Honey Bee Caste Systems: Part 1 - Honey Bee Genetics

Bee Informed Partnership By Garrett Slater March 19, 2019

I have always been fascinated with queens and workers. In fact, I spent my master’s degree studying the mechanisms that produce queens and workers. I won’t bore you with my master’s thesis, but I did want to write about the fascinating differences between queens and workers. This topic includes a lot of information, so I decided to split this topic into 3 blog installment: 

  • The Genetic Book of Life-The basics to honey bee genetics

  • How genetics and the environment shape honey bee workers and queens

  • The differences between queens and workers 

Honey bees are unique living organisms. Some fascinating traits honey bees possess include: 1) distinct reproductive caste system, i.e. fertile queens that lay the colony’s eggs and sterile workers who forego their own reproduction but help raise their brothers and sisters instead, 2) they have a behavioral division of labor within the worker caste, and 3) they have distinct sexual dimorphism. As most beekeepers know, honey bees include many more interesting characteristics, but I included the three that I am most interested in! While honey bees are quite unique compared to any other animal or living form, the underlying material by which these traits are passed on to future generations is shared with all organic living organisms: Deoxyribonucleic Acid or DNA. DNA carries the genetic material necessary to produce the distinct and fundamental characteristics of honey bees. While all living organisms have DNA, honey bee genetics is unique.

Honey bees have a system of sex determination (male drones versus female queens or workers) known as haplodiploidy. This differs from human sex determination in several ways. With humans, both males and females carry two copies of every chromosome (they are both diploid), one inherited from the father, and one from the mother. Human males result because they have a specific sex chromosome (Y chromosome) that females lack. With honey bees, queen bees carry sperm inside a specialized compartment within her body that she obtained from earlier mating events, and she determines whether or not to fertilize each egg as it is being laid. Males develop from unfertilized eggs, and therefore only carry a single set of chromosomes (Haploid) and females develop from fertilized eggs and possess two copies of each chromosome (Diploid), Females receive DNA from both parents, while males receive DNA from just the mother. Therefore, this is referred to as a Haplodiploid genetic system.

Caste System 1 .jpg

Figure 1: Depicted above is the genetics of honey bee workers and queens. Female workers and queens result from fertilization, which is the act of fusing female queen eggs with male drone sperm. This combination results in a diploid egg and contains chromosomes from both the male drone and the female queen. Unique to honey bees, diploid females can develop into either a queen or worker. This depends upon the nutrition they receive during development.

Caste system 2.jpg

Figure 2: The picture above is the genetics of a laying worker. A laying worker has underdeveloped reproductive traits, so they cannot mate with drones. Because of this, they cannot fertilize eggs and produce female workers or queens. The laying workers can, however, produce unfertilized haploid males. This is a last-ditch effort for the colony to pass along its genetic material to future generations because the colony will not survive.

Caste system 3.jpg

Figure 3: The picture above shows a queen laying drone eggs. Queens can either lay fertilized or unfertilized eggs. This typically depends upon cell size as queens lay unfertilized drone eggs into drone cells. In some situations, queens run out of viable sperm for many different reasons. Queens can only produce unfertilized drone eggs, which can spell doom for a once prosperous colony.  

Figures 1-3 summarize the genetic differences between diploid females and haploid males. In order for females to develop, they need a different genetic recipe from both the mother and father. Diploid males are a great example of how important these different genetic recipes are in sex determination. In certain cases, diploid males can result if they receive identical chromosomes from both the father and mother. This can result from very inbred populations, and results in infertile males.

Queens are the only individuals in the colony that can produce both diploid female workers or queens and also produce haploid males. I will touch on why workers cannot produce diploid females in a later blog, but I describe in some detail in Figures 2-4. Though, workers can lay drones because workers are able to lay unfertilized eggs. Essentially, workers cannot mate or store sperm, so they produce just haploid males.

Honey Bee genetics is fascinating. If you enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it, keep an eye out for the next installment on how genetics and the environment shape honey bee workers and queen. 

Cheers!
Garett Slater
Midwest Tech-Transfer Team
University of Minnesota
Bee Informed Partnership

https://beeinformed.org/2019/03/19/honey-bee-caste-systems-part-1-honey-bee-genetics/

Farm Bill Mostly Neutral On Pollinators. Research Funding Up Or Steady, And Added Sugar Off The Table

Farm Bill.jpg

December 14, 2018

By: R. Thomas (Tom) Van Arsdall
Director of Public Affairs, and
Val Dolcin, President & CEO
The Pollinator Partnership

Tom Van Arsdall from the Pollinator Partnership (P2) has waded through the 807 pages of the Farm Bill now headed to the President’s office for signing. We asked P2 if the bill had any radical changes, good or bad, for pollinators in general compared to the bill passed 5 years ago. Here is the summary of their evaluation.

