Detective Dog Sniffs Out Devastating Honeybee Disease

Earth Island Journal By Cherese Cobb January 28, 2019

Maryland's chief apiary inspector has trained her Labrador to inspect hives for harmful bacteria

Sure, dogs may not always wear capes, but they have a superpower — their superior sniffers. “They have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, versus only about 6 million for us. The part of their brains dedicated to interpreting smell is about 40 times larger than ours,” says Michael Nappier,an assistant professor at the Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. “While we might notice if our coffee has a teaspoon of sugar added to it, a dog could detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water, or two Olympic-sized pools,” writes Alexandra Horowitz, the author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know.

Cybil Preston, chief apiary inspector for the Maryland Department of Agriculture, does a training run with Mack. She sets up fake beehives and commands him to “find.” He sniffs each of them to check for American foulbrood. If he detects the disease, he is trained to sit to notify Preston. Photo by Morgan McCloy.

Cybil Preston, chief apiary inspector for the Maryland Department of Agriculture, does a training run with Mack. She sets up fake beehives and commands him to “find.” He sniffs each of them to check for American foulbrood. If he detects the disease, he is trained to sit to notify Preston. Photo by Morgan McCloy.

That's why canines can sniff out American foulbrood (AFB): the most serious bacterial disease impacting honeybees. Reported in the United States since the 1930s, it’s spread by beekeepers, drifting worker bees, and robber bees — often accompanied by killer wasps — who steal dangerous, spore-laden honey or bee bread and bring it back to their broods. Its spores can't be seen with the naked eye, but they can remain viable for over half a century. Caused by the spore-forming bacterium Paenibacillus larvae, AFB poses a major threat to American honeybees — and by extension, to US agricultural systems that rely on them. It's worsened by other factors like loss of habitat, use of pesticides, and climate change.

The disease doesn’t impact adult bees, but infected larvae turn chocolate-brown and melt into a gooey mass that looks like brown snot. “Once spores are in the midgut, the vegetative form of the bacterium takes over using the larvae as a source of nourishment,” says Rob Synder, a crop protection agent in Oroville, California. When the larvae dry out, they become black scales that are essentially glued to the hive’s floor. The scale from a single larvae can contain one billion spores. “It only takes 35 spores to trigger the disease,” says Spencer Gutierrez, the author of Beekeeping Secrets: 15 Facts You Need to Know That Will Save Your Life.

When hives are infected, beekeepers generally treat them with FDA-approved antibiotics like tylosin tartrate and lincomycin hydrochloride. They control the disease’s symptoms, but they don't destroy its spores. Under a vet’s supervision, the substances are mixed with powdered sugar. Four-to-six weeks before the start of the main honey flow (usually in the spring or fall), the sugary-antibiotic mixture is dusted across the top bars of the brood nest frame: a removable cell that holds the colony’s eggs, larvae, and pupae. From there, the worker bees pass the drugs on to the larvae during feeding.

“When you treat a beehive with antibiotics,” says Bryan Merrill, a researcher at Stanford University, “it'll knock down the population of all the healthy bacteria that bees need to survive.” With weakened immune systems, honeybees can’t fight off another bout of AFB, which often becomes antibiotic-resistant. “Everything else that can go wrong with the hives is fixable,” says Cybil Preston, who’s been keeping bees in Maryland since 1997 and working as an apiary inspector for over a decade, “but not that.”

American foulbrood poses a major threat to American honeybees. Infected larvae often turn chocolate-brown and melt into a gooey mass. Photo by  Tanarus / Wikimedia Commons .

American foulbrood poses a major threat to American honeybees. Infected larvae often turn chocolate-brown and melt into a gooey mass. Photo by Tanarus / Wikimedia Commons.

To save nearby colonies from infection, beekeepers frequently destroy their hives. They plug their entrances with newspaper and cover their sides with masking tape. Then they pour unleaded gasoline onto the hives and set them on fire with a blow lamp.

That’s where AFB-sniffing dogs come in — they make sure that infected hives are either isolated or destroyed.

“Detection and quarantine processes are essential to save our bees,” says Josh Kennett, the owner of Australia's first apiary dog.

It’s a big task for the canines to take on, particularly given declining honeybee numbers in the US: In 1947 there were an estimated 6 million hives, compared to today’s 2.4 million.

The job also comes with some risks. “[In 2013,] I realized that [my dog] Bazz was able to sniff out the disease, and save thousands of bees,” Kennet says. “But, he didn’t like being around them too much when he was getting stung.” Kennet designed the black Labrador his own beekeeper suit, which includes a homemade, mesh headpiece that’s similar to the cones dogs wear after a trip to the vet, only this one protects him from stingers.

Bazz may be Australia’s first bee-sniffing dog, but the tradition dates back further in the US. The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has kept a full-time “bee dog” on its staff since 1982. The only state agency in the nation that trains canines to detect AFB, the MDA keeps tabs on roughly 3.4 percent of the country’s pollinators, according to the USDA. The dogs assist with the state’s apiary inspections, a free service provided for commercial beekeepers and hobbyists. “Mack is our fifth bee dog,” Preston says. The 4-year-old yellow Lab is the only certified dog in the US that can sniff out “brown snot gunk."

Mack sits in front of a beehive, a sign that he's detected AFB. Photo by Cybil Preston.

Mack sits in front of a beehive, a sign that he's detected AFB. Photo by Cybil Preston.

Preston rescued Mack from a garage when he was a year-and-a-half old. When his family couldn’t care for him anymore, they called her. “I couldn’t resist,” she says. “I had to take him. I saw how cute he was.” While he’d been housebroken, he wasn’t fixed and was kind of wild, pouncing on people at the door.

Preston taught him basic commands. Then she partnered with Mark Flynn, the K-9 unit commander at the state’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, to complete an eight-month training program. Whether dogs are searching for contraband cell phones, illegal drugs, or foulbrood in beehives, Flynn looks for the dogs that’ll jump into the water to get the ball, the ones completely obsessed with their toys. “Because when a dog is searching, he believes in his heart he’s trying to find his toy,” Flynn says.

Mack wasn’t motivated much by toys. “But there’s this phenomenon where you can actually build up the drive in a dog,” he says. And through reward, repetition, and play — wrestling, throwing balls, and tug of war — that’s what Preston did. Using rubber gloves, she also saturated his toys and blankets with AFB-infected honeycomb. “I did this indoors to decrease the chance of environmental infestation,” she says.

There are about 9,000 honeybee colonies scattered throughout Maryland. A single healthy colony may hold around 60,000 bees in mid-summer, 30,000 bees in the late fall, and closer to 20,000 by the end of the winter. Mack is cost-effective for Maryland. He only works in colder weather, usually from November to March, because bees are dormant or clustered when it’s below 54°F.

On long summer days, when the hives are busy with bees flying in and out to forage, Mack won’t even budge from his bed in the van. Preston still hides his training aids, and she runs drills to keep him on his toes. “When we're not [training], he's either swimming in the pool or sleeping on the couch. He's a Lab so he does that hanging out thing very well,” she says.

In the field, when Preston commands him to “find,” he moves from beehive to beehive, sniffing each one for the distinct odor of dead fish, the smell associated with AFB. If he smells the disease, he sits to alert Preston that a manual inspection is needed. Then Mack is praised and rewarded with a special ball that he doesn't get at any other time. “He’s incredibly efficient — in a span of three weeks, Mack inspected over 1,600 bee colonies that were being sent to California for almond pollination. And he is accurate —in field testing, he correctly identified 100 percent of infected hives,” she says. “It would take us a year to work on that many colonies.”

Preston, Mack, and Tukka — a young springer spaniel who’s still in training — are currently on the front lines, securing our country’s food supply. Grains are primarily pollinated by the wind. But fruits, nuts, and veggies — which comprise 70 of the top 100 human food crops — are pollinated by bees. That’s why beekeepers follow the bloom. For six months a year, they travel with their bees to fruit, vegetable, and nut farms in need of pollination.

