Bees Making Less Honey

Bee Culture Magazine, January 27th, 2024

Why are bees making less honey? Study reveals clues in five decades of data

The study found that climate conditions and soil productivity — the ability of soil to support crops based on its physical, chemical and biological properties — were some of the most important factors in estimating honey yields. Credit: Arwin Neil Baichoo/Unsplash. All Rights Reserved.

By Katie Bohn

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Honey yields in the U.S. have been declining since the 1990s, with honey producers and scientists unsure why, but a new study by Penn State researchers has uncovered clues in the mystery of the missing honey.

Using five decades of data from across the U.S., the researchers analyzed the potential factors and mechanisms that might be affecting the number of flowers growing in different regions — and, by extension, the amount of honey produced by honey bees.

The study, recently published in the journal Environmental Research, found that changes in honey yields over time were connected to herbicide application and land use, such as fewer land conservation programs that support pollinators. Annual weather anomalies also contributed to changes in yields.

The data, pulled from several open-source databases including those operated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service and USDA Farm Service Agency, included such information as average honey yield per honey bee colony, land use, herbicide use, climate, weather anomalies and soil productivity in the continental United States.

Overall, researchers found that climate conditions and soil productivity — the ability of soil to support crops based on its physical, chemical and biological properties — were some of the most important factors in estimating honey yields. States in both warm and cool regions produced higher honey yields when they had productive soils.

The eco-regional soil and climate conditions set the baseline levels of honey production, while changes in land use, herbicide use and weather influenced how much is produced in a given year, the researchers summarized.

Gabriela Quinlan, the lead author on the study and a National Science Foundation (NSF) postdoctoral research fellow in Penn State’s Department of Entomology and Center for Pollinator Research, said she was inspired to conduct the study after attending beekeeper meetings and conferences and repeatedly hearing the same comment: You just can’t make honey like you used to.

According to Quinlan, climate became increasingly tied to honey yields in the data after 1992.

“It’s unclear how climate change will continue to affect honey production, but our findings may help to predict these changes,” Quinlan said. “For example, pollinator resources may decline in the Great Plains as the climate warms and becomes more moderate, while resources may increase in the mid-Atlantic as conditions become hotter.”

Co-author on the paper Christina Grozinger, Publius Vergilius Maro Professor of Entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research, said that while scientists previously knew that many factors influence flowering plant abundance and flower production, prior studies were conducted in only one region of the U.S.

“What’s really unique about this study is that we were able to take advantage of 50 years of data from across the continental U.S.,” she said. “This allowed us to really investigate the role of soil, eco-regional climate conditions, annual weather variation, land use and land management practices on the availability of nectar for honey bees and other pollinators.”

One of the biggest stressors to pollinators is a lack of flowers to provide enough pollen and nectar for food, according to the researchers. Because different regions can support different flowering plants depending on climate and soil characteristics, they said there is growing interest in identifying regions and landscapes with enough flowers to make them bee friendly.

“A lot of factors affect honey production, but a main one is the availability of flowers,” she said. “Honey bees are really good foragers, collecting nectar from a variety of flowering plants and turning that nectar into honey. I was curious that if beekeepers are seeing less honey, does that mean there are fewer floral resources available to pollinators overall? And if so, what environmental factors were causing this change?”

For Quinlan, one of the most exciting findings was the importance of soil productivity, which she said is an under-explored factor in analyzing how suitable different landscapes are for pollinators. While many studies have examined the importance of nutrients in the soil, less work has been done on how soil characteristics like temperature, texture, structure — properties that help determine productivity — affect pollinator resources.

The researchers also found that decreases in soybean land and increases in Conservation Reserve Program land, a national conservation program that has been shown to support pollinators, both resulted in positive effects on honey yields.

Herbicide application rates were also important in predicting honey yields, potentially because removing flowering weeds can reduce nutritional sources available to bees.

“Our findings provide valuable insights that can be applied to improve models and design experiments to enable beekeepers to predict honey yields, growers to understand pollination services, and land managers to support plant–pollinator communities and ecosystem services,” Quinlan said.

To learn more about the land use, floral resources and weather in specific areas, visit the Beescape tool on the Center for Pollinator Research website.

David A.W. Miller, associate professor of wildlife population ecology, was also a co-author on the study.

The NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology Program and the USDA National Institute Food and Agriculture’s Pollinator Health Program and Data Science for Food and Agricultural Systems Programs helped support this research.

We are here to share current happenings in the bee industry. Bee Culture gathers and shares articles published by outside sources. For more information about this specific article, please visit the original publish source: Why are bees making less honey? Study reveals clues in five decades of data | Penn State University (psu.edu)

Honey Bee Health Coalition New Nutrition Guide

Beekeepers now have a valuable resource at their fingertips with the release of the latest comprehensive Honey Bee Nutrition Guide from the Honey Bee Health Coalition. The guide is a review and manual for supplemental feeding in bee hives, giving beekeepers a simple approach to the complex and nuanced world of honey bee nutrition.

Honey bee nutrition varies not only seasonally but also based on the colony’s unique needs and beekeeping practices. From the nutritional demands of larvae to those of the foragers, each stage requires specific attention. This guide serves as a roadmap for beekeepers to meet these diverse needs.

Foragers, the scouts of the bee world, play a crucial role in sourcing floral resources such as pollen and nectar. In the absence of these natural resources, supplemental feeding becomes essential. The Honey Bee Nutrition guide delves into the various considerations beekeepers must account for when deciding on supplemental feeding strategies, including the colony’s brood status, seasonal nutritional needs, and food reserves in the hives.

The guide also reviews the history of supplementing colonies with diets other than pollen, which dates back centuries. It traces this history, highlighting pivotal moments such as Amos Ives Root’s tests with various supplements in 1875 and the foundational research by Mykola H. Haydak and Elton W. Herbert Jr. in the United States. The guide also emphasizes the importance of understanding the limitations of artificial supplements compared to the nutritional richness of natural pollen.

The Honey Bee Nutrition guide also includes a series of interviews with six commercial beekeepers who summarize what works for them when providing supplemental feeding to their honey bee colonies throughout the year, depending on their location and their beekeeping practices. Download the guider here: https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/nutritionguide/

Spending $1 Million Dollars

TBA helped obtain funding during the last Texas legislative session for an Apiculture Extension Entomologist. For many years, the TBA membership has passed resolutions expressing the need for an apiary extension agent for Texas. The continuing resolution was:
Whereas beekeeping has expanded in the state of Texas; and
Whereas Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is an important vehicle for dissemination of good beekeeping practices,
Be it Resolved that TBA will continue to pursue the creation of a Statewide Apiary Extension Agent.

This last session, Representative Mary Gonzales and Senator Charles Perry, after consultation with TAMU, introduced budget riders for funding the position at A&M. Both of these legislators have been strong supporters of TBA and beekeeping in Texas over the years.

The first position will be located in the Overton office, hands-on honey bee research will happen right next to this lovely field!

The job, Assistant Professor, Apiculture Extension Entomologist, was posted earlier this month. If you are interested, you can view the details online.

 

These Bees Have Been Mummified in Their Cocoons for 3,000 Years

Insects rarely survive in fossilized form, but a strange series of events somehow killed and preserved these brooding bees for millenniums.

“The exoskeleton of bees (and insects in general) is made of chitin, a cellulose-like biopolymer that quickly is decomposed after the animal dies,” Mr. Neto de Carvalho wrote in an email.

What bees typically leave are trace fossils or ichnofossils — imprints frozen in time of bodies, abandoned or active nests, or old burrows.

The cocoons that the team discovered were lined and sealed with a silk-like thread produced by the mother bee. This thread was a waterproof, organic polymer — a mixture of material and structural engineering — that had fostered the preservation of the bees inside. Mr. Neto de Carvalho said that this “organic mortar” had protected the cells from the environment, shielding the delicate chitin from bacterial activity and decomposition.

Using X-ray microcomputed tomography, scientists could look inside the brood cells and see the bees’ long antennae, indicating that they were male.Credit…Federico Bernardini/ICTP

The eyes and head of a bee extracted from the sediment.Credit…Andrea Baucon

 

“The exoskeleton of bees (and insects in general) is made of chitin, a cellulose-like biopolymer that quickly is decomposed after the animal dies,” Mr. Neto de Carvalho wrote in an email.

What bees typically leave are trace fossils or ichnofossils — imprints frozen in time of bodies, abandoned or active nests, or old burrows.