Summary:
• Reauthorizes Pollinator conservation and research provisions enacted in the 2008 and 2014 farm bill (P2 leading role in each)
• Adds major new, enhanced coordination of honeybee/pollinator research provisions under the USDA Chief Scientist (advocated by AHPA, supported by P2)
o New Honey Bee and Pollinator Research Coordinator established in Office of the Chief Scientist.
o “Implement and coordinate research efforts per recommendation of the Pollinator Health Task Force.”
o Provides specific direction on the scope of research to be conducted and coordinated (SEE legislative language excerpts)
• Adds specialty crop pollinators eligibility to Specialty Crops Research Initiative
• Adds habitat for honey bees and other pollinators under supplemental and alternative crops section
• Does NOT include major provision that was in the Senate-passed farm bill, which essentially would have codified in detail the Pollinator Health Task Force/Strategy implemented pursuant to the Presidential Memorandum on Honey Bee and Pollinator Health.
o In addition to reference to the Pollinator Health Task Force in research language (cited above), the joint statement of managers encourages “the continuation of interagency collaboration and policy development as recommended by the Pollinator Health Task Force.”
o So at least the Presidential Memorandum, National Strategy on Honey Bee and Pollinator Health and the Pollinator Health Task Force remain in effect (no harm done).
• There’s also language clarifying that beekeepers qualify for ELAP, and clarifying what constitutes covered losses.
• While language in the Joint Statement of Managers doesn’t have force of law, it does provide clarification on legislative language decisions, plus intent of the conferees. This can be useful in advocacy efforts during implementation.
• Lots of other provisions in the farm bill can benefit/impact honey bees and other pollinators that were generally encouraging. For example –
o CRP cap will increase from 24 to 27 million acres. However, payment rates will be limited to 85% of rental rates, making CRP less attractive choice.
o Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), to continue, but at reduced funding.
o Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), an additional $185 million provided (FFAR announced last spring $15 million in leveraged funds for pollinator research).

P2 hasn’t had a chance to track down the specific sections of law referenced in the legislative language [sometimes just reference to sections being amended or deleted]. For example, according to news reports, reportedly no more cost-share assistance will be provided to growers for pollinator mixes for CRP (CP-42), largely due to excessive cost. Not able to confirm at this point.

“P2 has been concerned about excessive cost of CP-42 pollinator mix and appreciates conferees’ statements urging USDA to develop more affordable mixes for honey bee and pollinator forage.”
By: R. Thomas (Tom) Van Arsdall, Director of Public Affairs, and
Val Dolcini, President & CEO
The Pollinator Partnership

***************

Other provisions not directly affecting pollinators, but certainly bees and beekeeping, were shared with us by other groups including the following –

Taking a bipartisan approach in the crafting of their measure, The Senate Agriculture Committee included many provisions important to our industry:
• $80 million in funding for all specialty crops under the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) and new prioritization for mechanization projects
§ $25 million annually for citrus greening research through the Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund
§ $4 million annually for a new research initiative focusing on urban agriculture
§ Reauthorization of the Office of Pest Management Policy
§ Full $85 million in funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) with $5 million set aside for multi-state programs to be administered through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)
§ An increase to $50 million in mandatory funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program (FINI)
§ Full funding for trade programs such as the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program (TASC)

The No Added Sugar change was welcomed by the both the beekeeping and maple syrup industries, if not the FDA and AMS sections of the USDA.

The new farm bill prevents maple syrup and honey producers from being required to list their pure products as containing added sugars on their nutrition labels — a plan proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration months ago that producers said was misleading.

The FDA’s goal was to update the Nutrition Facts label on products to educate consumers about the amount of added sugars in foods based on government dietary guidelines. However, no sugar is added to pure maple syrup or honey.
After getting thousands of comments on the draft plan, the FDA acknowledged in June the labeling was confusing and said it would come up with an alternative approach for maple syrup and honey.

“This was a huge mistake by the FDA so we got a common sense outcome to the pretty witless labeling requirement,” maple syrup producers said, echoed by beekeepers everywhere.

