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  1. #1
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    Arrow CCD - disease - plants

    I had a talk with a beekeeper in the mid-west a couple days back. He was mentioning that when they do blueberry pollination, they only leave their bees on the crop for a short period of time due to AFB concerns. I said "Huh? I never heard of AFB being associated with blueberries. I said "Are you telling me that blueberry pollination can infect your hives with AFB?" as I wanted to be very clear. He stated that when he first started pollinating, he would come down with AFB after doing blueberry pollination and he would quickly lose hives. He said it was a mystery for a few years until he spoke up at a bee club, and it was confirmed by others that also pollinate blueberries in the area, that all experience the same thing. That if they leave their bees for more than a few days on blueberries, they also would lose hives and come down with cases of AFB.

    This of course set off many questions......

    In nature, if certain plants were detrimental to the bees health, and perhaps are growing in large numbers in a particular area, the bees would die, and perhaps seek other areas as they spread through swarming. But what about when bees have no option, and are placed in these highly planted areas, such as with commercial pollination?

    I truly believe that there could be plants that could effect bees in any number of ways. Poor nutrition, chemical poisoning, degrading the internal enzymes, etc.

    Do we really know the nutritional values of plants we force our bees to feed on, or what about the make up of the plants when it comes to being toxic to the bees? Could there be plants, like the blueberry conversation above, that fosters certain spores and disease to attack the bees health, and make hives crash? We certainly know that some plants are downright toxic and will kill bees. But what about viral or bacterial spread by a new pest or introduced vector?

    I question whether the blueberry comments are in fact due to AFB. I've seen AFB, and for the most part, its a slow steady death that could be over a couple years. The guy mentioning the blueberry/AFB details mentioned losing hives rather quickly. Could they be misdiagnosing this as AFB, and perhaps other forces are in play on a more deadly level? I remember a somewhat baffling aspect of the CCD samples being testing in the fact that all samples had extremely high levels of EFB and nosema. A coincidence?

    Could one of these plants species harbor a spore or virus that is now being planted on a more widespread application allowing more bees to be effected? And could it be a case where some infected hives from contact from such plants, now have the ability to infect even more based on large holding yards and migratory movement?

    Comments?
    Last edited by BjornBee; 02-28-2008 at 07:37 AM.

  2. #2
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    bjorn writes:
    I never heard of AFB being associated with blueberries.

    tecumseh replies:
    my understanding is that their is some associated problem concerning blueberries and afb. I have never really read the why or whatfore of the problem but here is my guess (as Lorentz suggested it is always good practice to throw out a hypothesis before breakfast). blueberries require a fairly acidic soil to thrive and require almost no fertilization. so typically you don't find them on the best agriculture lands.. matter of fact blueberries are likely to be on the poorest plots of soil. other crops that thrive on acidic soils are pine trees and azaleas. pine can be tagged as a pollen producing plant with almost NO crude protein content and azaleas as a plant that the bees rarely visit and the nectar is poisonous.

    does that picture suggest why afb might thrive?

  3. #3
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    >I remember a somewhat baffling aspect of the CCD samples being testing in the fact that all samples had extremely high levels of EFB and nosema. A coincidence?<

    Not sure about AFB and Blueberries. Increased incidence of EFB has been reported in bees working Blueberries. Maybe that's what he's talking about. As I understand it, working blueberries leads to an acidic environment within the hive, and that leads to increased EFB. This report was told to me years ago, by beekeepers pollinating Blueberries in the Blueberry barrens on New Jersey. Not sure if I have it correct...anyone else heard that?

  4. #4
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    I've also heard a theory that viruses can be transmitted via blossoms.
    Maybe that could compound such problems especially in areas saturated
    with bees and short periods of time between flower visits.???????

  5. #5
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    Here is my uneducated/unscientific opinion:

    When these guys are pollinating blueberries there are often other beekeepers hives in the general area... In fact, last year when I pollinated one farm... there were another beekeepers hives also at the farm... they called me in at the last minute as he had failed to deliver as promised. His hives were incredibly weak (half not even flying) and I suspect some were completely dead. There are decent number of blueberry farms all around me... and come bloom time... there are alot more hives in the general area than is normal.

    Prime scenarios where AFB could potentially be transmitted.

    Maybe some plants also play a factor... but I tend to gravitate towards other factors.
    Dan Williamson
    B&C Honey Farm http://www.flickr.com/photos/9848229@N05/

  6. #6
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    I think a great deal can be said about our placement of the bees to benefit us instead of them. Late last summer I cut out 4 hives from a property that was surrounded by large fields of what I would call blooming weeds (mostly hogweed, boneset and a really stinky smelling blooming shrub/small tree of some kind). The honey was the worst tasting stuff I had ever put in my mouth, but the bees thrived in the area. One of the hives was one I have mentioned before, it required 17 full deep frames to accomodate the brood I removed.
    "The UNKNOWN, huh? That would be SNORBERT ZANGOX over in Waycross."

  7. #7
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    Feb 2008
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    Madisonville KY
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    Someone is probably ahead of me on this, but the discussion on CCD and crop or location makes me wonder if anyone is recording the locations of hives lost due to CCD. It would be very interesting to see a map of CCD losses across the country. What agency or universities are looking at CCD, nationally?

