Saturday, April 25, 2009

But where will they live and have their bee-ing?

Months have literally gone by. Months and months and I had not yet established where my hives would be.

I had yet to determine that very important factor. Where would my bees live and have their bee-ing?

I would love to have them on my property but our bylaws must have a certain footage away from adjoining properties and my place isn't big enough.

I was hoping for a place fairly close to home so I could visit often, not only so I could manage my hives but also because I wanted to observe the bees as part of my research for my book. This created a little bit of a dilemma. If I had the hives at a friend's country place, then I'd be there most weekends, just hanging around with a camera or my water colours or sitting on a lawn chair making notes. I knew that I'd wear out my welcome really quickly and I didn't want that to happen.

I live in southern Ontario which is the corn growing area - all the ethanol now going into gas is mostly grown in this area. The problem with corn is that it gets sprayed a lot and bees don't normally forage in corn but they do drink the water droplets that collect in it. So I didn't want my hives on a farm with lots of corn crops. (I'd be at work too, so if the sprayer was doing his work and my hives were close by it'd be complicated to get out there to cover the hives).

I'd read in newsgroups and books enough about hives to conclude that hives would probably be safer in a neighbourhood than in the country but I couldn't think of a place in the city that would work.

Then my Mom reminded me of 50 acres of swamp land that my grandfather gave to his nephew.

Years ago my grandfather would come to his swamp for cedars. The cedars would be cut to make fence posts on the farm.

Now with modern farming fence posts of cedar aren't used any more.

That swamp land was still in the family and just sitting there. I called my cousin and he readily agreed to let me keep bees there.

There's about 200 acres of swamp there, 40 of it belonging to my cousin. We made arrangements to meet there to see if we could find some suitable high ground.

So we planned a drive out there on Saturday to have a look. I was told it wasn't so swampy the last few years so we could walk on it with boots on.

I was concerned about water levels once the hives were set up so I made plans in my mind for some kind of platform (maybe made out of skids) to raise the hives up off the ground.

There was a laneway adjoining my cousin's section of swamp and the other person's which gave us easy and dry access.
We walked quite a ways in looking for high ground.
It has been a very wet spring with lots of flooding. The swamp was very wet and full of water.
My cousin said that normally it was dry enough to walk on. I was glad in a way to see it at it's worst. That way I'd know how high the water could come up.

We did find some high ground farther back the lane that would work. There was great sunshine from the southeast and the ground was flat enough for a few hives. The only downside will be how far back it is from the road. But I'll try it out and we'll see.
(Photo - Mom, Dad and my cousin Ross - this is the spot we chose for the hives).

So after our trip I went home and then asked my sister to take me to the hospital.
You see, the day before (Fri) I'd fallen down the stairs at work. I landed really hard on my knees and palms, nearly doing a face plant. But my right arm took the toll to save my face. I broke it--at least by midday on the second day it was still pretty painful and I had to consider that it might be more than a sprain. A couple hours later and some x-rays and it was confirmed to be a broken radio head (w broken elbow). So I type this with my left hand. I'm right handed so this is bothersome. I am somewhat left handed too and I expect I will become a lot more so over the next while.

The doctor said it's a messy break and I might need surgery. I will wait to hear from a specialist next week.

That photo is me wearing my bee shirt. The strap is my sling - no cast yet. I've opted not to show my scowling face.

I can't (won't) begin to express my frustration over this major inconvenience except to say I regret losing my arm to save my face~!
(that's not really true because I could have broken all my teeth but a frustration nonetheless because I've got big plans underway!)

Friday, April 24, 2009

OBA Tech Team - Latest Research & Recommendations

OBA Tech Team Hive Management Recommendations

Allison Skinner from the Ontario Bee Association's Tech Team spoke at our local bee meeting on 23 April 2009.

My notes from the meeting are transcribed below. As always, bear in mind they may not be 100% accurate. Any errors or omissions are my fault and not the speaker's.

Allison worked in California again this winter with beekeepers working in the Almond industry.

She mentioned she met on queen breeder - a small queen breeder - who breeds only 11,000 queens a year.

There are different ways to make hive splits:

1. Walkaway Split - you walk away from a queenless hive and let the bees make their own queen.

2. Queen Cell - you purchase a queen cell and implant it into the hive to hatch out in a short period of time.

3. Mated Queen - You purchase a mated queen which you insert in a queen cage into the hive and wait for her to be released/accepted by the hive.

Positives & Negatives:

With option #1, the walkaway, it is free so there's no cost. On the downside, you have no idea of the queen's genetics (hygienic or not) nor the genetics of any drones she mates with.

With option #2, you don't have to spend too much money for the queen. On the upside, you will know the genetics of this queen but on the downside, you won't know the genetics of any males she mates with.

With option #3 a mated queen, on the upside, the genetics of the queen and drones is known.

The Tech Team did a study that focused on 10 colonies each. They focused on honey production, not pollen. They studied queen acceptance, supersedure, brood quality (I missed a couple points here).

In June, they divided up all the frames in the bee yard and monitored for Varroa Mites. They created sequential splits. They created the walkaway hive first, giving them an advantage of being first. Then 10 days later they added a queen cell to a hive and after that a mated queen.

They tagged all the queens and clipped their wings so they could track them.

They checked the hives in July:

Option #1 - In the walkaway split, the queens were accepted in 9 out of 10 hives

Option #2 - With the inserted queen cells, 6 of 10 hives had queens

Option #3 - Mated queens were laying eggs in all 10 hives

They checked again in August:

1 colony was queenless from the walkway split (option #1)

1 hive from the queen cell hives (option #2) had a drone layer

10 of the 10 mated queens were present and laying eggs

If you are planning on inserting a mated Russian queen into a hive, with non-Russian bee stocks there can be acceptance problems. It is recommended that you wait 5 to 7 days before introducing a Russian queen.

