Finnish Scientists Develop Edible Insect Vaccine To Save Bees

DOGO News By Ariel Kim  January 10, 2019

European honey bee extracts nectar from an Aster flower (Credit: John Severns/ Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)

European honey bee extracts nectar from an Aster flower (Credit: John Severns/ Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)

In addition to providing us with delicious honey, the hardworking honey bees also pollinate about a third of food crops and almost 90 percent of wild grasses, like alfalfa, used to feed livestock. Hence, it is not surprising that their declining population, caused by climate change, habitat loss, and deadly microbial diseases, has researchers scrambling to find ways to protect the vulnerable insects, which are so crucial to our existence. Now, scientists from the University of Helsinki in Finland have found a way to help honey bees fight off infectious diseases with a sweet, edible vaccine!

Vaccinating non-humans is not a novel idea. Domesticated dogs and cats have been inoculatedagainst rabies, Lyme disease, and even the flu for many years. However, using them to protect insects has never been considered possible. That’s because vaccinations entail injecting a dead, or weakened, version of the virus into the body and allowing the immune system to create antibodies to fend off the disease. Since insects do not possess antibodies, they lack a "memory" for fighting infections and therefore do not benefit from traditional vaccinations.

Some of the foods that could be affected if honey bees disappear (Credit: Specialtyfood.com)

Some of the foods that could be affected if honey bees disappear (Credit: Specialtyfood.com)

Dalial Freitak, a biologist at the University of Helsinki, came up with the idea of an edible insect vaccine in 2014, after observing that when a moth was fed certain bacteria, it was able to pass on immunity to its offspring. Meanwhile, her colleague, Heli Salmela, had noticed that vitellogenin, a bee protein, appeared to have a similar effect to invasive bacteria in bees.

"So they could actually convey something by eating. I just didn't know what the mechanism was. At the time, as I started my post-doc work in Helsinki, I met with Heli Salmela, who was working on honeybees and a protein called vitellogenin. I heard her talk, and I was like: OK, I could make a bet that it is your protein that takes my signal from one generation to another. We started to collaborate, got funding from the Academy of Finland, and that was actually the beginning of PrimeBEE," Freitak explains.

How the American foulbrood bacteria invade and decimate hives (Credit: Current Opinion in Insect Science/Sciencedirect.com)

How the American foulbrood bacteria invade and decimate hives (Credit: Current Opinion in Insect Science/Sciencedirect.com)

The first PrimeBEE vaccine, which is still undergoing safety tests, aims to protect honeybees against American foulbrood, or AFB, an infectious disease which affects bee colonies worldwide. The harmful bacteria, introduced to the hive by nurse bees, feed on larvae and generate spores which spread and infect the entire hive. “It's a death sentence for a hive or colony to be diagnosed with the disease,” says Toni Burnham, president of the D.C. Beekeepers Alliance in Washington.

The researchers, who unveiled their findings on October 18, 2018, say the vaccine teaches honeybees to identify harmful diseases, similar to how antibodies function in humans and animals. They explain, "When the queen bee eats something with pathogens in it, the pathogen signature molecules are bound by vitellogenin. Vitellogenin then carries these signature molecules into the queen's eggs, where they work as inducers for future immune responses." The researchers believe that once the first PrimeBEE vaccine is perfected, defense against other pathogens will be easy to create.

“We need to help honey bees, absolutely. Even improving their life a little would have a big effect on the global scale. Of course, the honey bees have many other problems as well: pesticides, habitat loss and so on, but diseases come hand in hand with these life-quality problems,” Freitak says. “If we can help honey bees to be healthier and if we can save even a small part of the bee population with this invention, I think we have done our good deed and saved the world a little bit.”

Resources: Smithsonianmag.com, NPR.org, mnn.com.

Finding An Elusive Mutation That Turns Altruism Into Selfish Behavior Among Honeybees

Phys.org    From Oxford University Press     January 8, 2019

A. m. capensis pseudoqueens  (black bees) among  A. m. scutellata  host workers (yellow bees). Credit: Picture taken by Mike Allsopp

A. m. capensis pseudoqueens (black bees) among A. m. scutellata host workers (yellow bees). Credit: Picture taken by Mike Allsopp

Among the social insects, bees have developed a strong and rich social network, where busy worker bees tend to the queen, who in turn, controls reproduction for the benefit of the hive.

But the South African Cape honey bee (Apis mellifera capensis) can flout these rules. In a process of genetic trickery called thelytoky syndrome, worker bee females ignore the queen's orders and begin to reproduce on their own.

Scientists, in their own altruistic effort to protect the Cape honey bees from a recent devastating blight, transferred the Cape honey bees to a northeastern region—-only to see the Cape bees wreak havoc among colonies of the neighboring honey bee subspecies A. m. scutellata.

The A. capensis bees turned from altruistic workers to the guests who would not leave—-becoming social parasites that forage on their own into foreign colonies, reproducing an army of loyal workers, stealing all the honey, and eventually, dethroning the queen and taking over the host colony.

This type of behavior, despite making for bad neighbors, makes a lot of evolutionary sense. If the queen is lost, then the thelytoky syndrome at one point must have first kicked in as a life raft to save the colony. But if this is the case, why hasn't it become a more widespread phenomenon for other bee species?

Recently, scientists have combed through bee genomes to narrow down the genetics behind thelytoky, and linked these to candidate genes in the past few years—-but to date, the master genetic switch has not been found.

Now, for the first time, a group led by Denise Aumer and Eckart Stolle, working in the lab of Robin Moritz at the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg's Institute of Biology, have finally found the root cause responsible for thelytoky. The findings were published in the advanced online edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution.

"Uncovering the genetic architecture underlying thelytoky is a big step towards understanding this mode of reproduction, not only in the Cape honeybee, but also in other insect species in general (e.g. many invasive ants reproduce in a very similar fashion)," said Stolle. "After having worked on the topic for so many years with so much efforts by our colleagues and us to add pieces to the puzzle and also with the one or other dead end, it is a huge accomplishment for us to have come to this point."

By comparing the genomes of Cape honeybees which produce diploid female offspring (thelytoky) with those producing haploid male offspring (arrhenotoky, i.e. the expected mode of reproduction), they identified a candidate gene located on chromosome one, LOC409096, and proposed to call it Thelytoky (Th), as the major regulator of the selfish worker bee reproduction. Thelytoky encodes a receptor protein with a transmembrane helix and a signal peptide at the extracellular N-terminus, indicating that it is linked to a secretory pathway.

A. m. capensis pseudoqueen  (bee with white tag on thorax) eliciting retinue behavior in the surrounding  A. m. scutellata  host bees. Credit: Picture taken by Mike Allsopp.

A. m. capensis pseudoqueen (bee with white tag on thorax) eliciting retinue behavior in the surrounding A. m. scutellata host bees. Credit: Picture taken by Mike Allsopp.

Specifically, a single mutational substitution in exon 7 of Thelytoky causes a change from the polar amino acid threonine to the non-polar amino acid isoleucine in the protein sequence, leading to substantial structural modifications and likely functional consequences. In addition, they confirmed their genetic data by showing that RNA levels of Thelytoky were elevated only in the selfish bees. They also performed DNA sequencing of another honey bee population and found the same exact mutation amongst the socially parasitic lineage of the Cape honey bee, but not among workers of other honey bee subspecies.

From the study of the genetics, they determined that Cape bee selfishness exhibits a dominant inheritance pattern, which means that only one mutation that needs to be passed down to perform the selfish genetic switch.

But the genetics are a bit more complicated because it turns out that the selfish gene still needs its altruistic partner (known as the social, or arrhenotoky form of the gene).

"The genetic control of the thelytoky syndrome is regulated by a more complex genetic mechanism than previously assumed," said Aumer. "The thelytoky allele (Th) is not recessive, i.e., needing two copies of the mutated gene, but rather a dominant allele. This dominant mutation expresses the phenotype (thelytoky) when one copy of the gene is the mutated variant, and the other copy is the one variant typical for the Cape honey bee."

"But at the same time, it appears that having two copies of the mutated variant is detrimental, perhaps even lethal, while having two copies of the "regular" Cape bee variant of this genes makes them reproduce normally. Any other combination of the mutated variant with another subspecies' variant would be non-matching alleles and would result in either non-functional or fertile normally reproducing (arrhenotokous) phenotypes. Therefore, the Cape bee typical Th variant seems to complement the mutated Th variant in a way that the offspring is fertile and expresses the unique set of phenotypes referred to as thelytoky syndrome."

Because only one gene can get passed on during reproduction, the genetics not only explain why breeders, for the past 150 years, have been mostly unsuccessful with producing thelytokous workers from mating the Cape bees with others, but also why the thelytoky behavior hasn't spread into other bee populations.

Genetically, it turns out you still need a little altruism to be truly selfish. When only one is passed on from interbreeding, the effect is lost without its partner gene.

"On a broader level, the identified genetic architecture of thelytoky in honey bees may serve as a model for other eusocial species with similar thelytokous reproduction, in particular for novel ant model systems, such as Platythyrea punctata and the clonal raider ant Ooceraea biroi," wrote the authors in the Molecular Biology and Evolution publication.

And just like the striking case of malaria and hemoglobin genes in humans, the study shows how just a single change in the DNA can have such a dramatic effect on a species, or in this case, changing the behavior of a bee from a helper to a mercenary.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2019-01-elusive-mutation-altruism-selfish-behavior.html#jCp
Journal reference: Molecular Biology and Evolution  
Provided by: Oxford University Press

Students Create Probiotic To Help Honeybees Fight Deadly Fungus

Phys.org By Andrew Lyle, University of Alberta January 10, 2019

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A team of University of Alberta students are hoping to market a probiotic they created to help honeybees ward off a fungal infection that has wiped out entire hives.

APIS, short for "antifungal porphyrin-based intervention system," uses genetically engineered E. coli bacteria to produce molecules called porphyrins that damage the spores of Nosema ceranae, the most widespread fungus infecting honeybees around the world.

