'The Pollinators' Opens nationwide in November!

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The Pollinators is going into cinemas nationwide in November!  Woo Hoo!!!

November 6th is a national day of screening in the U.S. for The Pollinators with hundreds of cinema screenings on that day. 
In Canada, the day will be November 11th.  

The Pollinators will be available in cities and towns, big and small from coast to coast in movie theaters.  We’re excited about this new distribution model––it’s cinema screenings by crowd sourcing––Bringing films to the big screen and directly to the people who want to see them.  Watch The Pollinators trailer.  
Demand.Film is distributing The Pollinators theatrically and works with cinema chains and arthouses to book theaters.  You can find or request a screening near you.  Tickets are available on the Demand.Film website and people reserve tickets in advance.  Word is spread within your community and when the ticket reservation threshold is met (usually about 50 seats), the screening is confirmed and the movie screens as a single night event.  Tickets are charged only at that point, so there is no risk to the audience or the theater. 

There is a time limit however.

Reserve your tickets by October 28th so we can lock in the theaters.  If you are interested in going, please reserve your tickets today.  Once a venue is booked, tickets will still be available right up to the actual day of screening.
Because of your interest in the film, we would like to offer a limited time discount code.  Use the code Pollinator10 at purchase. 

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There is also another opportunity for you to help support The Pollinators.
Each screening page has a promoter and that could be you!
It's simple to do, it doesn't cost anything and you will probably meet some very cool people along the way.
Show your support for bees and our food system by sharing and promoting the screening in person and through your social media channels. Use the event to gather your friends and colleagues.
Be The Pollinators "ambeesador" in your community.
Contact us to find out how to put your name on a screening.

Check out The Pollinators website to see the latest updates and be sure to connect with us on social media. Please email us with any questions and feel free to share this with your friends and colleagues.
Many thanks for all your enthusiastic support of The Pollinators.
Best, Peter

New Tool Improves Beekeepers' Overwintering Odds and Bottom Line

PHYS.org By Kim Kaplan, US Department of Agriculture September 18, 2019

Credit: Lilla Frerichs/public domain

Credit: Lilla Frerichs/public domain

A new tool from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) can predict the odds that honey bee colonies overwintered in cold storage will be large enough to rent for almond pollination in February. Identifying which colonies will not be worth spending dollars to overwinter can improve beekeepers' bottom line.

Beekeepers have been losing an average of 30 percent of overwintered colonies for nearly 15 years. It is expensive to overwinter colonies in areas where winter temperatures stay above freezing. So a less expensive practice of overwintering bee colonies in cold storage is becoming popular.

This new tool calculates the probability of a managed honey bee colony surviving the winter based on two measurements: the size of colony and the percent varroa mite infestation in September, according to ARS entomologist Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman, who headed the team. DeGrandi-Hoffman is research leader of the ARS Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona.

By consulting the probability table for the likelihood of a colony having a minimum of six frames of bees—the number required for a colony to be able to fulfill a pollination contract for almond growers come February—beekeepers can decide in September if it is economically worthwhile to overwinter the colony in cold storage.

"The size of a colony in late summer or early fall can be deceiving with respect to its chances of making it through the winter. Even large colonies with more than 12 frames of bees (about 30,000 bees) have less than a 0.5 probability (50 percent chance) of being suitable for almond pollination if they have 5 or more mites per 100 bees in September," DeGrandi-Hoffman said.

Even with this cost-cutting help, the research team found that revenue from pollination contracts by itself is not likely to provide a sustainable income to a beekeeper anymore. They followed 190 honey bee colonies and recorded all costs.

Considerable resources were expended to feed colonies and on varroa mite and pathogen control. Costs were about $200 per colony.

Almond pollination contracts paid an average of $190 per colony in 2019.

One way for beekeepers to remain economically viable as a business, is to produce a honey crop from their bees. This is most often facilitated by moving colonies to the Northern Great Plains where bees can forage for nectar and pollen from a wide variety flowering plants.

"The situation has changed a lot. It is more expensive to manage honey bees with costs to feed colonies when flowers are not available and to control varroa mites. And it is more difficult to find places for honey bee colonies that provide the diverse nutrition they need," said DeGrandi-Hoffman. "Pollination revenue alone is just not adequate for beekeepers to stay in business. But we need beekeepers because managed bees are a lynchpin in agricultural production today."

Successfully using cold storage will help beekeepers' bottom line, but we are really just learning what the best management practices should be with cold storage," she added.


Scientists Create Edible Honey Bee Vaccine To Protect Them From Deadly Diseases

Honey bees pollinate a variety of crops, such as apples and melons.

Honey bees pollinate a variety of crops, such as apples and melons.

FOX News By Madeline Farber December 6, 2018

The first-ever vaccine for insects now exists, thanks to scientists at the University of Helsinki in Finland hoping to save one of the most crucial pollinators in the world: the honey bee.

The vaccine, which is edible, “protects bees from diseases while protecting global food production,” the university said in a news release. The goal, researchers said, is to protect the bees against American foulbrood, “a bacterial disease caused by the spore-forming Paenibacillus larvae ssp. Larvae.”

The disease is the “most widespread and destructive of the bee brood diseases,” the university added.

Bloomberg reported the disease can kill “entire colonies” while its “spores can remain viable for more than 50 years.”

To distribute the vaccine, scientists place a sugar patty in the hive, which the queen then eats over the course of about a week. Once ingested, the pathogens in the patty are then passed into the queen’s eggs, “where they work as inducers for future immune responses,” the university explained in the statement.

The vaccine — which is not yet sold commercially, according to Bloomberg — is also significant because it was once not thought possible to develop a vaccine for insects, as these creatures’ immune systems do not contain antibodies.

"Now we've discovered the mechanism to show that you can actually vaccinate them. You can transfer a signal from one generation to another," Dalial Freitak, a University of Helsinki scientist who worked to create the vaccine, said in a statement.

