Speaker: “Chip” Euliss, Research Biologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Jamestown, North Dakota
This seminar will feature a discussion on the importance of bees and how land management in the Northern Great Plains impacts bees and pollination elsewhere in the United States. The Northern Great Plains is the most important region in the U.S. for pollination services, currently valued at $29 billion annually. Migratory beekeepers transport more than a million honey bee colonies into the region each spring to produce honey. Equally important, but less well known, is the value of the region for building honey bee colony health and population size to meet the pollination needs of crops elsewhere in the U.S. As more acreage in the region is converted to cropland, federal agencies have worked to restore previously farmed land into prairie habitat to support these native pollinators and other wildlife. Chip Euliss will describe how the Departments of Interior and Agriculture and several universities are developing models to inform policy and land management decisions that impact pollinators dependent on the Northern Great Plains – especially in the wake of changing land use patterns and changing climate.
Malka Patterson: Good afternoon. I'm Malka Patterson and I'd like to welcome you
all to Interior's Office of Policy Analysis seminar for June. We're
going to be talking about bees today. If you forgive a little
Shakespeare in the title and a little pun about all the buzz about
bee colony collapse, the issue is serious but we can be
lighthearted as we learn.
Our speaker today is Chip Euliss. Chip is a research biologist with
the USGS in North Dakota. While we've been hearing a lot about
pesticides and disease, Chip has focused his career on
understanding the habitat part of the bees' decline.
As we follow with Chip, we are going to learn some relationships we
normally don't understand. How could the price of corn in North
Dakota affect the price of almonds in California. Stick with Chip
and he'll tell you.
We have one change today. We've had an improvement in or live
stream and it came after the announcement, so bear with me. If
you're tuned in, you are already there-quarters of the way there.
There's an extra step if you have a question to ask. That means you
have to click a button that says Join, or Log in to chat,
otherwise, just sit back and enjoy the show. If you want to ask a
question, and we invite you to do so, click that. Our format is 30
minutes of Chip and then 30 minutes of questions so enjoy, and Chip
Chip Euliss: Thank you very much. As the slide suggests, we will be talking
about pollinators today. We've known about the plight of these, I
think, for a long, long time, both native bees as well as
honeybees. I'm going to talk about both, but, it really was the
honeybee and the economy collapse disorder that brought to public
consciousness the plight of these, and sparked a number of
conversations every place from small town cafes to US Congress, on
These are some of the primary honey production states in the US,
along with some of the primary pollination states as well. North
Dakota, typically, leads the nation in honey production. The
Prairie Pothole Region in the Northern Great Plains, we think,
probably, on the average, provides the summer home for bees that
pollinate some 60, to maybe as much as 85 percent of our nation's
Bee scales - don't really have scales, necessarily, but we're
talking spatial scales. Bee keepers from all around the nation haul
bees to the Northern Great Plains. They place them on location.
There those bees interact with the landscapes around them, whether
it's grassland with flowers in it, CRP or what have you.
Weather factors - all those influence honey production rates. Those
in turn influence the nutritional status of those bees, which
affects their health and their ability to pollinate our nation's
They are, literally, hauled from the Dakotas and elsewhere in the
Midwest around the country to pollinate a huge variety of crops.
I'll focus on just one or two of those a little later in the
As Malka mentioned, I am a wildlife biologist. We have, at least
as a community, a lot of experience modeling wildlife and we're
taking the same kind of approach with pollinators. We believe that
a habitat-based approach is a requisite for success, whether you're
talking monitoring or modeling. For pollinators in particular, it's
important to recognize that these animals have to have flowers,
nectar and pollen, throughout the whole period of time in which
Landscapes that have flowers that are continuously blooming, and
not one species of plant is going to last the entire summer, they
have to be there for these animals or there is going to be a dirt,
there's going to be a blank in their food resources.
This is pretty much a quick and dirty snapshot of North Dakota.
Flowering trees and shrubs, we call it the fruit bloom, or the
early season providers. Canola is a crop, provides valuable source
of pollen and nectar in June.