They studied colony strength:

The lowest strength hive was the queen cell group (option #2). It was a poor honey year for all the groups. They looked at the number of empty brood cells in a 23m2 space. They used a square cut-out as a template, laying it over the comb and counting the number of cells with brood inside the template.

They found that Varroa Mites were less with the mated queen; however, Varroa Mites as a whole were low.

They noted all stings - the only bee stings received were from the walkaway hive with the queen that the bees made themselves.

There was a study done by Manitoba on queen comparisons, considering variables. The results of the study will be published later this year. Two components reported on were the length of the queen's abdomen and sperm counts.

They looked at queens raised at different times of the year and they found there was a positive correlation with the larger abdomen. They found abdomens from 10 milliliters to 10.7 milliliters.

Sperm counts were positively correlated by the sample dates of when the queens were raised. Queens raised later in the year (June) had the higher sperm, counts. Therefore it was concluded that it is better to get a queen in June even though it's preferred to have queens in April or May.

Update on Nosema:

Nosema apis often has dysentery marks showing on the outside of the hive. Often the spores are on the top bars of the hive.

If submitted bees for sampling of Nosema apis or Nosema ceranae, be sure to collect older bees who are returning to the hive and not the young bees inside.

To see the spores they crush a bee's abdomen in 1 ml of water and then view under a microscope. They can't tell the types of Nosema apart under a microscope and must still do DNA testing to be able to tell the difference between the two.

Nosema ceranae was first noticed the fall of 2006 and spring of 2007. 24 of 25 hives tested were found to have Nosema ceranae so it is presumed to be fairly widespread.

It is recommended to treat hives with Fumigilin B and to reduce the stress on bees by controlling Varroa Mites and ensuring the bees receive proper nutrition.

In the spring of 2008 the Tech Team focused on Nosema. They looked at 67 bee operations in Ontario, most from the Niagara area. In 2008, Ontario reported bee colony losses of 33%. The average spore count per bee in 2007 was 5,571806 and in 2008 4,748440. The tolerance threshold of spores per bee is 1 million spores.

They had many enquiries about what to do with weak colonies in the spring. They looked into this by doing a study of the health of queens in weak colonies. They tested the health of 16 queens from weak hives. Of the 16, only 5 queens did not have Nosema. 1 had over 2 million spores. Nosema does lead to queen infertility. It is better to requeen. The queen usually catches Nosema from the workers.

2009 recommendations are that a spring inspection be conducted and the hives be monitored to see if treatment is required.

It is recommended that frames in hives not be continually rotated. Instead, rotate out of the hive and replace with fresh frames and foundation 3 frames per year per colony.

A question was raised regarding replacing the hive body, however there is no research at this time to suggest that is necessary.

Treat the hive with Fumigilin B mixed up in sugar water and put in a plastic baggie. The baggie is given two 5" slits and then placed directly on top of the hive bars. A spacer sites on top of the hive and then the inner cover, and outer cover on top. The bees will eat the syrup in about 2 or 3 days.

In Sept/Oct when treating with Fumigilin B be sure the bees take all the feed before the cold weather sets in.

Spring feeding with Fumigilin B could be important because there tends to be a build-up of Nosema in the spring.

Fumigilin B stays active for a while but it breaks down in light and should be stored in a dark container. There has been some questions raised about Fumigilin B - does it settle at the bottom after being mixed in sugar water as in barrel feeding? They are starting to look at spring feeding instead.

Breeding for Tolerance:

Blanket treatments and over treating without sampling makes it worse. Bees should be bred from colonies with low Nosema spore counts.

They no longer think that IAPV (Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus) is a direct cause of CCD. It was noted that IAPV was always found along with the Kasmir Bee Virus, but never on its own. Some sampled hives did have just Kasmir Bee Virus alone.

Hygienic bees remove brood from cells that are infected with Nosema.

The Tech Team has worked with Bill Ferguson from Ferguson Apiaries on stock selection and a hygienic breeding program.

Marla Spivak's thesis student from the University of Minnesota did experiments where she isolated chalkbrood in paraffin wax and then impregnated frames of comb with this brood. They also used a chalkbrood violate pheromone.

They also inserted a brood pheromone in the same frames and recorded where each were put. They observed whether nurse bees removed the paraffin chalkbrood to cleanse or whether they capped the cells.

A project that the Tech Team would like to do if there were enough funds would be to study Residues in Wax or Honey.

The Tech Team will be completing the provincial study this year. Beekeepers at the meeting were requested to complete a survey for the Tech Team.

Also, at the cost of $150 they could have their wax tested.

Allison is married now and has a new last name... but I wasn't fast enough to catch it!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Honey Bees - Small Brains, Smart Minds

Honey Bees - Small Brains, Smart Minds
Visual Perception & Cognition Seminar

Shaowu Zhang Senior Fellow, Vision Sciences Group, Research School of Biological Sciences Australian National UniversityCanberra, Australia. Chief InvestigatorAustralian Research CouncilCentre of Excellence in Vision Science

University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario
7 April 2009

I attended this seminar a couple weeks ago and again did my best to take accurate notes. This topic was new to me so I tried to keep up. Any errors or omissions are mine and not the speaker's.

The bee's brain is small but bees, like humans, have trichromatic colour vision, motion sensitive vision, and spatial vision. We have discovered that bees are capable of abstracting features of patterns, have visual illusions, and top-down processing. They are able to use symbolic rules for navigating and even form concepts such as sameness and difference. This talk will review some of our recent findings on visual perception and cognition in honeybees.

Honey bees travel about 100 kms per day while foraging. This represents 40 trips x 2 to 3 kms per trip.

For the study they put radio frequency chips with .5 ml weight on the bees' thorax. They monitored traffic entering and exiting the hive. They captured and released these bees elsewhere in the city. For example, the middle of a lake, the other side of a mountain and they released them around the city.

They did return to the hive, an approximate 11 km trip.

