Linking measures of colony and individual honey bee health to survival among apiaries exposed to varying agricultural land use

Matthew Smart, Jeff Pettis, Nathan Rice, Zac Browning, Marla Spivak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations

Abstract

We previously characterized and quantified the influence of land use on survival and productivity of colonies positioned in six apiaries and found that colonies in apiaries surrounded by more land in uncultivated forage experienced greater annual survival, and generally more honey production. Here, detailed metrics of honey bee health were assessed over three years in colonies positioned in the same six apiaries. The colonies were located in North Dakota during the summer months and were transported to California for almond pollination every winter. Our aim was to identify relationships among measures of colony and individual bee health that impacted and predicted overwintering survival of colonies. We tested the hypothesis that colonies in apiaries surrounded by more favorable land use conditions would experience improved health. We modeled colony and individual bee health indices at a critical time point (autumn, prior to overwintering) and related them to eventual spring survival for California almond pollination. Colony measures that predicted overwintering apiary survival included the amount of pollen collected, brood production, and Varroa destructor mite levels. At the individual bee level, expression of vitellogenin, defensin1, and lysozyme2 were important markers of overwinter survival. This study is a novel first step toward identifying pertinent physiological responses in honey bees that result from their positioning near varying landscape features in intensive agricultural environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0152685
JournalPloS one
Volume11
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2016

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