A monarch butterfly, a honey bee and an alfalfa leafcutter bee gather nectar from a showy milkweed. Photo by John Anderson of Hedgerow Farms.
Every year, millions of tourists fly from central Mexico into the United States, first stopping in the deep American South and then continuing northward even into parts of southern Canada. How all of this is done without passports, customs agents or airplanes?
This is the annual journey made by monarch butterflies, one of the best-known and most beloved butterflies in North America.
The fact that the annual migration of these distinctive black and orange butterflies spans three countries and thousands of miles makes it an important and prolific pollinator over this large area. Read more »
Pollinator Week Festival. June 20, 2014. 10 am – 2pm outside USDA headquarters.
How do pollinators affect your life? Well, if you’ve ever eaten a blueberry, chocolate bar or tomato, you can thank a pollinator. Pollinators are birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, small mammals, and most importantly, bees. They are responsible for pollinating one out of every three bites of food we eat. But these invaluable creatures are facing declines. That’s why USDA agencies, other federal departments and partners share knowledge and collaborate on efforts to help increase awareness and tackle challenges facing pollinators.
Last month, USDA launched a webcam that is literally buzzing with activity at the People’s Garden Apiary, located here on the roof of USDA headquarters in Washington, DC. Observing these social insects at #USDABeeWatch is fascinating and addicting. If you’ve been watching then you probably have a lot of questions about honey bee behavior and beekeeping. Meet our Beekeepers Nathan Rice and Andy Ulsamer virtually on Friday at Noon and ask them questions about what you’re seeing. Tweet to us @USDA and use #USDABeeWatch. Feel free to send your questions ahead of time, and we will respond to as many as possible during the chat. Read more »
This week, USDA and its partners released the results of the eight annual national survey of honey bee losses. The survey shows good news—fewer honey bee colonies were lost this winter than in previous years. According to survey results, total losses of managed honey bee colonies from all causes were 23.2 percent nationwide.
That figure is a significant improvement over the 30.5 percent loss reported last winter, but it is still higher than the eight-year average loss of 29.6 percent and still far above the 18.9 percent level of loss that beekeepers say is acceptable for their economic sustainability.
While we’re pleased to see improvement this year, these losses are still too high. Read more »
Click to visit the USDA's 24/7 bee watch camera.
At the ribbon cutting of the USDA Headquarters People’s Garden in April 2010 plans were already in place to install a beehive on the roof of the Whitten Building as well as a “bee-cam” so anyone anywhere could learn about bee activity. USDA’s newest ‘buzzing’ residents were welcomed on Earth Day but the bee cam was put on hold. 18 gallons of honey later, that idea has finally come to bee. You can now #USDABeeWatch 24/7 at www.usda.gov/beewatch.
So what will you see on our bee cam? This time of year, the camera – placed several feet from the entrance of the hive – shows female worker bees entering and exiting the hive gathering nectar and pollen (both collected from flowers) to convert into honey. Be on the lookout for bees carrying a load of pollen on their hind legs. As bees groom, they’ll move the pollen onto their back legs creating a pellet of pollen. A small amount of nectar is used to stick the dry pollen together. Read more »
The black dot on this honey bee is a varroa mite--a parasite that sucks vital fluids like a tick, although it also acts like a mosquito transmitting viruses and other pathogens to the bee.
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
You’ve probably heard that the honey bees in this country are in trouble, with about one-third of our managed colonies dying off every winter. Later this week, we will learn how the honey bees survived this winter. With severe weather in a number of areas in the U.S. this winter, a number of us concerned about bees will be closely watching the results.
While scientists continue work to identify all the factors that have lead to honey bee losses, it is clear that there are biological and environmental stresses that have created a complex challenge that will take a complex, multi-faceted approach to solve. Parasites, diseases, pesticides, narrow genetic diversity in honey bee colonies, and less access to diverse forage all play a role in colony declines. To confront this diverse mix of challenges, we require a mix of solutions – the odds are that we won’t find one magic fix to help our honey bees. Read more »
This month USDA will be highlighting the value of conservation with a different focus each week.
Sometimes the benefits of conservation can be abstract. For example, think a minute about the dollar value of a single tree. Can you come up with a number?
Did you consider that the tree creates oxygen, captures carbon and provides wildlife habitat? Or that the tree serves as a windbreak, shades and cools the surrounding area, and improves water quality? Don’t forget, these benefits extend for many decades over the lifetime of a healthy tree. Read more »