The cocoons that the team discovered were lined and sealed with a silk-like thread produced by the mother bee. This thread was a waterproof, organic polymer — a mixture of material and structural engineering — that had fostered the preservation of the bees inside. Mr. Neto de Carvalho said that this “organic mortar” had protected the cells from the environment, shielding the delicate chitin from bacterial activity and decomposition.

Sealed in their cocoons, the bees mummified, preserving their body shape and distinctive features. The team used X-ray microcomputed tomography — a type of CT scanning that captures detailed images of small things like insects — to examine the mummified bees without destroying the protective cocoons.

“I think what makes this study so cool is that you do have the bee in there and you can see that it’s in the tribe Eucerini, which are the long-horned bees,” said Bryan Danforth, an entomologist at Cornell University who was not involved in the study. “If you look at the CT image, you can see the long antennae, so you know it’s a male.”

Usually, determining what created a fossilized brood cell is tricky. “There are other animals that burrow into the soil that might create a thing that looks like a bee nest,” Dr. Danforth said.

The discovery, he added, is “the first ichnofossil that actually contains the bee inside of it.”

As for what killed the bees, the researchers considered flooding or a prolonged drought that might have limited food supplies. But the pollen stored inside the cells told the team that the bees had plenty of food (meaning they didn’t die by starvation).

Read the rest of the article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/20/science/mummified-bees-cocoons.html

Researchers deconstruct bee stinger to help develop tiny medical devices

17 Aug 2023

The anatomy of bee stingers could help lead to advancements in the emerging field of micro medical devices.

New research deconstructing the anatomy of a honeybee stinger could help pave the way for a future generation of miniaturised medical devices used for drug delivery in humans.

Recently published in the journal iScience, the high-resolution 3D deconstructions produced by UNSW Canberra researchers reveal the unique properties of the bee’s powerful defence mechanism, including the numerous barbs responsible for why the stinger is able to work its way deeper into the skin while pumping venom after stinging.

According to lead researcher, Associate Professor Sridhar Ravi, the autonomous delivery mechanism of the bee stinger has numerous characteristics that could help researchers develop small-scale and minimally intrusive medical devices in the future.

“We have never before produced images with this level of detail, and they have given us tremendous new insights into the functions of the bee stinger,” A/Prof. Ravi said. “Because of these clearer and more precise images, we have uncovered potential opportunities in medical micro drilling, micro-pumps and much more targeted drug delivery.”

A/Prof. Ravi said there is also the possibility of developing improved ‘anchoring’ methods that will allow medical devices or adhesive patches to hold onto the skin without the need for chemical adhesives which can cause irritation or be unviable on moist surfaces, like the inside of the body.

“Previous studies have shown that a bee stinger is very good at piercing skin with minimal force, but it is very hard to remove once it is embedded,” A/Prof. Ravi said. “This is a really useful property for medical devices that need to be very precisely inserted without damaging surrounding tissues.”

The 3D deconstructions have also led to the UNSW Canberra research team developing prototype devices that simulate a bee stinger’s unique piercing and pumping actions.

“A bee’s stinger must be able to firstly pierce skin without buckling, and it must safely detach and coordinate the muscular contractions that generate stinging,” said Dr Fiorella Ramirez Esquivel, the project’s other primary researcher. “This means both working itself deeper into tissue and pumping venom quickly and efficiently.”

Dr Ramirez Esquivel said because a bee stinger is so small – just approximately 2mm in length – the research team had to use a combination of techniques to observe the stinger and decode how it works.

“[The 3D de-constructions] have been fantastic because they allowed us to 3D print the whole stinger and blow it up to a scale where we can move all the parts around to figure out how they work together,” Dr Ramirez Esquivel said. “High-speed filming the stinger in action was also a significant challenge, but it has been instrumental in understanding how it functions.”

Dr Ramirez Esquivel said that understanding the evolution of the bee’s stinger is a great example of how we can make progress by learning more about other animal and plant species.

“Bee stingers are incredibly complex structures with numerous moving components that also happen to be incredibly effective and efficient at what they do,” Dr Ramirez Esquivel said. “The more we look into it, the more we find amazing intricacies related to how it does its job.”

The researchers say they are excited by the potential of different bio-inspired designs in medicine.

