James Nieh To Speak at the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association Meeting October 7, 2019

Honey Bee Research

Professor James Nieh

Professor James Nieh

Research in the Nieh lab focuses on how natural and man-made stressors affect the biology of and cognitively sophisticated behaviors exhibited by bees. Our research focuses on two areas: (1) the selective pressures that may have shaped the evolution of communication in highly social bees and (2) honey bee health. We use the tools of Behavioral Ecology, Chemical Ecology, Animal Communication and Neuroethology to work with bumble bees, stingless bees, and honey bees. Five different topic areas are detailed below. For further information, please view the Nieh Lab Homepage.

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Evolution of Communication
Selective pressures from competitors and predators has shaped social bee communication. Our lab studies multiple bee groups: honey bees, stingless bees, and bumble bees to learn how this communication works and why it may have evolved.

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Honey Bee Health
Concern is growing over pollinator declines. Our lab examines the effects of natural stressors, such as pathogens, and man-made stressors, such as pesticides, on honey bee health, foraging, flight, and orientation.

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Superorganism Inhibitory Communication
What happens if conditions change and the communicated food source becomes depleted, contested, or dangerous? The honey bee stop signal provides inhibition  that counteracts the positive feedback of honey bee waggle dances. Using field studies and modeling, we are studying this signal in detail and exploring conditions under which inhibitory signals may evolve.

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Superorganism Inhibitory Communication
We study olfactory eavesdropping in stingless bees and honey bees and examine the advantages of eavesdropping upon competitors and predators.

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Neuroethology of Bee Learning and Memory
Despite their small brain size and limited number of neurons relative to the central nervous systems of many vertebrates, social insects have evolved sophisticated learning and memory abilities and are therefore important models for animal cognition. However, these abilities can be impaired by field-realistic exposure to pesticides and other man-made stressors.

http://biology.ucsd.edu/research/faculty/jnieh

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

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

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

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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/

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

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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

Sulfoxaflor Continues to be a Killer

CATCH THE BUZZ Michele Colopy, Program Director, Pollinator Stewardship Council, Inc. July 16, 2019

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EPA’s announcement1 to expand the use of Sulfoxaflor means expanded loss of managed and native pollinators.  Beekeepers, whose honey bees provide the essential agriculture pollination service for our food supply, have suffered colony losses of 40-90% annually the past ten years.  A horizon scan of future threats and opportunities for pollinators and pollination placed the chemical Sulfoxomine (sulfoxaflor) in the top six priority issues that globally threaten the agricultural and ecological essential service of pollination.

Six high priority issues 
1: corporate control of agriculture at the global scale
2: sulfoximine, a novel systemic class of insecticides (which is sulfoxaflor)
3: new emerging RNA viruses
4: increased diversity of managed pollinator species
5: effects of extreme weather events under climate change
6: positive effects of reduced chemical use on pollinators in non-agricultural settings2

The Pollinator Stewardship Council has expressed our concerns about the registration of Sulfoxaflor for reduced use, and for emergency exemptions. In our legal action about the registration of Sulfoxaflor, the Ninth Circuit Court found in their review that important data concerning the effect upon honey bees from Sulfoxaflor was incomplete.  EPA adjusted the pesticide label, reducing the bee attractive crops on which the chemical could be applied.  However, let’s be concise: the active ingredient, Sulfoxaflor, is toxic to chewing and sucking insects.  Honey bees and other pollinators are chewing and sucking insects.

With over one billion pounds of pesticides used in the U.S. annually,3 the EPA claims there are “few viable alternatives for sulfoxaflor.”   Research is showing the “viable alternatives” are to restore the health of agricultural soils so the beneficial insects and fungi can return and protect the crops.  “Regenerative Agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services.”4 By restoring the health of soils, we restore the health of plants, and we restore the health of beneficial insects like pollinators.

In a study conducted from 2004-2009 by the University of Idaho on various methods of control for lygus bugs in alfalfa  it was observed the Peristenus howardi  (and similar species) parasitized lygus bugs ranging from 5% to 80%.   The primary goal of that research was “to conduct studies investigating the feasibility of enhancing lygus bug management in alfalfa seed through several complementary approaches. The individually low levels of lygus bug management provided by newer, more selective alternative compounds and that provided by natural enemies of lygus bugs will be combined in an attempt to provide acceptable levels of lygus management in large plots of alfalfa grown for seed. We will attempt to further enhance natural enemy numbers in these studies through modification of crop habitat (border treatments).”5

These very “border treatments” will now be under threat of contamination from Sulfoxaflor applications, degrading their prospective evidence-based solution of providing habitat for natural predators of crop pests.  Similar border treatments in other crops would be as beneficial.  But the 12-49 feet of blooming crop border could be contaminated with the bee toxic pesticide, Sulfoxaflor.  Blooming field borders support true IPM (Integrated Pest Management), providing costs savings to the farmer in reduced chemical inputs, and conserving crop losses through the pest management of beneficial insects.

While Pollinator Stewardship Council appreciated the initial revised Sulfoxaflor label as an improvement over the previous label, limiting the use of the pesticide after bloom on mostly non-bee attractive crops,  Sulfoxaflor is still a bee toxic pesticide with unknown synergisms when tank-mixed.  With little to no data on the degradates of Sulfoxaflor, and no research of tank mixes with Sulfoxaflor, it remains a bee toxic pesticide contaminating bee forage through drift and residue.  With the expansion of the use of Sulfoxaflor EPA is ignoring the threats to essential agricultural and ecological pollination services, and to the very livelihood of beekeepers tasked with providing the managed honey bees to pollinate our crops.

1 EPA Registers Long-Term Uses of Sulfoxaflor While Ensuring Strong Pollinator Protection,

https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-registers-long-term-uses-sulfoxaflor-while-ensuring-strong-pollinator-protection

2 Brown MJF, Dicks LV, Paxton RJ, Baldock KCR, Barron AB, Chauzat M, Freitas BM, Goulson D, Jepsen S, Kremen C, Li J, Neumann P, Pattemore DE, Potts SG, Schweiger O, Seymour CL, Stout JC. 2016. A horizon scan of future threats and opportunities for pollinators and pollination. PeerJ 4:e2249 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.2249https://peerj.com/articles/2249/?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_campaign=PeerJ_TrendMD_1&utm_medium=TrendMD

3 Pesticides Use and Exposure Extensive Worldwide, Michael C.R. Alavanja, Dr.P.H., Rev Environ Health. 2009 Oct–Dec; 24(4): 303–309. ,  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2946087/

http://www.regenerativeagriculturedefinition.com/

5 MANAGEMENT OF LYGUS SPP. (HEMIPTERA: MIRIDAE) IN ALFALFA SEED, University of Idaho,  National Institute of Food and Agriculture, 2004-2009, http://reeis.usda.gov/web/crisprojectpages/0202036-management-of-lygus-spp-hemiptera-miridae-in-alfalfa-seed.html

https://www.beeculture.com/catch-the-buzz-sulfoxaflor-continues-to-be-a-bee-killer/?utm_source=Catch+The+Buzz&utm_campaign=22e73f1b43-Catch_The_Buzz_4_29_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0272f190ab-22e73f1b43-256252085

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

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/

Honey Bee Parasites Feed on Fatty Organs, Not Blood

Phys.org University of Maryland January 14, 2019

In this electron micrograph, a parasitic mite,  Varroa destructor , is wedged between the abdominal plates of a honey bee's exoskeleton. Credit: UMD/USDA/PNAS

In this electron micrograph, a parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, is wedged between the abdominal plates of a honey bee's exoskeleton. Credit: UMD/USDA/PNAS

Honey bee colonies around the world are at risk from a variety of threats, including pesticides, diseases, poor nutrition and habitat loss. Recent research suggests that one threat stands well above the others: a parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, which specializes in attacking honey bees.

For decades, researchers have assumed that varroa mites feed on blood, like many of their mite and tick cousins. But new University of Maryland-led research suggests that varroa mites instead have a voracious appetite for a honey bee organ called the fat body, which serves many of the same vital functions carried out by the human liver, while also storing food and contributing to bees' immune systems.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on January 14, 2019, could transform researchers' understanding of the primary threats to honey bees while pointing the way toward more effective mite treatments in the future.

"Bee researchers often refer to three Ps: parasites, pesticides and poor nutrition. Many studies have shown that varroa is the biggest issue. But when compromised by varroa, colonies are also more susceptible to the other two," said UMD alumnus Samuel Ramsey (Ph.D. '18, entomology), the lead author of the paper. "Now that we know that the fat body is varroa's target, this connection is now much more obvious. Losing fat body tissue impairs a bee's ability to detoxify pesticides and robs them of vital food stores. The fat body is absolutely essential to honey bee survival."

In addition to breaking down toxins and storing nutrients, honey bee fat bodies produce antioxidants and help to manage the immune system. The fatty organs also play an important role in the process of metamorphosis, regulating the timing and activity of key hormones. Fat bodies also produce the wax that covers parts of bees' exoskeletons, keeping water in and diseases out.

According to Ramsey, the assumption that varroa mites consume honey bee blood (more accurately called hemolymph in insects) has persisted since the first paper on the topic was published in the 1960s. Because this paper was written in Russian, Ramsey said, many researchers opted to cite the first English-language papers that cited the original study.

In this cross-section of a honey bee's abdomen, a parasitic varroa mite (orange) can be seen lodged between the bee's abdominal plates, where the mite feeds on honey bee fat body tissue. Credit: UMD/USDA/PNAS

In this cross-section of a honey bee's abdomen, a parasitic varroa mite (orange) can be seen lodged between the bee's abdominal plates, where the mite feeds on honey bee fat body tissue. Credit: UMD/USDA/PNAS

"The initial work was only sufficient to show the total volume of a meal consumed by a mite," Ramsey added. "It can be a lot easier to cite a recent summary instead of the original work. Had the first paper been read more widely, many folks might have questioned these assumptions sooner."

Ramsey noted several observations that led him to question whether varroa mites were feeding on something other than hemolymph. First, insect hemolymph is very low in nutrients. To grow and reproduce at the rates they do, varroa mites would need to consume far more hemolymph than they would be able to acquire from a single bee.

Second, varroa mites' excrement is very dry—contrary to what one would expect from an entirely liquid blood diet. Lastly, varroa mites' mouthparts appear to be adapted for digesting soft tissues with enzymes then consuming the resulting mush. By contrast, blood-feeding mites have very different mouthparts, specifically adapted for piercing membranes and sucking fluid.

The first and most straightforward experiment Ramsey and his collaborators performed was to observe where on the bees' bodies the varroa mites tended to attach themselves for feeding. If the mites grabbed on to random locations, Ramsey reasoned, that would suggest that they were in fact feeding on hemolymph, which is distributed evenly throughout the body. On the other hand, if they had a preferred site on the body, that could provide an important clue to their preferred meal.

"When they feed on immature bees, mites will eat anywhere. But in adult bees, we found a very strong preference for the underside of the bees' abdomen," Ramsey said. "More than 90 percent of mites we found on adults fed there. As it happens, fat body tissue is spread throughout the bodies of immature bees. As the bees mature, the tissue migrates to the underside of the abdomen. The connection was hard to ignore, but we needed more evidence."

Ramsey and his team then directly imaged the wound sites where varroa mites gnawed on the bees' abdomens. Using a technique called freeze fracturing, the researchers used liquid nitrogen to freeze the mites and their bee hosts, essentially taking a physical "snapshot" of the mites' feeding habits in action. Using powerful scanning electron microscopes to visualize the wound sites, Ramsey saw clear evidence that the mites were feeding on fat body tissue.

This microscopic image shows a varroa mite that has consumed honey bee fat body tissue tagged with Nile red, a fat-soluble fluorescent dye. Observing this red fluorescence in the mites' digestive systems helped researchers determine that varroa mites feed on honey bee fat body tissue--not blood, as previously assumed. Credit: UMD/USDA/ PNAS

This microscopic image shows a varroa mite that has consumed honey bee fat body tissue tagged with Nile red, a fat-soluble fluorescent dye. Observing this red fluorescence in the mites' digestive systems helped researchers determine that varroa mites feed on honey bee fat body tissue--not blood, as previously assumed. Credit: UMD/USDA/PNAS

"The images gave us an excellent view into the wound sites and what the mites' mouthparts were doing," Ramsey said. "We could see digested pieces of fat body cells. The mites were turning the bees into 'cream of honey bee soup.' An organism the size of a bee's face is climbing on and eating an organ. It's scary stuff. But we couldn't yet verify that blood wasn't also being consumed."