Grasslands with all the flowers in it, whether it's native
grassland or conservation reserve programs administered by FSA,
they're all important.
Late crops, such as second cutting or third cutting of alfalfa
that's allowed to bloom and even oil seed sunflowers are important
I've been leading an effort called integrated landscape modeling
effort for quite some time. It's been designed to communicate
change in ecosystem surfaces in different landscape. I want to
apply the same logic to these so we needed to develop a honeybee
model. I'll talk about that a little bit.
There wasn't one, so we developed one on our own, and we solicited
the help of Zac Browning. Zac Browning is a fourth generation
beekeeper. He manages about 25,000 colonies of bees, and he hasn't
gone broke, so his model looks pretty.
His perfect idea of what a bee landscape would look like, would be
wetlands for water and subbing moisture to plants, the flowering
trees and shrubs for nectar, shelter belt for wind protection, CRP,
particularly the stuff that's really high in legume content, and
then canola oil, sunflower and alfalfa hay land.
The square blocks up here are square miles. The beehives were in
the middle, so you're talking about a two-and-a-half mile flight
radius for these honeybees. Lisa Gallant, our modeler for the
honeybees, started assembling all the data to fit Zac's recipe. She
needed to know where the conservation lands were, CRP and others.
We used the Protected Area Database for getting some of the other
areas mapped. Annual land cover, because the crops change, we use
the National Ag Statistics, which changes from year to year, gap
analysis, then a USGS product, NLCD, National Land Cover Dataset.
For wetlands and water, we used the Fish and Wildlife Service's
National Wildlife Inventory, or NWI, other sources. Then roads,
because beekeepers haul these animals in in big trucks.
They feed into an algorithm where we can actually scroll across the
landscape and identify where the sweet spots were for bees in any
given year. Now, we can ask questions. Where are the good bee
landscapes in North Dakota?
This is a result for the calendar year 2002. For this particular
example, we actually separated out and colored yellow, those sites
that were provided exclusively by the Conservation Reserve Program,
to inform FSA. We can do that for any other type of ownership or
affiliation, it's not unique to FSA at all. But, that's a
Are we on target? We have to evaluate that, as always. We're
looking at this in a number of different ways. First, in all
states, North Dakota included, beekeepers are required to register
the spatial locations of their beehives. We can compare what the
model predicted for 100 hives versus registered sites in any given
year. Looks pretty good.
Our map indicates that there are fewer sites in Southeastern South
Dakota than were actually registered. But our model also will serve
for a 100 hives, and rarely has a person put that many hives out.
Since the model was developed, we've had the good fortune to meet
some of the beekeepers in Southeastern North Dakota, and what
they're telling us is that they're putting fewer and fewer bees out
each year. They're still there because the have warehouses,
infrastructure, and a lot of investment. They're not going to move
it, they're just putting fewer and fewer bees.
The second way that we're looking at our model is a retrospective
analysis of landscape configuration versus honey yield. We were
very fortunate to meet a gentleman by the name of John Miller. John
came to North Dakota in the late 1970s to keep honeybees, and he
kept detailed records of over 300 locations over that period of
time. Big sheets of cardboard, he lined them out in a spreadsheet.
It's like Excel version 0.0.
We transferred that into a modern dataset and we're analyzing that
now. We still have much work to do. There's not a lot that I can
share with you, but I can show you some of the results. We
collaborated with FSA to go back in time and populate those
polygons around in those 200 mile circles that those bees utilize
with what crop has gone in any given year.
The common year that we were able to start them all was 1981. I
just cherry-picked a few years, 1985, because that was the year
before CRP hit the landscape. 1993, at least for this circle was
the peak of CRP, and in 2009, you can see that a fair amount of
that CRP has come out of the program.
No interpretations. You can see the honey yields at the top, but
there are a lot of other factors involved in honey yields than
simply the plants out in the landscape, weather factors in
particular. If you look at the graph in the middle, this is the
Palmer Drought Severity Index. It gives you some indication whether
it's wet or dry.
