Empty Calories

Bee Informed.jpg

By Dan Wyns July 2, 2019

Foragers gathering fresh sawdust. Photo: Mike Connor

Foragers gathering fresh sawdust. Photo: Mike Connor

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

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

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

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


Yes, I'll Have Som Mustard, Please!

Bug Squad By Kathy Keatley Garvey April 3, 2019

Yes, I'll have some mustard, please.

Yes, both the pollen and the nectar, thank you.

We watched a honey bee buzz into our little mustard patch,  her proboscis (tongue) extended, and pollen weighting her down. If she were at the airport, someone would have volunteered to carry her bags. 

But there she was, determined to bring back both pollen and nectar to her colony. It's nature's equivalent of gold. It's spring and time for the colony build-up.

In peak season, the queen bee lays 1500 to 2000 eggs a day. Everyone has a job to do, and if you're a bee scientist or a beekeeper, you'll see them all:  nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, builders, architects, foragers, dancers, honey tenders, pollen packers, propolis or "glue" specialists, air conditioning and heating technicians, guards, and undertakers.

What's thrilling this time of year, though, are the worker bees bringing home the mustard.

Want to learn more about bees? Be sure to stop by Briggs Hall, off Kleiber Hall Drive, on Saturday, April 13 during the campuswide 105th annual UC Davis Picnic Day.  You'll see a bee observation hive, as well as smokers, hive tools and veils, all part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology displays. You can talk to the bee scientists. And you can sample many different varietals of honey.

Briggs Hall also will feature cockroach races, maggot art, t-shirt sales, face-painting, aquatic insects,  forensic entomology,  Integrated Pest Management Program display, fly-tying and much more. It's free and family friendly.

And over at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, more entomological excitements await. It's the home of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a gift shop and a live "petting zoo" of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects (walking sticks), tarantulas and praying mantids.  Stay tuned!

A pollen-laden honey bee heads for more pollen and nectar on mustard. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A pollen-laden honey bee heads for more pollen and nectar on mustard. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Pollen-packing honey bee is a sight to see amid the mustard blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Pollen-packing honey bee is a sight to see amid the mustard blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Pollen or nectar? Both please, says the honey bee as she forages on mustard. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Pollen or nectar? Both please, says the honey bee as she forages on mustard. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Quantum Dots Track Pollinators

The Optical Society By Stewart Wills February 18, 2019

A bee, caught after visiting a flower whose pollen grains had been labelled with quantum dots. The glowing dots show evidence of the bee’s travels, and how the pollen attaches to it, when the insect is examined under the microscope in UV light. [Image: Corneile Minnaar]

A bee, caught after visiting a flower whose pollen grains had been labelled with quantum dots. The glowing dots show evidence of the bee’s travels, and how the pollen attaches to it, when the insect is examined under the microscope in UV light. [Image: Corneile Minnaar]

A particularly sobering aspect of global environmental degradation is the rapid decline of insect populations. One recent study in the journal Biological Conservation estimated that 40 percent of the world’s insect species could go extinct within the next three decades, owing to habitat loss due to agriculture and urbanization, pesticides, climate change and other insults.

Quite apart from playing havoc with the food web, declines in certain insect populations threaten the bugs’ crucial role as pollinators. Humans rely on insects to pollinate more than 30 percent of food crops—a huge service that nature provides free of charge.

That makes it essential to understand which insects are pollinating which plants—even to the point of tracking individual pollen grains from flower to flower via their insect vectors. But a robust, useful system for labeling the tiny grains, which are subject to the vicissitudes of wind and weather in addition to the mazy paths of insects, has been fiendishly difficult to devise. Now, a pollination biologist in South Africa has hit upon a novel answer: tag the pollen with fluorescent quantum dots (Meth. Ecol. Evol., doi: 10.1111/2041-210X.13155).

Dots, flowers and pollen

Quantum dots (QDs) are luminescent semiconductor nanocrystals that, when excited by light of a specific wavelength (such as UV), re-emit at visible wavelengths, with the specific emission wavelength depending on the size of the quantum dot. They’ve found use in a wide variety of contexts including biomedical study (see, “Quantum Dots for Biomedicine,” OPN, April 2017). Indeed, the pollination biologist behind the new study, Corneile Minnaar of Stellenbosch University, South Africa, reportedly got the idea for pollen tracking with QDs from a paper on their potential use in targeting and imaging cancer cells.

