New Tool Improves Beekeepers' Overwintering Odds and Bottom Line

PHYS.org By Kim Kaplan, US Department of Agriculture September 18, 2019

Credit: Lilla Frerichs/public domain

Credit: Lilla Frerichs/public domain

A new tool from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) can predict the odds that honey bee colonies overwintered in cold storage will be large enough to rent for almond pollination in February. Identifying which colonies will not be worth spending dollars to overwinter can improve beekeepers' bottom line.

Beekeepers have been losing an average of 30 percent of overwintered colonies for nearly 15 years. It is expensive to overwinter colonies in areas where winter temperatures stay above freezing. So a less expensive practice of overwintering bee colonies in cold storage is becoming popular.

This new tool calculates the probability of a managed honey bee colony surviving the winter based on two measurements: the size of colony and the percent varroa mite infestation in September, according to ARS entomologist Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman, who headed the team. DeGrandi-Hoffman is research leader of the ARS Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona.

By consulting the probability table for the likelihood of a colony having a minimum of six frames of bees—the number required for a colony to be able to fulfill a pollination contract for almond growers come February—beekeepers can decide in September if it is economically worthwhile to overwinter the colony in cold storage.

"The size of a colony in late summer or early fall can be deceiving with respect to its chances of making it through the winter. Even large colonies with more than 12 frames of bees (about 30,000 bees) have less than a 0.5 probability (50 percent chance) of being suitable for almond pollination if they have 5 or more mites per 100 bees in September," DeGrandi-Hoffman said.

Even with this cost-cutting help, the research team found that revenue from pollination contracts by itself is not likely to provide a sustainable income to a beekeeper anymore. They followed 190 honey bee colonies and recorded all costs.

Considerable resources were expended to feed colonies and on varroa mite and pathogen control. Costs were about $200 per colony.

Almond pollination contracts paid an average of $190 per colony in 2019.

One way for beekeepers to remain economically viable as a business, is to produce a honey crop from their bees. This is most often facilitated by moving colonies to the Northern Great Plains where bees can forage for nectar and pollen from a wide variety flowering plants.

"The situation has changed a lot. It is more expensive to manage honey bees with costs to feed colonies when flowers are not available and to control varroa mites. And it is more difficult to find places for honey bee colonies that provide the diverse nutrition they need," said DeGrandi-Hoffman. "Pollination revenue alone is just not adequate for beekeepers to stay in business. But we need beekeepers because managed bees are a lynchpin in agricultural production today."

Successfully using cold storage will help beekeepers' bottom line, but we are really just learning what the best management practices should be with cold storage," she added.

https://phys.org/news/2019-09-tool-beekeepers-overwintering-odds-bottom.html

MSU Economist's Research on Colony Collapse Disorder Published in National Journal

PHYS.org By Montana State University October 4, 2019

The work of a Montana State University professor examining the economic impacts of colony collapse disorder among commercial honeybees was published in the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists last month.

Randy Rucker, a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics in the MSU College of Agriculture, began looking into colony collapse disorder several years ago with colleagues from North Carolina State University and Oregon State University, for the purpose of estimating its economic impacts. The onset of the disorder was an unexpected shock to commercial beekeeping and pollination markets that first received national attention in the winter of 2006-07 when mortality rates were estimated to be almost 30%.

Colony collapse disorder is still a poorly understood phenomenon, wrote Rucker and his co-authors in the paper's introduction. Since its onset, along with other pollinator health issues such as the Varrona mite, which feeds on developing bees, it has caused significant concern among beekeepers and the public.

"With colony collapse disorder, a beekeeper goes out and virtually all the worker bees are gone," said Rucker. "Twenty thousand, 30,000, 40,000 worker bees, just gone. There are very few dead worker bees on the ground near the colony, and the queen, the brood and all the food are still there. But the bees are just gone."

With so little known about what causes colony collapse disorder, Rucker and his team set out to identify its economic ripple effects by examining trends in four categories: number of commercial honeybee colonies nationwide, honey production, prices of queens and packaged bees and pollination fees charged by commercial beekeepers to growers. The team found some surprising results.

Bee population is known to fall during the winter, said Rucker. Prior to the onset of colony collapse disorder, the average winter mortality rate was about 15%. Beekeepers have long known how to replace dead hives and are prepared to deal with losses, typically in one of two ways.

The first method of offsetting winter losses is called splitting, where a beekeeper takes half the bees in a healthy colony, moves them to a struggling colony and adds a newly fertilized queen, purchased for $18-25 and received through the mail. After about six weeks, there are once again two healthy hives.

The other way to increase colony numbers after winter losses is to simply buy a package of bees, also through the mail, which includes a fertilized queen and several thousand worker bees. Beekeepers place the bees in the dead hive and then watch as a healthy hive develops. Both methods are relatively easy and inexpensive for beekeepers—and have remained so after the onset of colony collapse disorder, the study found.

"Beekeepers know how to replace dead hives," said Rucker. "As winter mortality increased after CCD appeared and beekeepers worried about having enough hives to meet their pollination contracts in the spring, they responded by splitting more hives in mid- to late summer and would then end up with the number they needed."

Even with more hives split and more bees purchased, the prices of queens and packaged bees have not increased dramatically, the study found. From this result, the authors infer that "the supply of queens and packaged bees is sufficiently elastic that any increases in demand associated with CCD have not resulted in measurable increases in price."

The team found similar results when they examined trends in colony numbers and honey production. While there were pre-existing downward trends in both metrics before the onset of colony collapse disorder, the rate of decline has not increased, said Rucker. In fact, colony numbers in 2018 were higher than they had been over the last 20 years.

The sole instance of a pronounced negative impact came when the team studied trends in pollination fees for commercial crops. Even there, however, only one commercially important crop showed a significant increase in price: almonds.

"Almonds get pollinated in February or March, and it's really the only major crop that requires pollination during that time of year," said Rucker. With about a million acres of almonds in need of pollination each year, it takes about 70% of U.S. managed honeybee colonies to get the job done.

Pollination fees for almonds rose from roughly $70 to almost $160—adjusted for inflation—over the winters of 2004-05 and 2005-06, but Rucker and his co-authors noticed something unusual about the timing. Those increases happened before colony collapse disorder appeared on the scene over the winter of 2006-07.

"Almond pollination fees did go up substantially, but they went up before CCD hit," said Rucker. "You can't attribute those increases to colony collapse disorder."

The bottom line, he said, is that while there have been changes in the commercial pollinator markets, few can be directly linked to colony collapse disorder or any other recent pollinator health concerns. This is good news for beekeepers and consumers alike, he added.

"When we started this project, we expected to find huge effects, but we found very small ones," said Rucker. "The only effects we found on consumers, for example, is that they probably pay about 10 cents more for a $7, one-pound can of almonds at the grocery store."

The reason the disorder's impacts are so small, said Rucker, is directly linked to the fact that most beekeepers know that bees and honeybee colonies are going to die over the course of the year, and they have developed methods of dealing with those fluctuations. As a result, they have been able to react quickly to disruptions like CCD. But there are still a lot of unknowns about the disorder, and the paper focused on the particular overlap of colony collapse disorder and economics.

"The bottom line is that beekeepers are savvy [businesspeople]," he said. "Our research provides reason for optimism about the future ability of commercial beekeepers to adapt to environmental or biological shocks to their operations and to pollination markets. It says nothing, however, about non-managed pollinators. Data on those pollinators' populations are sparse, and the impacts of maladies like CCD on their populations are not well understood. There is definitely much more work to be done to grasp the effects of CCD and other threats to bee health."

https://phys.org/news/2019-10-msu-economist-colony-collapse-disorder.html

Researchers Determine Pollen Abundance and Diversity In Five Major Pollinator Dependent Crops

Oregon State University Lab Manager September 2, 2019

Ramesh Sagili, Oregon State University associate professor of apiculture and Extension specialist, examines honeybees in Madras, Oregon.CREDIT: LYNN KETCHUM, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Ramesh Sagili, Oregon State University associate professor of apiculture and Extension specialist, examines honeybees in Madras, Oregon.CREDIT: LYNN KETCHUM, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

CORVALLIS, Ore. — A new study provides valuable insights into pollen abundance and diversity available to honeybee colonies employed in five major pollinator-dependent crops in Oregon and California, including California’s massive almond industry.

The study, a collaboration between Oregon State University (OSU) and Texas A&M University, found that almond, cherry, and meadowfoam provide ample pollen to honeybees, but highbush blueberry and hybrid carrot seed crops may not. In addition, California almonds don’t provide as much pollen diversity as other crops, according to the findings, published in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

The western honeybee is the major pollinator of fruit, nut, vegetable, and seed crops that depend on bee pollination for high quality and yield. The findings are important because both pollen abundance and diversity are critical for colony growth and survival of the western honeybee, said study corresponding author Ramesh Sagili, associate professor of apiculture and honeybee Extension specialist in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

“Pollen diversity is important for the growth and development of bees, and low amounts of pollen availability to honeybee colonies can dramatically affect brood rearing,” Sagili said. “Beekeepers that employ their colonies for pollination of crops like hybrid carrot seed and highbush blueberry should frequently assess the amount of pollen stores in their colonies and provide protein supplements if pollen stores are low.”

Nectar and pollen provide essential nutrients for honeybees. A honeybee colony’s protein source is pollen, which has varying amounts of amino acids, lipids, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients obtained from pollen are essential for honeybee larval development. Pollen largely contributes to the growth of fat bodies in larvae and egg development in the queen.

Well-nourished individuals in a honeybee colony are able to withstand the effects of other stressors such as parasites and insecticides, in addition to the long-distance transport of colonies known as “migratory management.” Bees are trucked across the county to pollinate various cropping systems—more than 1 million hives are transported to California each year just to pollinate almonds.

A diet low in pollen diversity hurts a colony’s defense system, which consequently increases disease susceptibility and pesticide sensitivity. During critical crop bloom periods, growers rent large numbers of honeybee colonies to pollinate their crops. Approximately 2.5 million commercially managed honeybee colonies are used for crop pollination in the United States every year.

Some cropping systems may put bees at risk for temporary nutritional deficiency if the crop plant’s pollen is deficient in certain nutrients and bees are unable to find an alternative source of these nutrients, Sagili said.

“It’s crucial for beekeepers and crop producers to understand the pollen abundance and diversity that honeybees encounter during crop pollination,” he said, adding that blueberry and hybrid carrot seed producers can mitigate nutritional deficiencies by providing supplemental food or forage, including commercially available protein supplements for bees.

Renting colonies to growers for pollination services is a significant source of income for commercial beekeepers, but it also requires them to repeatedly transport the colonies between crops throughout the growing season. In this study, the research team collaborated with 17 migratory commercial beekeepers for pollen collection from honeybee colonies in five different cropping systems from late February to August of 2012.

They installed pollen traps on at least five colonies at each site and collected pollen from the colonies at the height of the blooming season.

They found that California’s vast almond footprint—1 million acres and counting—provides more than enough pollen for the nearly 2 million honeybees employed to pollinate the orchards, but pollen diversity was low when compared with other crops.

“We think the reason for that is almonds bloom early in the year when there are so few plant species in bloom, so bees have few other forage options and primarily rely on almond pollen,” Sagili said. “There are parts of the northern and southern ends of California’s San Joaquin Valley where there are no other crops in bloom when almond trees bloom, which may further contribute to poor availability of diverse pollen.”

Study co-authors are Ellen Topitzhofer, Hannah Lucas, Priyadarshini Chakrabarti, and Carolyn Breece—all researchers at OSU’s Honey Bee Lab—and Vaughn Bryant at Texas A&M’s Palynology Laboratory.

The Oregon State Beekeepers Association provided funding for the study.

https://www.labmanager.com/news/2019/08/researchers-determine-pollen-abundance-and-diversity-in-five-major-pollinator-dependent-crops?fbclid=IwAR25BLUNpAsa1gGhpLtLh-uuzDQu_La7RHMeRBFGy28H6cCJWH0yeKoKHgk#.XYveelVKjIW

Related: https://academic.oup.com/jee/article/112/5/2040/5522909

Study Shows Bee Brains Process Positive and Negative Experiences Differently

Phys.org By Bob Yirka September 11, 2019

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has found that when bees experience positive versus negative events, their brains process and remember the events differently. In their paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the group describes their study of bee brain processing and memory retention and what they found.