The farm bill exempts “any single-ingredient sugar, honey, agave, or syrup” that is packaged and offered for sale as a single-ingredient food from bearing the declaration ‘includes X g Added Sugars” in the nutrition label.

The FDA said in a written statement that it does not comment on pending legislation. It said it was drafting its final guidance, which it anticipates issuing by early next year.

“This guidance will provide a path forward for pure, single-ingredient ‘packaged as such’ products that does not involve the standard ‘added sugars’ declaration on the Nutrition Facts label,” the statement said.

BeeCulture/Catch the Buzz: Farm Bill

National Pollinator Week Is A Time To Celebrate Pollinators And Spread The Word About What You Can Do To Protect Them

Eleven years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.

The Pollinator Partnership is proud to announce that June 18-24, 2018 has been designated National Pollinator Week.

POLLINATOR WEEK WAS INITIATED AND IS MANAGED BY THE POLLINATOR PARTNERSHIP.

FIND EVENTS: http://pollinator.org/pollinator-week

Get Ready for the Mite-A-Thon

Varroa mites are one of the greatest threats to honey bee health, honey production, and pollination services. The Honey Bee Health Coalition has been proud to equip beekeepers with the information, tools, and resources they need to detect, monitor, and manage these destructive mites.

We are proud now to share information about the first ever Mite-A-Thon, supported by the Pollinator Partnership and the many partners listed below.

Read on or click HERE for more information about this exciting event

The first annual Mite-A-Thon will take place Saturday, September 9, to Saturday, September 16, and we invite you to participate!

Local beekeeping clubs and associations are key to making Mite-A-Thon a success!

The Mite-A-Thon is a national effort to collect mite infestation data and to visualize Varroa infestations in honey bee colonies across North America within a one week window.  All beekeepers will be asked to participate, creating a rich distribution of sampling sites in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.  Their Varroa monitoring data will be uploaded to www.mitecheck.com.

OBJECTIVE: 1) Raise awareness about honey bee colony Varroa infestations in North America through effective monitoring methods. 2) Management strategies will be made available for discussion within bee organizations utilizing Mite-A-Thon partner developed information and outreach materials.

PARTICIPANTS: All beekeepers are welcome to participate – we need bee associations to help lead this effort!

PARTICIPANTS: All beekeepers are welcome to participate – we need bee associations to help lead this effort!

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO: 

Encourage your members to participate in September, through meetings, newsletters, emails, social media etc. - http://www.pollinator.org/miteathon

Teach new beekeepers how to monitor for mites in August. http://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/varroa/

Help your members prepare their monitoring materials.

Support your members in making sure they are able to monitor mites effectively and report their data.

DATA COLLECTION: Participants will monitor the level of mites (number of mites per 100 bees) using a standardized protocol utilizing two common methods of assessment (powdered sugar roll or alcohol wash) and then enter data, including location, total number of hives, number of hives tested, local habitat, and the number of Varroa mites counted from each hive. The published information will not identify individual participants.

CONTACT: Miteathon@pollinator.org or 415-362-1137

Learn more and stay up to date at www.pollinator.org/miteathon
Thank you,

The Mite-A-Thon Partners

National Pollinator Week - June 20-26, 2016

 

National Pollinator Week is a time to celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what you can do to protect them.

Nine years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.

The Pollinator Partnership is proud to announce that June 20-26, 2016 has been designated National Pollinator Week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

It's not too early to start thinking about an event at your school, garden, church, store, etc. Pollinators positively affect all our lives, supporting wildlife, healthy watershed and more - let's SAVE and CELEBRATE them!

http://pollinator.org/pollinatorweek/events

2015-2016 Colony Loss & Management Survey is Live! Take The Survey Today!

Catch The Buzz   April 2, 2016

It is April 1st and that can only mean one thing at the Bee Informed Partnership – our National Loss and Management survey is LIVE!  Starting now and continuing until April 30th, your responses from this survey provide invaluable information that helps us obtain a clear picture of honey bee health throughout the country and helps guide best management practices. Thank you for all the beekeepers who, for 10 years now, have taken the time to complete the Colony Loss survey. Additional appreciation goes to those beekeepers who have provided data for our Management survey for the past 5 years. Correlating management practices with colony losses have enabled us to soon release data based management plants for beekeepers in different regions of the country.

