Items of interest to beekeepers 19 November 2017

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






MSU HONEY BEE SCIENTIST’S RESEARCH ON VIRAL DEFENSE PUBLISHED IN SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL A honey bee researcher who earned her doctorate at Montana State University in July had her dissertation research published in a scientific journal in the same month. Laura Brutscher, who earned her doctorate in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in MSU’s College of Agriculture and College of Letters and Science, published her study on the mechanisms honey bees use to fight off viruses in Scientific Reports. “This project has taken a lot of patience, time and perseverance, so it’s personally validating to know that my work has been accepted by the scientific community,” Brutscher said. Brutscher co-authored her paper, “Virus and dsRNA-triggered transcriptional responses reveal key components of honey bee antiviral defense,” with her doctoral adviser Michelle Flenniken, assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology, and Katie Daughenbaugh, a research associate in the Flenniken lab. The paper describes how Brutscher tested honey bees to determine the genes that are involved in defending honey bees against viruses. In the lab, Brutscher infected more than 500 honey bees with a model virus to determine what genes are activated in response to virus infection and to investigate the role of double-stranded RNA in stimulating honey bee antiviral defenses. Double-stranded RNA, or dsRNA, is a molecule viruses generate during infection. The experiment revealed that bees treated with dsRNA were better equipped to fight the virus than those that were not, Brutscher said. It also indicated that dsRNA antiviral responses in honey bees include both a response that is dependent upon the specific sequence of the dsRNA and a more general, non-sequence specific response. “We expected that virus-sequence specific dsRNA would reduce virus infection via a common insect antiviral mechanism called RNA interference,” Flenniken said. “In addition, we expanded on previous work that revealed that honey bee antiviral defense is also mediated by non-sequence specific dsRNA. This more ‘general’ antiviral defense mechanism is less well characterized and very interesting given that honey bees live in colonies, which include over 40,000 individuals living in close proximity—an ideal setting for virus transmission.” Using next-generation RNA sequencing, Brutscher determined which genes were turned on under various conditions. Hundreds of genes were activated, but Brutscher focused on the role of two genes that may be key to honey bees’ antiviral defense. “If these genes prove to be important for honey bees to fend off all viruses, then we could selectively breed colonies that have greater expression of these genes,” Flenniken said. But much more research will be required before incorporating the expression of these genes as one of many criteria that are important for selective honey bee breeding programs, for example honey production, gentleness and Varroa-mite resistance. Brutscher, who grew up on a dairy farm in Little Falls, Minnesota, was always fascinated by the managed honey bees and wild bees that pollinated her family’s sunflower fields. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2012 from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, she came to MSU through its Molecular BioSciences Program to pursue a doctorate in microbiology and immunology. Interested in host-pathogen interactions, Brutscher was intrigued by Flenniken’s research after seeing her give a presentation about it. Brutscher joined Flenniken’s lab in 2013 and that same year received a Project Apis m.-Costco Fellowship, which provided her with $50,000 annually for three years to research honey bees and the pathogens that infect them. In addition to publishing her research in Scientific Reports, Brutscher has also written three first-author reviews and co-authored three articles. Flenniken, who is co-director of the Pollinator Health Center at MSU, which was established last year, said researchers have determined which pathogens most correlate with poor colony health and colony losses in particular studies, but no one has identified a particular pathogen that is responsible for colony deaths. That’s because there are likely multiple factors contributing to the problem including pathogens, pesticide exposure, and lack of quality forage and habitat. She cites several reasons why honey bee colony health is important. Bee colony losses have been a major concern in the U.S. since 2006 with losses averaging 33 percent annually – nearly three times the prior historical loss rate. Ranked second nationally in honey production, Montana’s roughly 150,000 honey bee colonies yielded 15 million pounds of honey valued at more