeeping. 

LACBA Members Volunteer Sign Up

Different Types of Honey Bees

The Different Types of Honey Bees

Introduction

Honey bees, like all other living things, vary among themselves in traits such as temperament, disease resistance, and productivity. The environment has a large effect on differences among bee colonies (for example, plants in different areas yield different honey crops), but the genetic makeup of a colony can also impact the characteristics that define a particular group. Beekeepers have long known that different genetic stocks have distinctive characteristics, so they have utilized different strains to suit their particular purpose, whether it be pollination, a honey crop, or bee production.

What Is a Bee Stock?

The term “stock” is defined as a loose combination of traits that characterize a particular group of bees. Such groups can be divided by species, race, region, population, or breeding line in a commercial operation. Many of the current “stocks” in the United States can be grouped at one or more of these levels, so the term will be used interchangeably, depending on the particular strain of bees in question.

Wide variation exists within stocks as well as among them. Any generalities about a particular stock should be treated with caution, since there are always exceptions to the rule. Nonetheless, the long and vast experience of beekeepers allows some oversimplifications to be made in order to better understand the different types of bees available. The following is a brief overview of some of the more common commercially available honey bee stocks in the United States.

Comparison of bees and their traits

Comparison of bees and their traits

The Italian Bee

Italian honey bees, of the subspecies Apis mellifera ligustica, were brought to the United States in 1859. They quickly became the favored bee stock in this country and remain so to this day. Known for their extended periods of brood rearing, Italian bees can build colony populations in the spring and maintain them for the entire summer. They are less defensive and less prone to disease than their German counterparts, and they are excellent honey producers. They also are very lightly colored, ranging from a light leather hue to an almost lemon yellow, a trait that is highly coveted by many beekeepers for its aesthetic appeal.

Despite their popularity, Italian bees have some drawbacks. First, because of their prolonged brood rearing, they may consume surplus honey in the hive if supers (removable upper sections where honey is stored) are not removed immediately after the honey flow stops. Second, they are notorious kleptoparasites and frequently rob the honey stores of weaker or dead neighboring colonies. This behavior may pose problems for Italian beekeepers who work their colonies during times of nectar dearth, and it may cause the rapid spread of transmittable diseases among hives.

The German Bee

Honey bees are not native to the New World, although North America has about 4,000 native species of bees. Honey bees were brought to America in the 17thcentury by the early European settlers. These bees were most likely of the subspecies A. m. mellifera, otherwise known as the German or “black” bee. This stock is very dark in color and tends to be very defensive, making bee management more difficult. One of the German bees’ more favorable characteristics is that they are a hardy strain, able to survive long, cold winters in northern climates. However, because of their defensive nature and their susceptibility to many brood diseases (such as American and European foulbrood), this stock lost favor with beekeepers well over a century ago. Although the feral bee population in the United States was once dominated by this strain, newly introduced diseases have nearly wiped out most wild honey bee colonies, making the German bee a rare stock at this time

The Carniolan Bee

The subspecies A. m. carnica, from middle Europe, also has been a favored bee stock in the United States for several reasons. First, their explosive spring buildup enables this race to grow rapidly in population and take advantage of blooms that occur much earlier in the spring, compared to other stocks. Second, they are extremely docile and can be worked with little smoke and protective clothing. Third, they are much less prone to robbing other colonies of honey, lowering disease transmission among colonies. Finally, they are very good builders of wax combs, which can be used for products ranging from candles, to soaps, to cosmetics.

Because of their rapid buildup, however, carniolan bees tend to have a high propensity to swarm (their effort to relieve overcrowding) and, therefore, may leave the beekeeper with a very poor honey crop. This stock requires continued vigilance to prevent the loss of swarms.

The Caucasian Bee

A. m. caucasica is a race of honey bees native to the foothills of the Ural mountains near the Caspian Sea in eastern Europe. This stock was once popular in the United States, but it has declined in regard over the last few decades. Its most notable characteristic is its very long tongue, which enables the bees to forage for nectar from flowers that other bee stocks may not have access to. They tend to be a moderately colored bee and, like the Carniolans, are extremely docile. However, their slow spring buildup keeps them from generating very large honey crops, and they tend to use an excessive amount of propolis—the sticky resin substance sometimes called “bee glue” that is used to seal cracks and joints of bee structures—making their hives diffi- cult to manipulate.

