The Signs of Mite Damage - How to Identify Progressed Varroosis?

Bee Informed Partnership    September 26, 2018

BIP Tech Transfer Team Member, University of Minnesota, Written by Garett Slater, posted by Anne Marie Fauvel

Varroa infested colonies entered the United States in ~1987, and changed beekeeping forever. Beekeeping has always been time consuming, difficult and experience oriented; however, beekeeping became even more challenging when beekeepers were called to eradicate a bug on another bug. Since its introduction in the US, beekeepers have reported high annual colony losses due to mites. In fact, some beekeepers report 60% losses due to this troublesome pest. While beekeepers have faced devastating challenges before, including American Foulbrood, Varroa mites has presented damages never before seen.

Varroa have become more difficult to manage since their introduction. The mites are seemingly embedded within the honey bee industry reality as nearly, if not all, colonies have Varroa. Like many beekeepers say: ” all my colonies have mites, I just cannot see them”. Even if alcohol washes do not reveal mites, Varroa is present in the brood or will be present soon due to infestation from surrounding colonies. As mites have become more widespread, they became a vector for a variety of viruses. In fact, researchers are finding more and more variants of Deformed Wing Virus (DWV), a virus that affects the honey bee’s essential flight capabilities. Research has shown that DWV-B (Deformed Wing Virus variant B) can be responsible for high over-winter losses.

The point here is that Varroa devastates colonies.  It would also seem that Varroa are transmitting more virulent strains of viruses with each passing year. Because of this, I recommend to keep mite levels below 1 mite/ 100 bees in the spring and below 3 mites/100 bees in the fall. With Varroa loads any higher, beekeepers risk high colony losses.

Monitor, Monitor, Monitor

Beekeepers must consistently monitor mites if they expect to have strong and healthy colonies. Beekeepers can monitor their mites in various ways, but I recommend both of these two methods: perform an alcohol wash (or other monitoring method) and observe the overt signs of mite damage. It is ideal to perform monitoring methods once a month, but we realize this is not always possible. Because of this, combining both monitoring and observation methods are recommended. Ideally, mites should be monitored at least 4 times a year.  As seen in Figure 1: population increase, population peak, population decrease, and fall dormant; it is essential to understand the seasonal changes. For example, brood density varies throughout the year, so certain treatments can be less effective at different times. By understanding seasonal cycles, beekeepers can better manage their mites. I understand Figure 1 does not reflect the reality of every region but it gives a good overall general idea.  Some regions have multiple population peaks due to large honey flows, so you will need to understand the honey bee seasonal phases in your region. But essentially, as the bee and brood population increase, so do the mites.

Figure 1: Honey bee seasonal phases – Beekeepers should monitor mites once a month, but if this is not possible, mites should be monitored at least 4 times a year: during the late winter-early spring dormant, population increase, population peak, population decrease, and fall dormant phases. I recommend alcohol washes (or another monitoring method) during these periods. Photo courtesy of the Honey Bee Health Coalition.

Mite Monitoring Techniques

I attached a chart outlining the 3 major mite monitoring techniques I recommend. Perform one of these techniques 4 times a year: Early spring, late spring, late summer and early fall. Each beekeeper has their preference, so use the method you feel the most comfortable with. I use alcohol washes, but I feel comfortable with sugar rolls or CO2 as well. As long as you monitor, there is not a wrong method!


Advantages 

Disadvantages 

Sugar Rolls

Known research on accuracy

Common method

May not kill bees

Messy

Hard to do on windy, rainy or humid days

More time consuming

Less accurate

Alcohol Wash

Well documented

Quicker than sugar rolls

Can be more accurate than sugar roll

Can be messy

Kills bees

CO2

Quickest method

Easy to do with multiple colonies

Kills the bees (most likely)

When monitoring for mites, beekeepers should review mite thresholds. I outline my recommended thresholds for each monitoring method below. If your colony is above threshold, I recommend taking actions. Mite thresholds are not an exact science, even if you have levels below the threshold, it is no assurance that your colonies will be healthy and successful. For example, I have sampled many commercial beekeepers with mite levels <0.5 mites /100 bees in the spring, and they eventually had huge losses. I typically see mite levels spike in the late summer because: A) summer treatment with honey supers are limited, B) Mites are often lurking in the brood, and C) Mites from other beekeepers nearby can (re)infest colonies. Because of this, always monitor and monitor again. Once mite levels do spike, they may be difficult to bring down. Too often, when you notice, the mite damage is already done. I should note that I recommend alcohol washes, powdered sugar rolls or CO2 over a sticky board. Sticky boards are not nearly as accurate, because they do not quantify the level of infestation. If a sticky board is your only option, you can attest that you have some mites or more mites, but you are not able to assess the level of infestation (1, 2, 3 mites/100 bees). Use other monitoring method options for more accurate results and an infestation level to compare with suggested thresholds. *These thresholds may vary per US regions. These are the threshold I recommend in the Midwest (MN & ND)

Monitoring Method

# of mites in early-spring

# of mites in mid-spring

# of mites in late-spring

# of mites in early-fall

# of mites in late-fall

Alcohol Wash

 

1 mite/100 bees

1 mite/100 bees

1 mite/100 bees

3 mite/100 bees

3 mite/100 bees

Powdered sugar roll

1 mite/100 bees

1 mite/100 bees

1 mite/100 bees

3 mite/100 bees

3 mite/100 bees

CO2

1 mite/100 bees

1 mite/100 bees

1 mite/100 bees

3 mite/100 bees

3 mite/100 bees

Sticky Board

9 mites/24 hours

9 mites/24 hours

9 mites/24 hours

12 mites/24 hours

12 mites/24 hours

Mite related Disease Progression 

I inspect and observe hundreds of colonies annually. When I enter a colony, I often immediately know whether it has (or did) have high mite levels simply by observing progressed signs of mite damage. Just observing progressed mite damage does not suffice, but it is a good start. By noting visual signs of Varroa, you will know just how important your mite levels are and the need for action. Monitoring is best but if you can recognize some of the visual signs, you will better understand the extend of the mite damage to your colony.

I outlined the 5 stages of mite damage, which I relay to my beekeepers. In the spring during population increase, I want to see colonies within the Stage 1- 2. While I hate to see mites in the spring, this is not always a bad sign. Even if I observe mites, the colony may be below the recommended threshold, so just continue to monitor that colony. During the late spring, summer and fall, I like to see colonies within Stage 1-3. Even if Chewed Down brood (CDB) (outlined below) and phoretic mites are seen, it does not mean that beekeepers have high levels. However, a combination of phoretic mites and CDB can signal worse mite issues. If these signs are seen, continue to monitor these colonies. As for Stage 4-5, I never want to see these stages, regardless of temporal period. Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and Varroa Mite Syndrome (formerly Parasitic Mite Syndrome or PMS) can signify high mite levels.  Specifically for Varroa Mite Syndrome, it signifies very progressed mite damage, which often results in colony deterioration and eventual colony death. If colonies are in stage 4 or stage 5, monitor immediately to determine extent of damage. Action is often required, but may be too late.

 Stage

Visual Signs

Notes

Stage 1

Zero signs of mites, brood diseases or viruses


Stage 2

Visual signs of phoretic mites on either workers or drones.

