How to Autopsy a Honey Bee Colony

Beverly Bees     By Anita Deeley

 Looking through a hive that died for clues.

So your hive died, now what do you do?  The first thing to do after you discover a dead hive is to autopsy a honey bee colony and look for signs of disease, varroa and anything else you think may have caused the colony’s demise.

Continue reading: https://www.beverlybees.com/how-to-autopsy-a-honey-bee-colony/

(Note: Thank you to Jaime E. Garza, Apiary/Agricultural Standards Inspector, Department of Agriculture, Weights & Measures, County of San Diego, for the link and comments: “If your bee colonies are weak or if they die off this fall/winter here is a helpful resource to help you review what could have led to the colonies demise.”)

Get Ready For The Mite-A-Thon! September 8 - 15, 2018

CATCH THE BUZZ     August 29, 2018

Spread The Word - Local Beekeeping Clubs And Associations Are Key To Making The Mite-A-Thon A Success!

GET READY FOR THE MITE-A-THON!
September 8 to 15, 2018      

The Mite-A-Thon is a tri-national effort to collect mite infestation data and to visualize Varroa infestations in honey bee colonies across North America within a one-week window.  All beekeepers can participate, creating a rich distribution of sampling sites in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.       

OBJECTIVE: 1) To raise awareness about honey bee colony Varroa infestations in North America through effective monitoring methods. 2) Management strategies will be made available for discussion within bee organizations utilizing Mite-A-Thon partner developed information and outreach materials.     

PARTICIPANTS: All beekeepers in North America are encouraged to participate.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO: 

Encourage your members to participate in September, through meetings, newsletters, emails, social media etc. 

Teach new beekeepers how to monitor for mites in August.

Help your members prepare their monitoring materials.

Support your members in making sure they are able to monitor mites effectively and report their data.

DATA COLLECTION: Varroa monitoring data will be uploaded to www.mitecheck.com.  

CONTACT: miteathon@pollinator.org or 415 362-1137

Get resources and stay up to date at www.pollinator.org/miteathon!

Thank you,

The Mite-A-Thon Partners

https://www.beeculture.com/catch-the-buzz-local-beekeeping-clubs-and-associations-are-key-to-making-the-mite-a-thon-a-success/

National Honey Bee Day 2018: Brush Up On Your Knowledge of Bee Protection

University of California - Kearney News Updates    By Stephanie Parreira    August 15, 2018

Honey bee on almond blossom. Photo by Jack Kelly Clark.Celebrate National Honey Bee Day by brushing up on your knowledge of bee protection—check out the newly revised Best Management Practices to Protect Bees from Pesticides and Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings from UC IPM. These resources will help you strike the right balance between applying pesticides to protect crops and reducing the risk of harming our most important pollinators.

The best management practices now contain important information regarding the use of adjuvants and tank mixes, preventing the movement of pesticide-contaminated dust, and adjusting chemigation practices to reduce bee exposure to pesticide-contaminated water. The Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings have also been updated to include ratings for 38 new pesticides, including insecticides (baits, mixtures, and biological active ingredients), molluscicides (for snail and slug control), and fungicides.

Most tree and row crops are finished blooming by now, but it is a good idea to learn about bee protection year-round. Visit these resources today to choose pesticides that are least toxic to bees and learn how you can help prevent bees from being harmed by pesticide applications.

http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=27973

Honeybees Finding It Harder To Eat At America's Bee Hot Spot

Phys.org    By Seth Borenstein    July 2, 2018

This June 2015 photo provided by The Ohio State University shows a bee on a flower in Southwest Minnesota. A new federal study finds that honeybees in the Northern Great Plains are having a hard time finding food as conservation land is converted to row crops. (Sarah Scott/The Ohio State University via AP) A new federal study finds bees are having a much harder time finding food in America's last honeybee refuge.

The country's hot spot for commercial beekeeping is the Northern Great Plains of the Dakotas and neighboring areas, where more than 1 million colonies spend their summer feasting on pollen and nectar from wildflowers and other plants.

Clint Otto of the U.S. Geological Survey calculates that from 2006 to 2016, more than half the conservation land within a mile of bee colonies was converted into agriculture, usually row crops like soybeans and corn. Those don't feed bees.

Otto says bees that have a hard time finding food are less likely to survive the winter.

The study is in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 Explore further: Land-use change rapidly reducing critical honey bee habitat in Dakotas

More information: Clint R. V. Otto el al., "Past role and future outlook of the Conservation Reserve Program for supporting honey bees in the Great Plains," PNAS (2018). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1800057115 

Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

https://phys.org/news/2018-07-honeybees-harder-america-bee-hot.html

EU Nations Back Ban On Insecticides To Protect Honey Bees

REUTERS    By Philip Blenkinsop     April 2017 2018

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union countries backed a proposal on Friday to ban all use outdoors of insecticides known as neonicotinoids that studies have shown can harm bees.

The ban, championed by environmental activists, covers the use of three active substances - imidacloprid developed by Bayer CropScience, clothianidin developed by Takeda Chemical Industries and Bayer CropScience as well as Syngenta’s thiamethoxam.

“All outdoor uses will be banned and the neonicotinoids in question will only be allowed in permanent greenhouses where exposure of bees is not expected,” the European Commission said in a statement.

Bayer called the ban “a sad day for farmers and a bad deal for Europe” and said it would not help bees. Many farmers, it said, had no other way of controlling pests and that the result was more spraying and a return to older, less effective chemicals.

The use of neonicotinoids in the European Union has been restricted to certain crops since 2013, but environmental groups have called for a total ban and sparked a debate across the continent about the wider use of chemicals in farming.

Campaign group Friends of the Earth described the decision of EU governments a “tremendous victory” for bees and for the environment.

“The European Commission must now focus on developing a strong pollinator initiative that boosts bee-friendly habitat and helps farmers cut pesticide-use,” it said.

Both Bayer and Syngenta have challenged the 2013 partial ban at the European Court of Justice. A verdict is due on May 17.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-environment-bees/eu-to-fully-ban-neonicotinoid-insecticides-to-protect-bees-idUSKBN1HY11W

NOTE: From SumofUs

I'm writing quickly to let you know some breaking news: WE WON! The EU neonics ban just passed.

A majority of European governments voted in favour of the European Commission's proposal.

This is a massive win for the bees -- and you and SumOfUs members around the world have helped make this happen. Thank you so much for your incredible support!

I'll be in touch in the coming days with a more detailed report back.

In the meantime, let's celebrate!

Wiebke and rest of the SumOfUs team

P.S. It’s only thanks to SumOfUs members like you that we won this amazing and historic bee-saving ban. But the battle to save the bees is far from over. Bayer and co will not give up now and neither can we. To keep the bees safe from pesticide giants we need sustained support from members like you -- it’s the most powerful form of support. Please can you set up a small monthly donation today so that we can keep fighting for and saving the bees.

EU Agrees Total Ban On Bee-Harming Pesticides

The Guardian      By Damian Carrington     April 27, 2018

The world’s most widely used insecticides will be banned from all fields within six months, to protect both wild and honeybees that are vital to crop pollination.

