California Department of Food and Agriculture Grants
Field Evaluations for Bee Health 2007
The purpose of this project was to: 1) develop a feasibility study defining and outlining a service to objectively evaluate bee health, and 2) develop the scientific evaluation protocol to sample and objectively evaluate honey bee health. It is critically important to evaluate bee health, most likely in the last summer and fall, to determine appropriate fall feeding and over-wintering regimes to prepare bees for spring pollination of California crops. The commercial beekeeping business is shifting from being managed traditionally for honey production to more intense management specifically for pollination services. Knowledge is lacking in the area of optimum management techniques of honey bees for pollination focus and especially for potentially critical late summer/fall/winter feeding regimes to prepare the bees for pollination. Objective evaluation methods to assess honey bee health for pollination constitute an area in need of considerable effort. County Agricultural Commissioners play an important role in assessing the status of honey bees, particularly with regard to imported pests like Small Hive Beetle and Red Imported Fire Ant. Certainly absence of pests and diseases are part of an objective evaluation of honey bees, but much is to be learned regarding physiological health status of honey bees, including measurements, for instance, of hemolymph and glycogen. This project logically steps through un-chartered territory by first assessing the feasibility, and then the proper sampling and evaluation methods for an entirely new program for field evaluation of honey bees used in the pollination of California crops.
Measureable outcomes included:
Over 40 interviews conducted, including beekeepers and some of the top bee scientists in the nation
PAm brochure printed and distributed
PAm website continually updated with analytical information
Website hits doubled upon project presentations at national meetings
Feasibility Study published
Canvassed available laboratories for analytical services available to beekeepers
Conducted email survey using a standardized form for analytical services available for beekeepers
This project has facilitated undertaking the research necessary to better understand bee health and has resulted in the development of diagnostic laboratories and services to more objectively evaluate bee health. This grant enabled PAm to initiate 12 studies in 3 years in 7 different states, committing over $400,000 to improved pollination services by honey bees.
Several of these projects have focused on diagnostic and analytical development
The project formalized a statement of beekeeper issues, adding credibility by the interview process and publishing of a feasibility study
The project highlighted the simple fact that a beekeeper’s primary challenge is simply keeping bees alive, and
Successful over-wintering of bees is key to the complete and efficient pollination of California crops
Pollination services, especially California almond contracts, have become the primary income-producing activity for beekeepers (rather than honey production)
Interviews conducted via this grant illuminated the following issues:
Beekeepers do not have the tools they need to determine if a colony is healthy or not
Growers of pollinated crops have little information on bee supply and health
The main evaluation tool for beekeepers and growers is frame counts (the number of frames with 75% bee coverage)
The Feasibility Study proposed three methods for field testing of bees:
Train Pest Control Advisors (PCA’s)
Develop easy-to-use field test kits
Provide access to diagnostic laboratories
This option emerged as the best available option
Interviews and laboratory visits have identified five important areas for bee health evaluations
Pests (mainly varroa and tracheal mites)
Diseases (Nosema, Foulbrood Diseases)
Viruses (Sacbrood, IAPV, Iridescent Virus)
Nutrition ( protein, lipids, vitellogenin, nutrition and increased longevity)
Best Management Practices for Honey Bees Pollinating California’s Specialty Crops 2009
This project implemented an outreach program of Best Management Practices (BMPs) to build a sustainable pollination industry to support California’s (CA) specialty crops. An outreach program of BMPs was needed to enhance the competitiveness of CA specialty crops by assuring adequate and complete pollination by a well-managed beekeeping industry. We developed a centralized communications campaign using print and electronic media to build and disseminate BMPs for beekeepers and growers. BMP topics included 1) bee nutrition, 2) pest control, 3) disease control, 4) hive management, 5) colony management, 6) transportation, and 7) grower BMP’s. Activities, Accomplishments and Measurable Outcomes
Identified BMP areas of emphasis
Conducted the first-ever beekeeper BMPs surveys (written and oral surveys)
Assessed statistics on over-wintering and honey-producing colonies
Assessed almond crop statistics for adequacy of pollination
Developed a trade show booth, BMP brochures, one-page fact sheets, a BMP website at http://projectapism.org/content/view/48/43/, elearning modules, video clips, PowerPoint presentations
Promoted BMPs at 33 different state, regional, national and grower meetings
Developed expertise in and fine-tuned outreach formats (print, web, video, elearning modules)
Maintained records of presentations given, trade show attendance, publications and media hits
Develop the BMP topics of bee nutrition, pest control, disease control, hive management and colony management. Accomplished and exceeded expectations. Developed three additional areas: business management, transportation and grower BMPs.