The Buckfast Bee

In the 1920s, honey bee colonies in the British Isles were devastated by acarine disease, which now is suspected to have been the endoparasitic tracheal mite Acarapis woodi. Brother Adams, a monk at Buckfast Abby in Devon, England, was charged with creating a bee stock that could withstand this deadly disease. He traveled the world interviewing beekeepers and learning about different bee strains, and he created a stock of bees, largely from the Italian race, that could thrive in the cold wet conditions of the British Isles, yet produce good honey crops and exhibit good housecleaning and grooming behavior to reduce the prevalence of disease. Bees of this stock are moderately defensive. However, if left unmanaged for one or two generations, they can be among the most fiercely defensive bees of any stock. They also are moderate in spring population buildup, preventing them from taking full advantage of early nectar flows.

The Russian Bee

One of the newer bee stocks in the United States was imported from far-eastern Russia by the US Department of Agriculture’s Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Laboratory in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The researchers’ logic was that these bees from the Primorski region on the Sea of Japan, have coexisted for the last 150 years with the devastating ectoparasite Varroa destructor, a mite that is responsible for severe colony losses around the globe, and they might thrive in the United States. The USDA tested whether this stock had evolved resistance to varroa and found that it had. Numerous studies have shown that bees of this strain have fewer than half the number of mites that are found in standard commercial stocks. The quarantine phase of this project has been complete since 2000, and bees of this strain are available commercially.

Russian bees tend to rear brood only during times of nectar and pollen flows, so brood rearing and colony populations tend to fluctuate with the environment. They also exhibit good housecleaning behavior, resulting in resistance not only to varroa but also to the tracheal mite.

Bees of this stock exhibit some unusual behaviors compared to other strains. For example, they tend to have queen cells present in their colonies almost all the time, whereas most other stocks rear queens only during times of swarming or queen replacement. Russian bees also perform better when not in the presence of other bee strains; research has shown that cross-contamination from susceptible stocks can lessen the varroa resistance of these bees.

Other Notable Stocks

Many other honey bee stocks are worth noting:

The Minnesota Hygienic stock has been selected for its exceptional housecleaning ability, significantly reducing the negative effects of most brood diseases.

The VSH, or the "Varroa Sensitive Hygiene" stock (used to be named the SMR stock, referring to “Suppression of Mite Reproduction”), also was developed by the USDA honey bee lab in Louisiana by artificially selecting commercial stocks for mite resistance. While not an independently viable stock on its own (because of inbreeding), the VSH trait has been incorporated into other genetic stocks so that these stocks may also express this highly desired characteristic.

The Cordovan bee is a type of Italian bee that has a very light yellow color, which is more attractive to many beekeepers.

Numerous hybrid stocks are also available commercially:

The Midnite bee was developed by crossing the Caucasian and Carniolan stocks, hoping to maintain the extreme gentleness of both strains while removing the excessive propolis of the Caucasians and minimizing the swarming propensity of the Carniolans.

The Starline was developed from numerous strains of the Italian stock by Gladstone Cale of the Dadant Bee Company. It was once favored by commercial beekeepers because of its tremendous honey yields, particularly in clover, but the popularity of this stock has declined in recent decades.

The Double Hybrid is a cross of the Midnite and the Starline.

Conclusion

While a tremendous amount of variation remains within and among the different bee stocks, some generalities still can be made. Bee differences can be used to advantage by beekeepers, depending on what traits interest them, so using different stocks can be a powerful tool at the beekeeper’s disposal. There is no “best” strain of bee, as the traits favored by one beekeeper may differ significantly from another’s choice. Thus, it is best for each beekeeper to experience the characteristics of the different bee strains first hand and then form an opinion about which stock best fits his or her situation.

For more information on beekeeping, visit the Beekeeping Notes website.

https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/the-different-types-of-honey-bees

David R. Tarpy
Professor and Extension Apiculturist
Department of Entomology, Campus Box 7613
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-7613
TEL: (919) 515-1660
FAX: (919) 515-7746
EMAIL: david_tarpy@ncsu.edu

Jennifer J. Keller
Apiculture Technician
Department of Entomology, Campus Box 7613
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-7613
TEL: (919) 513-7702
FAX: (919) 515-7746
EMAIL: jennifer_keller@ncsu.edu

NC State Extension
Author David Tarpy,
Professor and Extension Apiculturist
Entomology

LA County Apiary Registration Was Due 1/1/19

This is a reminder that the LA County Apiary Registration was due on January 1, 2019.

