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The materials and information included in this Latest News page are provided as a service to you and do not reflect endorsement by the American Honey Producers Association (AHPA). The content and opinions expressed within the page are those of the authors and are not necessarily shared by AHPA. AHPA is not responsible for the accuracy of information provided from outside sources.

    

 

  

President's Corner

Mark Jensen
President & CEO
Blue Diamond Almond Growers

  “Facts are Stubborn Things” John Adams

 The headlines have been unavoidable. Almonds have been painted as our state’s “thirstiest” crop but what these stories lack is context. The management team from the Blue Diamond Growers cooperative has been collaborating with industry experts to communicate the facts about agricultural water use to the media and our urban neighbors.

 According to a recent editorial in San Jose Mercury News, “California's dams and reservoirs were never envisioned to release water year-round for environmental objectives such as aiding the delta smelt or reintroducing salmon in the San Joaquin River watershed. A majority of reservoir water once intended for households or farming is simply sent out to sea.”

 The drought debate continues as we enter the hot, dry summer of the Central Valley, with mandatory water restrictions are now in place throughout our state. For many Californians that means the drought will now affect their day-to-day lives. Millions of urban Californians will have to join agriculture in the fight to save water and push for storage to protect our future. Governor Brown’s mandate made it clear that all Californians need to do their part to conserve our most precious resource, and yet the media firestorm aimed at agriculture, and almonds specifically, has been fierce.

 Our message has been simple: all food takes water to grow.

 California’s agricultural abilities are second to none. In fact, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), nearly half of our country’s fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables come from California. And CDFA reports that from 1967 to 2010, California agriculture has increased revenue and decreased total applied water use by 20 percent! In order to achieve such an impressive statistic, access to a consistent water supply is key. The amount of water required for California farming to grow our food is only 41 percent of captured water with environmental projects taking the majority at 50 percent. The often-quoted 80 percent ignores any water used for environmental purposes.

 I have read suggestions that agriculture has been let off the hook by the governor’s mandate. Here are the facts: in 2014 farmers received only 5 percent of their contracted State Water Project allocation and 0 percent from the Federal Central Valley Project. This year, farmers are projected to receive 20 percent of State Water Project allocation and again, 0 percent of Federal Central Valley Project water. Our farmers have been feeling the effects of this drought from the very beginning. 

Some have questioned whether agriculture’s economic impact justifies the amount of water used by the industry. The media points to agriculture’s 2.8 percent GDP, but again, this figure lacks context. It does not tell the whole story. Getting our food from farm to fork involves an interconnected supply chain, undoubtedly contributing significantly more than 2.8 percent to the state’s economy. The almond industry alone contributes 104,000 jobs to California, 97,000 of which reside in the Central Valley, and over 37,000 additional jobs throughout the supply chain.

 Speaking of almonds, there are 9 million acres of farmland in California and almonds account for 12 percent of that total while only using 8 percent of the water currently used for agriculture. Almond crops produce more than just the kernels humans eat, which provide an efficient source of a heart-healthy, plant-based protein. The almond crop also produces hulls and shells that provide feed and bedding for livestock animals. Almonds rank No. 1 in California for food exports out of the state, with North America consuming four times as many almonds than any other country. Our industry is a global driver of $11 billion in economic activity for California!

 In the last 20 years, California almond growers have reduced the amount of water required to grow a pound of almonds by 33 percent. Nearly 70 percent of almond growers use micro-irrigation systems and more than 80 percent use demand-based irrigation scheduling. No one in the world can produce a high-quality almond as efficiently as we can in California!

 In times of crisis, there are people who look for someone to blame. Almonds were the first target. Through sharing a few facts about our water stewardship, the media tide has turned to more balanced reporting. As the weather continues to warm into the summer, I expect agriculture will continue to field questions from our urban neighbors about water. Rest assured that Blue Diamond is committed to collaborating with our industry peers, water and environmental experts, consumer groups, regulatory bodies, and policy makers to establish a water policy that makes sense for all Californians – rural and urban, Central Valley and coastal, producers and consumers.

   

20 million bees spill on Idaho highway, driver runs for his life

By Nate Sunderland, CNN

HOWE, Idaho — An estimated 20 million bees are or will soon be dead following a semitruck crash on State Highway 33 near Howe Thursday morning.

The Butte County Sheriff's Office reports a 2005 Freightliner swerved off the road at milepost 8 south of Howe at 8:01 a.m. The semitruck was carrying 408 beehives, each carrying 50,000 bees.

The bees, owned by KatieBee Honey in Meridian, were being transported to North Dakota to make honey.

"They went off the east side of the northbound lane," Sheriff Wes Collins said. "The truck and trailer tipped over on its passenger side and then righted itself and continued for approximately 75 yards before it came to rest out in the Sagebrush."

It is still unclear why the driver of the truck swerved, officials said.

The beehives were completely destroyed when the flatbed trailer tipped, releasing millions of bees alongside the highway.

The driver of the truck, Rolondo Aparicio of Florida, was uninjured, and took off running down the highway after the accident occurred, Collins said.

KatieBee Honey owner Brian Wiggins said it is a complete loss.

"There is really no saving them when it is this bad," Wiggins said. "All the bees that escaped will be dead by tomorrow, because they can't live without their colonies."

The remaining bees at the crash site were killed with foam by Idaho National Laboratory emergency responders.

The accident occurred near INL.

"If the bees weren't killed they'd continue to be a hazard, especially for motorcyclists," Collins said.

Copyright 2015 Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

Norway's capital city is building a highway for bees

By Rich McCormick June 26, 2015 02:50 am

Flowers are appearing across buildings, businesses, and balconies in the Norwegian capital of Oslo, as part of a scheme designed to make life easier for the beleaguered honey bee. Oslo is in the process of developing a "bee highway" for the pollinating insects, offering them a safe route through the city complete with food sources, resting spots, and places to live.

The program is led by Bybi, an environmental group supporting urban bee populations, and has secured funding from local companies. Some of these firms have provided dedicated homes for new bee populations, kitting out rooftops and terraces with hives alongside pollen-producing plants. Bee populations, hives, and movements can be tracked on a dedicated site run by the groups behind the scheme — if your Norwegian is up to scratch.

The program is similar to the "butterfly highway" announced by the White House earlier this year. The large-scale American scheme will create and maintain a 1,500-mile corridor of vegetation between Mexico and Minnesota that aims to replenish dwindling Monarch butterfly populations. Both bees and butterflies have vital roles as plant pollinators — 30 to 40 percent of food production requires pollination — but both creatures have suffered huge hits in recent years.