Developed a centralized communications campaign.
Produced print media materials including articles, brochures and fact sheets.
Developed trade show booth, enewsletters, website posts and video clips.
Created PowerPoint presentations.
Enumerated elements of the outreach campaign including number of brochures, fact sheets, articles, newsletters, website hits and individuals attending presentations and visiting the trade show booth.
Improved recognition of BMP terminology. Initial beekeeper survey 3% recognition, final beekeeper survey resulted in 60% recognition of BMP terminology
Adequate pollination of the almond crop by honey bees. Though also influenced by water availability, tree nutrition and several other factors, it can be said that honey bees have done a good job of pollinating the almond crop, the largest pollination-dependent crop. Despite bearing acreage increasing by 40,000 ac in the last three years, requiring 80,000 more honey bee colonies, bees have helped produce record yields per acre. In the last three years, yield/acre has risen from 2,220 to 2,690 lb/acre. Record almond crops have also been produced each of the last three years, increasing from 1.6 million to 2.1 million lbs.
Improving Forage Resources for Pollinators of California’s Specialty Crops 2010
In retrospect, this project was the pilot work to establish Project Apis m.'s Seeds for Bees program in California.
The purpose of this grant was to educate and enlist landowners and managers to produce food resources for pollinators, resulting in better bee nutrition and immune system, improved colony health, strength and quantities, thus improving specialty crop productivity and yields. This project built upon previous grant's objective evaluations of bee health and also Best Management Practices (BMPs) for honey bees, going on to develop forage demonstration plots from Fall, 2010 through Spring, 2013. Grower and beekeeper cooperators were identified, as well as criteria for evaluating honey bee health and strength. Seed mixtures were identified, sourced and planted. Three Fall plantings were made in 2010, 2011, and 2012 and each evaluated the following Spring (2011, 2012, and 2013). Three main seed suppliers were identified: Kamprath Seeds, Manteca; Allen Clark, Florence, Arizona; and S and S Seeds, Carpinteria. Kamprath assisted in developing low cost seed mixtures, Clark provided nutritious mustards and S and S provided extremely low moisture-requiring plant species. Honey bee forage seed mixes and offerings developed through these efforts included a wildflower mix, a clover/vetch mix and rapini mustard. The main demonstration sites were Capay Ranch, Glenn County, CA, AgPollen LLC, Waterford, CA and Paramount Farming, Lost Hills, CA. These sites represented north, central and southern growing regions for the fertile Central Valley of CA. In addition to the three main demonstration sites, meetings were arranged with other private landowners and public land managers to present the benefits of establishing honey bee forage sites. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and three agencies of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), were among the agencies contacted and visited to discuss honey bee forage. Research was conducted to identify economical and bee-friendly plant species and mixes. Fifty presentations were given to enlist landowners and managers and to present results at regional, state and national meetings. Information updates were published in print media (45 different articles) and on the web (nearly 2,500 hits to the forage tab of the Project Apis m. website). The project goal was to increase CA acreage dedicated to bee forage. The primary measure of success was the number of growers and amount of acreage dedicated to bee forage. The project targeted landowners and land managers with significant acreage (>5,000 acres (ac)). At the onset of the project, it was estimated that three large growers and 2,000 ac were devoted to providing honey bee forage crops, and