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

'Best Practices' For California Almonds Aim to Protect Bees

Sierra Sun Times   By Christine Souza    October 22, 2014

Left, Beekeeper Orin Johnson of Hughson talks to neighboring almond grower Eric Genzoli about best management practices for honeybees newly released by the Almond Board of California. Photo/Christine SouzaIn preparation for pollination that attracts an estimated 1.6 million honeybee colonies to California almond orchards each year, the Almond Board of California has unveiled a set of bee "best management practices" as a guide intended to improve honeybee health.

"Nobody is a bigger fan of honeybees than almond growers," said Richard Waycott, chief executive officer of the Almond Board. "Without bees, there would be no almonds. And without almonds, bees would lose a vital source of nutritious pollen."

In releasing the best management practices last week, Waycott described the BMPs as "another significant milestone in our decades-long commitment to protect bee health and preserve that mutually beneficial relationship."

Developed with input from sources including almond growers, beekeepers, researchers, chemical registrants and regulators, the BMPs represent what the Almond Board called simple, practical steps that farmers can take with beekeepers to protect and promote bee health.

The BMPs emphasize the importance of communication among everyone involved in pollination, including beekeepers, bee brokers, farm owners and lessees, farm mangers, pest control advisers and applicators. The recommendations include information on preparing for honeybee arrival; assessing hive strength and quality; providing clean water for bees to drink; using integrated pest management strategies to minimize application of materials; removing bees from the orchard; and pesticide plans between the beekeeper and farmer that outline pest control materials to be used.

Beekeeper Orin Johnson of Hughson said the Almond Board BMPs for honeybees are good for both the apiary and almond sectors "as long as it's accepted and heeded by the almond growers."

While experts agree that more research would be beneficial on honeybees' interaction with various crop-protection materials, Eric Mussen, Cooperative Extension apiculturist emeritus at the University of California, Davis, said, "With these best management practices, the Almond Board is responding strongly on honeybee health and, in particular, pesticide use and considerations during bloom."

He said the recommendations provide "important insights for all crops when it comes to promoting honeybee health."

Eric Genzoli, who grows almonds with his family in Turlock and Hughson, said his operation has most of the BMPs in place and has "never had any issues related to the bees."

Genzoli said he has developed a good relationship with the beekeepers whose bees pollinate his orchards.

Almond grower Sonny Johns of Modesto said he values what beekeepers and bees mean for the almond crop and has a great interest in maintaining honeybee health.

"We want people to understand that the almond industry is doing its job as growers. We are not out there doing applications without considering the bees and bee pollen," Johns said.

"You've got to take care of your investment," Genzoli said. "You've got to take care of the bees."

U.S. beekeepers report losses of bees each year, citing problems such as pests and diseases, the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder, and a lack of forage due to the drought.

The BMPs for bees released by the Almond Board also include a "Quick Guide for Almonds" and bee BMPs for applicatorRead at/drivers. The information and bee BMP documents are available at

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

Read at

BEE Best Management Practices

Almond Board of California   October 16, 2014

As part of an ongoing commitment to honey bee health, the Almond Board of California recently released a comprehensive, set of Honey Bee Best Management Practices (BMPs) for California’s almond industry. Developed with a wide array of input from sources including the almond community, beekeepers, researchers, California and U.S. regulators, and chemical registrants, the BMPs represent the Board’s most extensive educational documents to date to ensure that almond orchards are and remain a safe and healthy place for honey bees. The documents lay out simple, practical steps that almond growers can take together with beekeepers and other pollination stakeholders to protect and promote bee health on their land and in the surrounding community.

Download the newly released Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almonds

Supplemental Quick Guides are available for general and applicator/drive audiences.

Best Management Practices for Honey Bees

Bug Squad     By Kathy Keatley Garvey   October 15, 2014

The Almond Board of California will unveil its Honey Bee Best Management Practices tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 16) in an ongoing effort to promote and protect bee health.

The board will do so by holding a press conference at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Time with questions directed at Richard Waycott, CEO, Almond Board of California; 
Bob Curtis, associate director of Agricultural Affairs, Almond Board of California
 and Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

It promises to be a comprehensive set of Best Management Practices or BMPs. Media members who wish to participate can access this page.

