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December 16, 2019

A screening of the movie be held at our convention on Wednesday, January 8, 2020!

The deadline to register for


AHPA DISCOUNTED HOTEL ROOMS
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TODAY
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Your donations make our science on regenerative agriculture and saving the bees possible!

If you donate in the next 5 days, Patagonia has offered to double your money!

https://www.patagonia.com/actionworks/grantees/ecdysis-foundation/?utm_source=em&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=&utm_content=

 

In the past year, we have used your donations to:

  • Host the first workshop teaching young scientists how to conduct research from a farmer's perspective

  • Show that farmers are producing almonds in ways that could just save the planet

  • Investigated promising new home remedies that improve honey bee hive performance

  • Showed the tremendous benefits of regenerative cattle management on biodiversity and rangeland performance in the Great Plains.

And so much more!

 

Your support made these projects and programs possible. Thank you!

 

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USDA APPROVES COMMERCIAL ITEM DESCRIPTION FOR HONEY

After three years of research and input from more than 200 stakeholders, the USDA released its approved Honey Commercial Item Description (CID) on October 23, 2019. This CID (A-A-20380) covers honey, packed in commercially acceptable containers, suitable for use and under inspection or surveillance by federal, state, local governments, and other interested parties. Guidelines include:

  • Type(s), source(s), floral source(s), preparation(s), color(s), grade(s), and agricultural practice(s) of the honey desired

  • Analytical and authenticity tests to be performed

  • When analytical requirements are different than specified

  • When compliance with analytical requirements must be verified

  • When emerging analytical methods for economic adulteration are to be performed

  • When analytical testing for residues are to be performed

  • Manufacturer’s/distributor’s certification or USDA certification

 

The CID is an important step in the industry’s continued efforts for purity and quality of the honey sold in the U.S. For more information on the CID for honey, visit https://www.honey.com/honey-industry/regulation/commercial-item-description.

A biochemist’s extraction of data from honey honors her beekeeper father

The tests could be used to figure out what bees are pollinating and which pathogens they carry

By Tina Hesman Saey

December 13, 2019 at 6:00 am

WASHINGTON — One scientist’s sweet tribute to her father may one day give beekeepers clues about their colonies’ health, as well as help warn others when crop diseases or pollen allergies are about to strike.

Those are all possible applications that biochemistry researcher Rocío Cornero of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., sees for her work on examining proteins in honey. Cornero described her unpublished work December 9 at the annual joint meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology and the European Molecular Biology Organization.

Amateur beekeepers often don’t understand what is stressing bees in their hives, whether lack of water, starvation or infection with pathogens, says Cornero, whose father kept bees before his death earlier this year. “What we see in the honey can tell us a story about the

health of that colony,” she says.

Bees are like miniature scientists that fly and sample a wide variety of environmental conditions, says cell biologist Lance Liotta, Cornero’s mentor at George Mason. As bees digest pollen, soil and water, bits of proteins from other organisms, including fungi, bacteria and viruses also end up in the insects’ stomachs. Honey, in turn, is basically bee vomit, Liotta says, and contains a record of virtually everything the bee came in contact with, as well as proteins from the bees themselves. “The information archive in honey is unbelievable,” Liotta says. But until now, scientists have had a hard time studying proteins in honey. “It’s so gooey and sticky and hard to work with,” he says. Sugars in honey gum up lab equipment usually used to isolate proteins.

So Cornero developed a method to pull peptides — bits of proteins — out of honey using nanoparticles — a feat no other researchers have previously managed, Liotta says. Once extracted from the honey, the peptides are analyzed by mass spectrometry to determine the order of amino acids that make up each fragment of protein. Those peptides are then compared with a database of proteins to determine which organisms produced the honey proteins.  

A group of high school students working at George Mason for the summer collected 13 honey samples from Virginia, Maryland. Two additional samples came from Cornero’s hometown of Mar del Plata in Argentina. The Argentine honey was from the last batches her father collected from his bees.

