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

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

Accidental Discovery Could Save Bees From Their Greatest Threat

Real Clear Science     By Ross Pomeroy     January 15, 2018

Agricultural Research ServiceGerman scientists primarily based out of the University of Hohenheim have stumbled upon a simple solution that could deal a blow to honeybees' greatest threat. They've found that a tiny dose of the compound lithium chloride kills Varroa destructor mites without harming bees.

The scientists detailed their incredible findings in the January 12th publication of Scientific Reports.

V. destructor, more commonly known as the Varroa mite, is a scourge of honeybees across the globe. Upon infiltrating a colony, the mites latch on to bees, sucking their hemolymph (essentially blood) and spreading the diseases they carry. According to the USDA, 42 percent of commercial hives in the U.S. were infested in summer 2017, and 40 percent of beekeepers said the parasite seriously harmed their colonies. By comparison, only 13 percent reported harm from pesticides.

Chemical compounds exist to combat the parasites but they are outdated and growing increasingly ineffective, the researchers write, adding that no new active compounds have been registered in the last 25 years.

The dearth of options prompted scientists at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem to experiment with a technique called RNA interference. In their study, they fed bees double-stranded RNA via a sugar solution to knockout vital genes in Varroamites. The mites ingested the lethal RNA via bees' hemolymph and subsequently died.

Inspired by those results, the German researchers sought to replicate them by repeating the experiment with slightly tweaked methods. Indeed, mites infesting bees that were fed sugar water with the designed RNA rapidly died, but so did mites in a control group given another RNA that should have been ineffective. The astonishing results prompted the researchers to suspect that the lithium chlorideused to produce the RNA – and thus present in the sugar water – was actually killing the parasites. A battery of subsequent examinations confirmed their hypothesis.

The scientists then carried out numerous experiments testing lithium chloride against Varroa mites, including ones that approximated field studies. They found that feeding honeybees minuscule amounts of lithium chloride (at a concentration of no more than 25 millimolar) over 24 to 72 hours wiped out 90 to 100 percent of Varroa mites without significantly increasing bee mortality. (Below: The figure shows the surviving proportion of bees and mites fed lithium chloride compared to those not fed lithium chloride.) Ziegelmann et al. / Scientific Reports

According to the researchers, lithium chloride could be put to use very quickly as it is easily applied via feeding, will not accumulate in beeswax, has a low toxicity for mammals, and is reasonably priced. However, wider studies on free-flying colonies testing long-term side effects are required first, as well as analyses of potential residues in honey.

Francis Ratnieks, a Professor of Apiculture at the University of Sussex, expressed skepticism about the new finding.

"We can kill 97% of the Varroa in a brood less hive with a single application of oxalic acid, which takes five minutes to apply and is already registered and being used by beekeepers," he told RCScience via email. "I think it will be difficult in practice to apply lithium salts to colonies to kill varroa and get the same level of control... There are also the wider issues of registration and potential contamination of the honey with a product that would not normally be there."

It should be noted that studies have shown oxalic acid to be inconsistent at managing mites during the summer months as well as in colonies with capped broods

Regardless, the Hohenheim researchers are pressing forward. They're already speaking with companies to get a lithium chloride treatment refined, approved, and in the hands of beekeepers.

"Lithium chloride has potential as an effective and easy-to-apply treatment for artificial and natural swarms and particularly for the huge number of package bees used for pollination in the United States," they conclude.

Source: Bettina Ziegelmann, Elisabeth Abele, Stefan Hannus, Michaela Beitzinger, Stefan Berg & Peter Rosenkranz. "Lithium chloride effectively kills the honey bee parasite Varroa destructor by a systemic mode of action." Scientific Reports 8, Article number: 683 (2018) doi:10.1038/s41598-017-19137-5

*Article updated 1/15 to include Professor Ratnieks' statement and to include information about oxalic acid.

*An earlier version of this article mistakenly reported that the researchers are based out of the University of Hoffenheim. They are from the University of Hohenheim.

https://www.realclearscience.com/quick_and_clear_science/2018/01/15/accidental_discovery_could_save_bees_from_their_greatest_threat.html

Related articles/info:
http://scientificbeekeeping.com/home/news-and-blogs/

http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?341995-Lithium-chloride-as-miticide&s=cf01c15735e4ecac52336121d381e000

https://badbeekeepingblog.com/2018/01/17/have-you-lithium-chlorided-your-bees-yet/

The Colony-Killing Mistake Backyard Beekeepers Are Making

NPR The Salt    By Dan Gunderson    August 12, 2016 

The healthy bees managed by Jonathan Garaas are checked every two weeks for signs of a possible mite infestation. Dan Gunderson/MPR News

Jonathan Garaas has learned a few things in three seasons of backyard beekeeping: Bees are fascinating. They're complicated. And keeping them alive is not easy.

Every two weeks, the Fargo, N.D., attorney opens the hives to check the bees and search for varroa mites, pests that suck the bees' blood and can transmit disease. If he sees too many of the pinhead-sized parasites, he applies a chemical treatment.

