by Dewey M. Caron, Communications and Content Specialist for the Oregon Master Beekeeper Program
Large European Foulbrood grant awarded to OSU Bee Labs
By this time next month most of the Sagili and Melathopoulos bee lab personnel will be in California almond orchards. They will be assessing bee colonies as part of a $4.2 million, four-year study focused on European foulbrood (EFB), a serious disease affecting the pollination of specialty crops such as blueberries. Dr Ramesh Sagili will lead the project in partnership with Washington State University, University of California-Davis and Mississippi State University. The funding is from the USDA (NIFA National Institute of Food and Agriculture).
European foulbrood disease is caused by a bacteria that infects honeybees during their larval stage, turning newly hatched larvae into brown mush within a few days. “It used to be a minor problem in the past, but for the last six or seven years, it has grown into a more serious disease,” according to Dr Sagili. The disease causes persistent colony declines and even die-offs. Diseased hives aren’t strong enough to properly pollinate. Beekeepers who pollinate early-season crops such as highbush blueberries are especially affected.
“Those who work for blueberry pollination, about 30% of hives minimum are impacted with this disease, but we don’t have solid numbers at this time,” Sagili said. The colony assessments in California are directed toward better understanding this disease. The study will track honey bee hives as they are transported to pollinate almonds and then blueberries across Washington, Oregon, California and Mississippi. “We are trying to comprehensively address the problem rather than doing it piecemeal. We’re trying to figure out all the factors that might be contributing to this disease,” Sagili said.
Four beekeepers from each state are participating, and more than 1,500 colonies will be part of the research, which includes checking frames for signs of foulbrood, estimating colony populations and surveying microbiota of bees and larvae. The research will monitor colonies’ nutrition and document different climate factors. Samples will be collected when evidence of foulbrood is present for further lab analysis.
Note: this study will offer participation opportunities for Master level students needing a research project
Honey Bee Nutrition
OR MB Apprentice Sharon Schmidt of Phoenix (Cascade Girl) has established an effort to help veterans via beekeeping. She also has provided two articles for the Pollinator Newsletter, Bee Friendly Gardening. For the November edition she writes: “Watch a little forager honey bee interact with a flower and you will find a pretty tableau. But there is so much more going on with the bee and the target of her interest. While the bee desires food, the flower “desires” pollination. The feedback loop between the two influences the present and the future of both. The bee “helps” the flower to reproduce and also influences the behavior of the flower. The flower helps the bee to thrive by imparting sugars in the form of nectar and proteins and fats in the form of pollen plus other micronutrients.”
The Bee Friendly Newsletter is free from P2 (Pollinator Protection): Bee Friendly Gardening™ A Program of Pollinator Partnership, November 2023. https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/FMfcgzGwHpQPfPJmlbdcNsXXwDnPCdGZ
No Mow May and Leave the Leaves October
In my presentation on TheBeeMD program at the Bend OSBA fall conference, I started with a slide … After “NO MOW MAY” it is “LEAVE THE LEAVES” October. There was murmur from those present and afterwards several of you had specific comments on the two concepts (they are directed toward promoting populations of native bees). Thankfully your comments on my talks on TheBeeMD were more favorable.
By way of background: No Mow May was an initiative started in 2019 by Plantlife, a non-profit that works to restore meadow habitats in the United Kingdom. Their annual campaign called on garden owners and greenspace managers to cease mowing in the month of May. The Xerces based Bee City USA adopted the No Mow May campaign, which they also refer to as Mow Less Spring. Less mowing helps promote flowering of plants favorable to bees and as a way to conserve native pollinators.
Leave the leaves is a National Wildlife Federation designation. “The plant material covers the tree’s root zone and begins to break down, returning nutrients to the soil. Think of it as organic mulch or fertilizer…..Within that fallen leaf layer is an entire ecosystem, home to all sorts of animals, including invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians and pollinators.” says David Mizejewski, NWF naturalist. See also NY Times article Why You Don’t Need to Rake Leaves. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/19/us/raking-leaves.html#:~:text=When%20leaves%20fall%20from%20a,as%20Leave%20the%20Leaves%20Month
Not mowing your spring lawn or not raking leaves in October sounds like a free pass from yard chores. However, regulations where you live may require mowing and/or raking and neighbors might be the hardest to convince that you are helping to Save bee biodiversity. But in most listing of things you can do to help bees and biodiversity is to allow nature to be natural. Within reason.
Gail Langellotto, Professor and State Program Leader, Oregon Master Gardener Program, in her Regular column of the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon (HPSO) Quarterly Magazine, offered her thoughts on NO MOW MAY (The Controversy Surrounding ‘No Mow May’). She began by citing a review she and colleages did on the concept: “There is some science to support the notion that less-intensely managed lawns benefits biodiversity.”
Dr Langellotto in her review of the relatively few studies on benefits to bees and biodiversity concluded in her blog: “Relaxing your mowing regime to every 1-2 weeks is supported by good science. Stowing your mower for an entire month is not.,,,,, if you want to manage your yard for pollinators, planning and planting a pollinator garden is likely to net more species than stowing your mower.”
So what is your 2024 plan(s) for improving bee, including honey bee, habitat?