Beekeepers can feed the product to their hives to help eliminate the fungus in the bees' digestive systems.

The students created the product as a project for the 2018 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition that took place in Boston last October, where they won first prize and a gold medal in the food and nutrition category.

A month after the competition, the team presented their research at the annual conference of the Alberta Beekeeping Commission.

"It allowed us to expose our work to commercial beekeepers and to bee researchers who might be able to pursue further development," said science student and team member Julia Heaton. "We've had interest in our project from some of these beekeepers, as well as from beekeepers who saw our research in the media.

"We have commercial beekeepers who are willing to conduct the necessary field trials to allow commercialization of our project. We've also looked into patenting our system with the help of TEC Edmonton."

Honeybees in cold climates are even more vulnerable to the fungus that infects their digestive systems—a problem of particular concern in Alberta, which produced more than 40 per cent of Canada's honey in 2016, worth more than $60 million.

The only existing treatment for Nosema ceranae is a fungicide called fumagillin, but it has been discontinued, making the problem even more critical.

"Bees have been a really hot topic lately, but although a lot of people know that bees are in trouble, not a lot of people understand why," said Heaton.

"We also wanted to raise awareness of a problem that deeply affects our province and our communities, but not many people know about," added Anna Kim, a team member studying biology and psychology.

Under the supervision of mentors, more than 300 university teams are tasked with using genetic components to create biological solutions to real-world problems.

"Very often in science, we first find 'solutions' and then we go looking for a problem," said U of A chemistry professor Robert Campbell, who mentored the student team for the competition in which more than 300 university teams are tasked with using genetic components to create biological solutions to real-world problems.

"It is so important to identify a problem first and then find the best solution, no matter where that leads you. This team identified the problem of Nosema infections in honeybees and was inspired to conceive of an original, feasible and practical solution."

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2019-01-students-probiotic-honeybees-deadly-fungus.html#jCp

Provided by: University of Alberta 

Bee Mite Arrival in Hawaii Causes Pathogen Changes in Honeybee Predators

UC Riverside By Iqbal Pittalwala January 8, 2019

bee mite arrival in Hawaii.jpg

UC Riverside-led research, done on the Big Island, shows effects of mite introduction have cascaded through entire pathogen communities

The reddish-brown varroa mite, a parasite of honeybees and accidentally introduced in the Big Island of Hawaii in 2007-08, is about the size of a pinhead. Yet, its effects there are concerning to entomologists because the mite is found nearly everywhere honeybees are present.

A team led by entomologists at the University of California, Riverside, performed a study on the Big Island and found viruses associated with the mite have spilled over into the western yellowjacket, a honeybee predator and honey raider. The result is a hidden, yet remarkable, change in the genetic diversity of viruses associated with the larger pathogen community of the mite and wasp, with repercussions yet to be understood.

Erin Wilson Rankin examines a western yellowjacket. (I. Pittalwala/UC Riverside)

Erin Wilson Rankin examines a western yellowjacket. (I. Pittalwala/UC Riverside)

“Already, we are seeing that the arrival of the varroa mite in honeybee populations in Hawaii has favored a few virulent strains,” said Erin E. Wilson Rankin, an assistant professor of entomologyand lead investigator of the study published Jan. 9 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “We do not know what the effects of these strains will be. What we know is that the effects of the varroa mite have cascaded through entire communities in Hawaii and probably around the world.”

In particular, the researchers saw a loss in the diversity of deformed wing virus, or DWV, variants, resulting in new strains whose impact is hard to predict. DWV, widespread in honeybee populations globally and made up of several variants, is thought to be partly responsible for global die-off of honeybee colonies. DWV infects bumblebees and has been detected in other insects. The yellowjacket wasps can acquire this virus directly or indirectly from honeybees.

The western honey bee.

The western honey bee.

By a stroke of luck, the researchers had the benefit of studying the honeybee and yellowjacket populations on the Big Island both before and after the varroa mite was introduced there. They saw more association of honeybees with pathogens after the appearance of the mite. Indeed, some pathogens were detected in the honeybee and wasp populations only after the mite was introduced to the island.

“This is one of the first descriptions of pathogens in the western yellowjacket,” Wilson Rankin said. “Evidently, pathogens known to be associated with varroa have spread into non-bee species, despite the mite itself being a bee specialist. We suspect the spread in yellowjackets is partly due to the wasp’s propensity to prey upon bees, which is one way the wasps may be exposed to the pathogens.”

Wilson Rankin noted the pathogens are often incorrectly called “bee pathogens” because they were first found in bees. The pathogens, however, are found in a wide variety of insects.

“We are seeing entirely different predators being affected,” she said. “The mite is not vectoring viruses to the wasps. The viral spread is happening through predation and through flowers. Predators may be passing on pathogens to other species. The yellowjacket, for example, preys on both honeybees and native bees, and may explain why both bee populations are showing the same viruses.”

Wilson Rankin explained wasps have been overlooked by researchers because these arthropods do not have “warm, fuzzy, and furry connotations.”

The western yellowjacket is a honey bee predator and honey-raider.

The western yellowjacket is a honey bee predator and honey-raider.

“They look scary,” she added. “People also get stung by them. People are more afraid of wasps than bees. But our work shows we can examine the health of the arthropod community by using species other than bees. We show for the first time that a predator is being affected by a parasite that does not even infect it.”

The researchers sampled 25-45 bees and wasps for one part of the study, and then about 100 individuals, analyzed in groups, for each of the species during the period before and after the mite was introduced to the Big Island. The researchers did not study native bees, focusing instead on honeybees and yellowjacket wasps, neither of which is native to Hawaii. 

“Our findings suggest that pathogen transmission from domesticated bees, such as honeybees, may be important even for non-bee insects like the wasps we studied,” said Kevin J. Loope, the research paper’s first author, who worked as a postdoctoral scholar in the Wilson Rankin lab during the study. “The impacts may be more subtle than previously observed: we found changes in the genetic variation of viruses found in the wasps, but not changes in the amount of virus. These findings suggest we should look more broadly and in greater detail to figure out how moving domesticated bees for agriculture may influence wild populations of insects.

Loope, now a research assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Georgia Southern University, explained that finding overlap in the pathogens of yellowjacket wasps and domesticated bees also means that using pathogens to control undesirable wasp populations is risky.

“Any biological control efforts using pathogens should be carefully evaluated to prevent inadvertent harm to beneficial bees,” he said.

Kevin Loope excavates a yellowjacket nest in Volcano, Hawaii. (Jessica Purcell/UC Riverside)

Kevin Loope excavates a yellowjacket nest in Volcano, Hawaii. (Jessica Purcell/UC Riverside)

He added that the research team was surprised to find a dramatic difference in the viral genetic diversity between the wasp samples from the two periods — before and after the varroa mite was detected on the Big Island.

“We had predicted we would observe a decline in wasp viral diversity matching the decline described in honeybees in Hawaii, but we were still surprised to see this borne out in the data,” he said. “It’s not so often that you see what you’ve predicted in biology.”

Wilson Rankin and Loope were joined in the research by Philip J. Lester of Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand; and James W. Baty of Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, New Zealand. Genetic analyses on the bee and wasp samples were performed at UCR and in New Zealand.

Wilson Rankin was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Hellman Fellows Fund. Loope was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

https://news.ucr.edu/articles/2019/01/08/bee-mite-arrival-hawaii-causes-pathogen-changes-honeybee-predators

LACBA Meeting: Monday, January 7, 2019

LACBA logo dk blue.jpg

Our first LACBA meeting of the new year will be held Monday, January 7, 2019.

Committee Meeting: 6:30pm / Membership Meeting: 7:00pm
Location: Mount Olive Lutheran Church (Shilling Hall)
3561 Foothill Blvd., La Crescenta, CA 91214

Meetings of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association are open to the public. All Are Welcome!

On the Agenda:

  • Learn about LACBA committees and how you can participate.

  • Beginning with the Committee Meeting, we will be discussing our upcoming Beekeeping Class 101: Class size, instructors, class fee, etc. BRING YOUR IDEAS!

  • An experienced beekeeper will share on how they got into beekeeping and what went on in their first two years of beekeeping. Specifically focusing on mistakes made, the trials, tribulations, problems.

  • Bill Lewis will present an informative tribute to photojournalist and bee photographer, Kodua Galieti, utilizing her extraordinary photographs to show what goes on inside a beehive and the various stages of honey bee development. Long time beekeepers and new-bees are sure to find the presentation fascinating.

  • We’re hoping all those who attended the CSBA Convention will share a short report on what you found most interesting, informative, entertaining - something you can share with the rest of us. Thank you!

  • Presentation of the 2018 Golden Hive Tool Award.

  • What Do You See Going On Inside and Outside Your Hive This Time Of Year???

  • What’s Blooming?

  • Q&A

  • Next month Wildflower Meadows to speak.

  • RAFFLE!!!! Bring something for the Raffle!

    Hope to see you at the meeting!

THE BOARD WANTS TO HEAR FROM YOU
Discussion about changes for 2019 Beekeeping 101 Classes.  Your board of directors would like your suggestions as to changes to the 2019 Beekeeping 101 classes.  Come to the Committee Meeting @ 6:30pm on Monday January 7, 2018 to give your opinion.  This is your chance to participate in the discussion about the 2019 Beekeeping 101 classes.

New Laboratory System Allows Researchers To Probe The Secret Lives Of Queen Bees

Phys.org University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign December 3, 2018

Researchers at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois used specially developed 3D-printed plastic honey combs that mimic the hive environment, in order to monitor queen egg-laying behaviors. Credit: Bee Research Facility, University of Illinois

Researchers at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois used specially developed 3D-printed plastic honey combs that mimic the hive environment, in order to monitor queen egg-laying behaviors. Credit: Bee Research Facility, University of Illinois

More than a decade after the identification of colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon marked by widespread loss of honey bee colonies, scientists are still working to untangle the ecologically complex problem of how to mitigate ongoing losses of honey bees and other pollinating species. One much-needed aid in this effort is more efficient ways to track specific impacts on bee health. To address this need, a group of Illinois researchers has established a laboratory-based method for tracking the fertility of honey bee queens.

