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Cold temperatures inside honey bee colonies may cause colony losses during and after long-distance hauling, according to a preliminary study by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists.
Every year almost 2 million honey bee colonies—nearly two-thirds of the managed colonies in the United States—are loaded aboard semi-trailers and shipped across the country multiple times to pollinate crops like California almonds.
Days - Arrival - Colonies - Honey - Bees
But within days of arrival, some of these colonies will have few if any honey bees left to visit almond flowers, to provide essential pollination services to California's 1.3 million acres of almond orchards.
"We found that less robust colonies—those that have fewer than 10 frames of honey bees and larvae when loaded onto trucks—cannot maintain the temperature inside the hive and are subjected to cold stress," said Dacotah Melicher, a post-doctoral researcher with the ARS Bioscience Research Laboratory in Fargo, North Dakota.
Smaller - Colonies - Bees - Days - Arrival
Smaller colonies are more likely to fail and fail faster, and many lose almost all of their bees within days of arrival. Robust colonies with 10 or more frames were able to maintain stable temperatures and populations.
Honey bee transporters often worry about colonies overheating during shipping, which can cause a colony to die very quickly. However, chilling can be as damaging but less obviously. If brood—bee larvae—are chilled, it can result in developmental abnormalities when they emerge as adult bees. This could be the cause of smaller colonies failing within a few weeks of being shipped.
Colonies - Frames - Numbers - Colony - Chilling
Colonies with fewer than 10 frames just may not have the numbers to allow the colony to thermo-regulate well enough to prevent chilling.
When honey bee boxes are loaded onto semi-trailers, they are oriented with the hive box openings...
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