Pattern Vision of Honey Bees

Orientation of visual objects bilateral - as an example they used a circle with 4 lines drawn, a circle with 3 lines and a dot, and a circle with half coloured in solid. The left drawn lines had 145 degrees orientation and the right drawn had 135 degrees orientation. They also altered the thicknesses of the lines drawn.

They discovered that bees can experience visual illusions the same as humans.

They created a white triangle by colouring in the corners of a circle in black - we see the white space as a triangle. The bees would see this triangle as well. They learn symmetry and asymmetry.

They worked with rewards and with no rewards using a circle with 4 symbols

Bees have cortical-like processing using directional motion cues.

When they used two circles, one with 5 random dots and one with 4 random dots they could not differentiate but when they used two circles with 7 dots and 6 dots in a structured pattern, the bees could differentiate between them.

The bees could be trained to distinguish the pattern differences very quickly (random vertical & horizontal stripes). They were shown the new pattern for 2 milliseconds duration - a very brief flash every 5 seconds.

Top down & bottom up (I think this referred to mental processing?)

Prior experience is involved in recognizing. The speaker used the example of a Beverly Doolittle painting of an Indian on a horse among the trees - the horse and trees are camouflaged. Bee's experience helps them in detecting and recognizing a camouflaged pattern. It took them 3 days to learn the 2 patterns.

They did pre-training with solid circles showing contour - then used the same design but camouflaged.

Smells or visual objects are retrieval cues. A green colour mark on a maze entrance was used. They learned to follow the colour mark throughout the maze to find the reward.

Yellow is a good colour to use and blue is not so good. Colour as signposts was used to indicate where to turn, i.e., green turn left, blue turn right.
Colour as an indicator to instruct bees to choose scents. The colour blue was used to indicate the lemon scent and the colour yellow was used for the mango scent.

Associative grouping & recall stimuli

Learning the concept of same and different

Categorization of natural visual objects - 4 types of visual patterns were used - a start shaped flower, a circular flower, etc., either a flower pattern or a solid circle. They had two differently scented feeders. They blew scent from the feeders into the hive.

Bees have circadian timed episodic-like memory. Bees can reverse their preference for a visual pattern with the time of day/with the task. There were two entrances to the hive.

Symbolic dancing and visual odometer - a 529 millisecond waggle = flight for 230 meters and a 411 millisecond waggle = 184 metre flight.

How Recruits Responded to the Dance:

Asiatic bees can communicate with European bees. The bees have a different dialect and a different distance dialect. (400meters, 500meters and 600meters).

The bees followed each other's dancing information - using both pure and mixed colonies. The vast majority of recruits found the pollen source at 500 meters.

Honeybees Can Count:

They can distinguish between two squares, one with 3 solid dots and one circle and a box with 2 solid dots and one circle (two versus 3 task).

They can count up to 4. They can use prior knowledge. The bee could not do more than 4.

They can form concepts and categorize visual stimuli.

Bees dropped 11 km away from the hive use sky information - polarization light, celestial cues and visual cues (such as a mountain). When released they don't fly back right away. When they see something familiar such as a landmark that they remember it helps them.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ontario Bee Association Annual General Meeting - Dec 2008

I attended the Ontario Beekeeper's Association Annual General Meeting which was held 11 & 12 December 2008, in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

(Photos courtesy of Mark Lauterbach)

Again, I took notes from most of the speakers and I've transcribed them below. As always, please bear in mind they won't be 100% accurate - it's hard to write fast enough to keep up with a speaker and actively listening for 2 days can be a challenge. Also, I regret that I didn't write down all the speaker's names so I've done my best to add that in after the fact, hoping I've kept it all straight.

International Honey Market
Elise Gagnon, Odem International Inc

Canadian honey exports are going up. Imports are going down.

Canada supplies 9% honey to USA.

“Mysterious” 9% honey packers' blend or malt sweetener, Other 10%, Vietnam 10%

Imported honey to USA
2008 38 million lbs
2007 31 million lbs
2006 26 million lbs
2005 28 million lbs
2004 22 million lbs

China replaced by India, Vietnam and Malaysia

400 million lbs a year

Exchange rate - To maintain strong prices in Canada we need a strong dollar

Stop flood of mysterious honey in USA which is driving the price down. Mysterious honey is honey dumped by China through other countries.
Stats showing numbers of imports come from Customs Canada

Is an effort to create a standard of identity for honey (funny honey) in the USA.

Mysterious honey doesn’t pass Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) testing.

If they find an issue with “malt sweetener” – then it finds another label. Canadian standards are tougher for tests.

Trying to get a legal definition of what is honey. You can’t take someone to court without a legal definition. Canada does have a definition. USA does not.

Drum standards – comparison (is an issue). Using used drums to pack food – only permitted with honey. China uses new drums with a liner – used drums conditioned.

38 million import to USA – mysterious honey could possibly be hold back honey.

Totes – plastic cube that holds 3 thousand pounds – works well on pallets.

Nosema ceranae Research in Spain
Dr. Mariano Higes, Centro Apicola Regional, Guadaljara, Spain

Nosema ceranae spores are mature in 3 days. Lesions on epidermal layer. Intracellular germination.

How is it transmitted? Not by feces.

Pollen infected with spores (from commercial operations or foraging bees).

3, 7 and 21 days after infection. Twenty-one days later all bees are dead.

Predators – birds and dragon flies, etc., that eat bees. Showed Nosema ceranae infection in their cuticles. Spores in cuticles – used to infect – they were viable and killed the bees.

How long were spores viable? 18 days in the sun and spores were still viable.

Birds regurgitate hard cuticle of bees – still contained lots of spores. Birds are spreading, also feces, but not spores in feces.

Different parts of the hive spreading the disease as well.

Observing naturally infected hives, 1.5 years later the hives were depopulated.

Dec to Feb (cold months in Spain) without brood (like Canada) before crash was a spike or “boom” lots of bees and brood. June to Oct/Nov, they lost population.

Spring infection – winter – brood – 1 year the hive collapses.

