Bees and Canola: Thriving Together

How bees help canola

Pollinators are essential for hybrid seed production
Advances in hybrid seed have been the foundation of the canola industry’s success – and pollination is considered a must-have for production of quality hybrid seed. One study showed that the presence of pollinators can increase the germination of resulting seeds from 83% to 96%.[1] 

Bees encourage higher yields with better ripening
Although pollinators aren’t essential for commodity canola production, several studies have shown that pollination by bees can have a significant impact on both productivity and quality – in part because bees transfer pollen more efficiently than self-pollination in Argentine (napus) varieties. Demonstrated benefits of bee pollination of canola include:

  • More uniform flowering and earlier pod-setting,[2] which has the potential to reduce green seed counts
  • Increase in the number of pods per plant, seeds per pod and seed weight[3]
  • Reduction in the amount of time canola blooms by 17%[4]
  • Increase in the seed weight per plant by anywhere from 13%[5] to nearly 50%[6]


Bees may also help to control canola diseases

Biological control of insect and fungal pests has shown promise, but the technology requires an appropriate delivery mechanism. Honeybees may “bee” a solution. Researchers are exploring the potential for honeybees to spread beneficial fungi for keeping insects like Lygus bugs at bay.


Why bees love canola

Canola provides an ideal food source
The sugar profile of canola nectar is great for honey production, and the plentiful pollen offers a good balance of amino acids, protein and fats.[7]

Canola provides an efficient means of feeding
Bees don’t have to cover large distances when flowering canola are nearby. Canola fields bloom for relatively long periods, so one field can provide bees with a good source of nectar for up to a month.

Canola honey is preferred by consumers
The light colour and mild flavour make canola honey a top choice in the marketplace.[8]


Read about:

Protecting bees when growing canola
What beekeepers can do
Bee health in Western Canada
Bee facts

Bees and Canola - Video Gallery


References

[1] Kevan PG, and Eisikowitch D. 1990 The effects of insect pollination on canola (Brassica napus L. cv. O.A.C. Triton) seed germination. Euphytica 45:39–41

[2] Abrol, DP. 2007. Honeybees and rapeseed: A pollinator-plant interaction. Advances in Botanical Research. 45: 337-367

Sabbahi, R., de Oliveira, D., Marceau J. 2006. Does the Honeybee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) reduce the blooming period of canola? Agronomy & Crop Science 192, 233—237. 2006 Blackwell Verlag, Berlin ISSN 0931-2250

[3] Durán X.A., Ulloa R.B., Carrillo J.A., Contreras J.L., and Bastidas M.T. Evaluation of Yield Component Traits of Honeybee-Pollinated (Apis mellifera L.) Rapeseed Canola (Brassica napus L.)  Chilean Journal of Agricultural Research 70(2): 309-314 (April-June 2010)

Sabbahi, R., de Oliveira D., and Marceau, J. 2005. Influence of honey bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) density on the production of canola (Crucifera: Brassicacae).  J. Econ. Entomol. 98, 367—372

Steffan-Dewenter I (2003) Seed set of male-sterile and male-fertile oilseed rape (Brassica napus) in relation to pollinator density. Apidologie 34:227–235

[4] Abrol, DP. 2007. Honeybees and rapeseed: A pollinator-plant interaction. Advances in Botanical Research. 45: 337-367

[5] Free, J.B. & P.M. Nuttall. 1968. The pollination of oilseed rape (Brassica napus) and the behaviour of bees on the crop. Journal of Agricultural Science. 71: 91-94

[6] Sabbahi, R., de Oliveira D., and Marceau, J. 2005. Influence of honey bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) density on the production of canola (Crucifera: Brassicacae).  J. Econ. Entomol. 98, 367—372

[7] Smith W (2002) Honey bees on canola. New South Wales Agriculture, Department of Primary Industries, Orange, New South Wales, Australia. Available at: http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/ assets/pdf_file/0013/117112/bee-on-canoloa.pdf

Somerville, DC. 2001. Nutritional Value of Bee Collected Pollens. RIRDC Publication No. 01/047, New South Wales Agriculture. ISBN 0 642 58269 6

Stace, P. 1996. Protein content and amino acid profiles of honey bee-collected pollens. Published by Bees ‘N Trees Consultants, Lismore NSW

[8] Canadian Honey Council