Proteins from bees, microbes and a wide variety of plants were among the components of the honey. Peptides in honey from one sample came from several bacteria, including some that normally live in bees’ guts and a few disease-causing varieties. Proteins from viruses and parasites that infect bees, including deformed wing virus and Varroa mites, which have been implicated in colony collapse disorder, were also found in the sample (SN: 1/17/18). Those results could mean bees from that location may have trouble surviving the winter when the insects’ immune systems are less able to fight infections. Cornero also determined by looking at pollen and plant proteins in the honey that bees had pollinated a variety of plants, including sunflowers, lilacs, olive trees, red clover, potatoes and tomatoes. By analyzing pollen peptides, scientists may one day be able to learn whether claims that certain honey is made from wildflowers, clover or orange blossoms are really true.

What’s more, counting pollen peptides in local hives could, for example, give allergy sufferers a better idea of when hay fever is likely to flare in their area, Cornero says. The researchers also found plant virus proteins in the honey, an indication of the types of diseases that may be stalking local crops.

Next, Cornero hopes to develop a rapid protein test that would allow beekeepers to plunge a dipstick into honey and rapidly gauge their hives’ health. “Having my dad as a beekeeper, I know how beekeepers work, and it would be a great way to honor his work,” she says.

Can Bees Add a Fresh Buzz to the Caribbean’s $56 Billion Tourism Market?

By Jewel Fraser

When the International Monetary Fund projected recently that Guyana’s economy could jump by 86 percent in 2020, it credited recent oil and gas discoveries. But a different buzz is exciting two of the South American nation’s premier industries, agribusiness and tourism. They’re looking to marry their sectors to offer a new attraction to visitors: bees.

Guyana is not alone. For decades, the Caribbean has counted on its pristine beaches — and Guyana on its lush rainforests — to draw millions of visitors. Now, the region’s countries are increasingly looking to broaden their draw with bee tourism — also known as apitourism — at a time the populations of more than 700 North American bee varieties are on the decline, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

Trinidad and Tobago is hosting a bee safari in early 2020, publicizing the event as a way to beat the winter blues while gaining insights into tropical beekeeping. In St. Lucia, the Washington-based Global Environment Facility — a partnership of 183 nations and civil society organizations — is backing local beekeepers who are offering four-day bee safaris and one-day bee farm tours.

Starting in 2020, Eden Farm Tours in Grenada will offer apitherapy spa packages. The company is also trying to launch the Caribbean’s first medical-grade honey. The Compete Caribbean Partnership Facility — a collaboration of regional private sector firms — and the Caribbean Tourism Organization recently announced grants of up to $400,000 for innovative new agritourism initiatives, including in bee tourism.

Guyana plans on offering three- to five-day safari tours for tourists to sample the country’s varieties of honey while observing domestic hives. This support from governments and regional and global organizations points to the growing confidence that bee tourism could add to the region’s estimated $56 billion annual tourism revenue, and capture a slice of the global apiculture industry that’s estimated to touch $10 billion by 2023.

“Guyana has vast agricultural resources and is a strong emerging tourism destination,” says Donald Sinclair, director general of Guyana’s Department of Tourism. “So it is only natural to see how we can use agriculture as a base for providing satisfactory tourism experiences.”

The Guyana Apiculture Society plans to take visitors to apiaries near the majestic Demerara and Essequibo rivers, says the body’s vice president, Linden Stewart. Tourists will see bees pollinating blossoms, then visit a honey house to observe the extraction, filtration and bottling of honey with an opportunity for sampling.

For the region’s beekeepers, tapping into tourism makes sense. “When you are in a Caribbean island … if you are not in tourism, you are not in business,” says Richard Matthias, president of the Iyanola Apiculture Collective in St. Lucia.