Co-first authors Julia Fine and Hagai Shpigler, both postdoctoral researchers at the University of Illinois, worked with others in the laboratory of Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology Director and Swanlund Professor of Entomology Gene Robinson to establish a laboratory set-up that would mimic the key aspects of the hive environment and allow detection of egg-laying by honey bee queens living with small groups of worker bees. The resulting system, described in PLOS ONE, allowed them to explore the relationship between worker nutrition and queen fertility.

"The idea that honey bee nutrition influences colony level metrics of reproduction has been demonstrated before, but here, we examined an old story using new tools," Fine said. "We were able to get a clearer picture of how nutrition can affect the relationship between honey bee workers and queens and how this can impact the queen's egg production."

Populations of many pollinator species have been declining in the US and worldwide. Studies of factors influencing wild and managed honey bee hives have identified four main factors influencing health: parasites, pathogens, pesticides, and poor nutrition. These factors can influence one another. For example, parasites may spread pathogens, much as fleas do on people, while poor nutrition might increase the likelihood of foraging on contaminated food sources.

Egg production is a vital aspect of honey bee colony function. Queens lay eggs that hatch into the thousands of worker bees that keep the colony running, as well as males and young queens to allow the colony to propagate. But in the dark, bustling interior of a standard hive, it is challenging to monitor egg laying or to evaluate the impacts of environmental factors.

"Egg laying occurs in the darkness of a hive occupied by thousands of workers and is therefore hard to track," Shpigler said. "Queen egg laying was never studied outside of the colony; the biggest challenge was to give the queens the right conditions for continuous egg laying outside of natural conditions."

To move queen productivity successfully into the lab, the researchers focused on the essentials of their natural environment. They developed a 3-D-printed plastic honey comb that they refined to mimic what a queen would experience in the hive, which ensured that the cage environment could be carefully controlled and kept pesticide free. They also provided each queen with a small group of worker bees to feed and support the queen; this element became the inspiration for their first experiments with the new system.

"Honey bee queens only ingest food in the form of glandular secretions provided to them by their worker caretakers, and queens are not known to lay eggs without the support of their worker bees," Fine said. "The more we worked in this system, the more it became apparent that the easiest way to influence the queen was to first influence the worker bees that care for her. Once we identified this strategy, designing effective experiments became easier."

Fine, Shpigler, and their coauthors provided each group of caged bees with honey, water, and sucrose solution, but varied the source of fat and protein: some bees were fed with a paste of honey and either a low or a high amount of floral pollen, while others were fed with bee bread, a mixture of pollen, honey, and secretions produced by worker honey bees that preserve and ferment the pollen. The researchers monitored how queen egg laying behavior was influenced by the type of diet fed to the workers caring for her.

They found that when a group of workers was fed pollen paste, the queen they attended was likely to increase her egg laying more slowly in the laboratory environment than a queen attended by bee bread-fed workers. This difference was most noticeable when the lower-percentage pollen paste was used, but persisted even in bees fed the richer pollen paste.

The results affirmed the importance of nutrition to queen productivity, as well as demonstrating the potential utility of the laboratory set-up for investigating other factors affecting queen behavior and health.

"The effect of the nutrition . . . was our first successful use of the system, giving us hope for more success in the future," Shpigler said. "The results show very nicely how the honey bee colony functions as one body, with shared digestive and reproductive systems. The workers are the ones that eat the food and the effect is on the queen egg laying—the superorganism in action!"

"It's been exciting to see the kind of quantitative data that we can generate with this system using fewer resources relative to studies that use full size honey bee colonies," Fine said. "Eventually, we hope that this system can be adapted as a risk assessment tool to identify other factors that positively and negatively influence honey bee reproduction . . . there is an immediate need for a laboratory system that can be used to quantitatively assess risks to honey bee queen health and reproduction."

More information: Julia D. Fine et al, Quantifying the effects of pollen nutrition on honey bee queen egg laying with a new laboratory system, PLOS ONE (2018). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0203444

Journal reference: PLoS ONE

Provided by: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 

https://phys.org/news/2018-12-laboratory-probe-secret-queen-bees.html#jCp

Honeybees May Hold The Secret To Stem Cell Youth

Medical News Today By Maria Cohut December 6, 2018

New research uncovers some of the 'magical' properties of royal jelly.

New research uncovers some of the 'magical' properties of royal jelly.

Royal jelly is a gelatinous substance that honeybees produce to feed their young. This intriguing food also holds the mysterious power of helping some honeybee larvae grow into new queen bees. Some people believe that royal jelly can unlock the fountain of youth. Is there any truth in that?

In the complex hierarchy of the beehive, the queen bee is the sacred matriarch who keeps the colony alive and organized.

The queen bee lays the eggs from which the larvae will hatch. These larvae later become either the new workers, which are the female bees who do all the work around the hive, or the drones, the male bees whose job it is to mate with the queen.

When a queen bee dies, the colony has to ensure that a new one takes her place.

To produce a new queen bee, worker bees select the most suitable larvae and feed them royal jelly. This will allow one of them to develop into the healthy, strong, and extremely fertile adult female who then becomes the new queen bee.

Royal jelly comprises water, proteins, and sugars, but how exactly it stimulates some larvae to grow into queens rather than worker bees has remained unclear.

Still, due to its seemingly "magical" properties, many people hail this substance as a miraculous ingredient that can boost health and help maintain youth.

In a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, a team of researchers has decided to investigate how and why royal jelly might be beneficial. They have looked at its effect on one of the most promising targets of clinical research, namely mammalian stem cells. These undifferentiated cells are capable of turning into any specialized cells, serving any function.

"In folklore, royal jelly is kind of like a super-medicine, particularly in Asia and Europe, but the DNA sequence of royalactin, the active component in the jelly, is unique to honeybees. Now, we've identified a structurally similar mammalian protein that can maintain stem cell pluripotency," explains senior author Dr. Kevin Wang.

The researchers tell the story of their current findings in the journal Nature Communications.

The 'magic' ingredient of royal jelly

"I've always been interested in the control of cell size, and the honeybee is a fantastic model to study this," says Dr. Wang. "These larvae all start out the same on day zero, but end up with dramatic and lasting differences in size. How does this happen?"

In this study, Dr. Wang and his team honed in on a protein called royalactin that is present in royal jelly. They believed that this protein may be, in great measure, responsible for stimulating the impressive cell growth in the larvae that the worker bees select to become queen bees.

In order to study its effects, the researchers decided to apply royalactin to embryonic stem cells, or undifferentiated cells, that they had collected from mice.

"For royal jelly to have an effect on queen development, it has to work on early progenitor cells in the bee larvae," Dr. Wang notes. "So we decided to see what effect it had, if any, on embryonic stem cells," he adds.

Embryonic stem cells are the perfect candidate in clinical research as they have the potential to turn into any specialized cell, playing any role. This potential is called "pluripotency."

Replacing aging, damaged specialized cells with fresh ones that have grown from stem cells has, in theory, the potential to help address any number of diseases. As a result, it is important for researchers to have access to healthy, "youthful" stem cells that they can keep in the labs in their undifferentiated forms until they need to use them.

A protein named 'Regina'

However, Dr. Wang explains, stem cells soon differentiate under lab conditions and become unusable. To keep their pluripotency intact, researchers have had to devise complex inhibitors.

When they added royalactin to embryonic stem cells, the investigators found that it maintained their pluripotency for longer — specifically, for 20 generations — without the need to administer the usual inhibitors.

"This was unexpected. Normally, these embryonic stem cells are grown in the presence of an inhibitor called leukemia inhibitor factor that stops them from differentiating inappropriately in culture, but we found that royalactin blocked differentiation even in the absence of [leukemia inhibitor factor]," Dr. Wang notes.

Still, the researchers did not understand this response. They felt that the mammalian stem cells should not have responded so well to royalactin since mammals do not produce that protein.

They then wondered if they could find a mammalian-produced protein that might match the shape of royalactin rather than its sequence and that may also serve the purpose of sustaining cell "stemness."

Sure enough, they identified a mammalian protein called NHLRC3, which, they thought, may have a structure close to that of royalactin and might serve a similar purpose. NHLRC3, explains Dr. Wang, occurs in all early animal embryos, including those of humans.

When the researchers applied this protein to mouse embryonic stem cells, they found that, like royalactin, it helped maintain their pluripotency. For this reason, the team decided to rename this protein "Regina," which means "queen" in Latin.

"It's fascinating. Our experiments imply Regina is an important molecule governing pluripotency and the production of progenitor cells that give rise to the tissues of the embryo. We've connected something mythical to something real." ~Dr. Kevin Wang

In the future, the researchers plan to find out whether Regina can boost wound healing and cell regeneration. They also want to look into more ways of keeping stem cells "youthful" in the laboratory.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323904.php?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Medical_News_Today_TrendMD_1

Propolis Power-Up: How Beekeepers Can Encourage Resin Deposits For Better Hive Health

Entomology Today By Andrew Porterfield

Propolis is a pliable, resinous mixture that honey bees (Apis mellifera) create by mixing a variety of plant resins, saliva, and beeswax and which they apply to interior surfaces of their hives, namely at points of comb attachment and to seal up cracks and crevices on the interior side of hive walls. Greater propolis production is connected with improved hive health, and a new study finds a few simple methods beekeepers can employ to stimulate increased propolis production. (Photo credit: Flickr/Ontario Beekeepers’ Association Tech Transfer Program, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Propolis is a pliable, resinous mixture that honey bees (Apis mellifera) create by mixing a variety of plant resins, saliva, and beeswax and which they apply to interior surfaces of their hives, namely at points of comb attachment and to seal up cracks and crevices on the interior side of hive walls. Greater propolis production is connected with improved hive health, and a new study finds a few simple methods beekeepers can employ to stimulate increased propolis production. (Photo credit: Flickr/Ontario Beekeepers’ Association Tech Transfer Program, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Propolis, a mass of plant resins built by honey bees inside their hives, has drawn attention in recent years partly because of its alleged (but as yet unproven) health benefits to humans. But, perhaps more important, it also shows health benefits to bees themselves. Created from resins and other oils and fats collected from trees, propolis helps preserve the structural integrity of a bee hive and protects against wood decay, fungus, and water.