Honey bees started dying off en masse in 2006, a process that has continued in recent years, with 31 percent of the US commercial bee population disappearing in 2012 alone. Researchers have blamed pesticides and disease for the collapse of thousands of colonies, but no definitive explanation for why so many are dying has yet been put forward. The dire situation has forced governments and scientists to act, creating bee-saving task forces and proposing plans to strap tiny cameras to the little critters to see where they fly. While bees elsewhere in the world are still at risk, Oslo's plan should mean Norwegian bees have a better chance at survival.

 

 

Honey bee parasite identified

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A LITTLE-known organism, which attacks the honey bee’s gut and is suspected of contributing to massive hive losses in the Coromandel and other regions, has been identified by Gisborne gene scientist John Mackay.

Ways to combat the parasite from spreading through the country to Gisborne and the East Coast are vital to prevent similar hive losses in this region.

One of the first steps is to identify pathogens responsible for the decimation of bee populations.

During intial testing of samples from the Coromandel, Mr Mackay found fungal pathogens Nosema ceranae and Nosema apis were at the highest levels ever seen.

But a 2013 report had indicated something was different in pathogen activity in overseas hives.

“That, together with a report earlier this year, is what prompted us to develop new DNA tests to identify the possible presence of this new species,” says Mr Mackay.

A DNA test looks specifically for the organism it has been designed to detect.

“We developed a diagnostic associated with a parasite found in Belgium and the USA. It has been around for decades. However, it is only recently that is has been associated with hive losses together with Nosema ceranae; itself associated with major hive losses overseas.”

Nosema ceranae has been associated with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) — an unexplained phenomenon that has devastated hive populations around the world.

In May, the dnature team confirmed the organism found in the Coromandel bees as Lotmaria passim and reported it to the Minstry of Primary Industries.

Mr Mackay suspects that because Lotmaria passim damages the bee’s gut, this allows Nosema ceranae and Nosema apis to invade the tissue and do more damage. These two pathogens seem to work synergistically.

“In February this year came a report on bees infected with both Nosema ceranae and Nosema apis. It’s much worse for a bee’s life-span having both species than having one or the other.

“Nosema ceranae also affects the bees’ homing ability.”

When bees leave the hive to forage, they cannot find their way back. This could explain why no dead bees were found in or around the affected Coromandel hives, says Mr Mackay.

“Nosema ceranae has been associated with CCD but has also been found in unaffected colonies, as we also found.”

Beekeepers are waking up to the pathogen problem, including the recently-identified Lotmaria passim, says Mr Mackay.

However, when the 400 beekeepers at an apiculture conference in Taupo this week were asked how many had experienced hive deaths with symptoms that matched the Coromandel bee losses, about a quarter of the room reportedly raised their hands, but only one had actually reported the case.

Mr Mackay says reticence over bee losses could be due in part because of competition within the industry.

“If a rival knows I’ve lost my hives they might pinch my manuka site.”

In a Scoop BusinessDesk story, Suze Metherell reports pesticide consultant Don Macleod said the Ministry had only received 12 reports of hive deaths, and the agency was not necessarily able to help because of the uncertainty over the cause of death.

A new set of symptoms alerted scientists to the presence of a possible previously unknown pathogen, wrote Coromandel scientist and commercial beekeeper Dr Oksana Borowik.

Symptoms previously reported by Wairarapa beekeepers were similar to those seen in the Coromandel.

“They all had queens but just a handful of bees. Six weeks earlier these colonies would have been thriving. There were rings of brood that had been capped, but had been chilled and not emerged because of their dramatic decrease. So from 20,000 bees, there were now three to 400 or so in these colonies.

“The next question is of course, what is the cause of what is happening here?”

By May this year, DNA sequencing carried out by Mr Mackay indicated the new organism identity as Lotmaria passim.

 


British bees have visitors swarming into Expo sculptural hive

AFP Published Tuesday, June 23, 2015 7:50AM EDT

MILAN, Italy - The World Expo in Milan is all abuzz about a giant aluminium hive that hums in harmony with 40,000 bees making honey 1,400km away in Nottingham, England.

Artist Wolfgang Buttress's innovative work is the centrepiece of a bee-themed British pavilion that is pulling in nearly four times as many visitors as anticipated and has become one of the must-sees of the six-month world fair in Italy's economic capital.

Steve Jewlitt-Fleet, the pavilion's deputy director, told AFP that, since its May 1 opening, over 500,000 visitors have come to admire a creation designed to highlight the importance of bees to the environment and showcase scientific research that could help reverse an alarming decline in their numbers.

"It's been a real word-of-mouth success," said Jewlitt-Fleet.

Visitors to the 100m x 20m pavilion follow the dance of a bee through British orchard and meadow landscapes featuring native apple trees and wild heather, buttercups and sorrel, before arriving at Buttress's hive.

As they enter the 43-tonne structure, they start to pick up the amplified hum of the bees in Nottingham Trent University physicist Martin Bencsik's experimental hive in England, where he is using accelerometer technology borrowed from high-tech engineering to monitor what is going on inside.

Accelerometers are highly sensitive devices used to monitor vibrations in rotating machinery, notably in the automobile and aviation industries.

Now mass produced for use in smartphones (they allow automated portrait/landscape display functions) Bencsik uses them to track the evolution of vibrations within the hive over days, weeks and months and translates them as changes of the colony status.

Bee dictionary

This has enabled him to identify unintentional sounds as minute as the crackling of a single bee walking on honeycomb, and build up a kind of dictionary of bee vibrational pulses.

Bencsik hopes his research will lead to the creation of a simple tool that can be placed in the hive and alert keepers when something has changed, thus saving them the time and effort currently taken up with having to open and check hives individually at least once a week in spring.

"The main advantage is it will enable the keepers to leave the bees that are healthy alone to get on with making honey, and they will also know if something is going wrong," explained the French scientist, who attributes his passion for bees to his father, a keeper of 50 years experience in the Beaujolais wine-growing region.

To enhance the soundscape in Milan, when the bee vibrations reach certain pitches they trigger occasional bursts of specially recorded pieces of cello, piano, guitar and human voice designed to harmonise with the "very meditative, low visceral hum" Buttress discovered when he first visited Bencsik's hive.

