Crop Pollination Guidelines A PUBLICATION BY THE ALLEN COUNTY BEEKEEPERS ASSOCIATION, INC Special issue of the ACBA newsletter, issued as a supplement. Volume: 1 Issue: 6 April 2002, Allen County Beekeepers Association, Inc. (ACBA). GUIDEBOOK FOR CROP PRODUCERS AND BEEKEEPERS. Honey bees as pollinators are seen in certain aspects of their biology. Honey bee’s forage for nectar and pollen from many thousands of plant species, so they efficiently pollinate a wide variety of crops we all consider important. Foragers from one hive may visit many given species of plants in a given day, individual foragers display flower fidelity or constancy. When forager begins collecting nectar or pollen from the flower of one species of plant, she will continue to visit flowers of only that species for at least one foraging trip and more often for several days, or until the resources is no longer producing nectar or pollen. This is important to the plant she visits as it requires pollen from a flower of the same species for pollination. Honeybees are so successful in commercial agriculture is that colonies are mobile. Hives are easily moved to locations where native pollinators may not occur in sufficient numbers to pollinate a specific crop. The commercial crop producer most often asked question is, how many colonies are necessary to insure maximum pollination of a given crop? Beekeepers and crop producers need to work together to establish absolute pollination requirements for a given area and crop, this will be one of the focal points in Allen County and for the Allen County Beekeepers Association, Inc.,. Bloom periods, bloom density, bloom attractiveness, blossom structure, competing bloom, weather all play roles in how well bees forage on a given crop. Also the strength and quality of a colony. During the course of a season a colony will have at its lowest population of adult workers, approximately 10,000 to 15,000 in January and February, (estimates of 5000 bees to a pound) can be used to determine how many pounds of bees in a hive. The colony will grow to a maximum of 50,000 to 60,000 workers by midsummer. The control and management of colony growth most frequently depends upon the age and health of the queen and the skill of the beekeeper. During the active foraging seasons (from March to October) in the Pacific Northwest, a worker lives approximately 5 to 6 weeks. After an adult worker emerges from a pupal cell, her first 3 weeks are spent inside the colony serving as a house bee. She goes through a series of task that include cleaning comb, feeding larva, secreting wax, building comb, accepting nectar loads from foragers ripening nectar, ventilating the hive, and acting as a guard bee at the entrance. When she is about 21 days old, she begins to take short orientation flights. This is the beginning of her 2 to 3 week life as a forager bee, seeking nectar and pollen to bring back to the colony. As a colony grows in worker population, the proportion of bees old enough for foraging increases. As a general rule, smaller colonies send out smaller percentage of bees as foragers. On the other hand, larger colonies send out not only more bees but also a higher proportion of the population as foragers. The greater value of large colonies for pollination can be illustrated by the amount of honey produced by colonies of different populations. The ability of a colony to store surplus honey is a direct result of the number of bees foraging and the amount of forage available, (planting crops for bees provides greater yields and early bee forage crops build hive strength). It is the foragers that pollinate the flowers they visit. Later on we will look at the make up of a flower and the way bees carry pollen. Based upon latest research the list below details colony strength and honey production and available pollinating bees. PUBLISHED AND PRINTED WITH INKIND FUNDS BY THE ALLEN COUNTY BEEKEEPERS ASSOCIATION, INC., REFERENCE GRANT NUMBER 126: RAISING HONEY BEE’S AND QUEENS IN KENTUCKY FOR THE PURPOSE OF INCREASING BEE POPULATION TO IMPROVE CROP POLLINATION AND CREATE A NEW DIRECT MARKET PRODUCT. THIS DOCCUMENT MAY BE REPRODUCED AND DISTRIBUTED FREELY, ALL QUESTIONS SHOULD BE DIRECTED TO THE SECRETARY OF THE ACBA, INC., ACBA 2002 One colony of 30,000 bees produces 1 ½ times as much honey as the sum of two colonies with 15,000 bees each. One colony of 45,000 bees produces 1 ½ times as much honey as three colonies with 15,000 bees each. One colony of 60,000 bees produces 1 ½ times as much honey as four colonies with 15,000 bees each. The strength of a colony a grower rents will be influenced by several factors. The time of the year: The earlier the crop blooms in the season, the greater the likelihood that the colonies will not be as large as the same colonies rented later in the season to pollinate another crop. Management of the colonies: Beekeepers can speed up or slow down the natural growth of their hives with a variety of techniques. Colonies provided with supplemental food such as sugar syrup and or pollen supplement early in the season will be stimulated