“Every third bite of food we take would be thanks to the honeybees,” Preston says. “Without our canine program, beekeepers wouldn't be able to move their bees into West Virginia for strawberries and apples or into Delaware for cucumbers and pumpkins.” Tractor-trailers carry about seven million bees across the country to pollinate crops. They’re vulnerable. “AFB would be a lot more prevalent if we weren't doing dog inspections.”

Thefts Continue to Trouble Beekeepers

AgAlert By Christine Souza February 20, 2019

Butte County Sheriff’s Deputy Rowdy Freeman checks on commercial apiaries in an almond orchard near Oroville. Freeman says law-enforcement agencies around the state have received reports of bee-colony thefts, suggesting potentially tight supplies of bees for pollination.  Photo/Christine Souza

Butte County Sheriff’s Deputy Rowdy Freeman checks on commercial apiaries in an almond orchard near Oroville. Freeman says law-enforcement agencies around the state have received reports of bee-colony thefts, suggesting potentially tight supplies of bees for pollination.
Photo/Christine Souza

For some commercial beekeepers, California's almond bloom ended before it officially started.

Early last week, Tulare County beekeeper Steve Godlin of Visalia learned that about 100 honeybee colonies he was managing had disappeared from an almond orchard west of Visalia.

"We got hit. It's a nightmare," said Godlin, who had been managing the colonies for a fellow beekeeper from North Dakota. "It's very discouraging, obviously, to get the bees this far to a payday and then have them stolen."

Citing a shortage of bees for almond pollination, which this year requires about 2.14 million apiaries for more than 1 million bearing acres of almonds, Godlin said the bees were likely stolen Feb. 10.

Deputies from the Tulare County Sheriff's Department Agricultural Crimes Unit also took a report of a likely related theft the next day: Just a few miles from the Godlin location, Gunter Honey reported a second theft of another 96 hives.

Godlin said 100 beehives would be valued at $20,000 for the bees alone and another $20,000 for the pollination services—and that to steal that many hives would require a one-ton truck and forklift. His advice to farmers?

"Know your beekeepers, and if you or anybody in the public sees somebody loading bees up in an almond orchard, call the police. That's not the way it works. Bees should be going into the almonds, not out," Godlin said.

Butte County Sheriff's Deputy Rowdy Freeman, who investigates rural and agricultural crimes, said a theft of 100 or 200 hives at a time would likely be committed by someone who is a beekeeper.

"They know what they are doing. They have beekeeping equipment. They know how to go in and take them and have the means to do it. It could be a beekeeper who lost a lot of hives and can't fulfill his contract. Desperation leads to theft, so they will steal the hives from someone," Freeman said, noting that other bee thefts had been reported already this year in Kern County and in Southern California, with a total of 300 hives lost.

"What we typically see is they steal hives from one area and then drive several hours to put them on a contract, because the people there won't necessarily know that they are stolen," Freeman said. "Almond growers need to know whose bees are going into their orchards, what markings are going to be on those hives, and if they see anything different, they need to report it."

Early this month, Freeman investigated reports of a small number of bees stolen from Butte and Glenn counties. He later recovered about half of the bees, after deputies spotted some of the stolen hives loaded onto a small utility trailer parked in a driveway in Biggs.

Two adults were arrested for the alleged crime and for felony possession of stolen property. The recovered bees were returned to the beekeeper-owner in Glenn County.

The sheriff's department said the suspects planned to place the hives in an almond orchard in exchange for payment for pollination services.

Freeman said smaller apiary thefts could be carried out by people who aren't beekeepers, but are just looking to make quick cash.

"In a recent case I worked, they saw an ad on Craigslist, and they responded to that and came to an agreement," he said. "The farmer doesn't know who they are really dealing with, and that guy comes out and drops off a bunch of boxes that look like beehives and the farmer is happy he has bees. But he doesn't look inside of them. One case, there weren't any bees in the boxes, and they weren't beekeepers."

Freeman, who also became interested in beekeeping after investigating a theft in 2013 and now maintains about 50 hives of his own, said the thefts this season are likely related to a limited supply of bees.

Whether or not almond growers will have enough bees remains to be seen.

Mel Machado, director of member relations for the Blue Diamond Growers cooperative, said he hadn't heard "any issues related to a shortage of bees."

Almond grower Dave Phippen of Travaille and Phippen Inc. in Manteca said one of the beekeepers he works with was unable to bring the truckload of bees that he had agreed upon, but was able to deliver 400 bee colonies for Phippen's almonds.

"I got what I needed, but just by the skin of my chinny-chin-chin," Phippen said, adding, "It's a challenge every year."

Phippen said he expects the cost of pollination services this year will be approximately $190 per colony.

"The trees are excited and trying to open," he said. "The weather's been cool, so it held them back, but with this warm storm, I'm afraid they are going to progress quicker than they have been."

Machado said it would take a while to gauge the impact of last week's rains on the almond bloom.

"We just don't know yet," he said.

Freeman offered suggestions for preventing bee theft:

Beekeepers should place bees out of sight and off the road, and mark hives, lids and frames with identifying information so that recovered bees can be traced back to the owner.

Growers paying for pollination services should verify that colonies in the orchard or field match with the contract they have with the beekeeper.

Though it is not cost-effective for every hive, beekeepers should strategically place GPS trackers in certain hives.

Beekeepers and farmers should maintain a close working relationship.

The California State Beekeepers Association offers up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of persons responsible for stealing bees and/or beekeeping equipment; information may be sent to

The Tulare County Sheriff's Department asked anyone with information regarding the stolen apiaries there to contact its Agricultural Crimes Unit: 559-802-9401.

(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

Biologists Identify Honeybee 'Clean' Genes Known For Improving Survival York University February 15, 2019

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The key to breeding disease-resistant honeybees could lie in a group of genes—known for controlling hygienic behaviour—that enable colonies to limit the spread of harmful mites and bacteria, according to genomics research conducted at York University.

Some worker honeybees detect and remove sick and dead larvae and pupae from their colonies. This hygienic behaviour, which has a strong genetic component, is known to improve the colony's chance of survival. The researchers narrowed in on the "clean" genes that influence this behaviour to understand the evolution of this unique trait.

The finding, published today in the journal Genome Biology and Evolution, could lead to a new technique for use in selective breeding programs around the world to enhance the health of honeybees.

"Social immunity is a really important trait that beekeepers try to select in order to breed healthier colonies," said Professor Amro Zayed, a bee genomics expert in the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science. "Instead of spending a lot of time in the field measuring the hygienic behaviour of colonies, we can now try breeding bees with these genetic mutations that predict hygienic behaviour."

Statistics Canada estimates that honeybee pollination contributes between $3.15 to $4.39 billion per year to the Canadian economy including some of Canada's most lucrative crops like apples, blueberries and canola. In Canada, and around the world, beekeepers have experienced higher than normal colony losses. Last winter, Canadian beekeepers lost up to 33 per cent of their colonies.

"This study opens the door to using genomics to breed healthier and disease-resistant colonies that have higher social immunity," explained Zayed. "This is of huge importance to the greater community of geneticists who are interested in understanding the genetics of this novel trait."

Zayed worked on the study with 13 bee biologists from York University, University of British Columbia, University of Manitoba, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

In the study, the biologists sequenced the genomes of three honeybee populations; two of them bred to express highly hygienic behaviour and a third population with typical hygiene. Brock Harpur, Zayed's former doctoral student who is now an assistant professor at Purdue University's Department of Entomology, examined the genomes of bees from each of these three populations and looked for areas that differ between the unhygienic and hygienic bees. Harpur pinpointed at least 73 genes that likely control this hygienic trait.

"Now that we have identified these candidate genes, we can look for the mechanisms of hygienic behavior and begin to develop tools for beekeepers to breed healthier colonies," explained Harpur.

