Items of interest to beekeepers 19 March 2018

Supplied by Fran Bach Editor of both WAS and Washington State Beekeepers newsletters









FARMERS FOR MONARCHS – AND MILKWEED? Holly Spangler | Mar 16, 2018 A broad-based industry coalition launched a new monarch butterfly effort during the 2018 Commodity Classic: Farmers for Monarchs. The coalition includes farmers, conservation groups, agricultural corporations and others. “The monarch butterfly is an iconic species,” says Wayne Fredericks, an Osage, Iowa, farmer and American Soybean Association board member. “Today’s butterflies face threats including loss of habitat, parasites and declining winter habitat in Mexico. This is calls for action.” Fredericks adds that while monarchs are spectacular and beautiful, they’re also necessary as pollinators. “We need them to thrive as much as they need our help to do so,” he says, calling the new public-private sponsorship an effort to benefit biodiversity. The overall goal of Farmers for Monarchs is to create a complex patchwork of habitat across the entire migration route from Canada to Mexico. “That will require an amazing amount of cooperation among farmers, governments, city dwellers and more,” he adds. For farmers, that means embracing a long-held nemesis: milkweed. Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed, laying eggs on the underside of leaves. Every fall, monarchs migrate as far as 3,000 miles, from the Upper Midwest to Mexico, for the winter. In the spring, they return, laying eggs on milkweed plants along the migration route. Milkweed, as it turns out, is the only source of food they’ll eat. Farmers for milkweeds? Chris Novak, chief executive officer of the National Corn Growers Association, says he understands farmers’ reluctance to embrace milkweed. “When I was a kid, I hated pulling milkweeds the most, and we knew at the time it was a noxious weed. We watched the thousands of seeds that came from a milkweed pod,” Novak says. “At that point, we weren’t thinking about monarch butterflies!” But he says as science has improved, agriculture has taken a closer look at habitat for wildlife and recognized that people need to take steps to help. Currently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering a petition to list the monarch as a threatened or endangered species, and plans to deliver a decision in June 2019. “The farmers I work with are independent folks, and if they can get to the point where they don’t have government regulations coming down on them, they certainly prefer that,” Novak says. He calls monarch habitat protection a “new part of the system farmers have to manage.” He and the rest of the Farmers for Monarchs coalition want to encourage farmers to take areas that aren’t part of productive working lands — fencerows, ditches, pivot corners — and plant habitats there. “That’s at the heart of this effort,” Novak explains. “What we do first and foremost voluntarily gives us an opportunity to experiment and find what works best.” If voluntary actions aren’t adequate, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife does list monarchs as endangered, farmers will be prepared and will have identified tools and pathways they can use. “We believe we can help shape rules and regulations,” he says. “We want to be a part of the debate in shaping any regulations that may be necessary down the road.” Fredericks says awareness is the key today. He planted pollinator plots on his farm in 2014, when he began generating profitability maps on his operation. When he discovered parts of fields that were very seldom profitable, or nooks and crannies that didn’t fit well, he enrolled them in the Conservation Reserve Program and chose to put pollinator habitats on them. “That was our first introduction to a cooperative program via the federal government that improved the profitability of our farm and improved habitat,” Fredericks says. Plus, it adds beauty to the farm. Partners in Farmers for Monarchs include: American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, BASF, Bayer, The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund, Dow AgroSciences/DuPont/Pioneer, Monarch Watch, Monsanto, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, Saint Louis Zoo, Sand County Foundation and Syngenta. —– NEWS FROM THE ALMOND ORCHARDS Joe Traynor Most Bees Released – Unless we’ve told you differently, your bees have been released from almond orchards. There are still several growers that haven’t released their bees as of this date; all of them have the later-blooming hardshell varieties. Some of these late-release orchards are adjacent to orchards with identical remaining bloom (petals, actually) where we have already removed the bees because no pollen remained in the orchard. Most growers are aware, and we’ve tried to convince them, that once the bees have collected the almond pollen from his orchard, the pollination game is over. Almond flowers produce most of their nectar after the flowers have been pollinated and it is understandable why some growers want to keep their bees when they see nectar collecting bees working what remains of aging blossoms. Growers that lost some of the early bloom to frost want to maximize set on the later bloom. Our growers pay top dollar for your bees so we try not to push them too hard on bee removal. 