the target for the project was to recruit twelve to fifteen significant land owners by June, 2013. Eighteen significant landowners were recruited to plant honey bee forage. These landowners included five almond growers, an additional almond/walnut grower, three almond growers who are also beekeepers, a beekeeper/mandarin producer, a rancher, a land trust with experimental orchards, an Indian reservation, two crop protection companies that own significant acreage, a food processor who irrigates considerable acreage with industrial plant effluent, and two CA research institutions that manage significant experimental acreage. Performance goals were more heavily weighted toward recruiting a number of significant landowners to plant honey bee forage rather than number of acres. Providing bee food resources requires a paradigm shift in land management and demonstration by visible early adopters, and total acreage committed doubled to 4,000 acres. This project has benefitted beekeepers pollinating CA’s 45 specialty crops and particularly CA’s $6 billion almond industry, plus numerous allied industries. Considering the impact on the beekeeping industry, beekeepers manage approximately 1.6 million hives that pollinate CA crops and at 30% annual losses nationally, beekeepers have to regenerate conservatively, 500,000 colonies each year at a value of over $100 million to cover CA needs. Proper forage and nutrition for honey bees decreases these losses in addition to decreasing input crops for beekeepers. Concerning the almond industry, bee colony rentals are 15-17 % of a grower’s operating costs, at about $155 per colony in rental fees. A short supply of honey bees results in higher colony rental costs to the grower, thus negatively affecting operating expenses and proper pollination necessary to produce desired crop yields. This project led efforts in providing better honey bee forage resulting in better nutrition for bees and ultimately better pollination service to CA’s specialty crops, and also served to decrease seed costs and seed mixes for honey bee forage. The original wildflower mix tested was $320 per acre and not economically feasible for widespread adoption. Fine-tuning the seed composition seed mixture resulted in a $100 per acre decrease in seed costs from the original wildflower mix. All bee-friendly seeds and seed mixes were developed keeping cost in mind. Seven significant benefits to landowners of planting honey bee forage were enumerated: 1) soil stabilization and reduced runoff, 2) nitrogen fixation, 3) addition of organic matter to soils, 4) decreased soil compaction and increased water penetration, 5) increased habitat for not only honey bees, but other beneficials, 6) potential to reduce pollination rental expense, and 7) contributions to pollination and yield. Five major hurdles to planting honey bee forage were identified. These hurdles included: 1) the lack of natural rainfall in CA to germinate seeds, 2) weed pressure, 3) the costs associated with cultivation, labor and fuel to plant seeds, 4) hesitation by landowners to introduce plants that may require additional control and management measures, and 5) the inability to recognize appreciable benefits of planting honey bee forage. Two allied agricultural industries that were impacted positively that were not predicted at the onset of this project; the crop protection industry and the seed industry. The crop protection industry (Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, CropLife America) realize the positive value of promoting forage and honey bee health and became much more involved in promoting and providing natural food resources for bees and benefitting from the positive press. Several companies within the seed industry realized the market potential of providing seeds for honey bee forage and/or providing soil stabilizer mixes that have pollination potential. Further, as the market develops and seed supply for bee-beneficial plants increases, seed prices become more affordable.
Honey Bee Best Management Practices Outreach Program 2012
This project raised awareness of honey bee Best Management Practices (BMPs) through an easily accessible social media campaign. Honey bee BMP outreach via a social media campaign enabled dissemination of best practices to a wider audience than a traditional print media campaign would be capable of reaching. The outreach program ensured wide-spread dissemination of best practices information to assist beekeepers to maintain a healthier bee supply. Instant access to web-based information on honey bee pest and disease control, nutrition, hive management, colony management and taking steps to mitigate transportation and pesticide stress is vital not only to beekeepers, but also to growers who rely on healthy and strong honey bee colonies to pollinate their crops. Emphasis was placed on social media networks, blogs, and content communities; including internet-based development of a Facebook presence, Twitter dialogue, video blogging and YouTube content. Using these formats for social media, beekeepers had instant access to BMPs to better manage their bees. Growers of California’s specialty crops also had instant access to information about protecting honey bees to ensure maximum pollination of their crops. This project was important due to the concern about significant colony losses associated with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), increased over-wintering colony losses, and decreased longevity of worker bees. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists identify the cause of CCD as being multifactorial, i.e., caused by many different factors including pests, diseases, pesticides and poor nutrition. Thus, approaches to combating CCD, over-wintering losses and decreased lifespan of honey bees must be multifactorial approaches. This BMP program provided a many-pronged approach to ensuring bee health. BMPs addressed Varroa mite, Nosema disease, building nutrition and honey bee habitat, and colony management and transportation. Because more people, including beekeepers and growers, are using internet-based technologies to obtain information, this project was timely and fulfilled a need to have more BMP information available on the Web. Beekeepers, and growers who rent bees to pollinate their crops, need relevant, real-world examples of BMPs that work. Social networking platforms provide low-cost, easy-to-produce, easily accessible formats to provide information about practical issues from experts in the field This project complemented the five areas of BMPs developed, which were also dissemination using social media networks. Response to the materials was excellent, and opportunities to further develop and promote BMPs were bountiful. Updating current information, developing new BMPs, and disseminating the information in new updated formats was essential for building stronger honey bee colonies and providing adequate honey bee supplies to sustain a pollination industry supporting California’s specialty crops. The new BMP grant expanded the current communication campaign using social electronic media tools to reach more beekeepers and more growers of California’s specialty crops.
Building California Bees for California Specialty Crops 2012
Honey bee nutrition, evaluating bee health, and developing Best Management Practices were all supported and harmonized through multiple grants, and all fed into the PAm Seeds for Bees forage programs. Land managers were enlisted to grow crops timed for fall and spring honey bee forage, using the primary measure of success as the number of growers and/or landowners planting bee forage crops and the amount of acreage dedicated to bee forage, with recruitment of 12-15 significant landowners as the target.
Whereas a previous grant identified lands, this grant fine-tuned flowering species mixes, specifically wildflower mixes and specialty oilseed crops. The interest in specialty oilseed crops has seen considerable growth since then. Specialty oilseed crops for biofuels and the cosmetic industry can include attractive and nutritionally important honey bee opportunities, but few individuals make the connection between plantings of specialty oilseed crops and pollination opportunities.
Activities under this grant illuminated the relationship between oilseed crops and honey bee health. Evaluating available seed mixtures, and then developing low-water-use wildflower seed mixtures, and concentrating efforts on lands near orchards, mainly in California’s Central Valley. The 2012 project concentrated on three important areas for honey bee forage plantings; California’s Central Valley, the Coastal Regions and Sierra Foothill regions. The foothill regions are included as important areas for honey bees to “rest and recuperate” away from intensive agricultural areas.
THE GOAL was to build a more sustainable food supply for honey bees in California. The specific objectives were to identify, develop and test low-water use wildflower and oilseed mixtures as a means of providing sustainable nutritional resources for the building and retention of honey bees in California. The project far surpassed expectations. The three fall planting periods covered during the course of this grant were maximized for the information they could provide. Landowner-cooperators and test plots were found and developed in all three of the targeted geographical areas, the CR, CV and SF regions. A greater emphasis was placed in the CV region as that is the area where most of the managed honey bee colonies in the U.S. are placed during the early spring because almond pollination requires a significant portion of all commercial honey bee colonies. Through the fall planting periods, plant species and mixes were continually improved and refined. This project actually yielded three different seed mixes - a mustard mix, a clover mix and a wildflower mix - that were adaptable to all three regions. These mixes were low-water-requiring and exhibited prolonged bloom resulting in extended foraging opportunities for honey bees and contributed to improved colony health. In particular, the mustard mix and clover mix are extremely cost effective and therefore have potential for large scale plantings of hundreds of acres of bee forage supporting thousands of colonies. By design, the mustard mix blooms before the February/March almond bloom and the clover mix blooms after almond bloom. Thus, honey bees could have a continuous and sustainable source of diverse flowering resources from December through April.
The three-year effort also evaluated bee visitation and regional performance for a number of individual wildflower species. Far more honey bee-attractive plant species were evaluated than initially planned. Thirty different plant species were tested in different geographical locales. This has resulted in an online guide to plants used by honey bees in California. The Honey Plants of California website is scheduled to go online in Fall, 2015. This project assisted in populating and completing the database for this online guide. Final design and publication costs are being supported by additional funds. This searchable online database will allow the user to conduct a search for native and horticultural species providing pollen and nectar resources to honey bees. Users will be able to tailor their search by county, elevation, plant life form (herbaceous or woody), drought tolerance and bloom time. Search results will provide general background information about each plant such as life cycle, flower color, height, habitat, and horticultural needs, as well as information critical to beekeepers, such as pollen value, honey value and color of honey produced from its nectar. Links to California seed vendors and nurseries selling these plants will be included.
Another goal for the project was to identify three specialty oilseed crops that could be grown both for honey bee forage and as a harvestable crop. Borage, canola, calendula, camelina, cuphea, echium, rapini, and meadowfoam were evaluated. There are four top specialty oilseed crops that have the most potential for both providing a landowner with an economic incentive to plant honey bee forage. Two rapeseeds, canola and rapini, and then borage and meadowfoam could be grown to both provide nutrition for honey bees and a cash crop for landowners. Canola and rapini are early blooming species and thus provide important early nutrition resources for bees, borage provides a long spring blooming season and meadowfoam blooms late spring.
Other accomplishments that served to achieve the broader goals of the project included successfully assessing the interface between bees and plants by evaluating bee health and bee visitation; evaluating plant growth, bloom timing and duration; reviewing the literature for bee-attractive, drought-tolerant wildflower and oilseed crops; developing planting guidelines, a brochure, website resources and videos; and conducting a thorough outreach campaign to demonstrate project results and encourage more landowners and land managers to plant honey bee forage.
Baseline data was established during the initial months of this project. Those benchmarks included a) measures of the current status of bee health by investigating national bee health statistics including National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) data and BIP’s over-wintering loss reports, b) evaluating California Border Protection Station annual bee truckload data as an indicator of the retention of colonies in California, c) enumerating the number of acres of bee forage planted and the number of honey bee colonies nutritionally supported by this acreage, and d) quantifying outreach efforts resulting from the Work Plan.
Targeting goals of better bee health have been successful. NASS data indicates improved colony health during the time period of this grant - the number of honey producing colonies in the U.S. increased by 4% and honey production was up 19% this past year. The previous year (between year one and two of the grant) colonies increased by 4% with honey production up 5% over the previous year. Of course, efforts from this grant did not directly influence that positive trend; however, the forage project was presented in many different national venues as one of the first dedicated honey bee forage projects and many more have since been initiated.
The BIP over-wintering survey showed over-wintering losses of 31% at the onset of this project. Over one-third of all honey bee colonies died during the winter months. This provides a significant threat to the pollination and crop yields for California’s specialty crops and particularly almonds that require the most bees of any crop and require those bees earliest in the spring season. BIP over-wintering losses at the completion of the project were down significantly to 23%. Beekeepers undoubtedly are recognizing the importance of the role of nutrition in keeping bees healthy and insuring bees are better fed going into winter as well as seeking November, December, and January honey bee forage crops to prevent starvation.
Targeting the retention of bees in California by investigating bee truckloads entering the state, shows an improvement; however, it is probably related more to staffing issues than the fact that more bees stayed in California. Bee trucks entering California for almond pollination declined from 2012 to 2014 (3,409, 3,321, and 2,138, respectfully for 2012, 2013 and 2014). 2015 final data will probably lie between the 2013 and 2014 data. The decline in the number of truckloads for 2014 is related to decreased staffing at the border stations and more trucks passing through when the stations were unmanned. Building more sustainable food resources for honey bees in California and thus retaining more bees in California was hindered by drought conditions.
Targeting an increase in planted acreage for honey bees was successful. From 2012-2013, more than 60 planted acres were made available as honey bee forage, supporting 10 colonies per acre. During 2013-2014, 225 acres were planted, with well over 2,250 colonies within foraging range of this acreage. For the 2014-2015 planting season, 750 acres were planted benefitting 1,500 bee colonies directly, with many more colonies within foraging range of this acreage. All three regions -- the CR, SF and CV areas – contained plantings, with the majority of acres in the CV and in proximity to greatest bee populations in the state.
Targeting an extensive outreach campaign was successful. 50 presentations were given over the course of the grant to an audience of over 4,427 individuals. 12,650 trade show visitors saw or received information about the project (Attachment 7). Growers and landowners were able to view several different types of honey bee forage in bloom at a field day. The field day was attended by 50 individuals. Eleven videos were produced with over 5,000 viewers watching these honey bee forage and nutrition videos. Scores of articles were written about this project discussing the benefits of providing honey bees sustainable, diverse, floral resources.
Pollen Collection and Honey Bee Health 2012
The objective of this research project was to analyze amino acid profiles for important honey bee pollen sources. The North Dakota-California migratory path for commercial beekeepers is an important and primary route followed to take advantage of almond pollination in California (CA) in early spring and then honey production and building over-wintering food stores for the colony in North Dakota (ND) in summer. This study sought to compare important pollen sources in both ND and CA.
Accomplishments include: A pollen sampling protocol was developed, and the minimum sample size for pollen analysis was determined to be 2 gm. A cooperative arrangement was made with the Bee Informed Partnership to collect pollen samples in ND and CA, which was carried out. A laboratory was sourced that was capable of analyzing relatively small samples of pollen for ten essential amino acids plus crude protein, and samples were shipped to Midwest Laboratories for analytical work. Scientific literature and presentations were monitored to document the critical role of nutrition for honey bees and the impact of diverse forage on mitigating honey bee stressors such as pests, pathogens, pesticides and taxing husbandry methods.
BREEDING FOR IMPROVED VARROA RESISTANCE TO SUPPORT HONEY BEE HEALTH AND CROP POLLINATION SERVICES 2016
The goal of the project is to breed resilient, productive bees that function well in commercial crop pollination. State-of the-art mite resistance is based on a genetically controlled behavior called Varroa sensitive hygiene (VSH). Bees with high VSH keep mite infestations low and do not need chemical treatment. Substandard productivity of the bees has limited their use by commercial beekeepers. To foster adoption, this breeding project will improve the reliability of resistance and productivity of VSH bees. Successful breeding will lead to a new tool to control a pest (Varroa mite) that affects crop production by limiting the availability and capabilities of honey bees to pollinate specialty crops. The development of better bees will lead to greater adoption by commercial beekeepers, and the use of Varroa-resistant bees will enable beekeepers to eliminate or reduce the need to treat colonies with pesticides. In addition to possible sublethal and contamination effects in the hive, mites usually become resistant to these chemicals. The project will also enhance the sustainability of production practices, as an organic, sustainable alternative option to manage Varroa mites.
Project Objective: Improve existing honey bees by selecting for high VSH and good beekeeping production parameters. This project is a collaborative effort of the Principal Investigators who have formed a breeding group that targets the project's objectives. The partners include the following: Danielle Downey of Project Apis m. who is experienced in several areas of bee science and also has extensive outreach interactions with the beekeeping industry; David Thomas, owner of two commercial beekeeping companies -- one which pollinates almonds and another which is supplying the infrastructure for the breeding; BartJan Fernhout, a Dutch bee researcher skilled in technical bee breeding, the science of VSH, and project administration; and Bob Danka, a scientist at the USDA laboratory where the VSH trait was discovered and developed. The Principal Investigators are among the few people in the world who have experience in analyzing the VSH trait by measuring the reproductive capacity of Varroa in a colony. Affiliated consultants include world-class experts in the United States and Europe who provide technical support for bee breeding and analysis of Varroa resistance. This project will refine bees previously selected in cooperation with commercial beekeepers. Bees selected here are also expected to be used in ancillary work to seek molecular markers to be used in future bee breeding.
