This year the entire West and Northern Midwest is experiencing drought, leaving some growers with barely enough water to keep their crops healthy. Beekeepers are also struggling in places like North Dakota, where honey bees are preparing for almond pollination in February and some beekeepers are reporting record low honey crops. When nectar dries up, bees struggle to produce the honey they need to survive Winter.
Access to clean, nutritious forage is essential for all bees, and as bee forage is declining each year in the USA, the number of native bees and managed bees are also declining. 75 years ago there were nearly twice as many honey bee colonies in the US, and more than half the native bee species assessed seem to be in decline.
Four honey bee health graduate students were awarded $55K through PAm’s Christi Heintz Memorial Award in 2020. A year later, we are checking in to see how the first field season went for the awardees. “Christi would be so pleased and impressed with the students we have funded in her honor,” PAm Executive Director Danielle Downey said.
Rogan Tokach, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Awarded $10,000
Rogan Tokach studies how pesticide-contaminated food impacts a colony's ability to re-queen itself and individual bee development. Honey bees are often located in, or adjacent to, agricultural systems, where pesticides are used to manage pests but can impact honey bee health.
Salt Lake City, Utah-August 25th 2021.
Managed honey bees in North America are under increasing pressure to meet pollination demands for our food supply. At the same time, annual colony losses are high- 45.5% in the US in 2020, and the natural forage which gives bees healthy nutrition and a honey crop for producers is decreasing. Colony losses are often attributed to pathogens, parasites, pesticides, hive management (queen mating, genetics, maintenance), climate, and available nutrition. United States honey production in 2020 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 148 million pounds, down 6% from 2019. Sustainable beekeeping is dependent on maximizing outputs (colony health, colony numbers, pollination contracts, honey production, profitability) while minimizing the inputs (time, money, personnel, treatments). A sustainable beekeeping industry contributes to a more sustainable agricultural landscape through a stable supply of bees for crop pollination. Therefore, PAm is requesting research proposals that focus on enhancing the health, survival and productivity of honey bee colonies, which provide practical and tangible solutions to the beekeeping industry.
Beekeeping is a big industry and interest in Canada. In 2019, Canada produced 80.4 million pounds of honey, and in 2017 pollination services in Canada were estimated to contribute between 4.0 and 5.5 billion dollars to the nation’s economy.1 Canada is a major producer of canola and blueberries, two crops that benefit greatly from pollination services. Unfortunately, beekeepers in Canada face similar challenges to those in the U.S. making research a necessity for improving honey bee health, creating and optimizing tools for beekeepers. In 2020, the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA) reported 30.2% colony losses over winter, nationally, with some provinces losing as many as 40.7% of their colonies.2
Farmers and Growers in California are encouraged to apply for free or discounted cover crop and forage seed to help support the nutritional needs of honey bees and native pollinators.
Planting pollinator forage and blooming cover crops is a management practice that can help you meet your sustainability goals and qualify for Bee Friendly Farming certification. Improved bee and soil health, weed control, and beneficial insect habitat are just a few of the benefits of planting Seeds for Bees. Individualized, one-on-one technical support is provided at no cost for all growers who qualify.
Learn more at ProjectApism.org/Seeds-For-Bees, or apply to enroll here.
Flagstone Foods Announces Intent To Source 100% Of Its Almonds From Bee-Friendly Farms By 2025: A First In The Private Label Nut Industry
For any beekeeper, queen breeding could be considered leveling up!-it involves a whole new skill set that is not covered in basic beekeeping practices. There is an entire industry within beekeeping that focuses on producing quality queen bees, we got a sneak peek into the methods for producing Hilo queens this season.
With Hilo queens the focus is on keeping varroa resistant traits while also selecting other qualities that beekeepers want in a commercial operation, such as honey production.
Here Saira Mendez Urbina is using a magnifying glass to find and carefully graft eggs into queen cups. She places a newly hatched worker larvae inside the queen cup, then queenless bees will feed the larvae royal jelly and draw out the rest of the queen cell. (pictured right)
Another preparation for inseminated queen production is to catch drones and harvest the sperm. Drones are too large to pass through a queen excluder, so by placing one in front of the entrance the drones returning from a flight are stalled, and can be caught and taken to the lab. Drones do not sting and are easy to grab by hand! The first photo shows Bob Danka catching drones this way. Another tool, a drone catching cage, also allows you to capture drones. Just like with mating in the wild, this is a one-way trip for these drones.
Once in the lab, the drone's sperm is carefully collected. When the queens emerge from the cells, virgin queens will be carefully inseminated using sperm collected from drones (previously caught in the apiary). The middle photo shows Juliane Steckel in the middle of this process, and the last photo is a screen shot from a short video demonstrating insemination of an earlier batch of Hilo bees.
After insemination, each queen is carefully marked and placed into a cage for banking until they are ready to be introduced into a nucleus colony.
Finally the inseminated queens are installed into nucs-together they will become a new full-size colony of known pedigree as she lays more eggs and their population grows. To learn more, check out the Hilo bees website!
Survey data is extremely important to researchers and beekeepers to keep a pulse on bee health trends, economics of beekeeping, best management practices, and emerging threats to honey bees. Completing surveys is an easy, anonymous way to contribute directly to honey bee health research!
Here are two efforts that we encourage you to participate in. The first survey, from UC Davis, will gather information that can help growers provide benefits, such as flowering cover crops, to beekeepers (and bees) while pollinating almonds. The second survey, from the Bee Informed Partnership, collects the crucial colony loss and management information that researchers and beekeepers rely on for an up-to-date picture of honey bee health and beekeeping practices year after year.
Economic Value of Contract Enhancements in Almond Pollination
From Dr. Goodrich:
Almost no documented research exists quantifying beekeeper preferences for certain contract features, so this research will provide much-needed information to the beekeeping and almond industries. This survey will take approximately 20 minutes to complete. As compensation for your time, you will be provided with a $20 Amazon gift card.
This survey closes on April 15th! Download the letter of consent here.
Take the survey here! (password: Apism2021)
Bee Informed Partnership's Annual Management and Loss Survey
Any beekeeper can participate in this survey, and it is shorter this year! This long-standing effort provides essential data to beekeepers and researchers alike, including the annual colony loss chart and map. This survey closes on April 30th.
Take the survey here!
Cover Crops and Habitat: The Link Between Better Pollination, Healthier Bees and Soil.