Honey bees are important to the U.S. crop production, contributing an estimated $20 billion to its value, according to the American Beekeeping Foundation. The species pollinate a variety of crops, including apples, melons, blueberries and cherries — the latter two are “90 percent dependent on honey bee pollination,” according to the foundation.

“One crop, almonds, depends entirely on the honey bee for pollination at bloom time,” the American Beekeeping Foundation added.

The honey bee population in North America has been affected by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) disease, mites and possibly the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, according to the Harvard University Library.

On average, beekeepers in the U.S. lost an estimated 40 percent of their managed honey bee colonies from April 2017 to April 2018, according to Bee Informed, a nationwide collaboration of research efforts to better understand the decline of honeybees.

"We need to help honey bees, absolutely. Even improving their life a little would have a big effect on the global scale. Of course, the honeybees have many other problems as well: pesticides, habitat loss and so on, but diseases come hand in hand with these life-quality problems,” Freitak said.

“If we can help honey bees to be healthier and if we can save even a small part of the bee population with this invention, I think we have done our good deed and saved the world a little bit," Freitak added.

Fox News' Emilie Ikeda contributed to this report.

Related: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-12-06/world-s-first-honey-bee-vaccine-seeks-to-save-dying-pollinators

Beesharing – An Online Network That Combines Beekeeping And Agriculture. A Digital Pollination Brokerb

Catch The Buzz     October 3, 2018

BEEsharing: Using bees to produce more fruit and vegetables. 

Senator Frank Horch, in a conversation with start-up BEEsharing, on bees in fruit and vegetable growing as well as ideas for solutions to worldwide bee mortality.

Bees are good money makers. Honey and other bee products are popular and they sell well. But above all, the pollination performance of bees is of enormous importance. They make a huge difference in the fruit and vegetable industry, as they can enlarge the yields. And it is exactly there where the BEEsharing’s business model of ties in. An online network that combines beekeeping and agriculture. Beekeepers offer bee colonies for pollination, and farmers and growers then buy their services. Consulting, mediation and logistics are handled by BEEsharing. The apiary in Hamburg is currently experiencing a tremendous upswing, now with more than 1,000 beekeepers.

Senator Frank Horch emphasized: “Sharing bees means looking after them. BEEsharing uses the opportunities offered by digitization and combines beekeepers with agricultural partners. A great business idea that also keeps an eye on plant and species diversity. Hamburg needs people who recognize opportunities and push their ideas forward with courage and passion. Startups like these deserve our attention because they create innovation and are the guarantor of tomorrow’s economic successes. We want to support them with good framework conditions.”

Otmar Trenk, CEO and Founder BEEsharing P.A.L.S. GmbH, said: “We are pleased that we have the opportunity to present our young, innovative company to representatives from politics and business and to enter into a pragmatic discourse with them. This discourse is necessary to maintain the competitiveness of beekeeping and agriculture, and to make it a promising endeavour.”

Bees are among the most important farm animals; they play a key role in nature and agriculture. The economic output of beekeeping in Germany is around 1.7 billion euros per year, of which 1.6 billion euros are accounted for by pollination alone. In Hamburg, there are more than 400 horticultural businesses for which bees are indispensable. In order to be able to use these bees in the future as well, a good environment is needed. The numerous beekeepers contribute to this. The developments in Hamburg have been very positive in recent years. The Beekeeper Association Hamburg e. V. currently has more than 1,000 bee friends, while in 2005 there were only about 250 members.



Nasa Soil Moisture Data Advances Global Crop Forecasts, And Can Help Beekeepers Predict Honey Crops, Or No Honey Crop

Bee Culture - Catch the Buzz    June 9, 2018

IMAGE: With data from NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite, researchers can monitor the amount of water in the soils to identify areas prone to droughts or floods. In this map…

Credits: Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory 

Data from the first NASA satellite mission dedicated to measuring the water content of soils is now being used operationally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to monitor global croplands and make commodity forecasts.

The Soil Moisture Active Passive mission, or SMAP, launched in 2015 and has helped map the amount of water in soils worldwide. Now, with tools developed by a team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, SMAP soil moisture data is being incorporated into the Crop Explorer website of the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, which reports on regional droughts, floods and crop forecasts. Crop Explorer is a clearinghouse for global agricultural growing conditions, such as soil moisture, temperature, precipitation, vegetation health and more. “There’s a lot of need for understanding, monitoring, and forecasting crops globally,” said John Bolten, research scientist at Goddard. “SMAP is NASA’s first satellite mission devoted to soil moisture, and this is a very straightforward approach to applying that data.”

Variations in global agricultural productivity have tremendous economic, social and humanitarian consequences. Among the users of this new SMAP data are USDA regional crop analysts who need accurate soil moisture information to better monitor and predict these variations.

“The USDA does crop forecasting activities from a global scale, and one of the main pieces of information for them is the amount of water in the soil,” said Iliana Mladenova, a research scientist at Goddard.

The USDA has used computer models that incorporate precipitation and temperature observations to indirectly calculate soil moisture. This approach, however, is prone to error in areas lacking high-quality, ground-based instrumentation. Now, Mladenova said, the agency is incorporating direct SMAP measurements of soil moisture into Crop Explorer. This allows the agriculture analysts to better predict where there could be too little, or too much, water in the soil to support crops.

These soil moisture conditions, along with tools to analyze the data, are also available on Google Earth Engine. There, researchers, nonprofits, resource managers and others can access the latest data as well as archived information.

“If you have better soil moisture data and information on anomalies, you’ll be able to predict, for example, the occurrence and development of drought,” Mladenova said.

The timing of the information matters as well, she added — if there’s a short dry period early in the season, it might not have an impact on the total crop yield, but if there’s a prolonged dry spell when the grain should be forming, the crop is less likely to recover.

