Our objective is to improve honey bee health during pollination. Our novel approach ameliorates pesticide exposure and potentially increases pollen foraging on target crops, ensuring a steady pollination supply for blueberry and cranberry growers. This novel approach provides beekeepers with inexpensive protection and if “precision pollination” training is effective, significantly improves pollination of target crops, an important innovation as bees notoriously stray from blueberry and cranberry fields to more appealing resources within flight range.
Hypothesis 1: Pollen trapping reduces colony exposure to pesticides during pollination.
Hypothesis 2: Feeding pollen and nectar substitutes during pollination improves colony nutrition and resilience, reducing colony losses.
Hypothesis 3: Precision pollination—training bees to crop odors prior to pollination—can enhance foraging on target crops.
Hypothesis 4: Fungicide exposure increases queen events, while general pesticide exposure induces brood cannibalism, and nutritional stress.
We conducted a field trial using 96 mini colonies that contained 4 mini frames used in queen rearing over the summer to test Hypothesis 4: Fungicide exposure increases queen events, while general pesticide exposure induces brood cannibalism, and nutritional stress. We had four different treatment groups, mixing in field relevant pesticide control products into the pollen patties we fed the colonies. The four treatment groups were:
The contaminated pollen was fed to the colonies and replaced weekly for 4 weeks. We continued to monitor the colonies for an additional two weeks post treatment. We inspected the colonies weekly to determine if there were any queen events (swarm cells, missing queen, emergency cells). We also assessed general colony strength 3 weeks into the trial and rated it on a score of 1 to 5.
We are still analyzing the results, but we found significant impact of both fungicides and insecticides on queen events, though the timing differed between these two treatment groups.
We will finish analyzing the results this winter and spring, so we can submit the experimental results for publication.