Registration in California:

Anyone who keeps bees in California must register with their local County Agricultural Commissioner (CAC) on a yearly basis. At a nominal fee per beekeeper, regardless of the number of colonies or apiaries, it's well worth it. There are many reasons to make sure your bees are "on the books." Your County Agricultural Commissioner can be of assistance in:

  • dealing with neighbors and local regulatory agencies

  • notifications about local pesticide/herbicide applications

  • referrals for swarm captures (experienced beekeepers)

Los Angeles County:
Persons registering their apiary for 2019 must do so before January 1, 2019, or when your apiary first enters the county. A $10.00 fee will be required per owner at the time of registration.

2019 Apiary Registration Form (Print out, fill out, return with appropriate fee. Form is revised yearly.)
2019 Apiary Registration Notification (Contains valuable information.)

Cities within Los Angeles County:
There are over 80 incorporated cities in Los Angeles County. They have different ordinances, regulations, and rules. Make sure you check with the city where you will be keeping your hive(s) to insure you are in compliance.

There’s lots of information re Apiary Registration on our LACBA website:
https://www.losangelescountybeekeepers.com/apiary-registration/
Also see: https://acwm.lacounty.gov/

All the Buzz About Bees - Talking Points Featuring Bill Lewis of Bill's Bees

Bill Lewis, President/Owner of Bill’s Bees and former president of the California State Beekeepers Association and the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association, shares some of his experiences with bees over the last 30-some years.

"It's not something everybody does." ~Bill Lewis

In this fascinating overview, Bill talks about honey bee activity, hive behavior, bee colony collapse, habitat loss, crop pollination, and honey production. 

Bill Lewis Talking Points.jpg


Take a peek at the amazing life that goes on inside a beehive: how bees communicate, get along inside a hive, and who makes the decisions. Learn how bees collect nectar and pollen and bring it back to the hive to make honey, how honey is harvested and preserved. 

When asked about the best ways to behave around bees, Bill's reply:

"Pretend they're not there." 

Beach TV/CSULB Host: David Kelly
California State University/Long Beach

Bill's Bees

It's Tough Being a Bee During the Spring-like Rains

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey    March 14, 2018

It's tough being a bee--especially when you have work to do and the rain won't let you out of your hive.

But when there's a sun break, it's gangbusters.

To put it in alliteration, we spotted a bevy of boisterous bees networking in the nectarine blossoms in between the springlike rains this week. What a treat!

Nectarines are a favorite fruit of California and beyond.  In fact, according to the UC Davis Fruit and Nut Research and Information website, "California leads the nation in production of peach and nectarine (Prunus persica). In 2013, 24,000 acres of California clingstone peaches produced a crop of 368,000 tons of fruit valued at $133,865,000; 22,000 acres of California freestone peaches produced a crop of 280,000 tons valued at $144,418,000. This California crop of 648,000 tons represents 70% of the national peach production. Nectarines on 18,000 acres in the state produced a crop of 150,000 tons with a value of $117,000,000.(USDA 2014),"

Some folks prefer the necatarine over a peach.  A nectarine or "fuzzless" peach tends to have sweeter flesh than the more acidic peach, according to the Fruit and Nut Research and Information website. "The lack of pubescent skin is the result of a recessive gene. Nectarine gained popularity in the 1950's when breeding allowed for firmer flesh and better post-harvest handling and longevity."

The foraging bees don't care whether the blossoms are nectarine or peach.

It's food for the hive. 

A honey bee pollinating a nectarine blossom in Vacaville, CA. Photo: (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)A foraging honey bee takes a liking to a nectarine blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=26607

"Honey Bees Are Superb Beekeepers; They Know What They're Doing."

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley     March 5, 2018

The Honey Bee Credit: Kathy Keatley Garvey"Honey bees are superb beekeepers; they know what they're doing."

So said bee scientist and author Tom Seeley of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., when he keynoted the fourth annual UC Davis Bee Symposium, held March 3 in the UC Davis Conference Center.

"EVERYTHING that colonies do when they are living on their own (not being managed by beekeepers) is done to favor their survival and their reproduction, and thus their success is contribution to the next generation of colonies," Seeley said in his talk on "Darwinian Beekeeping."

"And I mean everything."

 Seeley, the Horace White Professor in Biology, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, where he teaches courses on animal behavior and researches the behavior and social life of honey bees, visually transported the symposium crowd to his research site, the 4200-acre Arnot Teaching and Research Forest owned by Cornell University.