to grow more rapidly. Colonies taken to California in December or January will begin foraging earlier. Later on, they will be stronger than colonies left in the northwest. When the beekeeper brings these colonies back they will be in better shape for early season pollination service. When beekeepers consider colonies overly strong early in the year, they often divide them or split them into several colonies, adding a new queen to the new colony. Weight and size: For commercial beekeepers, who often manage several thousand colonies, practical consideration of hauling and weight is a prime factor. The ACBA will be experimenting with multiple story nuc box hives for crop pollination in our area, these hives contain 7 to 8 frames and are two to three box’s in height, we have kept the same bee area but went up in height and reduced the width of the hives, thus allows easier handling by one beekeeper and a two wheel cart. These hives were built by the ACBA. A photo is included. Commercial beekeeping is migratory in nature. And the colonies seasonal movement of colonies can cover several miles. Loading and unloading and hauling is a prime factory in migratory beekeeping. A standard unit, used by most beekeepers is the Langstroth deep hive body. When used with 10 frames it provides 2,700 square inches of comb. A common variation is eight frames deep, with 2,160 square inches of comb. A pollination colony requires more than one standard deep hive body, or its equivalent. A commonly used unit is two deep hive bodies or one deep 2,700 square inches with an additional semi-deep hive body 2,000 square inches. A healthy honey bee colony during the foraging season will possess eggs, larva, and pupae. Brood indirectly influences the pollinating efficiency of a colony. Grade A orchard colonies are required to have 600 square inches of comb occupied by brood. Grade A field colonies must have 1,000 square inches of comb occupied by brood, if fully occupied it would have 270 square inches of brood. Brood combs are rarely ever filled by brood, but a good queen will create a brood area that often occupies 90 to 95 percent of comb space. Field colonies should have six combs filled with brood, orchard colonies should have four frames well filled. How many bees on a well covered standard comb? Studies at Oregon State University have shown that one standard comb, when completely covered accommodates about 2,400 adult bees. Thus Orchard colonies must have 14,000 adult bees, and field colonies must have 24,000 adults. Food requirements: A colony of honey bees requires nectar and pollen for normal growth. The food requirements of a hive is met in two ways, by the daily activities of foraging bees and from food stored in the comb. An over wintered colony should never be allowed to have its stored food reserves drop below 10 pounds. Inclement weather is a frequent feature of early flowering crops such as tree fruit. A colony unable to forage for even 2 to 3 days during poor weather can easily exhaust 10 pounds of honey in that short a time. Starvation could rapidly mean the death of that hive and the loss of its benefits for pollination. Colonies can be examined with some degree of accuracy without opening the hive, On a good foraging day, when temperature is above 60 deg(f) best at 65 deg(f), a grower can observe the flight activities of colonies. Good colonies will have relatively uniform flight from each hive. An relative good indicator is if there are more than 100 incoming bees per minute at 65 deg(f), and above with winds less than 10 miles per hour. On the average one fourth to one third of the returning bees will be pollen foragers, as opposed to nectar gathers, this will vary depending upon the crop, time of the year, time of the day, amount of brood in the hive. Bees must have suitable light and temperature before they begin to forage. A general observation is that stronger, more populous hives will begin foraging at a lower temperature than weaker colonies or smaller colonies. Only on rarely occasions will honey bees fly at temperatures below 55 deg (f), as the outside temperature warms up to about 70 deg (f), the number of bees foraging from a hive increases. A rule of thumb for relating springtime temperatures to foraging. 55 deg to 60 deg (f) some foraging. 60 deg to 65 deg (f) moderate to fair amount of forage. 