The biologists are planning to pilot a marker-assisted breeding program for hygienic behaviour, in which bees are selected for breeding based solely on their genetic information.

"We think there is a lot of potential here of breeding disease-resistant colonies with a simple genetic test," said Zayed.

Explore further: New genetic test will improve biosecurity of honey bees around the globe

More information: Brock A Harpur et al, Integrative Genomics Reveals the Genetics and Evolution of the Honey Bee's Social Immune System, Genome Biology and Evolution (2019). DOI: 10.1093/gbe/evz018

Provided by: York University

How to Slow The Global Spread of Small Hive Beetles, Aethina tumida

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Small Hive Beetle (Credit: Marc O Schafer)

Small Hive Beetle (Credit: Marc O Schafer)

Today, scientists of the honey bee research association COLOSS1 have published an article2 in the peer reviewed journal Biological Invasions which provides an action plan on how to deal with new introductions of small hive beetles (Aethina tumida) into regions free of this honey bee pest. Their proposed course of action will help stakeholders all over the world to slow down the spread of this invasive species. But it’s not all good news. Large knowledge gaps were identified, signalling the urgent need for more research to stop this invasive species from becoming an even more severe global problem for beekeepers and pollination.

Small hive beetles are parasites and scavengers of social bee colonies endemic to sub-Saharan Africa but have become a widespread global invasive species, causing damage to apiculture and possibly also to wild bees. Although further spread seems inevitable, eradication of new introductions and containment of established ones is urgently required to slow down the invasion speed. The authors therefore propose a feasible plan involving all stakeholders. “Early detection is most important. Only if an introduction is detected before the beetles manage to spread into wild honey bee colonies will it be possible to eradicate,” says Norman Carreck, from the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex, UK. “To achieve this, we need to raise awareness and have to educate all stakeholders about the beetle’s biology and how to recognize it”.

For early detection and successful eradication, it seems fundamental to ensure an adequate border control and to install sentinel apiary sites. After small hive beetles are officially detected, the competent authorities must implement epidemiological investigations to determine the population status to be able to decide between eradication or containment. Furthermore, a surveillance system should be activated and maintained. Sentinel colonies have to be installed at outbreak apiaries to lure free-flying SHBs that might have escaped eradication. However, the authors strongly suggest further scientific research to support their plan of action. “Much about the biology of the small hive beetle is still unknown” says Prof. Peter Neumann, co-author and president of COLOSS. “We urgently need to address fundamental research questions to enable adequate solutions for this invasive pest” he adds.

The authors suggest a combination of measures to decrease the chances of small hive beetles becoming established beyond their current distribution. These best practices should be adopted by competent authorities until further scientific insights are available to improve the plan of action suggested by the authors.

coloss sponsors.jpg


Dr Marc Schäfer: Tel: +49 38351 7 1246/1297 Email:


1. The paper: “How to slow the global spread of small hive beetles, Aethina tumida” by Marc Schäfer, Ilaria Cardaio, Giovanni Cilia, Bram Cornelissen, Karl Crailsheim, Giovanni Formato, Akinwande Lawrence, Yves Le Conte, Franco Mutinelli, Antonio Nanetti, Jorge Rivera-Gomis, Anneke Teepe and Peter Neumann can be found here:

2. COLOSS is a honey bee research association formerly funded by the European Union COST Programme (Action FA0803) and currently by the Ricola Foundation – Nature & Culture, Veto Pharma, the University of Bern and the Eva Crane Trust which aims to explain and prevent massive honey bee colony losses. COLOSS does not directly support science, but aims to coordinate international research activities across Europe and worldwide, promoting cooperative approaches and a research programme with a strong focus on the transfer of science into beekeeping practice. COLOSS has more than 1,200 members drawn from 95 countries worldwide. Its President is Prof. Peter Neumann of the University of Bern, Switzerland. Website:

3. Press release written by:
Dr Marc Schäfer, Institut für Infektionsmedizin, Greifswald, Germany. Email:

Dr Bram Cornelissen, Wageningen Plant Research, Netherlands. Email:

Prof. Peter Neumann: President of COLOSS, University of Bern, Switzerland.

Norman Carreck: COLOSS Press Officer, University of Sussex, BN1 9QG, UK. Tel: +44 7918670169 Email:

Africanized Honey Bees: Prevention and Control Africanized Honey Bees

Reminder from NC State Extension By Dr. David Tarpy Originally Published February 1, 2016

Africanized Honey Bees: Prevention and Control Africanized Honey Bees


For the past 50 years, the Africanized honey bee (sometimes referred to as the “killer” bee by sensationalist media stories) has been a public health concern in South and North America. Initially imported to Brazil in the mid-1950s, this invasive species spread northward into the United States by the early 1990s. While Africanized honey bees have not yet become established in North Carolina, their recent detection in Florida and other gulf-coast states makes their arrival in the coming years fairly likely.

To prepare for the introduction and possible establishment of the Africanized honey bees in this state, it is necessary for residents of North Carolina to become familiar with means of prevention and control of nuisance honey bee colonies. The following are some recommendations on how to reduce the chances of encountering Africanized bees, and what to do if they are encountered.

For Homeowners and the General Public

Africanized honey bees can be a public health concern because they are more likely to sting than “typical” honey bees. Like their European counterparts, however, Africanized honey bees will usually become defensive only when provoked or guarding their nest. Thus to prevent stings from honey bees, it is important to do two things. First, do not swat at bees flying around you, since it will likely provoke them and increase the chances that they will sting you. Second, reduce the likelihood that an Africanized honey bee colony will become established on your property by removing potential nest sites.

Means of prevention

“Bee-proof” your house. Most Africanized bees do not live in boxes managed by beekeepers, but rather in structures or other man-made cavities. With a little know-how, these potential nest sites can be removed or made unsuitable for bee habitation.

Carefully inspect your house and other structures for holes or cracks that could potentially lead to an internal cavity, wall space, attic, or crawl space, as bees can build their nests in any of these places. Prevent access to these areas by sealing the cracks with wire-mesh screen, caulk, or an expanding foam such as “Great Stuff” (Figure 1). Any gap greater than 1⁄8 of an inch could possibly provide access to bees, so be sure to seal any such crevice sufficiently to prevent bees from moving in.

Inspect other potential nesting sites around your house as well. In other regions of the country, Africanized bees have been known to inhabit such man-made cavities as tool sheds and water meters (Figure 2), since they often have small entrance holes and can provide an ideal space for a nest. Be sure to also clean up any junk piles or other debris that may create sheltered nesting sites. In particular, abandoned tires, over-turned flower pots, or inverted metal cans (Figure 3) serve as excellent nesting cavities for Africanized bees.

Check for unusual honey bee activity. A few dozen bees visiting your flower beds is very typical and indeed beneficial for your garden. Bees can also collect water from bird baths or swimming pools, particularly during the heat of the summer. However, if hundreds of bees are clustered together or seen entering and exiting a single hidden location, it may be a sign that a colony has become established. If you are unsure, call a local beekeeper to come investigate. Contact your local Cooperative Extension center for a list of potential local beekeepers. Established colonies are different from exposed “swarms” hanging off of a tree limb. Swarm clusters are bees in search of a new nesting site, and are usually much less defensive that those protecting a hive. As such, swarm clusters (either African or European) are not very defensive, and they will likely fly off to their new home within a couple of days. Again, contact a local beekeeper if you locate a bee swarm.

Don’t keep pets tied or tethered. If you have pets, livestock, or other animals living outdoors, you may consider taking precautions for them as well. Mass-stinging incidents of pets has occurred by Africanized bees in other areas of the country where the animals had no opportunity to escape or find shelter from pursuing bees.