To further shore up their case, Ramsey and his colleagues fed bees with one of two fluorescent dyes: uranine, a water-soluble dye that glows yellow, and Nile red, a fat-soluble dye that glows red. If the mites were consuming hemolymph, Ramsey expected to see a bright yellow glow in the mites' bellies after feeding. If they were feeding on fat bodies, on the other hand, Ramsey predicted a telltale red glow.

"When we saw the first mite's gut, it was glowing bright red like the sun. This was proof positive that the fat body was being consumed," Ramsey said. "We've been talking about these mites like they're vampires, but they're not. They're more like werewolves. We've been trying to drive a stake through them, but turns out we needed a silver bullet."

To drive the proverbial final nail into the coffin of the idea that mites feed on hemolymph, Ramsey performed one last experiment. First, he painstakingly perfected the ability to raise varroa mites on an artificial dietary regimen—hardly an easy task for a parasite that prefers meals from a live host. Then, he fed them diets composed of hemolymph or fat body tissue, with a few mixtures of the two for good measure.

The results were striking: mites fed a diet of pure hemolymph starved, while those fed fat body tissue thrived and even produced eggs.

"These results have the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the damage done to bees by mites," said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a professor of entomology at UMD and a co-author of the study, who also served as Ramsey's advisor. "Fat bodies serve so many crucial functions for bees. It makes so much more sense now to see how the harm to individual bees plays out in the ways that we already know varroa does damage to honey bee colonies. Importantly, it also opens up so many new opportunities for more effective treatments and targeted approaches to control mites."

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2019-01-honey-bee-parasites-fatty-blood.html#jCp

More information: Samuel D. Ramsey el al., "Varroa destructor feeds primarily on honey bee fat body tissue and not hemolymph," PNAS (2018). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1818371116 

Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 

Provided by: University of Maryland

How the Hell Do You Vaccinate a Bee?

HAARETZ By Ruth Schuster December 18, 2018

a bee Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/ REUTERS

a bee Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/ REUTERS

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

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

Honeycomb with bees. credit: philippe wojazer, reuters

Honeycomb with bees. credit: philippe wojazer, reuters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scientists Create Edible Honey Bee Vaccine To Protect Them From Deadly Diseases

Honey bees pollinate a variety of crops, such as apples and melons.

Honey bees pollinate a variety of crops, such as apples and melons.

FOX News By Madeline Farber December 6, 2018

The first-ever vaccine for insects now exists, thanks to scientists at the University of Helsinki in Finland hoping to save one of the most crucial pollinators in the world: the honey bee.

The vaccine, which is edible, “protects bees from diseases while protecting global food production,” the university said in a news release. The goal, researchers said, is to protect the bees against American foulbrood, “a bacterial disease caused by the spore-forming Paenibacillus larvae ssp. Larvae.”

The disease is the “most widespread and destructive of the bee brood diseases,” the university added.

Bloomberg reported the disease can kill “entire colonies” while its “spores can remain viable for more than 50 years.”

To distribute the vaccine, scientists place a sugar patty in the hive, which the queen then eats over the course of about a week. Once ingested, the pathogens in the patty are then passed into the queen’s eggs, “where they work as inducers for future immune responses,” the university explained in the statement.

The vaccine — which is not yet sold commercially, according to Bloomberg — is also significant because it was once not thought possible to develop a vaccine for insects, as these creatures’ immune systems do not contain antibodies.

"Now we've discovered the mechanism to show that you can actually vaccinate them. You can transfer a signal from one generation to another," Dalial Freitak, a University of Helsinki scientist who worked to create the vaccine, said in a statement.

Honey bees are important to the U.S. crop production, contributing an estimated $20 billion to its value, according to the American Beekeeping Foundation. The species pollinate a variety of crops, including apples, melons, blueberries and cherries — the latter two are “90 percent dependent on honey bee pollination,” according to the foundation.

“One crop, almonds, depends entirely on the honey bee for pollination at bloom time,” the American Beekeeping Foundation added.

