New Video Series: Planting Flowering Habitat for Bees

Integrated Crop Pollination Project    March 13, 2017

Many specialty crop growers are looking to incorporate pollinator habitat plantings on their farms to support bees, crop pollination, and yields. A new video series produced by the Integrated Crop Pollination Project will guide farmers through the process of establishing new flowering habitat for bees, from selecting and preparing a good site to seeding and maintaining a successful, diverse, weed-free stand of wildflowers.

The first video in the series, “Pollinator Habitat 101,” provides background information on bee habitat requirements and highlights different options for integrating flowering plants on farms, including field border plantings, riparian buffers, filter strips, and flowering cover crops.

The second video in the series, “Five Steps to Success for Establishing Perennial Wildflower Plantings for Pollinators,” goes into more detail on the step-by-step process for establishing a bloom-rich, long-lived perennial wildflower strip or meadow. The video emphasizes the need for careful weed eradication before and after seeding to control highly competitive weed species and allow the native wildflower seeds to germinate and persist.

Future videos in this series will include more detailed overviews of different site preparation and seeding techniques. Visit the Integrated Crop Pollination Project’s Youtube page for playlists of videos about bees, pollination, and pollinator habitat. To learn more about planting wildflowers to support crop pollinators and other strategies to support bees and the pollination they provide, visit http://www.projecticp.org.

This research is supported by the USDA-NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative Coordinated Agricultural Project (Award #2012-51181-20105). These videos were produced on behalf of the Integrated Crop Pollination Project by Emily May and Katharina Ullmann (The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation).

http://icpbees.org/new-video-series-planting-flowering-habitat-for-bees/

 

Spatial and Taxonomic Patterns of Honey Bee Foraging: A Choice Test Between Urban and Agricultural Landscapes (Journal of Urban Ecology)

Ohio State University  By Denise Ellsworth   February 16, 2017

The health of honey bee colonies cannot be understood apart from the landscapes in which they live. Urban and agricultural developments are two of the most dramatic and widespread forms of human land use, but their respective effects on honey bees remain poorly understood. Here, we evaluate the relative attractiveness of urban and agricultural land use to honey bees by conducting a foraging choice test. Our study was conducted in the summer and fall, capturing a key portion of the honey bee foraging season that includes both the shift from summer- to fall-blooming flora and the critical period of pre-winter food accumulation. Colonies located at an apiary on the border of urban and agricultural landscapes were allowed to forage freely, and we observed their spatial and taxonomic foraging patterns using a combination of dance language analysis and pollen identification. We found a consistent spatial bias in favor of the agricultural landscape over the urban, a pattern that was corroborated by the prevalence in pollen samples of adventitious taxa common in the agricultural landscape. The strongest bias toward the agricultural environment occurred late in the foraging season, when goldenrod became the principal floral resource. We conclude that, in our study region, the primary honey bee foraging resources are more abundant in agricultural than in urban landscapes, a pattern that is especially marked at the end of the foraging season as colonies prepare to overwinter. Urban beekeepers in this region should, therefore, consider supplemental feeding when summer-blooming flora begin to decline. (Full paper here.)

Douglas B. Sponsler, Emma G. Matcham, Chia-Hua Lin, Jessie L. Lanterman, Reed M. Johnson

https://u.osu.edu/thebuzz/2017/02/16/spatial-and-taxonomic-patterns-of-honey-bee-foraging-a-choice-test-between-urban-and-agricultural-landscapes-journal-of-urban-ecology/

2017 Spring Pollen and Nectar Source: Pussy Willow

Bee Informed Partnership     By Rob Snyder     February 14, 2017

As spring approaches and the days grow longer, more plants are starting to bloom, including pussy willows. These plants usually bloom here in Northern California between February and March. There are several species of this plant but Salix discolor is the most commonly found. I usually find these trees near water though they are also used as ornamental plantings. There is a tree in the image below in bloom.

Willow starting to bloom.