 

This does not necessarily mean a mite issue exists, but if mites are seen, monitor to determine extent of varroosis.

 

Stage 3

Chewed Down Brood and/or phoretic mites

 

 

Stage 4

Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and/or Chewed Down Brood and/or signs of phoretic mites.

Visual signs of Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) can mean larger varroa issues. Obviously, this depends upon the number of bees with DWV and the number of phoretic mites seen, but mite monitoring is recommended to determined extent of varroosis. These signs signal a more progressed form of varroosis.

Stage 5

Varroa Mite Syndrome (VMS) and/or Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and/or Chewed Down Brood and/or Phoretic mites

Visual signs of Varroa Mite Syndrome usually signal extreme issues with varroasis. If Varroa Mite Syndrome is seen, then mite levels are often a significant issue and has advanced to the most progressed stage of varroosis.

Visual signs

Phoretic Mite

Phoretic mites are Varroa mites seen on the abdomen of worker (or drone bees). Most phoretic mites, however, are found underneath the bee, more precisely tucked between the abdomen’s sclerites where they latch on and feed. Because of this, I typically inspect the ventral abdomen of several worker bees during inspections. This is why beekeepers “never see mites”, even if these beekeepers have higher mite levels. Visually inspect phoretic mites just on the workers, not the drones. If phoretic mites are seen on worker bees, then this represents a more progressed infestation of mites. Signs of phoretic mites indicate the colony is in Stage 2-5. Visually inspect other signs to further pinpoint extent of damage.

Phoretic mite on the thorax of a worker bee. Photo by Rob Snyde Chewed Down Brood (CDB)

Bees can sense mites in the brood. If sensed, bees will uncap and cannibalize the pupae. If CDB is seen, then mites may be at a high level, especially within the brood. CDB can indicate progressed mite damage, so continue to monitor and assess colony health.

Deformed Wing Virus (DWV)

Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) represents the next stage of varroosis progression. Bees with DWV are kicked out of the colony so if bees with DWV are seen than Varroa has become an issue. DWV does not signify un-manageable mite levels for the colony, but it is a more progressed sign of mite damage.

The bottom right corner contains a cell with chewed down brood (CDB). Bees begin chewing brood when they sense mites within the cell, so this can indicate larger mite issues. Photo by Rob Snyder

This bee has deformed wing virus, a debilitating virus than can easily deplete a colony. Oftentimes, bees with the virus are removed from the colony. So if bees with Deformed Wing Virus are seen, than this can indicate larger issues. Photo by Rob Snyder

Symptoms

Spotty brood and Varroa present on adult

Mites may be present on brood

Mites seen on open brood cells

Small population size

No odor present, just sunken brood

Varroa Mite Syndrome (VMS) is the most progressed sign of mite damage. If VMS mite is seen, than the damage is done. These colonies will likely collapse, and there is nothing a beekeeper can really do. At this stage, the colony has already dwindled and deteriorated. Photo by Rob Snyder

Varroa Mite Syndrome (VMS)

A pathogen has not been identified for this diseased, however mites are always present when this disease is seen. This brood symptom looks similar to other brood diseases except the larvae do not rope like foulbrood. Larvae do appear sunken to the side of the cell. If Varroa Mite Syndrome is observed, then colony has likely dwindled and deteriorated. Varroa Mite Syndrome is the most progressed sign of mite damage, and truly at a stage of no return. Even if low phoretic mites are seen, Varroa mite syndrome often means an end to your colony, even if treatment is applied.



Summary

All beekeepers should consistently monitor mites throughout the year. Even if mite levels are low at one point, it does not mean they will stay low. Mite levels can easily spike, so always be aware and monitor and re-monitor. Beekeepers should learn how to monitor and visually inspect for mites. By doing so, varroa mites can effectively be managed. Varroa mites are the most challenging issue beekeepers face, so make sure you know where your colonies stand. If you don’t, then you risk losing your colonies.

https://beeinformed.org/2018/09/26/the-signs-of-mite-damage-how-to-identify-progressed-varroosis/

(Note: Thank you to Jaime E. Garza, Apiary/Agricultural Standards Inspector, Department of Agriculture, Weights & Measures, County of San Diego for the link and his quote, “With the lack of floral resources this year, Varroa mites may put more stress on your colonies. Hopefully the information will help give you a better idea of how to look for signs of Varroa mite infestations and encourage you to monitor and control them if you are currently not doing so.”)

Honey Bee Colony Losses 2017-2018: Preliminary Results

Written by The Bee Informed Partnership Team   May 23, 2018

Note: This is a preliminary analysis. Sample sizes and estimates are likely to change. A more detailed final report is being prepared for publication in a peer-reviewed journal at a later date.

Selina Bruckner1, Nathalie Steinhauer2, Karen Rennich2, S. Dan Aurell3, Dewey M. Caron4, James D. Ellis5, Anne Marie Fauvel2, Kelly Kulhanek2, Kristen  C. Nelson6, 7, Juliana Rangel3, Robyn Rose8,: Ramesh Sagili4, Garett P. Slater9, Robert Snyder10, Christopher A. Thoms6, James T. Wilkes11, Michael E. Wilson12, Dennis vanEngelsdorp2, Geoffrey R. Williams1

1Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA
2Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA
3Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA
4Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA
5Department of Entomology & Nematology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA
6Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, USA
7Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, USA
8Plant Protection & Quarantine, USDA APHIS, Riverdale, MD, USA
9Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, USA
10Northern California Technology Transfer Team, Bee Informed Partnership, Oroville, CA, USA
11Department of Computer Science, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, USA
12Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA

Corresponding Authors: dvane@umd.edu (DvE) & williams@auburn.edu (GRW)

The Bee Informed Partnership (http://beeinformed.org) recently conducted the twelfth annual survey of managed honey bee colony losses in the United States. This year, 4,794 beekeepers collectively managing 175,923 colonies in October 2017 provided validated survey responses. This represents 6.6% of the estimated 2.67 million managed honey-producing colonies in the nation (USDA, 2018).

During the 2017-2018 winter (1 October 2017 – 1 April 2018), an estimated 30.7% of managed colonies in the United States were lost (Fig. 1). This represents an increase of 9.5 percentage points over that of the previous year, and an increase of 2.8 percentage points over that of the 10-year average total winter colony loss rate of 27.9%.

Similar to previous years, backyard beekeepers lost more colonies in winter (46.3%) compared to those lost by sideline (38.0%) and commercial (26.4%) beekeepers. Backyard, sideline, and commercial beekeepers are defined as those managing 50 or fewer colonies, 51 – 500 colonies, and 501 or more colonies, respectively.

Interestingly, the self-reported ‘level of acceptable winter colony loss’ increased from 18.7% last year to 20.6% this year. Sixty-nine percent of responding beekeepers lost more of their colonies than deemed to be acceptable.

During the summer 2017 season (1 April 2017– 1 October 2017), an estimated 17.1% of managed colonies were lost in the U.S. This level is on par with summer colony loss estimates of 18.2% that were reported the previous year, and lower than the 20.9% average experienced by beekeepers since 2010-2011, when summer losses were first recorded by the Bee Informed Partnership.