Spore counts per bee interior bees, foraging bees

High from August to March – then a huge drop – then a spike again before collapse.

More brood, 4 phases in infection – first being infection; second – infection growing, third a drop in population and fourth a spike in population and then a crash.

Trend observed – 1 year or so – recover and population increases; then in a few months there is a collapse. 133 bees left in crashed hive and all were infected. Forager bees dead away from the hive.

Lavender fields – found the dead bees in the crops.

Queen tries to re-populate the hive prior to the final collapse – lots of brood comb. Gives the impression of a healthy colony.

Hives with no Nosema ceranae were close by, within 4 months all tested positive for Nosema ceranae.

Fourth phase – diagnose. By that time it’s too late to do anything – it cannot be saved.

For testing, recommend taking foragers at noon. Important to sample at noon, otherwise results are irregular.

Better results with colony treated with Fumigilin B twice a year (spring and fall).

Recommend two treatments in Spain. One preventative and the other curative.

Tested on all types treated/untreated infected and non-infected.

One year later, treated colonies infected – initial infectious stage again without collapse.

Positive for Nosema ceranae at start and left untreated, most were dead or in the last stages of infection one year later.

New colony healthy beside the infected colonies 1 group treated other not treated – untreated were dead; treated – evolved as normal colonies. Treated positive too.

Another experiment on 17 colonies treated according to recommendations, applied product in syrup, dry sugar patty, moistened sugar into paste and let dry. Diluted and used less dosage than recommended (1/4 litre of syrup).

You need to treat – don’t give so much volume that they can’t consume it.

Hives & survival in colonies treated with less after 6 months – colonies reinfected again – treatment doesn’t prevent disease. Treatment helps avoid losses.

120 mg/colony.

Tested Fumigilin – water – no alkaline, no hard water, mineral or distilled water. 1.5 g in 250 ml Syrup fresh (no more than 30 days old). Candy – effects of light & temperature. 4 degrees Celsius is better, brown vials.

April spring samples ½ infected; June – no Fumigilin residue in samples from supers. It controls but does not prevent reinfection.

Too many other factors involved in collapse.

Noseme ceranae in Bumble bees from Argentina.

Potential for Nosema ceranae Control & Fumigilin Residue Risks
Dr. Steve PernalAAFC, Beaverlodge, Alberta

Nosema is a parasitic fungi – a highly derived fungus endo spore.

Mid gut triggers uncoiling of the spore and it harpoons itself inside the bee and reproduces.

Intracellular replication through fecal/oral infection. Nosema ceranae is easily passed. Older workers are more infected.

Can’t see effects until they are severe. Cut can’t absorb nutrients.

Nosema apis is the crawling; Nosema ceranae is different.

The queens become infected/acceptance.

Winter mortality increases.

Nosema ceranae is a dry form of dysentery, crawling is a common scene. As the disease builds over winter it ramps up to early spring and peaks in late spring.

Queen’s attendants generally aren’t infected.

Need PCR (Poliminary Chain Reaction) analysis to tell the difference between Nosema apis and Nosema ceranae.

Four agents: Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus, Kasmir Bee Virus, Nosema apis, Nosema ceranae

Timing of Treatments – fresh foundation with no other treatment is very effective. Replace frames with fresh foundation.

Fall marginal – no benefit doubling dose. Spring holds promise.

Barrel feeding – application – hive top feeder in fall is difficult.

Package bee experiment. Dust, patty, syrup. New Zealand bees they infected – treated and non-treated. Data is still being analyzed. Sampled honey as well for residue. Data not ready yet.

Subsequent samples showed other species showed. Original infected with just Nosema ceranae.

Spores drop as summer starts. Mortality 21 days most died in treatments.

2 litres sugar water per baggie; 4 litres 2 bags side by side

Queens infected by fall – must re-queen in spring.

Nosema canae infection in the US population of Apis mellifera
Dr. Judy Chen, USDA, Beltsville, Maryland, USA

Nosema ceranae in samples taken a decade ago so it’s not a new emerging disease. Nosema ceranae has a small lump of coils, prolific reproduction in the host, being present in tissue samples – royal jelly, gland, salivary, alimentary, zero in muscle and body fat.

It is spread through horizontal and vertical transmission.

Royal jelly is a carrying vehicle for horizontal transmission of Nosema ceranae.

Crawling, dysentery and milky gut are symptoms of Nosema apis, not Nosema ceranae.

Genetic variation between two species of Nosema. One sequence different in Nosema ceranae than Nosema apis. Nosema ceranae has two extra loops. Nosema ceranae more closely relates to the parasite of wasps.

Nosema ceranae is taking over and becoming dominant infection in North America.

Sequencing of Nosema ceranae is underway and will be finished next year.

Genome information of Nosema ceranae will provide important information on why. Enhance our understanding of evolutionary study of this parasite.

Open Question Period/Government Reports:

Fluvinate(spelling?) & Cloucomous(spelling?) – widespread resistance.

Oxalic Acid – allowed under approved conditions.

Formic Acid – 65% is being reassessed (last assessed 15 years ago). Timeline is 2009.

Amitraz – not used after April 2009.

Unregistered: Flumerthrin , Thymol

Neonictinoids – Germain bees in Rhyne, German corn seed, ban lifted. Clothianith was found to be the problem. Improperly treated seed, weather and drifting.

Believe is not consistent with CCD.

Pesticides incidents reporting – mandatory reporting of pest companies weather accidental or not. Repeated effects – evaluate

Importation Committee – make recommendations. Imported queens from Hawaii. No restriction on New Zealand or exports from Hawaii. Health certificate for queens from USA. Extended from 45 days to 90 days.
CFIA takes action non illegal imports.

Two 15 day inspections back to back.

Queens from Argentina, CFIA refused them because they don’t have active surveillence in that country and they have AFB. Argentina is contesting.