Positive numbers or the ones in green indicate years that are
wetter than average or extremely wet. The negative numbers or the
gold ones indicated drier than average or droughty periods. This
period right here, '88 to '93, was a drought of comparable severity
to the dust bowl days of the 1930s. That's part our ecosystem
driver in this part of the world.
The third way, and the way that I'll focus most of the remainder of
the presentation on, is field testing landscape configuration
versus honey yield, bee health, and pollinator diversity. As you
can see, we're collaborating with lots of folks. The USGS is
working on the modeling aspect to try to project the findings from
all our partners and we're also doing windshield surveys of the
surrounding crops so we can drive through these things as opposed
to digging through files and coming up with what crop was grown and
that type of thing.
We're looking at the types of pollen that were collected, honey
yields, the health status of the honeybees, native pollinators, and
the pollen collected.
This study starts in North Dakota just about this time of year,
primary with the ARS team and the University of Minnesota teams
taking measurements in these bees periodically throughout the
summer. That last measurements are taken in almond orchards in
California. We're actually trying to relate landscape
configurations in North Dakota to the ability of bees to pollinate
almonds on the west coast.
We selected six sites for study. Six, again, two and a half mile
radius circles. We blocked those by sites that had either a high
floral diversity or a low floral diversity. Low floral diversity
would be primarily row crop where there were fewer plant species
available to provide pollen and nectar. The high floral diversity
sites, in contrast, would be things like national wildlife refuges,
Conservation Reserve Program lands, and native pastures where there
is a great diversity and abundance of flowers available for the
The ARS, led by Jeff Pettis in Beltsville, Maryland is looking at a
number of things. I'm just going to highlight a few. Looking at the
effects of summer and fall nutrition on colony survival. At each
location we have 48 hives. He can supplementally feed some of those
and not others to see how they break out in the winter. He's
looking at pollen, the quantity of pollen that the bees are
bringing in. There's a pollen trap in the upper right. You can
activate these things and the bees will collect pollen for you so
you can get quantity, the protein content, and pesticide load.
I have nothing on protein, but I have a little bit of information
on the pesticides and also the quantity of pollen that's being
On the left we have the three high floral diversity sites and on
the right we have the low, the different sampling periods. Those
are the grams of pollen that were collected in each of these traps
over that period of time. The high floral diversity sites are
bringing more pollen. It's fairly clear. Some years it may not be
quite like that, but the protein content is something that we need
to look at that may shed some light.
The first year, this was just for one pesticide, chlorophos. It's
fairly commonly used. It's fairly concentrated relative to our high
floral diversity sites that are mostly in conservation lands.
Matt Smart is one of Marla's PhD students. He's looking at
individual bee measurements, mostly of their immune system and also
their nutritional status as indicators of landscape condition.
Pretty exciting work, that you can measure an individual bee and
get an indication of what's going on out on the landscape. That's
where those bees are making their living.
Nutritional status, he's looking at abdominal lippage. Basically,
how fat they are. He's looking at something called "vitiligene
expression." I'll talk a little bit more about that. It's an
extremely important molecule in insects and other animals and also
the immune system. He's looking that the humeral system, which
would be anti-microbial peptides and also cellular immune system.
Mostly hemocytes. It would be just like our white blood cells, as
an example. We don't have hemocytes. We do have white blood cells.
Here's a picture of a fat and skinny bee. The one on the left you
cannot see any fat deposits and the one on the right you can. The
abdomen is the primary site for fat storage in insects. The
relative mass of fat increases on a more diverse diet. The
literature has shown that over the years. Matt's work corroborates
It's the site of protein storage and the vitiligene synthesis. It
also plays a role in the immune system. It's the site of
antimicrobial peptide production. The abdomen is really an
important part of the bee.
Let's compare our high and low floral diversity sites. The bees in
the highly diverse sites are fatter than are the bees in the sites
that have a more restricted diet in the low diversity sites.