Scientists have known for a long time that vertebrates handle positive and negative events differently, storing and retrieving those memories in their brains differently, as well. In this effort, the researchers wanted to know if the same could be said of invertebrates such as the common honeybee. To find out, they exposed test bees to positive or negative events and then studied gene expression in a part of their brain known as the mushroom body—an area involved in processing sensory information, learning and memory.

More specifically, the researchers exposed the bees to positive experiences such as tending to their young or negative experiences such as dealing with a threat like an enemy or a predator. They then quickly froze the bees to keep the brain chemical state intact. Next, they studied the brain chemistry related to gene expression in samples taken from the mushroom bodies, focusing on genes that prior research has shown respond very quickly to external stimuli. The team then looked for differences in other parts of the mushroom bodies after the bee had been exposed to a positive or negative event. They report that they did find differences between the two, which, they suggest, indicates that bee brains process and store memories of the two types of events differently. The researchers were surprised by the results, considering the very small size of the bee brain.

The researchers suggest their findings could lead to a better understanding of social behavior in invertebrates and how they respond to different sorts of stimuli. They also note that because of the two types of memory involved in the two types of events, there is a link between vertebrate and invertebrate cognition despite the two groups diverging approximately 600 million years ago.

More information: Ian M. Traniello et al. Valence of social information is encoded in different subpopulations of mushroom body Kenyon cells in the honeybee brain, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2019). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2019.0901

Journal information: Proceedings of the Royal Society B

https://phys.org/news/2019-09-bee-brains-positive-negative-differently.html

Related: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-09-brain-function-impacts-contribute-depression.html

How Bees Defend Themselves from Predators

AgNet West By Cathy Isom August 19, 2019

In this part of her series on raising bees, Cathy Isom lets you know about how bees defend themselves. That’s coming up on This Land of Ours.

In this part of her series on raising bees, Cathy Isom lets you know about how bees defend themselves. That’s coming up on This Land of Ours.

Honeybees tend to take excellent care of themselves, however, unlike most animals we care for, we have very little control over what happens when a busy bee leaves its hive in pursuit of pollen.

A honeybee’s primary defense mechanism is its ability to sting a predator, injecting a debilitating, sometimes deadly, venom. Amazingly, only female honeybees can deliver a sting to its enemies, and despite what most people believe, the bee does not die after stinging its attacker, unless it has stung a mammal with fleshy skin– such as a human.

A Japanese honeybee feeds from a garden cosmos flower

A Japanese honeybee feeds from a garden cosmos flower

The Japanese honeybee has come up with an ingenious way to kill larger insects that pose a threat to their hives, like the wasp. If an intruder is nearby, the honeybees will plot to ambush the unwanted visitor. Literally, they get together, hide, and then attack the intruder.

The bees attack the predator by forming a “bee ball” around it and begin flapping their wings to create an intolerable, deadly, environment for the predator. Heat and carbon monoxide from the rapid wing-flapping suffocate and kill the intruder. There is hope that this trait can be bred into other types of bees, but at this time, there has been little success.

Bees actually create their own entrance reducer with propolis— a strong mixture of wax, saliva, and sap. Honeybees have rarely been known to take this action on their own. Most of the reports of a bee-made reducer come after a manmade reducer has been removed.

I’m Cathy Isom…

http://agnetwest.com/how-bees-defend-themselves-predators/

A Common Honey Bee Disease is Spread Through Flowers

PHYS.ORG By James Cook University August 7, 2019

Australian native stingless bees. Credit: Dr Peter Yeeles

Australian native stingless bees. Credit: Dr Peter Yeeles

James Cook University scientists have discovered a common honey bee disease can be deadly to native Australian wild bees and can be transmitted by flowers—the first time this link has been made.

JCU's Associate Professor Lori Lach oversaw the study investigating the susceptibility of Australian stingless or "sugar bag" bees to Nosema ceranae—a parasite that causes European honey bees to become less active, develop an increase in appetite, and die prematurely.

"Pathogen spillover from bees kept by bee keepers to wild bee populations is increasingly considered as a possible cause of wild pollinator decline. Spillover has been frequently documented, but not much is known about the pathogen's virulence in wild bees or how long pathogens can survive on a flower," said Terence Purkiss, the honors student who conducted the study.

The scientists found that just over two thirds of the wild bees exposed to the disease caught it, and those that did died at nearly three times the rate of those without it. Most European beehives have been found to contain the disease to some extent.

The scientists also found that flowers can transmit the disease.

"About two thirds of the flowers exposed to infected European honey bees were found to be carrying Nosema ceranae spores. In every case, at least one stingless bee that foraged on the flowers contracted the pathogen. What this means is that wild bees can be infected with the disease by sharing a flower with an infected European bee ," said Dr. Lach.

Five out of the six stingless bee hives the researchers monitored over five months tested positive for the pathogen at least once.

Dr. Lach said species' geographic distributions are changing rapidly due to habitat loss, climate change, and through new species being introduced by humans.

"This leads to novel combinations of interacting species that share no evolutionary history. Introduced species may bring with them their pathogens and parasites and provide an opportunity for these to spread to new species," Dr. Lach said.

Dr. Lach said more work had to be done outside the laboratory setting and within different seasons to get a clearer picture of how dangerous the pathogen is to wild bees.

"We know that new hosts will not have had the opportunity to develop defenses against new pathogens and may be particularly susceptible. For example, human immunodeficiency virus and severe acute respiratory syndrome jumped from chimpanzees and bats, respectively, to humans and have resulted in millions of deaths," she said.

Dr. Lach said it was the first study to find a spillover of the pathogen from European bees to Australia's stingless bees.

"Reducing risk of pathogen transmission from managed to wild bees presents multiple challenges and must involve the beekeeping community for any real change to occur. Development of rapid effective diagnostic tools and reliable means of preventing and treating infection will be important advances too," she said.

