Study shows bees adjust diet according to season

Researchers at Tufts University have discovered that honey bees alter their diet of nutrients according to the season, particularly as winter approaches. A spike in calcium consumption in the fall, and high intake of potassium, help prepare the bees for colder months when they likely need those minerals to generate warmth through rapid muscle contractions. A careful inventory of the bees’ nutrient intake revealed shifting sources (from flowers to mineral rich ‘dirty water’) and how limitations in nutrient availability from these sources can have implications for the health of both managed and wild colonies.

The study, which is available in the May print edition of the Journal of Insect Physiology, examined mineral content gathered by and contained in adult bees and in their sources of food, exploring how they maintain the right nutritional balance of micronutrients. For most of the minerals tracked, it was found that the bees sought alternate sources to complement variation in the floral supply. Continue reading

UK researchers to study pollinator food availability on farmland

by Katie Pratt, University of Kentucky

Pollinators are extremely important to agriculture, accounting for one in every three bites of food, but their populations have been declining worldwide for a number of years. In a new study, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment researchers are evaluating how food availability on farmland impacts bee communities in early spring.

“Managing corn and soybean fields in a way that provides food for pollinators early in the spring could be beneficial to bee communities,” said Clare Rittschof, UK assistant professor in the Department of Entomology and leader of the project. “The goal of this project is to help producers improve pollinator populations on their land by providing an attractive and nutritious food source for them.” Continue reading

BeeMORE Undergraduate Summer Research paid internship

If you are an undergraduate science major who is interested in pursuing a career in STEM, there is an exciting new opportunity to develop your skills while studying the interface between microbes and beesBeeMORE is a USDA-funded Research and Extension Experience for Undergraduates who are interested in significantly advancing their research skills in the field, the laboratory, or both. Continue reading

Climate’s Effects on Flowers Critical for Bumble Bees

by Mick Kulikowski, NC State University

In a study that shows the importance of climate change on critical pollinators, North Carolina State University researchers found that earlier and longer flowering seasons can have poor effects on the bumble bees that rely on these flowers to live and thrive.

“We wanted to understand how climate change is affecting bee populations – specifically three species of bumble bees that live at higher altitudes and are important pollinators,” said Rebecca Irwin, an NC State professor of applied ecology and co-principal investigator on the study, which is published in the journal Ecology Letters. “We asked whether variation in snowmelt timing and summer precipitation directly affected bumble bee colonies and their survival, or if the snowmelt and precipitation effects on flowers were more important. It turns out that the effects on flowers played a more critical role in affecting bee populations.” Continue reading

Build native bee nesting sites to attract pollinating bees to your landscape

By Josh Fuder, University of Georgia

When most people think about bees, honeybees and their hives of hexagonal, wax honeycombs come to mind. Unlike most bees, honeybees are social insects. Only 6 percent of bee species are social.

There are approximately 4,000 species of native bees in North America and 542 species live in Georgia. Native bees nest in the ground or in cavities, like hollow stems or bored holes in wood. According to the Xerces Society, only 250 female orchard mason bees are required to pollinate an acre of apples. This same task would typically require 15,000 to 20,000 forager honeybees. Continue reading

NC State study finds Triangle bees can’t stand the heat

In the News and Observer

On a hot summer day, urban areas of the Triangle can be up to five degrees warmer than surrounding rural locations, and the temperature gap grows after the sun sets, as acres of pavement, concrete and steel emit heat absorbed during the day.

The phenomenon is known as the “urban heat island” effect, and a recent N.C. State University study shows that many of North Carolina’s native bee species keep away from hot, urban areas. The study also offers a glimpse at how bees might be affected by rising temperatures due to climate change. Continue reading

USDA pollinator study examines forage quality

In Delta Farm Press

USDA’s Economic Research Service conducted a literature review of the effects of land use on pollinator health and examined the trends in pollinator forage quality over the last 30 years. Continue reading