Attorney and hobby beekeeper Jonathan Garaas keeps nine thriving hives outside of Fargo, N.D. Dan Gunderson/MPR News

Garaas has lost hives in his first two years as a novice beekeeper. But with nine hives now established near his home and a couple of University of Minnesota bee classes under his belt, he feels like he's got the hang of it, although it's still a challenge.

"You can get the book learning. You can see the YouTubes. You can be told by others," he says, but "you have to have hands-on experience. When you start putting it all together, it starts making sense."

Scientists wish every beginner beekeeper were as diligent as Garaas.

While experts welcome the rising national interest in beekeeping as a hobby, they warn that novices may be inadvertently putting their hives — and other hives for miles around — in danger by not keeping the bee mite population in check.

Many hobbyists avoid mite treatments, preferring a natural approach, says Marla Spivak, a bee expert at the University of Minnesota. But that's often a deadly decision for the bees, she says.

National surveys by the Bee Informed Partnership show backyard beekeepers are taking the greatest losses nationally, and those losses are often the result of an out-of-control infestation of the varroa mite, says Spivak.

Varroa mites arrived in the United States nearly 30 years ago, and they've become a big problem in recent years.

Untreated hives can spread mites and viruses to other hives within several miles, Spivak says. Healthy bees will invade a dying hive to steal its honey. When they do, they carry the mites with them back to their hives.

University of Minnesota Bee Squad coordinator Becky Masterman secures a strap on a bee box on the roof of the Weisman Museum in Minneapolis. Judy Griesedieck for MPR News

"The combination of the mite and the viruses is deadly," says Spivak.

The University of Minnesota Bee Squad, a group that provides beekeeping education and mentoring in the Twin Cities, is seeing more healthy hives become rapidly infested with mites and the viruses they carry.

Fall is an especially critical season, says Rebecca Masterman, the Bee Squad's associate program director.

"That late season reinfestation means that bees are going through winter with a lot of mite pressure and it's really hard for them to come out of that and survive," she says. "It's important enough to really try to get every backyard beekeeper in the country to at least be aware of it."

Masterman says she's also encouraging commercial beekeepers to check their bees more often for surprise mite infestations. A new online mite-monitoring project lets beekeepers anywhere in the country share data on infestations that will help researchers track the spread.

A mite control experiment this summer should provide more information about how to best treat mites in bee colonies.

One threat to honeybees is the varroa mite, seen here invading the pupae of a developing bee. Untreated infestations will kill colonies. Judy Griesedieck for MPR NewsBees face other challenges beyond mites, including poor nutrition, disease and pesticides. Even veteran beekeepers say it takes more effort to keep their bees alive these days.

But the mite and virus threat to bees is something that can be controlled, says Spivak.

"I really understand why some people might not like to have to treat their bee colony for mites. It just sounds so awful. It's such a beautiful bee colony and to have to stick some kind of a treatment in there seems so unnatural," she says.

"But our bees are dying. And it's very important to help do whatever we can to keep them alive."

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/08/12/489622982/the-colony-killing-mistake-backyard-beekeepers-are-making

Summer Stingers: How to Tell The Difference

My Adventures in Beekeeping (Blog) 

How to tell the difference between bees, wasps, and hornets (and why it matters!)

This time of year, most beekeepers I know are inundated with phone calls and text messages asking, “Are these bees?” or “If there are bees in my shed, will you come and get them?” I absolutely LOVE that homeowners are beginning to question before pulling out the Raid and everytime I get a call or message such as this I get excited, however, many of these are false alarms. So I offer this post, not to criticize anyone for questioning the swarming insects at their BBQ, but to offer some insight because mistaking a wasp for a honeybee, for example, could be dangerous.

Continue reading: https://myadventuresinbeekeeping.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/summer-stingers-how-to-tell-the-difference/

Bees' Ability to Forage Decreases as Air Pollution Increases

Science Daily   From Penn State    July 6, 2016

Bee and flower (stock image). Credit: © sumikophoto / FotoliaAir pollutants interact with and break down plant-emitted scent molecules, which insect pollinators use to locate needed food, according to a team of researchers led by Penn State. The pollution-modified plant odors can confuse bees and, as a result, bees' foraging time increases and pollination efficiency decreases. This happens because the chemical interactions decrease both the scent molecules' life spans and the distances they travel.

While foraging for food, insects detect floral scent molecules in the air. Wind currents can carry these molecules up to thousands of feet from their original source to where bees have their hives.

"Many insects have nests that are up to 3,000 feet away from their food source, which means that scents need to travel long distances before insects can detect them," said Jose D. Fuentes, professor of meteorology and atmospheric science, Penn State. "Each insect has a detection threshold for certain kinds of scents and they find food by moving from areas of low concentrations of scents to areas of high concentrations."

Plant-emitted hydrocarbons break down through chemical interactions with certain air pollutants such as ozone. This breakdown process results in the creation of more air pollutants, including hydroxyl and nitrate radicals, which further increase the breakdown rate of plant odors.