For the entire survey period (1 April 2017 – 1 April 2018), beekeepers in the U.S. lost an estimated 40.1% of their managed honey bee colonies. This is 2.7 percentage points greater than the average annual rate of loss experienced by beekeepers since 2010-2011. Fig 1. Total winter colony loss rate in the United States across years of the Bee Informed Partnership’s National Honey Bee Colony Loss Survey (yellow bars; 1 October – 1 April)1. Total annual loss estimates (orange bars) include total winter and summer (1 April – 1 October) losses; the latter has been estimated since 2010-2011 only. The acceptable winter loss rate (grey bars) is the average percentage of acceptable winter colony loss declared by the survey participants in each year of the survey.

1 Previous survey results estimated total winter colony loss values of 21% in the winter of 2016-17, 27% in 2015-16, 22% in 2014-15, 24% in 2013-14, 30% in 2012-13, 22% in 2011-12, 30% in 2010-11, 32% in 2009-10, 29% in 2008-09, 36% in 2007-08, and 32% in 2006-07 (see reference list).

References

Kulhanek, K; Steinhauer, N; Rennich, K; Caron, DM; Sagili, RR; Pettis, JS; Ellis, JD; Wilson, ME; Wilkes, JT; Tarpy, DR; Rose, R; Lee, K; Rangel, J; vanEngelsdorp, D (2017) A national survey of managed honey bee 2015-2016 annual colony losses in the USA. Journal of Apicultural Research 56: 328-340.

Lee, KV; Steinhauer, N; Rennich, K; Wilson, ME; Tarpy, DR; Caron, DM; Rose, R; Delaplane, KS; Baylis, K; Lengerich, EJ; Pettis, J; Skinner, JA; Wilkes, JT; Sagili, R; vanEngelsdorp, D; for the Bee Informed Partnership (2015) A national survey of managed honey bee 2013–2014 annual colony losses in the USA. Apidologie 46: 292-305.

Seitz, N; Traynor, KS; Steinhauer, N; Rennich, K; Wilson, ME; Ellis, JD; Rose, R; Tarpy, DR; Sagili, RR; Caron, DM; Delaplane, KS; Rangel, J; Lee, K; Baylis, K; Wilkes, JT; Skinner, JA; Pettis, JS; vanEngelsdorp, D (2016) A national survey of managed honey bee 2014-2015 annual colony losses in the USA. Journal of Apicultural Research 54: 292-304.

Spleen, AM; Lengerich, EJ; Rennich, K; Caron, D; Rose, R; Pettis, JS; Henson, M; Wilkes, JT; Wilson, M; Stitzinger, J; Lee, K; Andree, M; Snyder, R; vanEngelsdorp, D (2013) A national survey of managed honey bee 2011-12 winter colony losses in the United States: results from the Bee Informed Partnership. Journal of Apicultural Research 52: 44-53.

Steinhauer, N; Rennich, K; Caron, DM; Ellis, JD; Koenig, P; Kulhanek, K; Klepps, J; Lee, K; Milbrath, M; Range; J; Rose, R; Sagili, RR; Sallmann, B; Skinner, J; Snyder, R; Topitzhofer, E; Wilkes, JT; Wilson, ME; Williams, GR; Wyns, D; vanEngelsdorp, D (2017) Honey Bee Colony Losses 2016-2017. Preliminary Results. https://beeinformed.org/results/colony-loss-2016-2017-preliminary-results/ (Accessed 20 May 2019).

Steinhauer, NA; Rennich, K; Wilson, ME; Caron, DM; Lengerich, EJ; Pettis, JS; Rose, R; Skinner, JA; Tarpy, DR; Wilkes, JT; vanEngelsdorp, D (2014) A national survey of managed honey bee 2012-2013 annual colony losses in the USA: results from the Bee Informed Partnership. Journal of Apicultural Research 53: 1- 18.

USDA (2018) National Agricultural Statistics Service – Honey Report. http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/MannUsda/viewDocumentInfo.do?documentID=1191 (Accessed May 16, 2018).

vanEngelsdorp, D; Caron, D; Hayes, J; Underwood, R; Henson, M; Rennich, K; Spleen, A; Andree, M; Snyder, R; Lee, K; Roccasecca, K; Wilson, M; Wilkes, J; Lengerich, E; Pettis, J (2012) A national survey of managed honey bee 2010-11 winter colony losses in the USA: results from the Bee Informed Partnership. Journal of Apicultural Research 51: 115-124.

vanEngelsdorp, D; Hayes, J; Underwood, RM; Caron, D; Pettis, J (2011) A survey of managed honey bee colony losses in the USA, fall 2009 to winter 2010. Journal of Apicultural Research 50: 1-10.

vanEngelsdorp, D; Hayes, J; Underwood, RM; Pettis, J (2008) A Survey of Honey Bee Colony Losses in the U.S., Fall 2007 to Spring 2008. PLoS ONE 3: e4071.

vanEngelsdorp, D; Hayes, J; Underwood, RM; Pettis, JS (2010) A survey of honey bee colony losses in the United States, fall 2008 to spring 2009. Journal of Apicultural Research 49: 7-14.

vanEngelsdorp, D; Underwood, R; Caron, D; Hayes, J (2007) An estimate of managed colony losses in the winter of 2006-2007: A report commissioned by the apiary inspectors of America. American Bee Journal 147: 599-603.

'Varroa Destructor Virus-1: It’s Here…'

By Karen Rennich  October 10, 2017

One of the best things about working in research is that it never fails to surprise – for good or for bad. And occasionally, it is not until much later that the surprise comes. In this case, the “surprise” arrived in the form of another Varroa-vectored, RNA virus, Varroa Destructor Virus-1, or VDV1.

Our University of Maryland lab has been leading the APHIS National Honey Bee Pest and Pathogen survey since 2010. During those years, we have processed thousands of samples from across most states for nosema spore load, Varroa load, pesticides, and viruses with the primary goal to survey whether exotics, not known to be in the US, are here or not. Secondarily, but almost as importantly, we also use the survey results to establish a nationwide honey bee health baseline. It cannot be overstated how important that baseline is, nor how vital archiving all of those samples are. In the case of viral samples, they are archived in a large -80C freezer at the USDA-ARS Beltsville Lab just down the road from us.

Dr. Eugene Ryabov, working at USDA-ARS with Dr. Jay Evans, decided to take a look into our archive freezer with the intent of re-processing those archived samples for VDV1. And we are glad that he did.  After doing a sweep of 2016 samples, he found VDV1 in >64% of all samples, making it just less prevalent and second only to Deformed Wing Virus (currently found in ~90% of all colonies). Reaching further back into that freezer, Dr. Ryabov found that only 2 colonies were positive from our 2010 survey samples – 1 in Indiana and 1 in Pennsylvania, and that temporal snapshot [below] shows the spread of this virus in just 6 years.

 

VDV1 is a species of RNA viruses under the genus iflavirus. Other iflaviruses include Sacbrood virus, Slow Bee Paralysis virus and its closest relative, Deformed Wing virus. Because we have methodically stored all historic samples, it will be possible, looking at the variants of this virus in the US and the world, to possibly help resolve how and when this virus arrived on our shores.  It is important to note that this virus is also present in Hawaii (the Big Island) so it has already migrated beyond the lower 48 states.