"The irony is that bees are deaf, they communicate through vibration, but talking to Martin I saw the potential of using the sounds as a way of reflecting the connection between bees and man," the artist told AFP.

Energy levels in the hive also dictate the colours and intensity of almost 1,000 LED lights which illuminate the Milan structure, which has become particularly popular at nightfall when the visual impact is greatest.

The hive was put together from 169,300 individual components without a single welder being employed.

"Basically it is like a giant Meccano set, a real piece of precision engineering," said Tim Leigh, Marketing Director for Stage One, the British creative construction company which made the hive in 32 layers shipped out to Italy in batches.

Listen to the bees

Stage One, who made the cauldron for the Olympic flame at the London Olympics, won the tender for main contractor, three weeks before it was announced Buttress had won the design competition.

"That meant we were able to help choose the winning design," Leigh explained. "Designers inevitably want to do something as flamboyant as possible but we had to ensure it was buildable on a tight schedule and within what was a relatively modest budget."

Tristan Simmonds, a structural engineer who has helped ensure the stability of giant sculptures by Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley, and BDP architects were also involved in a project, which required 4,500 hours of technical drawing to ensure all the pieces came together safely and on time.

The goal was to pay tribute to the bee's role as the exclusive pollinator of 70 of the world's 100 most important food crops, making it responsible for almost a third of the food consumed on Earth.

After its stint in Milan, the pavilion is destined to be dismantled and reassembled at a soon-to-be decided location in Britain.

"It would benefit from a background that promotes the countryside and sustainability," said Bencsik.

"That is the message of the pavilion: bees are exquisitely sensitive to the well-being of the environment, if it goes wrong the bees will be the first to suffer so we should listen to them very carefully."

See Also: "Wolfgang Buttress: The architecture of bees" http://www.iconeye.com/architecture/features/item/11141-wolfgang-buttress-the-architecture-of-bees

 

Environmental Protection Agency Celebrates Pollinator Week

Posted on June 15, 2015

Pollinators are a vital part of America’s economy and environment. Without pollinators, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for our fruits and vegetables to grow. From June 15-21, the Environmental Protection Agency encourages you to celebrate Pollinator Week, a week dedicated to highlighting the importance of bees, bats, birds, butterflies and other pollinators.

EPA is continuing to take action to help protect pollinators, as outlined in the Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. Here are some our current actions. EPA is accepting comments on its Proposal to Protect Bees from Acutely Toxic Pesticides. On Tuesday, June 23 from 3-4:30 Eastern, EPA will hold a webinar to explain the basics of the proposal. You can access the webinar here https://epa.connectsolutions.com/pollinatorproposal/.

EPA is joining other federal agencies, the National Wildlife Federation, the Pollinator Partnership (pollinator.org) and many more organizations in the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge (http://millionpollinatorgardens.org/) to promote pollinator health.

What can you do to protect pollinators? EPA has tips and resources for the general public, growers and pesticide manufacturers http://www2.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/what-you-can-do-protect-honey-bees-and-other-pollinators.

Spread the word by using #PollinatorWeek in your social media posts and by sharing our social media messages. Retweet us at https://twitter.com/EPA/status/610460326597951488

Learn more about pollinators at www2.epa.gov/pollinator-protection

For more information on Pollinator Week, visit http://pollinator.org/pollinator_week_2015.htm

 

Morgan Freeman is now a beekeeper

Actor doesn't even wear a veil to protect himself because, clearly, all living things love Morgan Freeman.

Fri, Jul 25, 2014 at 03:32 PM

Morgan Freeman has such a great concern for the plight of the honeybee, that he's now gone and made his 124-acre ranch in Mississippi a refuge for them. 

During a media tour for his new film "Lucy," Freeman explained the reasons behind his decision to build his own apiary saying: "I just received, two weeks ago, 26 hives of bees, so I'm very busy... I'm beekeeping...

"There's a concerted effort to bring bees back onto the planet ... We do not realize that they are the foundation, I think, of the growth of the planet, the vegetation... I have so many flowering things and I have a gardener too. Because she takes care of the bees too, all she does is figure out, 'OK, what would they like to have?', so we've got acres and acres of clover, we're planting stuff like lavender, I've got like, maybe 140 magnolia trees, big blossoms," he adds.  

Did you read all of that in the smooth-as-butter voice of Morgan Freeman? Because I know I did. 

Freeman, 77, is wise to have someone else managing his hives. As the proud owner of two hives, I can tell you it's a bit of work to keep tabs on each one; not to mention the spring and fall honey harvests. Nonetheless, he does visit the bees occasionally — and since all things love Morgan Freeman, he does it even without a protective veil.  

"I've not ever used (the beekeeping hat) with my bees," he says. "They haven't (stung me) yet, because right now I'm not trying to harvest honey or anything, I'm just feeding them... I think they understand, 'Hey, don't bother this guy, he's got sugar water here.'"


Read more: http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/arts-culture/blogs/morgan-freeman-is-now-a-beekeeper#ixzz3d9OlRg3n

 

Honey-based mead may curb antibiotic resistance, say makers

By Ilze Filks

Health | Wed Jun 10, 2015 7:06am

EDTScientists in Sweden are launching their own mead - an alcoholic beverage made from a fermented mix of honey and water - based on old recipes which they say could help in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

Together with a brewery, the scientists who have long studied bees and their honey, have launched their own mead drink - Honey Hunter's Elixir.

Lund University researcher Tobias Olofsson said mead had a long track record in bringing positive effects on health.

"Mead is an alcoholic drink made with just honey and water and it was regarded as the drink of the gods and you could become immortal or sustain a better health if you drank it. It was drunk by the Vikings for example and other cultures such as the Mayas, the Egyptians and it was a drink that was regarded as a very beneficial drink," said Olofsson.

Honey production is key to the research. In previous research published in 2014, Olofsson and Alejandra Vasquez discovered that lactic acid bacteria found in the honey stomach of bees, mixed with honey itself, could cure chronic wounds in horses that had proved resistant to treatment.

They said their research had proven that these bacteria have the power to collaborate and kill off all the human pathogens they have been tested against, including resistant ones. They are doing so by producing hundreds of antibacterial antibiotic-like substances.

What makes Honey Hunter's Elixir different from other types of modern mead drinks is that is uses all 13 beneficial honeybee lactic acid bacteria and the wild yeasts from honey that normally ferment mead spontaneously.

