Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Baton Rouge, Louisiana » Honey Bee Lab » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #328505

Research Project: Genetics and Breeding in Support of Honey Bee Health

Location: Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Research

Title: Migratory management and environmental conditions affect lifespan and oxidative stress in honey bees

Author
item Simone-finstrom, Michael
item Li-byarlay, Hongmei - North Carolina State University
item Huang, Ming - North Carolina State University
item Strand, Micheline - Us Army Research
item Rueppell, Olav - University Of North Carolina
item Tarpy, David - North Carolina State University

Submitted to: Scientific Reports
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/28/2016
Publication Date: 8/24/2016
Citation: Simone-Finstrom, M., Li-Byarlay, H., Huang, M.H., Strand, M.K., Rueppell, O., Tarpy, D.R. 2016. Migratory management and environmental conditions affect lifespan and oxidative stress in honey bees. Scientific Reports. 6:1-10. doi:10.1038/srep32023.

Interpretive Summary: Large-scale agriculture of various fruits, vegetables and nuts is largely dependent on beekeepers who manage and transport hundreds or thousands of honey bee colonies for this purpose. For example, a million hives are transported to California each year just to pollinate the almond crop. Concerns have been raised about whether such “migratory management” causes bees more stress than if they were not moved at all. However to date there have been no longer-term studies addressing whether migratory management actually impacts bee health. To address these questions, we conducted field experiments comparing bees from commercial and experimental migratory beekeeping operations to those from stationary colonies to quantify effects on lifespan, colony health and productivity, and levels of physiological stress of individual bees. We found that bees that were from migratory colonies had shorter lifespans and that they also had higher levels of physiological stress early in the season. However, levels of stress appeared to be more impacted by food availability, and so some of the negative effects of migration could be alleviated by providing bees a greater abundance of forage. This is the first comprehensive study on impacts of migratory management on the health and stress of honey bees.

Technical Abstract: Most pollination in large-scale agriculture is dependent on managed colonies of a single species, the honey bee Apis mellifera. More than 1 million hives are transported to California each year just to pollinate the almonds, and bees are trucked across the country for various cropping systems. Concerns have been rais-ied about whether such “migratory management” causes bees undue stress; however to date there have been no longer-term studies rigorously addressing whether migratory management is detrimental to bee health. To address this issue, we conducted field experiments comparing bees from commercial and experimental migratory beekeeping operations to those from stationary colonies to quantify effects on lifespan, colony health and productivity, and levels of oxidative damage within individual bees. We detected a significant decrease in lifespan of migratory adult bees relative to stationary bees. We also found that migration affected oxidative stress levels in honey bees, but that food scarcity had an even larger impact; some detrimental effects of migration may be alleviated by a greater abundance of forage. In addition, rearing conditions affect levels of oxidative damage incurred as adults. This is the first comprehensive study on impacts of migratory management on the health and oxidative stress of honey bees.