In addition to field samples, the APHIS National Survey also asks beekeepers to report colony loss numbers for the 3 months prior to being sampled. Using those losses, it may be possible to correlate those losses now with VDV1 infections and/or the levels of the virus present. This finding, and the further research it demands, provides a unique window into the forensics of this infection.

Additional information about this virus, the details used to screen for it and the possible risks to US honey bee colonies will be published in “Ryabov, E.V., Childers, A.K., Chen, Y., Madella, S., Nessa, A., vanEngelsdorp, D., Evans, J.D. (2017) Recent spread of Varroa destructor virus-1, a honey bee pathogen, in the United States. (Submitted)”.

The notice below was sent to all members of the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) and American Association of Professional Apiculturists (AAPA) on October 2nd.

Presence of Varroa destructor virus in the U.S.

Using RNA sequencing methods, the honey bee virus Varroa destructor virus-1 (VDV1, also known as Deformed wing virus strain B) was discovered in US honey bee samples by Dr. Eugene Ryabov, while working in the USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory (BRL) under the supervision of Drs. Jay Evans and Judy Chen. With guidance from the Bee Informed Partnership (University of Maryland, Dr. Dennis vanEngelsdorp) and USDA-APHIS (Dr. Robyn Rose), the BRL screened an extensive set of research samples along with U.S. bee samples collected during the USDA-APHIS National Honey Bee Disease survey.  This screening confirmed that VDV was widespread in the US in 2016 and far less common in 2010. Thanks to stored samples from the National Honey Bee Disease survey, it will now be possible to track the spread of this virus in the US and guide work for virus control in order to assure the good health of honey bees and maintain them as the primary pollinator of agricultural crops. There is no indication that VDV1 is significantly more virulent than DWV in US honey bees, and the advice to reduce levels of Varroa mites remains the same for both viruses. We are seeking to inform colleagues of this discovery primarily since VDV1 is not detectable using current genetic markers for DWV, and therefore laboratory methods will need to be tailored to detect this virus. Those involved with the National Honey Bee Disease Survey will notice that VDV1 is now a reported agent in this survey.

https://beeinformed.org/2017/10/10/varroa-destructor-virus-1-its-here/

How To Annotate Your BIP Hive Scale Data

   By John Engelsma   September 22, 2017

Hopefully by now you all have your mites under control and are well on your way in preparing your hives for winter!  If you are operating a hive scale and forwarding your data to the Bee Informed Partnership, as your beekeeping season begins to wind down and you have more time to spare, we’d strongly encourage you to login to the BIP hive scale portal and annotate your scale data.

While many of the “BIP Ready” scales available to beekeepers today collect data well beyond hive weight, the weight of you colony is perhaps the most informative in understanding what is going on in the colony.  Technically, it is not the weight so much but the change in weight over time that provides us with a better understanding of the condition of the colony.  The weight of the colony is often impacted by factors that are external to the activities of the bees themselves.  For example, you the beekeeper, may add or remove equipment, harvest honey, or feed your bees.  These activities of course impact the weight of the colony.  The weather may also effect the weight of the colony.  For example, in a northern climate a major snow storm might result in a significant amount of snow accumulating on the hive’s cover, and subsequently melting over several days.

To help the Bee Informed Partnership better understand / interpret the scale data you send us, it is very important that you login to the portal and annotate these types of events that may impact the weight of your colony.  While its better to annotate your data regularly over time, even if you haven’t done this at all in the past, you should be able to tag the most important events for the entire beekeeping season within a few minutes or less.  Actually, all of the data (past seasons as well!) is available to you on the portal, so if you tweak the date range on your hive scale graph you can also retrieve and annotate previous seasons as well.

To encourage you to complete this important task soon, we’ve put together a short video tutorial (only 4.5 minutes!) which you’ll find embedded below.  Please watch the video and then help improve the quality of the scale data you send us by making sure you annotate our scale data as soon as possible.

https://beeinformed.org/2017/09/22/how-to-annotate-your-bip-hive-scale-data/

Adding Your Hive Scale to the BIP Public Map

Bee Informed Partnership   By Jonathan Engelsma  July 27, 2017

Congratulations!  You’ve purchased a shiny new hive scale from one of Bee Informed Partnerships “BIP Ready” hive scale vendors, and opted to share your scale data with BIP for the good of beekind and your fellow beekeepers on the BIP public map.   Our users often ask how they can get their scale on the map, so consider this the definitive guide in getting your scale on the BIP map!

It is possible that we are being a little presumptive here.  Perhaps you’ve got a BIP Ready scale setup in your apiary, and you’re scratching your head wondering why you would want your scale data on the public BIP map?  There are several reasons why you should consider placing your scale on the public BIP map.

Serve as a real-time sentinel apiary to other local beekeepers.  Your data can help other nearby beekeepers (who may not have a scale) understand the current level of nectar flow or the lack thereof.  Having a good understanding of the timing of local nectar flows is an important component in colony management.   

Provide historical / comparative data to the beekeeping community. Beekeepers can consult the public map to better understand nectar flows historically and also compare more distant scales to those in their own areas.  

Help grow community / awareness around honey bees.  Nowadays, data is cool and people love it. By placing your scale on the public BIP map you are helping us create a fascinating public resource that engages the general public and helps the bees and beekeeping.   Sharing your hive scale data on the public map is the beekeeping equivalent of adding a personal weather station to the wunderground.com website.  A personal weather station by itself is useful to its owner, but the data generated by many weather stations provides a very useful resource to the broader public.  

Assuming at this point you are convinced, sharing your scale on the BIP public map can be accomplished in three simple steps.  (Note that at this point we’ve assumed you’ve followed the instructions provided to you by your scale vendor to install your scale, and successfully opted to forward your scale data to BIP.)  

Step 1: Login into your account on http://hivescales.beeinformed.org and click on the Hives option on the navigation bar on the left.  Click on the hive you would like to publicly share to go to the hive detail screen.

Step 2: In order to place your hive on the public map, you need to first record its location.  To accomplish this, click on the button labeled “Settings” on the hive detail screen.  On the right side of the hive settings screen, you will see an embedded Google map.  You can click to add a marker or if there is already a marker drag it to your desired location.  You can pan the map or enter an address in the map’s search bar to quickly zoom to the desired location.  Once the marker is in the desired location simply click on the button labeled “Update Hive”.  You will be returned to the hive detail screen once the settings are updated.

Step 3: Click on the button labeled “Share” on the upper right hand side of the hive detail screen. There are two share options on this screen.  You want to enable Share Option #2 (public link share option) by simply clicking on the button labeled “Share” under this option.  Note that if this share option is already enabled, instead of a button labeled “Share” you will simply see a public link (URL) displayed.  

At this point you’ve shared your hive’s scale data publicly.  BIP staff will manually review your data and add it to the public map.  Note that this last step is completed by BIP, so it may be 4-5 days before your scale actually appears on the public map.  In the meantime, the web link that is displayed can be copy/pasted into emails to friends / colleagues or embedded on your own web pages as it is publicly accessible.

We’ve prepared a instructional video demonstrating the above procedure as well as some additional data sharing features supported by the BIP Hive Scale portal and posted it on YouTube.  You can click on the embedded video below to view it.


