Project by project, PAm helps address the bee health questions of today while helping beekeepers prepare for the future. Across the U.S. and Canada, recently funded projects are beginning on topics ranging from Varroa and viral diseases to drought-tolerant bee forage.
Beekeeping is a big industry and interest in Canada. In 2019, Canada produced 80.4 million pounds of honey, and in 2017 pollination services in Canada were estimated to contribute between 4.0 and 5.5 billion dollars to the nation’s economy.1 Canada is a major producer of canola and blueberries, two crops that benefit greatly from pollination services. Unfortunately, beekeepers in Canada face similar challenges to those in the U.S. making research a necessity for improving honey bee health, creating and optimizing tools for beekeepers. In 2020, the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA) reported 30.2% colony losses over winter, nationally, with some provinces losing as many as 40.7% of their colonies.2
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.
Seeds for Bees is partnering with almond growers, Bee Friendly Farming, and Scientists at the University of California, Davis to plant bee forage and habitat in California and study the benefits. Learn about the program, and the science behind why it works by watching this pre-recorded webinar:
•Billy Synk, Director of Pollination Programs, Project Apis m.
How the Seeds for Bees® program benefits beekeepers and growers.
•Dr. Elina L. Niño, University of California, Davis
Ongoing research out of UC Davis related to the impact of
cover crops on bee health.
•Dr. Amélie Gaudin, University of California, Davis
Ongoing research out of UC Davis related to the impact of
cover crops on soil health.
•Laurie Davies Adams, President and CEO, Pollinator Partnership
The exciting Bee Friendly Farming certification.
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.
Varroa mites are a plague to all honey bees and beekeepers in the US and most of the world, but beekeepers have limited tools available for Varroa control. One widely used tool is Amitraz/Apivar strips. Although Amitraz has been effective for almost two decades, we know from experience that using synthetic compounds puts pressure on Varroa populations and can lead to mite resistance. This happened with fluvalinate (Apistan) and Coumaphos (Checkmite) within 10-15 years of use. As we pass those landmarks using Amitraz for Varroa control, beekeepers and scientists are on the lookout for treatment efficacy and any signs of resistant mites.
Zac Lamas is the 2019 PAm-Costco Scholar. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland, studying at the vanEnglesdorp Bee Lab. Zac started his career as a beekeeper and queen producer, and recently switched his focus to honey bee research. PAm recently caught up with Zac to hear more of his story. We are excited to be investing in researchers like Zac, who bring unique experience and insight to the fold of scientists that are supporting honey bee health.