Honey bees are essential pollinators, and because of this, managed honey bee colonies play an essential role in our society. Honey bees are the most important contributor to pollination services for most crop monocultures worldwide; however, honey bees are in peril. By 2008, for example, the number of honey-producing colonies had fallen to just about one-third their levels in 1947. Honey bee colonies fail for a wide range of reasons, but it is, well documented that the fundamental reason honey bee colonies fail is likely to be found in the complex interrelation between pests and diseases, pesticides, loss of forage, and unsustainable beekeeping practices. Nutrition seems to play a central role in colony health, productivity, and resilience against pests and diseases. The quality of nutrition bees bring back to the nest is a direct result of the availability, timing, quantity and quality of nectar and pollen in the bees’ foraging environment.
PollenCheck is an innovative iOS app designed to help scientists quantify the diversity and of amount of pollen available to honey bees. While we eventually hope to roll out the study nationwide, during 2017 we are conducting a small pilot study within our home state of Michigan. The study will involve 25 “citizen scientist” beekeepers strategically situated around the state. These participants will be provided with two pollen traps, and the necessary laboratory equipment to process the samples they capture. Please review the research protocol described below as well as the videos describing the procedures.
We are no longer taking applications in our subsidized pilot study in Michigan, but if you have at least two healthy colonies, and would like to purchase your own equipment and participate, please review the parts list and research protocol below. Once you are ready you can download the PollenCheck mobile app for the iPhone and get collecting!
Want to participate? Here is what you need
If you would like to participate in the PollenCheck study, here is the equipment you will need.
- Front Porch Pollen Traps (quantity 2 traps). Available at Brushy Mountain.
- Plastic 50mL Conical Centrifuge Tubes with screw caps. (quantity 12 tubes). Available on Amazon.
- Plastic 100mL Clear Graduated Cylinder. (quantity 1 cylinder). Available on Amazon.
- 1/2 TPS Measuring spoon. (quantity 1 measuring spoon). Readily available.
- Sorting scupula. (quantity 1). Available on Amazon.
- Color wheel. (quantity 1 color wheel). Available on Amazon.
- 1 quart Ziploc bags (quantity 1 box of bags). Readily available.
- Sharpie pen. (quantity 1 pen). Available on Amazon.
Once you have all of your equipment, download the PollenCheck app from the Apple App Store and signup for a new account. Once you are ready to start collecting, you should follow the research protocol documented in this tutorial, as well as the videos below.