Propolis has also been connected to benefiting honey bee (Apis mellifera) immune systems, saving energy that would otherwise have been used to protect against nest-invading beetles like Aethina tumidaor parasites like the Varroa destructor mite, Nosema fungus, and viruses. In the past, some beekeepers have tried to keep their hives “clean” of propolis, believing it impeded with honey-making activities. Today, though, scientists and beekeepers have begun looking at encouraging propolis production to help sustain healthy hives.

In a new study published today in the Journal of Economic Entomology, three researches—Cynthia Hodges, master beekeeper and co-owner of Hodges Honey Apiaries in Dunwoody, Georgia; Keith Delaplane, Ph.D., entomology professor at the University of Georgia; and Berry Brosi, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental science at Emory University in Atlanta—looked at four different ways to enhance propolis growth in bee hives. The team found that three surface modifications—plastic trap material on the hive wall interior, parallel saw cuts on hive wall interior, and brush-roughened wall interiors—were all equally capable of resulting in increased propolis production, compared to a fourth method, a control, in which the hive wall interiors we left unmodified.

The researchers divided 20 colonies into five apiary sites and randomly applied one of the three texture treatments or control to each colony. Bees in the colonies foraged for propolis resins from plants common to the Appalachian Piedmont in the southeastern U.S., including conifers, oaks, pecan, red maple, yellow poplar, and urban ornamental plants. The researchers then measured extensiveness and depth of propolis deposits in the hives over time.

Researchers in Georgia tested three different ways to texturize the interiors of honey bee (Apis mellifera) hive walls to stimulate production of propolis: at left, plastic propolis traps are attached to the walls; at center, walls are modified with five parallel saw kerfs, 7 centimeters apart, cut 3 millimeters deep into the surface; and, at right, walls are roughened with a mechanized wire brush. All three treatments stimulated increased propolis production over smooth, unmodified walls. (Left image originally published in Borba et al 2015, Journal of Experimental Biology; center and right images originally published in Hodges et al 2018, Journal of Economic Entomology)

Researchers in Georgia tested three different ways to texturize the interiors of honey bee (Apis mellifera) hive walls to stimulate production of propolis: at left, plastic propolis traps are attached to the walls; at center, walls are modified with five parallel saw kerfs, 7 centimeters apart, cut 3 millimeters deep into the surface; and, at right, walls are roughened with a mechanized wire brush. All three treatments stimulated increased propolis production over smooth, unmodified walls. (Left image originally published in Borba et al 2015, Journal of Experimental Biology; center and right images originally published in Hodges et al 2018, Journal of Economic Entomology)

Their results showed that any hive interior treatment significantly increased propolis deposition compared to a non-treatment control. Sampling over time showed propolis hoarding and accumulation, as well. None of the texture treatments showed significantly different results from each other.

While all treatments resulted in more propolis deposition, the researchers point to the roughened interior of the hive walls as the best method for encouraging deposition. In fact, leaving lumber naturally rough, with no planning or sanding, would provide a simple and effective surface for boosting propolis, they write.

“We come down in favor of roughened or un-planed wood,” says Delaplane, “because, unlike the plastic trap, it will not subtract from the bee space engineered around the walls and combs. What you see in our pictures is the work of a steel brush. Naturally un-planed wood would be much rougher and, I would expect, even better at stimulating propolis deposition.”

Other researchers have shown that propolis development has a strong effect on the members of the bee hive. These other investigations have shown that interior walls painted with propolis extract resulted in colonies with lower bacterial loads and with worker bees that expressed lower levels of immune gene expression. Sustained activation of immune genes comes at an energy cost, which can result in a reduction in brood numbers and pose a threat to overall colony health. Further studies have shown that reduced immune activation (and therefore less energy spent on fighting infection) comes from reduced pathogen loads in high-propolis colonies and not from immune suppression by propolis.

“I don’t know of any beekeepers deliberately encouraging their bees to collect propolis,” says Delaplane, adding that many keepers in the past have tried to clear propolis from their hives. “But today we know that this bias is misdirected. I believe encouraging propolis deposition is one more thing beekeepers can do to partner with biology instead of ignore it.”

https://entomologytoday.org/2018/11/28/propolis-how-beekeepers-encourage-better-hive-health/

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year.jpg

Historical Honeybee Articles - Beekeeping History
Honey For Your New Years Celebration. 

According to the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke, honey speeds up alcohol metabolism, which means that it will help your body break down the alcohol more quickly. - Source: What Women Need to Know - 2005, page 14, By Marianne Legato, Carol Colman

Eating toast and honey after a long evening's drinking will help prevent the morning-after hangover headache. -Source: Better Homes and Gardens - 1977, page 61

Plants' Defense Against Insects is a Boquet

Michigan State University By Joy Landis December 13, 2018

plants and insects.jpg

Michigan State University scholar Andrea Glassmire and her colleagues have revealed how the mixture of chemical weapons deployed by plants keeps marauding insects off base better than a one-note defense. This insight goes beyond the ecological convention of studying a single chemical compound a plant is packing and offers new ways to approach agricultural pest management. The research was published in the latest Ecology Letters.

Glassmire, a post-doctoral scholar in MSU’s Department of Entomology and colleagues from the University of Nevada, Reno, found important relationships between plant defensive chemistry in the neotropical shrub, Piper kelleyi, and its associated insect pests.

Since plants cannot move, they defend against pests that eat them using a bouquet of chemical compounds. Ecology, however, has been biased towards studying effects of single compounds even though a feeding insect would encounter a blend of plant compounds. It turns out that the type of defense bouquet matters, whether bouquets have the same compounds or a blend of different compounds.

“If we can figure out the specific type of defense bouquet that is most effective at reducing insect feeding, then we can extrapolate these findings to agricultural systems to cut down on pesticide use,” said Glassmire.

Glassmire and colleagues manipulated plant chemical defenses in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador using a field experiment where plants were hung at different heights in the forest understory, exposing them to a range of light levels.

Their results suggest P. kelleyi plants consisting of defense bouquets having more kinds of defensive chemicals were more effective at reducing insect damage compared to defense bouquets having one kind of defensive chemical. The composition of defensive chemicals was dependent on the amount of light available. Subtle differences in light in the shaded forest understory induced changes in the defense bouquet. Remarkably, lower amounts of light increased the defense effectiveness of plants compared to higher amounts of light. Consequently, insect damage was reduced by up to 37% when P. kelleyi plants had bouquets of a blend of different compounds. Insects had difficulty consuming plants with different compound blends compared to plants with similar compound blends.

Understanding how plants’ chemical defenses vary across the geographic landscape could have important implications for agriculture. Glassmire and colleagues’ results suggest that feeding insects have difficulty adjusting to neighboring plants that are chemically different and that reduces damage. Agricultural systems comprised of a single crop monoculture lack differences in their defense bouquet because they are all the same.

“I’m excited to see how future applications of this knowledge could help farmers,” said Glassmire. “In the Wetzel lab, we are using a model crop system created by breeding commercial tomatoes with wild tomatoes to manipulate plant defense bouquets. This work will lead to new means of agricultural pest management in the future.”

The paper was co-authored by Casey Philbin, Lora Richards, Christopher Jeffrey and Lee Dyer of the University of Nevada, Reno, along with MSU’s Joshua Snook. The work was funded by the National Science Foundation, Earthwatch Institute, and a generous donation by the Hitchcock Fund for Chemical Ecology Research.

https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/plants-defense-against-insects-is-a-bouquet

Will Mushrooms Be Magic for Threatened Bees?

The New York Times / Opinion By Paul Stamets December 28, 2108

We might be able to save honeybees from viruses transmitted by invasive parasites without chemical treatment.

Credit: Lilli Carré

Credit: Lilli Carré

Sometime in the 1980s, microscopic mites that had been afflicting honeybees outside the United States found their way to Florida and Wisconsin and began wreaking havoc across the country. These parasites have invaded and decimated wild and domestic bee colonies. Along with other dangers facing bees, like pesticides and the loss of forage lands, the viruses these mites carry threaten the bees we rely on to pollinate many of the fruits, nuts and vegetables we eat.

This mite, Varroa destructor, injects a slew of viruses into bees, including one that causes shriveled wings, a primary factor in widespread colony collapse. Worse, these parasites have rapidly developed resistance to synthetic pesticides.

Beekeepers in the United States lost an estimated 40 percent of their colonies between April 2017 and April 2018. But we might be able to save honeybees at least from this parasitic scourge without chemical intervention. I along with scientists at Washington State University and the United States Department of Agriculture recently published in Scientific Reports, a journal from the publishers of Nature, a study that could inspire a paradigm shift in protecting bees.

Our research shows that extracts from the living mycelial tissue of common wood conk mushrooms known to have antiviral properties significantly reduced these viruses in honeybee colonies, in one field test by 45,000 times, compared to control colonies. In the field tests, we used extracts from two species of wood conks, the red reishi and the amadou. The famous “Iceman” found in a glacier in 1991 in the Alps carried amadouin a pouch 5,300 years ago. The red reishi has long been used as an immune-boosting tonic in Asia.

Our hypothesis — and that's all it is, we don't understand the mechanism behind the results — is that extracts of wood conk mushrooms strengthen immunity to viruses. More study is needed. At present, there have been no substances proved to reduce viruses in bees.