According to the team, commercial honey does not contain these bacteria. Since the honey and water mixture is sterilized before later adding industrial wine yeast, all other life in the honey, including wild yeast, is killed off.

The researchers say the drink contains 100 billion of these 13 different living and collaborating lactic acid bacteria

Olofsson said they believed mead could have been the most efficient historical equivalent to today's antibiotics and they see Honey Hunter's Elixir as a possible way of preventing infections.

"Well, we've seen in our research that the honey bees actually add great flora of lactic acid bacteria in honey so the mead, when produced, is actually fermented by these lactic acid bacteria together with wild yeasts and the lactic acid bacteria can really kill off all the dangerous pathogens that are even resistant against antibiotics. So our thinking is that the mead, when you consume the mead, these (antibacterial substances in) lactic acid bacteria in the drink can actually be transferred to your blood and help you when you are infected with dangerous bacteria or promote health, preventing infections," Olofsson said.

In 2005 Olofsson and Vasquez discovered that many beneficial bacteria reside within honey-bees in a structure called honey crop, which is the organ where honeybees collect nectar for honey production.

As a result, their research has since focused on how this can be applied to functional foods, as alternative medical tools against infections and bee health.

The mead is part of this research which is summarized on the website livingantibiotics.com/

"We will have volunteers drinking this drink and measure different parameters to see if the compounds the bacteria produce could end up in the blood system and for that to cause a prevention or a cure for infections," Vasquez said, adding that more research was needed.

"We don't really know at the moment exactly which kind of infectious disease we could counteract in the future because we need to understand this thoroughly. At the moment we know that the bacteria produce very interesting compounds, a lot of different weapons like antibiotics but a lot of them that collaborate and those weapons or the key in use in this viable bacteria in the future," she said.

If human trials are successful it could help doctors overturn the growing threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria, in both First World countries and also in the developing world where fresh honey is more readily accessible than antibiotics.

In recent years antibiotic resistance has become a critical issue for global health, with an ever increasing number of strains of bacteria developing immunity.

 

 

Burpee donates seed packets as part of President's National Pollinator Initiative

By W. Atlee Burpee & Co. June 12, 2015 | 4:30 pm EDT

In support of the President's recently-released National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, seed giant W. Atlee Burpee & Co. has donated one million Bee and Butterfly Garden flower seed packets to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Interior (DOI) to help combat rapidly dwindling populations of honey bees and other pollinators. The seed packets have been specifically designed to foster bee-friendly gardens and habitats in home and school gardens across the country.

One of every three bites of food eaten depends on pollinators, especially bees, according to a Yale research report (April 2013). Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agriculture crops in the United States. The number of managed honey bee colonies in the United States is at a record low of 2.5 million colonies (beehives) compared to 6 million colonies in 1947.

"Given the heavy dependence of certain crops on commercial pollination, reduced honey bee populations directly affect domestic agriculture," said George Ball, chairman and CEO of Burpee. "We believe strongly that home gardens designed to attract bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies, will be hugely successful in reversing this downward trend. We also hope to encourage the next generation of gardeners to nurture the land and the environment," he added.

Distribution of "Burpee's Bee Garden" seed packets is being implemented by the USDA and DOI. The program was launched in April, 2015 with the distribution of seed packets to over 30,000 individuals attending the Easter Egg Roll at the White House, and the Earth Day concert in Washington, DC. To date, seed packages have been distributed by the DOI to educational programs, community and non-profit groups in 24 states, and a further 156,000 seed packets have been distributed by the USDA to 50 state conservationists to provide to requesters in each state.  The National Park Service (NPS) has set up an online request/distribution system at www.nps.gov/experiences/pollinatorgarden.htm for youth group leaders and educators to receive seeds in time for planting this season.

Burpee horticulturalists worked in collaboration with the NPS to create a user-friendly seed packet featuring 21 flower varieties that are deer resistant and bloom early and late in the season to extend available nectar for bees, butterflies, moths and birds.

This initiative follows a sweeping Presidential Memorandum calling for immediate measures to "ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment" via citizen stewardship for the conservation of pollinators (from "Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators," June 14, 2014).

Looking Ahead

2016 Annual Convention & Trade Show
will be held in beautiful
Albuquerque, New Mexico!
January 5-9 at the Embassy Suites
1000 Woodward Pl NE, Albuquerque, NM 87102

 

2017 we will join with ABF and have a joint Convention & Tradeshow in Galveston, Texas!

 
We are excited about both conventions and are working hard on the plans.

We'll have more information soon!

 

The Bee Understanding Project

Beekeeper Integral to Bee Understanding

As honey-producers, you have more at stake than the average beekeeper when it comes to protecting your hives.  A successful honey crop depends on the health of honeybees, plain and simple. That’s why we’re putting together the  Bee Understanding project. (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/bee-understanding)

Through the Bee Understanding (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/bee-understanding) project, farmers and beekeepers, crop advisors and entomologists, pest control applicators and regulators will switch jobs for a day and walk a mile in the other guys’ boots to see this problem from the ground level and develop solutions together.

We’ve recruited former AHPA President Randy Verhoek as our beekeeper, and we hope you’ll be interested to learn more about our work. We’re capturing everything in a series of documentary short films that we will make available to you, and we will work to embed the films in continuing education programs throughout the food chain. Together we can accelerate cooperation, and improve the health of the honey bee. 

We want to give you a front row seat. Your contributions can earn you a "Thank you" credit, a "Producer's" credit, or an invitation to our special Honey Dinner, where our executive chef will incorporate 100% North American honey into each and every course.   Follow Randy’s story and learn more about the Bee Understanding project at this link.  (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/bee-understanding)

New Rule Does Not Protect Pollinators

 

Thursday, May 28, the EPA announced a new rule for foliar applications of acutely toxic pesticides on honey bees contracted to pollinate crops.  The new rule will prohibit the foliar application of acutely toxic pesticides to a crop while it is in bloom, and honey bees are hired to pollinate the crop.  The EPA states this new rule creates a “pesticide-free zone.” This will create neither a pesticide-free zone, nor protect honey bees and native pollinators from the impact of bee toxic pesticides.  This new rule implies needed protection, where it is not needed.  Growers who invest in renting bee hives for crop pollination understand the value of honey bees.  Specialty crop growers will not intentionally harm the livestock that helps create their crop. Crop pollination contracts have had guidelines written into them protecting honey bees.   The EPA is trying to narrow pollinator protection to specialty crop areas only, and throw the rest of the ecosystem “under the bus.”  Pollinators must be protected all year long in every setting, in order to be abundant and healthy for the essential pollination moments.