One last potential concern we would like to address – what if your hive scale is in a remote area and you don’t want to draw attention to your apiary’s exact location?  This is an understandable concern especially for larger commercial beekeepers who keep bees in more remote yards.  In this case, instead of marking the exact location in Step 2 above, place it a few miles away, or in the center of the zipcode area.  That is close enough to still provide value as a sentinel area and avoids divulging the exact location of the apiary.

That’s all there is to it!  Happy hive scale data sharing!  If you have comments or questions on any of the above, be sure to follow up below by posting a comment at:
https://beeinformed.org/2017/07/27/adding-your-hive-scale-to-the-bip-public-map/

 

Honey Bee Health Coalition Supports Honey Bee Health During Pollinator Week

Honey Bee Health Coalition Supports Honey Bee Health During Pollinator Week

June 19 - 25, 2017

Supporting honey bee health has never been as important as it is today. The annual Bee Informed Partnership survey has shown that in 2016, surveyed beekeepers lost a third of their bees. With agriculture dependent on honey bees and other native pollinators, the Honey Bee Health Coalition is proud to be developing collaborative, multi-factor solutions to the challenges bees face.
 
Three years since its launch, the Coalition is still going strong.
 
With Pollinator Week just around the corner, the Coalition continues to draw inspiration from its namesake and work together to find collective and collaborative strategies to support honey bee health.

Pollinator Week
Honey bees and pollinators work throughout the year to support the food and products we count on every day. Pollinator Week is an opportunity to highlight everything honey bees make possible — including billions of dollars in North American agriculture.

Coalition members are doing their parts to highlight not only the challenges bees face, but also the opportunities for everyday people to support honey bee health. For example, Coalition members will be holding and participating in a series of events, including:

The St. Louis Zoo will host its 9th Annual Pollinator Dinner on Tuesday, June 20, starting at 6 p.m. CT. The reservation-only event is title "Native Foods, Native Peoples and Native Pollinators" and highlights the culinary and cultural history of Native Americans and the critical supporting role native pollinators play.

The Levin Family Foundation will celebrate Wright-Patterson Air Force Base being designated as a Bee City USA on Wednesday, June 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET. The Pollinator Expo will highlight local organizations' efforts to protect pollinators.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture will host a Pollinator Stakeholder Day to present the Kentucky Pollinator Protection Plan to Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles.

Representatives from the Honey Bee Health Coalition and the Conservation Technology Information Center will discuss the Bee Integrated Demonstration Project in a June 21webinar from noon to 1 p.m. ET.

But that's not all: Coalition members and allies are holding a wide variety of events across the nation. To learn more about additional Pollinator Week activities, including those in your backyard, visit the Pollinator Partnership’s interactive map.

UNITED STATES
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Office of the Secretary
Washington, D.C. 20250

NATIONAL POLLINATOR WEEK

June 19 - 25, 2017

By the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States of America
 
A PROCLAMATION

WHEREAS pollinator species such as honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies are essential partners of farmers and ranchers in producing food and are vital to keeping items such as fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets; and
 
WHEREAS healthy pollinator populations critical to the continued economic well-being of agricultural producers, of rural America, and of the U.S. economy; and
 
WHEREAS pollinator losses over the past few decades require immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect environmental health; and

WHEREAS it is critically important to encourage the protection of pollinators; increase the quality and amount of pollinator habitat and forage; reverse pollinator losses; and help restore pollinator populations to healthy levels;

NOW, THEREFORE, in recognition of the vital significance of protecting pollinator health, I, Sonny Perdue, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, do hereby proclaim June 19 - 25, 2017, as National Pollinator Week. I call upon the people of the United States to join me in celebrating the significance of pollinators with appropriate observances and activities
.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this 24th day of May 2017, the two-hundred forty-first year of the Independence of the United States of America.

SONNY PERDUE
Secretary

Nation's Beekeepers Lost 33 Percent of Bees in 2016-17

May 26, 2017

Nation's Beekeepers Lost
33 Percent of Bees in 2016-17


Annual losses improved over last year;
winter losses lowest in survey history

Beekeepers across the United States lost 33 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2016 to April 2017, according to the latest preliminary results of an annual nationwide survey. Rates of both winter loss and summer loss--and consequently, total annual losses--improved compared with last year.

Total annual losses were the lowest since 2011-12, when the survey recorded less than 29 percent of colonies lost throughout the year. Winter losses were the lowest recorded since the survey began in 2006-07.

The survey, which asks both commercial and small-scale beekeepers to track the survival rates of their honey bee colonies, is conducted each year by the nonprofit Bee Informed Partnership in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America. Survey results for this year and all previous years are publicly available on the Bee Informed website.

"While it is encouraging that losses are lower than in the past, I would stop short of calling this 'good' news," said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland and project director for the Bee Informed Partnership. "Colony loss of more than 30 percent over the entire year is high. It's hard to imagine any other agricultural sector being able to stay in business with such consistently high losses."

Beekeepers who responded to the survey lost a total of 33.2 percent of their colonies over the course of the year. This marks a decrease of 7.3 percentage points over the previous study year (2015-16), when loss rates were found to be 40.5 percent. Winter loss rates decreased from 26.9 percent in the previous winter to 21.1 percent this past winter, while summer loss rates decreased from 23.6 percent to 18.1 percent.

The researchers noted that many factors are contributing to colony losses, with parasites and diseases at the top of the list. Poor nutrition and pesticide exposure are also taking a toll, especially among commercial beekeepers. These stressors are likely to synergize with each other to compound the problem, the researchers said.

"This is a complex problem," said Kelly Kulhanek, a graduate student in the UMD Department of Entomology who helped with the survey. "Lower losses are a great start, but it's important to remember that 33 percent is still much higher than beekeepers deem acceptable. There is still much work to do."

The number one culprit remains the varroa mite, a lethal parasite that can easily spread between colonies. Mite levels in colonies are of particular concern in late summer, when bees are rearing longer-lived winter bees.

In the fall months of 2016, mite levels across the country were noticeably lower in most beekeeping operations compared with past years, according to the researchers. This is likely due to increased vigilance on the part of beekeepers, a greater availability of mite control products and environmental conditions that favored the use of timely and effective mite control measures. For example, some mite control products contain essential oils that break down at high temperatures, but many parts of the country experienced relatively mild temperatures in the spring and early summer of 2016.

This is the 11th year of the winter loss survey, and the seventh year to include summer and annual losses. More than 4,900 beekeepers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia responded to this year's survey. All told, these beekeepers manage about 13 percent of the nation's estimated 2.78 million honey bee colonies.

The survey is part of a larger research effort to understand why honey bee colonies are in such poor health, and what can be done to manage the situation. Some crops, such as almonds, depend entirely on honey bees for pollination. Honey bees pollinate an estimated $15 billion worth of crops in the U.S. annually.

"Bees are good indicators of the health of the landscape as a whole," said Nathalie Steinhauer, a graduate student in the UMD Department of Entomology who leads the data collection efforts for the annual survey. "Honey bees are strongly affected by the quality of their environment, including flower diversity, contaminants and pests. To keep healthy bees, you need a good environment and you need your neighbors to keep healthy bees. Honey bee health is a community matter."


