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July 31, 2014 - ABJ Extra

USDA Extends Deadline for the Emergency Assistance for

Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program


WASHINGTON, July 31, 2014 — U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Juan M. Garcia announced today that the enrollment deadline for the 2012 and 2013 Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) has been extended to Aug. 15, 2014. Originally, program sign-up was scheduled to end Aug. 1.

The new deadline gives livestock, honeybee, and farm-raised fish producers who experienced losses because of disease, adverse weather, wildfires or colony collapse disorder between Oct. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2013, an additional two weeks to enroll in ELAP.

"Because ELAP is an important safety net for key sectors of American agriculture, we’ve provided this two week extension so that producers can submit required documentation and apply for program benefits," said Garcia.

Producers are encouraged to contact their local FSA service center or visit FSA’s website at www.fsa.usda.gov for additional information regarding ELAP.

ELAP was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

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July 30, 2014 - ABJ Extra

Bees Able to Spot Which Flowers Offer

Best Rewards Before Landing

Bumblebees are able to connect differences in pollen quality with floral features, like petal colour, and so land only on the flowers that offer the best rewards, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Exeter.
 
Researchers have discovered that bumble bees are able to connect differences
in pollen quality with floral features, like petal color, and so land only on
the flowers that offer the best rewards.
Credit: Elizabeth Nicholls

Unlike nectar, bees do not ingest pollen while foraging on flowers, and so until now it has been unclear whether they are able to form associative relationships between what a flower looks like and the quality of its pollen.

The study used bumblebee foragers housed under controlled conditions to test whether they do learn about flowers during pollen collection.

Their results show that bumblebees can individually assess pollen samples and discriminate between them during collection, quickly forming preferences for a particular type of pollen.

The findings, published today in the Journal of Experimental Biology, indicate that pollen foraging behavior involves learning and individual decision making, which may allow bees to quickly learn which flowers provide the most nutritious pollen rewards for rearing their young.

Dr. Natalie Hempel de Ibarra, senior lecturer in neuroethology at the University of Exeter, said: "There is still very little known about how bees decide which flowers to visit for pollen collection. Easily learning floral features based on pollen rewards, without needing any nectar rewards, is a fast and effective way to recognize those flower species which bees have previously experienced to be the best ones."
 
 
The results show that bumble bees can individually assess pollen samples
and discriminate between them during collection, quickly forming preferences
for a particular type of pollen.
Credit: Elizabeth Nicholls

Dr. Elizabeth Nicholls, a former PhD student at The University of Exeter and now a Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Sussex, said: "Bees need to be able to select flowers providing the most nutritious food for rearing their young. Since bumblebees don't eat pollen when foraging, it was unclear if or how they might be able to assess differences in quality. Here we've shown that they are able to detect differences in pollen, even before landing, which means they may be able to tell, just from the color of the petals, which flowers are worth visiting.

"We already know a lot about how and what bees learn when collecting nectar from flowers, but since bees don't eat pollen when foraging, we were interested to see whether they could still learn which flowers to visit when collecting this resource." The experiments involved manipulating the quality of pollen offered to the bees by diluting the samples. The researchers examined what they preferred to collect, if they could differentiate quality before landing by only letting the bees smell and see the pollen rather than probing it; and presenting the bees with four different colored discs containing stronger and less diluted pollen to record preferences and change of preferences over time.