West Texas bees doubt groundhog’s extended winter prediction

by Steve Byrnes, Texas A&M AgriLife

SPLAT! West Texas honey bees are on the move, so motorists shouldn’t be surprised if their windshields are strafed by a hapless swarm in coming weeks, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologist.

Dr. Charles Allen, of San Angelo, said the unusually warm February, touted as the warmest on record here, has put honey bees in the mood to travel. Continue reading

Japanese scientists create drone to help with pollination

Scientists at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology are using the mechanics of cross-pollination with bees to create a drone that can pick up pollen in one flower and bring it to another.

The drone, which is controlled manually, is 4 centimeters wide and weighs about 15 grams. The bottom of the drone is covered with a sticky-gel-coated horsehair that picks up pollen from one flower and rubs them off on another flower. The research team has been able to successfully cross-pollinate Japanese lilies with the drone. Continue reading

Bacterial Imbalances Can Mean Bad News for Honey Bees

By Jan Suszkiw , Agricultural Research Service

A team of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and their collaborators have established a strong link between honey bee health and the effects of diet on bacteria that live in the guts of these important insect pollinators.

In a study published in the November issue of Molecular Ecology, the team fed caged honey bees one of four diets: fresh pollen, aged pollen, fresh supplements, and aged supplements. After seven days, the team euthanized and dissected the bees and used next-generation sequencing methods to identify the bacteria communities that had colonized the bees’ digestive tract. Continue reading

Georgia creates guidelines to protect pollinating insects

By Sharon Dowdy, University of Georgia

Many food items, including fresh fruits and vegetables, would never make it to grocery store or farmers market shelves without the help of beneficial insects like honeybees and butterflies. The number of these pollinating insects in the U.S. is declining, and to help, Georgia agricultural experts developed a statewide plan to teach gardeners and landscapers how to care for their plants and protect these vulnerable insects that are vital to food production.

“The issue is that we have broad-scale problems with our pollinators — both in numbers and in diversity,” said Kris Braman, an entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and a member of the team that created the “Protecting Georgia’s Pollinators” plan. Continue reading

EPA Registers New Biochemical Miticide to Combat Varroa Mites in Beehives

The Environmental Protection Agency has registered a new biochemical miticide, Potassium Salts of Hops Beta Acids (K-HBAs), which is intended to provide another option for beekeepers to combat the devastating effects of the Varroa mite on honey bee colonies and to avoid the development of resistance toward other products. Rotating products to combat Varroa mites is an important tactic to prevent resistance development and to maintain the usefulness of individual pesticides.

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Mississippi IPM specialists encourage farmers and beekeepers to communicate

In Delta Farm Press

by Kerri Collins Lewis, Mississippi State University

Pitting farmers against beekeepers does little to solve the problems facing pollinators. “In some cases, anti-pesticide groups are using the challenges facing bee health as an opportunity to set up a very black-and-white, good guy versus bad guy scenario when it comes to agricultural production,” said Angus Catchot, an entomologist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

“In the long run, this could hurt the average beekeeper in our area because that is the only story farmers are hearing in the media. It makes them wary of having beekeepers on their property or fearful of losing important crop production tools, such as neonicotinoid seed treatments.”

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Pollinator conference to take place in North Carolina

by Matt Shipman

This autumn, researchers, educators, and industry experts from around the country will descend on a small town in rural North Carolina to discuss a question with repercussions for both the economy and the environment: what can be done to protect bees and other pollinators?

The conference is focused specifically on what can be done to not only conserve but also bolster pollinator populations in so-called “ornamental” landscapes, such as urban areas and manicured gardens. It is the brain child of two entomologists – Steve Frank of NC State University and David Smitley of Michigan State University.

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EPA proposes to protect bees from acutely toxic pesticides

Proposed restrictions will prohibit use where bees are present for commercial pollination

To further support President Obama’s Federal Pollinator Strategy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing additional restrictions on the use of acutely toxic pesticides during times when bees are most likely to be present.

Applications of acutely toxic pesticides would be prohibited when flowers are in bloom when bees are brought to farms for pollination services. While the proposed restrictions focus on managed bees, EPA believes that these measures will also protect native bees and other pollinators that are in and around treatment areas.

EPA will accept public comments on the proposal starting May 29, 2015.

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High summer losses of honeybees concerns researchers

In Growing Produce

Beekeepers across the U.S. lost more than 40% of their honey bee colonies from April 2014 to April 2015, according to the latest results of an annual nationwide survey led by University of Maryland professor Dennis vanEngelsdorp. While winter loss rates improved slightly compared to last year, summer losses — and consequently, total annual losses — were more severe.

Commercial beekeepers were hit particularly hard by the high rate of summer losses, which outstripped winter losses for the first time in five years, stoking concerns over the long-term trend of poor health in honey bee colonies.

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State pollinator communication is best way to help bees

Don Parker, manager of Integrated Pest Management for the National Cotton Council, tells Delta Farm Press editor Forrest Laws that EPA is looking at state pollinator plans to be model for pollinator protection policies. In states like North Dakota and Mississippi, growers and beekeepers have developed ways for both to coexist while protecting both crops and honeybees.

Read the entire story at Delta Farm Press.