Without the aid of the many beekeepers who participate in this survey we would never be able to obtain the results that we have received in the past and hope to continue to receive in the future. Our monofactorial results are found at our website (www.beeinformed.org) and through the years interesting trends are evident. Varroa clearly is a major issue and continues to be a major driver of colony loss – high losses correlated from untreated colonies is a result that has remained consistent from every management survey we have conducted to date. To help us continue this effort, click the link below to take the National Colony Loss and Management Survey for the 2015-2016 season:

Take the Survey Now!

If you would like to take a look at the 2015 – 2016 survey questions before beginning, or to download the survey so that you can take some notes before taking the survey online, click on the link below:

2015 – 2016 National Colony Loss and Management Survey Preview

If the link doesn’t work, go to http://10.selectsurvey.net/beeinformed/TakeSurvey.aspx?SurveyID=BIP2016#

This copy of the survey is meant to serve as an aid to the questions that are being asked on the survey.  It is not meant to be mailed in as a hard copy submission.

Thank you all again and we invite you to take this survey. By doing so, you are helping forward the research started 10 years ago.

Best wishes for healthy colonies in 2016 from the Bee Informed Partnership team!

http://www.beeculture.com/catch-buzz-2015-2016-colony-loss-management-survey-live-take-survey-today/#.VwHYKcPs1Wc.facebook

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.

 

Don't Kill The Caterpillar!

Pollinator Partnership: "Our second sighting of a future monarch butterfly! If you plant it, they will come. Thanks for supporting our monarch habitat research. Find out what you can do: http://bit.ly/1vd2ZmI

Don't Kill the Caterpillar! That striped caterpillar chomping on your milkweed will soon be a beautiful Monarch butterfly. Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed; their caterpillars only eat milkweed plants (Asclepias spp.), and monarch butterflies need milkweed to lay their eggs. With shifting land management practices, we have lost much milkweed from the landscape.

Pollinator Partnership: The Bee Smart School Garden Kit

The Bee Smart™ School Garden Kit supports educators in guiding students in grades 3 - 6 through a discovery process that will increase students’ understanding in science, math, and language arts by connecting them to plants, pollinators, food, and gardens by creating habitat for pollinators. Each Kit has components that can be used at school, at home, and online to maximize the learning experience. Although a diverse groups of schools are using this Kit, included is the California School Standards at the end of each Lesson Plan as a point of reference. There are also recommendations that help connect community resources to the outdoor classroom. Each Kit includes teacher incentives from our partner, Burt’s Bees, to reward teachers for helping students become more bee-conscious. Get yours at www.pollinator.org/beesmart.htm for a $150 donation!

Read more...http://www.pollinator.org/PDFs/NovNewsletter2011FINAL.pdf 
 http://www.pollinator.org/

Pollinator Partnership Helps Fund Honey Bee Research

CATCH THE BUZZ  May 28, 2015

Timely Support from USDA APHIS and Pollinator Partnership Members

There will be a few more busy researchers gearing up for the 2015 season thanks to support from Pollinator Partnership’s (P2) generous donors who have helped generate more than $60,000 for honey bee health issues.  With funding from USDA APHIS…

Read more... http://www.beeculture.com/catch-the-buzz-pollinator-partnership-helps-fund-honey-bee-research/

Nations Beekeepers Lost 40% of Their Bees in 2013-2014

ABJ Extra   May 14, 2015

Summer losses eclipse winter losses for the first time on record

Beekeepers across the United States lost more than 40 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2014 to April 2015, according to the latest results of an annual nationwide survey. While winter loss rates improved slightly compared to last year, summer losses--and consequently, total annual losses--were more severe. Commercial beekeepers were hit particularly hard by the high rate of summer losses, which outstripped winter losses for the first time in five years, stoking concerns over the long-term trend of poor health in honey bee colonies.

The survey, which asks both commercial and small-scale beekeepers to track the health and survival rates of their honey bee colonies, is conducted each year by the Bee Informed Partnership in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America, with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). A summary of the 2014-2015 results is available upon request prior to May 13, 2015; thereafter the results will be added to previous years' results publicly available on the Bee Informed website.

"We traditionally thought of winter losses as a more important indicator of health, because surviving the cold winter months is a crucial test for any bee colony," said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland and project director for the Bee Informed Partnership. "But we now know that summer loss rates are significant too. This is especially so for commercial beekeepers, who are now losing more colonies in the summertime compared to the winter. Years ago, this was unheard of."