65 to 70 deg (f) and above, the maximum amount of foraging. During midsummer, the same colonies will often not start foraging till the temperature reaches 70 deg (f). The bees acceptable foraging temperature apparently shifts with colony requirements and the season. Growers need to appreciate the value of a strong colony of honey bees in maximizing crop yields. Contact members of the Allen County Beekeepers Association for your crop pollination needs. A study in crop pollination by Matt John, Edmonson County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources. Guidelines for pollinating Cantaloupe with Honeybees: Cantaloupes do not have male flowers and female flowers parts at the same location on the plant. For fruit production to occur, pollen from the male flower must be transferred to the female flower. Honeybees are currently the most effective method of pollination. The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service recommends one to two hives per acre of cantaloupe (ID-36). With the parasite problem that have been depleting our wild swarms of honeybees across the country, it becomes essential for cantaloupe producers to place bee hives in their fields for the period bloom. The first point in timing, if the hives are moved into fields just as the cantaloupe are beginning to bloom the bees will quickly establish the flower as their target. When hives are placed too early, before bloom, honeybees can establish flight patterns to other locations or plants and ignore the field of blooming cantaloupe flowers thus defeating the purpose. Then when the cantaloupes come into bloom, the bees will begin to visit them but valuable pollination time can be lost waiting for the bees to switch over to the target crop, even if the target is closer to the hive. Another related point is reducing competing bloom. Honeybees will visit any flower within their flight range that provides food including weeds and non-target crops or flowers. If there are large numbers of the competing bloom the bees will spend less time on the cantaloupe. Hive strength is an important factor in successful pollination, the best pollinators are those that are gathering pollen to feed brood. Nectar foraging bees will pollinate too but will be less effective. Full hives with young queens are ideal but any hive is better than no hive. hives to be very similar in strength and health, they were inspected by the state apiary inspector. RESULTS: Analysis of the data showed that placement of honeybee colonies in commercial cantaloupe plots was not statistically significant when compared to plots with no colonies. If there had been more replications for each treatment, the date would show a significance for plots with hives. The average number of marketable melons produced per acre from those with no hives was 2253.5 per acre, one hive helped produce 4609.67 per acre and one and a half hives assisted growth of 7269.67 per acre. To be considered marketable, all of the melons had to be within the same weight range and free from blemish. They averaged five pounds per melon. Financially at fifty cents per marketable melon the growers realized a gross income of $1,126.75, $2,304.83 and $3,634.83 respectively. It was determined that for a rental fee of $25 - $50 per hive, it was well worth the expense to lease honeybees for managed pollination in commercial cantaloupe. AVG, MARKETABLE MELONS PER ACRE NO HIVES 2253.5 1 HIVE / ACRE 4609.67 1.5 HIVES PER ACRE 7269.67 GROSS INCOME: ($) NO HIVES 1126.75 1 HIVE PER ACRE 2304.83 1.5 HIVES PER ACRE 3634.83 Comparison of Hive Placement in Commercial Cantaloupe a study by Mr. Matt John This study was on contract growers with the Green River Produce Marketing Cooperative were used because they are required to plant the same variety of cantaloupe (ATHENA). All there production methods are very similar as the contract requires, planting dates, growing period and harvest dates are all very close. The four growers who received the hives were chosen at random and the hives were placed on the crops on May 30th at night. One hive per acre of cantaloupe on three plots and two hives per three acres on one plot (1 hive per 1.5 acres). The four growers who did not get any hives or have any access to any managed pollination as far as was acknowledged, weekly checks showed all ALL NEWSLETTER AND CROP POLLINATION GUIDELINES CAN BE FOUND ON THE ACBA WEBSITE: ALLENKYBEES.COM If you have a suggestion or comment on the website mail the webmaster or any listed officer of the ACBA. Our purpose is to serve the beekeeper and crop producers with free and important information. Soon to appear on the website; who and where to buy honey, pollen and bee products, contacts for crop pollination and number of hives available, links to other beekeeping and crop pollinating websites, it now has audio and sound, and soon video productions will be added. OFFICERS: President: Dr. Randolph Richards Vice-President: Gorden Vernon Secretary: Steve Meador Treasurer: Harris Overholt Sgt-At-arms: Freddie Brown Biology of a flower: Grant committee: Dr. Randolph Richards Harris Overholt Gorden Vernon James Brashear Jr Freddie Brown Harold Brown Steve Osborne – County Agent, Allen County Dr. Tom Webster – Entomologist Kentucky State University Mr. Phil Craft – State Apiary Inspector Biology of a honey bee: Contacts: Queens and Package Bees – Gorden Vernon & Steve Meador Crop Pollination – Randolph Richards & Harold Brown Newsletter and Marketing: Freddie Brown & James Brashear Jr Webmaster: Freddie Brown Advertising and marketing material design: Steve Meador Swarm Capture: Any listed above. Reference material: Evaluating honey bees colonies, Pub PNW245 Oregon state university. Special problems in Agriculture AGRI- 597-002 By; Mr. Matt John, Edmonson County Extension Agent. ACBA photos and information.