This summary chart shows the results of an 11-year annual survey that tracks honey bee
colony losses in the United States, spanning 2006-2017. Credit: University of Maryland/BeeInformed Partnership

Preliminary: 2016-2017 State Total and Average Losses

Bee Informed Partnership   Published May 26, 2017

The Bee Informed Partnership has released preliminary state losses for 2016-2017. If there are fewer than 5 respondents in a state, we will not release those numbers to preserve confidentiality. These tables represent Annual loss, Winter Loss and Summer Loss. We also report Total Loss and Average Loss.

For further details regarding the difference between Total and Average loss, please read on. The Bee Informed Partnership traditionally reports total loss, or a weighted loss rate. Total loss treats each colony the same or more simply stated, “One colony one vote.” This means that the total loss rate is more representative of commercial beekeeper loss as they manage a large majority of the colonies in the survey. The average loss rate, which we no longer report in our preliminary summary, is an unweighted rate where we calculate the loss rate for each responding beekeeper and average these rates. So average loss, more simply stated is, “One beekeeper, one vote.” As there are many more backyard beekeepers than commercial beekeepers, average loss rates are more influenced by these smaller beekeepers.

The Figure provide a heat map of Annual Total losses by state and in the tables below, N represents the number of beekeepers from that state answering those survey questions.

2016-2017 Total Annual Loss by State

2016-2017 Annual Loss by State or Territory:
https://beeinformed.org/2017/05/26/preliminary-2016-2017-state-total-and-average-losses/

2016 Sentinel Apiary Program Results

Bee Informed Partnership    By Kelly Kulhanek    March 13 2017

With the help of beekeepers all over the country, we have successfully completed our second year of the Sentinel Apiary Program! In 2016, 28 beekeepers from 16 states worked with us. Together we:


Sampled and monitored the health of 289 colonies

Processed 1,229 samples for Varroa and Nosema

Shared data from 32 hive scales

Collaborated with our beekeeping neighbors to improve colony health in our regions

After compiling over six months of Varroa, Nosema, and colony inspection data, we are excited to share our results (see the complete 2016 Summary Report Here). Below you can compare our Sentinel Apiary Participant’s average monthly Varroa levels to the APHIS National Honey Bee Survey’s national monthly average. We were thrilled to see that Sentinel Participants had significantly lower mites/100 bees in the key winter prep months of September and October; however, more work needs to be done as those samples were still over threshold.

 

Last year we also developed a new public Sentinel Apiary Varroaheat map. This is the first consolidation of Varroanumbers at the county level! Thanks to Sentinel Apiary Participants, we are now able to keep careful watch over our region, state, and some counties to be prepared for any spikes in Varroa infestations. The more counties we have participate, the more useful this map will be for beekeepers across the nation!

Sentinel Apiaries also include hive scale data collection, and last year we grew to have more scales on the BIP scale map than ever before. Hive scale data can help alert beekeepers when to add or remove supers, when to feed, or if a colony has potentially swarmed. Data collected by Sentinel Apiaries and shared on our public map can thus help not only Sentinel Participants, but all beekeepers in the surrounding region.

Our live Hive Scale Map can be viewed HERE.

Overview of the Sentinel Apiary Program

Sentinel Apiaries monitor honey bee health in real-time using hive scales to track colony weight gain or loss, and monthly disease assessments of Varroa and Nosema loads. The scale data is automatically transmitted to our servers and the patterns of nectar flow mapped.

The goal is to collect enough information so that Sentinel Apiaries become an early warning system to alert beekeepers of potential problems due to increases in Varroa/Nosema or changes in colony weight. One Sentinel Apiary in a county can thus empower all beekeepers in that area to take early action to protect their colonies.

This is a great opportunity for individual beekeepers and beekeeping organizations alike! As an individual you will gather in-depth knowledge about the health or your colonies and apiary. As an organization, sampling Sentinel Hives offers a unique opportunity to train new beekeepers and to have interactive field days. You will be able to make more informed management decisions, as well as share information with beekeepers in your region to encourage collaborative colony monitoring and management.

This year, we are pleased to offer two new cooperating hive scale vendors, making the Program more affordable than ever! Plus, on a limited first-come first-serve basis, we are able to offer $300 subsidy towards the purchase of a scale for the Program.

Participate in the Sentinel Apiary Project

We are now accepting applications for the 2017 Sentinel Apiary Program. With data collected from Disease Load Monitoring and a Hive Scale, you will gain information you need to take your beekeeping to the next level.

If you are a beekeeping association or an individual beekeeper who is interested in joining our Sentinel Apiary Program, please click the “Sign Up” button below and we will contact you to provide more details about the Sentinel Hives.

https://beeinformed.org/2017/03/13/2016-sentinel-apiary-program-results/

APHIS National Honey Bee Survey Message

APHIS National Honey Bee Survey     October 31, 2016

Dear Los Angeles County Beekeeper Association,

My name is Shayne Madella and I am the project coordinator for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) National Honey Bee Disease Survey. We are planning to take samples in the Southern California region in late November/early December and we are looking for new beekeeper participants in the region who are willing to volunteer to have samples taken. The APHIS NHBS is a national survey of honey bee pests and diseases that has been funded annually since 2009 by the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and conducted in collaboration with the University of Maryland, USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and State Apiary Specialists. This national survey is being conducted in an attempt to document which bee diseases, parasites, or pests of honey bees are present and/or likely absent in the U.S. Specifically, this survey will attempt to verify the absence of the parasitic mite Tropilaelaps and other exotic threats to honey bee populations (e.g., Apis cerana and slow bee paralysis virus). To maximize the information gained from this survey effort, collected samples will be analyzed for other honey bee diseases and parasites known to be present in the U.S.

Additionally, funding is provided for this survey year for states to collect ~3 grams of pollen from brood frames that will be tested for >170 known pesticides. This pollen will be collected from the same composite 8 colonies undergoing the standard survey sampling and sent to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) in Gastonia, NC for analysis. Each state is asked to send in composite samples of pollen from 10 of the 24 apiaries this year.

This cross-country survey continues to be the most comprehensive honey bee pest and health survey to date, and provides essential disease and pest load base line information. This information will help place current and future epidemiological studies in context and thus may indirectly help investigations of emerging conditions. The University of Maryland (UMD) is coordinating this survey in collaboration with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Bee Research Lab (BRL) and APHIS.

The only requirement for the beekeeper is that they must have at least ten colonies in their apiary. Eight colonies will be sampled with an extra two in reserve if some colonies are not suitable for sampling. The beekeeper does not need to be on the property during sample besides letting the researchers into the apiary but we do enjoy the company.

For further information on the survey please consult the APHIS webpage on the survey below:

https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/planthealth/plant-pest-and-disease-programs/pests-and-diseases/non-regulated/honey-bees/!ut/p/z1/04_iUlDg4tKPAFJABpSA0fpReYllmemJJZn5eYk5-hH6kVFm8X6Gzu4GFiaGPu6uLoYGjh6Wnt4e5mYGwa6m-l76UfgVFGQHKgIAB3fNrQ!!/

If you have any questions on this please contact me at my provided email address or at my cell phone number:

(240) 437-2874

Thank you,

Shayne Madella Faculty Research Assistant Bee Informed Partnership Department of Entomology 4112 Plant Science Building University of Maryland College Park, MD 20742 (240) 437-2874

Bee Informed Partnership - BIP - Leads to Healthy Hives

California Farm Bureau Federation    By Christine Souza    February 26, 2016

Bee Informed Partnership – BIP – Leads to Healthy Hives - BUZZ

Bee Informed Partnership crop protection agents Robert Snyder and Ben Sallmann, above, collect samples of bees from colonies at an almond orchard in Dixon. Once bees are tested, the results can help beekeepers make informed decisions about treatment of the hives and lead to improved bee genetics.