Once you get closer to the trees, you can start to see the catkins, which are unique on this plant as opposed to the alders which are also in bloom now (For more information see Ben’s Blog from last week). There are two pictures below showing the difference between the two catkins. Here you can see the anthers of the pussy willow which don’t appear to have much powdery pollen on them because of the rain and wind. The dioecious trees produce both nectar and pollen, only the male produces pollen. They can produce a considerable amount of nectar but usually it is too cold for the bees to really work the plants. I’ve read that they can produce 100-150 lbs. of nectar and 1500 lbs. of pollen per acre, but have not seen this in any operations. The pollen has 20-25% crude protein, about average in blooming plants, but helps when nothing else is really blooming at the time..

Alder Catkins

Pussy Willow Catkin.

A compelling point about the pussy willows is that they are easy to propagate; you can cut off new growth and place it in water for several weeks until roots are visible and then the cutting is now ready to plant. I have not tried this, but I would think rooting hormone would speed up the process. I may attempt to propagate some this spring. I will post photos if everything works out

 https://beeinformed.org/2017/02/14/2017-spring-pollen-and-nectar-source-pussy-willow/

The Plants the Help Monarchs Also Help Honey Bees

CATCH THE BUZZ  By Candace Fallon   December 15, 2016

Candace Fallon
Senior Conservation Biologist
Endangered Species Program


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

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

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

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

Bees' Ability to Forage Decreases as Air Pollution Increases

Science Daily   From Penn State    July 6, 2016

Bee and flower (stock image). Credit: © sumikophoto / FotoliaAir pollutants interact with and break down plant-emitted scent molecules, which insect pollinators use to locate needed food, according to a team of researchers led by Penn State. The pollution-modified plant odors can confuse bees and, as a result, bees' foraging time increases and pollination efficiency decreases. This happens because the chemical interactions decrease both the scent molecules' life spans and the distances they travel.

While foraging for food, insects detect floral scent molecules in the air. Wind currents can carry these molecules up to thousands of feet from their original source to where bees have their hives.

"Many insects have nests that are up to 3,000 feet away from their food source, which means that scents need to travel long distances before insects can detect them," said Jose D. Fuentes, professor of meteorology and atmospheric science, Penn State. "Each insect has a detection threshold for certain kinds of scents and they find food by moving from areas of low concentrations of scents to areas of high concentrations."

Plant-emitted hydrocarbons break down through chemical interactions with certain air pollutants such as ozone. This breakdown process results in the creation of more air pollutants, including hydroxyl and nitrate radicals, which further increase the breakdown rate of plant odors.

The researchers sought to understand how these chemical interactions, which start with the presence of air pollutants, would impact bees' ability to find food. They first estimated the changes in concentrations of flower scents as a result of air turbulence and chemical interactions using a computer simulation, which allowed them to track the concentration and movement of multiple plumes of scents from different flower beds over time. Then, the researchers ran 90,000 simulations representing various bees' foraging and movement patterns amid differing scent levels modified by air pollution and diluted by wind speeds.

The team reported in the current issue of Atmospheric Environment that, as air pollution increases, hydrocarbons' lifetime and travel distance decreases. For example, at 60 parts per billion ozone levels, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers a 'moderate' level, the researchers found that enough chemical changes took place to thoroughly confuse bees and hinder their ability to identify the plumes of floral scents they needed to locate food.

The scent molecule alpha-pinene, which survives nearly 40 hours in an ozone-free environment, survived fewer than 10 hours when ozone rose to 60 parts per billion and only 1 hour when ozone was at 120 parts per billion. Another molecule, beta-myrcene, which travels more than 3,000 feet in an ozone-free, windy environment, traveled an average of 1,500 feet when ozone was 60 parts per billion and, when ozone rose to 120 parts per billion, most traveled fewer than 1,000 feet.