Corneile Minnaar, applying a solution of lipid-tagged quantum dots to the business end of a flower. [Image: Ingrid Minnaar]

Corneile Minnaar, applying a solution of lipid-tagged quantum dots to the business end of a flower. [Image: Ingrid Minnaar]

To use QDs to track individual pollen grains, Minnaar—who began the work as a Ph.D. student at Stellenbosch, where he’s now a postdoc in the lab of pollination biologist Bruce Anderson—first had to figure out how to tie the dots to the pollen. To do so, he began with commercially available, nontoxic CuInSexS2−x/ZnS (core/shell) QDs with four different emission wavelengths: 550 nm (green), 590 nm (yellow), 620 nm (orange) and 650 nm (red). Next, Minnaar chemically tied the QDs to an oleic‐acid ligand molecule that would latch onto the lipid-rich “pollenkitt” that surrounds pollen grains—the same substance that makes pollen stick to the coats of pollinators like honeybees.

Minnaar then took the lipid-doped QDs and dissolved them into a volatile hexane solvent, and micro-pipetted drops of the solvent onto the pollen-rich anthers on flowers of four different plant species. The ligand-bearing QDs quickly stuck to the pollenkitt on the grains, as expected, and the volatile hexane rapidly evaporated away. The result: flowers packed with potentially trackable, QD-labeled pollen.

Building an “excitation box”

The next problem to be solved was how actually to read the signal from the tagged pollen. While Minnaar says he started with a toy pen with a UV LED light to excite the fluorescence in the dots, he clearly needed something a bit more scalable. To get there, he used a 3-D printer to create a black “quantum-dot excitation box” that could fit under a dissection microscope, and that included four commercial UV LEDs, a long-pass UV filter, and supporting housing. In a press release accompanying the work, Minnaar said the UV box could “easily be 3D-printed at a cost of about R5,000 [around US$360], including the required electronic components.”

Minnaar tested the ability of the pollen grains to hold onto the QDs by agitating samples in an ethanol solution, and found that the grip was firm. Also, in a controlled, caged experiment, he trained honeybees to move from tagged to untagged samples of a particular flower species, and found that labeling the grains with the QDs had no effect on the grains’ ability also to stick to the bees.

Robust system

The general robustness of the system suggests it could serve well in tracking pollinators in wild settings, quantifying parameters such as pollen loss and the importance of certain species to sustaining specific kinds of plants. That said, there are still a few limitations, according to the paper. One is that right now, “there are only four commercially available, distinguishable quantum dot colors in the visible range,” which could limit studies to only four plant species at a time. And, while initial tests were encouraging, more work needs to be done to determine whether the labeling and application process has effects on pollen viability that could complicate experiments or affect pollinator behavior.

One other, unavoidable drawback, notwithstanding Minnaar’s clever microscope setup, is the sheer labor of counting and checking the glowing pollen grains to amass experimental data. That's a task likely to while away the hours of grad students for years to come, irrespective of the technique used to label the grains. “I think I've probably counted more than a hundred thousand pollen grains these last three years,” Minnaar said.

Source: British Ecological Society


Honey Bees Fill ‘Saddlebags’ With Pollen. Here’s How They Keep Them Gripped Tight

ScienceMagazine.org     By Katherine Kornei     November 27, 2017

Heidi and Hans-Juergen Koch/Minden PicturesBees don’t just transport pollen between plants, they also bring balls of it back to the hive for food. These “pollen pellets,” which also include nectar and can account for 30% of a bee’s weight, hang off their hind legs like overstuffed saddlebags (pictured). Now, researchers have investigated just how securely bees carry their precious cargo. The team caught roughly 20 of the insects returning to their hives and examined their legs and pollen pellets using both high-resolution imaging and a technique similar to an x-ray. Long hairs on the bees’ legs helped hold the pollen pellets in place as the animals flew, the team reported last week at the 70th Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics in Denver. The researchers then tugged on some of the pollen pellets using elastic string. They found that the pellets, though seemingly precarious, were firmly attached: The force necessary to dislodge a pellet was about 20 times more than the force a bee typically experiences while flying. These findings can help scientists design artificial pollinators in the future, the team suggests.


Rising CO2 Levels Reduce Protein in Crucial Pollen Source for Bees

CATCH THE BUZZ - Bee Culture Blog     April 13, 2016

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have reduced protein in goldenrod pollen, a key late-season food source for North American bees, a Purdue University study shows.