Photo/Christine Souza

Commercial beekeepers, who have moved honey bees into California almond orchards for pollination, say they remain concerned about whether they will be able to continue to supply growers with enough healthy bees to meet the future needs of pollination and remain profitable.

Impacts including drought-related reductions in forage, added mite and disease pressures, and unintended exposure to crop-protection materials have contributed to bee losses reported throughout the nation. To combat these challenges, beekeepers have emphasized the need for improved research, including work being conducted in orchards this winter by the Bee Informed Partnership, a collaboration by leading research laboratories and universities to better understand honey bee health.

At the start of pollination season, commercial beekeeper and bee breeder Jonathan Hofland of Dixon received a visit from the Bee Informed Partnership Tech Transfer Team, represented by field agents Robert Snyder and Ben Sallmann. The duo, based at the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Butte County, visits a select group of commercial beekeepers to sample colonies, looking for pests and diseases and to assist in stock selection.

“It’s about the long-term and good genetics in our bee supply,” Hofland said. “We’re queen breeders, so the tech team is an impartial data collector; they analyze our bees and can tell us if they see problems. Having the bees tested dramatically increases overall survival.”

Hofland added that the tech team looks for flaws in hives that he is selecting for future breeding, which helps him find the best breeding stock and improves his bees’ genetic line.

“What they do is an indirect connection to almonds,” he said, “but many queen breeders work with the tech team and breed queens for others that bring bees into the almonds.”

Sallman said the team looks at what factors might be killing a hive, such as whether varroa mites are transmitting viruses that can be more harmful than damage caused by the mites themselves. Drought and resulting lack of forage worsens the mite situation, he said, because bee colonies become weaker and the mites “tend to get a better foothold when colonies are struggling in other ways.”

“A lot of what we do is sampling for the varroa mite. It’s the biggest problem that the beekeepers are facing and is a constant battle,” Sallmann said. “Due to the density of bees, everything is packed so close together that there’s a lot of reinfestation. It’s like playing Whac-A-Mole—one beekeeper treats over here and then the other beekeeper doesn’t and mites are reproducing, then the colonies start to decline and the mites take over.”

Through the Bee Informed Partnership, data collected by tech teams across the country provide beekeepers with knowledge to make timely management decisions to maintain healthy colonies. Samples collected by the tech teams are sent to the bee diagnostic team at the University of Maryland. Reports provide general information about how bees are faring in various parts of the country, while ensuring individual beekeeper information remains confidential.

The almond bloom, which typically occurs from mid-February to mid-March, came a little earlier than usual this year due to warm February temperatures, though recent rains caused some growers to consider fungicide applications.

“It’s been kind of wet and rainy, so hopefully the weather will stabilize so that pollination can actually happen, since bees can’t forage when it is raining. Hopefully, we’ll have enough bees to pollinate everything,” UC Davis extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño said.

An estimated 1.8 million honeybee colonies are needed to pollinate the state’s growing almond crop, and Niño said early indications are that there might be fewer colonies available this season.

“Beekeepers are saying that there are higher bee losses than they were expecting and I’ve been hearing more about higher varroa mite loads,” Niño said. “Last year, the season started quite early so that could have given the mites extra time to produce one or two additional generations. Plus, beekeepers have to treat more often for mites, which gets me thinking about resistance development.”

The season may have started with a slight increase in the number of hives, yet once beekeepers lose bees they must split one hive into two, which requires them to “put more into the hives, whether it is feeding them or treating them, so there are increased inputs into the hive to keep it alive,” Niño said.

“If you lose 40 percent of your bees, you have to make up for those by splitting the remaining hives,” she said. “(When) you take a frame of brood out of a hive to split the hive, that automatically costs you about two frames of honey that you won’t make from that colony now because it has less of a workforce. You are losing some of that honey crop.”

Gordon Wardell, bee biologist for Paramount Farming Co., said some beekeepers are reporting bee losses between 40 percent and 60 percent. In general, beekeepers say rental prices have risen this year to the $170-185 range, or $10-15 more than rental prices seen last year.

Wardell serves as board chairman for Project Apis m., a nonprofit organization dedicated to honey bee research, and called efforts to bring nearly 2 million pollination-strength colonies into California for the almond bloom “a testament to the proficiency and tenacity of our nation’s commercial beekeepers.”

In another initiative aimed at improved honey bee health, the Bayer Crop Science Division announced last week it is partnering with Project Apis m. to sponsor a multi-year, $1 million research effort with Bayer-funded research grants focused on an economic assessment of the cost of commercial beekeeping; creating best management practices for commercial beekeeping based on colony health performance; evaluating the use of “smart hive” technology to monitor bee health during commercial migratory operations; and assessing honey bee genetics.

(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at csouza@cfbf.com.)

http://goo.gl/G1lIUI

Tech Teams Evaluate Beehives for Resilience

California Farm Bureau Federation AgAlert   By Christine Souza     February 24, 2016

Commercial beekeepers, who have moved honeybees into California almond orchards for pollination, say they remain concerned about whether they will be able to continue to supply growers with enough healthy bees to meet the future needs of pollination and remain profitable.

Impacts including drought-related reductions in forage, added mite and disease pressures, and unintended exposure to crop-protection materials have contributed to bee losses reported throughout the nation. To combat these challenges, apiarists have emphasized the need for improved research, including work being conducted in orchards this winter by the Bee Informed Partnership, a collaboration by leading research laboratories and universities to better understand honeybee health.

At the start of pollination season, commercial beekeeper and bee breeder Jonathan Hofland of Dixon received a visit from the Bee Informed Partnership Tech Transfer Team, represented by field agents Robert Snyder and Ben Sallmann. The duo, based at the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Butte County, visits a select group of commercial beekeepers to sample colonies, looking for pests and diseases and to assist in stock selection.

"It's about the long-term and good genetics in our bee supply," Hofland said. "We're queen breeders, so the tech team is an impartial data collector; they analyze our bees and can tell us if they see problems. Having the bees tested dramatically increases overall survival."

Hofland added that the tech team looks for flaws in hives that he is selecting for future breeding, which helps him find the best breeding stock and improves his bees' genetic line.

"What they do is an indirect connection to almonds," he said, "but many queen breeders work with the tech team and breed queens for others that bring bees into the almonds."

Sallman said the team looks at what factors might be killing a hive, such as whether varroa mites are transmitting viruses that can be more harmful than damage caused by the mites themselves. Drought and resulting lack of forage worsens the mite situation, he said, because bee colonies become weaker and the mites "tend to get a better foothold when colonies are struggling in other ways."

