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Tag Archives | honeybees

Grow Native Plants for Bees

The moment you get your first honeybees, you start noticing all the flowers around you and begin to ponder the potential plants you could grow to support pollinator health.

Great plants for bees include blazing star.

Blazing star (Liatris) blooms late in the season when few other nectar sources are available.

You become acutely aware of hives’ surroundings for a mile in every direction. This is the effective flight range of the bee—the distance she is prepared to travel to collect nectar, pollen, water and other necessities for her colony. This represents three square miles—2,000 acres of terrain—that the bees have at their disposal.

The Omniscient Bee

Using hundreds of scouts, the colony’s collective intelligence tracks in real time the location of all significant sources of nectar and pollen, their abundance, the exact times of day when a particular plant secretes nectar, and even its nutritional value. They know there’s a single basswood tree in bloom three-quarters of a mile south-southwest of their nest. They know the location of a small patch of buckwheat that you planted as a cover crop in your garden, and that they better get to it in the morning before the afternoon heat cuts the nectar flow. Foraging maps are updated daily, new blooms are promptly discovered, and fading flowers immediately abandoned.

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Pollinators in Peril

Pollinators have a staunch ally in Graham White. White, a small-scale hobby beekeeper in Scotland, has been an international campaigner on the dangers of neonicotinoid pesticides since 2003. To this endeavor, he brings his background in environmental education and teaching, a fascination with the biodiversity of life, and his long-term involvement in environmental issues.

Graham White, protector of pollinators

Graham White, a small-scale hobby beekeeper in Scotland, has been an international campaigner on the dangers of neonicotinoid pesticides and their affect on pollinators since 2003.

Born into a family of coal miners and glassmakers in an industrial town near Liverpool, England, White developed his love of nature exploring remnant woodlands and abandoned 19th century canals. As a teenager he was introduced to hiking, and as a university student in the late 1960s he became an avid rock climber. He credits his 1976 expedition, hiking the John Muir Trail from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney in California, with changing his life.

When White returned to the UK, he decided to make it his mission to introduce John Muir’s writings and environmental values to the people of Britain. Muir, who founded the Sierra Club in 1892, was from Scotland, but was virtually unknown there. White founded the UK’s first Environment Centre in Edinburgh in 1978 and served as founding director for 23 years. In 1994 he proposed the creation of The John Muir Award for environmental excellence as a personal development program for people of all ages. In recent years over 200,000 people have completed this national challenge award.

White is also an accomplished nature photographer, an author and editor of environmentally themed books and articles, and a radio broadcaster. His radio productions include the BBC interview series Deep in Conservation with environmental luminaries such as David Brower, Satish Kumar, Vandana Shiva, Wangari Maathai, Amory Lovins, and Bill Mollison. Continue Reading →

Mushrooms May Save Bees

A decade ago, honeybee populations around the world began declining at an alarming rate. In the early years of this trend, beekeepers lost 60 percent or more of their hives to a mysterious phenomenon that came to be known as colony collapse disorder (CCD). In each of these cases, worker bees simply disappeared, and it doesn’t take long for a colony to collapse without workers to provide food and to care for the young. Although this trend seems to have leveled off somewhat in recent years, the current average rate of 30 percent annual mortality is still nearly double the average rate reported prior to 2006.

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Camelina Cover Crop Benefits Honeybees

story70_d3502-1-660x430pxCamelina is an herbaceous, yellow- flowering member of the mustard family whose oil-rich seed and cold tolerance has piqued the interest of USDA scientists for its potential as both a winter cover crop and biodiesel resource. Now, in the process of studying this plant, scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service have found that its flowering period can provide honeybees and other insects with a critical, early spring source of nectar and pollen that’s usually unavailable then. This is especially true in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota, where about one-third of the nation’s managed bee colonies are kept from May through October.

This article appears in the February 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Urban Bee Environments Boost Pathogen Pressure

bee flowerResearchers from North Carolina State University have found that urban environments increase pathogen abundance in honeybees and reduce honeybee survival. The research team found that colonies closer to urban areas and those managed by beekeepers had higher pathogen pressure. “Overall, we found that the probability of worker [bee] survival in laboratory experiments declined threefold in bees collected from urban environments, as compared to those collected in rural environments,” says associate professor of entomology Steve Frank. However, the researchers also found that immune response was not affected by urbanization. Because immune response was the same across environments, researchers think the higher pathogen pressure in urban areas may be due to increased rates of transmission, which could be because bee colonies have fewer feeding sites to choose from in urban areas, so they are interacting with more bees from other colonies.

This article appears in the February 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.