For tourists, the Caribbean promises opportunities impossible to find in North America, say experts. Caribbean bees have a very different diet, says Gladstone Solomon, former president of the Association of Caribbean Beekeepers’ Organizations. In North America, bees often have to settle for acres of almonds or other monoculture crops. In the Caribbean, bees forage on a range of nectar sources, from forest trees to shrubs to commercial plants. As a consequence, the honey produced in the Caribbean varies throughout the year, depending on the plants flowering at the time, explains Matthias. “At some times of the year some flowers may be predominant; at other times there is a mixture of nice floral bouquets,” he says. “At the end of the year other trees come into flower and the honey tastes like licorice.”

When Solomon, 70, started bee safaris in Tobago nearly two decades ago, he was a pioneer. Now, increasing numbers of regional players are entering the market. His 11-day safaris target bee enthusiasts and also expose them to local cuisine and a steel band rehearsal in Trinidad. “It’s not a niche that would be attractive to everyone,” he admits, but it works “in an era where increasing numbers of persons are looking for unique experiences.”

For now, Slovenia is the world leader in bee tourism with resorts and marketing dedicated to the sector. Matthias acknowledges the Caribbean has some catching up to do, but adds that it has advantages. For one, there’s its unrivaled natural beauty. Tourists on the St. Lucia bee safaris visit the island’s famous Pitons — mountainous volcanic plugs — mangroves and virgin forest. And Caribbean bee tourism has started receiving significant financial support. The Global Environment Facility has awarded Matthias’ collective a $50,000 grant to establish a tour service targeting the 600,000 cruise ship visitors who come to St. Lucia each year. Recent research by University of Arkansas scientists also suggests that bees that feast on monoculture crops are nutritionally deprived. That means the healthier Caribbean bees might be the future of bee tourism in the Americas.

To be sure, beekeeping in the Caribbean comes with its own challenges —  pesticides, beehive theft and inadequate pasture for hosting apiaries are some key ones, says Hayden Sinanan, inspector of apiaries in Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Agriculture. Both Solomon, who runs six apiaries in Trinidad and Tobago, and Ravi Rajkumar, a third-generation beekeeper in Guyana, cite the lack of pasture area as a major concern. The Trinidadian government has promised more land but has yet to deliver, says Solomon, who holds a bachelor’s degree in tourism management and a master’s in agriculture and rural development. Adding to expenses, says Matthias, is that most equipment needed to run apiaries has to be imported.

But where there is a will, there is a way. Once decision-makers understand the importance of bees to the environment, they’ll do more to support apitourism, says Sinanan. “If there is something wrong in the natural environment it will be seen first in a bee colony,” he says. “They are the canary in the coal mine.”

December 2, 2019

"The Pollinators" Movie


A screening of "The Pollinators: Movie will be held at our convention on Wednesday, January 8, 2020!

A cinematic journey around the United States following migratory beekeepers and their truckloads of honey bees as they pollinate the flowers that become the fruits, nuts and vegetables we all eat.

Director: Peter Nelson
Stars: Bret Adee, Jeff Anderson, Alan Ard
 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7NoOrNzR1Q

The deadline for registering for
AHPA DISCOUNTED HOTEL ROOMS
at the

HYATT REGENCY HOTEL
IS


DECEMBER 16th!

Hurry and reserve yours
BEFORE THE DEADLINE!


Click Here to reserve online

or call 916-443-1234 
Group code: G-HONY

AHPA Executive Board Report

Is It Just a Southern Thing?

They wanted me to write about issues that affect beekeeping in the South, as I thought about it, the first thing to come to mind was Dicamba, then small hive beetles, then Bio-control of Tallow, or maybe Nosema?  I wondered, are any of these really a southern thing?  It seems to me, a southerner by birth and choice, that none of these things only affect commercial beekeeping in the south. You might argue that Dicamba is a southern thing, but bless you heart, fried catfish, sweet tea, and crawfish boils are a southern thing. Anything and everything that affects beekeepers in the south ultimately impacts the entire bee industry and therefore the quality and/or quantity of bees sent to the almonds. While I don’t send any colonies to almonds, most southern beekeepers do along with all the northern guys who move to the southern states (including Texas) for the winter and/or spring so what happens in the south doesn’t stay in the south.

