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.
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.
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.
North Dakota is home to over half a million honey bee colonies, and is the number 1 honey producing state in the US for the past 30 years. According to the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, in 2017, North Dakota produced 33 million pounds of honey valued at over $65 million. The vast expanse of land, as far as the eye can see, offers a dense and rich clover forage, a favorite of the honey bee. It is therefore no surprise that more beekeepers want to bring their bees to the Peace Garden State each year. In contrast, corn and soybean are gaining popularity in the agricultural landscape of North Dakota, replacing some of the more traditional grain crops of the past. As a result of these two opposing landscape factors, beekeepers in North Dakota report an increase in honey bee colony density and a decrease in forage for the pollinator. Zac Browning of Browning Honey Co. warns that North Dakota is the ‘Last Best Place for Bees’.