Vitiligene. As I mentioned, this molecule's involved in nutrition
and immunity. It's really the key for protein storage in
overwintering bees. There's a difference between a winter bee and a
summer bee. A summer bee is going to last about 45 days, hatch to
death. A winter bee is going to live six months. Feeding a
different diet in the hive, they last a longer period of time. They
were the ones that are going to get that colony going again in the
The worker bees have a special gland in their head. They convert
that vitiligene into jellies to feed brood before pollen is
available in the spring. Pollen is the only source of protein that
these animals get, so vitiligene is really important to get them
kickstarted in the spring.
Look at the expression of vitiligene between the high and low
floral diverse sites. There's actually a negative expression in the
low diverse sites.
I talked with Matt last week. He has a 2012 data but I didn't
update my slides in time. But anyway, it's telling basically the
The humeral immune system. Here we're talking, just like us. It's
the up regulation and the production of antimicrobial peptides by
the fat body. He looked at three of them. Defensin, which is active
mainly against gram positive bacteria. And abacin and himenopticin,
which are active mainly against gram negative bacteria.
Again, we're showing a very similar story. In all cases, the low
floral diversity sites are showing an immune response to the
quality of the landscape. Something is stressing the bees. The
immune system is kicked up and it's elevated for some reason.
Cellular immunity. These would be the hemocyte counts, just like
our white blood cells, they engulf, encapsulate, and ennodulate,
phagocytize invading foreign bodies in the blood. As you are
infected, the levels of hemocytes or white blood cells, is it were,
Indeed, that's what Matt has found in this study so far. The sites
in the low floral diversity areas are showing a much higher
cellular immunity response than ones in the high floral diversity
What does all this mean for bees? What's the bottom line? Here I've
some of Matt's data, again, coming directly out of the surviving
proportion of surviving colonies in almonds on the west coast. You
can see that in some cases we're looking at a 40 percent or greater
colony mortality in the low floral diversity sites as opposed to
Right now in the United States we have about 2.7 million colonies
of bees. These numbers are really concerning because just one crop,
the almonds in California, require 1.6 million. Multiply 0.6 times
that 2.7 and each year there's been concern that we may or may not
be able to satisfy the pollination requirements just for one plant.
It's pretty amazing and actually pretty significant, I think.
Almond bearing acreage in California is on the rise. This
year...Actually, I just read that the acreage, I think, is a little
over 800,000. This slide has not been updated in a while. It's
definitely on the increase. There are more almonds produced in
California than anywhere else in the world.
You can see when CCD hit, the colony collapse disorder. A rapid
increase in the rental rates for bees to entice beekeepers from
around the country, some from as far away as the east coast, to
truck bees to California just for this one crop.
Let's talk about native bees. We have a couple of studies going on.
Elaine Evans is...Actually, both she and Matt are in their write up
year working up, but she did her native bee work on those six
circles. We have the honeybee work and the native bee work going on
in the same, exact landscapes.
And then, I just started a student this past year. He's starting
his second field season this summer. Russ Bryant. He's looking at
pollinators on both Fish and Wildlife Service lands, native prairie
tracts, and comparing them to Conservation Reserve Program lands on
the program administered by the FSA.
Really preliminary findings, but I'll share a few things with you.
To date, as that was the first field season, Russ has collected and
identified over 15,000 invertebrates from his samples. 282
[inaudible 21:04] potential pollinators. I say potential because
some of those will get tossed out. They were probably caught on
accident, but a large number of them will be pollinators.
Fish and Wildlife Service native prairies had higher diversity than
CRP, which was expected. These are the native landscapes that have
evolved here since glaciation. The hymenoptera or the bees
accounted for most of the diversity on the service lands, about 70
percent and about half on CRP.