People protest ahead of the historic EU vote on a full neonicotinoids ban at Place Schuman in Brussels, Belgium. Photograph: Olivier Matthys/AP The European Union will ban the world’s most widely used insecticides from all fields due to the serious danger they pose to bees.

The ban on neonicotinoids, approved by member nations on Friday, is expected to come into force by the end of 2018 and will mean they can only be used in closed greenhouses.

Bees and other insects are vital for global food production as they pollinate three-quarters of all crops. The plummeting numbers of pollinators in recent years has been blamed, in part, on the widespread use of pesticides. The EU banned the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops that attract bees, such as oil seed rape, in 2013.

But in February, a major report from the European Union’s scientific risk assessors (Efsa) concluded that the high risk to both honeybees and wild bees resulted from any outdoor use, because the pesticides contaminate soil and water. This leads to the pesticides appearing in wildflowers or succeeding crops. A recent study of honey samples revealed global contamination by neonicotinoids.

Vytenis Andriukaitis, European commissioner for Health and Food Safety, welcomed Friday’s vote: “The commission had proposed these measures months ago, on the basis of the scientific advice from Efsa. Bee health remains of paramount importance for me since it concerns biodiversity, food production and the environment.”

The ban on the three main neonicotinoids has widespread public support, with almost 5 million people signing a petition from campaign group Avaaz. “Banning these toxic pesticides is a beacon of hope for bees,” said Antonia Staats at Avaaz. “Finally, our governments are listening to their citizens, the scientific evidence and farmers who know that bees can’t live with these chemicals and we can’t live without bees.”

Martin Dermine, at Pesticide Action Network Europe, said: “Authorising neonicotinoids a quarter of a century ago was a mistake and led to an environmental disaster. Today’s vote is historic.”

However, the pesticide manufacturers and some farming groups have accused the EU of being overly cautious and suggested crop yields could fall, a claim rejected by others. “European agriculture will suffer as a result of this decision,” said Graeme Taylor, at the European Crop Protection Association. “Perhaps not today, perhaps not tomorrow, but in time decision makers will see the clear impact of removing a vital tool for farmers.”

The UK’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said the ban was regrettable and not justified by the evidence. Guy Smith, NFU deputy president, said: “The pest problems that neonicotinoids helped farmers tackle have not gone away. There is a real risk that these restrictions will do nothing measurable to improve bee health, while compromising the effectiveness of crop protection.”

A spokesman for the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs welcomed the ban, but added: “We recognise the impact a ban will have on farmers and will continue to work with them to explore alternative approaches.” In November, UK environment secretary Michael Gove overturned the UK’s previous opposition to a full outdoor ban.

Neonicotinoids, which are nerve agents, have been shown to cause a wide range of harm to individual bees, such as damaging memory and reducing queen numbers.

But this evidence has strengthened recently to show damage to colonies of bees. Other research has also revealed that 75% of all flying insects have disappeared in Germany and probably much further afield, prompting warnings of “ecological armageddon”.

Prof Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex, said the EU ban was logical given the weight of evidence but that disease and lack of flowery habitats were also harming bees. “Also, if these neonicotinoids are simply replaced by other similar compounds, then we will simply be going round in circles. What is needed is a move towards truly sustainable farming,” he said.

Some experts are worried that the exemption for greenhouses means neonicotinoids will be washed out into water courses, where they can severely harm aquatic life.

Prof Jeroen van der Sluijs, at the University of Bergen, Norway, said neonicotinoids will also continue to be used in flea treatments for pets and in stables and animal transport vehicles, which account for about a third of all uses: “Environmental pollution will continue.”

The EU decision could have global ramifications, according to Prof Nigel Raine, at the University of Guelph in Canada: “Policy makers in other jurisdictions will be paying close attention to these decisions. We rely on both farmers and pollinators for the food we eat. Pesticide regulation is a balancing act between unintended consequences of their use for non-target organisms, including pollinators, and giving farmers the tools they need to control crop pests.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/27/eu-agrees-total-ban-on-bee-harming-pesticides

Young, Hive-Bound Bees Befuddled By Common Chemicals

COSMOS    By Tanya Loos     April 12, 2018

Even bees that never leave the hive can be exposed to insecticides and herbicides that affect their sense of taste and reduce their ability to learn. Tanya Loos reports.

Young worker bees exposed to neonicotinoids and glyphosate suffered an impaired sense of taste and damage to their memories. Credit: JESUS INES / EYEEMHive-bound young honey bees (Apis mellifera) are being poisoned by insecticide and weed killer gathered by their foraging hive mates, according to new research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. The chemicals cause brain damage in young worker bees, affecting both their ability to taste and to learn, placing the future of the colony at risk.

Recent research in Europe and the USA has demonstrated that insecticides known as neonicotinoids have a substantial impact on honey bee health. Glyphosate, a commonly used herbicide, has also been shown to have effects on non-target species such as bees. In agricultural landscapes it is expected that honey bees would be exposed to both of these agrochemicals.

Carolina Goñalons and Walter M. Farina from the Universidad de Buenos Aires decided to examine the effects of field-realistic concentrations of these common farm chemicals on young worker bees.

The role of worker bees is related to age. Young worker bees perform vital tasks such nest maintenance and care of the eggs and pupae. Later in life they become field or forager bees, and gather nectar and pollen for the colony. These skills involve behavioural plasticity, memory and discernment, so the Goñalons and Farina believe the young bees serve as important bioindicators to study the effects of these chemicals on colony health.

To accurately measure the effects of neonicotinoids and glyphosate on young bees, Goñalons and Farina raised broods of young bees, and exposed them to various concentrations of the chemicals.

As the concentrations of the chemicals are too low to kill the bees outright, the only way to test their effects is by training the bees to carry out tasks, and then measuring the bees’ performance under various levels of exposure to the chemicals. The bee responses were assessed at 5, 9, and 14 days old.

The bees were fitted with tiny, bee-sized harnesses and trained to respond to various concentrations of sucrose solution and smells. The indicators included antennae movement and extension of their mouthparts.

Both chemicals had a negative effect on the young bees’ olfactory learning, and reduced sucrose responsiveness or sense of taste. Glyphosate also reduced food uptake during rearing.

The paper demonstrates that neonicotinoids and glyphosate adversely affect memory, taste and smell in young bees – the very senses and skills required by worker bees for nectar foraging. The authors are concerned that compromised foraging behaviour may threaten the survival of the colony, especially at the end of the summer season.

https://cosmosmagazine.com/biology/young-hive-bound-bees-befuddled-by-common-chemicals

National Honey Bee Day - August 19, 2017 - Dr. Elina Nino Reminds Us to Help Honey Bees Cope with Pests

Green Blog    By Stephania Parreira    August 17, 2017

National Honey Bee Day is celebrated on the third Saturday of every August. This year it falls on Saturday the 19th. If you use integrated pest management, or IPM, you are probably aware that it can solve pest problems and reduce the use of pesticides that harm beneficial insects, including honey bees. But did you know that it is also used to manage pests that live inside honey bee colonies? In this timely podcast below, Elina Niño, UC Cooperative Extension apiculture extension specialist, discusses the most serious pests of honey bees, how beekeepers manage them to keep their colonies alive, and what you can do to help bees survive these challenges.

https://soundcloud.com/ucipm/help-honey-bees-cope-with-pests

To read the full transcript of the audio, click here.