The changes in air chemistry impacted the number of bees able to detect food sources in a given time frame. In an ozone-free environment, it took 10 minutes for 20 percent of foragers to find the scent molecule beta-caryophyllene. When ozone rose to only 20 parts per billion, it took 180 minutes for the same amount of bees to find the scent. The team found similar results for the six different scent molecules they analyzed.

"We found that when we confused the bees' environment by modifying the gases present in the atmosphere, they spent more time foraging and would bring back less food, which would affect their colonies," said Fuentes. "It's similar to being asked to get a cup of coffee at the nearest cafeteria while you are blindfolded. It will be hard to locate the coffee shop without using visual cues. The same could happen to insect pollinators while foraging for food in polluted air masses."

Because the concentration of scents changes drastically in air polluted environments, this could impact important interactions between plants and insects.

"There are two types of pollinators, generalists and specialists," said Fuentes. "Generalists can detect a mixture of scents, while specialists can only detect one type of scent. This means that as certain scents decrease their travel distance and life span, specialists and generalists may both have trouble finding food."

Declines in the pollination of wild plants may lead to increases in the population of plants that do not rely on pollinators, and pollinator declines would lead to decreases in crop yields, Fuentes noted.

These findings highlight that air pollution is one of many factors influencing the decline of the bee population.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, managed honeybee populations in the U.S. have declined between 25 and 45 percent per year since 2010, including a 44 percent decline from 2015 to 2016.

"Honeybees and other pollinators are in trouble almost everywhere, and they pay us a lot of services through their pollination," said Fuentes. "The more we can understand about what factors are affecting their decline in numbers, the more equipped we will be to intervene if needed."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160706131924.htm#.V3552piPfyg.facebook

Increasing pollinator numbers and diversity a possible way to increase crop yields

Phys.org    By Bob Yirka  January 22, 2016   

Apis mellifera on Phacelia tanacetifolia. Flower strips along crop fields attract pollinators and can increase the number of pollinators in the focal crop. Here, a honey bee is seen approaching a lacy phacelia in bloom, a highly attractive plant to bees (note the blue pollen baskets on the hind legs). This material relates to a paper that appeared in the 22 January 2016, issue of Science, published by AAAS. The paper, by Lucas Alejandro Garibaldi at Instituto de Investigaciones en Recursos Naturales, Agroecología y Desarrollo Rural (IRNAD) in Río Negro, Argentina, and colleagues was titled, "Mutually beneficial pollinator diversity and crop yield outcomes in small and large farms." Credit: Sondre Dahle

A large team of researchers with members from across the globe has found that small farms with higher densities of pollinators produce more food than those with lower densities—for larger farms, the difference in yield was more closely related to pollinator diversity. In their paper published in the journal Science, the team describes their study and analysis of multiple farms in Asia, South America and Africa over a five year period and what they learned about ways to increase crop yields in the years ahead.

Some scientists have predicted that the amount of food grown will have to double by 2050 to keep up with a growing world population, and one way to do that, the  with this new effort contend, is by narrowing or closing the  gap (the difference in yield between the most productive  and the least). One way to do that, they believe, is by increasing the number of pollinators on small (less than 2 hectares) farms and increasing diversity on larger farms.

The researchers came to this conclusion by conducting a five year study of 344 farms of all sizes, looking at 33 crops in particular, all of which need pollinators to bear fruit. The team monitored pollinator visits for each field counting numbers of pollinators broken down by species to allow for calculating diversity. In analyzing the data that was collected, the researchers found that the yield gap on small farms was approximately 47 percent and that there were far fewer pollinators visiting lower yield farms than the higher yield ones, suggesting that increasing pollinator numbers on less productive farms would likely bump up yields. The researchers note this is important because approximately 2 billion people around the world rely on food from such small farms. With larger farms, the story was different, rather than pollinator density making a difference, it was diversity—farms with a higher degree of different pollinators, such as bees, beetles, wasps, butterflies, etc. had higher yields. This suggests of course that lower yield producing large farms could bump their yields simply by attracting more different kinds of pollinators.