Request update from USA on Africanized bees.
How many permits to import queens? 52
Denmark – Buckfast bees
New Zealand

Alberta 18
BC 8
Saskatchewan 8
Ontario 5
Manitoba 8

Honey Issues

Chemical residue testing, etc., pesticide, veterinary residues – only looking at certain compounds of interest

Domestic honey – TYSOSIN 40 positive but below WRL

Imported product random sampling. China Switzerland – sourced from elsewhere. Italy – no other Italian Imports. Others were all within WRL.

China – product returned.

Lead in Honey

Last year were getting positives higher than expected. Procedures to deal with eliminating lead equipment. Not certain if it is the source but it is good practice. Replace extractors with lead in them.

Bulk Container Standards

Honey Regulations – expanded to cover flavoured honey

Labeling – Canada #1 to certain types of honey.

Importers apply for license every 2 years – They must have Recall, Sanitation, Pest Control programs

Been working on honey regulations since 2006.

Labeling guidelines – food safety concerns “Product of Canada” 51% Canadian. Canadians want to know and support Canadian economy. Government survey. 98% Canadian is the change. 2% vitamins and food additives. Change coming into place 31 December 2008 – it is a guideline NOT legislation. Will change how other products with honey are labeled. Made in Canada, Canadian Cheese, Italian pepperoni pizza – new product made in Canada but have to qualify country of origin. – mandated size, bigger container, bigger statement. Fair labeling group works to help identify terms to use, i.e., raw and pasteurized. Pasteurized is for appearance, not flavour, etc.

Honey Stats: It is felt that CFIA is on top of imports and that China isn’t “sliding” mysterious honey in under other means.

Update on Honey Bee Health in America
Dennis van Engelsdorp, Pennsylvania Dept of Agriculture, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA

3 Treatments for Varroa Mites

10,000 bees in April, peak in June/July

Biotechnics – queen selection
Organic Lactic Formic Oxalic Acids
Essential Oils

Fall treatment for spring build up – thymol, oxylic acid.

- 36% losses in 2008
- Going out of business – who would run a business with those kinds of issues?

Migratory/Stationary losses are the same. No evidence migratory is more.

Number one answer for losses is poor queens, starvation, Varroa Mites and CCD.

Clear symptoms CCD: absence of bees, no dead bees. Most don’t have CCD.

Rapid decline bees present are young, queen is there, no robbing, insufficient brood to cover.

If not taking feed – it’s a sign there’s a problem, i.e., not robbing a frame put out.

Mapped apiary in California (tracks & trucks of apiaries) – common exposure.

Bees from CCD were 16 times more likely to contain food pellets. Stippling in bee’s kidney’s 7.5 times more.

Tubal balls in malpighian which they feel are organisms and are figuring out what they are.

Some genes are different (4) in CCD and non CCD bees.

Nitrogen in bees –not find nutrition difference.

150 different tests and look at difference between CCD and non CCD.

Control group had higher bee to brood ratio.

Pesticides higher in commercial and insecticide esfenvalerate (?spelling).


Queen not coumaphous(?spelling) resistant could be a factor.

Control colonies higher Varroa Mites.

CCD Deformed Wing Virus, Kasmir Bee Virus higher

Iprodine levels in wax, not all findings are bad. Had a positive beneficial effect.

Increased ABPV
Decreated CBPV
Increased protein mass ratio in worker bees

New queen on new and dead-out frames. Dead-out frames didn’t live as long. Something instrinsically wrong with comb.

Radiation – acetic acid.

Colonies alive at end of study.

Pathogen involved. By January all hives were same (spread). Radiation does work.

Package Bees

American bee has developed better resistance to bees and Australian queens. Australian queens are not that great. Chalkbrood bad from Australian packages – 75%. It is recommended to buy local queens.

Don’t think Nosema ceranae is causing CCD. Colony mortality 7% queen failure, 39% Nosema, 15% Varroa Mites.

Tombed Pollen

New condition. Capped pollen with thick layer of wax (brick red). 43% dead by fall. 3.1 risk. Pollen under black light did not flourescse (which it usually does). Pollen degrading and absorbing coumaohous(?spelling) and triggering failure. Are working on.

Queens supersedure was lower in acidic acid treated hives.

Stacking 4 brood with empty on top 1.5 80% acidic acid and seal. Must be 25 degrees Celcius to be effective and it takes a week.

Does radiated comb become reinfested more quickly than non (killing good bacteria?) They did live shorter colony survivorship.

Propolis triggers immune gene in bees which protects them.

Residues – over 250 products screen for – clomyothin (?spelling).

Virus Research in Manitoba
Dr. Rob Currie, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Honey bee tolerance to Varroa Mites.

Can’t really tell what’s going on inside the hive with all the viruses.

Rescue treatments.
Wintering indoors is better for weak colonies.

Local queens 75% success unselected.

Most of the viruses are single strand.

IAPV – Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus
BQCV – Black Queen Cell Virus
CBPV – Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus

Viruses associated with CCD. Two in particular associated were Nosema apis and Nosema ceranae. IAPV and KBV were top w, not a cause but an indicator.

Study 7 honey bee viruses – 22 colonies in the study.

PCRPoliminary Chain Reaction – 7 found: IAPV, KBV, CBPV, BQCV, DWV (Deformed Wing Virus), SBV, ABPV

2 on colony 1: BQCV and DWV
4 on colony 2: IAPV, KBV, BQCV, DWV

Simaltaneous viruses

BQCV 81%
DWV 77%
IAPV 54%
CBPV 40%
Sac Brood 9%
KBV 9%

DWV and BQCV most common. IAPV colonies did not die. Mixed viruses were very common. Have sequenced genome for Deformed Wing Virus (DWV).

Develop a drug to interfere with receptor levels in honey bee cells.

Interfere with replication RNA interference. Dicer enzyme chews molecule.

Working to find a way to design a drug that will interfere with replication.

Have double stranded RNQ molecules and are ready to put in bees – will develop antibodies as well. Are getting ready to do this.

Possibly in a pollen substitute – cannot inject into every bee.

Winter indoors if you can.

Honey bee healthy results testing to be released next year (2009).

Honey Bee Viruses & Viral Disease Research in America
Dr. Judy Chen, USDA, Betsville, Maryland, USA

Must reproduce inside a host – they cannot move or grow otherwise. They have a high mutation rate. Master sequence surrounded by a mutant sequence.

DWV in oriental hornets and in bumble bees.

Transmission and chain of infection.

Horizontal Transmission:

Horizontal transmission of infection– individual of same generation by direct or indirect routes such as Colony Foods – Pollen, Nectar, etc.

Six viruses found: ABPV, BQCV, CBPV, DWV, KBV, SBV

Detected Black Queen Cell Virus (BQCV) and Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) viruses in tissue of queens and in queen feces too.

It’s in food, digestive tract, feces – food and bone.

Venereal infection (semen) in mating. Suggestion of viral transmission.

Varroa Miets first detected in Wisconsin and Florida.

Kasmir Bee Virus (KBV) most virulent motality within 3 days. No sign of the disease.

The more mites introduced to a cell the greater the KBV. Percentage of KBV positive mites increased significantly as more mites were introduced into a cell.

Vertical Transmission:

Transovum – Mom to tot. Transvarian – in the egg transmission.

90% of queens contained multiple viruses. IAPV virus in eggs. DWV, BQCV & SBV in queen’s ovaries in non-replicate stage.

If queen had all 6 viruses – found viruses in all offspring: Egg, Larvae, Pupa and Bee.

Both vertical and horizontal infection and tranmission.

Gamma Irradiation to treat hives.

There is no chemotherapy to treat viruses.

Proteomics is the study of all genes and proteins. It’s the proteins that do all the work.

AFB – 1 dead larvae = 9 billion spores.

AFB – narrow window of infection. First 2 days after hatching.

Family of proteins called Chaperons Energy store proteins.

Immune system. 3 Tissues: Look at antennae, mid gut and hymolyph (blood)

Chemical Residues, Declining Honey Bee Health & CCD
Maryann Fraizer, Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA

All pollinators are in decline. Specialized pollinators and plants were both in decline.

31% 2007 USDA
2008 36%
Honey bee exposure to pesticides. Bees visit crops like corn which they’re not typicall at. Our chemo treatments kill bills.

Screened for 171 pesticides in wax, bee bread, pollen, bees, larvae, etc.

669 samples: orchards, migratory, beekeepers, CCD study

108 different pesticides were found. Six typically per pollen sample.
Did find 31 from 1 particular colony.

73 different pesticides and 9 other metabolites (breakdown products of pesticides which are often more toxic).

Every class was found. 20 fumgicides, 12 herbicides, 2 araaricains, 1 synergist, 1 misc.

14 are systemic – is translocated by plant. Neonectinoids translocating through tissue.

7 neonnectinoids on the market today found at lower frequency.

Found everything imaginable out there in and in combination.

In pollen: Flav & Coum (bee bread) and agricultural chemicals. Found Flav & Coumanin in trapped pollen.

Wax cuticle – comb samples only one didn’t have coum & fluv. It looks like bees contaminated and adding fluv and coum to pollen.

USDA has not found pesticide in honey beyond tolerable levels.

Wax, pollen, foundation, brood food – toxic effect – what impact are they having? Is an important piece of the puzzle. Have not correlated to CCD – have not found.

Pesticides added together create a synergistic effect which is more toxic.

Behaviour effects immune system, longevity.

Created a lot of base line data with controls.

Actute toxicity bioactivity.

Learning with honey bees is contrical – test with learning and memory more info to be available next year (2009).

Carryover of pesticides in a corn field (year before) and pumpkins/hay following year. Pollen and flower samples and analyzed.
There was a slight reducation in longevity. Is there truly no difference, should we have studied more? Were all bees equally exposed?

Homeowner product labels do not have adequate warnings about pollinator toxicity in contrast to agricultural. Voiced with EPA. Use of products of same active ingredients. People are becoming very active. $300,000 donated from Haagen-Daaz in 2008.

Comb honey/ pollen – may not be wise to eat

Did find pesticides in cappings of wax.

Does irradiation kill or degrade pesticides? Saw some reduction but not enough to be truly helpful. Ran pollen bee bread last week. The results are still pending.

Fungicides need to be treated as insecticides for their effect on bees. Fungicides are sprayed in blueberries and orchards while bees are on them.

Historically wax reveals pesticides used at that time, i.e., pre Varroa Mites tehre was no ful and coum in wax.

FYI - the 2009 Recommendations for Disease Control are posted on the OBA website at:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ontario Bee Association Summer Meeting (July 2008)

In July 2008, I took the Greyhound bus--a 5 hour trip--to Orillia (north of Toronto) in order to attend the Ontario Beekeeper Association's Summer Meeting.

They had speakers booked to talk about the latest information gathered about the problems honey bees were having and potential solutions.

The following is directly from my notes taken at the meeting. I have done my best to be accurate in recording but I must warn you that my notes may not be 100% accurate. Therefore any errors or omissions are my own and not the speakers’.

OBA Summer Beekeepers’ Meeting 12 July 2008

(photos courtesy of Mark Lauterbach)

Mortality Causes of Over-wintered Honey Bee Colonies in Ontario
Ernesto Guzman, Professor of Entomology at the University of Guelph

Winter losses of honey bees in 2007 were reported at 37%. This is three times more than the expected rate of approximately 12%.

This represents 28,000 dead colonies and 3,300 lbs of honey lost, thousands of tons of crops not pollinated, representing approximately 50 million in losses.

Causes for the losses are attributed to Parasitic mites, viruses, IAPV (Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus) in particular, microsporidians, internal parasites Nosema apis and Nosema cerane, stress, malnutrition, and pesticides to control diseases (which are absorbed in the wax) and climate change. Losses are also attributed to inadequate management practices in the fall which is a critical time to treat hives. Colonies that are weak in the fall do not survive the winter.