Beekeepers who responded to the survey lost a total of 42.1 percent of their colonies over the course of the year. Winter loss rates decreased from 23.7 percent last year to 23.1 percent this year, while summer loss rates increased from 19.8 percent to 27.4 percent.

Among backyard beekeepers (defined as those who manage fewer than 50 colonies), a clear culprit in losses is the varroa mite, a lethal parasite that can easily spread between colonies. Among commercial beekeepers, the causes of the majority of losses are not as clear.

"Backyard beekeepers were more prone to heavy mite infestations, but we believe that is because a majority of them are not taking appropriate steps to control mites," vanEngelsdorp said. "Commercial keepers were particularly prone to summer losses. But they typically take more aggressive action against varroa mites, so there must be other factors at play."

This is the ninth year of the winter loss survey, and the fifth year to include summer and annual losses in addition to winter loss data. More than 6,000 beekeepers from all 50 states responded to this year's survey. All told, these beekeepers are responsible for nearly 15 percent of the nation's estimated 2.74 million managed honey bee colonies.

The survey is part of a larger research effort to understand why honey bee colonies are in such poor health, and what can be done to manage the situation. Colony losses present a financial burden for beekeepers, and can lead to shortages among the many crops that depend on honey bees as pollinators. Some crops, such as almonds, depend entirely on honey bees for pollination. Estimates of the total economic value of honey bee pollination services range between $10 billion and $15 billion annually.

"The winter loss numbers are more hopeful especially combined with the fact that we have not seen much sign of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) for several years, but such high colony losses in the summer and year-round remain very troubling," said Jeffery Pettis, a senior entomologist at U.S. Department of Agriculture and a co-coordinator of the survey. "If beekeepers are going to meet the growing demand for pollination services, researchers need to find better answers to the host of stresses that lead to both winter and summer colony losses."

http://beeinformed.org/2015/05/colony-loss-2014-2015-preliminary-results/

The American Bee Project Makes Land Available

AgWired   By Jamie Johansen   October 20, 2014

The Pollinator Advocate Award, given each year by the Pollinator Partnership and NAPCC, recognizes individuals who have contributed significantly to pollinator protection, conservation, and issue outreach resulting in increased awareness of the importance of pollinators and pollination. The 2014 Pollinator Advocate of the United States Award will be given to Julie Zahniser and The American Bee Project of Ft. Pierce, FL.

Honey bees require proper nutrition gained through a diverse and abundant diet of mixed flowers and crops to be healthy – and they need this sort of food throughout the year. When bees aren’t in pollination contracts beekeepers need to place them in areas of ample, clean (pesticide and chemical-free) forage. Unfortunately these areas are dwindling, and when they are available, they aren’t always available to beekeepers. As with native and wild bees, a lack of habitat is the leading factor impacting the health and viability of honey bees.

The American Bee Project works to solve this problem. Founded by Ft. Pierce, Florida lawyer Julie Zahniser, The American Bee Project seeks legal and legislative ways to increase the habitat that is available to bees. In Florida, where The American Bee Project was born, landowners that lease their land to cattle ranchers, citrus growers and tree farmers see significant tax benefits. Landowners that lease their land to beekeepers, however, didn’t used to see these same benefits, putting bee forage as a second, third, or even last choice in land use decisions. But The American Bee Project is successfully changing that.

Starting in her home state and moving outward, Zahniser is using existing agricultural and tax frameworks to increase feeding opportunities for bees. With uniform standards for agricultural designation in place around the country it will be easier to qualify bees as an agricultural use for the full amount of forage land used by the bees to produce honey and rebuild bee colonies. This is the ultimate goal, one bee yard at a time.

In addition to working the paper trail of local and someday national agricultural laws, the American Bee Project participates in outreach and awareness campaigns that encourage local beekeeping, sustainable agriculture, and advocacy for bee health. As a for-profit service The American Bee Project redirects funds into philanthropic programs that benefit honey bees. This holistic approach using policy and programs, supporting outreach and education, and providing financial support for pollinator conservation efforts, has gained Julie Zahniser and The American Bee Project recognition as the 2014 Pollinator Advocate of the United States.

Read at... http://agwired.com/2014/10/20/pollinator-advocate-of-the-us-award/

Do You Have a Little Land to Spare for the Bee Buffer Project?

Bug Squad Happenings in the insect world    By Kathy Keatley Garvey   September 15, 2014

Do you have a little land to spare, such as a quarter of an acre or up to three acres? For honey bee habitat? 

