Stabilized synthetic brood pheromone delivered in a slow-release device enhances foraging and population size of honey bee, Apis mellifera, colonies
Tanya Pankiw, Anna L. Birmingham, Jean Pierre Lafontaine, Norman Avelino and John H. Borden
The 10-component honey bee brood pheromone has considerable potential for use in honey bee management now that durable stability has been obtained by adding a food-grade antioxidant. Practical applications require, however, that a long-term slow release device be developed and tested. After discarding 19 potential materials and devices for releasing synthetic brood pheromone, we found a suitable method using a small plastic pouch with a pheromone impermeable Mylar backing and a pheromone-permeable low-density polyethylene release surface. Heat -sealed pouches, 3.8 x 3.5 cm, containing 200 μl of synthetic brood pheromone released 0.30-0.35 mg of pheromone per day in the laboratory; pheromone had to be artificially removed from the polyethylene membrane daily (equivalent to being removed by contact with worker bees) in order for the flow to be maintained. Compared to untreated control colonies, colonies exposed from late summer to early fall in southeast Texas to pheromone-laden pouches mounted in 35 mm plastic slide frames demonstrated more frequent foraging trips by worker bees, heavier pollen loads, and a higher ratio of pollen to non-pollen foragers from days 8-36 of continuous exposure. Pheromone-treated colonies also had significant growth in brood comb area and adult population level at a time when untreated control colonies were naturally declining in size.