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Extension Entomology

Category: Pollinators

Honey Bees and Bumble Bees: What Is The Difference?

—by Dr. Raymond Cloyd

Honey bees and bumble bees are important pollinators of many horticultural crops including vegetables, and ornamental plants in gardens and landscapes. As the weather warms, both pollinators will become more active visiting the flowers of plants in bloom. However, how different are honey bees and bumble bees?

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There are a number of behavioral differences associated with honey bees and bumble bees that are presented below:

  1. Bumble bees are more active at lower temperatures (40°F) whereas honey bees are primarily active when temperatures are around 60°F or higher.
  2. Bumble bees are active on cloudy and rainy days. Honey bees are less active at low light intensities.
  3. Bumble bees “buzz pollinate” flowers so only a single bumble bee is required for pollination whereas up to 7 honey bees may be needed to pollinate a flower.
  4. Bumble bees forage for pollen instead of nectar. They are also more efficient pollinators than honey bees because they visit more flowers in a designated time period (e.g., minute).
  5. Bumble bees are present longer during the day (early morning and late evening) than honey bees, which means they may be more susceptible to exposure from pesticide applications.

It is important to protect honey bees and bumble bees from exposure to pesticides including insecticides and fungicides. So, when using pesticides be sure to adhere to the following:

  1. Use pesticides according to the label (ALWAYS READ THE LABEL DIRECTIONS CAREFULLY).
  2. Apply pesticides when both honey bees and bumble bees are less active (early morning and later evening).
  3. Apply more selective pesticides such as Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki (sold as Dipel), which is only active on caterpillars.
  4. “Bee-Careful” when applying any pesticides. For example, avoid directly applying pesticides to open flowers that may be visited by honey bees or bumble bees.

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HopGuard II Section 18 Approved for Kansas

—by Sharon Dobesh

For Kansas beekeepers interested in using HopGuard II for varroa mite control, the 2015 section 18 was approved effective April 13, 2015 through December 31, 2015. The active ingredient in HopGuard is 16% potassium salt of hop beta acids, which offers an alternate chemistry against varroa mites and is considered to be a more natural or ‘softer’ chemistry.

The use directions for HopGuard II in the colony at a rate of one strip per five deep frames covered with bees in each brood chamber. Strips must be opened and hung over the frame, two strips per ten frame super. There is a maximum of three applications per year per super (i.e. six strips per year super) is allowed. Application should occur based on varroa mite levels in the colony. For optimal results, little to no brood should be present in the colony.

Inspections

The Kansas Department of Agriculture needs beekeepers, who are current users of HopGuard, to volunteer for required Section 18 inspections. If you use HopGuard and would allow KDA to come inspect HopGuard use in your hive(s), please contact Judy Glass, judy.glass@kda.ks.gov. Judy will need your name and contact information to follow-up. These inspections should not take longer than an hour to complete (probably less), but are required data for EPA in order for Kansas to continue to apply for Section 18 status. All volunteers may not be inspected.

Contact Sharon Dobesh (sdobesh@ksu.edu or 785-532-1340) if you have any questions regarding the section 18 approval, need a copy of the HopGuard II label, or the KDA inspections.

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