Project Apis m. Funds Dr. Judy Wu-Smart to investigate the impacts of pesticide-treated seed recycling in Nebraska.
Beekeepers have been re-locating their apiaries from Nebraska for years. Well before the public became aware of an ethanol plant producing pesticide-laden by-products, there had already been a concerning trend of beekeepers leaving Nebraska.
Dr. Marion Ellis, head of the Bee Lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) saw the pattern begin during his tenure. Beekeepers were migrating out of the state as more pastureland in the area was planted with corn, and especially when that corn was treated with organophosphate insecticides to control corn rootworm. Organophosphate insecticides are persistent in the environment and are highly toxic to bees, but beekeepers were reluctant to complain to friends and family who farmed the land. As Ellis said, “It became really hard to keep bees in the Corn Belt.”
More recently, large-scale career beekeepers with thousands of colonies have continued that exodus from Nebraska because they cannot afford the high bee losses year after year.1 A new publication representing a major collaboration across state and federal organizations puts some concerning data behind the trends. It highlights that bees in Nebraska are dealing with a disproportionately high number of pesticides detected at higher levels than most other states and the neonicotinoids clothianidin and thiamethoxam contributed significantly to the hazard quotient (the risk) posed to bees in Nebraska.2
Many of us experienced pandemic-related shipping issues over the last year-especially around the holidays. The United States Postal Service (USPS) in particular is still recovering from the holiday crunch. USPS is required to ship lives bees, and helping businesses connect with their customers is part of their mission:
“-To serve the American people and, through the universal service obligation, bind our nation together by maintaining and operating our unique, vital and resilient infrastructure.
-To provide trusted, safe and secure communications and services between our Government and the American people, businesses and their customers, and the American people with each other.
-To serve all areas of our nation, making full use of evolving technologies.”
With package bee season right around the corner, and spring queen orders kicking into high gear, how is a strained USPS impacting queen and package producers?
Dr. Jeff Pettis, who has worked on improving bee shipping protocols said “Most shippers I know have used UPS more than USPS, but if they use the post office it’s always priority mail.” And a representative from Kona Queens indicated they are having success with FEDEX lately.
Everyone should have the experience of opening up a honey bee hive. That first interaction brings up so many emotions: curiosity, a touch of fear, awe, all mingled with the scents of the hive. I fell into beekeeping almost by accident in 2001 and honey bees have completely changed my life trajectory. I went from English major to beekeeper, then, just enthralled, earned my PhD in bee science.
As I get close to finishing my dissertation, I am reflecting on the way that the PAm-Costco Scholar Fellowship has helped me to take my interest in honey bee foraging behavior and apply it to helping beekeepers and land managers who want to support honey bees.
I started studying bees a few years after increased colony mortality had drawn international public attention and concern. Research since that time has highlighted four major stressors that contribute to high mortality: parasites, pathogens, pesticides, and poor nutrition. Good nutrition is not only essential to day-to-day activities of bees, but it also helps colonies deal with the other stressors. Finding apiary spots that lead to good colony nutrition is challenging because honey bee colonies have a very wide foraging range, in some cases traveling over 8 miles to collect food. If we consider that most foraging happens within 2 miles of a hive, that’s still over 8,000 acres that foragers are covering to find rewarding flowers.
National Corn Growers Association, U.S. Canola Association partner with Coalition to develop best practices growers can use to reduce risk to honey bees, other pollinators.
BEEKEEPER NEWSLETTER . . . . . . March 5, 2019
The Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) and Project Apis m. (PAm) have a long history of partnership. Since 2012 PAm has deeply supported the BIP Tech Transfer Teams (TTTs), who are the “boots on the ground” to survey honey bee health, and often acting as liaisons between research, and beekeepers. Their unique position not only allows them to share research developments and management practices with commercial beekeepers, but they also understand the most current beekeeping needs and trends and can help inform researchers about what is going on in the beekeeping industry that needs to be addressed.
Commercial beekeepers who work with the Tech Transfer Teams on average lose 30% fewer colonies each year than beekeepers who do not. That is significant! Quite a few participating beekeepers have also reported saving money by working with TTTs - some very major losses have been avoided, and many beekeepers report overall improved condition of their bees as well.
Hawaii is a chain of many islands, and of the seven inhabited by people and bees, only two have Varroa mites. I know, in beekeeper minds, that quickly conjures an image of paradise and perfectly healthy booming colonies with no Varroa! Having worked with bees on all those islands since 2010, I can report with confidence that the bees on these mite-free islands fall far short of this fantasy. Although there are no Varroa, these bees are a great example of how the many years of breeding and selection have provided us with the important traits beekeepers rely on, like gentle temperament, large populations and brood nests, reduced swarm tendencies, large honey stores and winter survival. Although they were abundant and successful in Hawaii’s conditions, the bees throughout the Hawaiian Islands were not, on average, large, gentle, productive colonies. They were mostly small, mean colonies of A. mellifera mellifera, brought by ship in 1850’s, and then naturalized in the jungle without beekeeper selection or improvement. The first time I met with a beekeeper as the Hawaii state apiarist, a bee met me over 50 yards from the undisturbed colony and immediately stung me in the face! This was a hobbyist, whose colonies were captured from the jungle. He likely didn’t know any different, but his bees had traits in stark contrast to the selected stocks I was used to throughout the USA and Canada. To be fair, they were also very different than the bees kept by Hawaii’s queen producers, which were painstakingly selected and improved by breeders such as Gus Rouse at Kona Queen. (See old ABJ article).
Dr. Kaira Wagoner is a post-doctoral fellow in the Social Insect Lab at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. In 2013, Kaira was one of the first PAm/Costco Scholarship award recipients. In alignment with PAm’s values, Kaira is dedicated to developing practical and sustainable solutions to honey bee health threats.
Kaira has been working towards a better understanding of the mechanisms behind hygienic behavior in honey bees. Hygienic behavior is a trait that all honey bee colonies possess to some degree. It involves the ability of nurse bees in a colony to sense a health problem in capped brood cells and remove the compromised brood, effectively slowing the spread of pathogens and parasites in the colony. This behavioral trait can be an advantage to the overall health and survival of the colony.