In the field study, a small amount of one of these mycelial extracts was added to the sugar water commonly fed to honeybees by beekeepers; wild bees could benefit too. I’m excited by the prospect of this research. I am a mycologist by trade — a mushroom expert — and I hope to create, with some colleagues, a nonprofit organization that could make available this mushroom extract and a bee feeder, similar to a hummingbird feeder, so that all of us can help save bees from our own backyards.

Our team is designing a bee feeder that we hope makes it possible to track bee visits and their pollen loads. Ideally, citizen scientists will upload their data to a portal to monitor progress. I estimate that millions of these feeders are needed to reverse the decline in bee populations.

Nature can repair itself with a little help from mycologists. Fungi outnumber plants by about 6 to 1; there are two million to four million fungal species, though only about 140,000 have been named so far. Our research underlines the need to save biodiversity for the discoveries to come.

These mycelial extracts might aid other species like pigs, birds and other animals. But we need more animal clinical studies to prove that this will work on a wider scale.

Mycology is an underfunded, understudied field with astonishing potential to save lives: ours and the bees.

Paul Stamets, a mycologist and owner of a gourmet mushroom company, is the author of “Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/28/opinion/bees-threats-crop-loss-mushrooms.html

It's Time to Revisit the 13 Days of Christmas!

Eric Mussen, Extension emeritus (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Eric Mussen, Extension emeritus (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bug Squad By Kathy Keatley Garvey December 16, 2018

It's time to revisit the "13 Bugs of Christmas!"

Back in 2010, two innovators with the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology) decided that "The 12 Days of Christmas" ought to be replaced with insects.

Remember that iconic song, "The 12 Days of Christmas?" Published in 1780, it begins with "On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree?" Eleven more gifts follow: "2 turtle doves, 3 French hens, 4 calling birds, 5 gold rings, 6 geese-a-laying, 7 swans-a-swimming, 8 maids a'milking, 9 ladies dancing, 10 lords-a-leaping, and 11 pipers piping."

The two innovators--Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen (with the department from 1976-2014 and now emeritus) and yours truly (with the department since 2005)--decided that "5 gold rings" ought to be "five golden bees." The duo also figured that varroa mites, and other pests of California agriculture, should be spotlighted. Don't know what happened to the varroa mites! Hey, Eric, where did you put the varroa mites?

They penned the lyrics for the department's holiday gathering. Then Mussen, who sings with a Davis-based doo wopp group, led the department in song.

That was supposed to be the end of it. Not so. It went viral when U.S. News picked it up.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a psyllid in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, 2 tortoises beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 8 ants a'milking aphids, 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 9 mayflies dancing, 8 ants a'milking aphids, 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 10 locusts leaping, 9 mayflies dancing, 8 ants a'milking aphids, 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 11 queen bees piping, 10 locusts leaping, 9 mayflies dancing, 8 ants a'milking aphids, 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 12 deathwatch beetles drumming, 11 queen bees piping, 10 locusts leaping, 9 mayflies dancing, 8 ants a'milking aphids, 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

"On the 13th day of Christmas, Californians woke to see: 13 Kaphra beetles, 12 Diaprepes weevils, 11 citrus psyllids,
10 Tropilaelaps clareae, 9 melon fruit flies, 8 Aedes aegypti, 7 ash tree borers, 6 six spotted-wing Drosophila, 5 five gypsy moths, 4 Japanese beetles, 3 imported fire ants, 2 brown apple moths, and a medfly in a pear tree."

Mussen, although retired in 2014, keeps bee-sy. A co-founder of Western Apicultural Society (WAS), he completed his sixth term as president in 2017. WAS, which serves the educational needs of beekeepers from 13 states, plus parts of Canada, was founded in 1977-78 for “the benefit and enjoyment of all beekeepers in western North America."

Mussen also continues to answer bee questions from his office in Briggs Hall and recently updated the "13 Bugs of Christmas" lyrics with some more agricultural pests:

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a psyllid in a pear tree.
One the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two peach fruit flies
On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three false codling moths
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four peach fruit flies
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, five gypsy moths
On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, six white striped fruit flies
On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, seven imported fire ants
On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eight longhorn beetles
On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, nine melon fruit flies
On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, ten brown apple moths
On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eleven citrus psyllids
On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, twelve guava fruit flies.
On the 13th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, thirteen Japanese beetles

You're welcome.

“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 5 golden bees.” This is one of them. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 5 golden bees.” This is one of them. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A Varroa mite on a honey bee—not something beekeepers want to see on their bees! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A Varroa mite on a honey bee—not something beekeepers want to see on their bees! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A queen bee with her retinue, “On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 11 queen bees piping.” (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A queen bee with her retinue, “On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 11 queen bees piping.” (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The Winter Solstice

the winter solstice.jpg

The Winter Solstice has been observed as an important date in beekeeping for over 2000 years.
Join us at: Historical Honeybee Articles - Beekeeping History
Read more to find out what the ancients have to say about winter and bees.

Aristotle says in Historia Animālium (History of Animals) Book IX
circa. 4 B.C.

"In healthy swarms the progeny of the bees only cease from reproduction for about forty days after the winter solstice."

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Pliny the Elder says in Naturalis Historia (Natural History)
circa. 77 - 79 AD

"From the winter solstice to the rising of Arcturus the bees are buried in sleep for sixty days, and live without any nourishment. Between the rising of Arcturus and the vernal equinox, they awake in the warmer climates, but even then they still keep within the hives, and have recourse to the provisions kept in reserve for this period."

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Virgil says in Georgics, Book IV
circa. 29 B.C.E

"Contracto frigore pigrae."
"With cold benumbed, inactive they remain."

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In the book 'The Universal Magazine of
Knowledge and Pleasure' circa. 1755

"The ancients mention a very extraordinary method of preserving the bees in their hives, which was by filling up a considerable part of the vacancy of every hive with the bodies of small birds, which had been killed, gutted, and dried for that purpose. This was certainly a way of keeping out some of the cold air, but it is so odd an one, that, probably, no-body since that time has tried it."

Original source unknown: perhaps Columella, Palladius or Pinly (the elder)

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Image: Stonehenge - Winter Solstice 2014

We Discovered More About The Honeybee 'Wake-Up Call'—And It Could Help Save Them

Phys.org By Martin Bencsik and Michael Ramsey,  The Conversation December 21, 2018

Remotely monitoring honeybee hives can help track the health of the colony. Credit: weter78/ Shutterstock

Remotely monitoring honeybee hives can help track the health of the colony. Credit: weter78/ Shutterstock

Worldwide honeybee populations are in peril – and it's a dire situation for humans. Threats from climate change, toxic pesticides, and disease have all contributed to a steep honeybee population decline since 2006. And as a third of the food we eat is a direct result of insect pollination – including by honeybees – there could be serious consequences for us if the species goes extinct.

We recently uncovered more about a well-known, important honeybee signal known as the dorso-ventral abdominal vibration (DVAV) signal. Known as the honeybee "wake-up call," this signal tells other bees to prepare for an increase in work load, particularly in relation to foraging. We developed a remote sensor which allowed us to monitor honeybee colonies without opening the hive. By understanding the frequency and strength of the DVAV signal in the hive, beekeepers and researchers might be better able to monitor the health of bee colonies worldwide.

In many countries (and in Europe in particular), the woodland habitat that honeybees require no longer exists, so the majority of honeybees only survive thanks to beekeepers, who provide boxes and hives for them to live in. As such, being able to continuously monitor honeybee colonies is essential to their survival.

Problems can arise quickly in a colony, with devastating effects. While commercial beekeepers are doing their best to monitor bee populations in hives, checking on every single hive's population is a near impossible task, as some professionals have more than 1,000 colonies to care for.

Recent research has focused on finding ways to monitor honeybee populations without having to physically open hives. This will help beekeepers better check the safety of their colonies and may help sustain honeybee populations.

A BEE DELIVERING A SERIES OF DVAV SIGNALS.

We have been particularly interested in researching the vibrations resulting from honeybee activity within hives to better understand their in-hive behaviour. By detecting and measuring the vibrations sent through the honeycomb by individual bees, we are able to study and decode the messages honeybees are sending each other.

Bee communication

The DVAV signal is one well-known form of honeybee communication which tells other bees in the hive to prepare for increased work load. This signal lasts one second and occurs when a honeybee grips a recipient bee with her front legs and rhythmically shakes her abdomen back and forth, usually 20 times per second.

Using an accelerometer sensor (which measures the rate of acceleration the bee's body vibrates) with automated recording software, we were able to continuously monitor activity in the honeybee hive. Our research found that we can pick up the DVAV signal in the hive when honeybees pass near our sensor. Knowing this allows us to refine our assessment of the health of the colony, as specific health disorders will be reflected in changes in the hive's overall DVAV activity levels.

This "wake-up call" was not previously known to produce any vibration within the honeycomb, but we now have recorded the associated waveform in outstanding detail. Additional video analysis allowed us to confirm that it was the DVAV signal our sensor was detecting. From this, we were then able to create further machine-learning software to automatically detect and log any occurrence of DVAVs from the data our sensor picked up.

A DVAV SIGNAL IS DETECTED.

We monitored this signal in three hives in the UK and France for up to 16 months. We found that the signal is very common and highly repeatable. It unexpectedly occurs more frequently at night, with a distinct decrease towards mid-afternoon – a trend that is opposite to the amplitude (strength, or loudness) of the signals. We also found that honeybees will commonly produce this signal directly onto the comb.

This, alongside other research, suggests the DVAV signal may not function only as a wake-up call. For instance, this signal might be a way for bees to probe the contents of the honeycomb in order to check the honey and pollen storage levels, or for the presence of eggs. The amplitude of the signal, which varies a lot between night and day, might indicate the context in which the message is being produced. Its nighttime enhanced frequency is both a new discovery and, presently, an amazing mystery.