Remember last spring when beekeepers in the San Joaquin Valley almond orchards reported losing 80,000 colonies?  Beekeepers believe that pesticides killed their bees after the almond pollination season ended but just before they could move their bees to another site.

Mussen wrote about the issue in the March/April edition of his newsletter, from the UC apiaries,published on his website. We also blogged about it.

"When should the colonies be allowed to leave the orchards?" Mussen asked. "When pollination no longer is happening. That does not mean that the bees should remain in place until the last petal falls from the last blossom."

Communication is key to a good BMP. The Almond Board recently published three informational pieces, “Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almonds,” "Honey Bee Best Management Practices Quick Guide for Almonds,” and “Applicator/Driver Honey Bee Best Management Practices for Almonds” (in English and Spanish).

The topics include:

  • Preparing for arrival
  • Assessing hive strength and quality
  • Protecting honey bees at bloom
  • Honey bees and insecticides
  • Honey bees and fungicides
  • Using integrated pest management (IPM) strategies to minimize agricultural sprays
  • Honey bees and self-compatible almond varieties
  • Best management practices for pest control during almond bloom
  • Removing honey bees from the orchard
  • Addressing suspected pesticide-related honey bee losses
  • What to expect in an investigation

The Bee Informed Partnership (BIP), headed by Dennis van Engelsdorp, produced three short videos as the result of a 2012-2013 beekeeping survey.  Project Apis m (PAm) published some of the informationonline about varroa mites, nosema, honey bee nutrition and the like.

It's important for almond growers and beekeepers to keep the lines of communication open. Bees make a "bee line" toward the almond blossoms, but the growers and the beekeepers don't always make a timely "bee line" toward one another to resolve issues that surface.

Read at...

Bee Thinking About - July 2013

Walter T. Kelley Company  (BLOG)  7/28/13 

For many beekeepers, July is one of the more rewarding and interesting months in the apiary. The rewards may come via liquid gold if that’s what you’re after, the joy of seeing your splits come fully online, or those pollination checks making your bank balance shine. The “interesting” part is because July is often a month where promise either blossoms, or falls flat as some of the major perils of beekeeping (pests!) roll in, and lay eggs everywhere.

As always, what you need to be considering for your apiary this time of year varies by geographic region, management practices, and the weather. Here are some things to ponder.


A long, cool, drink: You’re probably enjoying many of those this time of the year; your bees desire them as well. Consider leaving a spigot dripping slowly, or keeping fresh water in a nearby bird bath with rocks or sponges for their safe landing.

Feed? Drought is common in many regions of the country. Not only do bees need water, but the plants they need also require water. If there’s insufficient forage, you may need to feed your bees to get them through a dearth (along with ensuring they have water as noted above).

Keep a close eye on even your most booming hives, especially those from which you’ve pulled honey. If you cut down their stores too low and they’re unable to build back up because of weather, they may really suffer. The queen will stop laying if there are insufficient stores.

Mites (growl): We all have them. The trick is to not have too many of them...

Combating mites consists of first doing mite counts to determine if there’s a problem, assuming that you will do something with the knowledge. Some beeks don’t do mite counts because they’re not going to do anything about them anyway. Their philosophy is that if the colony isn’t able to successfully keep mites in check then they don’t want to promote those genetics in the bee yard.

If that’s not your management philosophy, and if you’ve determined you have a mite problem, there are a couple tricks you can use this time of year to help knock down the mite population. Unfortunately, like almost everything in beekeeping, opinions vary on their effectiveness. Here are a few weapons:
  • Breaking the mite brood cycle, using drone comb or by making splits
  • Powdered sugar treatment
  • Miticides

Time to split? Yes, Varroa, it is time for you to split. We suspect telling them to do so won’t be that effective though!

When we say “time to split”, we’re referring to making one hive into two. If you have strong hives, and if conditions are right in your area to promote build-up for winter, consider splitting. You can typically combine them again come fall if they don’t work out.
Small hive beetles (SHB): We wish those would also go away, far, far away. See the article in this issue for more thoughts on dealing with these nasty critters. Stay on top of them; left unchecked they’re devastating.