Know the difference between honey bees and wasps. Many people mistakenly believe that anything that flies and potentially stings is a “bee.” As a result, many wasp species—such as yellow jackets, European or Japanese hornets, and bald-faced hornets—are often mistaken for honey bees. In fact, many of these wasps can be even more defensive than Africanized honey bees, and many of the preventative measures outlined above can help reduce the chances that they, too, may become established on your property.

Means of Control

Keep your distance. If you locate a nest on your property, note its location but don’t approach it. Bees and wasps are much more likely to react in defensive of their hive, so do not pose a threat to them.

Call a professional. Contact a licensed Pest Control Operator in your area. They will assess the problem, determine if they are honey bees or another species, and take appropriate action. If possible and appropriate, they will send in a sample of the bees to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services so that they can be diagnosed as Africanized honey bees or typical European honey bees. We do not recommend that you exterminate the bees yourself.

Remove the combs to prevent further damage. Fermenting honey and spoiling wax can harm the structure in which the nest was located, so it is important to remove the combs as well as the bees. This often involves removing walls to excise the nest, as well as repair work after the combs are removed. Because larger nests can do greater harm, it is best to deal with the issue sooner rather than later.

For mass stinging incidents or allergic reactions, call 911. In an emergency, seek immediate medical assistance. The fire department may respond with foam or surfactant spray to calmly and safely kill the stinging bees.

Figure 1. A “bee gap” around a water pipe. Seal the crack with wire mesh to prevent bees from moving in.

Figure 2. Water meters make good homes for bees.

Figure 3. Inverted pails or flower pots should be removed to eliminate potential nesting sites for bees.

Fig 1 2 3.jpg

For Beekeepers

Again, Africanized bees do not live in beehives but rather in natural or man-made cavities. As such, beekeepers are on the front lines in our attempts to reduce the impact of Africanized bees. In short, beekeepers are part of the solution, not the problem.

Means of prevention

  • Mark all queens with paint or numbered tags, no exceptions

  • Regularly check hives; don’t let them “feralize”

  • Properly store all bee equipment; don’t let swarms move into empty hives

  • Be on the look out for parasitic swarms (Africanized bees can invade a colony of European honey bees and take over the nest)

Means of control

  • Requeen any unusually defensive colonies and call your local NCDA&CS Apiary inspector so that they may take a sample

  • Soapy water in a spray bottle, rather than aerosol insecticide, is usually a better method to kill suspect bees if they become a nuisance

  • Educate public and other beekeepers about the benefits of honey bees and how to avoid contact with Africanized bees

Saint Valentine - Patron of Beekeepers

Saint Valentine - Patron of Beekeepers

Saint Valentine - Patron of Beekeepers

The roots of Valentine’s Day date back to the year 496, when Pope Gelasius proclaimed that February 14 would be the feast day of St. Valentine of Rome, taking precedence over Lupercalia—a pagan Roman fertility festival long-celebrated February 13-15.

Besides couples, love and happy marriages, you might be surprised to know that St. Valentine is also the patron saint of beekeepers—charged with ensuring the sweetness of honey and the protection of beekeepers among many other things.

Saints are certainly expected to keep busy in the afterlife. Their holy duties include interceding in earthly affairs and entertaining petitions from living souls. In this respect, St. Valentine has wide-ranging spiritual responsibilities. People call on him to watch over the lives of lovers, of course, but also for interventions regarding beekeeping and epilepsy, as well as the plague, fainting and traveling. As you might expect, he’s also the patron saint of engaged couples and happy marriages.

Who knew beekeepers had so many patron saints....Saint Gobnait, Saint Ambrose, Saint Gregory as well as Saint Valentine.

While many beekeepers and their colonies are currently in California battling the rain and the cold to pollinate almond blossoms, we wish them a Happy Valentine's day! May St. Valentine keep your bees healthy and the honey in your honey pots plentiful.

Plummeting Insect Numbers 'Threaten Collapse of Nature'

The Guardian By Damian Carrington February 10, 2019

The rate of insect extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. Photograph: Courtesy of Entomologisher Verein Krefeld

The rate of insect extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. Photograph: Courtesy of Entomologisher Verein Krefeld

Exclusive: Insects could vanish within a century at current rate of decline, says global review

Why insects are in decline, and can we do anything about it.

The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.

Insect population collapses have recently been reported in Germany and Puerto Rico, but the review strongly indicates the crisis is global. The researchers set out their conclusions in unusually forceful terms for a peer-reviewed scientific paper: “The [insect] trends confirm that the sixth major extinction event is profoundly impacting [on] life forms on our planet.

“Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” they write. “The repercussions this will have for the planet’s ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least.”

Scarce copper butterflies. Photograph: Marlene Finlayson/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy

Scarce copper butterflies. Photograph: Marlene Finlayson/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy

Quick guide

Insect collapse: the red flags

Butterflies and moths

There has been a “severe reduction” in butterflies and moths in the Kullaberg Nature Reserve in Sweden compared to 50 years ago. Scientists found over a quarter of the 600 species once found had been lost. Butterflies were hardest hit, losing almost a half of species, including the large tortoiseshell and scarce copper. In England, two-thirds of 340 moth species declined from 1968-2003.


Museum records enabled scientists to assess the fate of 16 species of bumblebees in the US midwest from 1900 to 2007. They found four had completely died out, while eight were declining in number, and blamed intensive agriculture and pesticides.


Red dragonfly populations have fallen sharply in Japan since the mid-1990s, which scientists link to insecticides in rice paddies that stop the water-living nymphs emerging into adults. In the US, recent surveys across California and Nevada found 65% of dragonflies and damselflies had declined in the 100 years since 1914.


Leafhoppers and planthoppers often make up a large proportion of the flying insects in European grasslands. But scientists found their abundance in Germany plunged by 66% in the 50 years to 2010. Soil acidification, partly due to heavy fertiliser use, was the main cause.

Ground beetles

In the UK, dramatic declines in ground beetles have been seen in almost three-quarters of the 68 carabid species studied from 1994-2008. A few species increased, but overall one in six of all the beetles was lost in that time.

The analysis, published in the journal Biological Conservation, says intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines, particularly the heavy use of pesticides. Urbanisation and climate change are also significant factors.

“If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind,” said Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, at the University of Sydney, Australia, who wrote the review with Kris Wyckhuys at the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing.

The 2.5% rate of annual loss over the last 25-30 years is “shocking”, Sánchez-Bayo told the Guardian: “It is very rapid. In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none.”

One of the biggest impacts of insect loss is on the many birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish that eat insects. “If this food source is taken away, all these animals starve to death,” he said. Such cascading effects have already been seen in Puerto Rico, where a recent study revealed a 98% fall in ground insects over 35 years.

The new analysis selected the 73 best studies done to date to assess the insect decline. Butterflies and moths are among the worst hit. For example, the number of widespread butterfly species fell by 58% on farmed land in England between 2000 and 2009. The UK has suffered the biggest recorded insect falls overall, though that is probably a result of being more intensely studied than most places.

Surveying butterflies in Maine, US. Photograph: Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Getty Images

Surveying butterflies in Maine, US. Photograph: Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Getty Images

Bees have also been seriously affected, with only half of the bumblebee species found in Oklahoma in the US in 1949 being present in 2013. The number of honeybee colonies in the US was 6 million in 1947, but 3.5 million have been lost since.

There are more than 350,000 species of beetle and many are thought to have declined, especially dung beetles. But there are also big gaps in knowledge, with very little known about many flies, ants, aphids, shield bugs and crickets. Experts say there is no reason to think they are faring any better than the studied species.

A small number of adaptable species are increasing in number, but not nearly enough to outweigh the big losses. “There are always some species that take advantage of vacuum left by the extinction of other species,” said Sanchez-Bayo. In the US, the common eastern bumblebee is increasing due to its tolerance of pesticides.

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Most of the studies analysed were done in western Europe and the US, with a few ranging from Australia to China and Brazil to South Africa, but very few exist elsewhere.

