HONEYLOVE SWARM RESCUE
Marina del Rey, CA – 5/9/12
HONEYLOVE SWARM RESCUE
Born to bee wild: How feral pollinators may help prevent colony collapse disorder
By Enrique Gili
According to the Department of Agriculture, CCD has accounted, at least in part, ?for 30 percent of bee losses annually, since 2007. It’s also jeopardizing beekeepers, rural economies, and the farm communities that depend on those bees. Worldwide honeybees pollinate 400 crops, while adding an estimated $15 billion in revenues per year to the U.S. farm economy.
Despite their pastoral image, the burden placed on the domesticated honeybees is a weighty one. Bred for their non-aggressive demeanor and ample honey production, they’re also expected to help propagate tens upon of thousands of acres of flower-pollinated crops on farms throughout the U.S. and Europe.
As scientists and beekeepers have been literally and figuratively? beating the bushes to understand CCD, they’ve often turned to the? role genetic diversity plays in the overall health of bee colonies. And recent research published in the peer-reviewed science journal PLoS ONE suggests honeybees are as adverse to monogamy as they are to monocrops.? In fact, mixing it up, so to speak, can yield unexpected and surprising benefits for honeybee populations. Honeybees — whether feral or domesticated — need variety. Not only do worker bees spend their waking hours hopping from plant to plant, but some queen bees are also promiscuous, mating with multiple males in a brief period of time. And, as it turns out, there’s a biological rationale for this promiscuity; the overall fitness of the hive depends upon these multiple partners.
“Most bees, ants, and wasps mate singly. Honeybee queens are different ?in that regard — producing highly productive hives that dominate their landscape,” says Heather Mattila, a researcher at Wellesley College.
In the study published in PLoS ONE, Mattila and her co-author Irene Newton found that bees — like humans and other species — depend on helpful bacteria to aid in digestion. And the genetically diverse bee colonies they studied had a significantly greater number of probiotic species living in their guts than the more uniform hives. Moreover, the uniform beehives were 127 percent more likely to contain harmful pathogens than their more diverse counterparts.
“We’ve never known how genetic diversity leads to healthier bees, but this ?study provides strong clues,” says Matilla.
…not that there’s one simple fix for CCD. Diversity is just one part of the equation. “A lot has to do with pesticides and nutrition,” Cobey adds. “The amazing thing about bees is they bounce back [for a while]. But at some point they collapse.”
Scientists and beekeepers alike are working furiously to prevent that from happening. But in the meantime, it might be wise to ask: What if we turned back the clock on agricultural production and allowed honeybees to forage and frolic more freely?
VIDEO: Urban beekeeping in Glasgow, Scotland
Pesticide Action Network
Petition: Earth to EPA: Bees need help now
“I’ve been searching for power-packed smoothie supplements to get me through the winter doldrums, and bee pollen keeps making an appearance in “superfood” lists. I finally picked up a small bottle from the honey stand at my local farmer’s market. Curious about these golden granules? Read on.
Bee pollen (not to be confused with airborne pollen, which causes allergies and hay fever) is what results when honeybees pick up flower pollen granules, mix them with regurgitated honey or nectar, and pack them into “baskets” on their hind legs to take back to the hive. Due to their impressive nutritional profile, bee pollen pellets have a serious superfood reputation. A tablespoonful of bee pollen contains about 45 calories and consists of 35% protein, 55% carbohydrate, 2% fatty acids and 3% minerals and vitamins. Bee collected pollen also reportedly contains 8 flavonoids, at least 11 carotenoids, vitamins C, E, all the Bs, all free amino acids, minerals, more than 100 enzymes and several growth regulators.
Because of this, bee pollen is best consumed raw to preserve as many nutrients as possible. The taste varies according to the type of flower the pollen came from (obviously), but in general bee pollen tends to have a slightly sweet, slightly floral taste…”
ARTICLE: Honeybees as plant ‘bodyguards’ -
“Honeybees are important to plants for reasons that go beyond pollination, according to a new study published in the December 23rd issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. The insects’ buzz also defends plants against the caterpillars that would otherwise munch on them undisturbed.
The researchers, led by Jürgen Tautz of Biozentrum Universität Würzburg, Germany, earlier found that many caterpillars possess fine sensory hairs on the front portions of their bodies that enable them to detect air vibrations, such as the sound of an approaching predatory wasp or honeybee.
“These sensory hairs are not fine-tuned,” Tautz said. “Therefore, caterpillars cannot distinguish between hunting wasps and harmless bees.” If an “unidentified flying object” approaches, generating air vibrations in the proper range, caterpillars stop moving or drop from the plant…
“Our findings indicate for the first time that visiting honeybees provide plants with a totally unexpected advantage,” the researchers said. “They not only transport pollen from flower to flower, but in addition also reduce plant destruction by herbivores.”
…If crops are combined with attractive flowers in such a way that honeybees from nearby beehives constantly buzz around them, it may lead to significantly higher yields in areas with lots of leaf-eating pests—a notion Tautz’s team intends to test. “Our finding may be the start of a totally new biological control method,” he said.”
Photo: A swarm of bees, partly loaded with pollen, returns to its hive in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
(Frank Rumpenhorst/AFP/Getty Images)
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