With global coverage every three days, SMAP can provide the Crop Explorer tool with timely updates of the soil moisture conditions that are essential for assessments and forecasts of global crop productivity.

For more than a decade, the USDA Crop Explorer products have incorporated soil moisture data from satellites. It started with the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-E instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite, but that instrument stopped gathering data in late 2011. Soil moisture information from ESA’s (the European Space Agency) Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity mission is also being incorporated into some of the USDA’s products. This new, high quality input from SMAP will help fill critical gaps in soil moisture information.


Higher Temperatures In California Resulting In Early Season Bloom

Bee Culture - Catch The Buzz    By Mel Machado     February 12, 2018

Temperatures in Central Valley have been well above average; that means blooms along the Fresno County Blossom Trail are well ahead of schedule. Everywhere in Fresno county you can start to see blossoms in the orchards; in another week or so many of these trees will be in full bloom.

Apricots, oranges, and peaches are just a few of the valley’s signature crops that start out in this beautiful and delicate way. People from all over the world come to see the blossoms.

But due to the unseasonably warm start to February, the timing of this bloom is multiple week’s ahead of schedule, reported yourcentralvalley.com. On the surface this may not seem like a problem, but Stacie Grote with Simonian Farms says some growers are concerned: “If we were to get a frost in the next few weeks it could devastate the cherry crop.”

Cold temperatures are important during the winter so plants can go dormant, but when an orchard in full bloom is exposed to the cold, it could be an entirely different story. “There is still so much time for the weather to change; storms, frost. It’s not unheard of to have a frost in March. That’s making the farmers a little nervous,” said Grote.


If you have anything at all to do with almond pollination, or simply want to watch and learn about the greatest pollination event in the Universe, tune into the web page below, published by Blue Diamond on a regular basis during the almond season. Mel Machado does a weekly overview of bloom stage and anything else of interest or “need to know” for bees, beekeepers and growers for the entire valley, from north to south, on a weekly basis. It is without doubt the best source of what’s happening available.

http://bluediamondgrowers.com/  Then click on Crop Progress Report

Below is the current release. February 5, 2018

Sonora green tip – Colusa County

Dry conditions have dominated the fall and winter of 2018. Rainfall totals have been running well behind seasonal norms and the wet winter experienced last year. This has presented several difficulties for growers in all areas of the Central Valley. Winter sanitation, the removal and destruction of mummy nuts remaining in the trees after harvest has been particularly hindered by the lack of rainfall. Following the significant losses caused by Navel Orange Worm, NOW, in the 2017 crop, growers have been focused on removing and destroying this prime NOW over-wintering site. However, moisture from rain and fog is required to improve mummy removal and growers have struggled to adequately clean their orchards.

Hives waiting to be moved into orchards – Stanislaus County

Many growers with water available also started irrigating their orchard during December in order to maintain adequate soil moisture levels. While rain in recent weeks has helped, rainfall totals and more importantly, snow pack levels in the Sierra Nevada watershed are far below seasonal norms. Fortunately, storage levels in the state’s reservoirs are in good shape. Growers are hopeful that releases from the reservoir system will provide adequate water for irrigation during the 2018 growing season.

Beekeepers have been moving hives into the orchards for several weeks and will continue to do so until the start of the bloom. One point of concern is the lack of native forage available to support the bees until the start of the bloom. The lack of rain has translated into a lack of weeds in and around the orchards. Flowers from these weed species, including Chickweed and Sheperdspurse normally provide a source of nourishment during the pre-bloom period. However, this year, the lack of early rain means that weeds have germinated later than usual and there is currently very little for bees to forage on prior to the bloom.

Currently, advance examples of the early-blooming Sonora are moving rapidly into the green tip and pink tip stages, driven by the above normal temperatures that have reached into the lower 70’s. As may be seen in the accompanying photo, advanced examples of the early-bloom Sonora are now presenting a few “rogue” flowers. As this report was being prepared Nonpareil and the various California type varieties are also following closely, moving swiftly into the green tip stage.

We are anticipating beginning regular bloom reports on or around Friday, February 9, 2018.

By Mel Machado

Photos by Mel Machado

Winter irrigation – San Joaquin County

Sonora pink tip – San Joaquin County

Lack of native forage – Western Stanislaus County

Dormant Monterey buds – Merced County

Northern Conditions and Bloom Status

Current weather at the National Weather Service

Central Conditions and Bloom Status

Current weather at the National Weather Service

Southern Conditions and Bloom Status

Current weather at the National Weather Service


Pollination Conservation in Cities with Kevin Matteson

Ohio State University     Octoer 18, 2017

Pollinator Conservation in Cities webinar, recorded 10/18/2017 (63m)


Matteson OSU Webinar_2017 PDF handout

Join Ohio State University’s next month's webinar: November 15 at 9AM Eastern/6AM Pacific
Bee City USA & Bee Campus USA: Making the World Safer for Pollinators
Phyllis Stiles, Founder & Director, Bee City USA & Bee Campus USA

For more info: http://u.osu.edu/beelab/

New Study Reveals Flower Color, Fragrance Coordination

Catch The Buzz     By Joe Schwartz    September 15, 2017

This is true for many of the 41 insect-pollinated plant species growing in a Phrygana scrubland habitat on the Greek island of Lesbos. An international research team published their findings Sept. 4 in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

The team investigated the way these plants communicate with a diverse assemblage of insect pollinators in the same community. They discovered a link between the color of the flowers and their fragrance, such that the two characteristics can be regarded, to a surprising extent, as one integrated signal. 

This is the first study to demonstrate color-fragrance integration for an entire plant community.

“This result shocked us because we collected and analyzed the data in a blind and unbiased way, and because previous studies had not even considered the possibility of scent-color coordination,” said Robert Raguso, professor of neurobiology and behavior, who participated in the study.