“The main cause of the decline is agricultural intensification,” Sánchez-Bayo said. “That means the elimination of all trees and shrubs that normally surround the fields, so there are plain, bare fields that are treated with synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.” He said the demise of insects appears to have started at the dawn of the 20th century, accelerated during the 1950s and 1960s and reached “alarming proportions” over the last two decades.

He thinks new classes of insecticides introduced in the last 20 years, including neonicotinoids and fipronil, have been particularly damaging as they are used routinely and persist in the environment: “They sterilise the soil, killing all the grubs.” This has effects even in nature reserves nearby; the 75% insect losses recorded in Germany were in protected areas.

German conservation workers inspect an urban garden for insects. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

German conservation workers inspect an urban garden for insects. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The world must change the way it produces food, Sánchez-Bayo said, noting that organic farms had more insects and that occasional pesticide use in the past did not cause the level of decline seen in recent decades. “Industrial-scale, intensive agriculture is the one that is killing the ecosystems,” he said.

In the tropics, where industrial agriculture is often not yet present, the rising temperatures due to climate change are thought to be a significant factor in the decline. The species there have adapted to very stable conditions and have little ability to change, as seen in Puerto Rico.

Sánchez-Bayo said the unusually strong language used in the review was not alarmist. “We wanted to really wake people up” and the reviewers and editor agreed, he said. “When you consider 80% of biomass of insects has disappeared in 25-30 years, it is a big concern.”

Other scientists agree that it is becoming clear that insect losses are now a serious global problem. “The evidence all points in the same direction,” said Prof Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex in the UK. “It should be of huge concern to all of us, for insects are at the heart of every food web, they pollinate the large majority of plant species, keep the soil healthy, recycle nutrients, control pests, and much more. Love them or loathe them, we humans cannot survive without insects.”

Matt Shardlow, at the conservation charity Buglife, said: “It is gravely sobering to see this collation of evidence that demonstrates the pitiful state of the world’s insect populations. It is increasingly obvious that the planet’s ecology is breaking and there is a need for an intense and global effort to halt and reverse these dreadful trends.” In his opinion, the review slightly overemphasises the role of pesticides and underplays global warming, though other unstudied factors such as light pollution might prove to be significant.

Volunteers look for the wormwood moonshiner beetle in Suffolk, UK. Photograph: Sean Smith/The Guardian

Volunteers look for the wormwood moonshiner beetle in Suffolk, UK. Photograph: Sean Smith/The Guardian

Prof Paul Ehrlich, at Stanford Universityin the US, has seen insects vanish first-hand, through his work on checkerspot butterflies on Stanford’s Jasper Ridge reserve. He first studied them in 1960 but they had all gone by 2000, largely due to climate change.

Ehrlich praised the review, saying: “It is extraordinary to have gone through all those studies and analysed them as well as they have.” He said the particularly large declines in aquatic insects were striking. “But they don’t mention that it is human overpopulation and overconsumption that is driving all the things [eradicating insects], including climate change,” he said.

Sánchez-Bayo said he had recently witnessed an insect crash himself. A recent family holiday involved a 400-mile (700km) drive across rural Australia, but he had not once had to clean the windscreen, he said. “Years ago you had to do this constantly.”

Bees Have Brains for Basic Maths: Study

RMIT University By Gosia Kaszubska February 7, 2019

Researchers have found bees can do basic mathematics, in a discovery that expands our understanding of the relationship between brain size and brain power.

Building on their finding that honeybees can understand the concept of zero, Australian and French researchers set out to test whether bees could perform arithmetic operations like addition and subtraction.

Solving maths problems requires a sophisticated level of cognition, involving the complex mental management of numbers, long-term rules and short term working memory.

The revelation that even the miniature brain of a honeybee can grasp basic mathematical operations has implications for the future development of Artificial Intelligence, particularly in improving rapid learning.

Led by researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, the new study showed bees can be taught to recognise colours as symbolic representations for addition and subtraction, and that they can use this information to solve arithmetic problems.

RMIT’s Associate Professor Adrian Dyer said numerical operations like addition and subtraction are complex because they require two levels of processing.

“You need to be able to hold the rules around adding and subtracting in your long-term memory, while mentally manipulating a set of given numbers in your short-term memory,” Dyer said.

“On top of this, our bees also used their short-term memories to solve arithmetic problems, as they learned to recognise plus or minus as abstract concepts rather than being given visual aids.

“Our findings suggest that advanced numerical cognition may be found much more widely in nature among non-human animals than previously suspected.

“If maths doesn’t require a massive brain, there might also be new ways for us to incorporate interactions of both long-term rules and working memory into designs to improve rapid AI learning of new problems.”

There is considerable debate around whether animals know or can learn complex number skills.

Many species can understand the difference between quantities and use this to forage, make decisions and solve problems. But numerical cognition, such as exact number and arithmetic operations, requires a more sophisticated level of processing.

Previous studies have shown some primates, birds, babies and even spiders can add and/or subtract. The new research, published today in Science Advances, adds bees to that list. 

A school for bees? How the honeybees were trained

The experiment, conducted by PhD researcher Scarlett Howard in the Bio Inspired Digital Sensing-Lab (BIDS-Lab) at RMIT, involved training individual honeybees to visit a Y-shaped maze.

The bees received a reward of sugar water when they made a correct choice in the maze, and received a bitter-tasting quinine solution if the choice was incorrect.

Honeybees will go back to a place if the location provides a good source of food, so the bees returned repeatedly to the experimental set-up to collect nutrition and continue learning.

When a bee flew into the entrance of the maze they would see a set of elements, between 1 to 5 shapes. The shapes were either blue, which meant the bee had to add, or yellow, which meant the bee had to subtract.

After viewing the initial number, the bee would fly through a hole into a decision chamber where it could choose to fly to the left or right side of the maze.

One side had an incorrect solution to the problem and the other side had the correct solution of either plus or minus one. The correct answer was changed randomly throughout the experiment to avoid bees learning to visit just one side of the maze.

At the beginning of the experiment, bees made random choices until they could work out how to solve the problem. Eventually, over 100 learning trials that took 4 to 7 hours, bees learned that blue meant +1, while yellow meant -1. The bees could then apply the rules to new numbers.

Scarlett Howard said the ability to do basic maths has been vital in the flourishing of human societies historically, with evidence that the Egyptians and Babylonians used arithmetic around 2000BC.

“These days, we learn as children that a plus symbol means you need to add two or more quantities, while a minus symbol means you subtract,” she said.

“Our findings show that the complex understanding of maths symbols as a language is something that many brains can probably achieve, and helps explain how many human cultures independently developed numeracy skills.”

The research, with collaborators from University of Toulouse and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale Biophotonics at RMIT, is published today ("Numerical cognition in honeybees enables addition and subtraction", Science Advances, DOI 10.1126/sciadv.aav0961).

Video: Kiralee Greenhalgh

Beekeeping Class 101: Sunday, February 10, 2019, 9AM-Noon at The Valley Hive

The 2019 Season of Beekeeping Class 101 begins Sunday, February 10, 2019
Sign Up Today!

LACBA Beekeeping Class 101.jpg

Los County Beekeepers Association Beekeeping 101:
A Class for beginning beekeepers – Hosted by The Valley Hive

Who: Current 2019 Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association Members. The membership is a family/household membership, children under the age of 18 are welcome with accompanying adult member.

What: 8 Classes to guide you during your first year as a beekeeper

Where: Chatsworth, CA: Class topic will determine class location

When: The 2nd Sunday of the Month (See full class schedule )

Time: 9am to Noon (All classes are the same time.)

Requirements: Beginning with the 3rd class (April) BEE SUITS ARE REQUIRED attend class.

Cost: Suggested donation of $20 per class per household or $100 per household for all 8 classes. The February and March classes are free. You will need to be a current LACBA member to take class.

More Info: Please refer to our Beekeeping Class 101 page for the Location(s) and Schedule of Classes.

Sign Up for LACBA Beekeeping Class 101.

Our 'Bee-Eye Camera' Helps Us Support Bees, Grow Food And Protect The Environment

To help draw bees’ attention, flowers that are pollinated by bees have typically evolved to send very strong colour signals. Credit:  Shutterstock

To help draw bees’ attention, flowers that are pollinated by bees have typically evolved to send very strong colour signals. Credit: Shutterstock

Walking through our gardens in Australia, we may not realise that buzzing around us is one of our greatest natural resources. Bees are responsible for pollinating about a third of food for human consumption, and data on crop production suggests that bees contribute more than US$235 billion to the global economy each year.

By pollinating native and non-native plants, including many ornamental species, honeybees and Australian native bees also play an essential role in creating healthy communities – from urban parks to backyard gardens.

Despite their importance to human and environmental health, it is amazing how little we know how about our hard working insect friends actually see the world.

By learning how bees see and make decisions, it's possible to improve our understanding of how best to work with bees to manage our essential resources.

How bee vision differs from human vision

A new documentary on ABC TV, The Great Australian Bee Challenge, is teaching everyday Australians all about bees. In it, we conducted an experiment to demonstrate how bees use their amazing eyes to find complex shapes in flowers, or even human faces.

Humans use the lens in our eye to focus light onto our retina, resulting in a sharp image. By contrast, insects like bees use a compound eye that is made up of many light-guiding tubes called ommatidia.

Insects in the city: a honeybee forages in the heart of Sydney. Credit: Adrian Dyer/RMIT University

Insects in the city: a honeybee forages in the heart of Sydney. Credit: Adrian Dyer/RMIT University

The top of each ommatidia is called a facet. In each of a bees' two compound eyes, there are about 5000 different ommatidia, each funnelling part of the scene towards specialised sensors to enable visual perception by the bee brain.

Since each ommatidia carries limited information about a scene due to the physics of light, the resulting composite image is relatively "grainy" compared to human vision. The problem of reduced visual sharpness poses a challenge for bees trying to find flowers at a distance.

To help draw bees' attention, flowers that are pollinated by bees have typically evolved to send very strong colour signals. We may find them beautiful, but flowers haven't evolved for our eyes. In fact, the strongest signals appeal to a bee's ability to perceive mixtures of ultraviolet, blue and green light.

Building a bee eye camera

Despite all of our research, it can still be hard to imagine how a bee sees.

How we see fine detail with our eyes, and how a bee eye camera views the same information at a distance of about 15cm. Credit: Sue Williams and Adrian Dyer/RMIT University

How we see fine detail with our eyes, and how a bee eye camera views the same information at a distance of about 15cm. Credit: Sue Williams and Adrian Dyer/RMIT University

So to help people (including ourselves) visualise what the world looks like to a bee, we built a special, bio-inspired "bee-eye" camera that mimics the optical principles of the bee compound eye by using about 5000 drinking straws. Each straw views just one part of a scene, but the array of straws allows all parts of the scene to be projected onto a piece of tracing paper.

The resulting image can then be captured using a digital camera. This project can be constructed by school age children, and easily be assembled multiple times to enable insights into how bees see our world.

Because bees can be trained to learn visual targets, we know that our device does a good job of mimicking a bees visual acuity.

Student projects can explore the interesting nexus between science, photography and art to show how bees see different things, like carrots – which are an important part of our diet and which require bees for the efficient production of seeds.

Yellow flower (Gelsemium sempervirens) as it appears to our eye, as taken through a UV sensitive camera, and how it likely appears to a bee. Credit: Sue Williams and Adrian Dyer/RMIT University

Yellow flower (Gelsemium sempervirens) as it appears to our eye, as taken through a UV sensitive camera, and how it likely appears to a bee. Credit: Sue Williams and Adrian Dyer/RMIT University

Understanding bee vision helps us protect bees

Bees need flowers to live, and we need bees to pollinate our crops. Understanding bee vision can help us better support our buzzy friends and the critical pollination services they provide.

In nature, it appears that flowers often bloom in communities, using combined cues like colour and scent to help important pollinators find the area with the best resources.

Having lots of flowers blooming together attracts pollinators in much the same way that boxing day sales attract consumers to a shopping centre. Shops are better together, even though they are in competition – the same may be true for flowers!

This suggests that there is unlikely to be one flower that is "best" for bees. The solution for better supporting bees is to incorporate as many flowers as possible – both native and non native – in the environment. Basically: if you plant it, they will come.

We are only starting to understand how bees see and perceive our shared world – including art styles – and the more we know, the better we can protect and encourage our essential insect partners.

How a bee eye camera works by only passing the constructive rays of light to form an image. Credit: Sue Williams and Adrian Dyer/RMIT University

How a bee eye camera works by only passing the constructive rays of light to form an image. Credit: Sue Williams and Adrian Dyer/RMIT University

Clip from “The Great Australian Bee Challenge, Episode 2.

Looking at the fruits and vegetables of bee pollination; a bee camera eye view of carrots. Credit: Sue Williams and Adrian Dyer/RMIT University

Looking at the fruits and vegetables of bee pollination; a bee camera eye view of carrots. Credit: Sue Williams and Adrian Dyer/RMIT University

Dr. Tom D. Seeley: Honeybees in the Wild

Dr. Tom Seeley Beekeeping Today Podcast.jpg
Dr. Tom D. Seeley.jpg

Dr. Tom D. Seeley is a Horace White Professor in Biology at Cornell University where he teaches courses on animal behavior, specializing in understanding the social life of honey bees. His scientific research focuses on the phenomenon of swarm intelligence, which is defined as the solving of cognitive problems by a group of individuals who pool their knowledge and process it through social interactions.

Tom joins Jeff and Kim in this episode to discuss bee hunting (aka: bee lining). He also delves deeper into the topic of his article in the January 2019 Bee Culture on Darwinian Beekeeping.

Tom is a author of several books related to honey bee biology and behavior, including:

The Wisdom of the Hive, 1996
Honeybee Democracy, 2010
Following The Wild Bees: The Craft and Science of Bee Hunting, 2016
The Lives of Bees: The Untold Story of the Honey Bee in the Wild, 2019

In the podcast, Tom references his video on the topic of Bee Hunting. You can find it On YouTube. ____________________

We hope you enjoy this podcast and welcome your questions and comments:

Thanks to Bee Culture, the Magazine of American Beekeeping, for their support of The Beekeeping Today Podcast. Available in print and digital at

Thank you for listening!

Podcast music: Young Presidents, "Be Strong"

Culprit Found For Honeybee Deaths In California Almond Groves

PHYS.ORG   By Misti Crane     February 4, 2019

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

It's about time for the annual mass migration of honeybees to California, and new research is helping lower the chances the pollinators and their offspring will die while they're visiting the West Coast.

Each winter, professional beekeepers from around the nation stack hive upon hive on trucks destined for the Golden State, where February coaxes forward the sweet-smelling, pink and white blossoms of the Central Valley's almond trees.

Almond growers rent upwards of 1.5 million colonies of honeybees a year, at a cost of around $300 million. Without the bees, there would be no almonds, and there are nowhere near enough native bees to take up the task of pollinating the trees responsible for more than 80 percent of the world's almonds. The trouble was, bees and larvae were dying while in California, and nobody was sure exactly why. The problem started in adults only, and beekeepers were most worried about loss of queens.

Then in 2014, about 80,000 colonies—about 5 percent of bees brought in for pollination—experienced adult bee deaths or a dead and deformed brood. Some entire colonies died.

With support from the Almond Board of California, an industry service agency, bee expert Reed Johnson of The Ohio State University took up the task of figuring out what was happening. Results from his earlier research had shown that some insecticides thought safe for bees were impacting larvae. Building on that, Johnson undertook a new study, newly published in the journal Insects, that details how combinations of insecticides and fungicides typically deemed individually "safe" for honeybees turn into lethal cocktails when mixed.