The work was published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

https://phys.org/news/2019-08-common-honey-bee-disease.html

There’s A Direct Correlation Between Gut Bacterial Numbers In Honey Bees And The Overall Health Of Hives

Catch the Buzz By Alan Harman August 7, 2019

bees and gut bacteria.jpg

Preliminary trials in Australia have shown there to be a direct correlation between gut bacterial numbers in honey bees and the overall health of hives.

The University of Canberra research found high levels of gut bacteria in honeybees could mean healthier and more productive hives.

While further testing needs to be carried out, the new methodology shows promise in preventing and minimizing the impact of chalkbrood, a fungal disease that affects hive health and honey yields.

The research project aims to develop a probiotic product from Australian bee gut bacteria for the apiary industry.

University of Canberra’s Adjunct Associate Professor Murali Nayudu says the latest results build on their previous research, a groundbreaking study that found bacteria could be reintroduced into the gut of diseased bees through probiotics.

“As a first step to assess the use of probiotics in bees, we needed to obtain more data on the natural variation of bee gut bacteria numbers in healthy bees over the four seasons,” Nayudu says.

“Our team set up two apiaries ….in New South Wales, with six hives in total. We consistently monitor these healthy hives for bacterial numbers.”

Nayudu says the team has developed specific methodologies for the project, which involves sampling multiple bees from each hive per time point, isolating bacteria from the bee gut and conducting analysing bacterial numbers for individual bees. From this information, the health state of the beehive can be determined.

“This particular method has meant that we could determine whether bees had healthy bacterial numbers or low bacterial numbers, with the latter seen in bees from diseased chalkbrood-infected hives,” Nayudu says.

“Sampling the gut bacteria of bees from a higher number of hives has enabled us to determine the overall health of an apiary, which could help predicting disease before any visual symptoms appear.”

With more sampling to be done over the southern winter, the recent, positive results mean the research team now will start the second part of the project ahead of time – experiments involving chalkbrood control using probiotics.

“In our previous Australia-wide survey, we isolated a number of bacterial strains that showed strong anti-fungal activity against chalkbrood,” Nayudu says.

“In this project, we will isolate additional bee gut bacterial strains to enlarge our collection, and determine which strains are the most potent in inhibiting Ascosphaera api, the chalkbrood pathogen.

“We are currently gathering a large number of chalkbrood-infected hives to set up different probiotic treatment groups, with the experiments to hopefully commence this (southern) spring.”

https://www.beeculture.com/catch-the-buzz-theres-a-direct-correlation-between-gut-bacterial-numbers-in-honey-bees-and-the-overall-health-of-hives/

2019 North American Mite-A-Thon

mite-a-thon 400.jpg

2019 North American Mite-A-Thon

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 7 TO SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2019

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

The parasitic mite, Varroa destructor (Varroa), and the viruses it vectors is a significant driver of this honey bee colony mortality. Yet, indicators suggest that many beekeepers are not monitoring honey bee colony Varroa infestations and therefore not able to connect infestation to colony loss. 

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

DATE: The week of September 7, 2019, with a practice test during summer 2019

PARTICIPANTS: All beekeepers in North America are encouraged to participate

COST: There is no cost. You can create your own test materials or kits can be purchased online and at your local bee supply store.

OUTREACH: Promotion of Mite-A-Thon will be through local bee clubs, state beekeeping organizations, and national associations (see partners for examples)

DATA COLLECTION: Participants will monitor the level of mites (number of mites per 100 bees) using a standardized protocol utilizing two common methods of assessment (alcohol wash or powdered sugar roll) and then enter data, including location, total number of hives, number of hives tested, local habitat, and the number of Varroa mites counted from each hive. The published information will not identify individual participants.

SPONSORS: Sponsorships are being solicited to underwrite costs and grants, as necessary.

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

TO DO: Determine your preferred method of testing for mites and commit to a day for testing, either individually or through beekeeping organizations, and report your data (see above).

SUBMIT YOUR DATA

https://www.pollinator.org/miteathon

CLICK HERE for the 2017 and 2018 Mite-A-Thon Analysis Report.

Email miteathon@pollinator.org with any questions.

Scientists Say Agriculture is Good for Honey Bees, at Least in Tennessee

CATCH THE BUZZ By: Ginger Rowsey, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture July 11, 2017

agriculture and honey bees.jpg

In a recent study, researchers with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture found the overall health of honey bees improved in the presence of agricultural production, despite the increased exposure to agricultural pesticides. – Credit: Scott Stewart

While recent media reports have condemned a commonly used agricultural pesticide as detrimental to honey bee health, scientists with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture have found that the overall health of honey bee hives actually improves in the presence of agricultural production.

The study, “Agricultural Landscape and Pesticide Effects on Honey Bee Biological Traits” which was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Economic Entomology, evaluated the impacts of row-crop agriculture, including the traditional use of pesticides, on honey bee health. Results indicated that hive health was positively correlated to the presence of agriculture. According to the study, colonies in a non-agricultural area struggled to find adequate food resources and produced fewer offspring.

“We’re not saying that pesticides are not a factor in honey bee health. There were a few events during the season where insecticide applications caused the death of some foraging bees,” says Mohamed Alburaki, lead author and post-doctoral fellow with the University of Tennessee Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology (EPP). “However, our study suggests that the benefits of better nutrition sources and nectar yields found in agricultural areas outweigh the risks of exposure to agricultural pesticides.”

Alburaki and fellow researchers established experimental apiaries in multiple locations in western Tennessee ranging from non-agricultural to intense agricultural production. Over the course of a year, colonies were monitored for performance and productivity by measuring colony weight, brood production and colony thermoregulation. Colony thermoregulation, or the ability to maintain an optimal temperature within a hive, is an important factor in brood development and the health of the resulting adult bees.

According to the study, hives located in areas with high to moderate agricultural vegetation grew faster and larger than those in low or non-agricultural areas. Researchers suggest the greater population sizes enabled better colony thermoregulation in these hives, as well.