The flowers use coordinated signals of color and fragrance to attract insects, which acquire pollen during floral visits and ensure pollination of the plants. In turn, the insects benefit by acquiring nectar and pollen as food.

By connecting visual and olfactory channels, the flowers render their signal stronger and more stable under the intense environmental conditions of the Aegean. On windy days, fragrances may dissipate but colors will remain viable floral attractants, whereas fragrance could be the primary attractant when flowers are concealed by the dense vegetation of the Phrygana scrublands.

According to Raguso, it is also likely that many insects learn to associate nectar or pollen meals with specific combinations of color and fragrance.

The researchers constructed a “social network” that illustrated the relationships between the 41 plant species and 351 fragrance compounds identified from the fragrances of these plants. The resulting network consisted of seven smaller modules of chemically similar plants. Surprisingly, nearly all of these modules could be characterized by specific odor-color combinations. 

For example, one module featured red flowers dominated by waxy, long-chain hydrocarbon scents. Another contained plants with purple-pink flowers that emitted distinctive fragrances from a hydrocarbon class (sesquiterpenes) common to salvia, sagebrush and other aromatic herbs.

The plants in these groups are only remotely related, so the common occurrence of fragrances and colors does not reflect common ancestry. Instead, the authors suggest these patterns reflect adaptive compromises between pollinator attraction and other pressures, such as environmental stress and defense against enemies. The biochemical and genetic links between floral pigmentation and scent production remain poorly understood, so it is unclear whether color-odor combinations conserve energy for plants or reflect genetic factors that facilitate their integration.

Beyond the discovery of coordinated floral color and scent, the study raises additional questions and challenges for pollination ecologists. Flower-visiting insects in the Greek community are highly diverse, and can perceive floral stimuli in very different ways.

“Bees are the dominant pollinators in our study site, and they have trichromatic color vision – they see UV, blue, green,” Raguso said. “But butterflies and beetles have divergent visual systems, and can also see in red. We designed our study to account for these different forms of perception and selective pressure.”

The study provides a new direction for research on the interactions between plant signals and animal senses.

“Progress in our field has been hampered by the ways that we study plant-pollinator interactions – focusing only on one spatial scale or one sensory channel,” Raguso said. “With this study, we took a step closer to what I suspect is the reality for most pollinators, which seamlessly integrate across sensory channels as they approach a food item, just as we do.”

The researchers estimate the study will lower the barriers to reaching a more holistic understanding of pollination, by providing a blueprint for how to perform unbiased sensory-ecological analyses in any plant-pollinator community.


Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-017-0298-0

Rewilding Your Land: Blessing of the Bees - Sam Droege - TEDx Washington Square

TEDx Talks     Sam Droege  

Sam Droege shares the magical world of native bee species, helping us understand the threats that face these unique populations and what we as humans can do to live more consciously and in harmony with these critical pollinators. 

SAM DROEGE is an author and biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey. He's an international expert on both birds and pollinator species. Sam has produced many grassroots programs: Bioblitz, Frogwatch USA, Cricket Crawl that enlist volunteers to inventory local flora and fauna. Currently he is developing an inventory and monitoring program for native bees, online identification guides for North American bees at discoverlife.org, and with Jessica Zelt reviving the North American Bird Phenology Program.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx


Bees Face Heavy Pesticide Peril from Drawn-out Sources

Phys.org    By Blaine Friedlander    April 20, 2017

A honeybee collects the pollen from an apple blossom. Credit: Kent Loeffler/ProvidedHoneybees - employed to pollinate crops during the blooming season - encounter danger due to lingering and wandering pesticides, according to an analysis of the bee's own food.

Researchers used 120 pristine honeybee colonies that were placed near 30 apple orchards around New York state. After allowing the bees to forage for several days during the apple flowering period, the scientists examined each hive's "beebread" – the bees' food stores made from gathered pollen – to search for traces of pesticides.

In 17 percent of colonies, the beebread revealed the presence of acutely high levels of pesticide exposure, while 73 percent were found to have chronic exposure.

The new Cornell study was published April 19 in Nature Scientific Reports.

"Our data suggest pesticides are migrating through space and time," said lead author Scott McArt, assistant professor of entomology, who explained that bees may be gathering pollen from nontarget wildflowers, field margins and weeds like dandelions where insecticides seem to linger.

"Surprisingly, there is not much known about the magnitude of risk or mechanisms of pesticide exposure when honeybees are brought in to pollinate major agricultural crops," he said. "Beekeepers are very concerned about pesticides, but there's very little field data. We're trying to fill that gap in knowledge, so there's less mystery and more fact regarding this controversial topic."

More than 60 percent of the found pesticides were attributed to orchards and surrounding farmland that were not sprayed during the apple bloom season, according to the study. McArt said that persistent insecticides aimed at other crops may be surrounding the orchards. In addition, pre-bloom sprays in orchards may accumulate in nearby flowering weeds.

Honeybees create honey in their hive through the topped-out combs, and they keep beebread - their food - in the other combs. Credit: Emma Mullen/Provided"We found risk was attributed to many different types of pesticides. Neonicotinoids were not the whole story, but they were part of the story." he said. "Because neonicotinoids are persistent in the environment and accumulate in pollen and nectar, they are of concern. But one of our major findings is that many other pesticides contribute to risk."

Mass-blooming crops flower in big bursts during the pollination season, so crop producers rent armies of honeybees to supplement the work of wild bees. "There are so many flowers at one given time, often there may not be enough wild bees to perform sufficient pollination services," said McArt.

Crop pollination by insects, particularly bees, can be valued at more than $15 billion annually to the U.S. economy, according to research by Nicholas Calderone, professor emeritus of entomology. Producers and beekeepers are now concerned about the high rates of hive declines – estimated to be about 42 percent in 2014-15 domestically. In New York, the losses are often over 50 percent.