Successful IPM in honey bee colonies involves understanding honey bee pest biology, regularly monitoring for pests, and using a combination of different methods to control their damage.

 

Visit the following resources for more information

For beekeepers:

The California Master Beekeeper Program

EL Niño Bee Lab Courses

EL Niño Bee Lab Newsletter

For all bee lovers:

EL Niño Bee Lab Newsletter

Haagen Dazs Honey Bee Haven plant list

UC IPM Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings and video tutorial

Sources on the value of honey bees:

Calderone N. 2012. Insect-pollinated crops, Insect Pollinators and US Agriculture: Trend Analysis of Aggregate Data for the Period 1992–2009.

Flottum K. 2017. U.S. Honey Industry Report, 2016.

http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=24914

Probiotics Could Improve Survival Rates in Honey Bees Exposed to Pesticides, Study Finds

Science Daily     Source: Lawson Health Research Institute    June 19, 2017

In a new study from Lawson Health Research Institute (Lawson) and Western University, researchers have shown that probiotics can potentially protect honey bees from the toxic effects of pesticides.

Honey bees are critical to agriculture as they pollinate approximately 35 per cent of the global food crop, contributing an estimated $4.39 billion per year to the Canadian economy. Pesticides are currently used to maximize crop yields, but the most common pesticides, neonicotinoid insecticides, are a major factor in colony collapse disorder which is killing honey bee populations.

"The demise of honey bees would be disastrous for humankind. A current dilemma in agriculture is how to prevent bee decline while mitigating crop losses," says Dr. Gregor Reid, Director for the Canadian Centre for Human Microbiome and Probiotic Research at Lawson, and Professor at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. "We wanted to see whether probiotics could counter the toxic effects of pesticides and improve honey bee survival."

The study was performed by trainees Brendan Daisley and Mark Trinder in Dr. Reid's lab at St. Joseph's Hospital in London, Ontario. The researchers utilized fruit flies as a well-known model for studying pesticide toxicity in honey bees. Both insects are affected similarly by neonicotinoids, have very similar immune systems, and share many common microbes present in their microbiota -- the collection of microorganisms found in each insect.

The researchers found that fruit flies exposed to one of the world's most commonly used pesticides, imidacloprid (IMI), experienced changes to their microbiota and were more susceptible to infections. The flies were exposed to a comparable amount of pesticide as honey bees in the field.

By administering a specific strain of probiotic lactobacilli, survival among fruit flies exposed to the pesticide improved significantly. The mechanism involved stimulating the immune system through a pathway that insects use to adapt to infection, heat and other stresses.

"Our study showed that probiotic lactobacilli can improve immunity and potentially help honey bees to live longer after exposure to pesticides," says Daisley, an MSc candidate. He notes that probiotic lactobacilli could be easily administered through pollen patties, which are used by beekeepers to provide nutritional support and anti-pesticide effects to honey bees.

Over the winter months, honey bee mortality has been steadily increasing with ranges of 38 to 58 per cent in recent years, two to three times higher than the sustainable level. In Ontario alone, 340 bee keepers reported an abnormally high number of bee deaths, with over 70 per cent of dead bees testing positive for neonicotinoid residues (Government of Ontario).

"While cessation of pesticide use would be ideal, farmers currently have little alternative to obtain the yields that keep their businesses viable," says Dr. Reid. "Until we can cease using pesticides, we need to find ways to protect humans and wildlife against their side effects. Probiotics may prove as an effective protective intervention against colony collapse disorder."

The researchers hope to further study the mechanisms involved in this process and perform field tests on honey bee populations in Ontario.

Story Source: Materials provided by Lawson Health Research Institute. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference: Brendan A. Daisley, Mark Trinder, Tim W. McDowell, Hylke Welle, Josh S. Dube, Sohrab N. Ali, Hon S. Leong, Mark W. Sumarah, Gregor Reid. Neonicotinoid-induced pathogen susceptibility is mitigated by Lactobacillus plantarum immune stimulation in a Drosophila melanogaster model. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-02806-w

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170619101827.htm

Can Mushrooms Save the Honey Bee?

bioGraphic     Produced by Louie Schwartzberg    April 25, 2017

A blood-sucking mite is wreaking havoc on honey bees - but scientists have discovered a surprising new way to fight back.

A decade ago, honey bee populations around the world began declining at an alarming rate. In the early years of this trend, beekeepers lost 60 percent or more of their hives to a mysterious phenomenon that came to be known as “colony collapse disorder” (CCD). In each of these cases, worker bees simply disappeared, and it doesn’t take long for a colony to collapse without workers to provide food and to care for the young. Although this trend seems to have leveled off somewhat in recent years, the current average rate of 30 percent annual mortality is still nearly double the average rate reported prior to 2006.

Honey bees (Apis mellifera) are native to Europe, western Asia and Africa, but have also been introduced to many other parts of the world to serve as pollinators of agricultural crops. Today, honey bees pollinate one-third of all the crops we consume—nearly a thousand varieties in all—and are by far the world’s most important and economically valuable pollinators for commercial agriculture. In the U.S. alone, their annual value is estimated at $5–14 billion.

Since the first reports of dead and dying honey bee colonies began to stream in, scientists have scrambled to determine the cause, or causes, of CCD. One threat in particular stood out as a major cause of honey bee declines: varroa mites (Varroa destructor). These tiny parasitic arachnids weaken adult and juvenile bees by sucking their blood. They also transmit a number of viruses that can spread throughout a colony like wildfire. To make matters worse, the mites reproduce quickly and, because of this, can rapidly evolve resistance to traditional chemical pesticides.

While many scientists have continued to search for causes of honey bee declines, others have turned their attention to developing new, more sustainable solutions to these threats. One of the more surprising and promising of these strategies is the use of compounds produced by a widely-distributed mushroom (Metarhizium anisopliae) that is known to parasitize a number of different insects. Researchers from Washington State University have found that spores and extracts from this mushroom are particularly toxic to varroa mites but—in low doses—leave bees unharmed. In fact, bees in hives treated with Metarhizium tend to be much healthier and live longer than those in untreated hives. While large-scale trials are just now being implemented, early results suggest that a common mushroom may hold the answer to at least one major driver of honey bee declines.

Bees Face Heavy Pesticide Peril from Drawn-out Sources

Phys.org    By Blaine Friedlander    April 20, 2017

A honeybee collects the pollen from an apple blossom. Credit: Kent Loeffler/ProvidedHoneybees - employed to pollinate crops during the blooming season - encounter danger due to lingering and wandering pesticides, according to an analysis of the bee's own food.

Researchers used 120 pristine honeybee colonies that were placed near 30 apple orchards around New York state. After allowing the bees to forage for several days during the apple flowering period, the scientists examined each hive's "beebread" – the bees' food stores made from gathered pollen – to search for traces of pesticides.

