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Title: Preliminary observations of autumn feeding of USDA-ARS Russian honey bees to enhance performance during almond pollination

item Danka, Robert
item Beaman, Glenda - Lorraine

Submitted to: Bee Culture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/2009
Publication Date: 5/1/2009
Citation: Danka, R.G., Beaman, G.D. 2009. Preliminary observations of autumn feeding of USDA-ARS Russian honey bees to enhance flight performance during almond pollination. Science of Bee Culture 1(2):27-30; supplement to Bee Culture 137(2).

Interpretive Summary: Increased planting of almonds in California has produced a greater associated need for honey bee colonies for pollination of the crop in late winter. Russian honey bees developed by USDA-ARS are actively used by U.S. beekeepers because of favorable beekeeping traits. However, Russian colonies tend to be less populous on average than Italian colonies in late winter, and therefore have less flight activity. We sought to increase bee populations in Russian colonies by feeding two pounds of supplemental pollen in the autumn. During almond pollination three and a half months later (mid February), fed colonies had significantly more brood, but not more adult bees, than unfed colonies. The feeding regime we used therefore did not increase flight activity during almond bloom. The finding of an increased brood population does suggest, however, that more intensive feeding of Russian bees (for example, by feeding earlier or feeding more) could produce colonies with more adult bees and enhanced pollination value.

Technical Abstract: populous than Italian colonies and thus have less flight activity. We attempted to increase bee populations by feeding two pounds of bee-collected pollen in November to Russian and Italian colonies (n=16 each) and comparing these to unfed colonies. Flight activity of colonies in the four treatment groups was monitored electronically with AspiSCAN Plus® counters on 17-25 February 2006 while the colonies were used for almond pollination. At the beginning of almond bloom, the area of sealed brood was 56% greater in the fed colonies than in the unfed colonies (combined bee stocks). Adult bee populations were 17% larger in the fed group but this increase was not significant. Bee populations and brood populations were both similar for Russian and Italian bees (combined feeding groups). Feeding affected bee and brood production similarly in Russian and Italian colonies. Flight activity during almond pollination was affected neither by feeding treatment nor by bee stock, presumably because these factors did not influence populations of adult bees. Flight activity was significantly affected by temperature, adult bee population and period of day. The results indicate potential to increase bee populations in Russian colonies, perhaps by feeding more protein supplement or by commencing feeding sooner.