Scientists are ‘scent-training’ honey bees to boost pollination of certain crops by more than half

Image of honey bee boxes next to sunflower field.

(Daily Mail) Researchers in Argentina found that exposing bees to foods scented with synthetic sunflower odor altered their choices about which plants to visit later. Exposure to the scent of sunflowers created ‘bee memories’ that influenced the insects to seek out sunflowers and bring back more sunflower pollen to their hives. This increased visitation also boosted flower production by somewhere between 29 to 57 percent, depending on the sunflower hybrid grown.

Bumble bees benefit from faba bean cultivation

Image of bumble bee on faba bean flower.

(Georg-August-Universität Göttingen) About one third of the payments received by German farmers are linked to specific “greening measures” to promote biodiversity. The cultivation of nitrogen-fixing legumes is very popular. However, these measures have been criticized because the benefits for biodiversity are unclear. It turns out that bumble bees benefit from the cultivation of faba beans, while all other wild bees depend on the presence of semi-natural habitats.

Kind is the first food brand to commit to buying ‘bee-friendly’ almonds

Image of almond blossoms with honey bee.

(Fast Company) The snack company Kind says it plans to source almonds only from “bee-friendly” farmland by 2025. Almond suppliers working with Kind are making two major changes. They’ve stopped using two types of pesticides – neonicotinoids and chlorpyrifos – that can kill bees. They will also convert between 3% to 5% of their orchards to a habitat that supports bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

Sharing bees helps more farmers

Image of wildflower strip between two farm fields.

(EurekAlert, University of Minnesota) Many farmers are used to sharing big equipment – like tractors and other costly machinery – with neighboring farms. Sharing cuts costs, lowers the farmer’s debt load, and increases community wellbeing. But big machinery might not be the only opportunity for farmers to reap the benefits of cost-sharing with their neighbors. New research suggests that the concept could also be applied to a more lively kind of agricultural resource: wild bees. “What we’re proposing is that those farmers providing bee habitat could be rewarded for doing so, to the benefit of all.”

Decline of bees, other pollinators threatens US crop yields

Image of bumble bee on flower.

(Phys.org, Rutgers University) Crop yields for apples, cherries and blueberries across the United States are being reduced by a lack of pollinators, according to Rutgers-led research. “We found that many crops are pollination-limited, meaning crop production would be higher if crop flowers received more pollination. We also found that honey bees and wild bees provided similar amounts of pollination overall.”