The researchers sought to understand how these chemical interactions, which start with the presence of air pollutants, would impact bees' ability to find food. They first estimated the changes in concentrations of flower scents as a result of air turbulence and chemical interactions using a computer simulation, which allowed them to track the concentration and movement of multiple plumes of scents from different flower beds over time. Then, the researchers ran 90,000 simulations representing various bees' foraging and movement patterns amid differing scent levels modified by air pollution and diluted by wind speeds.

The team reported in the current issue of Atmospheric Environment that, as air pollution increases, hydrocarbons' lifetime and travel distance decreases. For example, at 60 parts per billion ozone levels, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers a 'moderate' level, the researchers found that enough chemical changes took place to thoroughly confuse bees and hinder their ability to identify the plumes of floral scents they needed to locate food.

The scent molecule alpha-pinene, which survives nearly 40 hours in an ozone-free environment, survived fewer than 10 hours when ozone rose to 60 parts per billion and only 1 hour when ozone was at 120 parts per billion. Another molecule, beta-myrcene, which travels more than 3,000 feet in an ozone-free, windy environment, traveled an average of 1,500 feet when ozone was 60 parts per billion and, when ozone rose to 120 parts per billion, most traveled fewer than 1,000 feet.

The changes in air chemistry impacted the number of bees able to detect food sources in a given time frame. In an ozone-free environment, it took 10 minutes for 20 percent of foragers to find the scent molecule beta-caryophyllene. When ozone rose to only 20 parts per billion, it took 180 minutes for the same amount of bees to find the scent. The team found similar results for the six different scent molecules they analyzed.

"We found that when we confused the bees' environment by modifying the gases present in the atmosphere, they spent more time foraging and would bring back less food, which would affect their colonies," said Fuentes. "It's similar to being asked to get a cup of coffee at the nearest cafeteria while you are blindfolded. It will be hard to locate the coffee shop without using visual cues. The same could happen to insect pollinators while foraging for food in polluted air masses."

Because the concentration of scents changes drastically in air polluted environments, this could impact important interactions between plants and insects.

"There are two types of pollinators, generalists and specialists," said Fuentes. "Generalists can detect a mixture of scents, while specialists can only detect one type of scent. This means that as certain scents decrease their travel distance and life span, specialists and generalists may both have trouble finding food."

Declines in the pollination of wild plants may lead to increases in the population of plants that do not rely on pollinators, and pollinator declines would lead to decreases in crop yields, Fuentes noted.

These findings highlight that air pollution is one of many factors influencing the decline of the bee population.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, managed honeybee populations in the U.S. have declined between 25 and 45 percent per year since 2010, including a 44 percent decline from 2015 to 2016.

"Honeybees and other pollinators are in trouble almost everywhere, and they pay us a lot of services through their pollination," said Fuentes. "The more we can understand about what factors are affecting their decline in numbers, the more equipped we will be to intervene if needed."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160706131924.htm#.V3552piPfyg.facebook

Picnic With The Bees

Today, June 23, 2016:

Picnic With The Bees

11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Thu, Jun 23, 2016
Grant Park, Los Angeles 
(Across from City Hall) 

There are over 30 media events across the country. Today there's a brief press conference inviting media and beekepers to make statements regarding pesticides affecting them. What we are seeing and what we are experiencing. Each speaker given a statement. No podium.  1-4 minutes.  The main goal is to get the EPA and test and ban pesticides that kill bees. (Environment California)

(NOTE: We just received this info and this is all the info we have on this event. Thank you!) 

 

Is Your Hive Ready For Winter?

Is Your Hive Ready For Winter? Read & Sign up for the Brushy Mountain Bee Farm E-Newsletter: http://conta.cc/1NqqbLb
We had a busy month in September. 

Our folks at Ruhl Bee in Oregon worked their tails off to move from Gladstone, OR to Wilsonville, OR. It is only about a 15-20 minute drive but a move is a move no matter how far. They then came east and then we went west for training an
At the end of September the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) released the results of the 2014-2015 Management Survey. First, if you don't know who BIP is, you should! In short, it is a group funded by grants which collects data  from beekeepers to determine colony loss and what management techniques they are using.

It is important to note that correlation does not equal causation. This is a fancy way of saying that just because people lost 37.5% fewer colonies when they used Oxalic Acid as a varroa treatment compared to those that didn't use anything at all, does not mean that Oxalic Acid is the reason for the better result. 
I could write pages on their results covering varroa treatments, drone trapping, antibiotics, small cell, etc, but I think it better if I simply give you the link to the results. I strongly encourage you spend time reviewing the wealth of information as I think it can make us all better beekeepers. Further, I would encourage you to participate in the survey next time to only improve our collective beekeeping knowledge.   Here is the link.

The Cocktail Queen Bees Use To Disease-Proof Their Babies

Healthy Pets  BY Dr. Becker September 29, 2015

Honeybees are amazing creatures of the insect world, helping to pollinate 87 of the top 115 food crops. Bees transfer pollen from plant to plant, which allows the plants to make seeds and reproduce. Without bees, many of the foods we love – from citrus fruits and broccoli to almonds and cantaloupe – would cease to exist. Not to mention raw honey…

Yet, their impressive contribution to the world's food supply is only oneof their many points of intrigue. If you could peek inside a honeybee hive, you'd see a highly organized society with each bee taking on a very specific role for the overall good of the hive.

