What is Pollination?


A bee pollinating a white flower

Augochlorella sp. sweat bee on Yarrow. Image credit: Heather Broccard-Bell

Author: Heather Broccard-Bell, Ph.D., Honey Bee Health Researcher. 


WHAT IS POLLINATION?
 

Happy Pollinator Week, everyone! 

At NOD, we typically focus on one specific pollinator: the Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera). Last year, I wrote about how the amazing communication system of the honey bee makes this species a super pollinator. 

This year, I want to cover a topic that seems to be curiously absent from most discussions about pollinators: what is pollination?  

Most people know that pollination is important for food production, but a healthy number would struggle if pressed to explain exactly how or why that’s the case. So, let’s start at the beginning. 

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Know Thy Enemy (Part 2): Inbreeding & Varroa Mites 


Female varroa mite under a dissecting microscope.

Author: Heather Broccard-Bell, Ph.D., Honey Bee Health Researcher. Featured photo credit: H. Broccard-Bell.

 

Know Thy Enemy (Part 2): Inbreeding & Varroa Mites

NERD ALERT: Our blog series on Understanding Varroa is meant to give those that are interested an understanding of what is currently known about varroa mites. At times, this means we’ll be taking detours into some deeper scientific topics. I recognize this will not be everyone’s cup of tea! Don’t worry – we’ll be getting back to some more practical posts soon. In the meantime, you can always check out our previous posts on topics like feeding, wrapping, etc.


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Know Thy Enemy (Part 1): Who is Varroa Destructor?


Female Varroa destructor under a dissecting microscope.

Author: Heather Broccard-Bell, Ph.D., Honey Bee Health Researcher. Featured photo credit: H. Broccard-Bell.

Know Thy Enemy: Understanding Varroa

In the ongoing quest to improve the health, happiness, and productivity of our honey bee colonies, protection from varroa mites remains a top priority. Key to developing effective varroa control strategies is understanding how and why varroa do what they do. Admittedly, the current picture is incomplete—but we are making progress with scientists making new discoveries all the time. In this series of blog posts, I will go through what is currently known about varroa behaviour and biology, and how we can use that to improve varroa control strategies. My goal is to provide you with up-to-date information and share some lesser-known tidbits about varroa to help you best manage your colonies.

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Wrapping Things Up for Winter!


Author: Heather Broccard-Bell, Ph.D., Honey Bee Health Researcher

It’s that time of year again. In many areas, temperatures have started to dip below freezing at night, and the first snowflakes have begun to fall. If you’re in the prairies, you’re almost certainly well past these preliminary stages of winter. But before you hunker down with a book in front of your fireplace, you need to ensure that your bees are ready for the season!

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Feeding Honey Bees: What, When, Why?


Author: Heather Broccard-Bell, Ph.D., Honey Bee Health Researcher

Feeding is one of those controversial honey bee topics that might best be avoided in polite company. A lot of different beekeepers have a lot of different (often extremely passionate) opinions. Some of those differences come down to living in different areas of the world. Others are personal preferences and simply what has worked (or at least what hasn’t not worked) in the past.

The goal of this post is not so much to tell you exactly what you should or should not be doing. Rather, it is to give you an appreciation of why you might (or might not) need to feed your honey bees, and to provide you with some general guidelines.

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Oh Honey, Honey: Considerations for New Beekeepers


Author: Heather Broccard-Bell, Ph.D., Honey Bee Health Researcher

Humans have been gathering honey from honey bees in one form or another for millennia. For most of that time, “management” was as simple as harvesting honey from wild bee colonies wherever they could be found. Apiculture has been transformed over the last couple of centuries by advances in technology. The invention of modular hive systems and moveable frames has greatly improved productivity, mobility, and the welfare of the bees themselves. Ultimately, most of this has been done in the service of one goal: to produce honey.

Now that we’re well into fall honey season (at least in Ontario, Canada), it seems like an opportune time to discuss some of the main considerations of modern honey harvesting. I realize that beekeepers around the world deal with many types of hives these days, but I am going to focus on the most common in North America: the 10-frame Langstroth.

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What Makes Formic Acid So Special?


Author: Heather Broccard-Bell, Ph.D., Honey Bee Health Researcher

Not all miticides are created equally—and no two apiaries are the same either. Yet, there are some common factors all beekeepers should carefully consider when deciding which product to use in their operations to control Varroa destructor.

Whether you have a few backyard hives or run a large commercial operation, regularly monitoring for mites (video) and developing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program will help ensure your colonies get the right treatment, at the right time. We encourage beekeepers everywhere to think critically about their treatment plans ensuring the health of their colonies—and honey bees worldwide.

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What is it like to be a bee? (Part 2)


Author: Heather Broccard-Bell, Ph.D., Honey Bee Health Researcher

It’s safe to say that how honey bees experience the world is quite different from how humans experience the world. While we will always be influenced by our specific sensory systems, we can aim to better understand the honey bee by studying their senses. Knowing more about what the world is like for honey bees can help us to decipher their remarkable behaviour.

In our last blog, we took an in-depth look at how the honey bee uses its unique visual capabilities for navigation, foraging, and more. Like us, bees rely heavily on their vision, but what about the other senses? We’ll now explore beyond sight to further grasp what the world is like from the honey bee’s perspective.

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What is it like to be a bee? (Part 1)


Author: Heather Broccard-Bell, Ph.D., Honey Bee Health Researcher

In 1974, the American philosopher Thomas Nagel published an essay called, “What is it Like to Be a Bat?” [1]. In it, he argued that we can never really know because everything about how we perceive the world is coloured by the specific way in which our sensory systems operate. Even if we try to imagine what it might be like to be a bat, we unconsciously and unavoidably do so from our own biased perspective as a human, with human-type senses. For example, many of us think in words and/or pictures, neither of which a bat can do, even if it wanted to. Nagel argued that one can only truly understand what it is like to be a bat if one is actually a bat—and the same goes for knowing what it’s like to be a honey bee, or any other kind of non-human creature. In effect, Nagel’s essay really just expanded on the old saying, “you never truly know what it’s like for someone until you walk a mile in their shoes.”

Why would we want to know what it’s like to be another creature anyway? We encounter bee behaviours all the time that seem mysterious. Knowing why bees do the things that they do would certainly be helpful, and this starts with understanding what the world is like from their perspective.

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Why Are Honey Bees Such Great Pollinators?


Author: Heather Broccard-Bell, Ph.D., Honey Bee Health Researcher

The Western Honey Bee is a Pollinator Pro

Happy Pollinator Week! As I am sure you are well aware, there are a whole lot of different kinds of pollinators out there: from the familiar bees to other insects, like flies and beetles, to birds, and even bats! Each is important, and each has a role to play. Within this diverse group of animals, however, the Western Honey Bee, Apis mellifera, stands out – especially when it comes to the pollination of food crops, like fruit and nut trees[1]. Interestingly, the Western Honey Bee (hereafter referred to as the honey bee, even though there are actually several other species of honey bee*) is somewhat of a “perfect storm” of factors that, combined, make it a powerhouse pollinator.

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