Practices to Protect Pollinators from Pesticides

Thursday 13 June 2024

Pollination is here and with that, both beekeepers and blueberry growers need to consider how they can best protect honey bees, and other pollinators from the numerous pesticides used on wild blueberry fields. Recently, ATTTA and Pollinator Partnership Canada have published a best management practice guide “Protecting Pollinators from Pesticides – Wild Blueberry1. We encourage you to read and engage with this guide found at https://www.perennia.ca/portfolio-items/honey-bees/. In this week’s blog we will cover the highlights of the various practices to protect pollinators from pesticides, but for a more in-depth understanding please read the guide in its entirety.

Practices to Protect Pollinators from Pesticides

The first approach for beekeepers and blueberry growers to protect pollinators, is the use of integrated pest management. The use of integrated pest management can help minimize the amount of pesticide use on wild blueberry fields2. The grower should monitor for the presence of various fungus, insect, and plant pests of wild blueberries, and only provide treatment when needed2. By minimizing the amount of product being used this lowers the risk of pollinators being exposed to harmful chemicals. An IPM approach has the added value of also saving the farmer time and money on product application2.

Honey bee on wild blueberry flower (ATTTA©2021)

Probably the most important component for protecting pollinators from pesticides is clear communication between growers and beekeepers. Both beekeepers and growers will benefit from having clear guidelines for each of their roles in the pollination process. If receiving or providing pollination services, it is recommended that a pollination contract is used. Examples of pollination contracts can be found within "Best Management Practices Guide for Honey Bee Pollination of Wild Blueberries in Atlantic Canadaat https://www.perennia.ca/portfolio-items/honey-bees/. Modify any template contracts as needed, but it is encouraged to include information on: the timing of arrival/departure of hives (needs to be in sync with wild blueberry bloom); responsibility of beekeeper to provide standard pollinating units; details of grower's responsibility to protect bees from any pesticide poisoning; designation of responsibility for periodically checking and caring for bees; designation of responsibility for providing hive protection (electric fencing); clear description of the pest management practices being used on the blueberry field before and during placement of hives; and details of hive placement location on the field.

Beekeepers and blueberry growers can both work to support pollinators through habitat development. Maintaining and creating habitat around blueberry fields can support honey bees and native pollinators4. Leaving non-invasive weeds, wildflowers, and other habitat patches around wild blueberries increases pollination and fruit production5. The presence of these native wild flowers will provide a diversity of pollen sources and will not deter honey bees and other pollinating insects from foraging for nectar on wild blueberry plants6. There are several things growers can do to help develop these habitats, such as delay flail or bush mowing areas around fields until after pollination and preserve wildflower diversity currently surrounding fields. On fields that border cultivated land, growers can create floral strips.

The use of pesticides is an integral part of wild blueberry production. There are several practices beekeepers and blueberry growers can follow to help minimize the impact of these products on pollinators. The first thing growers can do is select the least toxic pesticide to bees. Bees foraging on fields can be directly exposed to toxic products or exposed indirectly through ingesting pollen and nectar containing the product or contact with contaminated soil7. Generally, insecticides are more toxic to bees than herbicides or fungicides since insecticides are formulated to kill insects. The risk associated with a particular pesticide to bees is not only based on the toxicity, but also the residual toxicity. If a product is found to be toxic for greater than 8 hours than it is a higher risk to bees. For questions regarding a specific product’s risk to bees refer to the “Supplement Document for Protecting Pollinators from Pesticides” at https://www.perennia.ca/portfolio-items/honey-bees/.

Whenever applying a pesticide is essential to follow all label directions. When reviewing the label look for precautionary and advisory statements that state “toxic to bees”.

Best Management Practices Guide – Protecting Pollinators from Pesticides (ATTTA©2024)

Finally, growers and beekeepers need to minimize any potential exposure of bees to pesticides. Growers should avoid applying pesticides when bees are flying or clustered outside their hives; avoid applying pesticides to any blooming flowers around the field; place hives outside the range of pesticide application and consider developing a no spray buffer zone to protect hives; minimize pesticide drift when spraying; and look for nests of native bees around the field to avoid spraying near the area.