I am not an expert in the problems associated with Dicamba, but I do know that its use has had a big impact on beekeepers in Arkansas. It’s not just a problem for beekeepers, about half of the farmers in Arkansas oppose its widespread and indiscriminate use.  If you have been reading the Delta Farm Press you probably know everything you need to know about Dicamba use in Arkansas. They apply it to vast fields of cotton and soybean and it drifts onto the adjacent fields and ditches. Since the late 1990’s the use of Roundup and a shift to short season soybeans has reduced the honey producing plants to the wild forage growing along the field margins and many drainage ditches. Most of the honey produced in the cotton and soybean areas of Arkansas comes from the plants growing along the many ditch dumps of the region. In the last 10-15 years those plants have been more reliable honey producers than the row crops. Dicamba was the proverbial “last straw” for commercial beekeeping in Arkansas.  The unique combination of local climate and landscape of Arkansas’ row crop regions, that once supported more than 50,000 colonies, currently make keeping healthy and productive colonies extremely difficult because Dicamba is applied to most of the acres in the region. Average honey production per colony has decreased by 50% or more compared to 5-10 years ago. As a result, the largest operation in the state (10,000 +colonies) decided that they needed to leave the state completely. They did not have any colonies in Arkansas during 2019 because of the continued use of Dicamba. We all know this is not a southern thing. How many of you have moved away from areas that were good honey producing areas 15,10 or even 5 years ago.  As beekeepers we know that if bees have little to no forage, or pesticide laden forage, they will not be strong enough to make any surplus honey or be healthy enough to survive pests and diseases encountered daily throughout the honey season. Be aware of what the farmers in your area are spraying on their crops. The use of Dicamba is increasing each year and it affects colonies in multiple ways.

Is Chinese Tallow a southern thing?  It grows in the deep south, mostly along the coastal water ways, but it is spreading and is as far north and in Arkansas. If you don’t live in the south or don’t move your bees down here maybe you don’t realize how important it is to the whole industry.  It is my main honey crop, and in Texas and Louisiana it is critical to not only honey production but also in building of hundreds of thousands of hives, many of which are moved to the Dakotas for summer honey and ultimately to almond pollination. If APHIS releases the bio-control insects to “control” tallow, it will a have a significant and perhaps devastating impact on our industry.    

I wish I could say that Dicamba and bio-control of honey plants are the only things having an impact on beekeepers in the south, but we are all affected by the issues associated with commercial beekeeping in the U.S.  The Executive Board and especially the officers of the AHPA have been working hard all year and have made some progress in some areas. You will have to come to the 51st Annual meeting of the AHPA in January to find out most of the details. 

Here are some of the issues (in no particular order) we will discuss in Sacramento:

  • H2A program - Beekeepers need timely arrival of workers and workers every month of the year

  • ELAP - USDA has “improved” the program, is it really working better for you?

  • AHPIS - Bio-controls for bee forage plants, Brazilian Pepper, Chinese Tallow and Spotted Knapweed 

  • EMA (economic motivated adulteration) – Adulterated honey is pouring into our market, what do you want to do about it?

  • Domestic honey prices – Does it matter if the prices are dropping to less than $1.50/lb if the packers aren’t buying?

  • Mites ? – Are they really the cause of continued +40% annual hive mortality?

  • GenuHoney – New honey certification program

  • Standard of identity for honey – Do we need one?

  • Amitraz resistance – Is it real?

 

There will be more topics than listed here but these are what I see as important to the industry. I want you to come and meet the old beekeepers. I want the old guys (and gals) to meet the new beekeepers. It’s not a flashy meeting but we do have good food and great speakers.  You will have the opportunity to meet some of the USDA bee researchers and talk about your problems.  You will have the chance to learn from the industry leaders and build new friend and business relationships. We need your help to determine and accomplish our goals for 2020.

