Feeding habits

  • At peak foraging times, a flowering canola plant can be visited by more than 50 honeybees every hour.

  • The most active time for honeybees to feed is mid-morning, when nectar secretion is highest.

  • Honeybees travel 1- 5 kilometres from the hive. Leafcutters travel 400-500 metres.

  • Bees prefer canola to other flowering plants because they like the colour and scent. Yellow is one of the most attractive colours to a honeybee, along with blue and white. The fluorescent anthers of canola flowers make them particularly enticing.

  • About half of a canola plant’s flowers are typically visited by honeybees.


Honeybee numbers

  • Honeybee numbers in Canada are at near-record levels – more than 722,000 colonies in 2015, compared to 600,000 in 2000.[1]

  • More than 70% of Canadian honeybee colonies are in the western provinces.


Honeybee health

  • The mysterious U.S. problem known as colony collapse disorder has not been observed in Canada – nor has it been seen in Australia, the world’s other major canola-producing region.

  • In Western Canada, acute bee kills are most commonly caused by natural forces such as frost or biological factors, such as Varroa mites.


Protecting pollinators

  • Communication between crop producers and beekeepers is the single most important tool for protecting pollinators. Growers should share their pest management plans with nearby beekeepers so they can prepare.

  • The most considerate time to spray a foliar applied insecticide is: 1) when canola is not in bloom, and 2) after 8 p.m. in the evening, when bees have returned to the hive.

  • Treated canola seed poses no risk to bees because no dust is created during canola planting.


How canola helps bees

  • Canola provides an abundant supply of pollen with an ideal nutritional profile for bees.

  • The quantity of nectar per flower and the sugar profile of canola nectar are great for honey production.

  • Canola honey has the light colour and mild taste preferred by consumers.

  • Canola flowers longer than most other crops. One field in bloom can nourish bees for a month.

  • The cruciferous canola flower has an ideal size and shape for a feeding honeybee. The petals are a convenient landing platform, and the reservoirs of nectar are just the right length for a honeybee proboscis.

  • Because canola blooms are so plentiful, bees can visit many flowers without traveling far.


How bees help canola

  • Research suggests pollination can encourage higher yields and better ripening.

  • Pollination by bees is considered essential for hybrid seed production – a vital building block for the canola industry.

  • It’s good to have bees in the ‘hood. A study in Australia showed that canola pods/plant decreased as distance from an apiary increased.[2]

 

Read about:

Bees and canola: thriving together
Protecting bees when growing canola
What beekeepers can do
Bee health in Western Canada

Bees and Canola - Video Gallery

 

References

[1] Statistics Canada Cansim Table 001-007

[2] Manning, R. and J. Boland. 2000. A preliminary investigation into honey bee (Apis mellifera) pollination of canola (Brassica napus cv. Karoo) in Western Australia. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture. Vol. 40, No. 3: 439-442