The Pollinator Partnership, as part of its U.S. Bee Buffer Project, wants to partner with California farmers, ranchers, foresters, and managers and owners to participate in a honey bee forage habitat enhancement effort. It's called the U.S. Bee Buffer Project and the goal is to "borrow" 6000 acres to plant honey bee seed mix.

It will create a foraging habitat of pollen and nectar, essential to honey bee health. And there's no charge for the seed mix.

What a great project to help the beleaguered honey bees!

"Beekeepers struggle to find foraging areas to feed their bees when they are not in a pollination contract," said "idea generator" Kathy Kellison of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, a strong advocate of keeping bees healthy.  "Lack of foraging habitat puts stress on the bees and cropping systems honey bees pollinate. The U.S. Bee Buffer Project will develop a network of honey bee forage habitats in agricultural areas to support honey bee health and our own food systems. We are looking for cooperators with land they are willing to set aside as Bee Buffers."

Kellison points out:

  • Honey bees provide pollination services for 90 crops nationwide.
  • A leading cause for over-winter mortality of honey bee colonies given by beekeepers surveyed is starvation. The nationwide winter loss for 2012/2013 was 31.3 percent.

The requirements, she said, are minimal:

  • Access to an active farm, ranch, forest, easement, set-aside, or landscape
  • Ability to plant 0.25 to 3 acres with the U.S. Bee Buffer seed mix
  • Commitment to keep the Bee Buffer in place
  • Allow beekeepers and researchers on-site

Of course, the benefits to the participants include free seeds and planting information; supplemental pollination of flowering plants; and leadership participation in the beginnings of a nationwide effort to support honey bees. Then there's the potential for enriched soil, reduction in invasive plant species, and enhanced wildlife habitat.

And, we made add, a sense of accomplishment as bees forage on your thriving plants.

Those interested in participating in this nationwide effort and hosting a Bee Buffer, can visit http://www.pollinator.org/beebuffer.htm to fill out a brief eligibility questionnaire. More information is available from Mary Byrne at the Pollinator Partnership at (415) 362-1137 or mb@pollinator.org.

Go, bees!

Read at... http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=15321

The Fall and Rise of the Honeybee

Pollinator Partnership    By Peter Loring Borst    August 12, 2014

By now most people have heard of the “unprecedented losses” of the honey bee; some tabloids have even gone so far as to warn of its impending “extinction.” Are these losses unprecedented? Are these stories even true? It’s pretty hard to make a claim... 

Read more... http://beeinformed.org/2014/08/the-fall-and-rise-of-the-honey-bee/

Pollinator Week 2014 Mobilizes America for Pollinators

The Pollinator Partnership (P2) announced today that its signature initiative, Pollinator Week, has reached significant new milestones in 2014. Established in 2007, Pollinator Week has grown exponentially in scope each year with this year June 16-22 being designated byU.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and 44 governors as a week to celebrate and protect the nation’s pollinating animals (a complete list of State proclamations and events is available at http://pollinator.org/npw_events.htm). Pollinators, like bees, butterflies, birds and other animals, bring us one in every three bites of food, protect our environment. They form the underpinnings of a healthy and sustainable future. From the Louisville Middle School on Main Street, Louisville, CO to the Bee Palooza at Michigan State University; from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville, NC to the 3rd-5th graders at the Citizen Science Nature Camp in Houston, TX – Americans have made pollinator health an issue that they are doing something about!

Joining and supporting this effort are some of the largest businesses and most powerful voices in the country. This year has marked a strong surge in interest in the health of America’s pollinators including First Lady Michelle Obama’s first-ever White House pollinator garden. Pollinator Week marks a new dawn of wise land management across the country and new initiatives launched during Pollinator Week 2014 will multiply the efforts to support pollinators. The following items are just a start:

The Highways BEE Act has been introduced in the Congress by the joint leadership of Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), co-chairs of the Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus (CP2C). Over 200 national, regional, and local organizations and 2,000 American scientists and individuals from all walks of life across the nation have already signed a petition in support. This pollinator action-opportunity continues for all interested organizations, businesses and individuals at http://www.pollinator.org/BEEAct.htm.

Pollinator Week showcases the brand new pollinator poster of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC), Native Orchids Need Their Pollinators. This 2014 poster marks the debuts of pollinator artist Emily Underwood, a scientific illustrator living and working in central California. The poster is available at www.pollinator.org where a new web feature illuminates the intricate interactions between wild orchids and their pollinators, including video footage of orchid pollination.

