Another project is exploring the sensitive issue on the possible impact of pesticides in almond production on honey bees.

“Fungicides have an impact on honey bees in a sub-lethal manner but not an acute toxicity where dead bees are found all over the place,” Heintz said. “Beekeepers want to get to the bottom line and understand the impact of fungicide on the life stages of honey bees.”

Up to 85 percent of the bees which pollinate California crops spend summers in the Northern Great Plains where beekeepers work to enhance bee numbers and health. About 500,000 hives are maintained in North Dakota.

“This region provides essential nutrients for winter bees,” research biologist Ned Euliss told the almond crowd.

Euliss is with the U.S. Geological Survey at the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center in Jamestown, N.D.

Euliss emphasized ongoing efforts to advance winter bee numbers and overall bee health. Winter bees live about six months compared to summer bees with a 45-day life span. Landscape planning in the Great Plains helps develop plant pollen essential to enhanced bee life.

“Pollen is the only source of protein for bees,” Euliss said. “Every plant species has different quality pollen. Bees with a balanced diet are healthier which allows them to better cope when hives are moved by truck across the nation for crop pollination.”

Euliss and others are weighing how changing crop cycles in the Northern Great Plains could impact honey bee nutrition. Farmers in the region are considering different cropping options in part due to higher commodity prices. Farmers are also shifting toward more grain production for conversion to ethanol to help the U.S. move closer to energy independence.

In addition, Euliss says many USDA conservation reserve program contracts will end soon which will change the overall landscape. His focus is how these changes could impact bee health.

Euliss’ goal is to share the findings with policy makers to help them make informed decisions on landscape issues. 

cblake@farmpress.com