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.
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.
The Honey Bee Health Coalition and The Almond Board of California have both released new Best Management Practices (BMPs) this January.
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.