Honey bees benefit from access to plentiful and diverse nutrition. However, during almond pollination, there are minimal options for additional forage for honey bees. This has prompted calls for supplemental forage plantings to be available to colonies before, during and after almond bloom. The main goal of our project is to evaluate the immediate and long-term benefits of two different supplemental forage plantings in almond orchards during pollination, on honey bee colony health, growth and survival. During the 2017 almond bloom we placed colonies at sites with access to mustard plantings or wildflower plantings or accompanying control sites without planted supplemental forage. Colonies were evaluated for the size of the adult population and brood production, pollen and nectar/honey stores, and varroa mite levels, prior, during and immediately after they were in almond orchards. Samples of pollen were also taken in order to determine what the foragers were bringing in in terms of plant species. Pollen identification is currently underway (Williams Lab). Preliminary analysis of the effect of supplemental forage on colony growth indicates potential positive effects of mustard plantings. Adult bee samples were also collected for molecular analysis of pathogen levels and immune gene expression, as well as hypopharyngeal gland size. The analysis is currently underway (Quinn Lab, Niño Lab). We continue to monitor colonies for the various parameters and annual colony survival.

Presenter: Dr. Elina Niño, University of California-Davis

Elina L. Niño is an Assistant Specialist in Cooperative Extension in Apiculture, UC ANR UCCE located in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at UC Davis. Through her extension activities, Dr. Niño works to support beekeepers and the beekeeping industry. She serves as the research liaison on the CSBA Board and as a member of the Bee Taskforce for the Almond Board of California. Her lab also offers a variety of beekeeping courses and educational opportunities for beekeepers, future beekeepers, other agricultural professionals and the public. Most recently, her lab has implemented the first California Master Beekeeper Program. Dr. Niño’s research interests encompass basic and applied approaches to understanding and improving honey bee health and particularly honey bee queen health. Ongoing research projects include understanding queen mating and reproductive processes, testing novel biopesticides for efficacy against varroa mites, and evaluating orchard management practices with a goal of improving honey bee health. If you would like to learn more about the E. L. Niño Bee Lab you can visit http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu/