Salt Lake City, Utah-August 25th 2021.
Managed honey bees in North America are under increasing pressure to meet pollination demands for our food supply. At the same time, annual colony losses are high- 45.5% in the US in 2020, and the natural forage which gives bees healthy nutrition and a honey crop for producers is decreasing. Colony losses are often attributed to pathogens, parasites, pesticides, hive management (queen mating, genetics, maintenance), climate, and available nutrition. United States honey production in 2020 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 148 million pounds, down 6% from 2019. Sustainable beekeeping is dependent on maximizing outputs (colony health, colony numbers, pollination contracts, honey production, profitability) while minimizing the inputs (time, money, personnel, treatments). A sustainable beekeeping industry contributes to a more sustainable agricultural landscape through a stable supply of bees for crop pollination. Therefore, PAm is requesting research proposals that focus on enhancing the health, survival and productivity of honey bee colonies, which provide practical and tangible solutions to the beekeeping industry.
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
Since beginning in 2006, Project Apis m. has endeavored to fund bee research that will improve honey bee health. Translating the research into improvements on a large scale means not just funding the work, but providing beekeepers with the knowledge and tools quickly so they can benefit from the research. Over time, with the help of an engaged research community, PAm has created a funding process and pipeline to drive innovation and solutions for years to come.
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.
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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.
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