Agriculture Science Today 005: “Chinese Bees”

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Bumblebee, sunflower, pollinator

Bumblebee picture courtesy of Bill Price

Effects of landscape on bumblebees to ensure crop pollination

This week we review a paper on the effects of different land use types surrounding squash fields on the ability of bumblebees in conjunction with honey bees to pollinate the crop. The researchers asked 4 questions about pollinators in this paper. 1)The amount of pollen each type of bee can carry and efficiency with which bees can transfer pollen to plants? 3)Can honey bees or bumblebees alone pollinate plants at high enough rates for maximum yields? 3)What is the effect of surounding land cover on pollenation by honey or bumble bees? 4)What is the overall relationship between land use and pollination of plants?

Colony collapse disorder

We discuss the need for pollinator research in the context of the problem posed to our domesticated bee populations by colony collapse disorder. You can read more about CCD here.

New problem for bees, a plant virus?

We discuss the recent research suggesting that a plant virus, tobacco ringspot virus, may have jumped kingdoms into bees. This finding is new and we have our reservations about blaming it for the plight of honey bees but it is very interesting so we included it in this episode. You can read about it here.

You can also listen here to the recent This Week in Virology Episode on the topic of the potential new bee virus. They do a great job discussing the background and potential shortfalls of the research that exposed this new potential reason for bee problems.

Methods of assessing pollinator efficiency

We review and explain the ways the researchers of our main paper quantified and recorded the efficiency of honey bees and bumblebees in pollinating squash.

Results of the paper

The researchers found that asian honey bees while not being very efficient at carrying pollen did make a high number of visits to blossoms vs. the high efficiency pollen carrying bumblebees who made many less visits per blossom. They found that neither species had the ability to fully pollinate plants alone but with above 13% natural habitat surrounding fields bumblebee populations were high enough in conjunction with honeybees to sufficiently pollinate plants.

Comparison with research by Kennedy et. al.

Steph compares the research of Xie and An with that done by Kennedy and others published in Ecology Letters. They found that diversity of plants in an area as well as organic management practices favored bee richness. Tim noted new funding available in the upper midwest through USDA for bee habitat planting. You can find out how to get involved by clicking here.

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A final link for you to the Plant Pathology Podcast we noted at the end of the show. Just go to to check out her podcast and learn about plant diseases.


Agriculture Science Today 005: “Chinese Bees” — 2 Comments

    • Glad you found us! We look forward to bringing you more fun science and let us know of any ideas for future shows you’d like us to research and record.

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