2018 Season – We had ideal pollinating weather in January, sunny days with temps in the 70s, but the weather turned dicey once almond bloom started in February – cooler temperatures and less bee-flying time. Many predicted a flash bloom, which would have caused problems, but the bloom was spread out, allowing bees to accomplish the pollination job. A staggered bloom is caused by low winter chilling, warmer than normal daytime temps with little or no fog. The resulting spread-out bloom helped both growers and beekeepers this year. (A case can be made that global warming helped almond growers this year by staggering the bloom).    All our beekeepers report lots of almond pollen in their hives, indicating the bees did the job they were hired to do. Hives also heavied up on nectar, after the pollen was collected. Growers seeing nectar-collecting bees working flowers (or what remains of flowers) are understandably reluctant to release their bees but some are aware that the game is over when no pollen remains in the orchard. We don’t argue (or try not to argue) with growers that keep their bees too long (not a problem for beekeepers that wait around for PNW apple bloom or Valley citrus, but an impediment for beekeepers that want to head south – maybe 20% of almond beekeepers). Frost Damage to Some Orchards – One or two cold nights in February damaged almond bloom; the damage was worse as you went north (esp. the Sacramento Valley) but also occurred in the San Joaquin Valley. Reports of frost damage have caused a spike in almond prices. We won’t know the extent of the frost damage for another month or two. Late-blooming varieties (aka hardshells) suffered far less damage than the main varieties because their bloom was less developed when the frost hit. Late-blooming varieties account for maybe only 15% of almond acreage because the price of their nuts is 10 to 20 cents a pound less than Nonpareil and other varieties. A major advantage of late-bloomers is that they spread the risk of poor weather impairing almond pollination during bloom. Some of our growers have both late and early-blooming varieties and as a result can cut down on bee numbers since they get almost double the use from the hives they rent  — late-blooming varieties bloom about 5 days after Nonpareil. The frost this year could have been triggered by (wait for it): global warming! Warm arctic weather broke the dam holding back cold air masses, thus propelling them southward (google Polar Vortex Global Warming for more info). Market Jitters –   The almond and bee industries form a classic symbiotic relationship – what affects one affects the other. If we get into a trade war, as some expect, farm commodities will suffer, esp. almonds, since  most almonds are exported. Consider writing your congress person to express your concern. —– ARS SCIENTIST SEEKS HONEY BEE DISEASE CONTROLS WASHINGTON — Agricultural Research Service (ARS) entomologist Steven Cook will be leading a $1 million funded international consortium of scientists to seek new controls for Varroa mites, honey bees’ number one problem. Cook, with the Bee Research Laboratory, a part of ARS’s Beltsville (Maryland) Agricultural Research Center, will be the principal investigator of a group that will include scientists from the United States, Canada and Spain. ARS is the in-house research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The researchers will be screening a variety of chemical compounds for their ability to controlVarroa mites with minimal damage to honey bees on an individual and colony level. Laboratory and field studies will be conducted at facilities in Alabama, Georgia, Maryland and Ohio, as well as in Alberta, Canada. In laboratories in Nebraska and Spain, scientists also will be using advanced methods to work out an understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which Varroa mites develop resistance to various chemical controls. Improving knowledge of such mechanisms would provide a better guide to researchers and narrow the field in the future for selecting chemicals worth screening as new control agents forVarroa mites. The largest single grant for this project is an award of $475,559 to Cook from the Pollinator Health Fund established by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) in response to the agricultural threat posed by declining pollinator health. Other funding is coming from participating universities, Project Apis m. and in-kind support from a number of regional beekeepers. The Honey Bee Health Coalition, a diverse network of key groups dedicated to improving the health of honey bees and other pollinators, also will provide their expertise to facilitate the researchers’ efforts. Insect pollinators contribute an estimated $24 billion to the U.S. economy annually, according to FFAR. Honey bees specifically pollinate about 100 crops in the United States. Varroa mites have become resistant to many commercially available chemical control agents in recent years. The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $20 of economic impact. —– PROS AND CONS OF FEEDING DRY POLLEN SUB By Ben Sallmann, Bee Informed Partnership Most beekeepers have come to realize that due to lack of natural forage in our urban and agricultural landscapes, feeding pollen substitute has become necessary to keep bees healthy in most parts of the country. Last summer was an especially challenging season in the West due to extremely hot and dry conditions. Despite a wet spring in California and Oregon last year, the spigot was shut off abruptly early in the summer and what little forage was available quickly shriveled. Beekeepers who had not been providing supplemental feed saw their colonies dwindle as the summer went on. Although it’s still early, this year is looking like it could be similar. One strategy I have been seeing more of in recent years is bulk dry feeding of pollen sub. However, as with any beekeeping technique, there seems to be as many detractors as proponents. Most beekeepers still rely heavily on protein patties to speed build-up early in the spring and ensure well-fed fat winter bees as the weather cools. Dry pollen feeding is gaining adherents because of the following advantages. First, a dry pollen feeder can be a welcome distraction for aggressive, “robby” foragers late in the summer. Rather than picking on each other, the bees can stay busy collecting the dry pollen. It’s more fun to see bees diving headlong into a pile of dry pollen sub rather than killing each other at the hive entrance while attempting to rob. The static charge on the bee’s body attracts the pollen grains which are then combed off and put into their corbicula (pollen baskets). This brings me to the next advantage of dry feeding; unlike patties that are put into the hive, dry pollen sub is stored for later use. There is some disagreement about whether the artificial pollen ferments the same way and provides the same benefits as true bee bread, but at least it remains in the hive for later use. Protein patties are eaten directly and not stored, possibly because of the added sugar and soft consistency. Also, while patties are very attractive to small hive beetles, dry sub in a feeder is generally ignored by this pest. For beekeepers who are short on time, feeding bulk dry pollen requires way less time and energy compared with putting on patties. It does not require the beekeeper to disturb each colony or lift any boxes. There are many dry pollen feeders on the market, but with an old barrel and a little ingenuity anyone can make one. Feeding the bees in this way just involves opening the bag of dry sub and dumping it in. For small scale beekeepers with a few hives, a simple feeder can be made from a plastic juice jug or other container set on its side with the bottom cut out. I do not think dry pollen feeding can replace patties entirely, as there are some significant drawbacks to this method. First, the colonies will not collect dry pollen equally, and the beekeeper cannot control how much each hive is getting. Some colonies may go crazy for it while others may ignore it completely. With patties, the beekeeper can ensure that each colony is at least getting some protein. Another worry with dry pollen feeding is the chance of diseases being spread, which is also a concern with barrel feeding of sugar syrup. Wherever bees from different colonies are commingling, there is increased risk from bees defecating and dying in the feeder. All in all, I think dry pollen sub feeding is a useful practice but not a total replacement for protein patties. During a pollen dearth or when robbing is a problem, it can be especially useful. As we learn more about bee nutrition, I expect better quality pollen supplements will be introduced into the market. This will go a long way in ensuring our bees have their nutritional needs met. About Ben Sallmann – As part of the Northern California Tech Transfer Team, I work closely with beekeepers and breeders in the region and assist with inspection, sampling for Varroa and Nosema, and testing for hygienic behavior. My interest in bees began as a child working on our family’s apiary/organic vegetable farm in Wisconsin, and I joined BIP in the summer of 2013 in order to be more involved with hands on research that benefits beekeepers in a tangible way. I began my work with BIP based out of the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Butte County, CA, but in 2017 moved to Oregon to work with the Pacific Northwest team, based out of OSU in Corvallis. —– BEE HAULERS GET ANOTHER 90-DAY ELECTRONIC LOGGING WAIVER By Tom Karst Truckers hauling agricultural commodities have another three months of freedom from the Department of Transportation’s electronic logging device (ELD) mandate. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on March 13 announced an additional 90-day temporary waiver from the electronic logging device rule for agriculture-related transportation, five days before the current waiver would have expired. The extension will push the ELD deadline for haulers of ag commodities to mid-June. “We continue to see strong compliance rates across the country that improve weekly, but we are mindful of the unique work our agriculture community does and will use the following 90 days to ensure we publish more helpful guidance that all operators will benefit from,” FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said in a news release. Beyond the additional 90-day waiver, FMCSA said in the release that it will publish final guidance on both the agricultural 150 air-mile hours-of-service exemption and personal conveyance (such as when an off-duty driver uses the truck to return home or leaves home to make a pick up). The announcement was welcomed by industry advocates. “United Fresh commends administrator Martinez for acknowledging the unique needs of the fresh produce industry and appreciates FMCSA’s engagement with us thus far,” Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh Produce Association, said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with FMCSA as this process moves forward and look forward to the upcoming release of their final guidance on this issue.” The additional 90-day waiver and upcoming guidance will help, in Guenther’s words, to “clarify some of the unique issue areas faced by fresh produce carriers hauling highly perishable and time-sensitive commodities to American consumers.” Ken Gilliland, director of international trade and transportation for Western Growers, Irvine, Calif., said the industry is not ready to comply with the ELD mandate and wanted a longer exemption. “It is better than not extending it, and it gives us a little bit of time,” he said March 13. The temporary waiver for agriculture haulers will extend to June 16, he said. “Hopefully by then (FMCSA) will come out with a final decision on whether or not it will be a permanent exemption,” Gilliland said. If truckers are hauling fresh produce from shipping point areas, they are exempt from hours-of-service regulations within a 150-mile air radius of origin. Beyond that radius, Gilliland said the hours-of-service rules kick in. During the exemption period, carriers may use paper logs to record the hours of service. Gilliland said that the regulations are still less than clear, and the industry is looking for more guidance from the agency about the rules. Guidance and enforcement The FMCSA said in the release it will continue its outreach for assistance to the agricultural industry regarding the ELD rule. Since December 2017, compliance with the hours-of-service record-keeping requirements, including the ELD rule, has been increasing, the agency said. Compliance reached a high of 96% in the most recent available data, according to the release. The release said there are more than 330 ELD devices listed on the registration list. Starting April 1, full enforcement of the ELD rule begins for those carriers who are not exempt. Carriers that do not have an ELD when required will be placed out of service, according to the FMCSA. —– ‘LAZY LAWN MOWERS’ CAN HELP SUPPORT SUBURBAN BEE POPULATIONS AND DIVERSITY Homeowners concerned about the decline of bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects need look no further than their own back yards, says ecologist Susannah Lerman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the USDA Forest Service. In new research, she and colleagues suggest that homeowners can help support bee habitat in suburban yards, specifically their lawns, by changing lawn-mowing habits. The researchers found that taking a “lazy lawn mower” approach and mowing every two weeks rather than weekly can help encourage bee habitat in suburban lawns by allowing flowers to bloom. Longer intervals between mowing lets the lawn flowers bloom, which helps bees. She says, “Mowing less frequently is practical, economical and a timesaving alternative to replacing lawns or even planting pollinator gardens.” Given the pervasiveness of lawns and other habitat loss for pollinators, the research findings provide immediate solutions for individual households to support bees in suburban settings, she adds. Lerman conducted the study with her colleagues Joan Milam at UMass Amherst, Alix Contosta at the University of New Hampshire and Christofer Bang at Arizona State University. Findings appear in the current issue of Biological Conservation. For this study, supported by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) program, Lerman and colleagues recruited 16 homeowners in Springfield, Massachusetts, and during 2013 and 2014, assigned each yard one of three mowing schedules so that yards were mowed either every week, every two weeks, or every three weeks, and then tested