Researchers found that the overall protein concentration of goldenrod pollen fell about one-third from the onset of the Industrial Revolution to the beginning of the 21st century.

Previous studies have shown that increases in carbon dioxide can lower the nutritional value of plants such as wheat and rice – staple crops for much of the global human population – but this study is the first to examine the effects of rising CO2 on the diet of bees.

“Bee food is less nutritious than it used to be,” said Jeffrey Dukes, study co-author and professor of forestry and natural resources and biological sciences. “Our findings also suggest that the quality of pollen will continue to decline into the future. That’s not great news for bees.”

Native bee species and honeybees rely on flowering plants for energy and nutrition. While nectar is the primary energy source for bee colonies, pollen is the sole source of protein for bees. Pollen is essential for the development of bee larvae and helps maintain bees’ immunity to pathogens and parasites.

Goldenrod, a common North American perennial that blooms from late July through October, offers bees some of the last available pollen before winter. Bees that overwinter must store substantial amounts of pollen to rear their winter young. Declines in pollen protein could potentially threaten bee health and survival and weaken bees’ ability to overwinter on a continental scale, said Jeffery Pettis, study co-author and research entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

“A poor diet sets bees up for failure,” he said. “Previous research shows bees have shorter lifespans when fed lower quality pollen.”

The researchers noted, however, that this study only assessed pollen protein levels and did not look at the impact of protein reductions on bee health and populations.

“Our work suggests there is a strong possibility that decreases in pollen protein could contribute to declines in bee health, but we haven’t yet made that final link,” said Dukes, who is also director of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center housed in Discovery Park.

Dukes collaborated with a team led by USDA-ARS researchers to examine protein levels in historical and experimental samples of goldenrod pollen. They found that pollen protein levels dropped about a third in samples collected from 1842-2014, a period during which the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere rose from about 280 parts per million to 398 ppm. The greatest drop in protein occurred during 1960-2014, a time when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose dramatically.

A 2-year controlled field experiment that exposed goldenrod to a gradient of carbon dioxide levels from 280 to 500 ppm showed strikingly similar decreases in pollen protein, Dukes said.

“These data provide an urgent and compelling case for establishing CO2 sensitivity of pollen protein for other floral species,” the researchers concluded in their study.

Bees provide a valuable service to U.S. agriculture through pollination, contributing more than $15 billion in added crop value each year.

But a number of new and mounting pressures are crippling colonies and endangering bee populations. These threats include emerging diseases and parasites such as deformed wing virus, Varroa mites and Nosema fungi; a lack of diversity and availability of pollen and nectar sources; and exposure to a wide variety of pesticides. From 2006 to 2011, annual losses of managed honeybee colonies averaged about 33 percent per year, according to the USDA-ARS.

“Bees already face a lot of factors that are making their lives hard,” Dukes said. “A decline in the nutritional quality of their food source going into a critical season is another reason to be concerned.”

Elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide – a building block for plant sugars -have allowed many plants to grow faster and bigger. But this growth spurt can dilute plants’ total protein, rather than concentrating it in the grain, resulting in a less nutritious food source.

Slowing the degrading effects of rising carbon dioxide levels on plant nutrition hinges on reducing carbon emission rates from deforestation and burning fossil fuels, Dukes said.

“The impact of carbon emissions on the nutritional value of our food supply is something people need to be aware of. This issue isn’t just relevant to honeybees and people – it will probably affect thousands or even millions of other plant-eating species around the world. We don’t yet know how they’ll deal with it.”

The study was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B on Wednesday (April 13) and is available to journal subscribers and on-campus readers at http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2016.0414.

Researchers from Williams College, the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Maryland also co-authored the study.

The work was funded by the USDA-ARS.


Better Nutrition Helps Bees Mitigate Pathogen Presence, OSU Study Finds

Capital Press   By Eric Mortensen   February 25, 2106
An OSU study on bee nutrition produced a surprising result.

CORVALLIS. Ore. — Ramesh Sagili, Oregon State University’s honeybee researcher, has long believed nutrition is key to fighting off colony collapse disorder, the mysterious ailment that wipes out hives and threatens crop pollination.

So when he and graduate student Cameron Jack carried out a study in which sets of bees were given various levels and a variety of pollen, they expected a logical result. They assumed the bees that received the most wildflower pollen — a source of protein — would be best able to stave off parasites that weaken bees.

That turned out to be true: Bees fed a high-pollen diet had a higher survival rate. But, surprisingly, they also had higher rates of a pathogen called Nosema ceranae — the opposite of what the researchers expected. They thought better-fed bees would have lower infection rates.