than $31 million in 2013. Investigating factors that affect honey bee health applies to human and environmental health too, Flenniken said. Bees pollinate more than 180 agricultural crops including some of our healthiest sources of food such as fruits, nuts and vegetables. As for Brutscher, she’s modest about her work. “Our methods to inject bees with viruses have been used in a lot of other organisms,” she said. “There are numerous bee scientists who are working on all sorts of factors related to colony loss in addition to virus infections – for example, pesticide exposure, queen bee reproductive health, and nutrition – it’s a multifaceted problem.” Ultimately, Brutscher said, she hopes her discoveries could prove useful for future studies. “We’re doing fundamental work that may lead to more applied research that could be used in bee-breeding practices,” she said. “We hope our work will eventually contribute to reducing colony losses.” Currently doing research in Flenniken’s lab, Brutscher will begin a postdoctoral position in January at University of California Davis, where she will also pursue honey bee research. —– SONOMABEES FIRE FUND On October 8, 2017, wildfires engulfed large parts of Northern California. It took nearly three weeks to contain these disastrous fires which burned more than 56,556 acres, destroyed an estimated 8,700 structures and killed at least 42 people. Many beekeepers were devastated by these fires, losing not only their homes, farms and gardens, but also their bee colonies and equipment. It will take years to recover and the needs of our community are great. Sonoma County Beekeepers’ Association (SCBA), with over 400 active members, intends to do its part to help its beekeeping members.  As of November 6th, we have identified 17 of our members who suffered complete losses. ~ ABOUT SCBA SCBA promotes honey bees and beekeeping to the public through education, events and exhibits, while building a strong beekeeping community. Our members not only tend to their own bees, but also are beekeeping ambassadors throughout the county. They teach school children about the importance of bees, staff booths and present at county fairs, provide informational meetings for local non-profits (including Rotarians, the Soroptimists, FFA, 4H, etc), assist with school gardens, provide local honey tastings, and more. The funds raised will help to replace beekeeping equipment which was lost during the wildfires. Any funds exceeding the needs of SCBA member beekeepers losses will be applied towards restoring lost pollinator habitat in Sonoma County. An example of costs incurred are: $280 for equipment for one colony (members lost from 1 to 70 hives per apiary location within the path of the fires) $80 for a full suit and veil $35 for a smoker $20 for gloves $280 – $1000+ for a honey extractor Not to mention, hammers, screwdrivers, buckets with honey gates, honey jars, etc. There are many tools in a beekeeper’s tool box! Donations Donations can be made at SCBA Membership meetings at the Membership table, you can also Mail checks written to SCBA, with a note for SBFF to SCBA, P.O. Box 98, Santa Rosa CA 95402. or via Paypal on this website: If you are aware of a member who has losses but is unable to respond to this survey, please let us know (contact: Ann Jereb, so that we may reach out to them as well. Thank you for taking the time to read and take the survey.  This will help us better coordinate our efforts in providing assistance and support to our fellow beekeepers.  Once we have all the responses, we’ll contact people to find out exactly what beekeepers with losses need and exactly what others have to give, and then match needs with available resources. ~ SCBA Board of Directors ~ Sonoma Bees Fire Fund (SBFF) Committee PS. We have 20 beekeepers that lost homes, apiaries and more, plus 53,000+ acres of lost forage. —– WHEN LIVESTOCK, FISH OR INSECTS ARE BEING TRANSPORTED, THEY NEED TO REACH THEIR DESTINATIONS QUICKLY. NEW LAWS MAY CHANGE THAT The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published the electronic logging device rule almost two years ago. In its simplest form, an electronic logging device (ELD) is used to electronically record a driver’s Record of Duty Status (RODS). This electronic record is intended to replace paper logbooks some drivers currently use to record their compliance with Hours of Service (HOS) requirements. The mandate ordered trucking fleets to have certified ELDs in their trucks by December 2017. That date is almost here and there has been a fair amount of resistance to the rule. Many of the nation’s largest trucking fleets have adopted ELDs and medium-sized fleets are following suit. Smaller fleets however, which are often independent truckers, are objecting to the devices. Some say the cost is prohibitive while others contend the devices are an invasion of privacy, recording