The researchers suggest that farms of any size could attract more pollinators by planting strips of plants, such as flowers, close to crops that are very attractive to pollinators or by changing pesticide application patterns to minimize exposure to .

    Explore further: Pollinator decline not reducing crop yields just yet

More information: L. A. Garibaldi et al. Mutually beneficial pollinator diversity and crop yield outcomes in small and large farms, Science (2016). DOI: 10.1126/science.aac7287

Abstract 
Ecological intensification, or the improvement of crop yield through enhancement of biodiversity, may be a sustainable pathway toward greater food supplies. Such sustainable increases may be especially important for the 2 billion people reliant on small farms, many of which are undernourished, yet we know little about the efficacy of this approach. Using a coordinated protocol across regions and crops, we quantify to what degree enhancing pollinator density and richness can improve yields on 344 fields from 33 pollinator-dependent crop systems in small and large farms from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. For fields less than 2 hectares, we found that yield gaps could be closed by a median of 24% through higher flower-visitor density. For larger fields, such benefits only occurred at high flower-visitor richness. Worldwide, our study demonstrates that ecological intensification can create synchronous biodiversity and yield outcomes.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-01-pollinator-diversity-crop-yields.html#jCp

Bee Behavior Tracked by Tiny Tracker

BBC News   By Zoe Kleinman   March 24, 2015

A tiny new tracker designed to monitor bee behaviour is being tested by ecologists at Kew Gardens in London.

It is made from off-the-shelf technology and is based on equipment used to track pallets in warehouses, said its creator Dr Mark O'Neill.

Readers, used to pick up a signal from the kit, are connected to Raspberry Pi computers, which log the readings.

The device has a reach of up to 2.5m (8.2ft). Previously used models were restricted to 1cm (0.4in).

The tracker consists of a standard RFID (radio frequency identification) chip and a specially designed aerial, which Dr O'Neill has created to be thinner and lighter than other models used to track small insects, allowing him to boost the range.

The engineer, who is technical director at the Newcastle-based tech firm Tumbling Dice, is currently trying to patent the invention.

"The first stage was to make very raw pre-production tags using components I could easily buy", he said.

"I want to make optimised aerial components which would be a lot smaller."

"I've made about 50 so far. I've soldered them all on my desk - it feels like surgery."

The average "forage time" for a worker bee is around 20 minutes, suggesting they have a forage range of around 1km (0.6 miles) , Dr O'Neill explained.

The idea is to have readers dotted around a hive and flower patch in order to track the signals as the bees move around freely in the wild.

Chilled bees

The tiny trackers, which are just 8mm (0.3in) high and 4.8mm (1.9in) wide, are stuck to the bees with superglue in a process which takes five to 10 minutes. The bees are chilled first to make them more docile.

"They make a hell of a noise," acknowledged Dr O'Neill.

He told the BBC he hoped that the trackers - which weigh less than a bee and are attached at their centre of gravity so as not to affect their flight - would remain attached for their three-month expected lifespan.

The bees are chilled before the trackers are attached.

They have only been fitted to worker bees, which do not mate.

"If an animal ate one, I guess it would have a tracker in its stomach," Dr O'Neill said.

"But the attrition rate for field worker bees is very low. Most die of old age - they are very competent, and good at getting out of the way."

Dr Sarah Barlow, a restoration ecologist from Kew Gardens, was involved in testing the as-yet unnamed trackers.

"These tags are a big step forward in radio technology and no one has a decent medium to long range tag yet that is suitable for flying on small insects," she said.

"This new technology will open up possibilities for scientists to track bees in the landscape.

"This piece of the puzzle, of bee behaviour, is absolutely vital if we are to understand better why our bees are struggling and how we can reverse their decline."

Read at: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-32033766

"Stressed" Young Bees Could Be the Cause of Colony Collapse

ABJ Extra - News   February 10, 2015

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a major threat to bee colonies around the world and affects their ability to perform vital human food crop pollination. It has been a cause of urgent concern for scientists and farmers around the world for at least a decade but a specific cause for the phenomenon has yet to be conclusively identified.

