A really interesting part of my summer job is getting to look inside bumblebee colonies! We ordered the 72 colonies to put in certain blueberry fields to see how they influence blueberry yield. At the end of the bloom we opened up all the nest boxes and counted the number of female workers, males, queens, honey pots, pollen pots, and larva cells to try to quantify their strength as a colony. Aside from the allergies this induced in my coworkers and me, it's been an incredibly interesting task! We've found crazy things in the colonies, from other species' queens to honeybee queens to parasitic wasps and weird larvae! I'm pretty sure the nests are a 24/7 partyinside! Here are some photos I snapped during the process.
Here is a video I took with my phone through the entrance hole of a vosnesenskii nest. What a flurry of activity! I was worried that they would escape, but fortunately they didn't. Phew!
It's pollinator week! And in celebration the Environmental Youth Alliance in Vancouver has planned a Bee Safari this Saturday, June 21 in Oak Meadows Park in Vancouver. The safari goes from 1-2pm, meet at the park entrance on 37th Street. Learn to identify some of our native pollinators!
Over the years there has been buzz in the media about the decline of honey bees (although the other 20,000+ species of bees globally are in jeopardy, too!). These strange declines have been dubbed "Colony Collapse Disorder", but scientists are still unsure of the exact causes behind the bee declines. However, there are definitely several factors that contribute to bee health, including habitat loss, poor agriculture practices, migratory beekeeping, and disease resistance. These factors are likely to combine synergistically to harm bees.
This post is pretty long and thorough (I looked into this topic thoroughly for a class I took), but it provides a useful background for talking about bee health--bear with me! An upcoming post will address how YOU can do your part to help local bee populations!
Colony collapse disorder
In 2006, a beekeeper in Pennsylvania reported a severe decline in his bee colonies, which came to be known as the first report of colony collapse disorder (CCD). The following year, beekeepers in several states reported substantial colony losses of 30 to 90 percent. Bee losses were also reported in five provinces in Canada, as well as in Europe, South and Central America, and Asia. Bee numbers have been declining for at least the past decade, but not on scales experienced recently. During the 2012/13 winter, beekeepers in most U.S. states reported hive losses of up to 50 percent. This past 2014/15 winter may have experienced even greater losses. These losses are twice the normal hive loss rate, which is definitely cause for alarm.
Bees are important
Bees are integral to our food system. Honey bees are responsible for pollinating foods that make up one-third of our diets, and thus contribute up to $20 billion to the U.S. economy annually. Wild bees also contribute substantially to the pollination of many crops, as well as native plants. Of the 100 crops that supply 90 percent of the world’s food, 70 rely on bees for pollination. Without bees, we would not have apples, almonds, carrots, broccoli, onions, or berries, less meat and dairy (since bees pollinate alfalfa, a major livestock food), among other foods that give variety to our diet. Cereal grains, such as wheat, corn, and rice, that make up the majority of our diets are wind pollinated and do not rely on bees for pollination. We would not likely starve if bees were to disappear, but we could face yield shortages in many other important staples of our diets. Imagine a grocery store where all that is available is wheat, corn and barley, but no apples, almonds, carrots, broccoli, onions, or berries, and much more. Our diets would be dismal.
What is killing the bees?
It's All About Bees
Michalina, Max, and Barrett are students working on building a pollinator hotel on the Quest University Canada campus! Stay tuned for a community event, pollinator facts, and much much more!!