Meanwhile, bees located in a non-agricultural environment were challenged to find food. Although fewer pesticide contaminants were reported in these areas, the landscape did not provide sustainable forage. In fact, during the observations, two colonies in the non-agricultural areas collapsed due to starvation.

Disruptions and fluctuations in brood rearing were also more notable in a non-agricultural environment. Interestingly, brood production was highest in the location that exhibited a more evenly distributed mix of agricultural production, forests and urban activity.

“One possible explanation for this finding could be the elevated urban activity in this location,” says Alburaki. “Ornamental plantings around homes or businesses, or backyard gardens are examples of urban activity that increase the diversity of pollen in an area. Greater pollen diversity has been credited with enhancing colony development.”

Researchers also evaluated trapped pollen from each colony for pesticide residues. Low concentrations of fungicides, herbicides and insecticides were identified, but at levels well below the lethal dose for honey bees. Imidacloprid was the only neonicotinoid detected, also at sub-lethal levels.

Agricultural pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, are considered by some to be a key factor in declining honeybee populations. The UTIA study found that higher exposure to pesticides in agricultural environments did not result in measurable impacts on colony productivity.

“We train agricultural producers on careful selection and conscientious application of pesticides to reduce bee exposure,” says Scott Stewart, Integrated Pest Management Specialist with UT Extension, “but it’s becoming more clear that the influences of varroa mite and food availability are more important factors in honey bee health than agricultural pesticides.”

https://www.beeculture.com/catch-the-buzz-scientists-say-agriculture-is-good-for-honey-bees-at-least-in-tennessee/?utm_source=Catch+The+Buzz&utm_campaign=76d491d752-Catch_The_Buzz_4_29_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0272f190ab-76d491d752-256252085

Guest Speaker: Michele Colopy, Program Director Pollinator Stewardship Council

Join Us this evening, Monday, June 3, 2019 for the
Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association Monthly Meeting!

Guest Speaker
Michele Colopy

Michele Colopy Beekeeper.jpg

Michele Colopy has been the Program Director of the Pollinator Stewardship Council since March 2013. Her father was a beekeeper in southeast Ohio. She keeps honey bees in the city, and has replaced her crabgrass front yard with pesticide-free pollinator flowers for her honey bees and native pollinators.

Michele Colopy.jpg

Ms. Colopy holds a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management/Arts Administration. Her nonprofit experience includes work in the performing arts, housing and homelessness, foreclosure prevention, community development, and health and wellness. She is currently the Treasurer of Ohio State Beekeepers Association.

Pollinator Stewardship Council.jpg

The mission of the Pollinator Stewardship Council, Inc. is to defend managed and native pollinators vital to a sustainable and affordable food supply from the adverse impact of pesticides.

As pollination is required for one-third of the nation’s food supply, we strive to accomplish our mission through the following activities:

  • Affect regulatory processes of pesticide risk assessment, label, and enforcement.

  • Provide advocacy, guidance and tools to document the detrimental effect of pesticides on pollinators.

  • Raise awareness about the adverse impact of pesticides on pollinators critical to the supply of food and the ecosystem.

    http://pollinatorstewardship.org/

Bee Alert: Is a Controversial Herbicide Harming Honeybees?

Yale Environment 360 By Michael Balter May 7, 2019

A honeybee pollinates a blossom in an almond orchard in McFarland, California. DAVID KOSLING/ USDA

A honeybee pollinates a blossom in an almond orchard in McFarland, California. DAVID KOSLING/USDA

Recent court cases have focused on the possible effects of glyphosate, found in Monsanto’s Roundup, on humans. But researchers are now investigating whether this commonly used herbicide could also be having adverse effects on the health and behavior of honeybees.

Is one of the world’s most widely used herbicides a danger not only to annoying weeds, but also to honeybees? While debates rage over whether certain powerful insecticides are responsible for so-called colony collapse disorder — or even whether bee populations are declining at all — recent research suggests that glyphosate, the active ingredient in weed killers such as Monsanto’s Roundup, could be having subtle effects on bee health.

Glyphosate has been in the news in recent months, but not for its possible harm to bees. Rather, some studies have suggested an association between exposure to glyphosate and higher risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a cancer of the white blood cells. Glyphosate garnered headlines last August when a jury in California awarded groundskeeper DeWayne Johnson a massive judgement against Monsanto’s parent company, the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer. Johnson, along with more than 13,000 other plaintiffs, alleges that glyphosate caused his case of NHL.

But concerns about glyphosate are not limited to humans. Researchers have been accumulating evidence that glyphosphate may also be having deleterious effects on the environment and be harmful to fish, crustaceans, and amphibians, as well as to beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms in soil and water.

A University of Texas study reported evidence that glyphosate disrupts microorganisms in the guts of bees.

In recent years, a number of studies have concluded that glyphosate could also be hazardous to bees. Although the herbicide does not appear as toxic to bees as some other pesticides (notably neurotoxins known as neonicotinoids), researchers have found that glyphosate may impact bees in more subtle ways — for example, impeding the growth of bee larvae, diminishing bees’ navigational skills, altering their foraging behavior, or even disrupting their gut microorganisms, known as the microbiome.

The research is controversial because defenders of glyphosate use have long argued that it is benign in the environment. The herbicide is uniquely designed to target an enzyme that plants need to grow. That enzyme is essential to the so-called shikimate pathway, a metabolic process required for the production of certain essential amino acids and other plant compounds. However, the shikimate pathway is also used by some bacteria and other microorganisms, raising the possibility that glyphosate could have widespread and unexpected effects on a variety of natural organisms.

In a September study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nancy Moran, an evolutionary biologist and entomologist at the University of Texas, Austin, and her coworkers found evidence that glyphosate disrupts microorganisms found in bees’ guts.

Monsanto's Roundup at a store in San Rafael, California. The product's manufacturer maintains that glyphosate is safe when used as directed.JOSH EDELSON/AFP/ GETTY IMAGES

Monsanto's Roundup at a store in San Rafael, California. The product's manufacturer maintains that glyphosate is safe when used as directed.JOSH EDELSON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Mature bees have eight dominant gut bacterial species. Those strains are responsible for such benefits as promoting weight gain and providing resistance to harmful pathogens. The University of Texas team found almost all of them declined when the bees were exposed to concentrations of glyphosate commonly found in the environment. Young worker bees exposed to glyphosate were more susceptible to dying from infections. Moreover, the gut bacteria were more sensitive to the effects of glyphosate if the bacteria possessed an enzyme known to play a key role in the shikimate pathway.