In 17 percent of colonies, the beebread revealed the presence of acutely high levels of pesticide exposure, while 73 percent were found to have chronic exposure.

The new Cornell study was published April 19 in Nature Scientific Reports.

"Our data suggest pesticides are migrating through space and time," said lead author Scott McArt, assistant professor of entomology, who explained that bees may be gathering pollen from nontarget wildflowers, field margins and weeds like dandelions where insecticides seem to linger.

"Surprisingly, there is not much known about the magnitude of risk or mechanisms of pesticide exposure when honeybees are brought in to pollinate major agricultural crops," he said. "Beekeepers are very concerned about pesticides, but there's very little field data. We're trying to fill that gap in knowledge, so there's less mystery and more fact regarding this controversial topic."

More than 60 percent of the found pesticides were attributed to orchards and surrounding farmland that were not sprayed during the apple bloom season, according to the study. McArt said that persistent insecticides aimed at other crops may be surrounding the orchards. In addition, pre-bloom sprays in orchards may accumulate in nearby flowering weeds.

Honeybees create honey in their hive through the topped-out combs, and they keep beebread - their food - in the other combs. Credit: Emma Mullen/Provided"We found risk was attributed to many different types of pesticides. Neonicotinoids were not the whole story, but they were part of the story." he said. "Because neonicotinoids are persistent in the environment and accumulate in pollen and nectar, they are of concern. But one of our major findings is that many other pesticides contribute to risk."

Mass-blooming crops flower in big bursts during the pollination season, so crop producers rent armies of honeybees to supplement the work of wild bees. "There are so many flowers at one given time, often there may not be enough wild bees to perform sufficient pollination services," said McArt.

Crop pollination by insects, particularly bees, can be valued at more than $15 billion annually to the U.S. economy, according to research by Nicholas Calderone, professor emeritus of entomology. Producers and beekeepers are now concerned about the high rates of hive declines – estimated to be about 42 percent in 2014-15 domestically. In New York, the losses are often over 50 percent.

To understand the economics, beekeepers may charge more than $100 per colony for pollination services for apple producers in New York, almond producers in California and blueberry growers in North Carolina. For large farms, several hundred to a thousand pollinating colonies are brought in via large trucks.

Commercial beekeepers sometimes assume they will lose entire colonies, which is why pollination service rates have tripled or quadrupled over the past 15 years, McArt said. He recently shared his research with growers at a New York State Integrated Pest Management meeting, and several farmers said they are interested in altering crop management practices to reduce honeybee injury.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Agriculture and Markets assembled a Pollinator Protection Plan in 2016. Scientists are developing best management practices, reviving pollinator populations, researching and monitoring, and developing outreach and educational programs for beekeepers and producers.

Co-authors on the study, "High Pesticide Risk to Honeybees Despite Low Focal Crop Pollen Collection During Pollination of a Mass Blooming Crop," are lab manager Ashley Fersch; graduate student Nelson Milano; Lauren Truitt '17; and former research associate Katalin Böröczky.

https://phys.org/news/2017-04-bees-heavy-pesticide-peril-drawn-out.html

To Save Honey Bees, Human Behavior Must Change

Science Daily    Source: Entomological Society of America    April 6, 2017

Poor management practices have enabled spread of bee pathogens, bee researcher argues

In the search for answers to the complex health problems and colony losses experienced by honey bees in recent years, it may be time for professionals and hobbyists in the beekeeping industry to look in the mirror.

In a research essay to be published this week in the Entomological Society of America's Journal of Economic Entomology, Robert Owen argues that human activity is a key driver in the spread of pathogens afflicting the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) -- the species primarily responsible for pollination and honey production around the world -- and recommends a series of collective actions necessary to stem their spread. While some research seeks a "magic bullet" solution to honeybee maladies such as Colony Collapse Disorder, "many of the problems are caused by human action and can only be mitigated by changes in human behavior," Owen says.

Owen is author of The Australian Beekeeping Handbook, owner of a beekeeping supply company, and a Ph.D. candidate at the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis (CEBRA) at the University of Melbourne. In his essay in the Journal of Economic Entomology, he outlines an array of human-driven factors that have enabled the spread of honey bee pathogens:

  • Regular, large-scale, and loosely regulated movement of bee colonies for commercial pollination. (For instance, in February 2016 alone, of the 2.66 million managed bee colonies in the United States, 1.8 million were transported to California for almond crop pollination.).
  • Carelessness in the application of integrated pest management principles leading to overuse of pesticides and antibiotics, resulting in increased resistance to them among honey bee parasites and pathogens such as the Varroa destructor mite and the American Foul Brood bacterium (Paenibacillus larvae),
  • The international trade in honey bees and honey bee products that has enabled the global spread of pathogens such as varroa destructor, tracheal mite (Acarapis woodi), Nosema cerana, Small Hive Beetle (Aethina tumida ), and the fungal disease chalkbrood (Ascosphaera apis).
  • Lack of skill or dedication among hobbyist beekeepers to adequately inspect and manage colonies for disease.

Owen offers several suggestions for changes in human behavior to improve honey bee health, including:

  • Stronger regulation both of global transport of honey bees and bee products and of migratory beekeeping practices within countries for commercial pollination.
  • Greater adherence to integrated pest management practices among both commercial and hobbyist beekeepers.
  • Increased education of beekeepers on pathogen management (perhaps requiring such education for registration as a beekeeper).
  • Deeper support networks for hobby beekeepers, aided by scientists, beekeeping associations, and government.

"The problems facing honeybees today are complex and will not be easy to mitigate," says Owen. "The role of inappropriate human action in the spread of pathogens and the resulting high numbers of colony losses needs to be brought into the fore of management and policy decisions if we are to reduce colony losses to acceptable levels."

Story Source: Materials provided by Entomological Society of America.

Journal Reference: Robert Owen. Role of Human Action in the Spread of Honey Bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) Pathogens. Journal of Economic Entomology, 2017; DOI: 10.1093/jee/tox075

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170406121535.htm

Vanishing Act: Scientists Find Possible Clue to Disappearing Bees

University of Texas at Austin      By Nancy Moran     March 14, 2017

In the winter of 2004/05, many beekeepers across America went to check on their honeybee hives and were shocked to find most of the adult bees had vanished, leaving behind the queen and immature bees. Millions of bees mysteriously disappeared, leaving farms with fewer pollinators for crops.

Colony collapse disorder, as it was later dubbed, has continued to vex beekeepers year after year — and there’s still no effective solution. Explanations for the phenomenon have included exposure to pesticides, habitat loss and bacterial infections. But now, a new study from The University of Texas at Austin suggests that antibiotics could play a role.

Researchers found that honeybees treated with a common antibiotic were half as likely to survive the week after treatment as a group of untreated bees. The antibiotics cleared out beneficial gut bacteria in the bees, making way for a harmful pathogen, which also occurs in humans, to get a foothold. The research is the latest discovery to indicate overuse of antibiotics can sometimes make living things, including people, sicker.

Vanishing bees is cause for concern because many of our most cherished food crops are pollinated by honeybees including almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, carrots, cranberries, onions, squash, and watermelon. And that’s not to mention honey itself.