“Even though (Nosema) spore intensities were higher in bees that received more pollen in their diet, the bees in these treatments had greater survival, which appears to be counterintuitive,” the researchers said in a study published in Journal of Insect Physiology.

Better nutrition, they concluded, allowed the bees to compensate for the effect of the pathogens. They survived longer, and examination showed they had higher levels of protein in the head glands that produce food for larvae.

Sagili said the study raises questions about the use of antibiotics, used by many beekeepers to control the Nosema pathogen. Broad-spectrum antibiotics may be causing other problems for bees, such as disrupting the gut structure that helps them digest food.

Sagili said beekeepers have asked him whether they should stop using antibiotics, and he urges a cautious approach. Large-scale keepers, who transport thousands of hives to pollinate crops up and down the West Coast, can’t afford the risk of halting antibiotic use all at once. He suggests trying it with 5 percent or 10 percent of hives and monitoring what happens.

Many observers worry a mono-crop diet may weaken bees as they feed on only one crop at a time while doing their pollination work each year, beginning with almonds orchards in California and working north as other nuts, fruit and berries come into season. Sagili said a “polyfloral” diet provides better nutrition for bees; some keepers give bees a break from mono-crop work to forage naturally and add variety to their diet.

The research work at OSU began in June 2014. Bees for the study were taken from “sister queen” colonies to control any variation in Nosema infection that might be attributed to genetics of the bees. They were divided into five groups, fed varying amounts of wildflower pollen, then exposed to the Nosema pathogen.


Why Feed Pollen Patties?

Bee Craft B-kids  Facebook post   January 19, 2016

Why feed pollen patties?

The thing to understand about pollen or pollen substitute is that it is used to feed larvae. Remember, bee eggs don't eat and pupae don't eat but the larvae are dependent on a good supply of nutritious, high protein food and this involves pollen. The larvae are not fed pollen directly; nurse bees eat the pollen, usually in the form of bee bread (a honey and pollen mix) and it is this rich diet that allows them to produce the brood food that they feed to the larvae. They cannot do this without eating pollen.

If pollen or pollen substitute is available, this will encourage the colony to produce brood. It is not such a good idea to encourage brood rearing in Autumn but it is an excellent idea in late January or February.

If you want to encourage your bees to produce lots of brood, especially if your apiary is in an area where there isn't much early pollen, then feed pollen patties in late January or through February when the queen is beginning to lay eggs ready for the new season.

(Taken from the B Kids pages in BeeCraft magazine, February 2016 issue)
Photo: Eric Lanning


How DNA and a Supercomputer Can Help Sustain Honey Bee Populations

Science Daily   Source: Botanical Society of America   November 13, 2015

New multi-locus metabarcoding approach for pollen analysis uncovers what plants bee species rely on

To uncover what plants honey bees rely on, researchers from The Ohio State University are using the latest DNA sequencing technology and a supercomputer. They spent months collecting pollen from beehives and have developed a multi-locus metabarcoding approach to identify which plants, and what proportions of each, are present in pollen samples.

A single beehive can collect pollen from dozens of different plant species, and this pollen is useful evidence of the hive's foraging behavior and nutrition preferences.

"Knowing the degree to which certain plants are being foraged upon allows us to infer things like the potential for pesticide exposure in a given landscape, the preference of certain plant species over others, and the degree to which certain plant species contribute to the honey bee diet," says graduate student Rodney Richardson. "One of the major interests of our lab is researching honey bee foraging preferences so we can enhance landscapes to sustain robust honey bee populations."

For Richardson and his colleagues, metabarcoding is key to this research. It is a DNA analysis method that enables researchers to identify biological specimens.

Metabarcoding works by comparing short genetic sequence "markers" from unidentified biological specimens to libraries of known reference sequences. It can be used to detect biological contaminants in food and water, characterize animal diets from dung samples, and even test air samples for bacteria and fungal spores. In the case of pollen, it could save researchers countless hours of identifying and counting individual pollen grains under a microscope.

Richardson and his colleagues devised the new metabarcoding method using three specific locations in the genome, or loci, as markers. They found that using multiple loci simultaneously produced the best metabarcoding results for pollen. The entire procedure, including DNA extraction, sequencing, and marker analysis, is described in the November issue of Applications in Plant Sciences.

To develop the new method, the researchers needed a machine powerful enough to process millions of DNA sequences. For this work, the team turned to the Ohio Supercomputer Center.