The queen bee (there is only one per hive) also has the important job of transferring immunity to all of her babies, and a new study uncovered just how this remarkable feat is accomplished.

How Queen Bees 'Vaccinate' Their Babies 

Research published in PLOS Pathogens found that queen bees inoculate all of their young via a process that begins with eating.1 The queen bee spends most of her life inside the hive, being brought meals by worker bees.

She eats a substance known as royal jelly, which is created by digested pollen and nectar the worker bees gather each day. But with the pollen and nectar, the queen also receives exposure to bacteria and pathogens in the worker bees' environment.

When the queen bee ingests this mixture, she digests the bacteria and stores them in an organ similar to the liver (called the "fat body"). The bacteria are then bound to a protein called vitellogenin and carried via the bloodstream to developing eggs. The babies are therefore inoculated before they're born and enter the world already immune to diseases present in their environment.2

The researchers are hopeful their discovery may help them provide protection to bees against diseases known to destroy hives. They hope to replicate the natural process using a "cocktail the bees would eat." Study co-author Gro Amdam of Arizona State University told Discovery News:3

"Because this vaccination process is naturally occurring, this process would be cheap and ultimately simple to implement. It has the potential to both improve and secure food production for humans."

Unfortunately, bees aren't only under attack from bacteria and viruses but also from human activities, including pesticide use. Discovery News further reported:4

"During the past six decades alone, managed honeybee colonies in the United States have declined from 6 million in 1947 to only 2.5 million today."

The Fascinating Caste System In A Beehive

The queen bee represents just one member of the hive, which may number close to 80,000 depending on the season. Worker bees represent the bulk of the hive, and they are all female (although they're sexually immature and not able to reproduce).

While the queen bee may live for several years, a worker bee lives for about six weeks in the summer or up to nine months in the winter. Each takes on a series of "chores" in its lifetime. According to the Backyard Beekeepers Association:5

"The worker bees sequentially take on a series of specific chores during their lifetime: housekeeper; nursemaid; construction worker; grocer; undertaker; guard; and finally, after 21 days they become a forager collecting pollen and nectar.

For worker bees, it takes 21 days from egg to emergence. The worker bee has a barbed stinger that results in her death following stinging, therefore, she can only sting once."

Each hive also has 300 to 3,000 drone bees, which are male bees kept for the purpose of mating with the queen. She only mates once (with several drone bees) and then is fertile for life, laying up to 2,000 eggs per day. If the queen bee dies, the worker bees will choose a new young female to take her place, raising her by feeding her royal jelly. National Geographic reported:6

"This elixir enables the worker to develop into a fertile queen. Queens also regulate the hive's activities by producing chemicals that guide the behavior of the other bees."

While the male drone bees have no stinger, they have a barbed sex organ and will die after mating. The male bees are also expelled from the hive in the autumn, as they're only needed for mating during the summer.7

Honeybees Are At Risk, Here's How You Can Help

Since 2006, US beekeepers have lost a striking 29.6 percent of their honeybee colonies annually due to a disease dubbed colony collapse disorder (CCD). The condition causes bees to become disoriented, leaving their hives, and never returning.

Hives across the country have been decimated, and while there's still no definitive cause, pesticides, viruses, mites, fungi, and antibiotics may play a role.

The widespread use of neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides, appears to be particularly damaging to bees, and last year a Harvard study concluded,"Neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering CCD" in previously healthy honeybee hives.

It's also been suggested that CCD may weaken bees' immunity, leaving them vulnerable to other infections or parasites. If you'd like to help bees in your area, consider planting a bee-friendly garden. The Honeybee Conservancy recommends:8

  • Replacing part of your lawn with flowering plants
     
  • Selecting single flower tops, such as daisies and marigolds, which produce more nectar and are easier to access than double flower tops (such as double impatiens
  • Planting at least three different types of flowers so you have a longer bloom time. For instance:

    Crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula, and wild lilac for spring blooms.
    Bee balm, cosmos, echinacea, snapdragons, foxglove, and hosta for the summer.
    Zinnias, sedum, asters, witch hazel, and goldenrod are late bloomers for fall.

    Read at: http://goo.gl/8mUvvi

The Pollen Basket

Honeybee Conservatory 

A Bee and Her Basket: Do you know what is a pollen basket?  Hmmm…  Well, have you ever noticed that some of the bees you see flying have these orange or yellow clumps on their hind legs?

If you haven’t, they look like this.