“As advanced manufacturing makes strides in what it is possible for us to make, natural materials like the insect cuticle will become more and more relevant to the design of soft robots and microdevices,” Dr Ramirez Esquivel said.

https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/researchers-deconstruct-bee-stinger-help-develop-tiny-medical-devices

Researchers Discover That Bees Can Make Decisions Better and Faster Than We Do

By Macquarie University September 4, 2023

A new study reveals how we could design robots to think like bees.

Honey bees excel in weighing effort against reward and risk, quickly determining which flowers can provide sustenance for their colony. A study recently published in the journal eLife illustrates how eons of evolution have fine-tuned honey bees to make swift judgments while minimizing danger.

This research sheds light on the workings of insect minds, the evolution of human cognition, and offers insights for improved robot design.

The paper presents a model of decision-making in bees and outlines the paths in their brains that enable fast decision-making. The study was led by Professor Andrew Barron from Macquarie University in Sydney, and Dr. HaDi MaBouDi, Neville Dearden, and Professor James Marshall from the University of Sheffield.

“Decision-making is at the core of cognition,” says Professor Barron. “It’s the result of an evaluation of possible outcomes, and animal lives are full of decisions. A honey bee has a brain smaller than a sesame seed. And yet she can make decisions faster and more accurately than we can. A robot programmed to do a bee’s job would need the backup of a supercomputer.

“Today’s autonomous robots largely work with the support of remote computing,” Professor Barron continues. “Drones are relatively brainless, they have to be in wireless communication with a data center. This technology path will never allow a drone to truly explore Mars solo – NASA’s amazing rovers on Mars have traveled about 75 kilometers in years of exploration.”

Bees need to work quickly and efficiently, finding nectar and returning it to the hive while avoiding predators. They need to make decisions. Which flower will have nectar? While they’re flying, they’re only prone to aerial attack. When they land to feed, they’re vulnerable to spiders and other predators, some of which use camouflage to look like flowers.

“We trained 20 bees to recognize five different colored ‘flower disks’. Blue flowers always had sugar syrup,” says Dr. MaBouDi. “Green flowers always had quinine [tonic water] with a bitter taste for bees. Other colors sometimes had glucose.”

“Then we introduced each bee to a ‘garden’ where the ‘flowers’ just had distilled water. We filmed each bee then watched more than 40 hours of video, tracking the path of the bees and timing how long it took them to make a decision.

“If the bees were confident that a flower would have food, then they quickly decided to land on it taking an average of 0.6 seconds),” says Dr. MaBouDi. “If they were confident that a flower would not have food, they made a decision just as quickly.”

If they were unsure, then they took much more time – on average 1.4 seconds – and the time reflected the probability that a flower had food.

The team then built a computer model from first principles aiming to replicate the bees’ decision-making process. They found the structure of their computer model looked very similar to the physical layout of a bee brain.

“Our study has demonstrated complex autonomous decision-making with minimal neural circuitry,” says Professor Marshall. “Now we know how bees make such smart decisions, we are studying how they are so fast at gathering and sampling information. We think bees are using their flight movements to enhance their visual system to make them better at detecting the best flowers.”

AI researchers can learn much from insects and other ‘simple’ animals. Millions of years of evolution have led to incredibly efficient brains with very low power requirements. The future of AI in the industry will be inspired by biology, says Professor Marshall, who co-founded Opteran, a company that reverse-engineers insect brain algorithms to enable machines to move autonomously, like nature.

Reference: “How honey bees make fast and accurate decisions” by HaDi MaBouDi, James AR Marshall, Neville Dearden and Andrew B Barron, 27 June 2023, eLife.
DOI: 10.7554/eLife.86176

https://scitechdaily.com/researchers-discover-that-bees-can-make-decisions-better-and-faster-than-we-do/

Patrolling honey bees expose spread of antimicrobial resistance

by Macquarie University

Bees could become biomonitors, checking their neighborhoods to determine how far antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has spread, according to research by Macquarie University scientists.

At least 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which estimates that 10 million people will die due to AMR by 2050. But we have few tools to keep track of its spread in the environment.

The study, published in Environmental Science and Technology, recruited honey bees, which can be a “crowdsourced” environmental proxy as they interact with contaminants in soil, dust, air, water and pollen while they forage.

