Experiment: Effect of local farming practices on honey bee health

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Spraying Tomatoes on Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School campus, Rabun Gap, GA, USA

Summary

We propose to conduct a series of lab and field experiments to measure the effect local farming practices have on honey bee (apis mellifera) health.

Background

The agricultural use of fungicides, herbicides and insecticides is increasing. Concerns have been raised that individually, or through synergistic effects, these compounds are causing Colony Collapse Disorder or otherwise contributing to colony loss. Concerns have been raised that glyphosate, contained in the popular herbicide Roundup®, is affecting animal and human health.

History

In 1903 Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School opened emphasizing the practical arts of farming and homemaking. “From 1917 to 1965, the emphasis brought whole families to the school in the unique Farm Family Program. The children attended school while parents worked on farms and homes leased from the school; at night the men studied improved farming techniques and the women home economics – canning, sewing, and health care.” The school has transitioned to a college preparatory curriculum but still maintains a 1400 acre campus. Approximately 400 acres are leased to local farmers and are intensively cultivated.

Since 2011, an apiary has been maintained on campus by students in the Environmental Stewardship Program to raise students' awareness where food comes from.

The Facilities and Land Use Committee of the Board of Trustees and the Director of Sustainability are responsible for the stewardship of these lands. Data from these experiments will help them make informed decisions regarding best management practices.

Funding

Money from the 2015 Bayer CropScience Community Leadership Award will be used to fund these experiments.

Open Notebook

These experiments will be conducted as an Open Notebook research project. The entire primary record, including all raw and processed data, failed experiments, and any associated material, will be publicly available online as it is recorded.

Proposed Experiments

A series of lab and field experiments will be conducted to measure the effect local farming practices have on honey bees (apis mellifera).

  • Lab experiments on caged bees will measure the effect glyphosate has on honey bee gut bacteria (principally Lactobacillus).
  1. Lab Experiment I. Effect of a common agricultural herbicide on honey bee gut bacteria (Small Replicates)
  2. Lab Experiment II. Effect of a common agricultural herbicide on honey bee gut bacteria (Medium Replicates)
  • Field experiments will measure the amount of glyphosate in foraging bees and the amount of pesticides in wax in three different environments: pristine forest, urban, and rural agricultural.

The amount of glyphosate in the field bees will be compared with the amounts in the bees from the lab experiments.

Proposed Lab Procedure

Effects of Glyphosate on Honey Bee Gut Bacteria (principally Lactobacillus)

  • 18 replicates of 30-50 (50 preferred) bees per replicate in 16 oz solo cuts
  • Mass, food intake, mortality and morbidity will be recorded daily (Monday thru Saturday)
  • Sucrose Solution 1:1 w/w with sterile water (Amounts of Glyphosate (GLYP), in the form of Roundup™, added to the sucrose solution represent one half the minimum field realistic dosage, minimum field realistic dosage, mid range dosage, maximum field realistic dosage and 2x the maximum. Field realistic dosages are from Goldsborough and Brown, 1988; Feng et al., 1990; Giesy et al., 2000. These amounts were chosen to represent relevant exposure levels to GLYP that the bees would experience.)
    • One group of 3 replicates fed with no GLYP added to sucrose (control)
    • One group of 3 replicates fed with 0.7mg/l GLYP added to sucrose
    • One group of 3 replicates fed with 1.4mg/l GLYP added to sucrose
    • One group of 3 replicates fed with 4.5 mg/l GLYP added to sucrose
    • One group of 3 replicates fed with 7.6 mg/l GLYP added to sucrose
    • One group of 3 replicates fed with 15.2 mg/l GLYP added to sucrose
  • Bees will be kept in an incubator at approx 85 oF and 55% RH
  • Bees will be knocked down either with CO2 or refrigerated at 4 oC to be sampled
  • Bees will be dissected and gut removed and placed in nutrient broth, then diluted to plate onto MR+S agar plates
  • Plates are incubated for 24-48 hours then counted.
  • Solo cup replicates will be sampled on Monday, Wednesday and Friday weekly for a maximum of two weeks after feeding begins or until sample size is to small to be useful.
  • A sample of bees will be taken at the beginning of the lab before any feeding to assay the amount of bacteria present at the beginning of the project
  • At the end of the experiment, the remaining bees will be flash frozen and sent to UGA to measure the amount of GLYP in each group of bees.

Depending on the outcome of this experiment, it will either be repeated with the addition of probiotics to the feeding regime at a rate yet to be determined or we will move onto ½ pound cages of bees to be treated similar to the above. Amounts of GLYP to be fed will be determined based on the outcome of the above solo cup experiment. We will attempt to bracket the concentration of GLYP where changes are first noticed in the solo cup experiment. The dosages will be ten percent above and below the amount where changes take place, and a control group with no GLYP. All other conditions will remain the same. Probiotics will then be fed either concurrently (probiotics 1) or subsequently (probiotics 2). Control (split into three separate cages): one cage should have control + probiotics1 Glyphosate (10% below dose)+probiotics 2 Glyphosate (10% above dose)+ probiotics 2 Glyphosate (10% below dose) + probiotics1+ probiotics 2 Glyphosate (10% above dose) + probiotics1+ probiotics 2

Sampling will be done at the beginning, after feeding probiotics 1 and after feeding probiotics. At the end of the experiment, the survivors, will be knocked out with CO2, flash frozen and sent to UGA for MS analysis to quantify the amount of glyphosate in the bees.

Proposed Field Procedure

Three 3 lb packages of bees will be purchased and installed in new equipment without foundation. They will be initially fed 1.5 gallons of 1:1 sugar syrup. The three hives will be located in different environments:

  1. in a pristine area of National Forest, 2 miles from human activity,
  2. near intensive farming on the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School campus,
  3. in an urban environment in Athens, Georgia.

At the end of August, the three colonies will be destroyed. The bees will be gassed with CO2 flash frozen, and sent to UGA to measure the amount of glyphosate in the bees. The wax will be separated from the honey. The wax will be sent to the USDA National Science Laboratories, Gastonia, NC and analyzed for pesticides.

Budget

Description Cost
Six 3lb packages of bees at $90 each $540
Lab supplies $460
Glyphosate testing at UGA $1000
Pesticide Testing at USDA $1000
Total $3000