To kick off Pollinator Week, the Pollinator Partnership teamed with Walgreens, Burt’s Bees, and the Evanston Ecology Center to plant a pollinator garden with volunteers from local schools and gardening groups. The garden, located at the Evanston, Illinois Ecology Center, will be a learning resource for people and a much-needed habitat for local and migratory pollinating species. The nearly quarter acre site will be completed with a second planting later in the summer. The garden has been built with funding from the sales of Burt’s Bees lip balm purchased at the new LEED-certified Walgreens in Evanston which opened in the fall of 2013. For information contact Mark@pollinator.org.

Efforts during Pollinator Week, and indeed year-round, are working to reverse and prevent pollinator declines caused by loss of habitat, disease, pesticides, parasites and other interconnected assaults on pollinator populations. Laurie Davies Adams, Executive Director of P2 said, “It’s appropriate to see the highest levels of government as well as the grassroots individuals and communities taking action for pollinators. We applaud everyone participating in Pollinator Week 2014. It’s a great starting point for actions, large and small, that support the future of our pollinators, our food supply, and our environment.”

ABOUT THE POLLINATOR PARTNERSHIP (P2)

Established in 1997, the Pollinator Partnership is the largest 501(c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to the health, protection, and conservation of all pollinating animals. Pollinator Partnership’s actions for pollinators include education, conservation, restoration, policy, and research. P2’s financial support comes through grants, gifts, memberships and donations from any interested party. P2’s policies are science-based, set by its board of directors, and never influenced by any donor. To make a donation or for information on events during Pollinator Week, visit www.pollinator.org

(This message brought to us by CATCH THE BUZZ: Kim Flottom,  Bee Culture, The Magazine Of American Beekeeping, published by the A.I. Root Company. Twitter.FacebookBee Culture’s Blog.)

National Pollinator Week: June 16-22, 2014

National Pollinator Week starts June 16. Find events and information at http://pollinator.org/pollinator_week_2013.htm

ABOUT THE POLLINATOR PARTNERSHIP 

Established in 1997, the Pollinator Partnership is the largest 501(c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to the health, protection, and conservation of all pollinating animals. For further information on events taking place during Pollinator Week and to download free materials to create your own event, visit www.pollinator.org

Read the Pollinator Week Press Release - Bee and Pollinator Health a Serious Concern and a Priority Pollinator Week Activities Seek to Help

Read the Pollinator Week Press Release - Pollinator-Beneficial Farm Bill Amendment Adopted by House During Pollinator Week
Would Help Ensure Viability of Honey Bees, Native Pollinators and Other Beneficial Insects

Roadside Plantings for Bees and other Pollinators

June 4, 2014

Highways BEE ActH.R. 4790 was introduced by Reps Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and Jeff Denham (R-CA) on May 30 and is strongly supported by the Pollinator Partnership (P2). Hastings and Denham are co-chairs of the Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus (CP2C). Click Here for Additional Background. More information is also provided below the letter.

 POLLINATOR ACTION REQUEST: You can help honey bees, monarch butterflies and other pollinators by signing on to group letterbelow as ORGANIZATION and/or as INDIVIDUAL.

 Deadline ASAP, and by June 16—the first day of National Pollinator Week!

Who Can Sign

Organizations at all levels and types (national, state, local)

Companies

Researchers, other individuals

Forward this Opportunity: To others who may be interested. Spreading the word helps! Can either forward this e-mail, or include this link with your personal note: http://pollinator.org/BEEAct.htm 

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GROUP LETTER IN SUPPORT OF HIGHWAYS BEE ACT

The undersigned support H.R. 4790, the Highways Bettering the Economy and Environment Pollinator Protection Act (Highways BEE Act).

Pollinators, such as honey bees and native pollinators, birds, bats, and butterflies, are essential to healthy ecosystems and are vital partners in American agriculture. Honey bees, monarch butterflies and other native pollinators are suffering drastic population losses, due in part to loss of habitat. 

Highway right-of-ways (ROWs) managed by State Departments of Transportation (State DOTs) represent about 17 million acres of opportunity where significant economic and conservation/environmental benefits can be achieved through integrated vegetation management (IVM) practices, that can—

Significantly reduce mowing and maintenance costs for State DOTs, and

Help create habitat, forage and migratory corridors that will contribute to the health of honey bees, monarch butterflies and other native pollinators, as well as ground nesting birds and other small wildlife.