To understand the economics, beekeepers may charge more than $100 per colony for pollination services for apple producers in New York, almond producers in California and blueberry growers in North Carolina. For large farms, several hundred to a thousand pollinating colonies are brought in via large trucks.

Commercial beekeepers sometimes assume they will lose entire colonies, which is why pollination service rates have tripled or quadrupled over the past 15 years, McArt said. He recently shared his research with growers at a New York State Integrated Pest Management meeting, and several farmers said they are interested in altering crop management practices to reduce honeybee injury.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Agriculture and Markets assembled a Pollinator Protection Plan in 2016. Scientists are developing best management practices, reviving pollinator populations, researching and monitoring, and developing outreach and educational programs for beekeepers and producers.

Co-authors on the study, "High Pesticide Risk to Honeybees Despite Low Focal Crop Pollen Collection During Pollination of a Mass Blooming Crop," are lab manager Ashley Fersch; graduate student Nelson Milano; Lauren Truitt '17; and former research associate Katalin Böröczky.


Precision Spray Pollination Would Negate Problems Such As Not Having Enough Honey Bees, Distribution of Pollen-borne Viruses and Insufficient Pollen Distribution

CATCH THE BUZZ      February 2, 2017

WENATCHEE, Wash. — Spray pollination may someday replace bees in orchards, withholding irrigation before cherry harvest doesn’t do much and adding hand pruning to mechanical pruning every other year boosts yields.

That’s what Matthew Whiting, Washington State University plant physiologist, told growers at the Northcentral Washington Stone Fruit Day in Wenatchee on Jan. 17.

Precision spray pollination would negate problems such as not having enough honeybees, distribution of pollen-borne viruses and insufficient pollen distribution, Whiting said.

Pure pollen can be kept alive in a liquid state for two hours without loss of germinability, he said.

“We are pursuing this further. We are using an electrostatic sprayer for 12 to 14 gallons per acre. Electrostatic because the (flower) stigma has a negative charge,” he said.

For years, growers have debated whether withholding irrigation a week or two before harvest yields better cherries. Whiting said two years of studies led him to conclude “it’s a much ado about nothing.”

While recognizing there are many variables — including soil depth and type, genotype of the cultivar and rootstock and types of irrigation systems — Whiting set up trials withholding water from seven to 17 days before harvest and found no effect on bud density, bloom, firmness, cracking, size or quality.

Soil moisture dropped but trees showed no significant stress, he said.

The only potential benefit was a 2 percent increase in soluble solids, mostly sugar, which could be tasted but only with Lapins and not Chelans, he said. In one case, soluble solids increased 10 to 13 percent and firmness dropped about 6 percent, he said.

Mechanical pruning of planar or fruiting-wall style orchards saves labor and can save 20 percent or more in annual production costs and improve worker safety and efficiency, Whiting said.

Powered by tractors, mechanical pruners hedge the sides of trees and top them. There are more ragged cuts and only half as much wood is removed so a good plan is to remove more wood by following mechanical pruning with hand pruning every other year, he said.

Mechanical pruning is 23 to 29 percent faster than hand pruning. Mechanical combined with hand pruning is 66 percent more efficient than hand pruning alone, he said.

Fruit weight is slightly smaller with mechanical pruning but yield is greater because more wood and more buds are left, he said.

Hand pruning cherry trees costs an estimated $741 per acre versus $168 for mechanical only and $590 for a combination, he said.



Bees Knees: A New $4M Effort Aims to Stop the Death Spiral of Honey Bees

The Guardian  By Allison Moodie    December 11, 2016 

General Mills is co-funding a project with the federal government to restore the habitat of pollinators such as bees and butterflies on North American farms

On the 33-acre Prairie Drifter Farm in central Minnesota, farmers Joan and Nick Olson are cultivating more than just organic vegetables. Alongside their seven acres of crops – including tomatoes, cucumbers and onions – they’ve also planted flowering plants, dogwood and elderberry hedgerows to accommodate species of bees and butterflies essential for the health of the crops.

The Olsons are not beekeepers, but they are part of a movement to reconnect sustainable farming to a healthy environment. As part of a 2013 project by Xerces Society, a nonprofit that specializes in wildlife preservation, the Olsons worked with a biologist to figure out what types of flowers and shrubs to plant to attract bees, butterflies and other insects that pollinate plants. With seeds and plants they received from Xerxes, and those bought with federal grants, the couple also planted strips of grasses and flowers to attract beetles, which help to defend the vegetables against pests.

“There’s now a ton of bees – bumblebees, honeybees, sweat bees – and predatory insects,” Joan Olson said, adding that the flowering plants also add beauty to the land. “It’s good for the habitat but it’s also lovely for us.”

The Olsons’ effort is one that General Mills, in partnership with Xerces and the US Department of Agriculture, hopes to replicate in other parts of the country in a new initiative. The company is contributing $2m to an ongoing project by Xerces to restore 100,000 acres of farmland in North America over the next five years. The project, which will receive an additional $2m from the agriculture department, will bring General Mills’ investment in pollinator habitat restoration to $6m since 2011.

“Most of our products contain honey, fruits, vegetables and other ingredients that require pollination,” said Jerry Lynch, chief sustainability officer at General Mills. “So healthy and abundant bee populations are a priority for us.”

Each year, pollinators contribute more than $24bn to the US economy. Honeybees alone are responsible for $15bn of it by boosting the production of fruits, nuts and vegetables. But bee and other pollinator populations such as butterflies have been in decline in recent years, which has made food giants sit up and take notice.

Nearly 30% of American honeybees were lost last winter, according to the department of agriculture. More than aquarter of the 46 bumblebee species in North America are considered at risk. Another study found that up to 40% of pollinators, including bees and butterflies, are in decline worldwide.

“One in three bites of food that we eat comes from a pollinator, as well as nearly three-quarters of the crops that we eat,” said Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society.