Bayer disputes research findings suggesting Roundup or glyphosate is hazardous to bees. Utz Klages, Bayer’s head of external communications, says the “good news is that honeybee colonies are not in decline and rumors of their demise are greatly exaggerated.” Klages notes that regulatory authorities in a number of countries, including the United States, Canada, and the nations of the European Union, “have determined that glyphosate is safe when used as directed.”

A number of studies have suggested that glyphosate is not highly toxic to bees, including research performed by Monsanto and several other agrochemical companies. That research considered the “realistic worst-case” exposures to the herbicide and found no significant effect on bee mortality. Similarly, a series of studies led by Yu Cheng Zhu, a research entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, concluded that glyphosate did not seem to kill bees outright. “We did not find an unusual number of dead bees after spraying a bee yard with Roundup a few times each year,” Zhu said.

Scientists have found that glyphosate appears to interfere with the growth and survival of honeybee larvae.

But Walter Farina, a researcher at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina, says that the very fact that glyphosate is not immediately toxic to bees facilitates the harm it does. “Since glyphosate does not cause lethal effects, it can enter the colony and [be] assimilated by the younger individuals,” Farina says. “The negative effects of [glyphosate] are worse for younger bees, promoting an increased disorganization of the collective task within the hives.”

Farina and his team have looked at some of these effects in Argentina, where glyphosate is intensively used in agriculture. In a 2014 study, published in The Journal of Experimental Biology, they found that the “appetitive behavior” of honeybees — including how well they could detect sucrose and their ability to learn and remember where food sources were located — was significantly diminished after exposure to doses of glyphosate commonly found in farmlands.

In a second study, published in 2015 in the same journal, Farina’s team used harmonic radar to track how long it took honeybees to find their way back to their hives. They found that exposure to relatively low doses of glyphosate appeared to hinder the bees’ ability to navigate back to the hive, and concluded that glyphosate “impairs the cognitive capacities needed to retrieve and integrate spatial information for a successful return.”

A farmer in Argentina, where glyphosate is used intensively, sprays a soybean field in Entre Rios province in February 2018. PABLO AHARONIAN/AFP/ GETTY IMAGES

A farmer in Argentina, where glyphosate is used intensively, sprays a soybean field in Entre Rios province in February 2018. PABLO AHARONIAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

In other research, scientists have found that glyphosate appears to interfere with the growth and survival of honeybee larvae. For example, in a studypublished last year in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Pingli Dai of the Institute of Apicultural Research in Beijing, China, and his colleagues found that elevated exposures to glyphosate can lower both the weight of bee larvae and the larval survival rate. This study also showed that glyphosate markedly decreased the diversity and richness of bacteria in the larvae’s intestines, indicators of reduced resilience.

As concerns about how glyphosate may be affecting honeybees mount, researchers are getting a boost from funding agencies that see this as an important research avenue. In March, the National Science Foundation awarded nearly $1 million in grant money to researchers at Virginia Tech and Eastern Washington University to further study the honeybee microbiome.

Meanwhile, Moran, at the University of Texas, says her lab has done follow-up confirmatory experiments using antibiotics to target the honeybee gut bacteria, with similar results on bee mortality as in the previous experiments. She emphasizes that these results have little to say so far about how important a factor glyphosate might be in the declines in bee populations. “We have to say that we don’t know at this point,” she says. “Our results suggest that it is worth studying further, which is what we are doing, and hope others will do also.”

https://e360.yale.edu/features/bee-alert-is-a-controversial-herbicide-harming-honeybees

Controlling Varroa – 89% Of Large-Scale Beekeepers Said They Use Chemical Varroacides, While 61% Of Small-Scale Beekeepers Do

Catch the Buzz May 23, 2019

varroa mite on bee.jpg

With the Varroa destructor mite a pernicious pest of managed honey bee colonies across North America, beekeepers have a variety of control methods to choose from to reduce the mites’ impact on their hives. Which ones do they most prefer?

To answer that question, researchers at the University of Maryland and the Bee Informed Partnership analyzed four years of data from surveys that asked beekeepers about their Varroa-management methods. Their findings, reported in a new study published in April in the Journal of Economic Entomology, highlight a wide variety of combinations of methods used and indicate a lack of any perceived “silver bullet” option for controlling Varroa mites.

Among the range of practices, though, some patterns emerged, says Ariela Haber, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Maryland at the time it was conducted. (Haber is now a postdoctoral researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service.) For instance, 89 percent of large-scale beekeepers (managing 50 or more colonies) said they use chemical varroacides, while 61 percent of small-scale beekeepers said they did. And, while about half of large-scale beekeepers said they use nonchemical methods (either exclusively or in combination with varroacides), about three-quarters of small-scale beekeepers said they use them.

Haber says these insights into use of Varroa-management methods “take into account important considerations such as affordability and logistical constraints associated with different practices. Thus, the findings can inform future experiments that directly test the efficacy of different Varroa management practices that beekeepers can realistically use.”

The survey data, which Haber analyzed with University of Maryland colleagues Nathalie Steinhauer and Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Ph.D., covered nearly 19,000 responses over a four-year period, asking beekeepers about their use Varroa-management methods among the bevy of options currently available:

bee informed survey results.jpg

Beekeepers were also asked about colony losses. Across all types of beekeeping operations, use of varroacides was associated with lower colony loss, with amitraz associated with better colony survival than all other varroacides. Meanwhile, among nonchemical methods, splitting colonies was associated with the lowest levels of colony loss, “although our results suggest that nonchemical practices have limited success as stand-alone controls,” the authors note in their report. The survey did not ask about intensity of Varroa infestations or other factors that can influence colony survival, so Haber and colleagues stress that the results are only observational and shouldn’t be interpreted to infer causal links between Varroa-management methods and colony survival rates.