“Bees interact with human environments, so they are a really good indicator of pollution that may present of risk of harm to humans,” says first author Kara Fry, an Adjunct Research Fellow at Macquarie University’s School of Natural Sciences and also Senior Research and Development Officer at the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA).

“Bees only live for about four weeks, so whatever you’re seeing in a bee is something that is in the environment right now.”

Fry and lead author Professor Mark Taylor, who is the EPA Victoria Chief Environmental Scientist, examined 18 hives from citizen-scientist beekeepers who had hives across Greater Sydney in a mixture of land-use types.

She sampled eight bees from each hive to see what was in their digestive tracts.

Specifically, she was looking for genetic elements called Class 1 integrons, key drivers of resistance to antibiotics. She also looked for toxic metals such as lead.

“As humans have released their own bacteria into the environment, Class 1 integrons have spread into other natural systems. You can now find them on every continent, even Antarctica. You can find them in really diverse spaces,” Fry says.

The study found that more than 80% of the bees sampled across all hives were positive for one or more antimicrobial resistance targets, surprising the researchers by showing that AMR is prevalent irrespective of the land-use context.

Fry and her team expected to find more integrons in more densely populated areas. Instead, they found them distributed over an extremely wide area but with higher concentrations around waterbodies such as dams and lakes.

“We suspect the presence of local waterbodies that collect run-off is a critical source of AMR contamination,” Fry says. “Everything from the catchment drains down, then it stays in that system.

“As anticipated, our study data showed that residential and industrial areas were impacted very heavily with environmental lead, with greater concentrations in more densely populated areas. By contrast, AMR was much more pervasive across the whole urban environment.”

While being able to monitor pollutants and determine where their concentrations are highest could provide an invaluable tool to understand where to implement clean-ups, the discovery of how widespread AMR is also provides a wake-up call for people to alter their behavior.

“The main drivers of AMR are the misuse and overuse of antimicrobial products. The message from this research reinforces the need to use antibiotics when needed and as directed, and to dispose of them appropriately by returning unused medicines to your pharmacy,” Fry says.

“In addition, we should also take a look at the products we are using in our homes and avoid those with added antimicrobial agents.”

The researchers are now investigating the use of bees to detect other environmental contaminants as well as exploring whether certain bird species could be used in biomonitoring.

https://phys.org/news/2023-08-patrolling-honey-bees-expose-antimicrobial.html

Bees have appeared on coins for millennia, hinting at an age-old link between sweetness and value

by Adrian Dyer, The Conversation
July 25, 2023

In 2022, the Royal Australian Mint issued a $2 coin decorated with honeybees. Around 2,400 years earlier, a mint in the kingdom of Macedon had the same idea, creating a silver obol coin with a bee stamped on one side.

Over the centuries between these two events, currency demonstrating a symbolic link between honey and money is surprisingly common.

In a recent study in Australian Coin Review, I trace the bee through numismatic history—and suggest a scientific reason why our brains might naturally draw a connection between the melliferous insects and the abstract idea of value.

What is currency and why is it important?
Money is a store of value, and can act as a medium of exchange for goods or services. Currency is a physical manifestation of money, so coins are a durable representation of value.

Coins have had central role in many communities to enable efficient trade since ancient times. Their durability makes them important time capsules.

Ancient Malta was famous for its honey. The modern 3 Mils coin (1972–81) celebrates this history with images of a bee and honeycomb. According to the information card issued with the coin set, “A bee and honeycomb are shown on the 3 Mils coin, symbolizing the fact that honey was used as currency in Ancient Malta.”

In ancient Greece, bees were used on some of the earliest coins made in Europe. A silver Greek obol coin minted in Macedon between 412 BCE and 350 BCE, now housed in the British Museum, shows a bee on one side of the coin.

Bees also feature on coins minted elsewhere in the ancient Greek world, such as a bronze coin minted in Ephesus dated between 202 BCE and 133 BCE.

The use of bees on ancient coins extended for many centuries including widely circulated bronze coins, and new varieties continue to be discovered.

Why we might like bees on coins
Why have bees appeared so often on coins? One approach to this question comes from the field of neuro-aesthetics, which seeks to understand our tastes by understanding the basic brain processes that underpin aesthetic appreciation.

From this perspective, it seems likely the sweet taste of honey—which indicates the large amount of sugar it delivers—promotes positive neural activity associated with bees and honey.