The OMAFRA funded the Ontario Bee Association and the University of Guelph with dollars for research. They purchased lab equipment and conducted a study of colony mortality

184 beekeepers participated in their study, representing 27,669 colonies of bees. Of those in the study 9.081 colonies died, equaling a 32.8% mortality rate.

They monitored 413 colonies in the province of Ontario last fall (2007) and weighed hives, examined reserves and the number of frames per hive covered in bees and workers were sampled for levels of mites.

Of these 413 samples in the fall of 2007, 27% were dead in the spring of 2008. They found there were mites on adult bees.
(photo - Varroa Mites)

There is a natural decline of Varroa Mites in the spring because colonies had no brood being raised where the Varroa mite breeds.

In studying samples of bees, they found up to 3 million Nosema spores in bees in the spring. This level has proven to be the maximum tolerable amount and these hives died.

Tracheal Mites – 5% in the fall which increased to 7% in the spring.

Hives that weighed 33 kilos in the fall died in the spring. Hives that weighed 35 kilos in the fall were still alive in spring.

Hives with only 6 frames covered in bees in the fall did not survive to spring. Hives with 8 or more frames covered in bees in the fall were still alive in the spring. 8 is the magic number. To over-winter, beekeepers need to have 8+ frames with bees.

You must treat for Varroa Mites if greater than 3%.

Treat in the fall and spring, fumigate equipment and combs with acidic acid. (The Nosema spores in the combs are causing infection in the nurse bees).

How much chemicals remain in the wax is unknown and how much it is affecting bees is unknown. There are Penn State studies underway on this. Honey is hydrophilic – so chemicals would tend to be more in honey than wax (this would be the honey the bees eat in the deeps since chemicals are not used on hives when honey supers are on the hives).

It takes 5 micrograms to kill a bee with nicotinoid.

Beekeepers should be sure to monitor after treatment of mites to see if the treatment was effective.

One third of the bees in Ontario died in 2007/2008 which was similar to the year before.

Horizontal & Vertical Transmission of RNA Viruses
Dr. Yanping (Judy) Chen from Beltsville, MD

There are 19 viruses that attack honey bees. There are RNA viruses such as hep A, polio, cold, foot and mouth disease – these are human RNA viruses.

There are two modes of transmission – Horizontal and Vertical. Horizontal transmission is food borne, through honey, pollen or feces. Horizontal transmission is through food, Varroa Mite vector and Mom to tot vertical transmission.

Six viruses have been detected in pollen: ABPV (900bp), BQCV (700), CBPV (455), DWV (702), KSV (417), SBV (2??)

The digestive tract of the queen and feces were exampled. BQCV and DWV were found in queen feces.

Virus transmission when mating – venereal disease, VM vector to transmit viruses.

KBV most prevalent using Varroa Mites as a vector. Virus also transmitting mite to mite.

Virus on surface – bleach wash – detected ovarian transmission.

USA CCD in 2006/2007: Disappearances in hives resulted in 50% losses of colonies. There was an absence of adult bees, capped brood and stored food. The hives had been abandoned. The collapsing hives had a lowered work force to carry on the hive.

Suspects are poor nutrition, pesticides, pathogens, lack of genetic diversity, and parasites such as Varroa Mites.

A micodial study found a correlation of IAPV which had not been reported in the USA previously). This virus was introduced to the USA from Australian imports of bees to the USA. Bee samples in the USA 2002/2003 have found that IAPV has been in the USA for a while, before the Australian imports. IAPV has a different evoluntionary rate in USA than in Isreal.

Multiple viruses, yet there are no treatments for viruses.

The completion of the honey bee genome will contribute to finding solutions. There is a vaccination for viruses for humans but not for bees.

They are working on a study to see if mites are transmitting IAPV.

It is difficult to determine the difference between viruses when dealing with multi viruses.

Spring 2008 Nosema Survey:
Allison Skinner, Technology Transfer Specialist, OBA Teach Team

2006/2007 bee losses were 37% and in 2007/2008 they were 32%.

It was found that hive top feeders were much more efficient at distributing treatments to hives (increasing survival rates) than barrel feeding.

The Tech Team used a bee vacumm to collect older bees (field bees) and stored them in ethanol. They had 948 samples, did 67 operations covering 23 counties in Ontario. They counted Nosema spores. They crushed the samples and counted them with a microscope with a counting grid.

All the counties tested (Bruce, Dufferin, Elgin, Essex, Hamilton-Wentworth, Lambton, Middlesex, Niagara, Norfolk, Ottawa, Oxford and Wellington) were found to have Nosema cerane.

343 samples had Nosema cerane of the 948 collected, representing 36%. 231 samples were found to have more than 1 million spores per bee, representing 67% with over 1 million spores. The level of concern is 1 million spores.

529 colonies were barrel fed in 2007 - 0 to 40,350,000 spores
1,346,503 was the average spore count in spring samples. These bees were medicated and fed in the fall with fumigulin B.

How the fumigulin B is put in the barrel varied considerably between beekeepers. Hobby beekeepers (treated and fed) they had 64 samples that showed 0 to 3,775,000 spores. Non treated hived, 219 samples showed 1 to 30,550,000 spores.

Nosema Spore Counts:

Treatment Samples Spore Count
Barrel 529 40,350
Hive Top 64 3,775
Not Treated 219 30,550
Total 1,346,503

Average: 223,438
Spore Count 3,385,274

Barrel fed bees were also moved a lot.
Bee Yard Stats:
Weak 2,825,000 1,250,000
Average 2,325,000 1,395,000
Strong 7,275,000 3,890,000

It was noted that a strong bee yard was not necessarily disease free. They noted that if hive spore counts showed on YOUNG bees then the hive was about to crash.