The first AHPA meeting I attended was in Nashville, TN which I think was in 1989. I haven’t made it to every meeting since then, but I have made most of them.  I became friends with a couple of ARS scientists years ago because I asked them questions after one of their talks. I met some of my best friends and made some good business deals because of my membership in the American Honey Producers Association. I have recently talked to a long time member from Mississippi who has benefited in many ways (Byrd Amendment) from being a member. His first meeting was in Biloxi, MS in the late 80’s. He attended because it was close to his home but he doesn’t attend every year because he is tired of flying to California. He said that he wants to have more meetings further east than Texas. If you feel the same, then you will have to come to Sacramento in January and tell the executive board. We don’t know what our members want if you don’t participate in the convention and tell us what you want.  I think this is a good time to tell everyone that we are moving the annual meeting to December starting in 2020. We will have a combined meeting with the Louisiana Beekeepers Association in Baton Rouge on December 2-5, 2020. I guess it will be our 52nd annual meeting?

The bee industry has changed during the last several years. Honey production is no longer the major income generator of our industry, but we can’t have a U.S. Bee industry without honey production. The AHPA recognizes that a sustainable industry must have profitable companies. We are fighting for the profit motivated beekeepers because that’s who we are. If you want to be a successful beekeeper, we need to help each other achieve success.  Join us at the 51st Annual meeting and we can help each other become more profitable.  

Steven Coy

Executive Board Member

American Honey Producers Association

11/20/2019

Agricultural immigration bill moves forward

Committee approval of an agricultural immigration bill marks an important step for California farmers, their employees and their families, the California Farm Bureau Federation said. CFBF President Jamie Johansson welcomed today’s action by the House Judiciary Committee on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019. The committee approved the bill by voice vote, ahead of an expected final vote tomorrow to send it to the full U.S. House of Representatives.

“We’ve overcome a lot of obstacles to get here, and there’s still a long way to go, but we’re encouraged by the prospects for reform and improvement of immigration laws that would benefit agricultural employees and their families,” said Johansson, who attended the committee hearing in Washington, D.C.

Introduced by Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, and Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 would improve agricultural visa programs and accommodate immigrant agricultural employees already in the United States, while enhancing border security.

“This bipartisan bill will benefit everyone involved in agriculture. That’s why more than 300 agricultural groups and companies from across the country signed a letter this week urging congressional leaders to move the bill through the House,” Johansson said.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would improve the existing H-2A agricultural visa program and would allow immigrant agricultural employees already in the United States to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment.

“As Thanksgiving nears, there’s no more meaningful way to recognize the contribution agricultural employees make to our food supply and rural communities than to deal fairly with immigrant employees and their immediate families,” Johansson said. “We urge Speaker Pelosi to bring the Farm Workforce Modernization Act to a vote as soon as possible.”

ABOUT CALIFORNIA FARM BUREAU FEDERATION

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 34,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 5.5 million Farm Bureau members.

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

Tesco pulls honey off shelves amid purity concerns

25 November 2019

 

Tesco has temporarily withdrawn pots of its own-brand honey amid concerns that it contains adulterated ingredients.

It comes after tests conducted by Richmond council in London indicated that "Tesco Set Honey 454g" contains syrups made from sugar.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it was "[looking] into these reports" to see if further action was necessary.

The supermarket chain denied there were any problems with the product and insisted it was "100% pure".

Concerns were raised over the honey, which costs £1.35 per jar, by Richmond council in south-west London, which conducted tests after it was alerted by a member of the public.

"The findings of the analysis is that there is likely to be adulteration with non-natural products," a council spokeswoman told the Sunday Times.

The council contacted the FSA, which confirmed it was looking into the matter, but has denied it called for Tesco to withdraw the product.