In large-scale U.S. agriculture, beekeepers typically apply antibiotics to their hives several times a year. The strategy aims to prevent bacterial infections that can lead to a widespread and destructive disease that afflicts bee larvae, called foulbrood.

“Our study suggests that perturbing the gut microbiome of honeybees is a factor, perhaps one of many, that could make them more susceptible to declining and to the colony collapsing. Antibiotics may have been an underappreciated factor in colony collapse.” 

-Nancy Moran, professor of integrative biology at UT Austin and co-author of the study published March 14 in the journal PLOS Biology.

To learn more, read the press release: “Overuse of Antibiotics Brings Risks for Bees — and for Us

https://news.utexas.edu/2017/03/14/scientists-find-possible-clue-to-disappearing-bees-1

Overuse of Antibiotics Brings Risks for Bees, And For Us

Science Daily    Source: University of Texas at Austin    March 14, 2017

Honeybees treated with a common antibiotic were half as likely to survive the week after treatment compared with a group of untreated bees, a finding that may have health implications for bees and people alike.

Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin have found that honeybees treated with a common antibiotic were half as likely to survive the week after treatment compared with a group of untreated bees, a finding that may have health implications for bees and people alike.

The scientists found the antibiotics cleared out beneficial gut bacteria in the bees, making way for a harmful pathogen, which also occurs in humans, to get a foothold. The research is the latest discovery to indicate overuse of antibiotics can sometimes make living things, including people, sicker.

The UT Austin team, led by professor Nancy Moran and postdoctoral researcher Kasie Raymann, found that after treatment with the common antibiotic tetracycline, the bees had dramatically fewer naturally occurring gut microbes -- meaning healthy bacteria that can help to block pathogens, break down toxins, promote absorption of nutrients from food and more. They also found elevated levels of Serratia, a pathogenic bacterium that afflicts humans and other animals, in the bees treated with antibiotics, suggesting that the increased mortality might have been a result of losing the gut microbes that provide a natural defense against the dangerous bacteria.

The discovery has relevance for beekeepers and the agriculture industry. A decade ago, U.S. beekeepers began finding their hives decimated by what became known as colony collapse disorder. Millions of bees mysteriously disappeared, leaving farms with fewer pollinators for crops. Explanations for the phenomenon have included exposure to pesticides, habitat loss and bacterial infections, but the scientists now say antibiotics given to bees could also play a role.

"Our study suggests that perturbing the gut microbiome of honeybees is a factor, perhaps one of many, that could make them more susceptible to declining and to the colony collapsing," Moran said. "Antibiotics may have been an underappreciated factor in colony collapse."

The results are reported in the online journal PLOS Biology.

Bees are a useful model for the human gut microbiome for several reasons. First, bees and humans both have a natural community of microbes in their guts, called a gut microbiome, which aids a number of functions including modulating behavior, development and immunity. Second, both have specialized gut bacteria -- ones that live only in the host gut -- that are passed from individual to individual during social interactions.

According to this study, overuse of antibiotics might increase the likelihood of infections from pathogens.

"We aren't suggesting people stop using antibiotics," Moran said. "Antibiotics save lives. We definitely need them. We just need to be careful how we use them."

In large-scale U.S. agriculture, beekeepers typically apply antibiotics to their hives several times a year. The strategy aims to prevent bacterial infections that can lead to a widespread and destructive disease that afflicts bee larvae.

"It's useful for beekeepers to use antibiotics to protect their hives from foulbrood," said Raymann, referring to the disease. "But this work suggests that they should also consider how much and how often they're treating hives."

To conduct the study, researchers removed hundreds of bees from long-established hives on the rooftop of a university building and brought them into a lab where some were fed a sweet syrup with antibiotics and some were fed syrup only. The researchers painted small colored dots on the bees' backs to indicate which had received antibiotics and which had not. After five days of daily treatment, the bees were returned to their hives. In subsequent days, the researchers collected the treated and untreated bees to count how many were still living and to sample their gut microbes.

About two-thirds of the untreated bees were still present three days after reintroduction to the hive, while only about a third of the antibiotic-treated bees were still present.

Adding further weight to the hypothesis that antibiotic-treated bees suffered a higher mortality due to a lower resistance to the pathogenic bacteria Serratia, the researchers conducted a follow-on experiment in which they exposed antibiotic-treated bees to Serratia and observed a much higher mortality than untreated bees.

"This was just in bees, but possibly it's doing the same thing to you when you take antibiotics," Raymann said. "I think we need to be more careful about how we use antibiotics."

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Texas at Austin. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Kasie Raymann, Zack Shaffer, Nancy A. Moran. Antibiotic exposure perturbs the gut microbiota and elevates mortality in honeybees. PLOS Biology, 2017; 15 (3): e2001861 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2001861

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170314150933.htm

At Mealtime, Honey Bees Prefer Country Blossoms to City Blooms

The Ohio State University     By Misti Crane     March 14, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Hungry honey bees appear to favor flowers in agricultural areas over those in neighboring urban areas.

The discovery has implications for urban beekeepers and challenges assumptions that farmland and honey bees are incompatible, said authors of a new study from The Ohio State University.

The team positioned honey bee colonies in an apiary in a central Ohio cemetery smack in the middle of where urban residential development transitions into farmland. They left the colonies to forage for nectar and pollen wherever they preferred.

The bees, studied from late summer to early fall, overwhelmingly went for the agricultural offerings instead of the assorted flowering plants in and around the urban neighborhoods nearby, said lead author Douglas Sponsler, who was a graduate student in entomology at Ohio State when the research was conducted in 2014. The study appears in the Journal of Urban Ecology.

Throughout the study, the honey bees’ haul always favored plants from the agricultural area, and hit a high of 96 percent of the pollen collected at one point.

“Honey bees didn’t seem to care that much what the floral diversity was. What they wanted was large patches of their favorite stuff,” said Sponsler, who now works at Penn State University.

Goldenrod was particularly popular, the researchers found. The bees’ agricultural foraging preference was especially pronounced at the end of the season, as the colonies prepared to overwinter.

While farm fields themselves aren’t attractive to the bees, the countryside features wide swaths of unmowed wild plants (also known as weeds) along roadsides and in field margins, Sponsler said.

Senior author Reed Johnson, an assistant professor of entomology at Ohio State, said the discoveries made in this study help explain the ongoing hardships of urban beekeepers, who are growing in number in Ohio and elsewhere.

“When the bees have a choice, they go to the farmland. We’ve had trouble keeping our urban colonies alive, so this makes a lot of sense to us,” Johnson said.

“There’s this popular perception that urban places are better for bees because of the diversity of plants. This is showing that, at least in Ohio, the agricultural areas are actually superior and that’s despite the pesticide use that’s out there,” he said.

“Apparently, farmland isn’t desolate at all – at least not for honey bees.”

Uncovering where the bees had been and what exactly captured their attention was a two-part process.

First, researchers videotaped then analyzed the tell-tale dance patterns of bees returning to the three study colonies. Translated by scientists, these dance moves explain what direction the foraging bee has been in relation to the hive and how far in that direction.

“These things can be pretty easily decoded by the human observer, thankfully. You can map the locations that are being referred to in the dance,” Sponsler said.