Indeed, primatologist Jane Goodall once proposed that obtaining high-calorie nutrition from bee honey may have been an important step in the cognitive development of primates.

Our brain may thus be pre-adapted to liking bees due to their association with the sweet taste of honey. Early usage of bees on coins may have been a functional illustration of the link between a known value (honey) and a new form of currency: coins as money.

The bee on modern coins
The use of bees as a design feature has persisted from ancient to modern times. A honeybee visiting a flower is shown on a series of ten-centesimi bronze coins issued in Italy from 1919 to 1937.

(As an aside, the world’s last stock of pure Italian honeybees is found in Australia, on Kangaroo Island, which was declared a sanctuary for Ligurian bees by an act of parliament in 1885.)

More recently, a 20-seniti coin from the Pacific nation of Tonga shows 20 honeybees flying out of a hive. This coin was part of a series initiated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to promote sustainable agricultural and cultural development around the world.

Bees are relevant here because their pollinating efforts contribute to about one-third of the food required to feed the world, with a value in excess of US$200 billion per year, and they are threatened by climate change and other environmental factors.

Bees on coins, today and tomorrow

Public awareness of bees and environmental sustainability may well be factors in the current interest in bee coins. The diversity of countries using bees as a design feature over the entire history of coins suggests people have valued the relationship with bees as essential to our own prosperity for a long time.

In Australia, the 2022 honeybee $2 coin is part of a series developed by the Royal Australian Mint. In 2019, the Perth Mint in Western Australia also released coins and stamps celebrating native bees.

Despite the decline of cash, bee coins still appear to be going strong. The buzzing companions of human society are likely to be an important subject for coin design for as long as coins continue to be used.

https://phys.org/news/2023-07-bees-coins-millennia-hinting-age-old.html

New study uses video to show honey bees switch feeding mechanisms as resource conditions vary

by Stephanie Baum
August 21, 2023

Within nature, the compatibility of animals’ feeding mechanisms with their food sources determines the breadth of available resources and how successfully the animals will feed. Those who feed on the nectar of flowers, such as honey bees (Apis mellifera), encounter a range of corolla depths and sugar concentrations. The nectar of flowers comprises the prime source of energy and water for honey bees, who are dominant pollinators throughout the world.

Regional climate conditions contribute to plants producing nectar in various volumes and concentrations, and evaporation and pollinator feeding frequently leaves the nectar reservoirs of flowers below capacity. Thus, honey bees’ ability to feed “profitably” under naturally varying resource conditions is advantageous.

An international research team has studied the feeding mechanisms of honey bees and has reported on how these bees switch between using suction and lapping to derive maximum benefit from flowers of varied sizes and concentrations of sugar. The team’s study, titled “Honey bees switch mechanisms to drink deep nectar efficiently,” is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences(PNAS).

Prior research has studied suction and lapping feeding behaviors in honey bees, but this paper notes that earlier studies have included an “unnatural condition of virtually unlimited nectar supplies. Such large nectar pools are rare in the flowers they visit in the wild.”

In this study, the team shows that during feeding, the distance between the honey bees’ mouthparts and the nectar, as well as the concentration of sugar within the nectar, are determining factors in whether the bees procure it via suction or lapping.

The feeding mechanism of honey bees consists of a long, thin proboscis that includes a pair of labial palpi inside a pair of elongated galea (lobes). This structure serves as a feeding tube, and the bee’s hairy glossa (tongue) is situated inside.

For this study, the researchers pre-starved honey bees, fed them sucrose solutions of 10%, 30%, and 50% w/w contained in capillary tubes, and used high-speed videography to record the bees’ feeding behavior with each. Blue dye, which had no nutritional effect, was added to each solution for visual contrast, and the bees tolerated it well.

At the 10% w/w concentration, bees inserted their proboscides deep into the solution and extended their tongues beyond the proboscis tubes to suction the liquid until they could no longer reach the meniscus.

At 30% w/w—an approximate concentration commonly found in nature, according to the research—the bees began by quickly lapping the solution, slowing down as the liquid level receded, and gradually switched to suction until the liquid receded beyond their reach.

At 50% w/w, the bees lapped the solution, beginning rapidly and slowing as the liquid receded, and did not transition to suction at all. Notably, the bees showed a smaller decrease in lapping frequency at 50% w/w than during their transitions to suction at 30% w/w.