"We are continuing to look into these reports to determine whether further action is required," the FSA said in a statement.

"Honey is a natural but complex product and there are a number of different tests which may be used to determine authenticity."

Nevertheless, the retailer said it has temporarily taken the honey off the shelves for further examination, but insists the product is "100% pure, natural and can be directly traced back to the beekeeper".

"We carry out regular tests to ensure our honey meets this standard and is fully compliant with all legal requirements," Tesco said in a statement.

"However, as a precautionary measure, we have temporarily withdrawn the product to conduct further tests."

Chris Elliott, professor of food safety at Queen's University Belfast, who led a review of food systems following the 2013 horsemeat scandal, said it was a "bold" statement from Tesco.

"They are claiming they are 100% sure it is pure honey. If they are correct then the testing method is wrong. If it proves to be adulterated then Tesco doesn't have the control over their supply chain they claim," he said.

The method used by Richmond council was nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), which he said was a relatively new technique that can be used to determine the sources of sugars.

Tesco's decision to withdraw the product was a "prudent" step, Professor Elliott added.

"There's no food safety issue here but consumers must trust our retailers to take every precaution that they are not selling us adulterated food," he said.

Is the Almond Industry on the Brink of an Oversupply Problem?

 

Posted by Paul Rusnak|November 26, 2019

Almonds have meant big business in recent years for growers and industry stakeholders. But are the good times heading for a crash? In a recently released report, economists at CoBank’s Knowledge Division are taking a close look at the possibility of oversupply in the future, citing that growth in almond acreage creates the potential if the industry experiences an extended period of good weather.

The report evaluated scenarios in which almond planting rates continue at elevated levels seen in recent years and, alternatively, if planting rates fall to as low as 20,000 acres per year.

Key points from CoBank’s report include:

  • The risk of an oversupply of almonds over the next five to 10 years depends heavily on what happens with yields. Two wildcards affecting U.S. almond yields are weather and California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

  • Some in the almond industry expect SGMA will keep yields flat. Because southern California is more reliant on groundwater, we could expect growth of almond acreage to concentrate in the north. However, per-acre yields in northern California are 28% less than in southern California, meaning that overall yields would flatten. In this scenario, the industry may be undersupplied and unable to meet almond’s expected strong demand growth. Prices would increase to incentivize greater acreage growth.

  • Others in the industry believe that a return of normal weather patterns would mean a return to the growth of pre-2014 trend yields and create oversupply. In this scenario, prices would drop to stimulate additional export demand, namely from China and India. However, with this high demand potential, prices would not have to drop very far to achieve the needed growth.

  • Ongoing trade disputes, though, could remain unresolved in the years ahead and significantly raise the risk of oversupply – particularly if almond yields return to trend in the U.S.
     

Click here to read the entire report.

Iowa Study Offers New Insights on Honey Bee Health in Ag Landscapes

November 27, 2019, 8:45 am | Ann Robinson

AMES, Iowa — Honey bees are facing tough times. Colonies of these pollinators are being lost at an unprecedented rate, and some are blaming farming practices, in particular, the intensive corn and soybean production systems in the Midwest. New research by Iowa State University and University of Illinois scientists offers a more nuanced view of the role of agriculture in honey bee health than what has been previously known.

Scientists placed honey bee hives next to soybean fields in Iowa and tracked how the bee colonies fared over two growing seasons. The bees did well for much of the summer, they found. The colonies thrived and gained weight, building up their honey stores.

But in August, the trend reversed. By mid-October, most of the honey was gone, the team discovered, and the bees themselves were malnourished.

The researchers moved some of the affected hives to reconstructed prairie sites with a lot of late-flowering prairie plants. Those hives rebounded to healthier levels

and were better prepared for winter.