Bees usually begin foraging when they are 2-3 weeks old but when bee colonies are stressed by disease, a lack of food, or other factors that kill off older bees, the younger bees start foraging at a younger age. Researchers attached radio trackers to thousands of bees and tracked their movement throughout their lives. They found that bees that started foraging younger completed less foraging flights than others and were more likely to die on their first flights.

The researchers, from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), Macquarie University in Sydney, Washington University in St Louis, and University of Sydney, used this information to model the impact on honey bee colonies.

They found that any stress leading to chronic forager death of the normally older bees led to an increasingly young foraging force. This younger foraging population lead to poorer performance and quicker deaths of foragers and dramatically accelerated the decline of the colony much like observations of CCD seen around the world.

Dr Clint Perry from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at QMUL, said:

"Young bees leaving the hive early is likely to be an adaptive behavior to a reduction in the number of older foraging bees. But if the increased death rate continues for too long or the hive isn't big enough to withstand it in the short term, this natural response could upset the societal balance of the colony and have catastrophic consequences.

"Our results suggest that tracking when bees begin to forage may be a good indicator of the overall health of a hive. Our work sheds light on the reasons behind colony collapse and could help in the search for ways of preventing colony collapse."

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Beekeepers Partner with Corporations to Create Pollinator Habitat

CATCH THE BUZZ      By Kim Flottum    December 10, 2014

The Ohio Environmental Education Fund (OEEF) has awarded a grant “Beekeepers Collaborating to Create Pollinator Habitats” to beekeeping groups.  The project is a partnership of Medina County Beekeepers Association, The Ohio State Beekeepers Association, and the Pollinator Stewardship Council.  The project had to secure land partners for the habitat development prior to applying for the grant.  The grant will fund the development of pollinator habitat on 36 acres of corporate land in northeast Ohio and southwest Ohio.  Four corporate land partners have committed to creating and maintaining the habitat for a minimum of five years. The land partners are CEMEX, Inc., Remington Products Company, the Department of Veterans Affairs in Dayton, and Professional Services Providers of Wadsworth, LLC.  The grant will act as a catalyst to educate corporations, their employees, and customers about the need for pollinator habitat, connect beekeeping groups with local corporations, enhance public/private collaborations, and inspire land use changes in support of pollinator habitat.

“Lawns around corporate facilities are a grass desert for pollinators. They do not conserve water, add to the expenses of corporations in weekly mowing,  add to carbon emissions, and  have increased lawn chemical use that can cause concerns in the watershed.” stated Michele Colopy, Program Director of the Pollinator Stewardship Council, and regular contributor to Bee Culture Magazine.

“This grant is a wonderful opportunity for our local beekeeping clubs to build collaborative relationships with local businesses in order to support the health of our community.  Additional forage for pollinators will increase honey production, and support the pollinators so important to the floral success of our community gardens.” commented Terry Lieberman-Smith, Vice President of the Ohio State Beekeepers Association.

The pollinator habitat will be created on private land, however beekeepers will have access to it.  The land partners will contract with local beekeepers to place bee hives on the property.  The grant will also provide nesting areas for native pollinators.  Citizen Scientists will survey the land twice a year for the five years noting the diversity of insects, and other animal life that are utilizing the habitat.  This data will be available in a public database.  Educational materials will be provided to the corporate partners to share with their employees and customers.  The local bee clubs will provide scholarships to four 4-H students within the land partner areas, with the 4-H students writing articles for the corporate newsletters about honey bees and their beekeeping experience. The beekeeping partners will encourage other corporations to convert their grassy lawns into pollinator habitat through presentations about the project.

Peggy Garnes, President of the Medina County Beekeepers Association and advertising Director for Bee Culture Magazine, expressed excitement at the connections made by this program.  “This is a wonderful partnership of beekeepers and corporations coming together to support honey bees and native pollinators so important to our local beekeepers, gardeners, and farmers.”