Milestone: Selection for high VSH. Using the best available genetic sources of VSH as determined previously by the partners of the breeding group, the project will create at least 100 colonies with single-drone-inseminated queens. For six months, evaluate Varroa resistance (as non-reproduction of mites) and cull colonies with poor behavior. Produce drone-source colonies from 10 to 20 percent of colonies with the best resistance and the best beekeeping traits (the second selection).
Milestone: Selection for beekeeping productivity. Create 200 colonies with multi-drone-inseminated queens from the second selection. The colonies will receive no chemical treatment against Varroa. Evaluate survival, bee populations, honey production, and mite infestations during 2017. Use the colonies for almond pollination in early 2018. Measure flight activity of all colonies while in almond orchards to verify capabilities of selected bees as pollinators. Make final evaluation after pollination (the third selection).
Milestone: Propagation of breeders; continued selection for beekeeping productivity. Propagate the third selection to secure the genetics in a breeding population. Make breeding stock available to California crop pollinators and queen producers. Evaluate colonies for mite population growth and honey production (the fourth selection) and propagate.
Compare the selected bees with standard commercial bees to demonstrate acceptability. Create 24 colonies with multi-drone-inseminated queens from the high VSH second selection. Include a group of commercially available bee stock as a control group for comparison. Establish the colonies in an apiary in California that is available for inspection by commercial beekeepers and queen producers. VSH colonies will receive no chemical treatment against Varroa and control colonies will receive standard chemical treatments. Evaluate survival, bee populations, honey production, and mite infestations. Use VSH and control colonies for almond pollination and evaluate colonies again after pollination to identify desirable VSH colonies for incorporation into the breeding population.
North Dakota Department of Food and Agriculture Grants
Pollen Collection and Honey Bee Health 2012
The objective of this research project was to analyze amino acid profiles for important honey bee pollen sources. The North Dakota-California migratory path for commercial beekeepers is an important and primary route followed to take advantage of almond pollination in California (CA) in early spring and then honey production and building over-wintering food stores for the colony in North Dakota (ND) in summer. This study sought to compare important pollen sources in both ND and CA. Its accomplishments include: A pollen sampling protocol was developed, and the minimum sample size for pollen analysis was determined to be 2 gm. A cooperative arrangement was made with the Bee Informed Partnership to collect pollen samples in ND and CA, which was carried out. A laboratory was sourced that was capable of analyzing relatively small samples of pollen for ten essential amino acids plus crude protein, and samples were shipped to Midwest Laboratories for analytical work. Scientific literature and presentations were monitored to document the critical role of nutrition for honey bees and the impact of diverse forage on mitigating honey bee stressors such as pests, pathogens, pesticides and taxing husbandry methods.
Developing Carriers for Natural Miticides for Varroa Mite Control in Honey Bees 2016
The objective of this research project was to develop an effective, long-lasting inexpensive formic and oxalic acid miticide formulation for control of Varroa mites in honey bees. North Dakota has led the nation in honey production even while honey bees experience the most serious of pests, the Varroa mite. North Dakota beekeepers struggle to apply Varroa control methods without jeopardizing the safety and quality of honey production. Most current miticides have long residuals and can contaminate honey. Organic acids such as formic acid and oxalic acid have potential as natural chemical controls for Varroa, as long as their volatility can be controlled. This research succeeded in developing the slow release of organic acids for natural Varroa mite control.
