Pollinator Bee Nutrition

Collaborators on Pollinator Bee Nutrition: Bayer’s Bee Care Program and Project Apis m. 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

 

The North American Bayer Bee Care Program which, according to director Becky Langer, has invested more than $12 million to maintain pollinator health, has been working closely with Project Apis m. (PAm), which funds research to enhance the health and vitality of honeybee colonies while improving crop production.

Project Apis m. pollinator bee nutrition“We have enjoyed working with Apis m,” said Langer, “because foraging nutrition is one of the top factors affecting bee health today. Our ‘Feed a Bee’ program, launched in March 2015, has the goal to partner with 50 different organizations as ‘Feed a Bee’ partners, and PAm, dedicated to pollinator health, and is one of the “Feed a Bee” partners.”

Bayer Feed a Beed Program logoLanger explained that PAm really focuses on crops growers can plant around their orchards to provide for the bees when they arrive in California before the almond bloom, as well as after the almond pollination just before the bees move on to their next job. “Because PAm distributes free wildflower seeds and other to growers,” Langer said, “we see it as a great partnership that really helps pollinator health thrive and move forward.”

Project Apis m. Helps Almond Growers Empower Bees

Project Apis m. Helps Almond Growers Empower Bees

With Free Flowering Forage

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

 

Christi Heintz, executive director for Project Apis m. (PAm), elaborated on the message she presented at the annual Almond Conference last month in Sacramento, “Our purpose at the Almond Industry Conference was to meet growers and talk to them about planting additional forage before and after almond pollination. These are times of dearth when honey bees are not getting the nutrition they need and beekeepers have to feed tremendous amounts of sugar syrup or high-fructose corn syrup to keep the bees alive,” Heintz said.

Project Apis m.Established as a non-profit organization in 2006, PAm has the goal of funding and directing research to enhance the health and vitality of honey bee colonies while improving crop production. Heintz explained PAm.—named after Apis mellifera, the scientific name for the European honey bee—offers farmers free mustard mix for pre-almond bloom or clover mix for post-almond bloom to extend the season of nutrition availability for bees when they are most vulnerable. The increase in forage also benefits bees by providing additional natural and more diverse sources of nutrition resulting in better pollination and increased crop yields.

Heintz wants more growers to take part in the program. She reemphasized, “Honey bees love almonds, but we worry about those times just before and just after bloom. If you can get something going before bloom, you’ll get bee colonies that want to go out and forage for pollen, and they will be in great shape for almond pollination,”Heintz said.

Heintz enthusiastically urges growers to get involved by contacting PAm at ProjectApis@gmail.com and ask about forage seed mix to plant for honeybees. Growers can also go to the Project Apis m. website and to their web page For the Almond Grower.

Heintz has managed research, including pollination research since 1979, and has focused on honey bees since 2006. She also manages the Environmental Sustainability Program and production research for the Almond Board of California.

USDA Funds $3 Million to Improve Bee Health

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide close to $3 million in technical and financial assistance for interested farmers and ranchers to help improve the health of bees, which play an important role in crop production, particularly in California.

The funding is a focused investment to improve pollinator health and will be targeted in five Midwestern states, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, where California farmers procure their bees.

USDA reports that Honey bee pollination supports an estimated $15 billion worth of agricultural production, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables that are the foundation of a nutritious diet.

California’s 800,000 acres of almond orchards typically require 1.8 million domesticated bee colonies, just to pollinate its almond trees alone.

The future security of America’s food supply depends on healthy honey bees,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Expanded support for research, combined with USDA’s other efforts to improve honey bee health, should help America’s beekeepers combat the current, unprecedented loss of honey bee hives each year.”

Funding will be provided through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to promote conservation practices that will provide honey bees with nutritious pollen and nectar while providing benefits to the environment. Recent studies have shown that beekeepers are losing approximately 30 percent of their honey bee colonies each year, up from historical norms of ten to fifteen percent overwintering losses experienced prior to 2006.

This assistance will provide guidance and support to farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that will provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees. For example, appropriate cover crops or rangeland and pasture management may provide a benefit to producers by reducing erosion, increasing the health of their soil, inhibiting invasive species, providing quality forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators, as well as habitat for other wildlife.

Midwestern states were chosen because from June to September the region is the resting ground for over 65 percent of the commercially managed honey bees in the country. It is a critical time when bees require abundant and diverse forage across broad landscapes to build up hive strength for the winter.

Applications are due March 21, 2014.