As the program had to secure land partners prior to applying for the grant, the project cannot accept any other land partners at this time.  The Pollinator Stewardship Council, who wrote the grant, expects this project will serve as a pilot program adaptable in other states.  If your State Beekeeping organization is interested in a similar program in your state, contact the Pollinator Stewardship Council directly at progdirector@pollinatorstewardship.org or 832-727-9492.

Available online at http://live.ezezine.com/ezine/archives/1636/1636-2014.12.10.11.40.archive.html

Find out more about Bee Culture Magazine at www.BeeCulture.com

State Turning Highway Median Into Bee Paradise

The Columbia Dispatch     By Kathleen Martini    August 10, 2014

The state is turning a Ross County highway median into a honeybee paradise.

The Ohio Department of Transportation planted wildflower seeds in two, 1-acre lots along Rt. 207 in June to start a three-year process to create habitats for bees and other pollinators, said ODOT District 9 spokeswoman Kathleen Fuller.

“The seeds, which are beginning to germinate, are a mix of native Ohio wildflowers, and they were planted as a combined mix so that they will grow successively,” she said.

That means flowers will bloom from spring through fall, beautifying the roadside and providing much-needed food for Ohio honeybees.

The sites will take about three years to mature, said ODOT engineer Dianne Kahal-Berman.

The flowers will be kept below 6 inches in the first year and below 1 foot in the second. After that, they’ll be allowed to grow to full height.

“They’ll be stronger at that point. They’ll have a strong root system,” Kahal-Berman said.

Bee populations have been dropping in recent years, as trends in agriculture affect their food supply, said Reed Johnson, an entomology professor at Ohio State University. “There’s been a shift in agriculture toward corn, and corn doesn’t really do anything for pollinators.”

Honeybees also have faced increasing numbers of diseases and pests in recent years that have thinned colonies and threatened the agriculture industry. Between 50 and 80 percent of bees kept by registered Ohio beekeepers died over the past winter.

Last year, Ohio had 4,390 registered beekeepers who tended an estimated 37,000 colonies at 7,199 apiaries. Since 2008, the number of beekeepers has increased by 27 percent.

Ohio farmers rely on bees to pollinate more than 70 crops, including apples, strawberries and pumpkins. Nationwide, honeybees pollinate more than $14 billion in crops each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Declining bee populations are a problem not just for Ohio. States across the country are experiencing the problem, and some have started developing pollinator habitats along roadsides and in other places to boost bee numbers.

Pollinator habitats such as those in Ross County can help boost bee population and honey harvests, which also have seen decreases, Johnson said. “Bees depend on flowers. They only eat nectar and pollen, and the only place to get nectar and pollen is from flowers.”

More than 70 percent of fruits and vegetables are pollinated and would be unable to grow without pollinators, Kahal-Berman said. “We’re losing them (the pollinators), and they’re extremely important to our welfare as human beings.”

Other areas of the state are taking note of the project. District 6, which includes Columbus and Franklin County, and District 8, which includes Cincinnati and Hamilton County, both are choosing planting sites, Fuller said.

“People are excited about doing this,” Kahal-Berman said. “They want to be a part of it.”

A similar program was started in Darke County about four years ago. The transportation department worked with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the conservation group Pheasants Forever to create habitats for monarch butterflies, pheasants and other wildlife in a prairie area along Rt. 36.

“There are different mixes being planted,” said John Kaiser, a wildlife management supervisor with Natural Resources. “What they do have in common is that both projects are to benefit wildlife habitat and benefit wildlife.”

The plantings also can help reduce roadside maintenance costs, such as mowing, Kaiser said.

Kahal-Berman said she’s confident the idea will grow.

“We’re learning to do it the right way, and we’re sharing that information with the other districts,” she said. “I know this is going to catch on.”

