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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Environmental Influences on Flight Activity of USDA-ARS Russian and Italian Stocks of Honey Bees During Almond Pollination

Authors
item Danka, Robert
item Sylvester, H
item Boykin, Debbie - USDA, ARS, MSA

Submitted to: Journal of Economic Entomology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 23, 2005
Publication Date: November 1, 2006
Citation: Danka, R.G., Sylvester, H.A., Boykin, D. 2006. Environmental influences on Flight Activity of USDA-ARS Russian and Italian Stocks of Honey Bees During Almond Pollination. Journal of Economic Entomology 99(5):1565-1570.

Interpretive Summary: Honey bees play a vital role in the production of many crops in the United States. The most extensive use comes during almond pollination, for which approximately 1 million colonies are rented annually. USDA-ARS recently has developed and released a stock of honey bees that originated in eastern Russia and has been bred for resistance to parasitic mites and for other beneficial beekeeping traits. The aim of this research was to compare the flight activity USDA-ARS Russian bees with that of Italian bees, a stock commonly used for pollination. Forty-one Russian colonies and 43 Italian were monitored as they pollinated a commercial almond orchard in Kern County, California. We found that flight activity and pollen collection were the same for the two types of bees when all other environmental factors were accounted for. Overall, more populous colonies of both bee types had greater flight activity than smaller colonies. Because Russian colonies on average were about three-fourths of the size of Italian colonies, they issued only about 70% of the foragers that Italian colonies did. Flight activity generally was greater at higher temperatures, and decreased at later times of the day. This research refines information about the relationship between incremental increases in bee populations and flight activity. It also suggests that Russian colonies would benefit from efforts such as stimulative feeding to increase bee populations if the bees are to be used for crop pollination early in the season.

Technical Abstract: We compared flight activity and percentages of pollen foragers in two commercial stocks of honey bees (USDA-ARS Russian, n=41 colonies; Italian, n=43 colonies) in an almond orchard in Kern Co., CA, in February-March 2002. Flight activity was measured by taking 1-min counts of bees exiting colonies on each of nine days. Pollen collection was measured by capturing returning foragers on four days. Flight activity was best predicted with a model containing the effects of colony size (populations of adult bees and sealed brood), temperature, time of day, the interaction of adult bee population with temperature and the interaction of adult bee population with time of day. Flight increased linearly with adult bee and brood population, had a quadratic relationship with temperature (increasing, but less so at higher temperatures), and had a quadratic relationship with time of day (decreasing, but less so at later times). Larger colonies had stronger responses to changing temperatures and less response to different times of day than small colonies had. Bee type had no direct influence on flight activity. However, Russian colonies, because they were less populous by about one-fourth, fielded on average 71% of the foragers that Italian colonies did. The percentages of foragers with pollen were not different for the bee types.

Last Modified: 12/20/2014
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