"A lot of what we do is sampling for the varroa mite. It's the biggest problem that the beekeepers are facing and is a constant battle," Sallmann said. "Due to the density of bees, everything is packed so close together that there's a lot of reinfestation. It's like playing Whac-A-Mole—one beekeeper treats over here and then the other beekeeper doesn't and mites are reproducing, then the colonies start to decline and the mites take over."

Through the Bee Informed Partnership, data collected by tech teams across the country provide beekeepers with knowledge to make timely management decisions to maintain healthy colonies. Samples collected by the tech teams are sent to the bee diagnostic team at the University of Maryland. Reports provide general information about how bees are faring in various parts of the country, while ensuring individual beekeeper information remains confidential.

The almond bloom, which typically occurs from mid-February to mid-March, came a little earlier than usual this year due to warm February temperatures, though recent rains caused some growers to consider fungicide applications.

"It's been kind of wet and rainy, so hopefully the weather will stabilize so that pollination can actually happen, since bees can't forage when it is raining. Hopefully, we'll have enough bees to pollinate everything," UC Davis extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño said.

An estimated 1.8 million honeybee colonies are needed to pollinate the state's growing almond crop, and Niño said early indications are that there might be fewer colonies available this season.

"Beekeepers are saying that there are higher bee losses than they were expecting and I've been hearing more about higher varroa mite loads," Niño said. "Last year, the season started quite early so that could have given the mites extra time to produce one or two additional generations. Plus, beekeepers have to treat more often for mites, which gets me thinking about resistance development."

The season may have started with a slight increase in the number of hives, yet once beekeepers lose bees they must split one hive into two, which requires them to "put more into the hives, whether it is feeding them or treating them, so there are increased inputs into the hive to keep it alive," Niño said.

"If you lose 40 percent of bees, you have to make up for those by splitting the hives," she said. "(When) you take a frame of brood out of a hive to split the hive, that automatically costs you about two frames of honey that you won't make from that colony now because it has less of a workforce. You are losing some of that honey crop."

Gordon Wardell, bee biologist for Paramount Farming Co., said some beekeepers are reporting bee losses between 40 percent and 60 percent. In general, beekeepers say rental prices have risen this year to the $170-185 range, or $10-15 more than rental prices seen last year.

Wardell serves as board chairman for Project Apis m., a nonprofit organization dedicated to honeybee research, and called efforts to bring nearly 2 million pollination-strength colonies into California for the almond bloom "a testament to the proficiency and tenacity of our nation's commercial beekeepers."

In another initiative aimed at improved honeybee health, the Bayer Crop Science Division announced last week it is partnering with Project Apis m. to sponsor a multi-year, $1 million research effort with Bayer-funded research grants focused on an economic assessment of the cost of commercial beekeeping; creating best management practices for commercial beekeeping based on colony health performance; evaluating the use of "smart hive" technology to monitor bee health during commercial migratory operations; and assessing honeybee genetics.

(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at csouza@cfbf.com.)

http://www.agalert.com/story/?id=9362

Join the P. apium Project!

Bee Informed Partnership   By Dr. Vanessa Corby-Harris   January 12, 2016

Join the P. Apium Project! A Citizen Science Project to Test Out a New Honey Bee Probiotic

Dr. Vanessa Corby-Harris from the USDA-ARS is currently enrolling participants in a study to look at the effects of a probiotic, Parasaccharibacter apium (or P. apium) on colony health. In both lab and small-scale field studies, she sees a potential benefit of P. apium to colony health. Bees supplemented with this bacterium can survive better in the lab and are more resistant to Nosema. Supplemented hives also show a slight trend of being stronger in the spring. If you are interested in participating or know someone who might be interested, please direct yourself to the project website. Participation can be anonymous and is free of charge. It’s a win-win for bee research and beekeepers!

The P. apium Project

Dr. Vanessa Corby-Harris is a Research Physiologist with the USDA-ARS Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona. Her lab is interested in honey bee nutrition in the broadest sense, from the genetics of nutrition to the response of the hive to different foraging landscapes.

https://beeinformed.org/2016/01/12/join-the-p-apium-project-a-citizen-science-project-to-test-out-a-new-honey-bee-probiotic/

Bee Informed Partnership

On Monday, January 4, 2016, we gathered for our first meeting of the Los Angeles Beekeepers Association for 2016. During the meeting, LACBA President, Keith Roberts, read the following letter from the Bee Informed Partnership. A great way to begin the New Year! 

"December 11, 2015

Dear Los Angeles County Beekeepers,



Thank you for your kind and generous donation to the Bee Informed Partnership! We are thankful of the show of support AND to be able to work with beekeepers such as yourselves.

These funds will enable us to continue several projects and support our tech teams.

We wish you all the best now and in the New Year.

Holiday Greetings and Sincerely,
Karen Rennich
BIP, Inc."  

Queen Bee

The Bee Informed Partnership is dedicated to working with beekeepers to better understand which management practices work best. We gather survey data from thousands of beekeepers every season to understand how different management practices affect honey bee health, and we report our findings back to the industry.  See our latest findings in our Research Section

Our project is built on a coalition of researchers, advisors and stakeholders from various industries that rely on honey bees for pollination. We collaborate with both domestic and international initiatives to make the greatest impact and to work with our partners across the globe. You can learn more about our partners by visiting our Advisory Board Section.

In combination with the large annual surveys, we also work directly with beekeepers all over the country to help gather pest and disease data and validate trends in management practices we see in our surveys. You can find out more about our field efforts by going over to our Tech Team’s page in our programs section as well as by heading over to our Blog where you’ll read the latest reports from our field agents.

Bee Informed Partnership Diagnosis and treatment of Common Honey Bee Diseases Wins Bronze!

(Note: It is through the efforts of LACBA members who volunteered their time and engery at the Bee Booth for the 2015 Los Angeles County Fair that we were able to provide support to bee organizations such as the Bee Informed Partnership, Inc. Thank you!)

November Bee Lab Varroa and Nosema Results

Bee Informed Partnership   By Rachel Bozarth          December 4, 2014

Although the official start of winter does not begin for a few weeks, bitter cold air has spread across much of the northern region. The Minnesota and Oregon Tech Teams finished up their sampling at the end of October, so the honey bee samples received this month were all from the California team (where they are experiencing 60-70°F weather).

We examined 220 California samples for Varroa and 236 for Nosema. The average value for Varroawas 0.71 mites per 100 bees, and the average value for Nosema was 0.30 millions of spores per bee. Remarkably, these averages are almost exactly the same as the averages for California last month. However, our current disease levels are much lower than they were last year in November 2013.

Graph 1: A comparison of Varroa averages in November 2013 and 2014.Graph 2: A comparison of Nosema averages in November 2013 and 2014.


Graph 1: A comparison of Varroa averages in November 2013 and 2014.

Graph 2: A comparison of Nosema averages in November 2013 and 2014.

Bee Informed Partnership

BIP HiveCheck Results for Oct. 1-13, 2014

Bee Informed Partnership     October 17, 2014

Winter is upon us and beekeepers across the nation are getting ready! Based on our list of suggested questions we saw a lot of interest in winter preparation so we added a few questions to the survey to dive down into what folks were up to. Across the board, beekeepers are certainly getting ready but it seems from comments few beekeepers are actually wrapping or insulating their hives just yet. Predominantly comments showed winter preparations including using entrance reducers, mouse guards, and ...

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