The second part of the analysis – pollen identification – confirmed the dance-derived findings. When the honeybees came back to the cemetery, they flew through a screen that allowed their bodies in but scraped the pollen off their hind legs and into a collection chamber.

Sponsler and his colleagues then sorted through the bees’ collection, separating the grains of pollen by color and shape and then cross-referencing to determine what exactly the bees were foraging.

They examined pollen from five sampling dates. Agricultural foraging outweighed urban foraging in every sample and hit a high of 96 percent on the Sept. 19 collection date and a low of 62 percent of the honey bees’ haul on Sept. 4.

For urban beekeepers and others interested in a thriving honey bee population, it could be prudent to think about supplementing the bees’ diets at summer’s end, the researchers said.

Honey bee populations could also become more stable in urban areas with more careful landscaping choices in and around cities, the researchers said.

“The focus is how can we make urban spaces better for bees so we can attract them back into the city?” Johnson said.

He suggested that planting certain trees could serve the honey bee population well. Linden trees, for instance, are “phenomenal” nectar producers, Johnson said.

Sponsler said there’s plenty of room to improve urban plant diversity and keep honey bees satiated there as well as in the country.

“There’s no reason why our urban landscapes cannot be full of flowers. It’s just that we’ve inherited a certain preference toward things that look like golf courses rather than things that look like prairies.”

Other Ohio State researchers who worked on the study were Emma Matcham, Chia-Hua Lin and Jessie Lanterman.

The study was supported by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

https://news.osu.edu/news/2017/03/14/bees-and-farms/

Providing an Additional Source of Minerals Might Be Just the Thing for Honey Bees

CATCHE THE BUZZ     February 25, 2017

Despite having few taste genes, honey bees are fine-tuned to know what minerals the colony may lack and proactively seek out nutrients in conjunction with the season when their floral diet varies.

This key finding from a new study led by Tufts University scientists sheds light on limited research on the micronutrient requirements of honey bees, and provides potentially useful insight in support of increased health of the bee population, which has declined rapidly in recent years for a variety of complex reasons.

The research, published in Ecological Entomology, suggests that beekeepers should provide opportunities for their bees to access specific nutrients, possibly through a natural mineral lick, to support their balanced health because the bees will search for the minerals when they need them. It is also an opportunity for the general public to support the bee population by planting a diverse range of flowers that bloom throughout the year.

“Currently, there are micronutrient supplements for managed bee hives on the market but there is little research backing up which minerals the bees actually need,” said Rachael Bonoan, the lead study author and a Ph.D. candidate in biology in the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts. “The fact that honey bees switch their mineral preferences based on what is available in their floral diet is really exciting. This means that somehow, honey bees know which nutrients the colony needs. This insight helps us support honey bees and other pollinators by providing access to diverse nutrient sources all year long.”

The findings show that honey bees forage for essential minerals that aid their physiological health, even though they have relatively few taste genes. In the fall, when floral resources dwindle, the study showed that bees seek out specific nutrients — calcium, magnesium, and potassium, all commonly found in pollen — by foraging in compound-rich or “dirty” water. When flowers and pollen are abundant in the summer, the bees prefer deionized water and sodium, ultimately suggesting that bees are foraging for minerals in water based on what is lacking in their floral diet.

Bonoan and her research team studied eight honey bee hives that were located about 100 yards from the research area. The bees were trained to come to the research site because researchers placed jars of sugar water at staged intervals until the worker bees became accustomed to the ready food supply.

Researchers set up water vials with different minerals such as sodium, magnesium or phosphorus and catalogued the number of bees that visited each vial. At the end of the day, they also measured how much the bees drank from each vessel to determine which minerals were most in demand.

The researchers also tracked the hive each bee belonged to by dusting worker bees with different colored powders as they left the hives. The team noted which colored bees were drinking from which mineral-laden water source, and later measured the amount of brood to determine whether there is a connection between bee health and specific minerals.

The study results related to hive health were inconclusive. While stronger colonies do tend to visit more minerals than weaker colonies, it was difficult to determine which came first, being a stronger colony or accessing mineral resources. Additional data is necessary to assess colony fitness.

Journal Reference:

Philip T. Starks et al. Seasonality of salt foraging in honey bees (Apis mellifera). Ecological Entomology, 2016; DOI: 1111/een.12375

http://www.beeculture.com/catch-buzz-providing-additional-source-minerals-might-just-thing-honey-bees/?utm_source=Catch+The+Buzz&utm_campaign=24a177c97d-Catch_The_Buzz_4_29_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0272f190ab-24a177c97d-256242233

Organosilicone Adjuvant, Sylgard 309, Increases the Susceptibility of Honey Bee Larvae to Black Queen Cell Virus

CATCH THE BUZZ    By Alan Harman    January 19, 2017

Healthy bee larva developing on day six. (Penn State photo by Julia Fine)A chemical that is thought to be safe and widely used on crops such as almonds, wine grapes and tree fruits to boost the performance of pesticides, makes honey bee larvae significantly more susceptible to a deadly virus.

Researchers at Penn State and the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that in the lab, the commonly used organosilicone adjuvant, Sylgard 309, negatively impacts the health of honey bee larvae by increasing their susceptibility to a common bee pathogen, the Black Queen Cell Virus.

“These results mirror the symptoms observed in hives following almond pollination, when bees are exposed to organosilicone adjuvant residues in pollen, and viral pathogen prevalence is known to increase,” says Julia Fine, graduate student in entomology at Penn State.

  “In recent years, beekeepers have reported missing, dead and dying brood in their hives following almond pollination, and exposure to agrochemicals, such as adjuvants,  applied during bloom, has been suggested as a cause.”

Chris Mullin, Penn State professor of entomology, says adjuvants in general greatly improve the efficacy of pesticides by enhancing their toxicities.  Organosilicone adjuvants are the most potent adjuvants available to growers.

“Based on the California Department of Pesticide Regulation data for agrochemical applications to almonds, there has been increasing use of organosilicone adjuvants during crop blooming periods, when two-thirds of the U.S. honey bee colonies are present, Mullin says.

 Fine says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies organosilicone adjuvants as biologically inert, meaning they do not cause a reaction in living things.

“As a result,” she says, “there are no federally regulated restrictions on their use.”

To conduct their study, reported in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers reared honey bee larvae under controlled conditions in the laboratory. During the initial stages of larval development, they exposed the larvae to a low chronic dose of Sylgard 309 in their diets. They also exposed some of the larvae to viral pathogens in their diets on the first day of the experiment.

“We found that bees exposed to the organosilicone adjuvant had higher levels of Black Queen Cell Virus,” Fine says.

“When they were exposed to the virus and the organosilicone adjuvant simultaneously, the effect on their mortality was synergistic rather than additive, meaning that the mortality was higher from the simultaneous application of adjuvant and virus than from exposure to either the organosilicone adjuvant or the viral pathogen alone, even if those two mortalities were added together.

“This suggests that the adjuvant is enhancing the damaging effects of the virus.” The researchers also found that a particular gene involved in immunity – called 18-wheeler – had reduced expression in bees treated with the adjuvant and the virus, compared to bees in the control groups.