Protecting honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides is crucial for successful pollination. It is in the beekeeper’s and grower’s best interest to have conversations around pesticide use, and how they can work together to protect these vital insects.

References
  1. Orr, J., Byers, A., Morandin, L.A., Medeiros, S.J. and K. Law. 2023. Practices to Protect Pollinators from Pesticides: Wild Blueberry. Pollinator Partnership Canda and Atlantic Tech Transfer Team for Apiculture.
  2. Brodt, S., Zalom, F., Krebill-Prather, R., Bentley, W., Pickel, C., Connell, J., Wilhoit, L. and Gibbs, M., 2005. Almond growers rely on pest control advisers for integrated pest management. California agriculture, 59(4).
  3. Bennett, A. and A. Byers. 2023. Best Management Practices Guide for Honey Bee Pollination of Wild Blueberries in Atlantic Canada. Atlantic Tech Transfer Team for Apiculture.
  4. Park, M.G., Blitzer, E.J., Gibbs, J., Losey, J.E. and Danforth, B.N., 2015. Negative effects of pesticides on wild bee communities can be buffered by landscape context. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 282(1809), p.20150299.
  5. Blaauw, B.R. and Isaacs, R., 2014. Flower plantings increase wild bee abundance and the pollination services provided to a pollinationdependent crop. Journal of Applied Ecology, 51(4), pp.890-898.
  6. Girard, M., Chagnon, M. and Fournier, V., 2012. Pollen diversity collected by honey bees in the vicinity of Vaccinium spp. crops and its importance for colony development. Botany, 90(7), pp.545-555.
  7. Willis Chan, D.S., Prosser, R.S., Rodríguez-Gil, J.L. and Raine, N.E., 2019. Assessment of risk to hoary squash bees (Peponapis pruinosa) and other ground-nesting bees from systemic insecticides in agricultural soil. Scientific Reports, 9(1), p.11870.

Connecting with ATTTA Specialists

If you’d like to connect with ATTTA specialists or learn more about our program, you can:

visit our website at https://www.perennia.ca/portfolio-items/honey-bees/

Email abyers@perennia.ca

        


What the Cell?

Thursday 6 June 2024

Whether you are a seasoned beekeeper with years of experience, or just starting out on your apiary journey, it is always important to revisit the basics. By refreshing your memory, or reinforcing seemingly straightforward topics, diving back into fundamentals can greatly enhance your understanding of beekeeping. In honey bee hives there are numerous cells that are built from wax by the bees. These cells serve various functions, including storing food and taking care of brood.  This week we will explore some facts about honey comb cells.

What the Cell?

Honey bees construct hexagonal cells which make up the comb found on frames in the hive. Worker cells, which contain developing female or worker bees, can have an approximate size of 5.20-5.40 mm, and drone cell, where male bees develop,  sizes can range from 6.20-6.40 mm6. The cell are constructed using beeswax that the bees produce from a secretory gland in their abdomen1. These cells are used for different purposes. Nurturing brood and storing food are both functions of the different cells.  By understanding what the different types of cells should look like, beekeepers can help to keep the hive well balanced and healthy. By recognizing these different cell types, beekeepers can also understand hive changes such as when a colony is going to swarm. 

Queen, eggs, drone, capped brood, honey, pollen (©ATTTA 2022)

Nectar, which is an aqueous solution of sugars, amino acids and minerals, is gathered from flowers by honeybees to bring back to the hive using their honey stomach2. Once the forager bee gets back to the hive, it passes on the nectar to a receiver bee, and sucrase gets added to the nectar before being placed in the cell2.  Sucrase is an enzyme that breaks down sucrose into simpler sugar molecules2. It is the job of the receiver bee to break down sucrose, but both forager and receiver bees have the enzyme sucrase7.  The water must be evaporated from the nectar to increase sugar concentration and form honey. Nectar starts at a water content as high as 80% and the bees reduce it to approximately 17-20%2. By evaporating most of the water, it also helps to store the honey long term, because fermenting organisms cannot live there2. Bees actively evaporate nectar by regurgitation and re-ingesting droplets, and passive evaporation is also done by bees using a fanning behavior3 . Once the moisture content is low, and the honey is ripe, it will be capped off with a thin layer of wax so it can be stored indefinitely4 . Honey is hygroscopic, so if the bees cap it the moisture from the environment should not re-enter the cell, which prevents fermentation8. The honey is then used for food when bees cannot forage for nectar.