It is the neighboring fields to specialty crops, crops that are part of creating a honey crop, and mosquito control programs that continue to put pollinators at risk.  The new pollinator protection statement for this New Rule states:

“It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.  FOR FOLIAR APPLICATIONS OF THIS PRODUCT TO SITES WITH BEES ON-SITE FOR COMMERCIAL POLLINATION SERVICES: Foliar application of this product is prohibited from onset of flowering until flowering is complete when bees are on-site under contract, unless the application is made in association with a government-declared public health response.  If site-specific pollinator protection/pre-bloom restrictions exist, then those restrictions must also be followed.”

The prohibition still contains “unless” and relates mostly to mosquito control programs and public health emergencies.  We can protect public health and protect honey bees.  Mosquito control pesticides should be applied when they are most effective at night, when honey bees are not active.  This risk and other risks to pollinators are tasked to the State, as they develop individual State Pollinator Protection Plans.  These local plans to be developed by local stakeholders may provide “customized mitigation measures” to protect honey bees and native pollinators from pesticide-related risks. 

The New Rule mentions other short-comings of protecting pollinators from pesticides, stating the need for additional research on the impact of tank mixes of pesticides with fungicides, specific native pollinator studies, systemic pesticides, insect growth regulators, and “prolonged residual toxicity” of pesticides.  While the New Rule will remove the 48 hour notice to move bees when applying neonicotinoid pesticides on crops under contracted pollination services on the Federal pesticide label; some state pollinator plans still contain the 48 hour notice to move honey bees as a mitigation measure. This New Rule will affect current pollinator plans as states cannot create laws that are less stringent than federal laws.  EPA is leaving it to the States to create local mitigation solutions when pollinated crops are not the problem. 

This New Rule misses the mark completely, as the big problem continues to be tank mixes.  Due to a lack of science and scrutiny by EPA, farmers are operating in the dark about tank mixes.  Most damage happens to bees from adjacent croplands, and bees not under pollination contracts exposed to tank mixes of pesticides.  Farmers are not provided with information on pesticide labels of the synergistic effects of tank mixes.  Farmers are not given the information of how to protect the bees, as tank mixes are not regulated.  A farmer can perform their due diligence reading the pesticide label of a fungicide, an herbicide, an insecticide, and individually all three products might be slightly toxic or moderately toxic, but combined, the synergism that occurs is unknown.  The synergism of tank mixes is apparent when honey bees are killed.   This and other exposure routes cannot be addressed through the 15 year cycle of pesticide registration reviews or bee kill incident report data.

A “pesticide-free zone” cannot be called that when only one third of pesticide applications are addressed.  The new rule prohibits use of the foliar application of pesticides while the bees are in the blooming crop; but what about the residue levels of systemic pesticides in the soil and water.

            Honey bees engaged in honey production are not addressed in this new rule.  Fifty percent of the American honey bee stock will be in numerous upper Midwest states in the summer, making a honey crop off of alfalfa, sunflowers, and wildflowers.  If this new rule is as Jim Jones, EPA Asst. Administrator states a “function of where the bees are,” then the new rule must protect bees wherever they are located.  Pollinators must be protected all year long in every setting in order to be abundant and healthy for the essential pollination moments.

The New Rule will be open for public comment for thirty days.  This New Rule will impact seventy-five active ingredients in pesticides (insecticides and herbicides only, not fungicides) and potentially impact one thousand pesticide labels. The active ingredients affected will be those causing acute risk to honey bees on an acute contact basis.  New pesticide labels due to this new rule will not be in the marketplace until 2017.  The Pollinator Stewardship Council will be submitting our public comment to the EPA docket; and we will reach out to our beekeeping supporters to submit their comments as well, to EPA, and individual members of Congress.   For the beekeeping industry to be able to pollinate one third of the American food supply, to be able to produce a honey crop for individual consumption, as well as for the food industry, we must be able to protect our honey bees at all times, in all crops.
EPA’s Proposal to mitigate Exposure to Bees form Acutely Toxic Pesticide Products http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0818-0002

Michele Colopy
Program Director
Pollinator Stewardship Council, Inc.
P.O. Box 304
Perkinston, MS 39573

832-727-9492
progdirector@pollinatorstewardship.org
www.pollinatorstewardship.org

 

 

Honey bee behavior altered by insecticides

May 29, 2015 by Scott Schrage

Certain insecticides common to U.S. orchards appear to make honey bees substantially less busy, according to a new study led by UNL entomologists.

Released just days prior to a May 19 White House report calling for greater protection of pollinators, the study suggests that exposure to sub-lethal doses of insecticides known as pyrethroids may reduce honey bee movement and social interaction.

The authors found that honey bees treated with moderate and high doses of a pyrethroid called esfenvalerate moved 61 and 71 percent less, respectively, than untreated bees over a 24-hour span. Bees exposed to high doses of esfenvalerate and its cousin permethrin also spent 43 and 67 percent less time interacting with their neighbors.

Though legislators have put limits on pyrethroid use, the National Agricultural Statistics Service has reported that the insecticides are applied across roughly 1 million acres of U.S. orchards. Growers regularly place honey bee colonies in these orchards, where pollination improves the yield and quality of crops ranging from almonds and cherries to peaches and pears.

While cautioning that the study was conducted under laboratory conditions, lead author Erin Ingram said that behavioral changes similar to those found by the UNL team would have significant consequences if manifested in natural environments.

"The strength of a (honey bee) colony relies on the proper functioning of its members to perform all of the necessary duties, such as foraging for food and communicating with other bees," said Ingram, a doctoral student at UNL. "If bee locomotion, social interaction or ability to feed are impaired by sub-lethal exposure to pesticides, this could potentially impact colony survival or performance."

The researchers gathered data on 384 honey bees by recording them on video and tracking their behavior via a software program. Though this methodology has been applied to the study of animals such as mice, fish and other insects, UNL's Department of Entomology has recently helped establish it as a tool for analyzing bees, Ingram said.

"Animal behavior has typically been studied manually through time- and effort-intensive observation," Ingram said. "With additional work, this system could potentially be developed into an efficient and relatively cost-effective way to examine changes in honey bee behavior in response to low levels of pesticide exposure as part of the risk assessment process."

The recently released White House report addresses several such risks, including insecticides, before laying out numerous initiatives designed to mitigate them in coming years.