The focus that we have is on identifying the bee and the plant so
we can establish that direct, one on one relationship so we can
inform restoration plans and things like that. It's not simply a
survey of the bees to see what they have. We want to know what
So far, we have identified 40 plant species that are really
important to the native bees. There were a few invasive plants that
they're using but by and large they're mostly concentrated on
I've talked to you about pollinators and I think probably most, if
not all, of us in this room share that conservation view. But we
don't have the only view out there. A lot of people see North
Dakota and the Midwest or elsewhere in the country from other
perspectives. Some people see an agricultural opportunity. Some see
grazing lands. Oil exploration is a real big thing.
The real ticket is to try and blend all those interests together so
you can really understand what's happening at the landscape scale
so we can inform plans that do a better job of sustaining our
This is a North Dakota landscape just north of where I'm stationed
in North Dakota. You can see there's lots of agricultural
development. The project that I've been leading is called
integrated landscape modeling. It's designed in a modeling and a
context to boil down and bring the best available science to
decision makers to inform that process.
Our primary players, FSA and RCF have been with us since the very
beginning. Oklahoma State, Fish and Wildlife Service, and so on. It
actually began as a USGS science trust in '06.
We're using a number of models. One we're using right now a lot is
called INVEST. It's Integrated Evaluation of Ecosystems Services
and Tradeoffs. It's a really good one because it allows you to
evaluate multiple ecosystem services simultaneously, which is
If you alter a field or a landscape for one purpose, you're not
altering just that one thing. You're affecting the whole system.
That's what we want to be able to understand. It runs off
scenarios. It could be a policy scenario. It could be a climate
change scenario. It could be a management option.
You then feed those into biophysical models. You can generates
maps, trade off sheets if you like numbers. If you like what you've
got, you're good. If not, you can go back and we trigger the
stakeholders and try different options.
As an example, I put eight ecosystem services up here. I put
pollination at the top because of the topic of today. Obviously
each service is measured in a different currency so I standardize
them between zero and one so they're easier to see.
That green line is a halfway point. I just set it arbitrarily just
to point out that you can set thresholds. If we had these eight
groups in a room, they could probably decide exactly where we'd
like to have that pollination service or exactly where you might
like to have that aquifer recharge service, and so on.
The yellow line would represent the summary from an INVEST run, for
example. I will play this over time, so this is time period one.
Say we're looking at a climate change scenario, just as an example.
Time two, we've seen a slight change in aquifer recharge and by
time three aquifer recharge has fallen below that threshold.
I point this out because the Ogallala news release last summer, but
basically it's a way that we can use a modeling thing to put a
warning light on the dashboard of a landscape so that we can look
at things using our best available knowledge into the future and
seeing what kinds of things may cause us problems and then
reevaluate, develop a new scenario. What other scenarios might we
try that would keep that light off?
Let's get back to bees. Eric Longsdorf has been associated with the
INVEST system since the very beginning. He developed a pollinator
module for that and I'm going to show that today, some of the runs.
He's also going to be doing a honeybee one for us. We'll actually
have both of those up and running and available for you by the end
of the fiscal year.
Start basically with a land cover map. This is just cropscape. It
could be a number of different ones, just spatial information from
which we could extract where these bees are going to nest. It
depends on whether a ground nest or a cavity nest or whatever. And
then the floral sources. Where are they on the landscape? That
would come from some of our studies, some of the literature, other
types of sources.
You could then map, if you will, habitat quality for pollinators
and hopefully be able to get to ascribing an economic value to that
service somewhere down the line.
Here are a couple of bees. I just picked a couple, Russ did, for
the heck of it. This is a sweat bee. They nest in the ground. This
is a leafcutter bee, a megachilid. Mapping using our data where the
floral sources are, they have different flower preferences. Their
map of where you'd expect them to be based on the floral sources
We can do the same exact thing for nesting sites. The sweat bee is
a ground nester. The leafcutter is a cavity nester so they have
different maps. You can actually overlay those maps on top of each
other and come up with a pretty good map of where those ideal
conditions coincide. But you can actually, in INVEST, go one step
further. You can also integrate into threats that these animals are
facing and how they may fit into the bigger scheme of things.
