Helping honey bees make it through winter with early cold storage

Image of beekeeper with hives in field.

(USDA ARS) Putting honey bees into early indoor cold storage in October rather than November increases their chances of surviving the winter and the colonies emerge readier to pollinate almonds. Overwintering managed honey bee colonies in indoor cold storage in states such as Idaho has become increasingly popular with beekeepers because, in the cold, bees don’t need to forage for food, be fed by beekeepers, or be treated for parasitic Varroa mites — a serious pest of honey bees. This cuts down on beekeepers’ costs and can greatly reduce overwintering colony losses.

Common bee virus causes bees to forage prematurely

Image of honey bees with egg cells.

(University of Minnesota) A new study from the University of Minnesota found that deformed wing virus causes a honey bee’s brain to function as though the bee is older than it is. This often leads infected bees to forage prematurely, which can cause diminished spatial memory and colony failure. Additionally, these infected foragers may be more likely to spread the virus to neighboring colonies because of their disoriented state.

Pesticides damage the brains of baby bees

Image of CT scan of bumble bee brain.

(CNN) Research from the Imperial College London has found that baby bumble bees can feel the effects of food contaminated by pesticides brought back into the colony, making them poorer at performing tasks later in life. Pesticide-contaminated food caused parts of the bee brain to grow less, leading to older adult bees possessing smaller and functionally impaired brains – an effect that appeared to be permanent and irreversible.

Sugar-poor diets wreak havoc on bumble bee queens’ health

Image of common eastern bumble bee.

(University of California, Riverside) Research indicates that a queen bumble bee’s diet can impact how quickly her brood develops, or whether she’s able to live through hibernation. A new study from Dr. Hollis Woodard and her team at UC Riverside demonstrates that without adequate sugar, the queen’s fat body, which functions like a human liver, does not correctly produce the enzymes required for healthy metabolism and detoxification from pesticides.

‘Like sending bees to war’: the deadly truth behind your almond-milk obsession

Image of beekeeper standing next to two hives.

(The Guardian) Commercial honey bees are considered livestock by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But no other class of livestock comes close to the scorched-earth circumstances that these bees face in the toxic chemical soup of California’s Central Valley, fertilizing almonds one blossom at a time. “The high mortality rate creates a sad business model for beekeepers. It’s like sending the bees to war. Many don’t come back.”