  8. #8
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    Aug 2007
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    Knoxville, Tennessee,USA
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    As long as we have no new plant species, pollenation outfits have been doing pollination contracts for many years with no problems. Why now?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Williamson View Post
    Here is my uneducated/unscientific opinion:

    When these guys are pollinating blueberries there are often other beekeepers hives in the general area... In fact, last year when I pollinated one farm... there were another beekeepers hives also at the farm... they called me in at the last minute as he had failed to deliver as promised. His hives were incredibly weak (half not even flying) and I suspect some were completely dead. There are decent number of blueberry farms all around me... and come bloom time... there are alot more hives in the general area than is normal.

    Prime scenarios where AFB could potentially be transmitted.

    Maybe some plants also play a factor... but I tend to gravitate towards other factors.
    In talking to other beekeeps that have done blueberries in the past, they have also indicated problems with AFB, and also thought it came from some of the hundreds of hives in the area.

    Goldenrod also thrives on acidic soils, and I am surrounded by the stuff, haven't had any problems with AFB.
    "I reject your reality, and substitute my own." Adam Savage

  10. #10
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    It seems to me that the problem with AFB or EFB seen in colonies following blueberry pollination could be a reflection of stress resulting in lowered ability to suppress the bacteria that cause foulbrood, rather than some other change in the hives.

    Stress may also be the "cause" of CCD, if you will. In many organisms, stress can cause collapse of immune systems.

    The sources of stress might be numerous: frequent relocation of hives, lack of diversity (micronutrients, perhaps) in diet, pressures from parasites, chemicals in the environment (including in the hives), etcetera.

  11. #11
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    Ontario, Canada
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    Well, when I ran my commercial outfit in seventies and eighties I was based in a "official blueberry capitol of the world," Sudbury, Ontario. I can tel you all, that I had never known of one single bee going on the blueberries.
    Of course, don't get me wrong, I did not keep an eye on all of them, heee....
    Than of course the bees had other forage but miles and miles of blueberry bushes were left to black flies! They are, to my knowledge, official pollinators of blueberries?! (or so I was told by the ministry)
    In those days AFB or EFB was for me and others unknown in our parts of operation.
    Although I found out that last few beeks on them old stomping grounds did have have problems with HG (not sure which though, A or E?) in the last two years. One of them is our Bee-inspector. needless to say that I chased him away from my few hives....

    In my years I sure saw a few weird things. So, what is being said above could hold water in my bucket.

    Now don't you guys get excited? I'm thinking out loud.
    I keep my bees now in total wilderness. There are a lot of blueberry bushes around and as I am still stomped about where my bees gather all their stuff - I am yet to see one on a blueberry flower.
    I am inclined to believe that locally attuned bees don't go near blueberry flowers. Same as they say that feral stay far away from GSO stuff?!
    But when guys plop them down in the blueberry fields for money they have no choice, much less have they any clue to local conditions. (Are not attuned on the region they pollinate - so everything goes?!)

    Any comments to that?

    Regards,
    France

  12. #12
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    red lion, pa usa
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    when i lived in florida, i had half a dozen blueberries, they never messed with them much every now and then you would see one working them, and i never saw any hives in the commercial fields. might be different varieties

  13. #13
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    What are these guys getting paid per hive to pollinate the blueberries?
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    What are these guys getting paid per hive to pollinate the blueberries?
    I talked to the inspector in Maine yesterday. They expect somewhere between 60 and 80,000 colonies to invade the state this year. Top graded colonies will get about $100.

    We also talked about the increased AFB/EFB in the blueberriy barrens. The reference I made to the increased EFB on blueberries was for New Jersey Highbush blueberries. Not evident on Lowbush Blueberries in Maine and Michigan. He was involved in the investigation, with Shimanuki and others. Yes, the acidic conditions may have led to the increased EFB infections...but as Shim said...there's no such thing as spontaneous generation. EFB was already present. The conditions only helped lead to outbreaks. They determined it wasn't from the blueberry pollen...bees don't gather much blueberry pollen. It may have been from the Oaks they work in the area.

  15. #15
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    Michael, how strong are top graded hives on blueberry pollination? I pollinate highbush blueberries on the west coast and we don't charge that much. We should but, it's hard to increase when the competition is slower to increase prices.

    I thought that bees breakdown with EFB on the lowbush variety ofr blueberries. I was told or read somewhere, it was because of the blueberry pollen is incomplete. It lacks some essential amino acid or acids. this incomplete diet makes the bees more prone to EFB.

    We don't seem to get that here. The acreages are smaller and they are strictly speaking a monoculture. There is other forage out there during blueberry pollination, so the bees diet is varied.

    jean-Marc

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by jean-marc View Post
    Michael, how strong are top graded hives on blueberry pollination?
    Not sure, I didn't ask that.

  17. #17
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    Davis,South Dakota,USA
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    Default AFB and BLUEBERRIES

    we have pollinated blueberries in the past,5 or 6 years ago.This year once again,these bees are no different than any other pollinators almonds,cherries,melons,etc.

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