Cells with capped and uncapped honey (©ATTTA 2024)

Pollen is attracted to the bees and is transferred from the anthers of flowers2. Pollen is an important source of nutrients for bees because it contains a proteins, lipids, vitamins, and minerals5. Bees collect pollen using a small amount of nectar to make the pollen stick and give it beneficial bacteria, then they put it into pollen baskets on their back legs, known as corbiculae2. When back from foraging the honeybees back push the pollen pellets off their legs into an empty cell, or one half filled with pollen. Housekeeping bees then pack the pollen and add nectar from their honey sac to start a fermentation process2. The microflora of pollen contains bacteria, yeasts and molds which all play a role in fermentation9. But primarily the process is driven by the lactic acid bacteria, which produces lactic acid playing a crucial role in preserving the bee bread10. This is how beebread is formed, and bees sometimes cap the cells with honey to preserve it since it does not last as long as honey does2.

In a well-organized hive bees exhibit remarkable precision in arranging their food and offspring.  The outer frames mostly contain food stores. Within a single frame, bees construct an arching figure where honey is stored in the upper cells, followed by a layer of pollen beneath, and finally, the lower cells are designed for brood. Typically, the brood is concentrated in the center of the hive in an area called the brood nest. This interesting aspect of bee behavior will be explored further in an upcoming blog post.

Written by Kaitlyn Newton, ATTTA Seasonal Apiculturist


References:

  1. Xu, R., Ma, B., Yang, Y., Dong, X., Li, J., Xu, X. and Fang, Y., 2024. Proteome-metabolome profiling of wax gland complex reveals functional changes in honeybee (Apis mellifera L.). iScience.

  2. Sammataro, D. and Avitabile, A., 2021. The beekeeper’s handbook fifth addition. Cornell University Press.
  3. Nicolson, S.W., Human, H. and Pirk, C.W., 2022. Honey bees save energy in honey processing by dehydrating nectar before returning to the nest. Scientific Reports12(1), p.16224.
  4. Fernandes, K.E., Frost, E.A., Remnant, E.J., Schell, K.R., Cokcetin, N.N. and Carter, D.A., 2022. The role of honey in the ecology of the hive: Nutrition, detoxification, longevity, and protection against hive pathogens. Frontiers in Nutrition9, p.954170.
  5.  Huang, Z., 2010. Honey bee nutrition. American Bee Journal150(8), pp.773-776.
  6.  Zhang, L., Shao, L., Raza, M.F., Han, R. and Li, W., 2024. The Effect of Comb Cell Size on the Development of Apis mellifera Drones. Life14(2), p.222.
  7.  Zhu, Y.C., Caren, J., Reddy, G.V., Li, W. and Yao, J., 2020. Effect of age on insecticide susceptibility and enzymatic activities of three detoxification enzymes and one invertase in honey bee workers (Apis mellifera). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part C: Toxicology & Pharmacology, 238, p.108844
  8. Kubásek, J., Svobodová, K., Půta, F. and Krejčí, A.B., 2022. Honeybees control the gas permeability of brood and honey cappings. iScience25(11), p.105445.
  9.  Miłek, M., Mołoń, M., Kula-Maximenko, M., Sidor, E., Zaguła, G. and Dżugan, M., 2023. Chemical Composition and Bioactivity of Laboratory-Fermented Bee Pollen in Comparison with Natural Bee Bread. Biomolecules13(7), p.1025
  10.  Kieliszek, M., Piwowarek, K., Kot, A.M., Błażejak, S., Chlebowska-Śmigiel, A. and Wolska, I., 2018. Pollen and bee bread as new health-oriented products: A review. Trends in Food Science & Technology71, pp.170-180.

                                                    

                                                 Connecting with ATTTA Specialists

If you’d like to connect with ATTTA specialists or learn more about our program, you can:

visit our website at https://www.perennia.ca/portfolio-items/honey-bees/

Email abyers@perennia.ca