Blueberries are native across North America and it seems like in as many regions as they grown, there are at least as many questions about what happens to honey bees when they pollinate this major cash crop.
Beekeepers weigh concerns about European foulbrood and fungicides and consider if the pollination fees are worth the potential for damage to their colonies. In some growing regions in Canada the government is helping boost rental fees because there aren’t enough colonies to meet demand.(1)
To provide answers for beekeepers over the years, Project Apis m. has funded several research projects with scientists studying the subject-beginning as long ago as 2008!(2)
With time and the efforts of researchers, our understanding of what happens to bees working in this crop system is growing. As with many honey bee health issues, there is not one clear answer that fits every scenario, and answers give rise to more questions!
Recently work funded with Dr. Sarah Wood and colleagues in Saskatchewan demonstrated that simultaneous exposure to a combination of four fungicides commonly used in blueberries could reduce survival of honey bee larvae infected with European foulbrood.(3) Results also showed that exposure to three or fewer fungicides in combination did not result in a decrease in larval survival. Interestingly, some of the single-fungicide treatment groups resulted in increased rates of survival of infected larvae.
Understanding these dynamics, in addition to regional and other differences, can help growers and beekeepers work together on best management practices that reduce the worst outcomes for beekeepers while keeping options for the grower to address crop-disease and pest issues.
Dr. Sarah Wood is joining Dr. Humberto Boncristiani on Inside the Hive TV this month to talk about her research paper and answer beekeeper’s questions about blueberry pollination and honey bees. Project Apis m. has partnered with Inside the Hive TV to help get the research into the hands of beekeepers. You are invited, bring your blueberry questions!
Register for the event here: https://www.insidethehive.tv/Livestreams
We hope to see you there! Check out the promo video breaking down research results from the paper:
By: Grace Kunkel, Communications Manager, Project Apis m.
(1) Nova Scotia Blueberry Expansion Program:
(2) For more detailed information about these projects and resulting visit our database: https://www.projectapism.org/honey-bee-research.html
(3) Are fungicides a driver of European foulbrood disease in honey bee colonies pollinating blueberries?
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