This new insight into the DVAV signal will help scientists recreate it so that we can try to communicate with the bees. By driving a precise replica of DVAV signal waves into the honeycomb (something not possible before our study), researchers will be able to transmit meaningful messages to the colony. This will let them check that enhanced colony activity is achieved, and will also allow them to further understand the DVAV signal's specific functions.

Our new research builds upon the work done by Karl von Frisch who decoded the meaning of the honeybee "waggle dance". Von Frisch discovered honeybees use it to alert each other of nectar in the area, and it gives highly precise instructions on where to find it. The waggle dance is still discussed today as an example of astonishing sophistication in insect communication. The discovery also prompted a shift in our thinking about other life forms, and how they impact our lives.

With the current evidence we have about humanity's detrimental effect on Earth, it is likely that society's impact on the planet will only get worse. Despite our desire to protect endangered species, we frequently make decisions for humanity's benefit which are damaging to the environment. By highlighting another fascinating element of honeybee communication, we hope that our work will help shift humanity's thinking and make sustainability of the planet the top priority.

Explore further: Surprised honeybees give 'whooping signal' in the hive, study shows

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-12-honeybee-wake-up-calland.html#jCp

Provided by: The Conversation 

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Genome Published of The Small Hive Beetle, A Major Honey Bee Parasite

Phys.org From the Department of Agriculture December 20, 2018

Small hive beetles in a honey bee colony. Credit: Agricultural Research Service-USDA

Small hive beetles in a honey bee colony. Credit: Agricultural Research Service-USDA

Beekeepers and researchers will welcome the unveiling of the small hive beetle's genome by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and their colleagues. The small hive beetle (SHB) is a major parasite problem of honey bees for which there are few effective treatments.

The SHB (Aethina tumida Murray) genome—a genome is the sum total of all an organism's DNA; a gene codes for a single protein to be built—is available at is available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/genome/annotation_euk/Aethina_tumida/100 and was recently published in GigaScience.

This information will provide crucial keys that should lead to better, more targeted SHB control methods, including insecticidal treatments and possibly even genetic/breeding solutions.

The SHB has a strong gene-guided system that lets the beetle detoxify many insecticides. Having the genome will allow researchers to gain a more precise understanding of these detoxification genes, so more effective choices for control treatments can be made.

"The big challenge is identifying control methods that will target SHBs but not harm honey bees," said geneticist Jay Evans, who ran the project and is also leader of the ARS Bee Research Laboratory. "One strategy is to look for insecticides that hit pathways in the genome where the SHB has few or no detoxification genes. It would be even better if an insecticide could be identified for which the honey bee has detoxification genes but that the SHB doesn't.

A native of sub-Saharan Africa, the SHB has spread to many other locations, including North America, Europe, Australia, and the Philippines. It was first found in the United States in 1996 and during the summer of 1998, the SHB was blamed for losses of more than 20,000 honey bee colonies in Florida alone.

Today, the SHB has spread throughout the United States. It is a major problem especially for queen breeders and honey production. SHBs eat everything and anything in a bee colony: pollen, brood, honey, dead adult bees and combs) and cause honey to ferment in the process. If the number of SHBs is high enough, adult bees will abscond from the hive.

One avenue to which the SHB genome has already pointed is where to look for clues for how the SHB finds beehives; what pheromones or other smells do SHBs follow to target honey bee colonies.

Although there are about 350,000 beetle species and subspecies, only seven beetle genomes, including the SHB, have been completed and published.

Completing the SHB genome takes on even more importance when you realize that among the SHB's close relatives are the destructive and invasive Asian longhorned beetle along with other sap beetles that are pests of sweet corn, tomatoes, strawberries and other fruit and vegetable crops.

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $20 of economic impact.

Explore further: Study examines insecticide's effects on honey bees

Journal reference: GigaScience

Provided by: US Department of Agriculture

Read more at:https://phys.org/news/2018-12-genome-published-small-hive-beetle.html#jCp

660 Species Of Bees Live In Newly Shrunk National Monument

National Geographic By Katarina Zimmer December 17, 2018

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument supports hundreds of bee species, possibly because of its diversity of flowers. This newly discovered bee biodiversity hotspot is at risk now that the monument has been shrunk. Photograph by Olivia Messinger Carril

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument supports hundreds of bee species, possibly because of its diversity of flowers. This newly discovered bee biodiversity hotspot is at risk now that the monument has been shrunk. Photograph by Olivia Messinger Carril

Scientists have found a striking diversity of bees, in the most extensive study of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to date.

AT FIRST GLANCE, it might not seem as if life thrives in the dry, otherworldly expanses of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The high, rugged patch in southern Utah is mostly known for its jagged cliffs, steep canyons, and vast, arid deserts. But bee biologist Olivia Messinger Carril knows better.

For four years, she and a team of volunteers spent nearly every summer day combing the Delaware-sized area, bit by bit, in search of bees the untrained eye might miss. The main result: An awful lot of bees live there.

Not just your ordinary yellow-and-black striped ones. There were iridescent blue mason bees, purple bees, green bees, and brilliant red bees. Bald bees, hairy bees, “big bumblers you can hear coming from a mile away, and tiny, tiny little ones that are the size of a comma in the books you’re reading,” says Carril, a science teacher at Santa Fe Girls School who does research on the side.

All in all, a whopping 660 species live within the monument’s boundaries. That’s nearly every fifth bee species in North America. Forty-nine of these were entirely new to science, according to the recently published research.

Why this remote patch of Utah is such a busy place for bees is somewhat of a mystery. It likely mirrors the diversity of desert flowers the insects pollinate, as well as the range of habitats…

Continue reading: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2018/12/bee-city-at-risk-after-grand-staircase-escalante-divided/

Related:

Shrinking of Utah National Monument May Threaten Bee Biodiversity

Smithsonian.com By Brigit Katz December 17, 2018

The Grand Staircase-Escalante is home to 660 bee species, 84 of which will live outside of protected land under changes

From left, small and large carpenter bees (Ceratina and Xylocopa, respectively, visit a wild rose in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. (Joseph S. Wilson, USU)

From left, small and large carpenter bees (Ceratina and Xylocopa, respectively, visit a wild rose in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. (Joseph S. Wilson, USU)

In December of last year, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation announcing his plans to shrink Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to nearly half of its original size. Comprising a remote and beautiful stretch of canyons, cliffs and desert, the monument is home to a huge range of biodiversity, including hundreds of bee species. And some of those buzzing critters could be imperilled by the planned modifications, according to a new study.

As Katarina Zimmer reports for National Geographic, research published last month in the journal PeerJ found that 660 bee species make their home in the Grand Staircase-Escalante, among them 49 species that are new to science. Over the course of four years, scientists catalogued black and yellow bees, red bees, turquoise bees, social bees, solitary bees, bees that nest in the ground, and bees that nest in cavities and twigs. It is not clear why so many bee species have chosen to make their home in the monument, but they may be attracted to the diversity of the landscape, which offers a range of habitats and desert plants.

Most of the bees were found to dwell in geographically isolated locations, prompting the researchers to wonder how the administration’s proposed changes to Grand Staircase-Escalante will affect bee populations that live there. According to Emily Birnbaum of the Hill, the plan involves splitting the monument into three smaller ones, which could in turn open newly unprotected land to human development, like mining, road construction and natural gas extraction.

As part of a follow-up study published this month, also in PeerJ, a number of the researchers involved in the first report studied the distribution of bees across old and new boundaries. They found that most of the bees—87 percent of the 660 species—live in areas that will continue to lie within the monument once its boundaries are reduced. But “that leaves about 84 species no longer inhabiting protected land,” says Joseph Wilson, an evolutionary ecologist at Utah State University and lead author of the new study.

Some of these bees are unique “morphospecies,” or individuals that don’t match any known species, and others still have not been described. A number of newly excluded bee species also represent the northern or southern extent of their range in the region, which is important because “they can provide valuable information about how bee species might respond to climate change,” according to the study authors.

The researchers are also worried about possible threats to Grand Staircase-Escalante’s bees because, as pollinating insects, bees play a crucial role in their ecosystems. Indeed, the decline of honeybees across the globe, due largely to the use of bee-killing pesticides has sparked acute concerns about biodiversity loss and detrimental impacts on food production.

But for now, it is not known how the shrinking of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument will impact the bees that live there. None of the excluded species seem to be currently threatened, and few are universally rare, occurring in other regions of the western United States. And while bees perform “a critical ecological service as pollinators,” the study authors write, “the role of these specific bees in maintaining functioning plant–pollinator networks has not been evaluated to any extent.”

Further study is needed, in other words, to fully assess the ramifications of the proclamation. It is not even clear if the proposed modifications will happen. Native American and conservation groups have filed lawsuits against the president, arguing that his plans to reduce the Grand Staircase-Escalante and another Utah monument, Bears Ears, are illegal and exceed the president’s authority.

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/shrinking-utah-national-monument-may-threaten-bees-180971052/#0hvJV4Aril3E0d1B.99

Additional Related Articles:
https://phys.org/news/2018-12-bees-grand-staircase-escalante-national-monument.html https://phys.org/news/2018-11-utah-grand-staircase-escalante-national-monument.html

What Native California Plants Are Best For Attracting Pollinators?

Bug Squad By Kathy Keatley Garvey December 18, 2018

What Native California Plants Are Best For Attracting Pollinators?

That's a question often asked.

Now for answers.

Ola Lundin, first author

Ola Lundin, first author

Neal Williams, professor and Chancellor’s fellow

Neal Williams, professor and Chancellor’s fellow

Kimiora Ward, project scientist (Photos: Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Kimiora Ward, project scientist (Photos: Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Three pollination ecologists from the University of California, Davis, have just published their research, “Identifying Native Plants for Coordinated Habitat Management of Arthropod Pollinators, Herbivores and Natural Enemies,” in the Journal of Applied Ecology. It details what plants proved most attractive to honey bees, wild bees and other pollinators, as well as what drew such natural enemies as predators and parasitic wasps.