Located about 15 miles from the campus, Arnot Forest is a place where the honey bees live in the wild, that is, they are not managed by beekeepers, Seeley pointed out. They build small nest cavities high in the trees, about 25 feet high, and space their colonies apart by at least 750 meters.  They build drone comb freely, amounting to 15 to 20 percent of the nest cavity. They live as they did millions of years ago.

It's survival by natural selection.

"We can learn from the wild colonies," Seeley said. "I go into the wild areas and track down where bees are living and follow the bees home. It takes me about two days to find a bee tree."

Does the Arnot Forest have Varroa mites, the worldwide parasitic, virus-transferring mite that's considered the No. 1 enemy of beekeepers? A pest that arrived in the New York area around 1994?

Yes, they do. All the colonies in the forest are infested with Varroa mites. And they survive.

Seeley's research shows that before 1978 (pre-Varroa mite), the forest contained 2.8 colonies per square mile. After 2002 (post-Varroa mite), the forest still contained 2.8 colonies per square mile.

Honey bees typify the Charles Darwinian concept of evolution by natural selection, Seeley said. Indeed, "all bees living today are the products of natural selection."

Darwin, who described comb building as "the most wonderful of all (insect) instincts" and Lorenzo L. Langstroth, who invented the movable-frame hive, "both had important insights that can help us with our beekeeping," Seeley related.

"Darwinian beekeeping is allowing the bees to use their own beekeeping skills fully."

However, Darwinian beekeeping or "bee friendly beekeeping" is not for everyone, Seeley emphasized. "It's not for large-scale beekeepers, it's not for urban beekeepers. It is an option for small-scale rural beekeepers who want to avoid chemical treatments and who are satisfied with modest honey crops."

With Darwinian beekeeping, the emphasis is on the "environment of evolutionary adaptedness, "or the original environment in which wild colonies live," Seeley said. "Colonies are genetically adapted to their location."

How can beekeepers practice Darwinian beekeeping?

"Keep bees that are adapted to your location," he said. "Rear queens from your best survivor colonies, OR capture swarms with bait hives in remote locations OR purchase queens from a queen breeder who produces locally adapted queens."

"If the mite level gets high (more than 10 mites per 100 bees), then euthanize the colony; pour warm, soap water into hive at dusk," he said. "This does two things: it eliminates your non-resistant colonies and it avoids producing mite bombs. An alternative to euthanasia of the colony: treat for Varroa and requeen with a queen of resistant stock."

The issues of hive size and proximity are also important. Many modern beekeepers use "multi-storied wooden kits, super-sized like McDonald's," the professor said. "And managed bee hives are often a meter away from one another, as compared to 750 meters in the wild."

Seeley also said it's important "not to disturb colonies in winter: no checking, no stimulative feeding, no pollen patties, etc. Even a brief removal of the lid causes winter cluster to raise its temperature in alarm for several hours."

In his presentation, Seeley touched on nine Darwinian beekeeping tips, summarized here:

1. Keep bees that are adapted to your location 
2. House colonies in small hives and let them swarm 
3. Space colonies as widely as possible 
4. Line hives with propolis collection screens or untreated lumber to allow them to build a "propolis (antimicrobial) shield"  
5. Provide the most resilient (lowest mite count) colonies with 10 to 20 percent drone comb 
6. Keep the nest structure intact 
7. Use a small, bottom entrance
8. Do not disturb colonies in winter 
9. Refrain from treating colonies for Varroa

He lists 20 Darwinian beekeeping tips in his article published in the March 2017 edition of the American Bee Journal. (The article also appears on the Natural Beekeeping Trust website, printed with permission.)

Seely is the author of Honeybee Ecology: A Study of Adaptation in Social Life(1985), The Wisdom of the Hive: the Social Physiology of Honey Bee Colonies (1995), and Honeybee Democracy (2010), all published by Princeton Press.

The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology sponsored the event, which drew a crowd of 250.  Amina Harris, director of the center, coordinated the event.

In introducing the keynote speaker, Professor Neal Williams of the entomology faculty and the faculty co-director of the Honey and Pollination Center board, described Seeley's work as "innovative and insightful. He is truly a gifted author who blends science and philosophy."