The primacy of chemical management methods, however, indicates the ongoing challenge beekeepers face in managing Varroain their honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies. Repeated use of varroacides has led to Varroa populations evolving resistance to at least two previously effective products. “Even though evidence from our study and from other studies suggests that chemical treatments tend to be more effective than nonchemical practices for controlling Varroa, we should be cautious in interpreting the results of any varroacide efficacy study and in making recommendations to beekeepers, as it is unlikely that any chemical control will be effective in the long term,” Haber says.

More broadly, Haber says she sees the intensive operations of managed honey bee pollination services in agriculture as an environment with multiple factors contributing to honey bee colony losses, such as low-quality pollen diets in monoculture crops to high-density colonies. “This suggests that honey bee colonies in the U.S. will be vulnerable—to problems we have already seen as well as new, unforeseen problems—as long as we keep our current system in place,” she says.

Read more - Source: Journal of Economic Entomology

See: https://beeinformed.org/

Neonics Hinder Bees' Ability to Fend Off Deadly Mites

Science Daily Story Source: University of Guelph April 22, 2019

The self-grooming behavior of wild honey bees like these can be affected by pesticides.  Credit: University of Guelph

The self-grooming behavior of wild honey bees like these can be affected by pesticides. Credit: University of Guelph

A University of Guelph study is the first to uncover the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on honey bees' ability to groom and rid themselves of deadly mites.

The research comes as Health Canada places new limits on the use of three key neonicotinoids while it decides whether to impose a full phase-out of the chemicals.

Published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, the study revealed that when honey bees are infected with varroa mites and then regularly exposed to low doses of a commonly used neonicotinoid called clothianidin, their self-grooming behaviour drops off.

Without that self-grooming, bees are susceptible to mites that can also carry viruses that can quickly kill, said lead author Nuria Morfin Ramirez, who completed the research along with Prof. Ernesto Guzman, School of Environmental Sciences, as part of her PhD.

"When bee colonies began to collapse years ago, it became clear there wasn't just one factor involved, so we were interested in whether there was an interaction between two of the main stressors that affect bees: varroa mites and a neurotoxic insecticide, clothianidin," said Morfin.

"This is the first study to evaluate the impact on the grooming behaviour of bees."

Neonicotinoids, or "neonics," are the most commonly used insecticides in Canada. They are coated on canola and corn seeds or sprayed on fruit and vegetable plants and trees. But they have also been linked to honey bee colony collapses.

Varroa mites are also contributing to colony collapses and have been associated with more than 85 per cent of colony losses.

The mites kill bees by slowly feeding off their body fat and hemolymph (blood), and can also transmit a virus called deformed wing virus (DWV). One of the only ways bees can protect themselves is to groom aggressively and brush the mites off.

The researchers wanted to know whether the two stressors of pesticide exposure varroa mites were working together to contribute to bee deaths. The research team used bees from U of G's Honey Bee Research Centre and exposed them to a widely used neonic clothianidin, either on its own or along with varroa mites.

They experimented with three doses of clothianidin, all similar to what the bees would experience while feeding on flower nectar of neonic-treated crop fields, but all low enough to be considered sublethal.

"What we found was a complicated interaction between the mite and the pesticide that decreased the proportion of bees that groomed intensively, and affected genes associated with neurodegenerative processes," Morfin said.

Bees exposed to medium level doses of the neonic showed no changes in grooming behaviour, but when they were also introduced to varroa mites, the proportion of bees that groomed intensively was 1.4 times lower compared to the bees exposed to clothianidin alone.

When exposed to the lowest dose of the pesticide, the proportion of bees that groomed significantly dropped. The lowest dose was also linked to an increased level of deformed wing virus -- an effect not seen at the higher doses.

"These results showed a complex and non-additive interaction between these two stressors," said Guzman. "This study highlights the importance of reducing stressors that bees are exposed to, to reduce the risk of disease and consequently colony mortality."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190422112818.htm

Pesticide Cocktail Can Harm Honey Bees

PHYS.ORG University of California at San Diego April 10, 2019

A honey bee collects pollen. Credit: James Nieh, UC San Diego

A honey bee collects pollen. Credit: James Nieh, UC San Diego

A recently approved pesticide growing in popularity around the world was developed as a "bee safe" product, designed to kill a broad spectrum of insect pests but not harm pollinators.

A series of tests conducted over several years by scientists at the University of California San Diego focused on better investigating the effects of this chemical. They have shown for the first time that Sivanto, developed by Bayer CropScience AG and first registered for commercial use in 2014, could in fact pose a range of threats to honey bees depending on seasonality, bee age and use in combination with common chemicals such as fungicides.

The study, led by former UC San Diego postdoctoral fellow Simone Tosi, now at ANSES, University Paris Est, and Biological Sciences Professor James Nieh, is published April 10 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Pesticides are a leading health threat to bees. After years of growing concerns about systemic toxic pesticides such as neonicotinoids and their harm on pollinators, Sivanto was developed as a next-generation product.

Sivanto's "bee safe" classification allows it to be used on blooming crops with actively foraging bees. Currently, pesticides are approved for widespread use with only limited testing. Perhaps most importantly, the interactions between new pesticides and other common chemicals such as fungicides are not fully tested. Sivanto's product label does prohibit the pesticide from being mixed in an application tank with certain fungicides. However, bees can still be exposed to Sivanto and other chemicals (pesticide "cocktails") that are commonly used in adjacent crops or that persist over time.

Honey bee workers inside their nest. Credit: Heather Broccard-Bell

Honey bee workers inside their nest. Credit: Heather Broccard-Bell

Starting in 2016, after reviewing documents describing Sivanto's risk assessments, the scientists conducted several honey bee (Apis mellifera) studies investigating effects that were not previously tested, particularly the behavioral effects of chemical cocktails, seasonality and bee age. The scientists provided the first demonstration that pesticide cocktails reduce honey bee survival and increase abnormal behaviors. They showed that worst-case, field-realistic doses of Sivanto, in combination with a common fungicide, can synergistically harm bee behavior and survival, depending upon season and bee age. Bees suffered greater mortality—compared with control groups observed under normal conditions—and exhibited abnormal behavior, including poor coordination, hyperactivity and apathy.