That orange mass on her leg is her basket. It is pollen that she has gathered from flowers she has been visiting during her foraging about. Female bees provision their offspring with pollen (mixed with a little nectar), which means they have to visit numerous flowers (sometimes 100 plus per trip!) to gather enough pollen to feed each offspring that is produced. It would be incredibly inefficient for them to have to travel back to their nest after visiting each flower. So, to be more efficient female bees have a special apparatus for holding and transporting pollen. The pollen collecting apparatus in apid bees, which include honey bees and bumblebees, is commonly called a ‘pollen basket’ or corbicula. This region is located on the tibia of the hind legs and consists of hairs surrounding a concave region. After the bee visits a flower, she begins grooming herself and brushes pollen gathered on her body down toward her hind legs and packs the pollen into her pollen basket. A little nectar mixed with the pollen keeps it all together, and the hairs in the pollen basket hold it in place.

Other bees have a similar apparatus, only it is called a scopa. This basket can be located on the hind legs and/or the ventral side of their abdomen. Look at the abdomen of the bee in the photo below:

Check out the furry legs on this cactus bee:

You may be wondering…’well, what is the difference between a pollen basket and the scopa?’ The main difference is that the pollen basket is a concave region surrounded by coarse hairs, whereas the scopa is just a region with a dense mass of specialized hairs (setae). But, both pollen baskets and scopa do the same job…transport pollen.

Now that spring is here, go out and check out the bees and look at their hind legs and their abdomen. If you see large pollen loads like these, or you see a bee that looks like she is covered with pollen, you know she has been working hard!

Guest post by entomologist Anna D. Howell of Anna’s Bee World.

(Note: This was originally posted on Honeybee Conservatory on April 2, 2011.)

Some Honeybee Colonies Adapt In Wake Of Deadly Mites

 Cornell University/Cornell Chronicle    By Krishna Ramanujan   August 7, 2015

A new genetics study of wild honeybees offers clues to how a population has adapted to a mite that has devastated bee colonies worldwide. The findings may aid beekeepers and bee breeders to prevent future honeybee declines.

The researchers genetically analyzed museum samples collected from wild honeybee colonies in 1977 and 2010; the bees came from Cornell University’s Arnot Forest. In comparing genomes from the two time periods, the results – published Aug. 6 in Nature Communications – show clear evidence that the wild honeybee colonies experienced a genetic bottleneck - a loss of genetic diversity - when theVarroa destructor mites killed most of the honeybee colonies. But some colonies survived, allowing the population to rebound.

“The study is a unique and powerful contribution to understanding how honeybees have been impacted by the introduction of Varroa destructor, and how, if left alone, they can evolve resistance to this deadly parasite,” said Thomas Seeley, the Horace White Professor in Biology at Cornell and the paper’s senior author. Sasha Mikheyev ’00, an assistant professor of ecology and evolution at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) in Japan, is the paper’s first author.

“The paper is also a clear demonstration of the importance of museum collections, in this case the Cornell University Insect Collection, and the importance of wild places, such as Cornell’s Arnot Forest,” Seeley added.

In the 1970s, Seeley surveyed the population of wild colonies of honeybees (Apis mellifera) in Arnot Forest, and found 2.5 colonies per square mile. By the early 1990s, V. destructor mites had spread across the U.S. to New York state and were devastating bee colonies. The mites infest nursery cells in honeybee nests and feed on developing bees while also transferring virulent viruses.

A 2002 survey of Arnot Forest by Seeley revealed the same abundance of bee colonies as in the late 1970s, suggesting that either new colonies from beekeepers' hives had repopulated the area, or that the existing population had undergone strong natural selection and came out with good resistance.

By 2010, advances in DNA technology, used previously to stitch together fragmented DNA from Neanderthal samples, gave Mikheyev, Seeley and colleagues the tools for whole-genome sequencing and comparing museum and modern specimens.

The results revealed a huge loss in diversity of mitochondrial genes, which are passed from one generation to the next only through the female lineage. This shows that the wild population of honeybees experienced a genetic bottleneck. Such bottlenecks arise when few individuals reproduce, reducing the gene pool. “Maybe only four or five queens survived and repopulated the forest,” Seeley said.

At the same time, the surviving bees show high genetic diversity in their nuclear genes, passed on by dying colonies that still managed to produce male bees. The nuclear DNA showed widespread genetic changes, a signature of adaptation. “Even when a colony is not doing well, it can still produce a batch of males, so nuclear genes were not lost,” Seeley said.

The data also show a lack of genes coming from outside populations, such as beekeepers' bees.

The surviving bees evolved to be smaller, suggesting these bees might require less time to develop. Since the mites infest nursery cells in hives, the shorter development time may allow young bees to develop into adulthood before the mites can finish their development. Mite-resistant honeybees in Africa are also small and have short development times, Seeley said.

Next, the researchers will study which genes and traits confer resistance to Varroa mites. The findings may help beekeepers to avoid pesticides for controlling mites and to trust the process of natural selection, and bee breeders to develop bees with the traits that have enabled bees to survive in the wild.

The study was funded by the OIST and the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign.

Read at: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2015/08/some-honeybee-colonies-adapt-wake-deadly-mites

Federal Government Announces Plans To

Fox2News   By Tom Vacar  May 19, 2015

RICHMOND, Calif. (KTVU) - The alarming plunge in bee populations, with 40 percent fewer colonies than a year ago, now has the full attention and resources of the White House.