The researchers conclude that short-distance lapping helps honey bees most efficiently gather nectar to fill the maximum collection capacity of their tongues, but lapping at longer distances would be less efficient than suction due to more time needed for capillary filling. The decreased lapping frequency observed with the thickest of the tested nectars indicates an allowance for the capillary rise needed for maximum tongue-saturation capacity.

In summary, regardless of nectar depth, lapping is a better strategy for honey bees collecting nectars of high sugar concentrations, and suction is faster for those with lower concentrations of sugar.

The team also believes that the feeding mechanism switching behavior may be a unique ability among this species. Noting a previous study published in Soft Matter in which bumble bees (Bombus terrestris) did not switch between feeding behaviors with nectars of varying viscosities, the team in this study also used a solution of 10% w/w with bumble bees to test whether this would change according to their distance from the liquid, but it did not; the bumble bees only exhibited lapping.

Furthermore, previous research with orchid bees (Euglossini) has shown that they mainly use their long proboscides to procure nectar via suction, but that they have exhibited both suction and lapping with small amounts (films) of nectar. However, there is currently no evidence to show that orchid bees make this switch based on corolla depth or nectar properties.

The research team included members from China’s Sun Yat-Sen University School of Aeronautics and Astronautics and School of Advanced Manufacturing, The University of Washington Department of Biology and Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in the U.S., South Africa’s University of Pretoria Department of Zoology and Entomology; Belgium’s Université libre de Bruxelles, Nonlinear Physical Chemistry Unit and Université de Mons, Laboratoire InFlux; and Kiel University’s Department of Zoology in Germany.

To see the videos:  https://phys.org/news/2023-08-video-honey-bees-mechanisms-resource.html

Farm Service Agency Reminds Texas Livestock Producers of Available Drought Assistance

Producers in more than 200 counties may be eligible

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Sept. 12, 2023  USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) reminds drought impacted producers that they may be eligible for financial assistance through the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP), Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) Emergency Conservation Program (ECP)and Emergency Haying and Grazing on Conservation Reserve Program to provide financial assistance to eligible producers for 2023 grazing losses due to a qualifying drought or fire and provide water for impacted livestock.

Producers across Texas have been faced with another significant drought year causing considerable economic hardship as they go to great lengths to provide adequate feed, forage and water for their livestock,” said Kelly Adkins, State Executive Director for FSA in Texas. “Producers who are eligible for the much-needed disaster recovery assistance are encouraged to contact their local FSA office to schedule an appointment to apply.” 

Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program

For eligible producers in qualifying counties, the ELAP provides financial assistance for:

the transportation of water to livestock;
the above normal cost of mileage for transporting feed to livestock; and
the above normal cost of transporting livestock to forage/grazing acres.*

*No payment for “empty miles.”

Eligible livestock include cattle, bison, goats and sheep, among others, that are maintained for commercial use and located in a county where qualifying drought conditions occur. A county must have had D2 severe drought intensity on the U.S. Drought Monitor for eight consecutive weeks during the normal grazing period, or D3 or D4 drought intensity at any time during the normal grazing period. Producers must have risk in both eligible livestock and eligible grazing land in an eligible county to qualify for ELAP assistance.

Transporting Water, Feed and Livestock

For ELAP water transportation assistance, producers must be transporting water to eligible livestock on eligible grazing land where adequate livestock watering systems or facilities were in place before the drought occurred and where water transportation is not normally required. ELAP covers costs associated with personal labor, equipment, hired labor, and contracted water transportation fees. Cost of the water itself is not covered. The ELAP payment formula uses a national average price per gallon.

ELAP also provides financial assistance to livestock producers who incur above normal expenses for transporting feed to livestock and who are hauling livestock to a new location for feed resources due to insufficient feed or grazing in drought-impacted areas.  For transporting feed or hauling livestock, the payment formula excludes the first 25 miles and any mileage over 1,000 miles.

Reimbursement Rates

The reimbursement rate for transporting water, feed, and livestock is 60% of the costs above what would normally have been incurred during the same time period in a normal (non-drought) year. Eligible underserved producers with a CCC-860 underserved producer certification form on filewith FSA may qualify for a 90% reimbursement rate.

An online tool is now available to help ranchers document and estimate payments to cover feed and livestock transportation costs caused by drought and view the demonstration video.