Neighboring agricultural lands and wildlife ecosystems will benefit through improved pollination services.

The Highways BEE Act directs the Secretary of Transportation to use existing authorities, programs and funding to encourage and facilitate IVM and pollinator habitat efforts by willing State DOTs and other transportation ROWs managers, building on innovative IVM efforts in a growing number of State DOTs.

http://pollinator.org/BEEAct.htm

Let's Watch Bees!

Above USDA Headquarters: Bees are Abuzzing    May 16, 2014

The People's Garden Apiary located on the roof of the Jamie L. Whitten Building at USDA Headquarters in Washington, DC is home to approximately 40,000 Italian honey bees. You can #USDABeeWatch any day of the week by tuning into our live bee cam.

This time of year our hive is bursting with activity! The worker bees that you see are all female and are busy collecting nectar and pollen to convert into honey. Spring time in the Nation's Capital is a major time for honey production by honey bee colonies.

The activities of a colony vary with the seasons. Join the conversation about bees and other pollinators by using hashtag #USDABeeWatch.

About The People's Garden Apiary

The first beehive was installed on Earth Day in 2010 and a second hive was later added in 2011. USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Bee Research Lab in Beltsville, Maryland helps keep these colonies of bees strong and healthy so they can pollinate crops growing in the Headquarters People's Garden and neighboring landscapes. An added bonus is the delicious honey, approximately 18 gallons worth, extracted from the hive since 2010.

The beehives consist of wooden box-like sections stacked on top of each other. Each box (or super) holds 8-10 wooden frames, each containing a thin sheet of wax foundation. The bees build their combs on these foundations.

Honey is stored in the combs in the upper parts of the hive. When the bees have filled the combs in the upper section with honey and covered them with wax caps, the beekeeper takes them away to extract the honey. You can take a virtual tour of the People's Garden ApiaryThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. for a look inside the hive and the fascinating world of beekeeping.

Honey Bees

Bee Hive.Honey bees are not native to the United States. The scientific name for honey bee is Apis mellifera. Since humans first began keeping honey bees, their principal aim has been the harvest of honey. Beekeepers select the appropriate type of honey bee based on temperament, physical characteristics, disease resistance, and productivity.

Italian honey bees were selected for the People's Garden Apiary because they are most often used in commercial beekeeping in the United States. These bees have a relatively gentle disposition and are good honey producers. They are not the most resistant to disease, but they excel in most other areas.

There have been some queen survivorship issues in both of the People's Garden colonies, which actually mirrors what's going on in the rest of the country. Queen health is an issue for everyone who buys queens, commercial or hobbyist. The exact underlying reasons for poor queen survivorship is unknown, but the ARS lab is actively researching this problem.

Why Care About Pollinators?

Pollinators need us and we need pollinators. Honey bees are responsible for pollinating more than 100 crops and one out of every three bites of food Americans eat. These foods give our diet diversity, flavor, and nutrition. Sadly, the number of native bees and domesticated bee populations are declining due to disease, adverse weather and other conditions.

The People's Garden Initiative encourages everyone to take an active role in saving the honey bee and other pollinators by adopting pollinator-friendly land management practices at home and within your local community. Remember: no bees, no honey.

How to Garden for Pollinators

A bee on a group of wildflowers.Increase the number of pollinators in your area by choosing plants that provide essential habitat and food sources for birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, small mammals, and most importantly, bees. Supporting pollinators is not hard to do. Start by following these simple steps to create a pollinator-friendly garden:

 

  • Go Native - plant native plant species
  • Bee Showy - flowers should bloom in your garden throughout the growing season
  • Bee Bountiful - plant big patches of each plant species
  • Bee Diverse - plant a diversity of flowering species that supply an abundance of pollen and nectar
  • Bee Chemical Free - limit or eliminate use of pesticides

Watch this webinar on Pollinators for Your GardenThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. for expert advice on how to create a successful pollinator garden.

How can you find pollinator-friendly native plants for your garden?

The Pollinator Partnership offers 32 different planting guides to improve pollinator habitat, each one tailored to a specific ecoregion in the United States. Each guide is filled with an abundance of native plant and pollinator information. Enter your zip codeThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. to find your ecoregion planting guide and download it for free.

Read more, Learn more, Watch live: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=usdabees

Thanks to The Pollinator Partnership for sharing the link.