“Taken together, these findings suggest that exposure to organosilicone adjuvants negatively influences immunity in honey bee larvae, resulting in enhanced pathogenicity and mortality,” Fine says.

Mullin says the team’s results suggest that recent honey bee declines in the U.S. may, in part, be due to the increased use of organosilicone adjuvants.

“Billions of pounds of formulation and tank adjuvants, including organosilicone adjuvants, are released into U.S. environments each year, making them an important component of the chemical landscape to which bees are exposed,” he says.

“We now know that at least Sylgard 309, when combined at a field-relevant concentration with Black Queen Cell Virus, causes synergistic mortality in honey bee larvae.”

Other authors on the paper include Diana Cox-Foster, USDA-ARS-PWA Pollinating Insect Research Unit.

http://www.beeculture.com/catch-buzz-organosilicone-adjuvant-sylgard-309-increases-susceptibility-honey-bee-larvae-black-queen-cell-virus/?utm_source=Catch+The+Buzz&utm_campaign=16ac922e26-Catch_The_Buzz_4_29_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0272f190ab-16ac922e26-256242233

Bees Knees: A New $4M Effort Aims to Stop the Death Spiral of Honey Bees

The Guardian  By Allison Moodie    December 11, 2016 

General Mills is co-funding a project with the federal government to restore the habitat of pollinators such as bees and butterflies on North American farms

On the 33-acre Prairie Drifter Farm in central Minnesota, farmers Joan and Nick Olson are cultivating more than just organic vegetables. Alongside their seven acres of crops – including tomatoes, cucumbers and onions – they’ve also planted flowering plants, dogwood and elderberry hedgerows to accommodate species of bees and butterflies essential for the health of the crops.

The Olsons are not beekeepers, but they are part of a movement to reconnect sustainable farming to a healthy environment. As part of a 2013 project by Xerces Society, a nonprofit that specializes in wildlife preservation, the Olsons worked with a biologist to figure out what types of flowers and shrubs to plant to attract bees, butterflies and other insects that pollinate plants. With seeds and plants they received from Xerxes, and those bought with federal grants, the couple also planted strips of grasses and flowers to attract beetles, which help to defend the vegetables against pests.

“There’s now a ton of bees – bumblebees, honeybees, sweat bees – and predatory insects,” Joan Olson said, adding that the flowering plants also add beauty to the land. “It’s good for the habitat but it’s also lovely for us.”

The Olsons’ effort is one that General Mills, in partnership with Xerces and the US Department of Agriculture, hopes to replicate in other parts of the country in a new initiative. The company is contributing $2m to an ongoing project by Xerces to restore 100,000 acres of farmland in North America over the next five years. The project, which will receive an additional $2m from the agriculture department, will bring General Mills’ investment in pollinator habitat restoration to $6m since 2011.

“Most of our products contain honey, fruits, vegetables and other ingredients that require pollination,” said Jerry Lynch, chief sustainability officer at General Mills. “So healthy and abundant bee populations are a priority for us.”

Each year, pollinators contribute more than $24bn to the US economy. Honeybees alone are responsible for $15bn of it by boosting the production of fruits, nuts and vegetables. But bee and other pollinator populations such as butterflies have been in decline in recent years, which has made food giants sit up and take notice.

Nearly 30% of American honeybees were lost last winter, according to the department of agriculture. More than aquarter of the 46 bumblebee species in North America are considered at risk. Another study found that up to 40% of pollinators, including bees and butterflies, are in decline worldwide.

“One in three bites of food that we eat comes from a pollinator, as well as nearly three-quarters of the crops that we eat,” said Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society.

Scientists are still investigating what is causing the mass die-off of bees, although they have reasons to believe that pesticides, fungicides, disease and a loss of habitat are all contributing factors. General Mills has been under pressure to protect the bees from exposure to pesticides.

A 2015 study of wild bees showed the wild bee population in major agricultural regions of California, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, west Texas and the southern Mississippi River valley.

Studies show that habitat restoration is an effective way to increase bee and other pollinator populations. Restoration work involves planting flowers and shrubs on marginal land, typically narrow strips and edges that border crop fields. President Obama established a 2014 task force that developed a plan to boost pollinator populations, which committed to restoring 7m acres of land for pollinators over the next five years.

“Restoration boils down to having the right kind of flowers in the places pollinators live, and having a lot of them,” said Andony Melathopoulos, assistant professor in pollinator health extension at Oregon State University.

As part of its restoration initiative, Xerces will hire six conservation specialists to work with the staff from the agriculture department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, which has field offices throughout the country. The conservation service works with local farmers and will refer to Xerces those who want to create a pollinator habitat on their farms. There’s no limit to the type or size of the farms that could participate.

Xerces’s specialists will visit each participating farm to help draw up a plan on what and where to plant and how to minimize the use of pesticides. For instance, California farmers could plant baby blue eyes to attract native bees, or narrowleaf milkweed for monarch butterflies.

“Many farmers are good at growing single crops, but pollinator habitat is about growing diversity, something a lot of farmers haven’t done,” Black said, adding that figuring out a good mixture of plants can be tricky. “Some sites might be wetter, some might be drier or on a slope. There’s a lot that goes into what type of flowers will attract which pollinators on what site.”

There are potential downsides to any habitat restoration effort. Some insects that live in hedgerows are pests that could destroy a farmer’s crops. As part of the program, farmers will learn how to minimize this risk by choosing plants that pests don’t like.

Habitat restoration can also be expensive. Costs vary depending on the amount of work needed to prepare for planting and the types of plants used. The least costly habitat might be around $500 an acre, Black said, but a thriving habitat with a dense amount of flowering plants can set a farmer back $1000 to $2000 an acre.

Hedgerows, which consist of woody plants laid out in a straight line along crop fields, can also be costly, between $5000 and $6000 per mile.

Preparing the soil and planting the flowers and shrubs strategically are also more labor-intensive than many farmers realize. This is what farmers have the hardest time grasping, said Black.

“We live in a society where everything gets done now,” he said. “We tell farmers to take a step back and do this first step right so it works in the long run.”

Xerces will measure the success of the project mainly based on the acres of pollinator habitats created. It’s planted roughly 150,000 acres this year, and about 400,000 acres since it started restoring habitats in 2008. The biologists also plan to walk the fields and record the bee count and species, although Xerces couldn’t say how often this will occur.

Creating a habitat to accommodate a variety of bee species can sometimes be even more important than maintaining a high number of bees, Black said. Each species may prefer visiting different flowers and plants – a mixture of species is good for pollination.

“We also want to make a difference with our small piece of land, and make it a teaching tool for our kids and the community,” Joan Olson said.
https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/dec/11/bees-decline-pollinator-agriculture-honeybee

Honey Bee Health Coalition Unveils Videos to Help Beekeepers Combat the Devastating Parasites

 ABJ Extra   December 1, 2016
Videos Complement Coalition’s Tools for Varroa Management Guide, Provides Step-By-Step Demonstrations of Utilizing an Integrated Pest Management Strategy of Monitoring, Treatment
 
[KEYSTONE, Colorado, Dec. 1, 2016] — The Honey Bee Health Coalition released a series of videostoday to help beekeepers promote colony health and combat costly and destructive Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) infestations. The videos can be found on the Coalition website at honeybeehealthcoalition.org/Varroa and provide detailed step-by-step instructions on how to monitor hives for varroa and when levels get too high, safely treat. The videos complement the Coalition’s wildly popular Tools for Varroa Management Guide.
 
