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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Flight Activity of USDA-ARS Honey Bees During Lowbush Blueberry Pollination in Maine.

Authors
item Danka, Robert
item Beaman, Glenda

Submitted to: Journal of Economic Entomology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 20, 2006
Publication Date: February 1, 2007
Citation: Danka, R.G., Beaman, G.D. 2007. Flight activity of usda-ars honey bees during lowbush blueberry pollination in maine. Journal of Economic Entomology 100(2):267-272

Interpretive Summary: Honey bees play a vital role in the production of many crops in the United States by providing necessary pollination services. One important example is lowbush blueberries, for which about 60,000 bee colonies are used annually in May and June in Maine. 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. In 2003 and 2004 Russian colonies and Italian were monitored as they pollinated commercial lowbush blueberries on barrens in Washington County, Maine. 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. Flight by both bee types increased similarly as temperatures rose, so neither type had an advantage under the cool conditions that frequently occur during blueberry pollination. Overall, more populous colonies of both bee types had greater flight activity than smaller colonies. Average populations of adult bees and of brood were similar in colonies of the two bee stocks. Russian colonies therefore had flight activity that was suitable for late spring pollination of lowbush blueberries.

Technical Abstract: Flight activity was compared in colonies of Russian and Italian honey bees during commercial pollination of lowbush blueberries (principally Vaccinium angustifolium) in Washington Co., ME, in late May and early June in 2003 and 2004. Colonies of the two stocks were managed equally in Louisiana during the autumn and winter preceding observations each spring. Flight during pollination was monitored hourly on six days each year by counting bees exiting each colony per minute; counts were made manually with flight cones on 17 colonies per stock in 2003, and electronically with ApiSCAN-Plus counters on 20 colonies per stock in 2004. Analysis of variance showed that temperature, colony size (population of adult bees or brood) and the interaction of these effects were the strongest regulators of flight activity in both years. Russian and Italian bees had similar flight activity at any given colony size, temperature or time of day. Flight increased linearly with rising temperatures and larger colony sizes. Larger colonies, however, were more responsive than smaller colonies across the range of temperatures measured. In 2003, flight responses to varying temperatures were less in the afternoon (15:00-20:00 h) than they were earlier in the day. Average populations of adult bees and of brood were similar in colonies of the two bee stocks. Russian colonies had flight activity that was suitable for late spring pollination of lowbush blueberries.

Last Modified: 11/22/2014
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