Scientists are still investigating what is causing the mass die-off of bees, although they have reasons to believe that pesticides, fungicides, disease and a loss of habitat are all contributing factors. General Mills has been under pressure to protect the bees from exposure to pesticides.

A 2015 study of wild bees showed the wild bee population in major agricultural regions of California, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, west Texas and the southern Mississippi River valley.

Studies show that habitat restoration is an effective way to increase bee and other pollinator populations. Restoration work involves planting flowers and shrubs on marginal land, typically narrow strips and edges that border crop fields. President Obama established a 2014 task force that developed a plan to boost pollinator populations, which committed to restoring 7m acres of land for pollinators over the next five years.

“Restoration boils down to having the right kind of flowers in the places pollinators live, and having a lot of them,” said Andony Melathopoulos, assistant professor in pollinator health extension at Oregon State University.

As part of its restoration initiative, Xerces will hire six conservation specialists to work with the staff from the agriculture department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, which has field offices throughout the country. The conservation service works with local farmers and will refer to Xerces those who want to create a pollinator habitat on their farms. There’s no limit to the type or size of the farms that could participate.

Xerces’s specialists will visit each participating farm to help draw up a plan on what and where to plant and how to minimize the use of pesticides. For instance, California farmers could plant baby blue eyes to attract native bees, or narrowleaf milkweed for monarch butterflies.

“Many farmers are good at growing single crops, but pollinator habitat is about growing diversity, something a lot of farmers haven’t done,” Black said, adding that figuring out a good mixture of plants can be tricky. “Some sites might be wetter, some might be drier or on a slope. There’s a lot that goes into what type of flowers will attract which pollinators on what site.”

There are potential downsides to any habitat restoration effort. Some insects that live in hedgerows are pests that could destroy a farmer’s crops. As part of the program, farmers will learn how to minimize this risk by choosing plants that pests don’t like.

Habitat restoration can also be expensive. Costs vary depending on the amount of work needed to prepare for planting and the types of plants used. The least costly habitat might be around $500 an acre, Black said, but a thriving habitat with a dense amount of flowering plants can set a farmer back $1000 to $2000 an acre.

Hedgerows, which consist of woody plants laid out in a straight line along crop fields, can also be costly, between $5000 and $6000 per mile.

Preparing the soil and planting the flowers and shrubs strategically are also more labor-intensive than many farmers realize. This is what farmers have the hardest time grasping, said Black.

“We live in a society where everything gets done now,” he said. “We tell farmers to take a step back and do this first step right so it works in the long run.”

Xerces will measure the success of the project mainly based on the acres of pollinator habitats created. It’s planted roughly 150,000 acres this year, and about 400,000 acres since it started restoring habitats in 2008. The biologists also plan to walk the fields and record the bee count and species, although Xerces couldn’t say how often this will occur.

Creating a habitat to accommodate a variety of bee species can sometimes be even more important than maintaining a high number of bees, Black said. Each species may prefer visiting different flowers and plants – a mixture of species is good for pollination.

“We also want to make a difference with our small piece of land, and make it a teaching tool for our kids and the community,” Joan Olson said.

Has Chromatography Exposed "Deceptive" Plants?

Chromatography Today    December 2, 2016

A researcher at the University of Bayreuth in Germany has found a fascinating example of plants being deceptive to ensure that they are pollinated — and it is thanks to the help of gas chromatography with electroantennographic (GC-EAD) and mass spectrometry (GC-MS). So, let’s look at the deceptive plants and find out how chromatography helped.

Pollination and insects Pollination is simply the transfer of pollen from the male anther to the female stigma — an essential process in the fertilization of many plants. Some plants are self-pollinating and don’t need a bee or other insect to transfer the pollen. But many plants do need a little help from nature in the form of a pollinator. The most widely known pollinators are bees, and they are also one of the most important pollinators for plants that we use and eat — which is why the decimation of bee colonies is causing so much concern.

To ensure their survival, some plants actively attract pollinators through various methods, not just relying on their attractiveness to the pollinator. For example, some plants send out chemical signals when they need to be pollinated — attracting the right insects at the right time of year. But some plants are not content to let nature take its course and actively practice the dark art of deception to make sure of their survival.

Bees and carnivorous flies

Annemarie Heiduk, a researcher at the University of Bayreuth, has been investigating one plant — Ceropegia sandersonii, Sanderson’s parachute flower — that lures and traps carnivorous flies to make sure it gets pollinated. The flies it lures are Desmometopa — a fly that feeds on honeybees.

The flies don’t hunt the honeybees themselves, — no, they wait for spiders and other insects to kill the honeybees. The flies can detect chemical signals — alarm pheromones that the bees give off as they are attacked. They can then join in the party and feast on the honeybees along with the original predators.
The flies are known as kleptoparasites — animals that steal food from the predators.

Deception and lies with Ceropegia sandersonii

To attract the flies, the parachute flowers release a fragrance that mimics the scent of dying honeybees. Irresistible to the flies, which are attracted to the flower but they find no bees — instead, the flies find themselves imprisoned in the flowers. Because the flowers have nothing to offer the flies, no food or nectar, the flowers are known as ‘deceptive flowers’ and they trap the flies for 24 hours, coating them in pollen, before releasing them. The flies, now hungry, are attracted to other parachute flowers mimicking dying honeybees transferring the pollen and completing the pollination cycle.

Heiduk used GC-MS to analyse the scent of the pollinators and GC-EAD to analyse which scents the flies were attracted to. Gas chromatography is commonly used to analyse fragrances and other aroma samples as discussed in the article, Sample Preparation Options for Aroma Analysis.