Three barrel fed bee yards were examined:

1 Fall 2007/2008 Spring 1,250,000 spores
2 Fall 2007/2008 Spring 110,000 spores
3 Fall 2007 No Spring Treatment 2,100,000 spores

Fumigilin spring treatment is important and beekeepers need to monitor spore levels.

Barrel feeding issues: Sunlight degrades the medication, mixing – when to mix; the medication settles to the bottom; it degrades over time; the timing of the treatment.

Resistance management – DO NOT DOUBLE DOSE!

Hive top feeding is better for treatements and has been put into the provincial recommendations for beekeepers.

Nosema apis & Nosema ceranae Indicators
Dr. Yanping (Judy) Chen from Beltsville, MD –

Nosema is a silent killer.

Slow spring build up, disjointed wings, bloated belly, yellow steaks on hive, walking bees

It is a single cell parasite fungae microspirialia

The bees ingest spore matter through their food and water. They collected Nosema ceranae from many USA states. 16% infection of bees. Nosema ceranae is not new, it transferred from Asian honey bees to US honey bees.

The Nosema ceranae spore is smaller than the Nosema apis spore.

Polar filament coils 18 to 21 in Nosema ceranae. Nosema apis has 30.

Nosema ceranae was in all tissue of tested bees, except the muscles. Not much in the bee’s fat.

Nosema ceranae spores are extruded in feces and it was detected in their hypophynearl and salivary glands – so it is transmitted to the queen in feeding.

Nosema apis indicators are crawling and dysentery, and a milky coloured gut. These are not the indicators of Nosema ceranae.

Ribosomal RNA genome info – comparison between Nosema ceranae. and Nosema apis. Difference between the two spores is 92.7 – 2 extra roots in Nosema ceranae. Nosema ceranae and Nosema apis are not closely related. Nosema ceranae is closer to a wasp parasite. The host has jumped from the Asian bee to European bees.

They have sequenced the full genome of Nosema ceranae. It is noted that Nosema ceranae and Nosema apis compete for the same niche on their host.
(And my comment to finish: Let’s hope Nosema ceranae and Nosema apis kill each other off in the competition!)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Interesting Honey Bee Facts

Here's a list of Honey Bee Facts I've gleaned from all my reading:

(Photos courtesy of Mark Lauterbach, beekeeper).

* There are three kinds of bees in a hive: Queen, Worker and Drone.

* Only the Queen in the hive lays eggs. She communicates with her hive with her own special scent called pheromones. The queen will lay around 1,500 eggs per day.

* The worker bees are all female and they do all the work for the hive. Workers perform the following tasks inside the hive as a House Bee: Cleaning, feeding the baby bees, feeding and taking care of the queen, packing pollen and nectar into cells, capping cells, building and repairing honeycombs, fanning to cool the hive and guarding the hive.

* Workers perform the following tasks outside the hive as Field Bees: Gathering nectar and pollen from flowers, collecting water and a collecting a sticky substance called propolis.

* Bees have two stomachs - one stomach for eating and the other special stomach is for storing nectar collected from flowers or water so that they can carry it back to their hive.

* The male bees in the hive are called drones. Their job in the hive is to find a queen to mate with. Male bees fly out and meet in special drone congregation areas where they hope to meet a queen. Male drone bees don't have a stinger.

* If a worker bee uses her stinger, she will die.

* Bees are classified as insects and they have six legs.

* Bees have five eyes - two compound eyes and three tiny ocelli eyes.

* Bees go through four stages of development: Egg, Larvae, Pupae and Adult Bee.

* The bees use their honeycomb cells to raise their babies in, and to store nectar, honey, pollen and water.

* Nectar is a sweet watery substance that the bees gather. After they process the nectar in their stomach they regurgitate it into the honeycomb cells. Then they fan with their wings to remove excess moisture. The final result is honey.

* Bees are the only insect in the world that make food for humans.

* Honey has natural preservatives and bacteria can't grow in it.

* Honey was found in the tombs in Egypt and it was still edible! Bees have been here around 30 million years.

* A honeybee can fly 24 km in an hour at a speed of 15 mph. Its wings beat 200 times per second or 12,000 beats per minute.

* Bees have straw-like tongues called a proboscis so they can suck up liquids and also mandibles so they can chew.

* Bees carry pollen on their hind legs called a pollen basket. Pollen is a source of protein for the hive and is needed to feed to the baby bees to help them grow.

* A beehive in summer can have as many as 50,000 to 80,000 bees. A bee must collect nectar from about 2 million flowers to make 1 pound of honey. It requires 556 worker bees to gather a pound of honey. Bees fly more than once around the world to gather a pound of honey.

* The average worker bee makes about 1/12 th of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

* Bees have 2 pairs of wings. The wings have tiny teeth so they can lock together when the bee is flying. Bees communicate through chemical scents called pheromones and through special bee dances.

* Every 3rd mouthful of food is produced by bees pollinating crops. Flowering plants rely on bees for pollination so that they can produce fruit and seeds. Without bees pollinating these plants, there would not be very many fruits or vegetables to eat.

* A single beehive can make more than 100 pounds (45 kg) of extra honey. The beekeeper only harvests the extra honey made by the bees.

* The average life of a honey bee during the working season is about three to six weeks. There are five products that come from the hive: Honey, beeswax, pollen, propolis, and royal jelly.

* Beeswax is produced by the bees. Bees have special glands on their stomach that secrete the wax into little wax pockets on their stomach. The bee takes the wax and chews it with her mandibles and shapes it to make honeycomb.

* Propolis is a sticky substance that bees collect from the buds of trees. Bees use propolis to weatherproof their hive against drafts or in spots where rain might leak in.

* People have discovered the anti-bacterial properties of propolis for use in the medical field.

* Royal Jelly is a milky substance produced in a special gland in the worker bee's head. For her whole life the Queen is fed Royal Jelly by the workers.

* Although bears do like honey, they prefer to eat the bee larvae.

* Honey comes in different colours and flavours. The flower where the nectar was gathered from determines the flavour and colour of the honey.