This is for bumblebees. The genus is Bombus. Again, this is just
north of where I am in North Dakota. We would think that probably
the two largest threats for bumblebees would be monoculture because
of the lack of pollen diversity and protein diversity in their diet
and, of course, pesticides.
If it's black, it's agriculture in this slide. If it's white, it's
either grassland or water.
This next slide, the blue shows where the corn and soybeans are. I
bring this up because 10 years ago you'd have to drive and drive
and drive to find a corn plant and soybeans weren't very common,
The face of agriculture's changing and, of course, it's going to
have a lot of influences on the other things that we care about.
Understanding that is a big key.
The next slide is actually bringing together for the bumblebee the
floral sources, the nesting areas, and the threat layer all
together. We basically have something that looks like a
thunderstorm map that tells us where the likely places are to go
out and find bumblebees in this case.
What we'd like to do is tie this with a monitoring program so that
people could verify if our models are working and if not, provide
that information back so our models get better and better over
time. It's an adaptive modeling type of a context. This one will be
up and running by October.
Those of you that know me, I see Skip Harburg out there, know I
can't talk without talking about interannual climate. Where I'm
from, it's as dry as the dust bowl days or it's as wet as all get
out. It's constantly changing.
I call this slide, "What your parents neglected to tell you about
the birds and the bees." I'm going to try and talk about some of
the partnerships and collaborations that we may be able to find out
there. Again, just to refresh your memory, the positive numbers, in
this case blue, would represent wetter than average conditions. The
negative numbers, or orange, would represent drier than normal.
This is a Dust Bowl days of the 1930s intensity drought. It's
pretty phenomenal. National ag statistics tell us that was the
honey production for North Dakota over that time frame. We're
missing a little bit of the '80s, but with the exception of one
year, honey yields are up when it's wet and down when it's dry.
It's pretty consistent.
What happened in that year, a chemical called fluvalinate, was used
to control the varroa mite in honeybees. Just like most chemicals
that were designed to target an animal, they developed a
resistance. That was the year that the varroa mite developed a
resistance to fluvalinate and we had a widespread honeybee
Fish and Wildlife Service Waterfowl Index overlaid on top of that
shows that when the bees are going down, the birds are going down.
When the birds are going up, the bees are going up. Obviously,
ducks didn't have a varroa mite problem or a vluvalinate resistance
issue, but over 30 years a relationship of 0.63 is pretty
impressive. When you consider one of these animals has wings, a
backbone, can fly from prairie Canada to Mexico and the other one
needs to ride in the back of a truck to get in the next county.
It's pretty phenomenal.
But it's two animals using the same type of a habitat responding to
climate in a similar way, which is what you'd expect.
There's CCD. Why did we not jump up and down when the fluvalinate
problem hit? The reason is the varroa mite, if you don't treat bees
for varroa mite the colony's usually gone within two or three
years. We used to have lots and lots and lots of colonies of feral
bees and we're not treating those because they're feral bees. We
don't get that free pollination like we did at one point in time.
We still see a few feral colonies but very few compared to the old
days. There's where CRP began.
I'm going to wrap up and point out, again, that even though we're
talking about pollinators and those types of things, lasting
solutions to ensuring that we have quality ecosystem services for
future generations involve a whole bunch of things and a whole
bunch of players that need to come together and come up with some
good scenarios to keep our landscape sustainable.
Thank you very much.
Malka: We're going to start with questions from the Internet.
Chip: Yeah, one point that I'll make is that I'm not quite legally deaf
but I'm pretty close.
Malka: And I'm a good interpreter so if you don't speak loud enough, I'll
repeat it. If you could announce your name and where you're from
with your question...Internet first.
Man 1: The first question we have, "Are you looking at the same measures
of health in native pollinators and is there a correlation between
honeybee and native pollinator health?"
Chip: We are not looking directly at the health of native bees. It's
primarily because it's a much more difficult thing to do
logistically. Honeybees are pretty handy because they're in a box
that we put there so we can take those measurements.
