A roundup of bee news.
National Pollinator Week is in June.
MegaBee is the name of a new bee diet developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman. Bees can eat MegaBee as a meal or snack when the weather is too cold for them to venture outside their hive or when flowers that bear pollen and nectar (the staple foods for adult bees) aren't yet in bloom.
The product is a source of proteins, vitamins, and minerals that bees need for good health.
DeGrandi-Hoffman, who is based at the Agricultural Research Service's Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona, developed the diet in collaboration with Gordon Wardell, owner of SAFER & D, LLC. It has been on the market for about six months.
Tests conducted in California by Wardell and ARS scientists in the winter of 2007 showed that bees ate MegaBee at about the same rate as pollen, but those that ate MegaBee helped produce more brood than their pollen-fed hive mates.
Scientists continue to study bees' year-round nutritional needs.
Chinese honey relabeled
Two companies and three people have been convicted in Australia of importing 1.7 million liters of honey from China and exporting it to the United States labeled as Australian honey. They were fined the equivalent of U.S.$526,000.
The companies involved, CHS Enterprises Pty., Ltd., and JHM Trading Company, claimed the honey was from Singapore, which does not have honeybees, reports Alan Harmon with Bee Culture magazine. The honey, packed in 200-liter drums, was relabeled as Australian product by the importer and repacked for export. It was not blended with Australian honey or processed before being shipped to the United States.
For more information on this relabeling case, see Bee Culture magazine, www.BeeCulture.com.
Free pollination materials
To mark National Pollinator Week, June 22-28, the Pollinator Partnership is offering free items that can be ordered on its Web site at www.pollinator.org. These include: "Selecting Plants for Pollinators," a series of planting guides for farmers, land managers, and gardeners in six regions of the country; the Pollinator Garden Wheel, developed by the National Academy of Sciences; and "Status of Pollinators in North America," which depicts pollinators and their host plants. A Bee Bounty poster is also available.
Warming up bees for pollination
USDA scientists have designed a box that they hope will coax the hard-working blue orchard bees out of their winter cocoons in time to pollinate early blossoms.
Theresa Pitts-Singer, a bee expert with the Agricultural Research Service in Logan, Utah, reports that synchronizing bees and blooms is tricky. For example, almond trees may burst into bloom
when still-wintering bees aren't ready to pollinate them.
She and ARS colleagues designed what they call a "bee warming and emergence box" that they plan to patent.
The boxes are made of polycarbonate and polystyrene foam and include a heating unit and thermostat. A clear tube provides an exit for the bees. Flexible bristles lining the tube allow the bees out, but not back in, to encourage the bees to make new, clean nests in wood blocks nearby.
Tests in a California almond orchard and a Utah apple orchard, with about 450 female blue orchard bees in each, showed that about half the bees that were sheltered in the new boxes flew outdoors by the fourth day of the test. That was two days earlier in California and seven days earlier in Utah than bees emerging from traditional, unheated wood blocks.
Scientists across the country are pooling their expertise to find the cause of the fast-spreading syndrome called colony collapse disorder. Some beekeepers have already lost one-half to two-thirds of their colonies to CCD.
Jeff Pettis, research leader at the Agricultural Research Service's Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, is coordinating a new five-year areawide program to improve honeybee health and survival. By the end of the effort, they hope to have recommendations for beekeepers to help them manage their bees more efficiently and improve colony survival, especially during long-range transport.
ARS scientists at Beltsville and in Weslaco, Texas, are trying to improve the longevity of honeybee queens, find effective controls for the disease Nosema protozoa and the parasitic varroa mites, and reduce migratory colony stress.
Entomologist's in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are looking into using genetic selection and colony size to improve early spring build-up of bees. In Tucson, Arizona, scientists are studying carbohydrate and protein supplements, Africanized bee stock improvements, and varroa mite controls.