See more at: http://www.chromatographytoday.com/news/preparative/33/breaking_news/has_chromatography_exposed_deceptive_plants/41126/#sthash.RzNHIAb0.dpuf

EPA Re-registers Sulfoxaflor for Crop Use, But Restricts Use on Some Crops

CATCH THE BUZZ     October 17, 2016

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 2016 – New measures to protect honey bees and fewer crop uses are included in the latest registration of sulfoxaflor, a Dow AgroSciences insecticide that was canceled last year.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced the registration decision Friday, 13 months after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that EPA lacked sufficient data to show that it was not harmful to honey bees.

EPA canceled the registration in November, but subsequently approved it for use on cotton and sorghum under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, and Rodenticide Act, which allows pesticides to be used to protect crops in “emergency” situations even if the pesticide is not registered for that crop use. It proposed the new registration in May.

The final decision largely tracks that proposal, eliminating some crops that had been included in the previous registration. Those include “indeterminate blooming crops” such as citrus, cotton, soybeans, strawberry, and gourds such as squash and pumpkin.

EPA said it is registering sulfoxaflor, sold under the trade names Transform and Closer, for use “only on crops that are not attractive to pollinators or for crop-production scenarios that minimize or eliminate potential exposure to bees.”

“For those crops that are included and that are bee-attractive, sulfoxaflor will be allowed only post bloom, when bees are not expected to be present, and will not be allowed on any crops grown for seed, including turf,” EPA said. “These restrictions practically eliminate exposure to bees in the field, which reduces the risk below EPA’s level of concern such that no additional data requirements to protect bees are triggered.”

EPA said it also is prohibiting application if wind speeds exceed 10 mph and will require a 12-foot on-field buffer on the down-wind edge to protect bees from spray drift if there is blooming vegetation bordering the treated field. The agency also will prohibit tank mixing of sulfoxaflor with pesticides that have shown evidence of synergistic activity with sulfoxaflor.

  1. A. Van Steenwyk, a research entomologist who commented on the tank-mix proposal for Dow AgroSciences, said that “since sulfoxaflor has a unique mode of action that would limit the development of resistance, I would not expect to see any synergistic effects with sulfoxaflor with any tank mix for the unforeseeable future.”

A list of the crops approved for sulfoxaflor use follows.

Not Bee Attractive:

  • Barley, triticale, wheat
  • Turf grass

Harvested Before Bloom:

  • Brassica leafy vegetables
  • Bulb vegetables
  • Leafy vegetables (non-Brassica) and watercress
  • Leaves of root and tuber vegetables
  • Root and tuber vegetables

Bee Attractive, Applications Allowed Post-Bloom Only:

  • Berries (grape, blueberry, cranberry)
  • Canola
  • Fruiting vegetables (tomato, pepper, eggplant) and okra
  • Pome fruit
  • Ornamentals
  • Potato
  • Stone fruit
  • Succulent and dry beans
  • Tree nuts and pistachio

EPA said it would consider the other uses “at a later date as data become available to support those uses.”

The Center for Biological Diversity said it was disappointed in the decision, calling sulfoxaflor a “dangerous bug-killer” and saying the agency had refused to examine its effects on threatened and endangered species. CBD also called the approval “a step in the right direction because it prohibits the use of sulfoxaflor on certain blooming crops, such as cotton, among other measures.”

In its response to public comments, EPA said that delaying sulfoxaflor’s registration to complete an Endangered Species Act consultation would not be in the public’s or the environment’s best interest because it would divert resources from “evaluating and regulating, where appropriate, what the EPA believes to be more toxic compounds, that . . . pose greater risk to endangered species than does sulfoxaflor.”


Land Use Changes Threaten 40% of U.S. Commercial Bees

BEE CULTURE - CATCH THE BUZZ   By Alan Harman  September 4, 2016

The heart of the American commercial honey bee industry is under threat from land use changes.

A U.S. Geological Survey study says the Northern Great Plains of North and South Dakota – which support more than 40% of U.S. commercial honey bee colonies, are quickly becoming less conducive to commercial beekeeping as a result of land-use changes.

The USGS scientists found that landscape features favored by beekeepers for honey bee colony and apiary locations are decreasing in the region, and crops actively avoided by beekeepers, such as corn and soybeans, are becoming more common in areas with higher apiary density.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says areas that showed high levels of grassland loss and high apiary density are mostly in central and southern North Dakota and the eastern half of South Dakota.

Lead author Clint Otto, a scientist at the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, says insect pollinators are critically important for maintaining global food production and ecosystem health.

The USGS scientists investigated changes in biofuel crop production, including corn and soybeans, and grassland cover surrounding about 18,000 registered commercial apiaries in the Dakotas from 2006-2014.

The results show a continual increase in biofuel crops totaling almost three million acres, around apiaries mainly located in the Prairie Pothole Region of the Dakotas. These crops were avoided by commercial beekeepers when selecting apiary sites in the region.

The researchers say that conversion of pasture, conservation grasslands and bee-friendly cultivated crops to biofuel crops likely impact both managed and wild pollinators because it reduces forage availability and increases the use of chemicals that negatively affect pollinators and their ecosystem services.

“Our study identifies areas within the Northern Great Plains that managers can target for honey bee habitat conservation,” Otto said.

Most of the commercial honey bee colonies that spend the summer in the Dakotas provide pollination services for crops such as almonds, melons, apples and cherries elsewhere in the U.S.

The USGS study says the Northern Great Plains have served as an unofficial refuge for commercial beekeepers because of their abundance of uncultivated pasture and rangelands, and cultivated agricultural crops such as alfalfa, sunflower and canola that provided forage for bees.


With Busy Bees in the Lead, "Pollinator-Friendly" Approach Vital for Healthy Agricultural Ecosystems UN

CATCH THE BUZZ - Bee Culture Magazine    June 6, 2106

A bee does its business in Kenya’s Kerio Valley. Photo: FAO/Dino MartinsAs bellwethers for ecosystem health and biodiversity, bees play a crucial role in agriculture and ending hunger, and “pollinator-friendly” approaches are therefore highly encouraged, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“A world without pollinators would be a world without food diversity – and in the long run, without food security,” José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General, said late last week during a visit to Slovenia’s national beekeepers’ festival.