Ohio's Wildflower Recipe:

Here’s the butterfly/pollinators/songbird mix the Ohio Department of Transportation is planting along a highway median in Ross County:

• Little bluestem 25%

• Nodding wild rye 25%

• Indian grass 12.5%

• Purple coneflower 4.69%

• White wild indigo 4.69%

• Yellow coneflower 4.69%

• Lanceleaf coreopsis 3.13%

• Butterfly weed 2.81%

• Dense blazing star 2.81%

• Round-headed bush clover 2.5%

• New England aster 1.56%

• Tall coreopsis 1.56%

• Showy black-eyed Susan 1.56%

• Prairie dock 1.56%

• Stiff goldenrod 1.56%

• Wild bergamot 1.56%

• Smooth aster 1.56%

• Black-eyed Susan 1.25%

Source: Ohio Department of Transportation

Read at: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/science/2014/08/10/1-buicks-bmws-and-bees.html

Honey Bee Dances Lead the Way on Agriculture and the Environment

Western Daily Press    By Jeff Wells   May 23, 2013

Honey bees' foraging preferences can provide valuable information for governments about how to better manage rural landscapes, according to new research.

In the past two decades, the European Union has spent 41 billion euros (£33.4 billion) on agri-environment schemes (AES), which aim to improve the rural landscape by bringing in changes such as the creation of areas for wildlife around crop fields.

There are different levels of AES, although few studies exist evaluating how wildlife responds to the schemes, researchers at the University of Sussex have said.

But a study published in the journal Current Biology has revealed that a honey bee's waggle dance, in which it waggles its abdomen while moving in a figure-of-eight pattern to tell its nest mates where to find good sources of pollen and nectar, identifies the better areas as being in rural lands under a higher level AES rather than any other land type, including urban areas and rural lands not under AES.

Researchers at Sussex's Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (Lasi) spent two years filming waggle dances made by worker honey bees living in glass-fronted observation hives.

They then decoded the dances to discover where bees were gathering their food.

By combining the waggle dance data with maps of land use, the researchers could make a landscape-wide survey of the surrounding 94sq km (36sq miles) because honey bees forage at long distances from their hives.

The bees were able to access the surrounding city and countryside through tubes in the lab wall that opened to the outside.

The landscape was divided into one of seven land types – urban, rural, and five types of rural under government-funded AESs, a university spokeswoman said.

The study showed that the most plentiful areas for foraging were rural lands in higher AESs.

Lead researcher Dr Margaret Couvillon said: "Usually efforts to help wildlife takes two approaches.

"One is to set aside important areas like National Parks or National Nature Reserves.

"Another approach is to make existing areas more wildlife-friendly, like the agri-environment schemes. Here we have let the bees tell us which practices and what areas are good for them.

"The honey bee is acting as an 'indicator' species pointing to 'healthy landscapes'. The honey bee is a generalist forager, so landscapes used by honey bees are good for a wide range of pollinators.

"The waggle dance is, therefore, more than just behaviour. It is a powerful tool for ecology and conservation."

Read more: http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Honey-bees-say-policy/story-21131862-detail/story.html#ixzz32YSi3AWO

Wondering about State of the Environment? Just Eavesdrop on Bees

Science Daily    Source: Cell Press        May 22,2014

Want a simple way to monitor wide swaths of the landscape without breaking a sweat? Listen in on the 'conversations' honeybees have with each other, researchers suggest. The scientists' analyses of honeybee waggle dances suggest that costly measures to set aside agricultural lands and let the wildflowers grow can be very beneficial to bees.

Researchers have devised a simple way to monitor wide swaths of the landscape without breaking a sweat: by listening in on the "conversations" honeybees have with each other. The scientists' analyses of honeybee waggle dances reported in the Cell Press journalCurrent Biology on May 22 suggest that costly measures to set aside agricultural lands and let the wildflowers grow can be very beneficial to bees.