"As a researcher, you feel like a kid in a candy store," Richardson says. "You can analyze huge datasets in an instant and experiment with the fast-evolving world of open source bioinformatics software as well as the vast amount of publicly available data from previous studies."

In previous metabarcoding experiments, the researchers worked solely with a marker found in the nuclear genome called ITS2. ITS2 successfully identified plant species present in pollen samples, but it could not produce quantitative measurements of the proportions of each.

While searching for something better, they decided to test two markers from the plastid genome. Pollen was previously thought to rarely contain plastids, but recent studies showed promise for plastid-based barcoding of pollen. Richardson and his colleagues found that the combined data from the two plastid markers, rbcL and matK, successfully correlated with microscopic measurements of pollen abundance.

The new multi-locus metabarcoding method involves all three markers and could serve as a valuable tool for research on the native bee species that comprise local bee communities.

"With a tool like this, we could more easily assess what plants various bee species are relying on, helping to boost their populations as well as the economic and ecological services they provide to our agricultural and natural landscapes." Richardson says, "While the honey bee is seen as our most economically important pollinator, it's only one of several hundred bee species in Ohio, the vast majority of which are greatly understudied in terms of their foraging ecology."

Read at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151113144542.htm

These Are The Foods We'd Loose If Honey Bees Died Off

The Huffington Post    By James Cave    November 4, 2015

They arrive in the morning, having traveled miles to work all day. They move from one workstation to the next to gather supplies for their commute back to the office and repeat the trip 40 times a day. The newest staff members often work through the night.

View video: http://giphy.com/gifs/P6CBLIPae5Q40 

We're talking about honeybees, and the truth is, they accomplish more than any human workaholic ever could -- the plants affected by their pollination account for what's estimated to be a third of all the food we humans eat (they also incidentally work themselves to death) -- but unless you're a beekeeper or researcher, you're probably totally oblivious to the honeybees in your life.

Honeybees are the most important pollinators of fruits and vegetables, and scientists and beekeepers around the world are still alarmed at the sustained rate in which bees continue to die. Colony collapse disorder, a detrimental convergence of many possible factors, is responsible for the loss of up to 90 percent of beekeepers' bees, adding up to the devastation of 10 million beehives in six years.

Thankfully, the folks at Fix.com designed the following infographic to keep us aware of these tiny providers, displaying a wide array of produce that either wouldn't exist at all, or would be very hard to find if we didn't have honeybees.

Apples, cherries, coffee -- can you imagine your life without these? 


Read at: http://goo.gl/QZni6S
View video: http://giphy.com/gifs/P6CBLIPae5Q40 

The Pollen Basket

Honeybee Conservatory 

A Bee and Her Basket: Do you know what is a pollen basket?  Hmmm…  Well, have you ever noticed that some of the bees you see flying have these orange or yellow clumps on their hind legs?

If you haven’t, they look like this.

That orange mass on her leg is her basket. It is pollen that she has gathered from flowers she has been visiting during her foraging about. Female bees provision their offspring with pollen (mixed with a little nectar), which means they have to visit numerous flowers (sometimes 100 plus per trip!) to gather enough pollen to feed each offspring that is produced. It would be incredibly inefficient for them to have to travel back to their nest after visiting each flower. So, to be more efficient female bees have a special apparatus for holding and transporting pollen. The pollen collecting apparatus in apid bees, which include honey bees and bumblebees, is commonly called a ‘pollen basket’ or corbicula. This region is located on the tibia of the hind legs and consists of hairs surrounding a concave region. After the bee visits a flower, she begins grooming herself and brushes pollen gathered on her body down toward her hind legs and packs the pollen into her pollen basket. A little nectar mixed with the pollen keeps it all together, and the hairs in the pollen basket hold it in place.

Other bees have a similar apparatus, only it is called a scopa. This basket can be located on the hind legs and/or the ventral side of their abdomen. Look at the abdomen of the bee in the photo below:

Check out the furry legs on this cactus bee:

You may be wondering…’well, what is the difference between a pollen basket and the scopa?’ The main difference is that the pollen basket is a concave region surrounded by coarse hairs, whereas the scopa is just a region with a dense mass of specialized hairs (setae). But, both pollen baskets and scopa do the same job…transport pollen.

Now that spring is here, go out and check out the bees and look at their hind legs and their abdomen. If you see large pollen loads like these, or you see a bee that looks like she is covered with pollen, you know she has been working hard!

