Right now, wildfires are decimating much of California, Oregon and Washington. This strain is conflated with the Coronavirus pandemic, which many of us hoped would be winding down by now, still raging in many states.
Hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat and forage are burning, along with homes, businesses and hives. It can be difficult to think about the devastating losses experienced by our friends, family and in many cases ourselves. While the future is uncertain for many, PAm’s thoughts are with everyone being affected. You can learn more about what the outlook is for native bees after a fire, and what scientists know about how honey bees act in a smoke-filled environment from this article from Oregon State University.
On Sunday, September 13th Foothills Honey Farms was working hard to remove colonies from evacuation zones in Oregon where they are in danger from the Beachie Creek and Riverside Fires. Some beekeeping operations have already lost their homes and businesses to fires*, and many more have lost colonies and equipment.
Please join Project Apis m. for our first webinar of 2020.
We hope to see you there! Click here to join us June 23rd at 10:00am Pacific Time.
Download the Webinar Flyer with Links Here
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.
The California State Beekeepers’ Association (CSBA) is seeking proposals for research conducted in the area of honey bee health and management. Proposals should be designed to cover a single year of highly focused research devoted to finding practical solutions to beekeeping problems.
Please Click Here to view the Press Release and Application Guidelines
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.
Cameron Jack Grew up watching his grandfather work 150 hives in southern Nevada. This was his gateway-bee experience. Learning and watching – being taught about honey bees. Today, Cameron is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Florida, Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Cameron received a one-year Costco/PAm fellowship award in 2016 to conduct research at the University of Florida where he is completing his graduate work. The subject of his research: Varroa. More specifically, his focus has been on breeding Varroa in vitro in the laboratory.