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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: IMPROVE NUTRITION FOR HONEY BEE COLONIES TO STIMULATE POPULATION GROWTH, INCREASE QUEEN QUALITY, AND REDUCE THE IMPACT OF VARROA MITES

Location: Honey Bee Research

Title: Pollination Ecology: Overview of Pollination and the Foraging Behavior of Honey Bees

Author
item Degrandi-Hoffman, Gloria

Submitted to: Honey Bee Pests Predators and Diseases
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: March 20, 2010
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Honey bee pollination is required for the production of crops that comprise more than a third of U.S. agriculture. This chapter presents an overview of how honey bee foraging behavior results in the pollination of flowers and the formation of seeds, fruits and vegetables. Also included, is a description of the various strategies plants employ to insure that outcrossing of genetic information occurs. The effects of abiotic factors such as weather conditions on the attractiveness of flowers to bees and on honey bee foraging activity also are discussed. An overview of how honey bees transfer pollen within and between plants wile they forage is provided. This includes the transfer of pollen among bees in the hive that causes foragers to leave the colony with pollen on their bodies from plants they did not themselves visit. The interactions between honey bees and non-Apis bees that result in increased rates of cross-pollinations especially in hybrid seed production with male-sterile lines also is discussed. A discussion of the commercial pollination industry is included along with specific pollination needs of major crops (e.g., almonds, apples, berries, melons, and seed crops). Instructions on how to prepare colonies for pollinating agricultural crops also is provided along with details on how to draw up pollination contracts between beekeepers and growers renting hives. The effects of pesticides on bees particularly fungicides sprayed while crops are in bloom are discussed. Finally, a discussion on the inmportance of honey bees and the challenges faced by beekeepers that move their colonies for pollination is provided along with some possible areas for future research.

Technical Abstract: Honey bee pollination is an essential part of the production of crops that comprise more than a third of U.S. agriculture. This chapter of "The Hive and the Honey Bee" contains an overview of how honey bee foraging behavior results in the pollination of flowers and the formation of seeds, fruits and vegetables. Also included, is a description of how different flower structures can insure that pollen is moved between plants so that outcrosssing of genetic information can occur. The effects of abiotic factors such as weather conditions on the attractiveness of flowers to bees and on honey bee foraging activity also are discussed. An overview of how honey bees might transfer pollen within and between plants while they forage is provided. This includes the transfer of pollen among bees in the hive during physical contacts. In hive pollen transfer causes foragers to leave the colony with pollen on their bodies from plants they did not themselves visit. The interactions between honey bees and non-Apis bees that result in increased rates of cross-pollinations especially in hybrid seed production with male-sterile lines also is discussed. A discussion of the commercial pollination industry is included along with specific pollination needs of major crops. Instructions on how to prepare colonies for pollination also is provided. Details on how to draw up pollination contracts between beekeepers and growers renting hives are included. The effects of pesticides on bees particularly fungicides sprayed while crops are in bloom are discussed. Finally, a discussion on the importance of honey bees and the challenges faced by beekeepers that move their colonies for pollination is provided along with some possible areas for future research.

Last Modified: 8/1/2014
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