Guest post by entomologist Anna D. Howell of Anna’s Bee World.

(Note: This was originally posted on Honeybee Conservatory on April 2, 2011.)

Pesticides Found in Most Pollen Collected from Foraging Bees in Massachusetts

ABJ Extra    July 24, 2015

Boston, MA -- More than 70% of pollen and honey samples collected from foraging bees in Massachusetts contain at least one neonicotinoid, a class of pesticide that has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which adult bees abandon their hives during winter, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study will be published online July 23, 2015 in the Journal of Environmental Chemistry.

"Data from this study clearly demonstrated the ubiquity of neonicotinoids in pollen and honey samples that bees are exposed to during the seasons when they are actively foraging across Massachusetts. Levels of neonicotinoids that we found in this study fall into ranges that could lead to detrimental health effects in bees, including CCD," said Chensheng (Alex) Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School and lead author of the study.

Since 2006, there have been significant losses of honey bee colonies. Scientists, policymakers, farmers, and beekeepers are concerned with this problem because bees are prime pollinators of roughly one-third of all crops worldwide.

Previous studies analyzed either stored pollen collected from hives or pollen samples collected from bees at a single point in time. In this study, the Harvard Chan School researchers looked at pollen samples collected over time--during spring and summer months when bees forage--from the same set of hives across Massachusetts. Collecting pollen samples in this way enabled the researchers to determine variations in the levels of eight neonicotinoids and to identify high-risk locations or months for neonicotinoid exposure for bees. To do so, the researchers worked with 62 Massachusetts beekeepers who volunteered to collect monthly samples of pollen and honey from foraging bees, from April through August 2013, using pollen traps on the landings of beehives. The beekeepers then sent the samples to the researchers.

The researchers analyzed 219 pollen and 53 honey samples from 62 hives, from 10 out of 14 counties in Massachusetts. They found neonicotinoids in pollen and honey for each month collected, in each location--suggesting that bees are at risk of neonicotinoid exposure any time they are foraging anywhere in Massachusetts.

The most commonly detected neonicotinoid was imidacloprid, followed by dinotefuran. Particularly high concentrations of neonicotinoids were found in Worcester County in April, in Hampshire County in May, in Suffolk County in July, and in Essex County in June, suggesting that, in these counties, certain months pose significant risks to bees.

The new findings suggest that neonicotinoids are being used throughout Massachusetts. Not only do these pesticides pose a significant risk for the survival of honey bees, but they also may pose health risks for people inhaling neonicotinoid-contaminated pollen, Lu said. "The data presented in this study should serve as a basis for public policy that aims to reduce neonicotinoid exposure," he said.

Read at: http://goo.gl/ae562o

Is It The Honey It Says It Is? Two Ways To Tell

CATCH THE BUZZ    By Jessica Burdg, Contributing Science Writer/Laboratory Equipment Magazine  June 19, 2015

The common phrase “things aren’t always what they seem” can apply to a plethora of situations over the course of your lifetime—but how about a trip to the supermarket? Food authentication, especially for items such as honey and olive oil, is becoming more prevalent due to a rise in counterfeiting and mislabeling. Laboratory professionals have long answered the food validity call, and their work continues to evolve to meet the needs of the respective industries.

Testing honey’s authenticity

Two novel ways to test for the authenticity of marketed origin in honey include melissopalynology, the study of pollen contained in the substance, and...

Read more...http://goo.gl/H7ih2j

Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Honey Bee: New Clues About Decline

Science Daily     Source:  Wellesley College  April 30, 2015

A new study shows poor nutrition for honey bee larvae leads to compromised pollination capabilities as adult bees. This is a possible link to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

A new study by Heather Mattila, a leading honey bee ecologist and Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Wellesley College, published this April in PLOS ONE, reveals that inadequate access to pollen during larval development has lifelong consequences for honey bees, leading not only to smaller workers and shorter lifespans, but also to impaired performance and productivity later in life. For the first time,...

Continue reading: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150430141606.htm

Bees Have the Most Amazing Legs

The Yorkshire Post   By Andrew Brown   February 28, 2015

The honeybee has developed to make the fullest use of every part of its body, with many parts doing two jobs at once.

Legs are a handy tool in the pollen race. 

Bees have the most amazing legs. Not, you understand, that I’ve taken a fancy to them. I may be getting old and developing eccentricities but that would be a step too far. It is rather that the more I discover about what they do with them the more I am hugely impressed.