"In the past two decades, the European Union has spent €41 billion on agri-environment schemes, which aim to improve the rural landscape health and are required for all EU-member states," says Margaret Couvillon of the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex. "However, there is little evidence evaluating these schemes. Our work uses a novel source of data -- the honeybee, an organism that itself can benefit from a healthy rural landscape -- to evaluate not only the environment, but also the schemes used to manage that environment."

Couvillon and her colleagues, led by Francis Ratnieks, recorded and decoded the waggle dances of bees in three hives over a two-year period. Bees dance to tell their fellow bees where to find the good stuff: the best nectar and pollen. The angle of their dances conveys information about the direction of resources while the duration conveys distance. Researchers can measure those dance characteristics in a matter of minutes with a protractor and timer.

In all, the researchers "eavesdropped" on 5,484 dances to find that the best forage within the 94 km2 of mixed urban-rural landscape included in the study -- as far as bees and, by extension, other insect pollinators are concerned -- is a place called Castle Hill, which happened to be the only National Nature Reserve in the area. More broadly, High Level agri-environment schemes were the best places for bees.

The researchers were surprised to find that Organic Entry Level agri-environment schemes were the least frequented by bees. According to Couvillon, it may be that the regular mowing required initially to discourage certain plants from growing in those plots might leave few wildflowers for bees.

The study shows that honeybees can serve as bioindicators to monitor large land areas and provide information relevant to better environmental management, the researchers say. It also gives new meaning to the term "worker bee."

"Imagine the time, manpower, and cost to survey such an area on foot -- to monitor nectar sources for quality and quantity of production, to count the number of other flower-visiting insects to account for competition, and then to do this over and over for two foraging years," Couvillon says. "Instead, we have let the honeybees do the hard work of surveying the landscape and integrating all relevant costs and then providing, through their dance communication, this biologically relevant information about landscape quality."

Read at...
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140522123453.htm

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell PressNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Margaret J. Couvillon, Roger Schürch, Francis L.W. Ratnieks. Dancing Bees Communicate a Foraging Preference for Rural Lands in High-Level Agri-Environment SchemesCurrent Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.03.072

Decoding Waggle Dances to Determine Where Honey Bees Forage

University of Sussex     4/17/14

The number of bee hives in the UK has declined by nearly 75 per cent in the past century, from approximately one million to 280,000. One major reason for this is change in land use leading to fewer flowers. Fields of wheat and barley now have few weeds. Fields of grass now have few wild flowers and clover is less used. hay meadows are increasingly rare and much of the heather moorland has been ploughed up or lost to urbanisation. To stay in business, commercial beekeepers need hives to produce reasonable honey crops.

Successful honey bee foragers make waggle dances when they return to the hive. These dances tell nestmates the direction and distance of profitable flower patches. The dances can also be decoded by researchers, using observation hives and video cameras. Honey bees literally tell the researchers where they have been foraging - they are the only animals doing this. Decoding dances provide an effective means of investigating honey bee feeding ecology. Previous LASI research has shown that honey bees fly up to 14km to highly rewarding patches of heather. By decoding waggle dances we will be able to determine which parts of the landscape are good for honey bees, and how this varies in different seasons and months. This information will be of value to people who are responsible for growing plants and who want to make Britain a more bee and insect friendly country, including farmers, land managers, parks departments, and gardeners. Because honey bees are generalist foragers, foraging on plants also visited by other pollinating insects, the results of this project will help other insect species including bumble bees, other wild bees, butterflies and hoverflies.

Decoding bee dances will also be used to investigate the stress caused by moving hives. Beekeepers often move hives by truck, and it is suggested that the stress caused by moving hives can be harmful. One form of stress on the bees will be the need to “relearn” where to forge in a new location.

Main aims

To determine the habitats and distances from the hive that honey bees collect food, the plants that they visit, and to make recommendations for land use in both rural and urban areas that benefit honey bees and beekeepers.

Read more... 
http://www.sussex.ac.uk/lasi/sussexplan/dances