"The fact that there is an official strategy for improving pollinator health at the federal level is a great thing," Ingram said. "This strategy addresses a major issue facing pollinator health: the availability of habitat and food resources. While we might not understand all of the disease, pesticide or parasite interactions that are affecting bees, we know that bees need a variety of flowers to meet their nutritional needs.

"Planting pollinator-friendly flowers provides a way for anyone to help out pollinators, and it's a step the federal agencies can take right now to directly impact pollinator survival and health."

Ingram and her colleagues published their study in the journal Chemosphere.



Tiny Parasite May Contribute to Declines in Honey Bee Colonies by Infecting Larvae

May 27, 2015 | By Kim McDonald

Biologists at UC San Diego have discovered that a tiny single-celled parasite may have a greater-than expected impact on honey bee colonies, which have been undergoing mysterious declines worldwide for the past decade.

In this week’s issue of the journal PLOS ONE, the scientists report that a microsporidian called Nosema ceranae, which has been known to infect adult Asiatic and European honey bees, can also infect honeybee larvae. They also discovered that honey bee larvae infected with the microsporidian have reduced lifespans as adults.

Since 2006, beekeepers in North America and Europe have lost about one-third of their managed bee colonies each year due to “colony collapse disorder.” While the exact cause is unknown, scientists have speculated that pesticides, pathogens, mites and certain beekeeping practices have all contributed to this decline. Nosema ceranae, a kind of fungal pathogen spread by spores, is also implicated in colony collapse because it reduces colony health and is widespread.

“Previous research suggested that Nosema ceranae could not infect honey bee larvae,” said James Nieh, a professor of biology at UC San Diego who headed the research effort with graduate student Daren Eiri, the first author of the study. “But this was largely based upon indirect evidence: spore counts in newly emerged adult bees, which typically have low spore counts.”

Because Eiri and his co-authors conducted their experiments with larvae exposed to spores and reared in the laboratory, they said the extent of larval infection needs to be studied further using field bee colonies to determine the true impact of larval infection on colony health. Nieh noted that a study conducted recently by other scientists detected low levels of Nosema DNA in honey bee larvae, suggesting that larval infection can occur in field colonies.

“However, no study had directly investigated whether larvae could become infected with Nosema ceranae,” said Eiri. “Our study provides a direction to continue investigating this question outside the lab and in the field using entire colonies

The UC San Diego discovery may also clarify a mystery. “One puzzling aspect of Nosema ceranae infection is that infection in adult bees usually decreases after medication is given by beekeepers to a colony, but can later resurge,” Nieh said. “Some of this resurgent infection could be due to transmission between bee colonies or to adult bees that have a low, but resistant level of infection.”

“However, our study raises the possibility that brood are also infected. If so, this typically would not be detected for weeks until the emergence of adult bees. Generally, older adult bees are more heavily infected with Nosema. Thus, bees infected as brood may not develop high Nosema spore counts until they are much older adults, further delaying detection.”

Those unanswered questions suggest the impact of this microspordian on honey bee colonies deserves a second look.

“We hope that our study will spur further research into how Nosema ceranae is transmitted and into the potential infection of larvae in natural and managed honey bee colonies in the field,” said Nieh.

The study was funded by grants from the UC San Diego Academic Senate, National Honey Board and North American Pollinator Protection Campaign.

USDA Reminds Farmers to Certify Conservation Compliance by June 1 Deadline

Producers May Need to Take Action to Remain Eligible for Crop Insurance Premium Support

Source: USDA 

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 16, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds farmers that the 2014 Farm Bill requires producers to file a Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form (AD-1026) with their local USDA service center by June 1, 2015, in order to become or remain eligible for crop insurance premium support.

Most farmers already have a certification form on file since it's required for participation in most USDA programs such as marketing assistance loans, farm storage facility loans and disaster assistance. However farmers, such as specialty crop growers who receive federal crop insurance premium support, but may not participate in other USDA programs, also must now file a certification form to maintain their crop insurance premium support.

"USDA employees are working very hard to get the word out about this new Farm Bill provision," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "While many producers will not need to take action, we want to help make sure that those who are required to act do so by the June 1 deadline. We want all eligible producers to be able to maintain their ability to protect their operations with affordable insurance."

Producers should visit their local USDA service center and talk with their crop insurance agent before the June 1, 2015, deadline to ask questions, get additional information or learn more about conservation compliance procedures. Producers that file their form by the deadline will be eligible for federal crop insurance premium support during the 2016 reinsurance year, which begins July, 1, 2015. USDA will publish a rule outlining the linkage of conservation compliance with federal crop insurance premium support. Click here to view a copy of the rule.

The Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form is available at local USDA service center or online. When a farmer completes this form, USDA Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service staff will outline any additional actions that may be required for compliance with highly erodible land and wetland provisions. USDA's Risk Management Agency, through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, manages the federal crop insurance program that provides the modern farm safety net for America's farmers and ranchers.

This announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has implemented many provisions of this critical legislation, providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. Click here for more information.

 

Bee Losses Are Not Sustainable

The Bee Informed Partnership released its analysis of honey bee losses for 2014 yesterday, (http://beeinformed.org/2015/05/colony-loss-2014-2015-preliminary-results/ ) showing beekeepers lost 42 percent of their colonies between April 2014 and April 2015. The Associated Press noted “it’s not quite as dire as it sounds” because beekeepers can split their surviving hives, according to Dennis vanEnglesdorp of the University of Maryland.

Yes, it’s , beekeepers can split healthy hives to make more colonies. But apiaries with 40 percent losses probably don’t have very many healthy hives, and it’s not likely splitting weak colonies will succeed. Logistics aside, what is really missing from this picture is an understanding of the economic investment required to return the number of colonies to previous levels.

This is best understood from the vantage point of the beekeeper, in the context of almond pollination, the beekeeper’s primary economic event. One beekeeper explained it thus:

Do we count downhill such as 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, or do we count uphill such as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5?   Well, it depends on “where you start,” or “where you are going.”

If we count downhill, a beekeeper begins the year with 2,000 bee hives for honey production.  The beekeeper loses some during the summer, and gets the survivors ready for winter.  The beekeeper loses more colonies over the winter, and takes the remaining 1,000 good hives to almonds for rent.  So, the beekeeper’s losses are 50%.