One thing that we are doing, we're going to start this summer. We
did a trial last summer to see if it would work is analyze some of
the pollens that native bees are bringing in for pesticide
residues. The only one that we can really do that for are these
Megachile bees. They nest in cavities so you can drill cigarette
sized holes in a four by four wood block and line it with parchment
paper. These bees will pack pollen, lay an egg, pack pollen.
You [inaudible 33:58] these things up and pull them out. They look
like little cigarettes but they're full of pollen that we can then
in turn analyze. We developed a technique last summer. We'll be
using that and looking at pesticide exposure this summer, at least
for the Megachiles.
Malka: Questions from the room?
I'm going to announce [inaudible 34:20] colony as I walk over to
him. And then he can just ask his question. He's from the policy
Man 2: Hi, Chip.
Chip: Hi, [inaudible 34:27] .
Man 2: How many years can you go back in that cigarette?
Chip: For the Megachile bees?
Man 2: Yeah.
Chip: It's a single season.
Man 2: It's just a...?
Chip: Yeah. What it is is with a parchment paper. One bee will come in
and put a pollen, egg, and a little bit of leaf leech in. And then
another bee will do the same thing. When these things hatch, it
will be sort of like a Roman candle, popping off like that. It's
for a single season.
Man 2: It's not like a tree ring that builds on itself over time.
Malka: Internet question.
Man 1: You've spoken about the role of landscape heterogeneity in
maintaining species diversity and ecosystem function. Could you
speak to the use of agroforestry practices as a land management
tool? And then the rest of the question is actually cut off.
Man 1: Yes.
Chip: Let me start by saying that North Dakota's state tree is a
Chip: We are forestry constrained. If the question is more if there could
be an engineering approach to increasing diversity of the landscape
scale, disregarding the trees, the answer is probably, "Yes." I
don't know that we have the knowledge base right now to make real
specific and effective recommendations other than real general
ones. We can certainly do that.
Malka: Next question from the room.
Skip Harburg: Skip Harburg, Farm Service Agency. Chip, could you talk a little
bit about the relationship between honey production and bee health?
What's the correlation? Why would they diverge?
Chip: Honeybees...The question was that the correlation between bees that
make a lot of honey and bee health. There certainly is a
relationship but it's probably not as strong as you might think.
Bees can be incredibly motivated. They can make a lot of honey in a
short period of time if there's an ample nectar flow. A much
healthier colony can make more, in all likelihood, than would one
but it's amazing that honeybees that make a regular crop of honey
may, in fact, turn out to be one of the ones that die that summer
for other factors.
You have to consider in that question or in the response to that
question that when pollen is coming in and when nectar's coming in
these animals are laying eggs to the tune of 2,500 eggs a day. That
means there's 2,500 new bees that are being hatched every day. The
population is really, really quite huge. It may take a while for
that effect to show up.
But I'm sure there's a relationship. We just don't have the answer.
Malka: Internet question.
Man 1: How did the very early spring of 2012 affect habitat and bees in
Chip: Can you help me with that one?
Malka: How did this early spring of 2012 effect things?
Chip: It's too early to tell. I know of beekeepers who have not yet
brought bees to North Dakota. We started out not only cold but we
started out extremely dry. But since then, the world has changed
and we've gotten extremely wet.
This is the first time in 20 years that the sump in my house has
not run in the spring. It just started running about a week ago.
That's how much rain we've had in the last little bit. We don't
know yet. We do know that the spring fruit bloom is really intense.
Nectar is coming in in great quantities, as is pollen. But we don't
know. We'll see. To be determined.
Malka: Any questions in the...
Man 3: I think the question was for the last year.
Malka: 2012 was the question.
Chip: Oh, 2012.
Malka: Early spring in 2012.
Chip: Yeah. Last year the weather was pretty goofy. We had...It was dry
and the bees were stressed. The summer part was pretty good. There
was pretty good honey production early and then it dried up, if
memory serves me. But yeah, I'm pretty sure that's right.
That was a lot of the big predictions that the beekeeping industry
was making was that the drought and combined with maybe a littler
higher than average varroa mite load might enhance mortality for
bees over the winter.
