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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: BIOLOGICALLY-BASED PEST MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES FOR WESTERN COTTON Title: A method for distinctly marking honey bees, Apis mellifera originating from multiple apiary locations

Authors
item Hagler, James
item Mueller, Shannon -
item Teuber, Larry -
item Van Deynze, Allen -
item Martin, Joe -

Submitted to: Journal of Insect Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 8, 2011
Publication Date: November 2, 2011
Citation: Hagler, J.R., Mueller, S., Teuber, L.R., Van Deynze, A., Martin, J. (2011). A method for distinctly marking honey bees, Apis mellifera originating from multiple apiary locations. Journal of Insect Science. 11:146

Interpretive Summary: An effective method to monitor honey bee foraging patterns over a vast area is essential to understand its effect on the potential range of pollen-mediated gene flow in seed alfalfa or any other crop pollinated by honey bees. Here we describe the development of a bee marking device that attaches to the entrance of a commercial bee hive. The device can be rapidly loaded with a portable dispenser tube containing a colored fluorescent powder or a combination of a colored powder and one of two protein-rich powders. The protein powders tested included egg albumin from chicken egg whites and milk casein from cow’s milk. The bees self-marked with the various powders as they exited the hive through the device. The efficacy of the marking procedure was determined by first examining each bee for the presence of a fluorescent colored mark by direct visual inspection under magnification using UV light. Then each bee was analyzed for the presence of egg albumin protein and bovine casein protein using protein-specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. Data indicated that all five of the colored fluorescent powders and both of the protein powders were effective honey bee markers. However, the fluorescent powders consistently yielded more reliable marks than the protein powders. The application of this methodology for studying pollen-mediated gene flow in honey bee-pollinated crops such as alfalfa is discussed.

Technical Abstract: Inexpensive and non-intrusive marking methods are essential to track natural behavior of insects for biological experiments. An inexpensive, easy to construct, and easy to install bee marking device is described. The device is mounted at the entrance of a standard honey bee, Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera: Apidae) hive and is fitted with a removable tube that dispenses a powdered marker. Marking devices were installed on 80 honey bee colonies distributed within nine separate apiaries. Each device held a tube containing one of five colored fluorescent powders or a combination of a fluorescent powder (either green or magenta) plus one of two protein powders, resulting in nine unique marks. The powdered protein markers included egg albumin from dry chicken egg whites and casein from dry powdered milk. The efficacy of the marking procedure for each of the unique markers was assessed on honey bees exiting each apiary. Each bee was examined, first by visual inspection for the presence of colored fluorescent powder and then by egg albumin and milk casein specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). Data indicated that all five of the colored fluorescent powders and both of the protein powders were effective honey bee markers. However, the fluorescent powders consistently yielded more reliable marks than the protein powders. In general, there was less than a 1% chance of obtaining a false positive colored or protein marked bee, but the chance of obtaining a false negative marked bee was higher for “protein-marked” bees. The application of this methodology for studying pollen-mediated gene flow in honey bee-pollinated crops such as alfalfa is discussed.

Last Modified: 12/28/2014
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