Researchers investigate the economic impact of colony collapse disorder

Image of honey bees.

(Montana State University) Researchers set out to identify the economic ripple effects of colony collapse disorder by examining trends in four categories: number of commercial honeybee colonies nationwide, honey production, prices of queens and packaged bees and pollination fees charged by commercial beekeepers to growers. The team found some surprising results.

New tool improves beekeepers’ overwintering odds and bottom line

Image of honey bee on sunflower.

(USDA-ARS) This new tool calculates the probability of a managed honey bee colony surviving the winter based on two measurements: the size of colony and the percent varroa mite infestation in September. By consulting the probability table for the likelihood of a colony having a minimum of six frames of bees – the number required for a colony to be able to fulfill a pollination contract for almond growers come February – beekeepers can decide in September if it is economically worthwhile to overwinter the colony in cold storage.

Making better worker bees

Image of liquid being poured into bee hive.

(Bloomberg Businessweek) Argentine startup Beeflow says it has more than doubled its tiny workers’ pollen-carrying capacity by feeding them custom compounds. The nutrients enhance the bees’ immune systems to handle colder conditions and also increase their attraction to the particular flower the farmer wants them to pollinate – blueberries, raspberries, or the all-important almonds. The 2-year-old company tested its insect fuel this season in the fields of a major California almond farmer and on raspberry crops for Driscoll’s, America’s largest berry grower. On deck: cherries and avocados.

Wildflower strips bring farmers extra money while helping native bees

Image of researcher with net in wildflowers.

(Entomology Today) One practice that can bolster native bee populations is planting strips of wildflowers next to crops; however, a study in 2017 found that, without incentives, few farmers choose to plant flower strips. The key to adoption, therefore, is adequate incentives. Researchers examined all the economic costs and benefits of planting wildflower strips and of selling the resulting seeds; their analysis revealed how profit could be made on the sale of seeds.

Papa John’s made a mini pizza for bees

Image of honey bee with pizza.

(AdAge) To draw attention to the plight of the pollinators, Papa John’s U.K. has made what it calls the world’s first pizza for bees. The “Beezza” is just one inch across and topped with honey, wildflowers, local pollen, rosemary and thyme. When U.K. customers order the pie online between now and September, they can donate the change to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.