Apiary Research/Honey Production Promotion Grant Program 2016
Varroa is currently the most serious honey bee pest in the world, and untreated hives nearly always die within two years of infestation, seriously impacting honey production. The current pesticides used in bee hives to control Varroa are rapidly losing their effectiveness as the mites develop resistance. The pesticides at the prescribed levels sometimes are also toxic to bees, causing reduced bee vitality and even mortality. In addition, the pesticides can only be applied during periods when there is no honey flow, severely limiting their use. With a monetary value of over $84 million in honey production in North Dakota alone in 2014, there is a vital need to stop the most serious honey bee pest by developing effective and sustainable Varroa control. A sustainable approach to managing Varroa is through development and use of mite-resistant bees. The best characterized mechanism of resistance is a behavioral trait, where bees can detect reproducing Varroa in capped brood and remove the infested pupae, ensuring that the mites do not successfully reproduce (video here). This trait is present in honey bee populations worldwide at low levels, it is genetically inherited, and its expression can be increased through selection. It has been highly selected by the USDA-ARS Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Laboratory in Baton Rouge, LA, and made widely available. However, the rate of adoption of current versions of Varroa-resistant bees by beekeepers has been slower than anticipated, likely because other characteristics of the bees with mite resistance need improvement to meet commercial beekeeping needs. For several years, there have been efforts in Louisiana and Hawaii to refine and select not only the important traits of mite resistance, but also honey- and crop pollination productivity in resistant bees. Now, a recently formed group of breeders and beekeepers is combining the best of the currently available breeding lines to improve the productivity of Varroa-resistant bees. We propose to compare this improved Varroa-resistant stock to commercial stocks in field trials in North Dakota in 2017, and to repeat comparisons for consecutive years to measure performance and progress as the stock improves. Project Objectives. To compare productivity and mite resistance of HRS Varroa-resistant bees and currently available bees in a commercial honey production operation. As the year-round breeding and selection continues, we hope to measure progress over multiple years. These state-of-the-art Varroa-resistant bees could offer a practical, sustainable Varroa control option for North Dakota beekeepers, which could pay great dividends in healthier bees, reduced colony losses and increased honey production. These trials also will enable us to retrieve queens of the most desirable colonies to increase their genetics in the next generations breeding population.
Implementing Honey Bee Habitat to Mitigate Honey Bee Pests and Diseases 2015
The primary objective of this project was to support an increase in the quality and amount of habitat and forage for honey bees and to relate the impact of that forage on mitigating honey bee pests and diseases. To begin, the project sought to identify cost-effective plant species attractive to and providing nutrition resources for honey bees in North and South Dakota. The objective accomplished, a mix containing 35 different wildflowers at a cost of $65 per acre was developed. Next, we sought to provide seed mix at no cost to landowners. 124 different landowners were provided free seed for 1,763 acres, with landowners committing to the project for multiple years. To validate the impact of better nutrition on honey bee health, a partnership with USGS in Jamestown, ND was formed, data collected, and analysis begun to publish in a peer-reviewed journal. An additional objective was to conduct outreach on this habitat project, which included promotion of the project in monthly PAm newsletters, in meetings with the Honey Bee Health Coalition workgroups, PAm Facebook posts, and in local presentations. Many meetings with the project partners served to identify and fine-tune outreach opportunities, including working to enlist an agency to develop a brand and marketing and outreach materials. Videos were produced and posted, along with additional footage and photos for other projects, as well as magazine publications and website postings.
Selecting and Improving Varroa-Resistant Honey Bee Stocks for Commercial Beekeeping 2016, 2017
Since the arrival of the Varroa mite, the most devastating honey bee health concern worldwide, numerous pest management approaches have been developed. One approach has been to select Varroa-resistant bees. The Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH) trait was discovered and selected at the USDA-ARS honey bee laboratory in Baton Rouge, LA. VSH bees detect reproductive Varroa mites inside a capped bee cell, open the cell, and remove the contents. At high levels, this behavior successfully interrupts and suppresses Varroa mite population growth. VSH-based resistance is an elegant alternative to using chemicals in the hive to control Varroa populations. Research has been published and presented on the VSH bees for almost 20 years, however the adoption rate of these bees has been less than expected. There are beekeepers using VSH bees who have positive experiences with them. The lines available, however, may be expressing high levels of mite resistance but are not yet optimized for other desirable traits for commercial beekeeping. This project will use both single drone and multi drone insemination (SDI/MDI) of breeder lines to verify a high level of Varroa resistance and also allow further stabilization of desirable traits for commercial beekeeping such as large colony populations, solid brood patterns, rapid Spring growth, good honey production and gentleness.