Whether it's due to bacteria, environmental disruptions, parasites, pesticides or the simple lack of food due to less things to pollinate, bees are dying in enormous numbers.

The federal government announced efforts Tuesday to support the bees that contribute mightily to the U.S. economy.

As they feed themselves, bees are responsible for pollinating 90 commercial crops from almonds to zucchini. They are critical to California agribusiness and consumers.

The White House announced plans to dedicate 7 million acres of federal land, a total acreage larger than the state of Oregon, to plant bee, monarch butterfly and other pollinator friendly plants.

Federal buildings and facilities will also be landscaped with bee friendly food source plants. The Administration also plans to vastly increase research money to get to the bottom of what's causing the die off.

Researchers, such as Elina Nino of the UC Davis Bee Lab, say farmers should plant bee friendly plants before and after their main crops. "They should be providing forage for the honey bees or other pollinators before and after the crop that the honey bees are pollinating," says Professor Nino. "It's also very important for the general public to do what they can to contribute to this," she says.

At Annie's Annuals and Perennials in Richmond, water tolerant but bee friendly plants are emphasized because backyards and gardens can provide many millions more acres of pollinator friendly habitat. "We have, you know, the ability to have the diversity in our urban planted spaces too.

“A lot of agricultural stuff, it's one enormous crop," says Pixie Brownell, a bee and plant expert. He adds we can save the bees and our crops. "I think it's pretty easy. I think if you focus on making your planted spaces pollinator friendly, it kind of takes over for itself," says Pixie.

Read at and View: http://www.ktvu.com/story/29108005/federal-government-announces-plans-to-support-bees-amid-population-decline#

 

The Bee Solution to Winter

The New York Times - Environment   By C. Claiborne Ray   January 26, 2015

Q. Do bees hibernate, especially where temperatures are below freezing for extended periods? Why don’t they just freeze?

A. Many bees hibernate, though some, including honeybees, do not, said Scott McArt, a research scientist in the department of entomology at the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Most bee species in northern climates overwinter in dormant stages,” Dr. McArt said. “For example, queen bumblebees will mate in the fall, then crawl into a crevice and overwinter alone, protected from the elements.”

The queens emerge in spring and found new colonies, which are productive through the summer, Dr. McArt said. Then, in the fall, new queens are produced by the colony to find a mate and continue the cycle.

“Honeybees are different,” Dr. McArt said. “The major reason they produce so much honey is so the entire colony can survive through the winter by feeding on it.”

The colony forms itself into a tightly packed ball, he said, “shivering” to produce heat and using the honey for fuel.

“The bees on the outside of the cluster act as insulators,” he said, “while the innermost bees generate the heat. They continually rotate their position, alternating roles as heat producer and recipient.”

Read at... http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/27/science/earth/27qna.html?emc=edit_tnt_20150126&nlid=46934151&tntemail0=y&_r=0

Watch: This Dog's Nose Saves Bees

National Geographic    Via Swindon & District Beekeepers Association  January 14, 2015

Klinker is a one-of-a-kind dog. She's the only dog in the U.S. certified to detect a damaging bacteria in beehives. Along with her handler, Bill Troup, she inspects up to a thousand honeybee colonies a day for the contagious and lethal bacteria called American foulbrood.

View at National Geographic: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/news/150114-news-american-foulbrood-dog

Bees on the Shuttle

Did you know?.....
On the April 1984 NASA Space Shuttle Challenger flight, 3,300 honey bees, housed in a special but confining box, adapted perfectly to zero gravity and built a nearly normal comb. But they didn’t go to the toilet. Since bees excrete only outside the hive, they held it in for seven days. A NASA spokesperson said the space hive was “just as clean as a pin.”


 

Kids 'n Bees: Kids and Bees and Disneyland

Bee Girl   From Sarah Red-Laird  December 17, 2014

The "Kids and Bees" event is right around the corner, and I am hoping you can help me with a couple of things? 
  • We need volunteers to help on the day of the event.  Duties consist of managing activity table to help kids with activities such as beeswax candle rolling, microscopes, almond shelling, face painting, honey tasting etc.
  • We need to get the word out about the event to local kids (Classrooms, homeschool groups, 4-H'ers, Girl and Boy Scouts, etc.).  
Exciting news!  Bee Girl and the American Beekeeping Federation are coming to the Disneyland Resort, for the annual North American Conference and Tradeshow January 6th-10th.  From 9:00 am till noon on the morning of Friday the 9th we are hosting a"Kids and Bees" event to engage the local community.  
For registering as a volunteer, or a student group - please contact me at sarah@beegirl.org or 541-708-1127.  Thank you!! 
  
This no-cost event has been a tradition with the ABF conference for over 20 years, and is a "don't miss" opportunity for school groups, home schooled kids, scouts, and clubs. Kids and their teachers or parents can expect a room full of hands-on activities under the themes of, “The Art of Beekeeping,”  “The Science of Beekeeping,” “The World of Beekeeping,” and “The Future of Bees: It’s Up to You!”  Favorites such as beeswax candle rolling, bee finger puppet making, and hive displays will be there.  The highlights this year will be face painting, a photo booth with costumes, and an ultraviolet “Bee View” demonstration.  Students will make their way through each station, engaging with beekeepers and Honey Queens from around the US, and activities that will harness their senses and imaginations.  

Click this link for a video by the LA Farm Bureau of a similar program from earlier this year in New Orleans!

See the Press Release for more information.  
 
And for more information, join our Facebook event page, or to register your children or students for the January 9th free program, please contact Sarah Red-Laird at sarah@beegirl.org or 541-708-1127.   
 
Please share this information with your community asap, space is limited - but it's our goal to bring as many students as we can to learn about our bees!
 
Sarah Red-Laird
Bee Girl, Executive Director
American Beekeeping Federation, Kids and Bees Program Director
International Bee Research Association, Bee World Program US Ambassador 

"Beekeeping Education // Honey Bee Conservation" 

Guelph Scientists One Step Closer to Inhibiting Destructive Bee Disease

The Globe and Mail    By Eric Atkins  December 16, 2014

The honeybees responsible for pollinating one-third of the food we eat face a host of threats, from bloodsucking mites and viruses to pesticides and climate change.

But researchers at the University of Guelph have taken a big step toward fighting the most destructive and widespread killer of honeybee larvae, a disease known as American foulbrood.

For the first time, scientists have identified a toxin released by the pathogen, and come up with a drug that could stop the disease that is prevalent in North America, Europe and other parts of the world.

“What we’ve found is an important factor that we can inhibit in this honeybee disease,” said Rod Merrill, a Guelph biochemist and co-author of the study to be published in the December issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

American foulbrood, named for the smell of infected hives and the country in which it was first identified more than a century ago, is spread easily among honeybee colonies by spores carried by adult bees. The spores are eaten by larvae, which die but also spread millions more spores into the hive.

“The next generation is kaput. It’s not toxic to the adults, but that ultimately destroys the hive,” Prof. Merrill said in an interview. “And then what happens is robber bees go into the hive and steal the honey, which is contaminated with the bacterial spores, and then they drag it over to their hive, so it just proliferates.”

Hives infected with the bacteria quickly fail, and beekeepers must burn the hive and all associated equipment to ensure the spores are destroyed.

There is no cure for American foulbrood. Antibiotics used to control the disease have proven ineffective as resistant strains have developed.

Field tests to be conducted on hives in the spring will show whether the drug is effective at controlling American foulbrood, said Prof. Merrill, who began the research more than two years ago.

The drug that could treat the disease is not an antibiotic, but an anti-virulence compound that controls the toxin that kills the larvae but does not prompt the bacteria to mutate by threatening their survival.

“Research takes a long time. So right at this moment I can’t say what the impact will be in treating American foulbrood,” Prof. Merrill said. “However, I can say it’s going in the right direction that we need to characterize the toxins produced by the organism that causes American foulbrood or the impending crisis for the honeybee is going to get worse.”

Long winters, virus-bearing varroa mites and pesticide exposure have contributed to declines in honeybee populations in North America and Europe. In Ontario, declining honey production and mounting costs of replacing dead bees have been blamed in part on neonicotinoid pesticides that are used to grow corn and soybeans.

In response, the Ontario government recently said it plans to impose rules that would reduce the use of the systemic pesticide by 80 per cent by 2017. Farmers who plant seeds treated with neonics would have to show their fields are susceptible to grubs, worms and other yield-destroying pests.

The move is opposed by the chemical companies that sell the pesticide-treated seeds and the Grain Farmers of Ontario, which says the restrictions will take away an important tool farmers use to protect their harvests.

A new poll of 1,000 Ontarians shows nearly 80 per cent support the provincial government’s plans to restrict the use of neonics, which scientists say impair bees’ foraging abilities and contribute to colony failure.

The poll, released by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Friends of the Earth Canada and the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association, found support for the restrictions was strongest (85 per cent) in Southwestern Ontario, the heart of Canada’s corn-and-soybean region. Support was weakest, 60 per cent, in the central part of the province.

“Our food security depends on healthy pollinators,” said Gideon Forman of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. “Ontarians are aware of the current crisis and want the government to take action to protect bees.”

Read at:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/science/scientists-in-guelph-come-one-step-closer-to-saving-the-bees/article22098146/

Bees and Wasps in Great Britain Have Been Disappearing for More Than a Century

The Smithsonian         By Sarah Zielinski    December 11, 2014

BEES and changes in agricultural practices since the 19th century may be major culprit in the pollinators' decline.

Do you like apple pie, guacamole and orange juice? Then you'd better be worried about disappearing bees. The insects are prolific pollinators, credited with helping a variety of fruits, nuts and other commercial crops flourish. But since the early 2000s scientists have been sounding the alarm that pollinating bees are being stricken with disease or mysteriously vanishing from their hives. Culprits behind what is now commonly called Colony Collapse Disorder have ranged from parasites to pesticides.

However, analysis of species diversity in Great Britain shows a decline in pollinating bees and wasps that began far earlier than scientists had suspected. Nearly two dozen species have disappeared from Britain since the middle of the 19th century, according to the study, published today in Science. While managed bees pollinate many commercial crops today, wild bees, wasps and other species also play a significant role in agriculture, particularly for foods such as blueberries, sunflowers and soybeans. 

The study authors found that in Britain, local extinctions—or extirpations—were highest during an agricultural ramp-up that began after World War I, suggesting that changes in agricultural practices sparked the loss of pollinators. 

Lead author Jeff Ollerton at the University of Northampton and his colleagues pored through almost 500,000 records of bee and wasp sightings from the 1850s to the present, held by the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society. This group of British scientists and volunteers collects data about the distribution and biology of insects in the order Hymenoptera (which includes many pollinators). Determining when a species has gone extinct is an inexact science, but the researchers assumed that a species had disappeared from Britain if it had not been seen for at least 20 years. 

Local extinctions occurred as early as 1853 and as late as 1990, but about half occurred between 1930 and 1960. These disappearances line up with patterns of changes to British agricultural practices, the researchers note. In the late 19th century, for instance, farmers began to rely more on imported South American guano for fertilizer. That let farmers intensify their agriculture and resulted in wind-pollinated grasses replacing many of the wildflower species many pollinators relied upon for food. That time period also saw a decline in traditional crop rotation, when farmers would have periodically planted their fields with legumes or left them to weedy flowers—both of which support pollinating insects—to rejuvenate soil nutrients.

But the big decline in pollinators occurred in the middle of the 20th century, when Britain was intensifying its agriculture in response to food security concerns sparked by World War I. For decades before that conflict, Great Britain had relied on imports for much of its food supply, a practice that proved nearly disastrous when Germany began to cut off trade routes. In response, the nation amped up food production at home. This time period also saw the introduction of manufactured inorganic nitrogen fertilizers, which probably contributed to further declines in wildflowers.

“Fundamentally [the decline in bees and wasps] is about a reduction in the size of the area providing food resources on which these pollinators rely,” Ollerton says. Extinctions began to slow down in the 1960s, the researchers note, either because the most vulnerable species had already disappeared or conservation efforts were showing some success. “There were a range of initiatives, including the establishment of more nature reserves,” he says. The country also encouraged efforts to restore wild habitat, and more farmers began turning to organic agriculture, which uses less manufactured fertilizer and pesticides.

Parts of northern Europe, the United States and any other countries that had similar changes in agricultural practices may also have lost native pollinators over that time period, Ollerton adds.

“The U.S. suffers from the same sort of dumbing down of our landscapes across that same time period for the same reasons,” says Sam Droege of the U.S. Geological Survey Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab. “We are too damn efficient” in our agricultural efforts, he says. “Croplands, pastures, and meadows now grow only crops, no weeds or wildflowers.”

But a continued decline in pollinator species is not inevitable, he says. Roadsides and rights-of-way can be managed to re-create more natural landscapes, for example. “Additionally, we need to reconsider our tree planting tactics to let some lands move only slowly into forest and keep other landscapes as permanent meadows, prairies, sage and scrublands,” he says. Such efforts would foster the growth of pollinator-friendly plant species. “We no longer have the luxury of letting Nature find its own level, but have to consciously foster wildness and diversity everywhere we live."

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/bees-and-wasps-britain-have-been-disappearing-more-century-180953587/#jGT1sJ0Je5ebeC3R.99

Bee Losses Followed World Wars

Science News    By Beth Mole    December 11, 2014

 Brisish historical Records show century long decline of pollinators. 

DIE-OFF  Extinctions of bees and some wasps in Britain zipped upward in the decades after the world wars, probably because of land use and agricultural changes.

Between 1851 and 1986, withering wildflower populations and booming agriculture may have joined forces to knock down the number of pollinators buzzing in Britain. Using inordinately detailed records collected mainly by amateur naturalists, researchers found that 19 species of bees and flower-visiting wasps died out in that time span, leaving about 500 pollinator species standing. Scientists suspect that at least four other species have since gone extinct, but it’s too soon to tally the losses.

Amid the century-long decline, the late 1920s through the late 1950s was an especially deadly period for Britain’s pollinators. The era corresponds to agricultural innovations such as synthetic fertilizers and land use changes that trailed the two world wars. The findings appear in the Dec. 12 Science

Citations: J. Ollerton et al. Extinctions of aculeate pollinators in Britain and the role of large-scale agricultural changesScience. Vol. 346, December 12, 2014, p. 1360. doi: 10.1126/science.1257259.

Further reading:  S. Milius. Big study raises worries about bees trading diseases. Science News Online, February 19, 2014. 

Read at: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/bee-losses-followed-world-wars?tgt=nr

Bee Pollen Diet

BEE POLLEN IS A SUPERFOOD. YES JUST LIKE THE BLUEBERRIES, THE BLACKBERRIES AND ALL THE GREENS
By Dr. Patrick Fratellone, MD RH (AHG) FIM
FACC, check out his blog at http://www.fratellonemedical.com/blog/

I always knew it was a power house of
protein, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
There are great books on Honey, Propolis,
Pollen and Royal Jelly.