how the bees responded. Before each of five bee-sampling occasions per season, the scientists counted “yard” flowers – ornamentals not affected by mowing – and “lawn flowers” such as clover and dandelions growing within the grass, for the entire property. They also measured average grass height, counted and identified bees, and calculated several metrics to understand how bees responded to changes in mowing frequency: bee abundance, richness, and evenness, all of which drive patterns in bee diversity, Lerman points out. The authors observed a total of 4,587 bees representing 93 bee species, with supplemental observations reaching 111 bee species. Lawns mowed every three weeks had as much as 2.5 times more lawn flowers than lawns mowed on the other schedules. The lawns mowed every two weeks had the greatest number of bees but the lowest diversity compared to the other two mowing intervals, they report. Lerman and colleagues point out that bees are essential for crop pollination and supporting natural ecosystems. But both domesticated and wild bee species are in decline around the world, due in part because of urbanization, agricultural intensification and loss of habitat. However, co-author Milam says there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic: “I was amazed at the high level of bee diversity and abundance we documented in these lawns, and it speaks to the value of the untreated lawn to support wildlife.” Further, says Contosta, “There is evidence that even though lawns are maintained to look uniform, they may support diverse plant communities and floral resources if the owners refrain from using herbicides to kill ‘weeds’ such as dandelions and clover.” Bangs adds, “We acknowledge our small sample size and the study’s limitation to suburban Massachusetts, though the findings may be applicable in all temperate areas where lawns dominate.” Lerman says, “This research is a reminder that sustainability begins at home, and in this case involves doing less for more buzz.” Sam Scheiner, NSF’s SEES program director, says, “A decrease in pollinators, and insects in general, is a growing problem. This research shows that we all can help address this problem with a change in how we manage our lawns, and demonstrates that basic research directly contributes to societal needs.” —– From Dr. Christina Grozinger at POLLINATOR-L – RESEARCH JOBS 1. Five PhD Project Scholarships, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, West Sydney, Australia Stingless Bees as Crop Pollinators – 4 scholarships: These projects will investigate the potential of stingless bees as pollinators of temperate, tropical and glasshouse crops Insect Pollination of Almonds – 1 scholarship: This project will study insect pollinators in almond orchards with the aim of improving pollination services for industry Stipends – $30k per annum with tuition fee waivers (+ research and conference travel funds) available to Australian and international candidates. Dates – Applications close 8th of April 2018. Info or at 2. Farm Bill Pollinator Conservation Planner and NRCS Partner Biologist, NRCS state office in Bismarck, North Dakota              Start Date: May, 2018 Under the direction of the Xerces Society Senior Pollinator Conservation Specialist (Midwest Region), and in collaboration with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) North Dakota state office staff, the Farm Bill Pollinator Conservation Planner will provide conservation planning, technical support and training focused on pollinators, honey bees, declining butterflies, declining bumble bees, and other beneficial insects to farmers and NRCS field office planners in North Dakota and Montana. During the first several months, this position will support conservation planning in field offices close to Bismarck. Over time, the incumbent will provide support to conservation planners throughout North Dakota and into Montana. The ideal candidate will be able to bring together conservation planning guidance that addresses multiple goals of soil, water, and pollinator conservation. More information Please do not contact our office via phone or email about the application. You will be contacted if selected for an interview. All applicants will receive email notification once position is filled. Application deadline April 1, 2018 Application instructions: • Combine cover letter, resume, names and contact information for three references into a single MS Word or Adobe PDF document. • Use your full name as the file name for the attachment. • Subject line of your email is “Farm Bill Pollinator Conservation Planner (North Dakota)” • Send to 3. Farm Bill Pollinator Conservation Planner and NRCS Partner Biologist, Marion County USDA Service Center, Knoxville, Iowa Identical to the above program in Bismark, North Dakota. Application deadline April 11, 2018 Application instructions: • Combine cover letter, resume, names and contact information for three references into a single MS Word or Adobe PDF document. • Use your full name as the file name for the attachment. • Subject line of your email is “Farm Bill Pollinator Conservation Planner (Iowa)” • Send to —– CATCH THE BUZZ 1. ARS Scientist Leads $1 Million Funded Consortium to Seek Honey Bee Disease Controls. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) entomologist Steven Cook will be leading a $1 million funded international consortium of scientists to seek new controls for Varroa mites, honey bees’ number one problem. Cook, with the Bee Research Laboratory, a part of ARS’s Beltsville (Maryland) Agricultural Research Center, will be the principal investigator of a group that will include scientists from the United States, Canada and Spain. ARS is the in-house research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The researchers will be screening a variety of chemical compounds for their ability to control Varroa mites with minimal damage to honey bees on an individual and colony level. Laboratory and field studies will be conducted at facilities in Alabama, Georgia, Maryland and Ohio, as well as in Alberta, Canada. 2. 16 Grants Totaling $7 Million for Research to Address Declining Pollinator Health, an Ongoing Threat to Agricultural Productivity in The United States – WASHINGTON, March 13, 2018 – The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a nonprofit established through bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, today announced 16 grants totaling $7 million for research to address declining pollinator health, an ongoing threat to agricultural productivity in the United States. The FFAR awards are matched by more than 50 companies, universities, organizations and individuals for a total investment of $14.3 million toward research and technology development. Insect pollinators support crop yields and agricultural ecosystems and contribute an estimated 24 billion dollars to the United States economy annually. New technology, knowledge and best practice guidance tailored to specific regions and land uses has potential to accelerate efforts to improve pollinator health across the United States. Researchers funded through the Pollinator Health Fund are working to address social and economic challenges faced by beekeepers, farmers, home owners and other land managers across the United States. 3. United States Honey Production Down 9 Percent for Operations with Five or More Colonies in 2017 – United States honey production in 2017 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 148 million pounds, down 9 percent from 2016. There were 2.67 million colonies producing honey in 2017, down 4 percent from 2016. Yield per colony averaged 55.3 pounds, down 5 percent from the 58.3 pounds in 2016. Colonies which produced honey in more than one State were counted in each State where the honey was produced. Therefore, at the United States level yield per colony may be understated, but total production would not be impacted. Colonies were not included if honey was not harvested. Producer honey stocks were 30.6 million pounds on December 15, 2017, down 26 percent from a year earlier. Stocks held by producers exclude those held under the commodity loan program. 4. Familiar Hover Flies May Be Transporting Honey Bee Diseases From Flower To Flower – Bee diseases have been detected in hover flies for the first time. The brightly-colored flies may be picking up bee viruses as they forage at the same flowers. And scientists think hoverflies could then be spreading the deadly infections long distances when they migrate. Bees and other pollinators are vital to most of the world’s food crops but have been in decline in recent decades due to the destruction of wild habitats, disease and pesticide use. It’s not clear if hoverflies are harmed by the viruses or are simply carriers, but, either way, they could be moving them around the countryside and over long distances, say UK researchers. “The hoverfly species that we detected the viruses in are known to migrate across Europe,” said Emily Bailes of Royal Holloway University of London. 5. Why Do Bees Sting? It Has To Do With Both Alarm Pheromone And Serotonin And Dopamine – Researchers have unravelled the neuro-molecular mechanism of defence by honey bees when exposed to the sting alarm pheromone that they release in the face of a threat. The team of researchers led by Prof. Martin Giurfa from the Universite de Toulouse in Toulouse, France has found that smelling isoamyl acetate, the main component in the alarm pheromone, increases the level of serotonin and dopamine in their brains, which, in turn, increases the stinging behaviour in bees and thus repels a threat. By itself, the alarm pheromone does not behave as a stimulus, but increases the likelihood of bees guarding the hive to repel a threat by stinging. Bees collected from four hives that were involved in defending the colony were used in the study. When exposed to isoamyl acetate in the lab, guard bees collected from two colonies exhibited greater proclivity to sting than bees from the other two colonies.