"Honey bees are superb beekeepers; they know what they're doing," keynote speaker Tom Seeley tells the fourth annual UC Davis Bee Symposium. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey“EVERYTHING that colonies do when they are living on their own (not being managed by beekeepers) is done to favor their survival and their reproduction, and thus their success is contribution to the next generation of colonies,” Cornell bee scientist Tom Seeley pointed out. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)“Darwinian beekeeping is allowing the bees to use their own beekeeping skills fully,” keynote speaker Tom Seeley says. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)Professor Neal Williams (left) of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, shares a laugh with keynote speaker Tom Seeley of Cornell. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=26525

The 10 Most Amazing Honey Bee Facts Ever

Glory Bee    May 2, 2017

The 10 Most Amazing Honey Bee Facts Ever

You don’t have to be a beekeeper to appreciate the honey bee! This fascinating insect is one of Nature’s most social creatures, and also one of the most unique living organisms on our planet. In the past three decades, honey bees have been dying off. No one is sure of the exact cause for their disappearance. Pesticides, genetically modified crops, parasites and changing climate patterns are all being considered as contributing factors, but more scientific research is needed.

Knowledge is power. The more people learn about the honey bee, the more they will be motivated to take action and protect our pollinators. Here are ten amazing honey bee facts to share with your family and friends to help them truly appreciate the hard-working honey bee. Discover more ways to help honey bees at SAVEtheBEE.org.

HONEY BEE TRIVIA

  1. Honey Bees have 5 eyes- 2 large compound eyes and 3 small simple eyes.
  2. Honey Bee queens lay 1,500 eggs A DAY.
  3. A single bee makes 1/12 teaspoon of honey in its entire lifetime. A typical little 12-ounce honey bear squeeze bottle takes 864 bees to make all the honey that goes inside it.
  4. Bees flap their wings 190 times a second. (That’s over double the 70 times a second the hummingbird flaps its wings)
  5. A honey bee flies 15 miles per hour.
  6. Honey bees keep the inside of their hives at 93 degrees Fahrenheit. (If it’s cold outside, all the bees vibrate their bodies and create body heat to warm up their hive to 93°, and when it’s hot outside, they flap their wings like fans to create a breeze and cool it off.)
  7. Honey bees never sleep!
  8. It takes approximately 1,100 bee stings to be fatal to a healthy adult human.
  9. Honey bees are the ONLY insect that produces food for humans to eat.
  10. Honey bees pollinate approximately 80% of all vegetables, fruit and seed crops in the USA.

    https://glorybee.com/blog/the-10-most-amazing-honey-bee-facts-ever/

The Plants the Help Monarchs Also Help Honey Bees

CATCH THE BUZZ  By Candace Fallon   December 15, 2016

Candace Fallon
Senior Conservation Biologist
Endangered Species Program


Monarchs are in decline across North America. With milkweed loss in the east identified as a major contributing factor to this decline, the national call to action has understandably focused primarily on planting milkweeds, which are the required host plants for monarch caterpillars, and a favorite for honey bees, too. Yet while restoring the millions of milkweed plants that have been lost is certainly an important strategy, monarchs need more than milkweed to support them throughout the year. Adult monarchs need nectar to fuel them during spring migration and breeding and to build up stores of fat which sustain them during fall migration and winter.

There are many sources of information about which species of native milkweeds are best for your region, but information on which nectar plants are best for monarchs has not been available for large areas of the U.S. Working with the Monarch Joint Venture and the National Wildlife Federation, the Xerces Society has created a series of nectar plant lists for the continental U.S. based on a database of nearly 24,000 monarch nectaring observations. Each of the 15 regional guides highlights species that are commercially available, are native to and widely found in the region, and are known to be hardy or relatively easy to grow in a garden setting.

Read more about this project at http://www.xerces.org/blog/to-save-monarchs-we-need-more-than-just-milkweed/  or find a nectar plant guide for your region herehttp://www.xerces.org/monarch-nectar-plants/

These plant lists are works-in-progress and benefit from your help. You can submit additional monarch nectaring observations via our online survey. We are grateful to the many different researchers and monarch enthusiasts across the country who have already contributed to our database – thank you! 

To Save Monarchs We Need More Than Just Milkweed

Xerces Society  By Candace Fallon   December 7, 2016

Candace Fallon
Senior Conservation Biologist
Endangered Species Program

Tall blazing star (Liatris aspera) was the plant with the most records of nectaring 
monarchs of any plant in the database. (Photo: Joshua Mayer/Flickr) 

The message is out: Monarchs are in decline across North America. The loss of milkweed plants due to extensive herbicide use and changes in farming practices, such as the widespread adoption of herbicide-resistant crops, has been identified as a major contributing factor of monarch’s decline in the eastern U.S. Disease, climate change, widespread insecticide use, and loss or degradation of nectar-rich habitat may also be contributing to declines. A memorandum issued by President Obama and subsequent U.S. national strategy to protect monarchs and other pollinators, in addition to a recent petition to list monarchs under the Endangered Species Act, has highlighted their plight and led to a surge of interest in protecting these amazing animals and their phenomenal fall migration.