If we count uphill, the beekeeper knows from past experience, to stay in business he/she needs to rent 1,000 hives to almonds.  For the beekeeper to ensure 1,000 hives will be available to rent to almonds, he will need to start with 2,000 hives. This means 1,000 colonies will have to be split. The original colonies will need to be re-queened in order to begin spring with 2000 hives.   Therefore, when counting uphill, the beekeeper preparing for almond pollination needs 200% more hives than he/she intends to rent. This costs staff time and hard cash for queens. Splitting a colony also takes away from its ability to make honey, as the field force is reduced.

So where should the counting start? Do we examine the beekeeper’s primary economic event (almond pollination), and count the economic inputs it takes to get there?  Or, do we examine the high number counting down towards the beekeeper’s primary economic event (almond pollination), even if this does not capture the beekeeper’s economic inputs?

A true and accurate mathematical analysis will reflect what is actually happening to the bees, and what beekeepers have to do to keep our agricultural system from collapsing.  Counting downhill from ivory towers, beekeeping becomes an easy race, but you have to discount how you got to the top of the hill.  Counting uphill shows the effort it takes to run the race. Counting downhill or uphill each year shows how the beekeeping race has changed, but fails to capture the big picture and the number of beehives which used to last three years now only last one year.

If other commodities were examined for their sustainability based on a similar survey what would be the response?   If half of the cattle died every year, and the cattle industry had to double in size to generate the same number of cattle sales, what would be the repercussions, the regulatory response, and the support offered to the industry?

It has been acknowledged honey bees and other pollinators are integral to agriculture and our wild lands, and an affordable and sustainable food supply.  Yet, we are not listening to the bees. Forty to fifty percent losses are not sustainable for either the bees or the beekeepers.

 

Michele Colopy
Program Director
Pollinator Stewardship Council, Inc.
P.O. Box 304
Perkinston, MS 39573
832-727-9492
progdirector@pollinatorstewardship.org
www.pollinatorstewardship.org

 

Bee ahead.

A creature loved by all, it serves a vital function in the terrestrial ecosystem – the honey bee, Apis mellifera. Indispensable for food production, the honey bee is the third most important domesticated animal for humans.

It’s a warning some attribute to Albert Einstein:
If the bee disappears off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. Without bees, after all, there would be practically no pollination of flowering plants, and the ecological and economic impacts of that would be dramatic. The Audi Environmental Foundation has been committed to preserving these flying insects for years. Now the foundation is funding a project with an entirely new approach to researching bee behavior: “Vorsprung durch Technik” in the beehive.

An audience with the queen. The Würzburg-based HOBOS project enables fascinating live views from inside an active bee colony.

The future of our planet depends on the intelligent, sustainable treatment of the biosphere by humanity. Playing an active part in species protection starts with knowledge. That’s why the Audi Environmental Foundation has been funding various bee projects since 2011, especially to make nature and our environment interesting and exciting for kids and teenagers.

One of these commitments is the HOBOS (HOneyBee Online Studies) project. This unparalleled online educational platform of the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg was launched in 2006 by Prof. Dr. Jürgen Tautz, a leading expert on bees. The centerpiece of the project is an active bee colony.

An array of cameras and sensors are used to record the bustling action in and around the beehive in Würzburg, which can be watched on video without disturbing the colony in the slightest. Data on the bee colony, the state of vegetation and the weather is recorded in real time. When do the honey bees swarm? Do bees sleep at night? And what do honey bees do in the winter? Read More: http://www.audi-reports.com/ar2014/stories/bee-ahead/


Monsanto Is in Hot Water - Again

Thursday, 02 April 2015 00:00 By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report

Stephen Melkisethian)

This story was updated at 10:20 a.m. EST on April 3. 

It's been a tough few weeks for Monsanto.

Late last week, companies "such as Monsanto" were implicated in a watchdog group's petition to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on behalf of anonymous scientists within the agency who say their research is suppressed when it upsets powerful agrichemical interests.

The allegations enraged the industry's critics, who have been busy touting recent reports linking popular herbicides often used in tandem with genetically engineered crops, or GMOs, to cancer and antibiotic resistance.

Both controversies are renewing calls for tougher restrictions on certain herbicides and mandatory packaging labels for groceries containing GMO ingredients.

"If true, this is a major scandal at the USDA," wrote Gary Ruskin, director of the pro- labeling group US Right to Know, in a March 30 letter to the US House and Senate agricultural committees demanding an investigation. "It is not the proper role of the USDA to engage in a cover up for Monsanto and other agrichemical companies."

READ MORE: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29992-monsanto-is-in-hot-water-again#

   

 

I'll BEE back: Fleets of Terminator-style drones could have artificial brains based on honeybees

·         Scientists aim to build robot that thinks, senses and acts like honeybee

·         So far team has managed to replicate part of brain that allows bee to see 

·         Green Brain Project is a collaboration between Universities of Sheffield and Sussex 

 

By Sam Matthew

Published: 09:31 EST, 25 April 2015 | Updated: 11:02 EST, 25 April 2015

The humble honeybee may only be small, but scientists are hoping to use its brain to power a series of futuristic-style drones.

Boffins are currently working towards digitally recreating the cognitive abilities of the Apis Mellifera or European Honeybee.

Their final aim is to build a robot that thinks, senses and acts just like the tiny insects.

The artificial brain is being created by the Green Brain Project, which is a collaboration between researchers from the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex.

One day it is hoped the remote controlled machines could be used to pollinate crops or even assist on search and rescue missions.

'Bees and all other insects are miracles of engineering which we are nowhere near equalling,' Professor James Marshall reportedly told the BBC

'If we could even recreate a fraction of their abilities in a robot system then we would have made a tremendous advance.' 

Building an artificial brain is a complex process and so far, scientist have only managed to clone the part of the bee's brain which allows it to see

To do this they mapped out the brain of the honeybee and recreated it with circuits that fire on and off in an organic brain, Discovery Magazine reported.

The software is then uploaded into the drone's circuitry which enables it to fly around in a similar fashion to the bee.

The projects team now has three quadcopters and one ground robot, each with unique abilities and configurations. 

Tests are being carried out in a dedicated flying room based at the University of Sheffield.   

In a video footage showing initial tests the drone, powered by the artificial bee brain, can be seen flying down a corridor. 

On the Green Brain website it states: 'Since the start of the project, the GB team has setup the lab, built and tested our robots, and begun to demonstrate some sophisticated visual-based navigation and cognitive functions through embodiment. 