Malka: Questions in the room?
Brian LaMarche: Brian LaMarche, International Technical Assistance Program.
You made some pretty strong correlations between bee mortality
increase or bee death and then also nutrition and all those other
things you showed. Do you feel that if we were to...If we were to
try to create that perfect environment within a two mile radius
that you showed us in one of the first slides, as far as the crop
diversity or the floral diversity...Do you feel that despite
monoculture and pesticies...Do you feel that the bees would
increase? The bee population would increase?
Chip: If you could engineer a landscape to look like the one in the bee
Brian: Right. You'd have a success story.
Chip: Yeah, I do. The reason I do is that even though the threats may be
there, if there's ample habitat for the bees, that's where they're
going to go.
Brian: Is anyone trying to do that now?
Brian: Is there anybody trying to do a model like that now to prove that
it could work?
Chip: Not to my knowledge, but that's something that could easily be done
and easily be tested.
Malka: I'm going to use my liberty, Malka Patterson, to ask a question.
You set me up, and thank you.
There's definitely a role here for the biologists, but does the
invest model...Is that the limit of your economic analysis because,
in fact, if you know what it takes to make the environment one that
that bees would thrive in, how do you get the money from California
to pay the farmers who would otherwise go to corn?
It's a market and an ecological question.
Chip: An extremely interesting and very valuable question. I actually
spoke a little over a year ago at the almond board conference in
Modesto. It is important.
Recently, Hachi Zen applied for a NIFA grant that would do exactly
that. Her basic concept is if you have a CRP field and we can
quantify how many hives of bees that might support. We'll just pick
a number. We'll say 160 acre field would support 40 hives at $50
rental rate for that land producer.
What she specializes in is what are the off site economic values?
If an almond producer is willing to pay $200 per hive then just two
of those 40 hives has a $400 per acre benefit on the other end.
Those are the kinds of questions I think need answering. The invest
model only works from the standpoint...Like a look up table. It
will only be useful for us if we had information from Hachi on what
those economic values might be, for example.
But we've thought a lot about it. I'm a biologist and not a...I'm
terrible with a checkbook, too.
Malka: You hang out with a lot of economists, though.
Question from the Internet?
Man 1: What is the role of feral bees in providing pollination services?
Are they suffering from collapse like artificial colonies?
Chip: The answer to that is yes. We don't have near the colonies of feral
bees that we had at one point in time. I think the one notable
exception to that would be the Africanized bees in the southwestern
US. Nothing seems to stop them. They're sort of like the Ever ready
Rabbit. They keep going. Except cold weather. They evolved
someplace else, so...
Malka: Question in the room? [inaudible 43:21] again.
Man 2: The beekeeper and the bees that he keeps get a lot of free services
from the surrounding land. Am I right?
Chip: Help me out, Malka.
Malka: Are the beekeepers getting free services from the land?
Chip: The beekeeper's getting a pollination service in North Dakota?
Man 2: Right.
Chip: The answer is no. Primarily, North Dakota is a honey producing
state. Most landowners are amenable to having you put bees on their
properties. Typically, the beekeeper pays with a case of honey,
just to use the currency that they pay in.
There are certain crops in certain parts of the country where
beekeepers will pay for a high value honey. Pollination services
are mostly going to be in California for almonds, Washington state
apples, cherries in California, blueberries, cranberries, melons
all over the US. Those pay.
By and large, the highest pollination fees are for almonds because
the high value of that crop and the expense of hauling them all the
way out to California.
Man 1: Somebody asked, "Have you documented any bee impacts specifically
from the introduction of GMO crops?"
Chip: We have not in this particular investigation. I confessed earlier
that I'm not a pollination biologist. I'm more of an ecosystem
service guy. Some of that work may have been done but I just don't
Malka: Any questions in the room? Internet? I think we've got it. Thank
you very much, Chip.
Chip: Very welcome. My pleasure.
Transcription by CastingWords