The national call to action has focused primarily on planting milkweeds, which are the required host plants for monarch caterpillars, a simple and effective way to support monarch conservation. However, it is important to remember that milkweed may not be appropriate in every landscape. For example, we do not recommend planting milkweed in areas such as coastal California, where it did not historically occur.

While restoring the millions of milkweed plants that have been lost is certainly an important strategy, monarchs need more than milkweed to support them throughout the year. Adult monarchs need nectar to fuel them during spring migration and breeding and to build up stores of fat which sustain them during fall migration and winter. Too few nectar plants in the landscape may reduce the number of monarchs that successfully arrive at overwintering sites in the fall.

There are many sources of information about which species of native milkweeds are best for your region (including from the Xerces Society), but information on which nectar plants are best for monarchs has not been available for large areas of the U.S. To address this need, the Xerces Society has created a series of nectar plant lists based on a database of monarch nectaring observations compiled from a wide variety of sources, including published and technical reports, research datasets, and personal communications with monarch researchers, lepidopterists, botanists, and other experts. This database now houses nearly 24,000 reported monarch nectaring observations on 358 native plant species.

Working with the Monarch Joint Venture and the National Wildlife Federation, the Xerces Society used this database to develop monarch nectar plant guides for all regions of the continental U.S.  Each of the 15 guides highlights species that are commercially available, are native to and widely found in the region, and are known to be hardy or relatively easy to grow in a garden setting—although, as with any plant choice, we encourage you to use additional references when making final species determinations for your location. 

 

 Second place in the “Nectar Plant Top 10” went to bearded beggarticks (Bidens aristosa),
which is native in eastern and central North America. It blooms in late summer,
just in time for the monarchs fall migration. (Photo: Dennis Burnette) 

Whenever possible, we included species that were reported by multiple sources or were noted to be exceptional monarch magnets. Each list is also tailored to include only species that bloom during the times of year that monarchs are expected to be in each region. Only native species were included. (These plant lists were compiled using the best available data, but we expect to update them as new information is available. You can help us improve them by submitting your own monarch nectaring observations via our online survey.)

These guides are geared toward gardeners and landscape designers but will also be useful for land managers who are undertaking large-scale monarch restoration projects. And importantly, the plants on these lists will attract not only monarchs but also many other pollinators, from butterflies and moths to bees and hummingbirds.

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Nectar Plant Top 10: The ten flowers in this table are those with the greatest number of recorded observations of nectaring monarchs—but be sure to check the nectar plant list for your region to find out which plants are the best for where you live!

http://www.xerces.org/blog/to-save-monarchs-we-need-more-than-just-milkweed/

You're a Bee. This Is What It Feels Like

 The New York Times    By Joanna Klein   December 2, 2016

A honey bee gathering pollen on a white flower. Dagmar Sporck/EyeEm, via Getty ImagesSet your meetings, phone calls and emails aside, at least for the next several minutes. That’s because today you’re a bee.

It's time to leave your hive, or your underground burrow, and forage for pollen. Pollen is the stuff that flowers use to reproduce. But it’s also essential grub for you, other bees in your hive and your larvae. Once you’ve gathered pollen to take home, you or another bee will mix it with water and flower nectar that other bees have gathered and stored in the hive. But how do you decide which flowers to approach? What draws you in?

In a review published last week in the Journal Functional Ecology, researchers asked: What is a flower like from a bee’s perspective, and what does the pollinator experience as it gathers pollen? And that's why we're talking to you in the second person: to help you understand how bees like you, while hunting for pollen, use all of your senses — taste, touch, smell and more — to decide what to pick up and bring home.

Maybe you're ready to go find some pollen. But do you even know where to look?

Good question. How about an answer?
No, I’m an expert bee. Get me out of this hive.

Honey Bees Matter

The Huffington Post   October 17, 2016


Noah Wilson Rich, PhD founder of The Best Bees Company: "Honey bees are actually even more social than us humans. We need one another. 🐝Thank you to The Huffington Post for the coverage, and thank you to 23pt5 with Sam Champion for the opportunity to discuss bee health. Everyone can help by increasing pollinator habitat (plant flowers) or improving bee populations (get beehives)."