Reporting Losses

Producers must submit a notice of loss to their local FSA office within 30 calendar days of when the loss is apparent. Producers should contact FSA as soon as the loss of water or feed resources are known.

For ELAP eligibility, documentation of expenses is critical. Producers should maintain records and receipts associated with the costs of transporting water to eligible livestock, the costs of transporting feed to eligible livestock, the costs of additional feed purchases, and the costs of transporting eligible livestock to forage or other grazing acres.

The deadline to apply for 2023 ELAP is Jan. 30, 2024.

Livestock Forage Disaster Program

The Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) provides payments to eligible livestock producers and contract growers who also produce forage crops for grazing and suffered losses due to a qualifying drought or fire during the normal grazing period for the county.  Eligible livestock include alpacas, beef cattle, buffalo/bison, beefalo, dairy cattle, deer, elk, emus, equine, goats, llamas, ostriches, reindeer, or sheep that have been or would have been grazing the eligible grazing land or pastureland during the normal grazing period. 

More than 200 Texas counties have met the drought severity levels that trigger LFP eligibility for the 2023 program year. For LFP, qualifying drought triggers are determined using theU.S. Drought MonitorA list of eligible counties and grazing crops can be found on the FSA Texas webpage.

To expedite the application process, producers are encouraged to gather and submit records documenting 2023 losses. Supporting documents may include information related to grazing leases, contract grower agreements, and more.

The deadline to apply for 2023 LFP assistance is Jan. 30, 2024.

Emergency Conservation Program

FSA offers cost-share assistance to livestock producers experiencing severe drought conditions where water available for livestock has been reduced below normal to the extent that, without access to additional water, livestock survival is threatened.

Approved practices may include installing pipelines or other facilities for livestock water, constructing and deepening wells for livestock water, installing portable electric pumps and developing springs or seeps for livestock water.

A producer qualifying for ECP assistance may receive cost shares not to exceed 75% of the approved payment scenario rate. Eligible underserved producers with a CCC-860 underserved producer certification form on file with FSA may qualify for a 90% reimbursement rate. Cost-share assistance is limited to $500,000 per person or legal entity per natural disaster.

Additional Drought and Wildfire Recovery Assistance

ELAP assistance is also available to producers impacted by wildfire. Contact the local FSA office for more information on ELAP resources for wildfire losses. Beekeepers can benefit from ELAP provisions and should contact their county FSA office within 15 calendar days of when a loss occurs or is apparent.

The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) provides benefits to livestock producers for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by adverse weather, including wildfire and ECP may also be able to assist with repairing or replacing fencing that was damaged by a wildfire.

The Tree Assistance Program provides cost-share assistance to replant or rehabilitate trees, bushes, or vines lost due to drought. Additionally, ECP funds may be available to help with water needs for vineyards and orchards during severe drought.

The Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) provides financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops to protect against natural disasters that result in lower yields, crop losses or prevents crop planting including crops planted and grown for livestock consumptionsuch as grain and forage crops, including native forage. Eligible producers would have had to have obtained NAP coverage for the crop year in which the qualifying loss occurred.

FSA also offers a variety of direct and guaranteed farm loans, including operating and emergency farm loans, to producers who cannot secure commercial financing. Producers in counties with a primary or contiguous disaster designation may be eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. Loans can help producers replace essential property, purchase inputs like livestock, equipment, feed and seed, cover family living expenses or refinance farm-related debts and other needs. Additionally, FSA has a variety of loan servicing options available for borrowers who are unable to make scheduled payments on their farm loan debt to FSA because of reasons beyond their control.  

Also, qualifying borrowers can request FSA to cover their next installment due or a recently missed installment. Borrowers who are within two months of their next installment may seek a cash flow analysis from FSA using a recent balance sheet and operating plan to determine their eligibility and can submit requests for cash flow-based assistance in person at their local FSA office or by sending in a direct request using the farmers.gov 22006 assistance request portal at farmers.gov/ira22006cashflow.

More Information

Additional disaster assistance information can be found on farmers.gov, including the Farmers.gov Drought Webpage, Wildfire Webpage, Disaster Assistance Discovery ToolDisaster Assistance-at-a-Glance fact sheet, and Farm Loan Discovery Tool.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit usda.gov.

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