Johnson, an associate professor of entomology, and his study co-authors were able to identify the chemicals commonly used in the almond groves during bloom because of California's robust and detailed system for tracking pesticide applications. Then, in a laboratory in Ohio, they tested combinations of these chemicals on honeybees and larvae.

In the most extreme cases, combinations decreased the survival of larvae by more than 60 percent when compared to a control group of larvae unexposed to fungicides and insecticides.

"Fungicides, often needed for crop protection, are routinely used during almond bloom, but in many cases growers were also adding insecticides to the mix. Our research shows that some combinations are deadly to the bees, and the simplest thing is to just take the insecticide out of the equation during almond bloom," he said.

"It just doesn't make any sense to use an insecticide when you have 80 percent of the nation's honeybees sitting there exposed to it."

The recommendation is already catching on and has been promoted through a wide array of presentations by almond industry leaders, beekeepers and other experts and has been included in the Almond Board's honeybee management practices. Many almond growers are rethinking their previous practices and are backing off insecticide use during almond bloom, Johnson said.

That's good news for bees, and doesn't appear to be harming the crops either, he said, because there are better opportunities to control problematic insects when almonds are not in bloom.

"I was surprised—even the experts in California were surprised—that they were using insecticides during pollination," Johnson said.

While these products were considered "bee-safe," that was based on tests with adult bees that hadn't looked into the impact they had on larvae.

"I think it was a situation where it wasn't disallowed. The products were thought to be bee-safe and you've got to spray a fungicide during bloom anyway, so why not put an insecticide in the tank, too?"

Insecticides are fairly inexpensive, but the process of spraying is labor-intensive, so growers choosing to double up may have been looking to maximize their investment, he said.

"The thing is, growers were using these insecticides to control a damaging insect—the peach twig borer—during this period, but they have other opportunities to do that before the bees enter the almond orchards or after they are gone," Johnson said.

This research could open the door to more study of fungicide and pesticide use on other bee-dependent crops, including pumpkins and cucumbers, Johnson said.

Explore further: Almond-crop fungicides a threat to honey bees

More information: Andrea Wade et al, Combined Toxicity of Insecticides and Fungicides Applied to California Almond Orchards to Honey Bee Larvae and Adults, Insects (2019). DOI: 10.3390/insects10010020

Provided by: The Ohio State University

LACBA Meeting Monday, February 4, 2019

LACBA Meeting Logo.jpg

The next meeting of the LACBA will be held Monday, February 4, 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!


Topic Speaker:

7 minutes. A selected beekeeper to speak on how they got into beekeeping and their first two years of beekeeping. Specifically focusing on mistakes made, the trials, tribulations, problems.

Guest Speaker:

  • Maury - Wildflower Meadows.

    Murray Mosco has been a commercial beekeeper in Southern California since 2001. He is the founder of Wildflower Meadows, a queen producer based in San Diego County specializing in VSH-Italian queens. In the early 2000’s he worked with Chaparral Honey, a commercial beekeeping outfit managing over ten thousand colonies throughout San Diego, Riverside, and Imperial Counties. Previous to this, he served as President of Knorr Beeswax Co., and worked closely with the Knorr family. Over the past 15 years, he has moved countless bee colonies in and out of pollination throughout Southern California, and raised tens of thousands of queen cells for commercial beekeepers. Currently, he manages and oversees Wildflower Meadows, which produces and ships VSH-Italian queens to beekeepers nationwide.

Upcoming Events:

  1. Spring fling at LA Zoo. 6 weekends late March to Early May. We need list of people who would like to volunteer for the booth. Educate. Observation hive? Sell honey and honey tasting with honey sticks.

  2. Eaton canyon nature center is having a one day event. Educate. Observation hive sell honey. Partner with BASC.

  3. Catherine Kaddis - – Homeschool group in Monrovia would like to learn more about bees.

Requests for Presentations and Services:

  1. Judith Selby – – Lives east of Pasadena at the intersection of the 605 & 210. They would like to have bees. Is interested in the host a hive program she has read about as a learning mechanism. The beekeepers come once a month to tend the hive on our property and teach us the nuances of beekeeping. Do you know anyone in this area who has such a program?

  2. Central Valley Beekeepers Association – Beekeeping Symposium Saturday 2-23-19.

  3. Aidan Koch – - Hi, I run a small organization that promotes non-human animal discussions in the arts community. I’m hosting an event February 9th and was wondering if any bee-keepers in your association are open to doing talks about bee keeping in Los Angeles and how citizens can support their populations. There would be a $100 honorarium. If this might be of interest to anyone involved please let me know!

What do your packages look like 11 months in?

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

What’s Blooming?


Next month, Theadore Payne Foundation to speak on California natives.

RAFFLE!!!! Bring something for the Raffle!

Hope to see you at the meeting!

Different Types of Honey Bees

The Different Types of Honey Bees


Honey bees, like all other living things, vary among themselves in traits such as temperament, disease resistance, and productivity. The environment has a large effect on differences among bee colonies (for example, plants in different areas yield different honey crops), but the genetic makeup of a colony can also impact the characteristics that define a particular group. Beekeepers have long known that different genetic stocks have distinctive characteristics, so they have utilized different strains to suit their particular purpose, whether it be pollination, a honey crop, or bee production.

What Is a Bee Stock?

The term “stock” is defined as a loose combination of traits that characterize a particular group of bees. Such groups can be divided by species, race, region, population, or breeding line in a commercial operation. Many of the current “stocks” in the United States can be grouped at one or more of these levels, so the term will be used interchangeably, depending on the particular strain of bees in question.

Wide variation exists within stocks as well as among them. Any generalities about a particular stock should be treated with caution, since there are always exceptions to the rule. Nonetheless, the long and vast experience of beekeepers allows some oversimplifications to be made in order to better understand the different types of bees available. The following is a brief overview of some of the more common commercially available honey bee stocks in the United States.

Comparison of bees and their traits

Comparison of bees and their traits

The Italian Bee

Italian honey bees, of the subspecies Apis mellifera ligustica, were brought to the United States in 1859. They quickly became the favored bee stock in this country and remain so to this day. Known for their extended periods of brood rearing, Italian bees can build colony populations in the spring and maintain them for the entire summer. They are less defensive and less prone to disease than their German counterparts, and they are excellent honey producers. They also are very lightly colored, ranging from a light leather hue to an almost lemon yellow, a trait that is highly coveted by many beekeepers for its aesthetic appeal.

Despite their popularity, Italian bees have some drawbacks. First, because of their prolonged brood rearing, they may consume surplus honey in the hive if supers (removable upper sections where honey is stored) are not removed immediately after the honey flow stops. Second, they are notorious kleptoparasites and frequently rob the honey stores of weaker or dead neighboring colonies. This behavior may pose problems for Italian beekeepers who work their colonies during times of nectar dearth, and it may cause the rapid spread of transmittable diseases among hives.

The German Bee

Honey bees are not native to the New World, although North America has about 4,000 native species of bees. Honey bees were brought to America in the 17thcentury by the early European settlers. These bees were most likely of the subspecies A. m. mellifera, otherwise known as the German or “black” bee. This stock is very dark in color and tends to be very defensive, making bee management more difficult. One of the German bees’ more favorable characteristics is that they are a hardy strain, able to survive long, cold winters in northern climates. However, because of their defensive nature and their susceptibility to many brood diseases (such as American and European foulbrood), this stock lost favor with beekeepers well over a century ago. Although the feral bee population in the United States was once dominated by this strain, newly introduced diseases have nearly wiped out most wild honey bee colonies, making the German bee a rare stock at this time

The Carniolan Bee

The subspecies A. m. carnica, from middle Europe, also has been a favored bee stock in the United States for several reasons. First, their explosive spring buildup enables this race to grow rapidly in population and take advantage of blooms that occur much earlier in the spring, compared to other stocks. Second, they are extremely docile and can be worked with little smoke and protective clothing. Third, they are much less prone to robbing other colonies of honey, lowering disease transmission among colonies. Finally, they are very good builders of wax combs, which can be used for products ranging from candles, to soaps, to cosmetics.

