And now for the Next Installment of Industrial Strength Beekeeping: A steroid-laced tool.
A brand new pollination aide has been released just in time for the multi-million dollar almond bloom in February. Phero-tech, an agricultural products company in Canada, working with researchers from Texas A&M, have developed a synthetic honey bee pheromone that can be used by beekeepers to boost the pollinating activity of their bees, and to help the overall health of the colony.
Its a synthetic pheromone mimicking that produced by baby bees in a hive -- scientists call it brood pheromone. Baby bees produce this pheromone to urge foraging bees to gather pollen to feed them. The more babies, the more pheromone produced and the more pollen collected. As more pheromone is produced and released in a hive, the number of bees in the hive that are pollen collectors increases, the amount each bee collects increases, and, to get even more pollen younger and younger bees are drafted to start collecting pollen. And, not-surprisingly, lots and lots of pollen is collected.
Of course when collecting pollen, foraging honey bees are transferring pollen between those flowers that are producing the crops the beekeepers are hired to pollinate.
From a growers perspective, this is only getting better ... they can hire the same number of bees, and get more and better pollination. Theyll get more crop but spend the same amount of money on pollination. From the beekeepers perspective, too, this is only getting better, isnt it? The same number of bees can do more work, so fewer colonies are needed at any particular orchard, freeing up colonies to rent to more growers.
So, fewer bees per orchard ... wait a minute! Maybe thats not right. Growers will simply hire fewer bees to work harder to do the same amount of work as more bees used to do. Fewer bees means spending less money. And those pheromone-spiked bees, why theyll make more crop. Growers will spend less money and make more money.
Right now, I dont know if the colony will be better off because of this increased activity or not. The literature isnt clear.
Maybe beekeepers better think this through.
And I wonder what the bees think.Im pretty sure Barry B. Benson wouldnt approve.
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The Latest On CCD
We're still waiting for the curtain on Colony Collapse Disorder, Act III. Let me tell you a little about Act II.
Shortly after that anti-climatic research paper was published in Science magazine awhile ago, where not much at all was discovered, it was discovered that even what was published was essentially incorrect. It turns out that the nasty virus everybody was pointing at had been in the U.S. for several years before CCD became a problem, and that any link between that virus and recent CCD problems was mostly wishful thinking. Australia isnt off the hook as the source of the virus though, since theyve been sending bees to Canada for years, and Canada has been sending them to the U.S. for almost as long. So that virus may have come from Australia, but its very unlikely it had anything to do with this recent outbreak of what-is-it disease.
Theres no doubt that something's still going on though. Several beekeepers ... both those who experienced CCD last season, and some who didnt are seeing the early signs already this fall. Somethings still killing bees out there.
So we wait for answers. And the researchers wait for money. A $4 million grant sits waiting for proposals and someone to unsnarl USDA red tape, but the farm bill is getting battered to death. Compromise will tell, but that we-thought-we-solved-it paper isnt going to keep the money-givers worried much longer.
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