We humans have evolved so that our legs do one job pretty well. They take us from place to place and hold us up, but they don’t have a sense of smell. Indeed, the very idea seems absurd.

But honeybees have developed to make the fullest possible use of every micrometre of their bodies. Almost every part of their anatomy seems designed to do two jobs at once.

If a bee needs to smell something it can do so through its antennae but it can also detect chemical odours through its feet. Since bees send chemical messages that help them do things like recognise each other and know whether their Queen is strong, this also means that bees are talking to each other via their legs.

They also get messages that way about where to find food. Most people have heard of the honeybee waggle dance. This famously lets one bee do a figure of eight dance which tells other bees which direction to go to find a food source, how far away it is and what plan there.

What few people realise is that the dance is done in the dark. Bees can’t see the figure of eight that the dancing bee is making. Remarkably it is their legs that get the message. They feel the vibrations that are being made on the wax comb where the bee is dancing and, in the pitch black interior of the hive, this is enough for them to be able to learn where they need to fly.

When they arrive at the source of food the bee can be left with a bit of a problem. There may be lots of pollen on the plant but it isn’t exactly easy for a flying insect to carry back great quantities of food.

The solution to this problem is beautifully simple. Honeybees have a basket on their back legs and they can fill that basket with pollen, pack it down tightly and use it to bring the protein and vitamins that they need back to the hive. This ability has clearly evolved over millions of years to prevent them forgetting their shopping bag.

When they arrive back at the hive you can see the pollen. It comes in different colours according to the time of year and the source of the food. Late in the season my bees were bringing back yellow pollen from Himalayan Balsam. In high summer it was more orange and may have come from dandelions - an excellent source of pollen and nectar.

At the start of spring I hope they will be going to the plentiful hazelnut trees in our local hedgerows. These are pollinated by the wind and so have no nectar but they are full of protein rich pollen and that is invaluable early in the year.

The operative word is hoping. Early spring is the really risky time for honeybees. They can usually get through the cold alright. But by spring they need to start breeding and that takes a lot of energy at exactly the time when they have used up the bulk of their winter stores.

The old tired bees that have lived through the winter have to fetch enough food to raise new energetic bees to replace them. There are occasional days when I understand exactly how they feel.

Over the next few weeks I will be looking at the rear legs of my bees with some nervousness. If the weather is dry and it’s warm enough, and it isn’t too windy, then they’ll be out there. And if I see enough of them coming back with brightly coloured sacks full of pollen on their back legs then I’ll know everything is going to be alright and they’ve come through the worst. They’ll be ready to take on another year and so, I trust, will I.

Read at: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/rural/farming/legs-are-a-handy-tool-in-the-pollen-race-1-7129694

Cl'mon In, the Pollen's Fine

As temperatures dip throughout much of California, and honey bees snuggle inside their hives, it's "bees-ness" in southern California this week.

Bug Squad      By Kathy Keatley Garvey    January 6, 2015

C'mon iin, the pollen's fine! A honey bee reaching for pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)Everything's abuzz as two national bee organizations host their annual conventions: The American Honey Producers Association (AHPA) is meeting for its 46th annual convention Jan. 6-10 in Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles County. And the North American Beekeeping Conference and Trade Show is underway Jan. 6-10 in the Disneyland Hotel, Anaheim, Orange County.

The topics will encompass bee health, including pests, pesticides, parasites, diseases, malnutrition and stress. Everything about the bee-leagured bees.

Meanwhile, a few almond trees are blooming (one in the Benicia State Recreation Area burst into bloom before Christmas Day) and more and more bees are venturing out as the temperatures hit 55.

If you have winter blossoms, odds are you're getting bee visits during the sun breaks. In our yard, the bees love the Bacopa, a groundcover that fought--and won--the battle with Jack Frost. Strong winds and rain storms hammered and stripped some of the blossoms, but the bees don't care. The pollen is there.

Read at: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=16377

Diet Affects Pesticide Resistance In Honey Bees

Science Today    Source: Penn State     November 3, 2014

Feeding honey bees a natural diet of pollen makes them significantly more resistant to pesticides than feeding them an artificial diet, according to a team of researchers, who also found that pesticide exposure causes changes in expression of genes that are sensitive to diet and nutrition.

"Honey bees are exposed to hundreds of pesticides, while they are foraging on flowers and also when beekeepers apply chemicals to control bee pests," said Christina Grozinger, professor of entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research, Penn State. "Our study demonstrates that exposure to non-lethal doses of at least two of these pesticides causes large changes in the expression of genes involved in detoxification, immunity and nutrition-sensing. This is consistent with results from previous studies that have found that pesticide exposure compromises bees' immune systems. Furthermore, our study reveals a strong link, at the molecular level, between nutrition, diet and pesticide exposure."

Exploring this link further, the researchers found that diet significantly impacts how long bees can survive when given lethal doses of a pesticide.

"This interaction between pesticide exposure and nutrition is likely what's at play in our finding that feeding bees a complex diet of pollen -- their natural diet -- makes them significantly more resistant to lethal doses of a pesticide than feeding them a more simple, artificial diet," said Daniel Schmehl, postdoctoral researcher, University of Florida.

To determine the impact of pesticide exposure on gene expression patterns in honey bees, the scientists first fed one of two miticides -- coumaphos or fluvalinate, the two most abundant and frequently detected pesticides in the hive -- to bees for a period of seven days. On the seventh day, the researchers extracted RNA from the bees, attached a fluorescent marker to the RNA and examined differences in gene expression patterns -- indicated by changes in patterns of fluorescence -- between the pesticide-treated bees and the control bees.

"We found significant changes in 1,118 transcripts -- or pieces of RNA -- among the bees that were fed either of the two miticides compared to the control group," said Schmehl. "These transcripts included genes involved in detoxification, immunity and nutrition."

Based upon the results, the team performed several subsequent analyses aimed at understanding the impact of pesticides on honey bee physiology. One of these subsequent analyses examined the susceptibility of bees to pesticide stress after consuming a pollen diet or an artificial diet -- either a soy protein or no protein diet. The team fed the bees these diets while simultaneously feeding them a lethal dose of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, an insecticide that is frequently used to control pests in agricultural crops and commonly detected in honey bee hives. They then recorded bee mortality daily for each of the treatment groups for a period of 16 days.

The researchers found that the bees that were fed a pollen-based diet exhibited reduced sensitivity to chlorpyrifos compared to the bees that were fed an artificial diet.

The results appear in the online issue of the Journal of Insect Physiology.

"This is the first time such a strong link between pesticide exposure and diet has been demonstrated at the molecular level, and the first time the effects of artificial versus natural diets have been explored in terms of resistance to pesticides," said Grozinger. "Diet and nutrition can greatly impact the ability of bees to resist pesticides, and likely other stressors. However, agriculture and urbanization have reduced the amounts and diversity of flowering plants available to bees, which likely nutritionally stresses them and makes them more sensitive to these other stressors. If we can figure out which diets and which flowering plants are nutritionally optimal for honey bees, we can help bees help themselves."

Read at... http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141103102436.htm

American Apitherapy Society Newsletter: October 2014

Apitherapy is the medicinal use of honeybee products. This includes honey, propolis, royal jelly, pollen, and bee venom. Founded in 1989,the AAS is a community of people interested in this natural, holistic practice.

The American Apitherapy Society Newsletter for October 2014 is now available. Subscribe and read at: http://www.apitherapy.org/about-aas/newsletter

About That Bee Nutrition

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey   9/10/13

Honey bee guru Eric Mussen never misses an opportunity to talk about the importance of honey bee nutrition

It's critical issue.

Mussen, an Extension apiculturist based at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology since 1976, says malnutrition is a major factor in the declining bee population. That, along with pesticides, pests, diseases and stress.

"You, no doubt, have lost track of how many...




Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at: http://ucanr.org/blogs/bugsquad/
Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey website at: http://kathygarvey.com/

Pollen Power

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey  5/27/13

Bees carry pollen in their pollen baskets, but that's not the only place.

"Pollen grains adhere to the bee's hairs, influenced by opposite electrical charges," writes Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, in his popular book, Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.

Bees comb and brush the...



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Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey website at: http://kathygarvey.com/

Packin' the Plum Pollen

        Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey   3/13/13 

Ever watched an in-flight honey bee packing her load of pollen? 

A foraging bee carries her ball-like load of pollen on her hind legs and continually moistens it with a little nectar. The size and shape changes as she works. Sometimes you'll see BB-sized loads and at other times the pellets seem as large as beach balls. The color varies, depending on the color of the pollen she collects.

In the UC Agricultural and Natural Resources (UC ANR) publication, Beekeeping in...


Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at: http://ucanr.org/blogs/bugsquad/

Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey website at: http://kathygarvey.com/