“The Honey Bee Health Coalition’s Tools for Varroa Management Guide has provided beekeepers in the US and Canada with invaluable tools and techniques to confront destructive Varroa mite infestations,” said Mark Dykes, Apiary Inspectors of America. “These videos will show beekeeper real world application techniques that will help them correctly apply treatments.”
 

The videos provide helpful visual aids and step-by-step directions on how beekeepers can monitor and control Varroa mites through an Integrated Pest Management strategy. The videos cover a range of strategies and tools, including the uses of formic acid, essential oils, and other synthetic miticides.

“Healthy bees support our world’s food supply and farmers everywhere. A single untreated colony can transmit Varroa mites to other nearby hives and threaten honey bee health across large geographic regions,” said Danielle Downey, Project Apis m. “Beekeeping is becoming very popular, and often keeping the bees healthy is a mysterious learning curve. These important 'how to' videos bring the Coalition’s Tools for Varroa Management Guide to life — and will amplify its impact in the United States, Canada, and around the globe.”
 
The Coalition’s Tools for Varroa Management has given beekeepers the tools they need to measure Varroa mite infestations in their hives and select appropriate control methods. The guide, which has been downloaded more than 5,500 times since its release, has been updated 4 times with continued refinements and details.

 

Starting in January, Honey Producers Will Have to Turn to Veterinarians for their Antimicrobial Drugs

CATCH THE BUZZ-Bee Culture By Katie James, dvm360 Associate Content Specialist  November 29, 2016

Veterinarian Chris Cripps works with bees. Photo courtesy of Chris Cripps.When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) regulations take effect in January to combat overuse of antimicrobial drugs in food animals, veterinarians will be in charge of an uncommon patient: honey bees.

That’s right—honey bees are considered a food animal and will be subject to the same regulations as cows, chickens and other animals raised for food production. The antibiotics beekeepers use will no longer be available over the counter and will require a VFD order from a veterinarian to be administered.

With a rise in beekeeping’s popularity—especially in backyard hives—in the last few years, veterinary clinics may see increased calls to examine hives once the regulations take effect.

What and why?

The FDA’s VFD regulations became final in 2013, allowing three years for the industry to come into compliance. They’re intended to change how antibiotics considered medically important in human medicine are used in food-producing animals in order to combat concerns of drug resistance. The FDA wants to eliminate the use of such drugs for things like growth promotion and feed efficiency and bring the therapeutic uses of these drugs under the supervision of licensed veterinarians. These changes are meant to ensure that antimicrobials are used only when appropriate for specific animal health purposes—and the veterinarian is the one who makes that call.

A VFD, sometimes called a “VFD order,” is a written statement from a practicing veterinarian authorizing the use of a VFD drug or combination VFD drug in animal feed, according to the FDA. This statement also authorizes the client who owns the animals to obtain and use animal feed containing a VFD drug or combination VFD drug according to the indicated use.

A VFD drug is one that is intended for use in or on animal feed under the supervision of a veterinarian. A combination VFD drug is a combination product that includes at least one VFD drug.

Why not a prescription?

While all VFD and prescription medications require the supervision of a veterinarian with an established veterinary-client-patient relationship, VFD medications fall into a separate regulatory category from prescriptions. When the medication is approved for use in or on feed, it is a VFD drug. When it is approved for use in animals but not in feed, it is a prescription drug. Medications designed to be administered in water require a prescription, not a VFD. The antibiotics used for honey bees come in two forms. One has a VFD label and three have prescription labels. They are all fed to bees by mixing with sugar and sprinkling the mixture in the hive.

A small subset of the industry

One of the diseases beekeepers use antibiotics to treat is American foulbrood (AFB). AFB is very hard to get rid of—the most effective way is to burn the hive—and spores can be reactivated as many as 70 years later. Antibiotics eliminate clinical signs of the disease, but if the treatment is stopped the disease can recur.

“Antibiotics are not something that a lot of people are using, but the big producers have been using them for several years to decrease signs of AFB. If they stop using antibiotics, and don’t get a veterinarian involved because of the new regulations, then there might be a big outbreak of AFB for some people,” says Chris Cripps, DVM, co-owner of Betterbee, the Northeast Center for Beekeeping. “An outbreak can be very frustrating and demoralizing. The beekeeper may just walk away from the bees, leaving them contagious to the other bees in the area. Then the rest of the community could be affected.”

Most commercial keepers know what AFB is and know to prevent or treat it, but less-experienced hobbyists may not, Cripps says. One source of infection can be secondhand beekeeping equipment, because the spores live for such a long time. Backyard keepers just starting out may think they’re getting a great deal when buying used equipment, but they run the risk of an AFB flare-up once a new hive starts up in contaminated equipment.

The Varroa mite is actually more of a concern than AFB, Cripps says. The mites carry viruses that can wipe out a hive. Hives require treatment to keep the pest under control, but those treatments are under Environmental Protection Agency regulations and are available over the counter.

“The mites were first found in 1987 and they have spread throughout the country since then. I’d bet that every beekeeper has mites, but maybe 1 percent have AFB,” he says.

People starting hives now because of the heightened awareness that the bee population is trouble are of the mindset that they want to help the environment. They aren’t looking to use antibiotics, Cripps says. They want to use as little chemical as possible on their hives.

An opportunity, not a burden

Though the new regulations mean more steps on the part of beekeeping clients and their veterinarians, there’s also an opportunity for education.

“The beekeepers are wondering why veterinarians are getting into it. Is it just about money? Meanwhile the veterinarians are also wondering why they have to get involved. Neither group is really set up well to work together, but the FDA wants it so,” Cripps says. “A lot of beekeepers are saying they’re not going to call a veterinarian, so veterinarians need to educate the community and say, ‘We’re here and we know what we’re doing.’”

A lot of beekeeping regulation is handled by state inspectors who generally work in the plant side of the department of agriculture and not in the animal area, Cripps says. “Veterinarians and regulators will need to work with the USDA or the state veterinarian for some sort of marriage of the systems that the state uses for disease reporting—similar to how the state veterinarian tracks cattle inspections and health charts,” he says.

There’s an opportunity for veterinarians who already know about bees and beekeeping and who can handle hives and work bees to step up and help educate, Cripps says. He and the staff at Betterbee have been working to create Beevets.com, an online resource where veterinarians who are interested in bees can list their contact information and beekeepers can find veterinarians in their area.

“It’s interesting, because I thought I left practice as I started getting into bees, but there have been a lot of questions from veterinarians and beekeepers,” Cripps says.

For more information about VFD regulations, click here.

http://www.beeculture.com/catch-buzz-starting-january-honey-producers-will-turn-veterinarians-antimicrobial-needs/