The honey bee population in North America has been affected by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) disease, mites and possibly the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, according to the Harvard University Library.

On average, beekeepers in the U.S. lost an estimated 40 percent of their managed honey bee colonies from April 2017 to April 2018, according to Bee Informed, a nationwide collaboration of research efforts to better understand the decline of honeybees.

"We need to help honey bees, absolutely. Even improving their life a little would have a big effect on the global scale. Of course, the honeybees have many other problems as well: pesticides, habitat loss and so on, but diseases come hand in hand with these life-quality problems,” Freitak said.

“If we can help honey bees to be healthier and if we can save even a small part of the bee population with this invention, I think we have done our good deed and saved the world a little bit," Freitak added.

Fox News' Emilie Ikeda contributed to this report.

Related: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-12-06/world-s-first-honey-bee-vaccine-seeks-to-save-dying-pollinators

American Foulbrood Disease

Thank you to Jaime E. Garza, Apiary/Agricultural Standards Inspector, Department of Agriculture, Weights & Measures, County of San Diego for the following:

"To help improve the overall health of our honey bee community it is important for beekeepers to familiarize themselves with healthy brood conditions and types of brood diseases.

I have attached a helpful resource on American Foulbrood Disease which is a highly contagious bacteria with no cure. The disease weakens and in most cases kills a bee colony. During times of dearth a weakened infected bee colony may be susceptible to robbing by other honey bees from other colonies which can cause the bacteria to be spread. The disease can be spread by bees, honey, propolis, hive tools, frames and other beekeeping equipment."

The Ultimate Guide to British Bees: How to Protect Their Declining Population

DIY Garden (UK)    By Clive Harris    January 9, 2018  

(NOTE: Good reading out of the UK from DIY Garden.)

Bees are a part of our landscapes and gardens, we know what they are and we know they make honey, but our bees are in danger of disappearing due to habitat destruction, chemicals and disease.

Without bees the human race will struggle to harvest enough food. That sounds dramatic but our pollinators are responsible for the fruiting of our harvest. In short, we have to change bee fortunes not only for their sake but for our own.

Bee numbers are a good indication of environmental health. Like our native hedgehogs and butterfliesthey are in decline and this points to environmental problems – but there are ways you can help reverse their fortunes.

The majority of people know bees make honey and they sting, but there is so much more to this fascinating creature – did you know they have five eyes? Two standard ones and then three on top of their head, and were you aware there are hundreds of different types in the UK alone?

Here’s the ultimate guide to bees and how we can help them survive.

Continue reading: https://diygarden.co.uk/wildlife/ultimate-guide-to-bees/?msID=615f1a74-c9a6-4763-8ee2-56c24bb2a7f5

EPA Needs to Hear from Beekeepers

The following is a FB post from Virginia Bee Supply dated 2/12/18:

"This message is for all beekeepers having problems with their honeybee colonies collapsing failing to build up etc.

Tom Steeger EPA 703-305-5444 (email: steeger.thomas@epa.gov) would like to hear from you. He would to hear from as many beekeepers as he can. His comment to me was a few days ago if we don't hear from beekeepers and many of them we EPA can't began to fix the problem.
 
Send this to fellow beekeepers as well as encourage them to call. Don't put it off Do it today!!
If Tom doesn't answer leave him a message with your phone number and best time to contact you and which time zone you are in.

Tom will get back to you. He is concerned. I have known Tom for over 10 years and one of few people at EPA trying to help.

This message was sent to me this weekend for me to spread the word."

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

Green Blog    By Stephania Parreira    August 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

 

Visit the following resources for more information

For beekeepers:

The California Master Beekeeper Program

EL Niño Bee Lab Courses

EL Niño Bee Lab Newsletter

For all bee lovers:

EL Niño Bee Lab Newsletter

Haagen Dazs Honey Bee Haven plant list

UC IPM Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings and video tutorial

Sources on the value of honey bees:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Save Honey Bees, Human Behavior Must Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story Source: Materials provided by Entomological Society of America.

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

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

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

CATCHE THE BUZZ     February 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journal Reference:

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

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

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

CATCH THE BUZZ    By Alan Harman    January 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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