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See original article at: http://modernfarmer.com/2017/04/meet-north-americas-native-pollinator-blue-orchard-bee/
You may not know that the honey bee, the beleaguered but preferred pollinating insect, is not actually native to North America. We have our own bees here, and while they don't operate quite like honey bees, that doesn't make them less amazing—or less capable pollinators.
All species of honey bees are Old World insects. They originated in Africa or Asia—we’re not totally sure—before being domesticated and spread to every continent besides Antarctica. The Europeans brought their preferred species of honey bee, the western (or European) honey bee, to the New World in 1622. This all begs the question: what the heck was pollinating the New World’s plants before then?
Well, North America is home to a whole bunch of very different bee species beyond the honey bee, including those sometimes referred to as mason bees or leafcutter bees. Perhaps the best known and most useful of these is the blue orchard bee, which is adorably referred to by the USDA and others as BOB. Haha. Hello, BOB!
Blue orchard bees are very, very different from honey bees. For one thing, they are, as their name suggests, a sort of blue-black in color, unlike the classic striped honey bee. But that’s just the beginning. Unlike honey bees, which form huge, complex hives, blue orchard bees are solitary creatures, though not particularly hostile to each other. Each spring, a female blue orchard bee finds a mate, and then goes on the hunt for a suitable nesting place. They like little holes, tubes or other small spots. Then the mother builds little partitions within the hole out of mud and fills them with pollen and nectar before laying one egg in each partition. Each mother will lay about five eggs.
What makes blue orchard bees enticing to farmers, aside from the fact that they’re inherently cool and native to this country, is that they’re actually much more efficient pollinators than honey bees. This is partly as a result of their solitary nature and partly a result of the fact that they they collect pollen with their abdomens, rather than their their legs, which is what honey bees do; BOBs perform this goofy sort of swimming motion within the flower to get pollen to stick to them. This swimming motion is really great for spreading pollen from one plant to another, if not quite as great for actually collecting pollen to give to their broods.
So, you might be asking, why aren’t we going all-in on blue orchard bees as pollinators for fruit and almond trees? The primary reason is that it’s really hard to get them to actually stay in one place and do what farmers want. Blue orchard bees, unlike honey bees, won’t make a hive their home for generations on end; if you release a whole bunch of blue orchard bees near a nice custom-made nest, a good percentage of them will just…fly away. And then you’ll have to do the whole thing again next year. Blue orchard bees might be efficient pollinators, but they’re terrible employees.
A new study from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service experimented with new ways to entice blue orchard bees to stick around and make our farms and orchards their home. At the moment, usual attempts to attract blue orchard bees consist of a big hive—which you can buy or make pretty easily—and a few smaller satellite hives placed nearby. The new study tried something different: a whole bunch of smaller hives scattered evenly throughout the area to be pollinated. The idea is to stop treating these bees like honey bees, and start working with their quirks and love of autonomy.
And the study seems to have worked! Researchers collected data on things like hive occupancy rates, number of larvae per hive, and number of larvae per individual mother bee, and each category saw an improvement.
Given that this was a single year study, it’s unclear whether this strategy will result in more second-generation blue orchard bees choosing to stay where they were born. But the researchers will be measuring again this summer, and with any luck, we might figure out a way to work with our local friend, BOB.
For more on local pollinators, check out our Adirondack Pollinator Project:
A new study concludes that thousands of lakes are at risk of rising chloride levels due to the use of salt on nearby roads and parking lots.
The study from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies is the first large-scale analysis of chloride trends in North America.
Researchers looked at water quality data from 371 lakes in Canada and the United States, including Minnesota. They also assessed road density and land cover within 1,500 meters of each lake.
Our main finding from the study was that any lake that was surrounded by some type of impervious surface — that's usually roadways or parking lots — was more at risk of having long term salination," said Hilary Dugan, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the study's lead author.
Salt has been used to help melt ice on roads and highways since the 1940s. Scientists have known about the environmental problems the chloride in salt poses for decades.
Chloride is a permanent pollutant, affecting the diversity of aquatic life and making lakes and streams more susceptible to invasive species. About 40 lakes and streams in the Twin Cities metro area are considered impaired due to chloride levels that exceed water quality standards.
"Minnesota's a great example where there's a lot of small lakes right in the Twin Cities area," Dugan said. "And what we saw was that almost all of these lakes were increasing in chloride through time."
Researchers found that as little as 1 percent of impervious surface within 500 meters of shoreline significantly increased a lake's risk of long-term salination.
That's because those paved surfaces are typically where road salt is applied, Dugan said. Also, water can't drain into the soil, so it tends to run off, she said.