'Current projects include navigation using the GB models, flight tests of our models with the BeeBot quadcopter, developing a Ground Control Station, initial testing with the chemosensors and more.'

 

Bees' immunity as they evolved.

By Dave Armstrong

24 Apr 2015 9:29:11 GMT

Bumblebee genomes are less commercial that that of the honeybee, but have just proved to be remarkably similar. What does this say about the immune-related genes within the bee spectrum? We care about our crops and our flowers, the insects that cater to them and the wildlife aspects of bee roles within ecosystems. So therefore this revelation that all bees share a similar resistance to disease gives us great insight into why exactly our pollination problems are building up. The workers for this paper on A depauperate immune repertoire precedes evolution of sociality in bees were Seth M Barribeau of both East Carolina University, US, and the Institute of Integrative Biology in Zurich, Switzerland and dozens of colleagues throughout Europe and the US. They publish in Genome Biology.

2 species of Bombus, B. terrestris(European) and B. impatiens(North American), now show that limited anti-immune response is not limited to the most social insects and could be 105 million years old, when the solitary bee, Megachile, appeared, or even stretch back to the great split from the ants (which also have low numbers of anti-immune responses.) The importance of immune genes is so great that they could even have been associated with these great events in insect evolution.

Fairly obviously, the extreme cleanliness of bees leads to some conclusions as to how lack of immunity is combatted in reality. Hygiene is unusual in animals, and the bees’ levels of nest maintenance and mutual grooming could both help and hinder immunities from disease, parasitic infections and various effects on colonies based on individual life-history. Sociality is a big plus for cooperative working such as that found in all hymenopterans. The dangers are known to humans and other primates, as we also have the high population densities that create most problems.

In conclusion, the honey bees, bumble bees and even solitary bees are almost the same in restricting their anti-immune genes. However, the current selection processes that operate in these species work against a chemical background of insecticidal clouds and systemic plant dangers. This seems to have produced many different pressures in the honey bees compared to the bumbles. Our concern should be how we can aid the recovery, or even the survival of some of these species. They have suffered from almost every insecticide from organophosphates until the neonicotinoids, and survived! This spread of more and more noxious attacks on pollinators will lead to drops in agricultural production and possibly even loss of whole crops unless regulation arrives on the scene. The days of the cowboy farmer have gone in most countries. Now is the time of the scientist farmer whose knowledge could just see us through to the next phase of agricultural advance. One such example of new developments around a much safer spider venom pesticide was revealed in Saving bees with a new pesticide.

New research provides clues about honey bee decline

May 01, 2015 by Sofiya Cabalquinto

 

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, this study demonstrates a crucial link between poor nutrition at a young age, and foraging and waggle dancing, the two most important activities that honey bees perform as providers for their colonies and as pollinators of human crops. The study was co-authored by Hailey Scofield, Wellesley Class of 2013, a former undergraduate research assistant who will begin a Ph. D program (in Neurobiology and Behavior) at Cornell University in Fall 2015.

The need to study nutritional stress in honey bees has grown pressing in recent years. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency named nutritional stress one of the top research priorities for understanding unexplained losses of honey bee colonies, a phenomenon known in the U.S. as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). With bee pollination accounting for over $15 billion in food crops and $150 million in honey annually in the United States alone, bee losses have enormous ecological and economic consequences. If bees vanish, many plants, including vital food crops like apples, almonds, berries and cucumbers, may also be at risk. Researchers believe there may be several interrelated factors contributing to bee decline, including nutritional stress, loss of foraging habitat, pesticides, pathogens, and parasites. These concerns prompted President Obama to form a Pollinator Health Task Force in 2014, an unprecedented action that named studies of the effect of poor nutrition on bees as one of its primary goals.
While a number of sophisticated nutrition studies have been undertaken recently, the Wellesley study is the first to show that nutritional deficits early in life can have far-reaching consequences for adult honey bees, including effects on complex behaviors like foraging and waggle dancing. "Nutritional stress has long been known to shorten bees' lifespan," stated Mattila, "but we've never had such a clear understanding of its impact on the tasks they perform, or known that its effects persist until their last days, even when bees have plentiful food as adults."

The study is also one of the few to be conducted entirely in a natural hive environment, which allowed larvae and adults to function in normal colonies, rather than in the incubators and cages that are more typical of nutrition studies. This unique methodology allowed Mattila, Scofield, and their undergraduate research assistants to observe the bees foraging and dancing in a natural context, activities they would not be able to perform in artificial lab conditions.

Foraging and waggle dancing are especially important to the health of a honey bee colony because they are the key means by which honey bees acquire food supplies like nectar and pollen, and communicate with other bees about the location of food sources and nest sites. When honey bee larvae were raised with a limited pollen supply, as might happen during periods of bad weather or as a consequence of habitat loss or commercial management practices, there were multiple negative consequences. The pollen-stressed bees were lighter and died younger, and fewer bees foraged. Those that did foraged earlier, for fewer days, and were more likely to die after just one day of foraging. Pollen-stressed workers were also less likely to waggle dance than workers that had been well-fed as larvae, and if they danced, the information they conveyed about the location of food sources was less precise. "Their dances were often visibly inconsistent and almost disoriented in the worst instances," said Scofield.

Importantly, nutritional stress interacts with a number of other stress factors, like pesticides and pathogens, which are already known to decrease longevity and impair foraging ability, creating a vicious cycle of poor health and population decline. Nutritional stress is also tied in part to a loss of foraging habitat, which can compound stresses from pesticide use and other commercial practices. Poor foraging and waggle dancing, in turn, could escalate bee decline if long-term pollen limitation if it prevents stressed foragers from providing sufficiently for developing workers. "If poor foraging habitats impose nutritional stress in colonies, then our study shows that the average stressed bee cannot compensate for reduced foraging opportunities by working harder to find food. This likely exacerbates nutritional stress and further limits the colony's ability to overcome food-finding challenges in areas that are no longer suitable for bees," explained Mattila.

The study also suggests that poor nutrition has the potential to undermine colony health and promote collapse. Conversely, ensuring that honey bees have access to diverse and plentiful forage throughout the year could mitigate the potential for collapse. "This means keeping bees in areas that are bee friendly, green, and full of flowering plants within the normal foraging radius of a colony, regularly checking colonies' food supplies, and providing supplements when natural forage is not available or colony stores are low," said Mattila. "Failure to provide these necessities may impose a legacy of dysfunction on colonies."

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Cassie Cox
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