Because of their rapid buildup, however, carniolan bees tend to have a high propensity to swarm (their effort to relieve overcrowding) and, therefore, may leave the beekeeper with a very poor honey crop. This stock requires continued vigilance to prevent the loss of swarms.

The Caucasian Bee

A. m. caucasica is a race of honey bees native to the foothills of the Ural mountains near the Caspian Sea in eastern Europe. This stock was once popular in the United States, but it has declined in regard over the last few decades. Its most notable characteristic is its very long tongue, which enables the bees to forage for nectar from flowers that other bee stocks may not have access to. They tend to be a moderately colored bee and, like the Carniolans, are extremely docile. However, their slow spring buildup keeps them from generating very large honey crops, and they tend to use an excessive amount of propolis—the sticky resin substance sometimes called “bee glue” that is used to seal cracks and joints of bee structures—making their hives diffi- cult to manipulate.

The Buckfast Bee

In the 1920s, honey bee colonies in the British Isles were devastated by acarine disease, which now is suspected to have been the endoparasitic tracheal mite Acarapis woodi. Brother Adams, a monk at Buckfast Abby in Devon, England, was charged with creating a bee stock that could withstand this deadly disease. He traveled the world interviewing beekeepers and learning about different bee strains, and he created a stock of bees, largely from the Italian race, that could thrive in the cold wet conditions of the British Isles, yet produce good honey crops and exhibit good housecleaning and grooming behavior to reduce the prevalence of disease. Bees of this stock are moderately defensive. However, if left unmanaged for one or two generations, they can be among the most fiercely defensive bees of any stock. They also are moderate in spring population buildup, preventing them from taking full advantage of early nectar flows.

The Russian Bee

One of the newer bee stocks in the United States was imported from far-eastern Russia by the US Department of Agriculture’s Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Laboratory in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The researchers’ logic was that these bees from the Primorski region on the Sea of Japan, have coexisted for the last 150 years with the devastating ectoparasite Varroa destructor, a mite that is responsible for severe colony losses around the globe, and they might thrive in the United States. The USDA tested whether this stock had evolved resistance to varroa and found that it had. Numerous studies have shown that bees of this strain have fewer than half the number of mites that are found in standard commercial stocks. The quarantine phase of this project has been complete since 2000, and bees of this strain are available commercially.

Russian bees tend to rear brood only during times of nectar and pollen flows, so brood rearing and colony populations tend to fluctuate with the environment. They also exhibit good housecleaning behavior, resulting in resistance not only to varroa but also to the tracheal mite.

Bees of this stock exhibit some unusual behaviors compared to other strains. For example, they tend to have queen cells present in their colonies almost all the time, whereas most other stocks rear queens only during times of swarming or queen replacement. Russian bees also perform better when not in the presence of other bee strains; research has shown that cross-contamination from susceptible stocks can lessen the varroa resistance of these bees.

Other Notable Stocks

Many other honey bee stocks are worth noting:

The Minnesota Hygienic stock has been selected for its exceptional housecleaning ability, significantly reducing the negative effects of most brood diseases.

The VSH, or the "Varroa Sensitive Hygiene" stock (used to be named the SMR stock, referring to “Suppression of Mite Reproduction”), also was developed by the USDA honey bee lab in Louisiana by artificially selecting commercial stocks for mite resistance. While not an independently viable stock on its own (because of inbreeding), the VSH trait has been incorporated into other genetic stocks so that these stocks may also express this highly desired characteristic.

The Cordovan bee is a type of Italian bee that has a very light yellow color, which is more attractive to many beekeepers.

Numerous hybrid stocks are also available commercially:

The Midnite bee was developed by crossing the Caucasian and Carniolan stocks, hoping to maintain the extreme gentleness of both strains while removing the excessive propolis of the Caucasians and minimizing the swarming propensity of the Carniolans.

The Starline was developed from numerous strains of the Italian stock by Gladstone Cale of the Dadant Bee Company. It was once favored by commercial beekeepers because of its tremendous honey yields, particularly in clover, but the popularity of this stock has declined in recent decades.

The Double Hybrid is a cross of the Midnite and the Starline.


While a tremendous amount of variation remains within and among the different bee stocks, some generalities still can be made. Bee differences can be used to advantage by beekeepers, depending on what traits interest them, so using different stocks can be a powerful tool at the beekeeper’s disposal. There is no “best” strain of bee, as the traits favored by one beekeeper may differ significantly from another’s choice. Thus, it is best for each beekeeper to experience the characteristics of the different bee strains first hand and then form an opinion about which stock best fits his or her situation.

For more information on beekeeping, visit the Beekeeping Notes website.

David R. Tarpy
Professor and Extension Apiculturist
Department of Entomology, Campus Box 7613
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-7613
TEL: (919) 515-1660
FAX: (919) 515-7746

Jennifer J. Keller
Apiculture Technician
Department of Entomology, Campus Box 7613
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-7613
TEL: (919) 513-7702
FAX: (919) 515-7746

NC State Extension
Author David Tarpy,
Professor and Extension Apiculturist

Varroa Mites Feed On The Fat Bodies Of Honey Bees, Not The Hemolymph. This Is Important!

Catch The Buzz By Dennis O’Brien January 30, 2019

cross section of honey bee abdomen.jpg

An image showing a cross section of a varroa mite feeding on a honey bee’s abdominal cavity is one of several ARS microscopy images changing what we know about how mites damage honey bees.

Research by scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the University of Maryland released today sheds new light — and reverses decades of scientific dogma — regarding a honey bee pest (Varroa destructor) that is considered the greatest single driver of the global honey bee colony losses. Managed honey bee colonies add at least $15 billion to the value of U.S. agriculture each year through increased yields and superior quality harvests.

The microscopy images are part of a major study showing that the Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) feeds on the honey bee’s fat body tissue (an organ similar to the human liver) rather than on its “blood,” (or hemolymph). This discovery holds broad implications for controlling the pest in honey bee colonies.

The study was published on-line Jan. 15 and in today’s print edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. An image produced by the ARS Electron and Confocal Microscopy Unit in Beltsville, Maryland is on the cover of today’s journal.

Varroa mites have been widely thought to feed on the hemolymph, of honey bees (Apis mellifera) because of studies conducted in the 1970’s which used outdated technology. But today’s collaborative study, by University of Maryland and ARS researchers at the ARS Electron and Confocal Microscopy Unit, offers proof of the mite’s true feeding behavior. Through the use of electron microscopy, the researchers were able to locate feeding wounds on the bee caused by the mites, which were located directly above the bee’s fat body tissue. The images represent the first direct evidence that Varroa mites feed on adult bees, not just the larvae and pupae.

In addition, University of Maryland researchers conducted feeding studies and found that Varroa mites that were fed a diet of fat body tissue survived significantly longer and produced more eggs than mites fed hemolymph. The results show, mites fed a hemolymph-only diet were comparable to those that were starved. Thus, proving conclusively that the Varroa mite feeds primarily on the fat body consumed from bees.

The results are expected to help scientists develop more effective pesticides and other treatments to help bees cope with a mite known to spread at least five viruses. They also help explain why Varroa mites have such detrimental effects on honey bees, weakening their immune systems, and making it harder for them to store protein from pollen and survive through the winter.

The study was part of the Ph.D. thesis of Samuel D. Ramsey from the University of Maryland and was conducted in collaboration with ARS researchers and study co-authors Gary Bauchan, Connor Gulbronson, Joseph Mowery, and Ronald Ochoa.

The study can be found here.

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.

Catch The Buzz: Varroa mites feed on the fat bodies of honey bees

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