"Once that road salt is put out in to the environment, it's eventually going to get washed into your surface waters," Dugan said. "So that's going to be streams and rivers and lakes, and it eventually will end up in ground water as well."
Based on the findings, researchers believe more than 7,700 lakes in a 10-state region may be at risk of rising salt levels.
Lakes tend to be a good indicator of the overall ecological health of a watershed because they hold onto their water for a longer period of time, Dugan said. If a lake has a high level of chloride, it's likely that area rivers and streams also do, she said.
Many cities and counties already have reduced the amount of salt they apply to roads, Dugan said. But she noted that a lot of chloride use comes from private businesses and homeowners.
The study will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
World Wildlife Fund Mexico in collaboration with SEMARNAT and CONANP and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) announced the total forest area occupied by overwintering monarch colonies. Thirteen (13) colonies were located this winter season with a total area of 2.91 hectares:
For more information, visit: http://monarchwatch.org/blog/
AdkAction, along with our project partners The Wild Center, The Lake Placid Land Conservancy, and Common Ground Gardens, are delighted to announce a preliminary program of activities and events for the Adirondack Pollinator Project. Mark your calendars now for these fun events!
Pollinator Week, June 19-25:
Launch of daily, summer-long showings of “The Beekeeper” (a 9-minute short) at the Wild Center (start date tba).
We will be at area Farmers’ markets to distribute Adirondack Wildflower Seed packet and our new Pollinator Project brochure. We will distribute 30,000 free seed packets and brochures throughout the Adirondacks to ensure pollinators have plenty of nectar plants to visit this year.
Farmers' Market Schedule
Lake Placid - Wednesday, June 21th
Tupper Lake - Thursday, June 22st
Elizabethtown - Friday, June 23nd
Saranac Lake - Saturday, June 24rd
Plattsburgh - Saturday, June 24rd
Keene - Sunday, June 25th
We will partner with The Wild Center for daily showings of “The Beekeeper” from May-September, 2017. We will also sponsor screenings of the acclaimed film, “More Than Honey,” a full-length, 1 hour, 35 minute movie about bees (100% Rotten Tomatoes Rating ).
Sunday, June 18, 6 pm: At The Pendragon Theater in Saranac Lake.
Thursday, July 6 (time tba): At The Strand Theater in Plattsburgh with a panel featuring Dick Crawford, President of Champlain Valley Beekeepers Association and honey products.
Thursday, August 24th, afternoon: at the LPCA following habitat demonstration at Heaven Hill Farm
"Living Lawn" Demonstration
Wednesday, July 19: 12:00- 2:30 pm. Lake Placid Garden Club demonstration of the process of converting a lawn into a pollinator habitat for the “1/3 for pollinators” initiative.
Lectures by pollinator experts
Wednesday, July 19, 6:30 pm: Dr. Christina Grozinger (Director, Center for Pollinator Research, Penn State University) Lecture and Reception at the Wild Center
Thursday July 20 (time tba): Dr. Christina Grozinger Lecture and Reception at the View in Old Forge
7. Adk Pollinator Project Fundraising Dinner
Thursday, August 31, 6 pm: at Joan Grabe’s (AdkAction Board member) Camp on Upper Saranac Lake. $100/seat. We will announce the winner of the Flow Hive donated by Common Ground Gardens,
Go to AdkAction.org/donate if you would like to make a donation to this project, thank you!
This year's Monarch outlook from Chip Taylor, data to this point in time suggest that this year will be a repeat of 2014 with a significant decline in the migration and the overwintering numbers. Numbers will be down in Pennsylvania, New York and most of the East north of Maryland. Read more here:
Brittany Christenson hired as full-time executive director of project support group.
Read the article in the Press Republican.
Numbers this year are similar to those reported in 2013, when the monarch population was at an all-time low. Read about the storm in the article by CBC News.
After being denied permission to enter the protected monarch butterfly habitat in Mexico, researchers used drones and satellite photos to document the illegal forest destruction. See the photos and read more about the story by Richard Levine.
Large-scale salvage logging is being conducted in the aftermath of the March 2016 storm that struck the monarch overwintering colonies in Mexico. This has an extremely damaging effect by degrading the protective canopy of the fir forest and increasing the exposure of the monarchs to cold, wind, rain, and snow. See the rest of the story by clicking here.
Long-term declines in the overwintering Eastern population of North American monarch butterflies are significantly increasing their likelihood of becoming extinct over the next two decades, according to Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and U.S. Geological Survey research recently published. The new study, available in the journal Scientific Reports, found that the Eastern migratory monarch population declined by 84 percent from the winter of 1996-1997 to the winter of 2014-2015.
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