every detail of the truck and the driver. A survey of truckers who read Overdrive Magazine shows that 71 percent of independent drivers say they will quit over the road trucking if compelled to install and use ELDs. If 70 percent of the independent and small fleet owner-operators who say they’d quit driving actually do quit, we would have difficulty moving goods in a timely manner. According to data provided by RigDig Business Intelligence we would lose about 260,000 trucks, more than 10 percent of the industry’s capacity. Proponents of the ELD mandate argue that older independent drivers are simply stubborn. When it comes down to it, they’ll work under ELDs because they need a paycheck, and most of them won’t be able to retire on Social Security alone. The agricultural industry has raised additional concerns with the proposed trucking regulations. When livestock, fish or insects are being transported, they need to reach their destinations quickly. It’s not possible or wise to loiter at the truck stop for several hours when the ELD declares that DOT’s Hours of Service Rules demand parking the truck. American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Pork Producers Council, National Cattleman’s Beef Association and five other livestock, aquaculture and beekeeping organizations have petitioned the Department of Transportation (DOT) for exemption from the ELD mandate. Their concern is that independent truckers, who typically haul livestock, fish and insects, will no longer drive. This will lead to the unintended impact of jeopardizing the health and welfare of millions of transported animals who will no longer be hauled by highly skilled and trained drivers or stockmen. In seeking the exemption, these agricultural groups contend the ELD initiative fails to directly address the unique requirements of the livestock industry. They maintain that granting this exemption for the extremely limited segment of the overall transportation economy engaged in the shipment of livestock, fish and insects, will achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved without the exemption. The petition also states that the welfare and safety of the animals in transit, together with the safety of other drivers on the road, are the industry’s top priorities. Most livestock haulers have participated in additional training, including the pork industry’s Transport Quality Assurance (TQA) program and the beef industry’s Master Cattle Transporter (MCT) program, which provide instruction on proper animal handling and transportation methods. While these programs are voluntary, most major packers require that any driver arriving on their property be TQA or MCT certified. These low-stress, safe handling and transportation methods for livestock reduces sickness, prevents bruising, and improves the quality of the meat. Fish and honey bees also require specialized equipment, species-specific loading and unloading, and on-time delivery. These organizations are also asking DOT to address incompatibilities between the transportation of livestock and DOT’s Hours of Service rules. Those regulations limit truckers to 11 hours of driving daily — after 10 consecutive hours off duty — and restrict their on-duty time to 14 consecutive hours, which includes non-driving time. DOT did recently issue an interpretation intended to address shortcomings in its Hours of Service rules, exempting from the regulations and from any distance-logging requirements truckers hauling livestock within a 150 air-mile radius of the location at which animals were loaded. Major studies reviewed by FMCSA in developing its underlying HOS rules show that the livestock sector is one of the safest of the commercial hauling sectors. The National Highway Traffic Safety Institute showed that of 1,123 accidents involving trucks hauling cargo, a mere five involved livestock transportation. Livestock haulers typically drive slower, are more aware of their surroundings and road conditions, and avoid rough-road situations that could result in animal injury. As such, they feel justified in asking for the agricultural exemption. To submit your comments online, visit and put the docket number “FMCSA-2017-0297” in the Keyword box and click Search. When the new screen appears, click on the Comment Now button and type your comment into the text box. Choose whether you are submitting your comment as an individual or on behalf of a third party and then submit. The comment period ends Nov. 30. —– CATCH THE BUZZ 1. Fungicides make Insecticides and diseases even worse for bees – When a Cornell-led team of scientists analyzed two dozen environmental factors to understand bumblebee population declines and range contractions, they expected to find stressors like changes in land use, geography or insecticides. Instead, they found a shocker: fungicides, commonly thought to have no impact. “Insecticides work; they kill insects. Fungicides have been largely overlooked because they are not targeted for insects, but fungicides may not be quite as benign – toward bumblebees – as we once thought. This surprised us,” said Scott McArt, assistant professor of entomology and the lead author on a new study published Nov. 15 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 2. Chinese Tallow subject to Integrated Pest Management Control with imported beetle. Major Honey Plant in South – …..In the Houston area, Chinese tallow trees account for a full 23 percent of all trees, more than any other tree species and is the only invasive tree species in the 14 most common species in the area.