FAO, as well as some 53 countries, has supported Slovenia in the promotion of declaring May 20 as the World Bee Day at the last regional Conference of Europe.

The technical committees of FAO and the FAO Conference in 2017 would be one of the first concrete actions in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to Mr. Graziano da Silva.

Honey bees, he noted, are the world’s most famous pollinators, a group of species whose members fly, hop and crawl over flowers to allow plants – including those that account for over a third of global food crop production – to reproduce. Their absence, however, would remove a host of nutritious foods from our diets, including squash, strawberries, carrots, apples, almonds, cherries, blueberries and cocoa.

Moreover, ecosystem health and biodiversity also depend on more than 20,000 species of wild bees which have links to specific flowering plants and are more vulnerable to climate change.

“Bees are a sign of well-functioning ecosystems,” said Mr. Graziano da Silva, adding that “to a great extent the decline of pollinators is also a sign of the disruptions that global changes are causing to ecosystems the world over.”

Land-use change, pesticide use, monoculture agriculture and climate change are some facts that have threatened bee populations.

Fostering robust pollinator communities ensures a diversity of environmental homes for them and supports traditional agricultural practices that benefit them, he noted.

“Pollination is one of the most visible ecosystem services that make food production even possible,” said the FAO Director-General.

Improving pollinator density and diversity have direct and positive impact on crop yields. In this regard, the FAO-backed International Pollinators Initiative – knowledge, guidelines and protocols – has been supporting countries in monitoring pollinators and better understand threats, information needs and data gaps since 2000.

Welcoming Slovenia’s leadership in apiculture, Mr. Graziano da Silva also urged all countries to take up “pollinator friendly” approaches towards farming and appreciate the important role of bees and other pollinators, and make their pollinator-friendly choices, he added.

“Without bees, it would be impossible to achieve FAO’s main goal, a world without hunger,” he said.


El Nino Didn't Fix California's Drought

Catch the Buzz   February 27, 2016

California’s drought still remains, and the worst of it is still unchanged from last week. This follows a continuing trend of dry conditions returning to the West Coast. At the beginning of winter, there were high hopes this El Niño, one of the strongest in recorded history, would give California a much needed shot of rain water, something that’s been in short supply for years.

The drought conditions did improve slightly over the course of the rainy season. But now it’s coming to an end, and the drought still lingers. The chances of a last-minute downpour ending the drought in the coming weeks are slim to none.

Long-term forecasts show nothing but dry conditions through at least the first week of March. So it appears we’ll keep talking about California’s drought for some time to come.


A Push to Protect Pollinators

Bug Squad   By Kathy Keatley Garvey   February 26, 2106 

A United Nations' organization today issued a global pollinator health report and the news was not good. 

The two-year global assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) lamented the decline in pollinators due to such human-driven factors  as habitat loss, pesticides, and  malnutrition. These and other culprits, including pests, invasive species and climate change, can mean extinction of many species.

Major news organizations quickly sought input from experts, including...

Read more... 


Decline of Pollinators Poses Threat to World Food Supply, Report Says

The New York Times    By John Schwarts    February 26, 2016

Beekeepers using a smoker to calm colonies before transferring them to another crop near Columbia Falls, Me. Plants that depend on pollination make up 35 percent of global crop production volume with a value of as much as $577 billion a year. Credit Adrees Latif/ReutersThe birds and the bees need help. Also, the butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles and bats. Without an international effort, a new report warns, increasing numbers of species that promote the growth of hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of food each year face extinction.

The first global assessment of the threats to creatures that pollinate the world’s plants was released by a group affiliated with the United Nations on Friday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The summary will be posted online Monday.

Pollinators, including some 20,000 species of wild bees, contribute to the growth of fruit, vegetables and many nuts, as well as flowering plants. Plants that depend on pollination make up 35 percent of global crop production volume with a value of as much as $577 billion a year. The agricultural system, for which pollinators play a key role, creates millions of jobs worldwide.

Many pollinator species are threatened with extinction, including some 16 percent of vertebrates like birds and bats, according to the document. Hummingbirds and some 2,000 avian species that feed on nectar spread pollen as they move from flower to flower. Extinction risk for insects is not as well defined, the report notes, but it warned of “high levels of threat” for some bees and butterflies, with at least 9 percent of bee and butterfly species at risk.

A bee collecting nectar in Bangkok. Pollinators, including some 20,000 species of wild bees, contribute to the growth of fruit, vegetables and many nuts. Credit Barbara Walton/European Pressphoto Agency

The causes of the pressure on these creatures intertwine: aggressive agricultural practices that grow crops on every available acre eliminate patches of wildflowers and cover crops that provide food for pollinators. Farming also exposes the creatures to pesticides, and bees are under attack from parasites and pathogens, as well.

Climate change has an effect, as well, especially in the case of bumblebees in North America and Europe, said Sir Robert Watson, vice chairman of the group and director of strategic development at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia.

A warming world changes the territories of plants and pollinators, and changes the plants’ time of flowering, as well, leading to a troubling question, posed by Dr. Watson: “Will the pollinators be there when the flowers need them?”

The group issuing the report, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, is made up of 124 countries, including the United States, and was formed through the United Nations in 2012. It resembles in some ways the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with a focus on providing analysis and policy proposals to promote biodiversity.

The group did not conduct new research, but synthesized current studies and analysis to reach its conclusions.

The assessment, developed with the help of 80 experts, does not take a conclusive position on two issues that environmental activists have focused on intensely.

The report states that the contribution of controversial chemicals known as neonicotinoids “is currently unresolved.” Recent research suggests that even when the pesticides are present at levels that do not have lethal effects on individual insects, concentrations in the hive may have long-term effects on colonies of wild and managed bees.