The results are troubling, the researchers say, because the official guidelines for pesticide risk assessment call for testing in-hive bees, likely underestimating the pesticide risks to foragers. Honey bees have a division of labor in which workers that are younger typically work inside the colony (in-hive bees) and foragers work outside the colony. Foragers are therefore more likely to be exposed to pesticides.

"We found foragers more susceptible," said Nieh. "They tend to be older bees and therefore because of their age they can suffer greater harm."

The harmful effects of Sivanto were four-times greater with foragers than with in-hive bees, the UC San Diego study showed, threatening their foraging efficiency and survival. Both kinds of workers also were more strongly harmed in summer as compared to spring.

"This work is a step forward toward a better understanding of the risks that pesticides could pose to bees and the environment," said Tosi, a postdoctoral fellow and project manager at the Epidemiology Unit. According to the authors, the standard measurements of only lethal effects are insufficient for assessing the complexity of pesticide effects.

A honey bee forages on flower. Credit: Heather Broccard-Bell

A honey bee forages on flower. Credit: Heather Broccard-Bell

"Our results highlight the importance of assessing the effects pesticides have on the behavior of animals, and demonstrate that synergism, seasonality and bee age are key factors that subtly change pesticide toxicity," Tosi said. Cocktail effects are particularly relevant because bees are frequently exposed to multiple pesticides simultaneously.

"Because standard risk assessment requires relatively limited tests that only marginally address bee behavior and do not consider the influence of bee age and season, these results raise concerns about the safety of multiple approved pesticides, not only Sivanto," said Nieh, a professor in the Section of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution. "This research suggests that pesticide risk assessments should be refined to determine the effects of commonly encountered pesticide cocktails upon bee behavior and survival."

Sivanto is available in 30 countries in America, Africa, Asia and Europe, with 65 additional countries preparing to approve the product soon. Tosi points out that "because Sivanto was only recently approved, and no monitoring studies have yet investigated its co-occurrence with other pesticides after typical uses in the field, further studies are needed to better assess its actual environmental contamination, and consequent risk for pollinators."

"The idea that this pesticide is a silver bullet in the sense that it will kill all the bad things but preserve the good things is very alluring but deserves caution," said Nieh.
https://phys.org/news/2019-04-pesticide-cocktail-honey-bees.html

Explore further Pesticides and poor nutrition damage animal health

More information: S. Tosi et al. Lethal and sublethal synergistic effects of a new systemic pesticide, flupyradifurone (Sivanto ® ), on honeybees, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2019). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2019.0433

Journal information: Proceedings of the Royal Society B 

Provided by the University of California - San Diego https://phys.org/partners/university-of-california---san-diego/

NOW LIVE! The 2018-2019 Colony Loss and Management Survey

Bee Informed Partnership Beekeeper News.jpg

Good morning America!

It’s beautiful outside! The birds are chirping and the bees are flying! You may even notice a few flowers outside too!

Here in the South, our many azaleas are in full bloom! This means Spring is upon us! 

Auburn University.jpg

The sun rising over the campus of Auburn University

And of course, Spring means one thing: it’s time to take the Bee Informed Partnership’s annual Colony Loss and Management Survey!

It’s easy! One click and you are in, ready to take the survey and to serve our nation’s beekeeping industry:

TAKE THE SURVEY TODAY!

The information that you provide will be invaluable to our understanding of honey bee health around the country.

As background, the BIP’s National Loss Survey was launched for the first time in 2006, and thanks to the many thousands of beekeepers who have participated since then, we have been able to document and better understand long-term honey bee colony loss trends. Check out the interactive state loss map as evidence!

In 2010, BIP’s National Management Survey was added to help us understand how management practices are potentially linked to colony survivorship. Thanks to your answers, we have been able to develop a dynamic management data tool.

Feel free to play around with the interface. Want to know how colony losses compared between beekeepers that DID or DID NOT use a varroa treatment? Or what about the average age of comb in American hives? It’s all in there!

Bee Informed Survey 2019.png

The Bee Informed Partnership’s dynamic management, data explorer tool

If you would like to prepare yourself for our questions, or want to take some notes while you’re looking at your colonies, download the survey or have a look at the 2018 – 2019 National Colony Loss and Management Survey Preview.

This preview should serve as an aid to the questions that are asked on the survey.  Please, do not mail this preview version back to us.

When you are ready: TAKE THE SURVEY NOW!

Many thanks to all previous participants, and to all you new-Bees for taking some time out of your busy schedule to fill out this year’s survey.

Your contribution is supporting research efforts at a national scale that are aimed to promote the health of our honey bees!

https://beeinformed.org/

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.”

http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/articles/entry/detective-dog-sniffs-out-devastating-honeybee-disease?fbclid=IwAR0ut9Qc2LrfnFlvdYJ2pDyzFzkrOb_IxaWCns1axNyG7J6uFcojE6FF6Dc

Biologists Identify Honeybee 'Clean' Genes Known For Improving Survival

PHYS.org 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

https://phys.org/news/2019-02-biologists-honeybee-genes-survival.html#jCp

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.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT

Dr Marc Schäfer: Tel: +49 38351 7 1246/1297 Email: Marc.Schaefer@fli.de

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

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: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10530-019-01917-x

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: http://www.coloss.org/

3. Press release written by:
Dr Marc Schäfer, Institut für Infektionsmedizin, Greifswald, Germany. https://www.fli.de/ Email: Marc.Schaefer@fli.de

Dr Bram Cornelissen, Wageningen Plant Research, Netherlands.
http://www.flickr.com/bijenonderzoek Email: bram.cornelissen@wur.nl

Prof. Peter Neumann: President of COLOSS, University of Bern, Switzerland.
http://www.bees.unibe.ch/about_us/personen/prof_dr_neumann_peter/index_eng.html
Email: peter.neumann@vetsuisse.unibe.ch

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

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

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

https://phys.org/news/2019-02-culprit-honeybee-deaths-california-almond.html