[8] The Texas Department of Agriculture lists Chinese Tallow as one of the 24 most invasive plants, and includes Chinese Tallow in a list of Noxious and Invasive Plants which are illegal to sell, distribute or import into Texas.[9][10] Herbivores and insects have a conditioned behavioral avoidance to eating the leaves of Chinese tallow tree, and this, rather than plant toxins, may be a reason for the success of the plant as an invasive.[11] The plant is sold in nurseries as an ornamental tree. It is not choosy about soil types or drainage, but will not grow in deep shade. It commonly grows all over Japan, and is reasonably hardy. It is prized for its abundant and often spectacular autumn foliage… ….The nectar is non-toxic, and it has become a major honey plant for beekeepers. The honey is of high quality, and is produced copiously during the month of June, on the Gulf Coast. In the Gulf coast states, beekeepers migrate with their honey bees to good tallow locations near the sea. 3. Demystifying the new food labels – Scan any packaged food item and you’re likely to be bombarded with various labels touting the food inside. Certified Organic, Non-GMO, hormone-free, gluten-free and others can sometimes leave you feeling like you need a PhD in labeling laws to decode what they all mean. Now, a new slew of food labels has entered the market, which may further add to the confusion. Here’s what you need to know about each: 4.  It Isn’t Easy For Honey Bees To Stick Their Heads Into Jar-Shaped Blueberry Flowers – DENVER — Honeybees may be the world’s most famous pollinator, but a new study shows that blueberry blooms reduce the insects to improvisational klutzes. Not useless ones though. Pollination specialists have realized that the pollen haul found in hives of Apis mellifera honey bees has little, if any, from blueberry flowers, ecologist George Hoffman said November 5 at the Entomology 2017 meeting. Yet big commercial blueberry growers bring in hives of honey bees in the belief that the insects will help wild pollinators and boost the berry harvest. It isn’t easy for honey bees to stick their heads into jar-shaped blueberry flowers, which narrow at the top, to get at the nectar. Nor do honey bees do the buzz-in-place move that some other bees use to shake pollen out of the pores on the blueberry flower anthers. Still, fumbling honey bees often get blueberry pollen on their bodies as they grab and stretch, sometimes even poking a leg down into a bloom. 5. As Regulators Consider A Ban On Neonicotinoids, Debate Rages Over The Harm They Cause To Bees – Maj Rundlöf remembers the moment she changed her mind about neonicotinoids. In December 2013, in her office at Lund University in Sweden, she and postdoc Georg Andersson were peering at data from their latest study. It was designed to test what would happen to bees if they fed on crops treated with neonicotinoids — the world’s most widely used insecticides. “I didn’t expect to see any effect at all, to be honest,” says Rundlöf. Hives of honey bees (Apis mellifera) weren’t greatly affected by the chemicals in their pollen and nectar, the study suggested. But the data on bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) told a different story. Bumblebee colonies that hadn’t fed on the treated crops looked normal: they were packing on weight to survive the winter. But in the colonies exposed to neonicotinoids, the growth chart was a flat line. 6. Recently Reported Declines In Several Insect Taxa Such As Butterflies, Wild Bees And Moths, Are In Parallel With A Severe Loss Of Total Aerial Insect Biomass – What’s a bug worth? Well, according to a 2006 study in the scientific journal BioScience, the answer numbers in the billions. “The Economic Value of Ecological Services Provided by Insects” puts a clear number on their value. “In this article we focus on the vital ecological services provided by insects,” the authors say. “We restrict our focus to services provided by ‘wild’ insects; we do not include services from domesticated or mass-reared insect species.” What the scientists examined was four crucial services provided by insects: dung burial, pest control, pollination, and nutrition for wildlife.