“I hope this study can inform selection of plants that support pollinators and natural enemies without enhancing potential pests,” said lead researcher and first author Ola Lundin, a former postdoctoral fellow in the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and now a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala.

He and co-authors Williams, professor of entomology and a Chancellor's Fellow at UC Davis; and project specialist Kimiora Ward of the Williams lab conceived the ideas and developed the methodology for the research project.

“Planting wildflowers is a key strategy promoted nationally to support wild and managed bees,” said Williams. “Successful adoption of these plantings in agricultural landscapes will require that they not only support pollinators but that they also avoid supporting too many pests. Plant selection going forward will need to balance multiple goals of pollinators pest management and other functions. This research is a first step on the path to identifying plants that will meet these goals."

The trio established 43 plant species in a garden experiment on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. They selected plant species that were drought-tolerant; native to California (except for buckwheat, Fagopyrum esculentum, known to attract natural enemies and widely used in conservation biological control); and, as a group, covered a range of flowering periods throughout the season. (Download the plant species here.)

The Great Valley gumplant (Grindelia camporum) was one of the 43 plants tested. Here a cukoo bee Triepelous Epeolus, forages on a blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The Great Valley gumplant (Grindelia camporum) was one of the 43 plants tested. Here a cukoo bee Triepelous Epeolus, forages on a blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Every week, over a two-year period during the peak bloom of each plant species, they engaged in three different sampling techniques: netting wild bees, observing honey bees, and vacuuming insect herbivores, arthropod predators and parasitic wasps.

“For early season bloom, Great Valley phacelia (Phacelia ciliata) was a real winner in terms of being attractive for both wild bees and honey bees,” Lundin said. “Elegant Clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata) flowers in late spring and was the clearly most attractive plant for honey bees across the dataset. The related Fort Miller Clarkia (C. williamsonii) was also quite attractive for honey bees and had the added benefit that a lot of minute pirate bugs visited the flowers.”

Lundin said that common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)“attracted “attracted the highest numbers of parasitic wasps but also many herbivores, including Lygus bugs.”

“In general a lot of parasitic wasps were found on Asteraceae species (the daisy family) and this was a somewhat surprising result considering that they have narrow corollas, and for parasitic wasps relatively deep corollas that can restrict their direct access to nectar. Under the very dry conditions in late summer, Great Valley gumplant (Grindelia camporum) and Vinegarweed (Trichostema lanceolatum) both performed well and attracted high numbers of wild bees.”

The team found that across plant species, herbivore, predator and parasitic wasp abundances were “positively correlated,” and “honey bee abundance correlated negatively to herbivore abundance.”

The take-home message is that “if you're a gardener or other type of land manager, what you'd likely prefer would be a mix of some of the most promising plant species taking into account their individual attractiveness for these arthropod groups, plus several more factors including costs for seed when planting larger areas,” Lundin said.

“Plant choice can also depend on how you weigh the importance of each arthropod group and whether you are interested in spring, summer or season-long bloom,” Lundin added. Those are some of the questions that the Williams lab plans to explore in future projects.

Phacelia californica was among the 43 plants tested. Here a bumble bee, Bombus vandykei, and a honey bee, Apils melllifera, share a blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Phacelia californica was among the 43 plants tested. Here a bumble bee, Bombus vandykei, and a honey bee, Apils melllifera, share a blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

“It was fascinating for me to see how these and other plants flowering in the latter part of the summer not only survived but also seemed to enjoy themselves in the heat without water for months!” Lundin quipped.

Williams praised the “uniquely capable team that came together.”

“Ola is an emerging leader in considering integrated management of pests and pollinators and Kimiora is a known expert in developing regionally-relevant plant materials to support pollinators,” Williams said. “They and some talented UC Davis undergraduates--notably Katherine Borchardt and Anna Britzman--compiled a tremendously useful study.”

The overall aim of the study “was to identify California native plants, and more generally plant traits, suitable for coordinated habitat management of arthropod pollinators, herbivores and natural enemies and promote integrated ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes,” the researchers wrote.

More specifically, they asked:

  1. Which native plants among our candidate set attract the highest abundances of wild bees, honeybees, herbivores, predators, and parasitic wasps,

  2. If the total abundances of arthropods within these functional groups across plant speacies are related to the peak flowering week, floral area, or flower type of the focal plant species, and

  3. If the total abundances of arthropods within these functional groups are correlated to each other across plant species.

“A first critical step for design and implementation of multifunctional plantings that promote beneficial arthropods while controlling insect pests is to identify suitable plant species to use,” the authors wrote in their abstract. “We aimed to identify California native plants and, more generally, plant traits suitable for the coordinated management of pollinators (wild bees and honey bees), insect herbivores and arthropod natural enemies (predators and parasitic wasps).”

At the time, the Laidlaw grounds included nearly 50 bee colonies: some 20 to 40 honey bee colonies, and eight managed research colonies of the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenkii.

The project drew funding from the USDA Resources Conservation Service, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and a Swedish foundation for scientific research, the Carl Tryggers Stiftelse for Vetenskaplig Forskning.

Phacelia campanularia was one of the 43 plants tested in the UC Davis research garden. Here a honey bee sips nectar from a blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Phacelia campanularia was one of the 43 plants tested in the UC Davis research garden. Here a honey bee sips nectar from a blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

These are some of the 43 plants tested in the UC Davis research garden. This is an illustration from the research paper. (Photos by Ola Lundin)   https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=28959

These are some of the 43 plants tested in the UC Davis research garden. This is an illustration from the research paper. (Photos by Ola Lundin)

https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=28959

How the Hell Do You Vaccinate a Bee?

HAARETZ By Ruth Schuster December 18, 2018

a bee Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/ REUTERS

a bee Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/ REUTERS

Scientists propose to inoculate bees against deadly diseases
reportedly decimating their colonies lest we all starve, and no,
vaccines don’t cause autism in insects either

Many and myriad a solution has been touted for the catastrophes reportedly afflicting bee colonies around the world, spurring fears that the loss of their pollinating powers will lead to massive crop losses.

Honeycomb with bees. credit: philippe wojazer, reuters

Honeycomb with bees. credit: philippe wojazer, reuters

The latest wrinkle is to vaccinate the insects against diseases implicated in colony collapse disorder, a method (dubbed PrimeBEE) developed by two scientists in the University of Helsinki, Dalial Freitak and Heli Salmela, and reported by AFP and ZME Science.

Dead bees killed by mite infestation. Credit: Getty Images IL

Dead bees killed by mite infestation. Credit: Getty Images IL

There is no consensus about the extent of the problem, or even whether bee colony collapse disorder is a thing, let alone a worsening thing. Some experts claim that declines in world bee populations is a natural fluctuation or that, in any case, it is reversible. The cause of the declining bee populations is variously ascribed to pesticides, geomagnetic disturbances (impairing the bees’ navigation), vampire-like mites, viruses, sunspots (navigation again), bacteria, fungi, climate change, and malnutrition. Or a combination of some or all of these. Some even claim that although there is a problem, its dimensions have been egregiously overstated.

The one thing we’re sure of is that bees are good, certainly since we have abandoned a life of hunting and grubbing for roots in favor of industrial farming. Around a third of the plants people eat require pollination (grains don’t), and while fruit bats and other living beings play their part, bees are estimated to be responsible for about a third of that. No question, the insect is crucial to food security.

Fruit bats are lovely but no replacement for bees. credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Fruit bats are lovely but no replacement for bees. credit: Tomer Appelbaum

So, whether or not colony collapse is a thing, clearly prevention is worth an ounce of honey. A riot of flower species are being planted or just allowed to grow between European crop fields, to vary the bees’ sources of nectar for the sake of their nutrition; in England, farmers have been planting hedgerows and trees because honey bees prefer them to “just” flowers.

Scientists have experimented with fighting mite infestations by a method involving exposing the bees to cold (by, er, shutting them in the fridge), while others are monkeying around with rich solutions to augment their feed.

Some people propose to replace the humbled honeybee with other more robust bee species, bats or whatever. (Robot bees don’t seem to be the answer.) And now Finnish scientists have invented the first-ever vaccines for bees. One gets a mental picture of a nimble-fingered scientist armed with an extremely fine needle and infinite patience. But one would be wrong.

bees in a hive. credit: chris o’meara, ap

bees in a hive. credit: chris o’meara, ap

The inoculating chemical is put into a sugar cube that is fed to the queen bee, who passes the immunity onto her offspring. The scientists have begun their testing process with a sugar-coated vaccine against so-called “American foulbrood” – a fatal bacterial condition that actually affects bees around the world. Unhappily for our friends the bees, foulbrood is caused by sporulating bacteria, meaning hardy ones, and it’s highly infectious. It infects and kills bee larvae, not adults, hence the name.

The bee vaccination technique will take some four to five years to perfect, lead researcher Freitak told AFP.

Intriguingly, bee vaccination isn’t about injecting an antigen that provokes production of antibodies. Insect immune systems don’t have antibodies, but as the University of Helsinki explains, Freitak had noticed (in moths) that if the parents eat certain bacteria in their food, their offspring show elevated immune responses to that germ. Ultimately, this led to the thought of a delivery system of the vaccination via food. They started with foulbrood because it’s so deadly and infectious. Right now, the technique is being tested for safety, following which commercialization can ensue.

Also, given that vaccinations do not cause autism in people (with all due respect to the lunatic fringe), there’s no reason to think they cause mental acuity or behavioral issues in bees.

Although much work remains to be done – including to adapt the technique to a lot more bacteria, fungi and other nasties – as Freitak stated: “If we can save even a small part of the bee population with this invention, I think we have done our good deed and saved the world a little bit.”