“We saw a feast or famine kind of dynamic happening, where in the middle of the summer the hives in ag fields were doing great. In fact, the hives in the most highly agricultural areas out competed hives in areas with less row-crop production," said Amy Toth, professor of ecology, evolution, and organismal biology at Iowa State. "But then they all just crashed and burned at the end of the season,”

Toth was part of a collaborative team that included ISU entomology professor Matthew O’Neal and University of Illinois entomology professor Adam Dolezal. Dolezal performed the work while a postdoctoral researcher at ISU, along with two graduate students, Ashley St. Clair (in ecology and evolutionary biology and entomology) and Ge Zhang (in entomology).

Their findings, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offer new insights into the role of agriculture on honey bee survival, according to the report’s authors.

Overall, the results show that intensively farmed areas can provide a short-term feast, but such landscapes are unlikely to sustain the long-term nutritional health of colonies. However, reintegration of biodiversity into such landscapes may provide relief from late season nutritional stress.

“There’s been a lot of interest in how bees respond to agriculture,” Dolezal said. “There’s been work on pesticides, and predictions that intensively farmed landscapes have lost a lot of floral resources important for pollinators.”

On the other hand, there have been studies that found honey bees do well in agricultural areas, Dolezal said. “One hypothesis has been that bees near agricultural zones have more access to flowering crops and weeds like clover than those near forests, which can have fewer flowering plants,” he said.

Bees forage clover and strips of prairie

To learn more about what plants the bees relied on, Ge Zhang took samples of pollen carried by foraging bees on their way back into the hive. Over the entire year, over 60 percent of their pollen collection was from clover.

The researchers were surprised how much clover the bees were foraging on in landscapes devoted nearly exclusively to corn and soybeans.

“Most of the field edges are mowed, but can contain clover,” said O’Neal. “This little bit of land could be offering a significant source of food for bees.”

Soybean and clover bloom until late July in central Iowa, where the study was conducted. In early August, that food supply dwindles greatly, however. Between early August and mid-October, the researchers found that the weight of the study hives next to soybean fields dropped, on average, more than 50 percent. The bees were eating through their winter stores before the onset of cold weather.

“More than 80 percent of Iowa is dedicated to agriculture. While the two most important crops do not require bee pollination, corn can provide pollen and soybeans produce a lot of flowers, which can be a source of nectar for honey bees,” said O’Neal. “The weight gain of a hive is due to honey, which comes from nectar.”

The nectar is used to make honey — an essential food for overwintering bees — and the pollen provides other nutrients, like proteins and lipids. To survive the upcoming winter, honey bees must gather enough nectar and pollen from surrounding areas to tide them over.

“As winter approaches, the last generations of bee larvae normally experience unique physiological changes that better prepare them for the harsh season,” said Dolezal. “These bees have higher fat stores and their aging is slowed so they can get through the winter,” he said. “But we found that the winter bees near soybean fields did not have the same level of fat stores.”

In part of the experiment led by Ashley St. Clair, the team moved hives to prairie sites in August to see if the bees fared better. Indeed, bees near prairie developed higher fat stores.

“This suggests that the rebound hives experienced when we put them in the prairie also trickled down to improved nutritional health for individual bees,” Toth said.

The researchers do not recommend that beekeepers move their hives to prairies. Remnant and restored prairies are rare and too small for many hives, the researchers said. Overstocking with honey bees could even negatively affect native bees. Instead, the team is testing an intervention, where strips of reconstructed prairie are installed inside or alongside agricultural fields. In addition to feeding the bees at a crucial time in their life cycle, prairie strips could also reduce erosion and prevent the flow of nutrients from farm fields into waterways, the team said.

Support for this research came from the United Soybean Board, U.S. Department of Agriculture Hatch Act funds, the State of Iowa and Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station. 

This article was developed in cooperation with the University of Illinois News Bureau. 

American Honey
Producers Association

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Cassie Cox
Executive Secretary
PO Box 435
Mendon, UT 84325
office:281-900-9740
cassie@ahpanet.com