It isn't clear if colony collapse syndrome is a huge problem or hype: Meanwhile, here are some bees flying around. credit: bloomberg

It isn't clear if colony collapse syndrome is a huge problem or hype: Meanwhile, here are some bees flying around. credit: bloomberg

The First-Ever Insect Vaccine Prime-BEE Helps Bees Stay Healthy

University of Helsinki By Elina Raukko October 31, 2018

Photo: Helsinki Innovation Services

Photo: Helsinki Innovation Services

The easily administered edible vaccine could keep pollinators safe from bacterial diseases and give invaluable support for food production worldwide.

Food and pollination services are important for everyone: humans, production animals and wildlife alike. Inventing something that guards against pollinator losses will have a tremendous impact.

PrimeBEE is the first-ever vaccine for honey bees and other pollinators. It fights severe microbial diseases that can be detrimental to pollinator communities. The invention is the fruit of research carried out by two scientists in the University of Helsinki, Dalial Freitak and Heli Salmela.

The basis of the innovation is quite simple. When the queen bee eats something with pathogens in it, the pathogen signature molecules are bound by vitellogenin. Vitellogenin then carries these signature molecules into the queen’s eggs, where they work as inducers for future immune responses.

Before this, no-one had thought that insect vaccination could be possible at all. That is because the insect immune system, although rather similar to the mammalian system, lacks one of the central mechanisms for immunological memory – antibodies.
"Now we've discovered the mechanism to show that you can actually vaccinate them. You can transfer a signal from one generation to another," researcher Dalial Freitak states.

From moths to honey bees

Dalial Freitak has been working with insects and the immune system throughout her career. Starting with moths, she noticed that if the parental generation is exposed to certain bacteria via their food, their offspring show elevated immune responses.

"So they could actually convey something by eating. I just didn't know what the mechanism was. At the time, as I started my post-doc work in Helsinki, I met with Heli Salmela, who was working on honeybees and a protein called vitellogenin. I heard her talk and I was like: OK, I could make a bet that it is your protein that takes my signal from one generation to another. We started to collaborate, got funding from the Academy of Finland, and that was actually the beginning of PrimeBEE," Dalial Freitak explains.

Fu­ture plans: vac­cin­at­ing honey bees against any mi­crobe

PrimeBEE's first aim is to develop a vaccine against American foulbrood, a bacterial disease caused by the spore-forming Paenibacillus larvae ssp. larvae. American foulbrood is the most widespread and destructive of the bee brood diseases.

"We hope that we can also develop a vaccination against other infections, such as European foulbrood and fungal diseases. We have already started initial tests. The plan is to be able to vaccinate against any microbe".

At the same time as the vaccine’s safety is being tested in the laboratory, the project is being accelerated towards launching a business. Sara Kangaspeska, Head of Innovation at Helsinki Innovation Services HIS, has been involved with the project right from the start.

"Commercialisation has been a target for the project from the beginning. It all started when Dalial and Heli contacted us. They first filed an invention disclosure to us describing the key findings of the research. They then met with us to discuss the case in detail and since then, the University has proceeded towards filing a patent application that reached the national phase in January 2018.”

A big step forward was to apply for dedicated commercialisation funding from Business Finland, a process which is coordinated and supported by HIS. HIS assigns a case owner for each innovation or commercialisation project, who guides the project from A to Z and works hands-on with the researcher team.

“HIS core activities are to identify and support commercialisation opportunities stemming from the University of Helsinki research. PrimeBEE is a great example of an innovation maturing towards a true commercial seed ready to be spun-out from the University soon. It has been inspiring and rewarding to work together with the researchers towards a common goal,” says Sara Kangaspeska.

The latest news is that based on the PrimeBEE invention, a spinout company called Dalan Animal Health will be founded in the very near future.

"We need to help honey bees, absolutely. Even improving their life a little would have a big effect on the global scale. Of course, the honeybees have many other problems as well: pesticides, habitat loss and so on, but diseases come hand in hand with these life-quality problems. If we can help honey bees to be healthier and if we can save even a small part of the bee population with this invention, I think we have done our good deed and saved the world a little bit," Dalial Freitak asserts.

Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme
Centre of Excellence in Biological Interactions

In short:

Honeybees are central for providing food for humans, production animals and wildlife by pollinating more than 80% of the plant species in the world. Recent years have witnessed a decline in pollinator numbers worldwide, threatening the food and fodder production. Among other reasons, emerging diseases are raging havoc in bee populations.

PrimeBEE is the first-ever insect vaccine, which is based on the trans-generational immune priming mechanism, allowing immunological signals to be passed from queen bees to her offspring. PrimeBEE insect vaccine is easily administered as it can be added to the queen bee's food. The queen then conveys the disease resistance to its progeny.

JOIN US: We are now looking for investors and funding to help save a little bit of the world! CON­TACT IN­FOR­MA­TION: Dr. Dalial Freitak, Dr. Annette Kleiser, and Dr. Franziska Dickel

PrimeBee website

https://www.helsinki.fi/en/news/sustainability-news/the-first-ever-insect-vaccine-primebee-helps-bees-stay-healthy

Farm Bill Mostly Neutral On Pollinators. Research Funding Up Or Steady, And Added Sugar Off The Table

Farm Bill.jpg

December 14, 2018

By: R. Thomas (Tom) Van Arsdall
Director of Public Affairs, and
Val Dolcin, President & CEO
The Pollinator Partnership

Tom Van Arsdall from the Pollinator Partnership (P2) has waded through the 807 pages of the Farm Bill now headed to the President’s office for signing. We asked P2 if the bill had any radical changes, good or bad, for pollinators in general compared to the bill passed 5 years ago. Here is the summary of their evaluation.

Summary:
• Reauthorizes Pollinator conservation and research provisions enacted in the 2008 and 2014 farm bill (P2 leading role in each)
• Adds major new, enhanced coordination of honeybee/pollinator research provisions under the USDA Chief Scientist (advocated by AHPA, supported by P2)
o New Honey Bee and Pollinator Research Coordinator established in Office of the Chief Scientist.
o “Implement and coordinate research efforts per recommendation of the Pollinator Health Task Force.”
o Provides specific direction on the scope of research to be conducted and coordinated (SEE legislative language excerpts)
• Adds specialty crop pollinators eligibility to Specialty Crops Research Initiative
• Adds habitat for honey bees and other pollinators under supplemental and alternative crops section
• Does NOT include major provision that was in the Senate-passed farm bill, which essentially would have codified in detail the Pollinator Health Task Force/Strategy implemented pursuant to the Presidential Memorandum on Honey Bee and Pollinator Health.
o In addition to reference to the Pollinator Health Task Force in research language (cited above), the joint statement of managers encourages “the continuation of interagency collaboration and policy development as recommended by the Pollinator Health Task Force.”
o So at least the Presidential Memorandum, National Strategy on Honey Bee and Pollinator Health and the Pollinator Health Task Force remain in effect (no harm done).
• There’s also language clarifying that beekeepers qualify for ELAP, and clarifying what constitutes covered losses.
• While language in the Joint Statement of Managers doesn’t have force of law, it does provide clarification on legislative language decisions, plus intent of the conferees. This can be useful in advocacy efforts during implementation.
• Lots of other provisions in the farm bill can benefit/impact honey bees and other pollinators that were generally encouraging. For example –
o CRP cap will increase from 24 to 27 million acres. However, payment rates will be limited to 85% of rental rates, making CRP less attractive choice.
o Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), to continue, but at reduced funding.
o Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), an additional $185 million provided (FFAR announced last spring $15 million in leveraged funds for pollinator research).

P2 hasn’t had a chance to track down the specific sections of law referenced in the legislative language [sometimes just reference to sections being amended or deleted]. For example, according to news reports, reportedly no more cost-share assistance will be provided to growers for pollinator mixes for CRP (CP-42), largely due to excessive cost. Not able to confirm at this point.

“P2 has been concerned about excessive cost of CP-42 pollinator mix and appreciates conferees’ statements urging USDA to develop more affordable mixes for honey bee and pollinator forage.”
By: R. Thomas (Tom) Van Arsdall, Director of Public Affairs, and
Val Dolcini, President & CEO
The Pollinator Partnership

***************

Other provisions not directly affecting pollinators, but certainly bees and beekeeping, were shared with us by other groups including the following –

Taking a bipartisan approach in the crafting of their measure, The Senate Agriculture Committee included many provisions important to our industry:
• $80 million in funding for all specialty crops under the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) and new prioritization for mechanization projects
§ $25 million annually for citrus greening research through the Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund
§ $4 million annually for a new research initiative focusing on urban agriculture
§ Reauthorization of the Office of Pest Management Policy
§ Full $85 million in funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) with $5 million set aside for multi-state programs to be administered through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)
§ An increase to $50 million in mandatory funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program (FINI)
§ Full funding for trade programs such as the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program (TASC)

The No Added Sugar change was welcomed by the both the beekeeping and maple syrup industries, if not the FDA and AMS sections of the USDA.

The new farm bill prevents maple syrup and honey producers from being required to list their pure products as containing added sugars on their nutrition labels — a plan proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration months ago that producers said was misleading.

The FDA’s goal was to update the Nutrition Facts label on products to educate consumers about the amount of added sugars in foods based on government dietary guidelines. However, no sugar is added to pure maple syrup or honey.
After getting thousands of comments on the draft plan, the FDA acknowledged in June the labeling was confusing and said it would come up with an alternative approach for maple syrup and honey.

“This was a huge mistake by the FDA so we got a common sense outcome to the pretty witless labeling requirement,” maple syrup producers said, echoed by beekeepers everywhere.

The farm bill exempts “any single-ingredient sugar, honey, agave, or syrup” that is packaged and offered for sale as a single-ingredient food from bearing the declaration ‘includes X g Added Sugars” in the nutrition label.

The FDA said in a written statement that it does not comment on pending legislation. It said it was drafting its final guidance, which it anticipates issuing by early next year.

“This guidance will provide a path forward for pure, single-ingredient ‘packaged as such’ products that does not involve the standard ‘added sugars’ declaration on the Nutrition Facts label,” the statement said.

BeeCulture/Catch the Buzz: Farm Bill