Items of interest to beekeepers 24 December 2017

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








BEES USE INVISIBLE HEAT PATTERNS TO CHOOSE FLOWERS A new study, led by scientists from the University of Bristol, has found that a wide range of flowers produce not just signals that we can see and smell, but also ones that are invisible such as heat. In the hidden world of flower-pollinator interactions, heat can act not only as life-sustaining warmth, but can also be part of the rich variety of sensory signposts that flowers use to provide advertisement and information for their insect pollinators. The majority of flowers examined, including many common in gardens, such as poppies and daisies, had complex patterns of heat across their petals, echoing the colourful patterns that we see with our own eyes. On average these patterns were 4-5°C warmer than the rest of the flower, although the patterns could be as much as 11°C warmer. The Bristol Scientists made artificial flowers that copied these heat patterns, but did not include the corresponding colour patterns. While these artificial flowers look identical to human eyes, and we are not able to tell them apart, it is a different case for foraging bumblebees. Bumblebees, who visit a wide range of different flowers, were found to be able to use these patterns to distinguish between different flowers and the rewards that they provide. The study’s lead author, Dr Heather Whitney, from the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “The presence of multiple cues on flowers is known to enhance the ability of bees to forage efficiently, so maximising the amount of food they can take back to sustain the rest of their colony. “Climate change might have additional previously unexpected impacts on bee-flower interactions by disrupting these hidden heat patterns.” —– STUDIES OF GUT BACTERIA IN BEES REVEAL HOW ANTIBIOTIC-RESISTANCE IS SPREAD TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s the kind of thing you might lose sleep over. How will humans survive serious infections in the future if we’re running out of tools today to fight them? Antibiotic resistance among disease-causing bacteria is of global concern, as some last-resort drugs can no longer cure common illnesses such as urinary tract infections. To make matters worse, researchers from Arizona State University and Norwegian University of Life Sciences have discovered that our very own gut bacteria may be perpetuating the resistance. Scientists uncovered this startling finding while investigating the microbial life in honey bee guts. “To our surprise, we found that instead of one gut bacterium acquiring resistance and outcompeting all the other gut bacteria in honey bees, the resistance genes spread in the bacterial community so that all strains of bacteria survived,” said Gro Amdam, a professor with ASU School of Life Sciences and co-author of the paper. The finding was published in the current issue of the journal Molecular Ecology. In the study, scientists investigated gut bacteria in honey bees to explore the question, “What happens to gut bacteria when they are exposed to antibiotics over a long period of time?” While honey bees have a simpler microbial community in their guts compared to humans, they also have features in common. “There is an important similarity between honey bee and human gut bacteria, in that some bacteria are in symbiosis with the host — these are important for host health,” said Jane Ludvigsen, a doctoral student with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and lead author of the paper. “The bacteria we investigated are symbiotic for the honey bee, and they each have important functions. Because they must all be there for the host to be well, we think this is the reason that antibiotic-resistant genes have spread to all.” Overuse of antibiotics In this study, researchers focused on microbes that are resistant to tetracycline. In addition to use in human medicine, tetracycline is an antibiotic that has been widely used for decades to promote growth in animals — often in chicken, cattle and pig farming. It’s also commonly sprayed on plants, including apple and pear trees, to prevent diseases such as fire blight, which can devastate crops. In the U.S., tetracycline has been used even on organic farms. In Norway, rules on antibiotic use in farming of any kind are much stricter. The scientists compared the antibiotic-resistant genes in honey bee populations from Arizona and Norway. There were surprising geographic differences. “In the bees from Arizona, we saw that even though they have not been in contact with tetracycline for many years, the resistance genes are still there,” said Ludvigsen. “Also, in the Norwegian population, we found some antibiotic-resistant genes, but few. “I think that if there are more resistance genes in the environment, more transfer happens. Also, if the bees are exposed to tetracycline in their environment, they may need to get and keep the resistance genes. Tetracycline is used still in the U.S., so that might be a trigger. That deserves further study, as it was not the focus of this paper.” When the research team studied the antibiotic-resistant genes in the Arizona honey bee population, they found six different variants of this genetic resistance — each variant is the product of a mutation within the gene. In the bee population in Norway, the team found only one adaptation. Amdam said one way to think about it is this: Tetracycline-resistant microbes are everywhere. They are in the dirt, on plants and animals, and even inside us. But given enough time, without exposure to antibiotics, some of this resistance should go away. One factor needed for antibiotic resistance to remain prevalent is to keep the selective pressure on. This is why Amdam and Ludvigsen say it’s important to reduce or eliminate the use of antibiotics in both agriculture and farming, and limit unnecessary use in human health as much as possible. Antibiotic-resistant microbes in humans Many people believe that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are mainly found in places such as hospitals. And although dangerous microbes can be found there, they are also found in our everyday environments. “Our paper predicts that if there is already antibiotic resistance in your gut, then most or all of your gut microbes will also carry this resistance. Basically, we’ve become potent reservoirs for carrying antibiotic-resistant genes,” said Amdam. “This is not good news from an epidemiological point of view. If our paper is right, then from what we see in the U.S. and Norway, you can keep accumulating multiple versions of antibiotic-resistant genes. If pathogenic bacteria pass through your body, they can also pick up this resistance.” The researchers say one next step could be to study how the bees’ gut selects for certain kinds of bacteria, and not others. For example, in humans, we know that the immune system is involved in accommodating the “right” gut bacteria, but the role of the honey bee immune system is largely unknown.  — Arizona State University —– LESSONS FROM THE (APIS M.) HIVE 2017 As this year comes to a close, we look back on the accomplishments, lessons learned, and work to be done within Project Apis m.’s “hive” at the intersection of beekeeping and agriculture.   Like the bees we love and seek to protect, it takes the dedication of many! To the beekeepers, growers, donors, supporters, participants, researchers, affiliated organizations and associations, industry businesses, volunteers, and colleagues in the honey bee world —thank you! Individually, we could never achieve what we can by working together! We are grateful for your advocacy, financial support and frankly, your grit to help solve the complex problems and opportunities our industry and our honey bees face.   This year, you’ve helped PAm advance honey bee health in three critical areas: • Investment in research that generates practical solutions, today and for the future. New leadership joined our Scientific Advisory Team — Dr. Michelle Flenniken. This team is working to improve our process to identify and fund the most impactful and relevant research priorities. Watch for changes and new tools in 2018. Two notable research projects this year include the world’s first honey bee Germplasm Repository in cooperation with Washington State University and PAm directed research to select and breed Varroa Resistant bees. We actively foster tomorrow’s scientists — Costco-PAm Ph.D. Scholar Laura Brutscher, groundbreaking research project funding for graduate student, Samuel Ramsay, and Costco Canada and Costco USA scholarships for eight graduate students in the USA and Canada — is an investment in the sustainability of our industry. Visit our website to learn more about PAm research projects.   • Planting forage habitat where bees need good nutrition most. Providing expertise and free seed for growers to plant cover crop in California’s agricultural landscapes — home to the world’s largest pollination event with the almond bloom — through our Seeds for Bees program. Rally support from diverse stakeholders from beekeeping and agriculture to pollinator conservation and resource management, from individuals to corporations, and public to private entities. Investment in re-establishing pollinator habitat in the Midwest and Great Plains where bees summer through our sister organization, The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund. • Collaboration to leverage our learning and maximize our efforts. PAm is a strong voice advocating honey bee health, working to harmonize research priorities, working smart to utilize the resources our industry can gather. We actively collaborate with many industry donors, organizations and business including the National Honey Board, Health Hives 2020, Costco, Honey Bee Health Coalition, ag industry businesses, and more. We are committed to stronger collaboration with CSBA, NAPPC, NDDA, and ABC on honey bee health projects. Together we can maximize our efforts, produce attainable long-term goals and reduce redundancy.   Every year we look back and assess our results. What worked? How are PAm programs providing movement toward our goals? What do we need to revamp or enhance? Are there new ideas, partnerships, and initiatives to increase and leverage our impact? And always, how can we drive our mission on behalf of honey bees forward?   I am interested in hearing your ideas for the future of beekeeping and honey bee health. Contact me! Your past, present, and future support make all the difference.   Happy Holidays! Danielle Downey Executive Director Project Apis m. —– COMBINED EFFECTS OF PESTICIDES, POOR NUTRITION DAMAGE BEE HEALTH SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The combined effects of pesticides and a lack of nutrition form a deadly one-two punch, new research from biologists at the University of California San Diego has shown for the first time. In a study published Dec. 20 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Simone Tosi, James Nieh and their colleagues used honey bees due to their important role as agricultural pollinators and “bioindicators” of environmental quality. The researchers studied how honey bees fared with exposure to neonicotinoids–pesticides broadly used in agriculture–along with limited nutrient sources, scenarios that are commonly found in agricultural areas. The scientists studied two common neonicotinoid pesticides, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, which are used worldwide in vegetable, fruit and grain crops. However, after these pesticides are applied to crops they remain in the environment and can be found in nectar, pollen, water and soil. The researchers were surprised to find that bee deaths increased by up to 50 percent more than they expected compared with the individual effects of pesticides and poor nutrition. Surprisingly, no previous studies have tested such “synergistic” effects when these threats are combined and amplified beyond the sums of the individual factors. “We tested the effects of different neonicotinoid pesticides because of a growing concern and evidence about negative effects of these pesticides on pollinators,” said Tosi, a postdoctoral researcher in UC San Diego’s Division of Biological Sciences. “Our results provide the first demonstration that these stressors can synergistically interact and cause significant harm to animal survival.” Declines in honey bee health have caused global concern due to the insect’s critical ecological role as a major pollinator. Bee health has been closely watched in recent years as nutritional sources available to honey bees have declined and contamination from pesticides has increased. In animal model studies, the researchers found that combined exposure to pesticide and poor nutrition decreased bee health. Bees use sugar to fuel their flights and work inside the nest. Pesticides decreased their hemolymph (“bee blood”) sugar levels and therefore decreased their energy stores. “These findings should cause us to rethink our current pesticide risk assessment procedures, which, based upon our findings, may underestimate the toxic effects of pesticides on bees,” said Tosi. In addition, Nieh, a professor in the Section of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution, noted that their results “may have even broader implications beyond honey bees because prior studies have not demonstrated a negative synergistic effect of pesticides and poor nutrition in animals.  — University of California – San Diego —– From Dr. Christine Grozinger at POLLINATOR-L – BEE RESEARCH JOBS 1. Postdoctoral Fellowship in Honey Bee Health and Pesticides, University of Saskatchewan We are looking for a Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Starting Spring 2018) in the area of comparative and environmental toxicopathology focused on investigation of effects of neonicotinoids (and other pesticides) on honey bee health. Our current research is focused on teratogenicity, neurotoxicity, gonadotoxicity and reproductive fitness of honey bees exposed to various neonicotinoids. Interested applicants are invited to apply by sending an email to with the following PDF documents: 1) a cover letter outlining their research interests, most important research contributions, and long term career goals, 2) curriculum vitae 3) names and contact details of at least three referees 4) a research expertise dossier with detailed description of applicant’s experience with honey bees (beekeeping skills and in vitro laboratory techniques with bees), experience with laboratory research techniques/procedures and analytical skills. Applications accepted until the position is filled. 2. 3-Year Post-Doc Position as Research Assistant/Associate in Molecular Biology and Control of Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus, Newcastle University, United Kingdom For details about this vacancy and essential information on how to apply, visit our Job Vacancies web page at or contact 3. Two positions open at the Monarch Joint Venture, Conservation Corps, Saint Paul, MN We have two positions (a National Monitoring Coordinator and a Regional Monitoring Coordinator) open to start early 2018. Info Please email to express interest. —– 2017 ACHIEVEMENTS AT BLUE DASHER FARM •    11,000+ face-to-face contacts with farmers and supporters all over the world since spring of 2016. •    In 2017, we published 6 peer-reviewed scientific papers in refereed journals. Two are already in the top 7% of all scientific papers ever written in terms of their social media impact. •    Published a chapter on risk assessment of Pesticide and Bees in the book “Beekeeping- From Science to Practice” (Free PDF available upon request) •    Co-hosted an agroecology workshop in China. Students from dozens of countries attended what was their first exposure to systems-level thinking in agroecology. •    Recorded a TEDx talk on insects and regenerative agriculture. Watch it here: (please share it; like it) •    Hosted groups from France, Russia, South Africa and all over North America. Farmers travelled to Deuel County South Dakota to see something totally different in agriculture. •    Presented on regenerative agriculture and bees all over the world. Presented in 19 states, 3 provinces, and 7 countries since we began in early 2016. A few of our research plans for 2018 •    The role of essential oils in honey bee health and Varroa mite management. Major chemical options for controlling Varroa mites are failing nationally (by design?). Substantial research has shown that certain essential oils can help improve hive vigor and reduce Varroa pressure. We will be evaluating some of these oils from a beekeeper’s perspective. •    Regenerative farms and honey bee performance. Heal the soil to save the bees: more and more groups are getting our message. We will evaluate honey production and bee fitness on regenerative and conventional farms and ranches throughout the Northern Plains. •    Regenerative almond production in CA. When almond producers focus on soil health (eliminate tillage, increase ground cover, integrate grazing animals), how does this system affect farm profits, yields, insect communities, and food borne pathogens? Healing almond orchards is essential to keeping the nation’s bees healthy. •    Neonicotinoids and rare butterflies in natural areas. Are neonicotinoids getting into habitat restorations for Poweshiek skipperlings, Dakota skippers, and Monarch butterflies, and how do these pesticides affect adult populations of the butterflies? •    Intercropping in cornfields. Regenerative farmers are diversifying their cornfields by planting ground covers in between standing corn rows. How does this affect the services like predation in these intercropped fields? Are neonicotinoid seed treatments getting into the untreated intercrops meant to increase insect diversity? •    Cover crops and insect communities. Dozens of farmers from all over North America participated in a study of how spring cover crops affect insect communities. Which cover species improve predator and pollinator populations and reduce pest species? How much diversity is possible? You can help by donating to Blue Dasher Farm at  or mail a check to Ecdysis Foundation, 46958 188th Street, Estelline, SD, 57234. From Jonathan Lundgren and the Blue Dasher Farm Team! —– CATCH THE BUZZ 1. Almond Board of California Envisions Farm of the Future with $4.8 Million Research Investment – Almond Board of California (ABC) on Dec 5 announced an investment of $4.8 million in 64 independent, third-party research projects exploring next-generation farming practices. Additionally, ABC released the first annual Almond Sustainability Publication, entitled Growing Good, which highlights the California Almond community’s commitment to sustainability.1 Over 90% of California Almond farms are family farms, and many are owned and operated by third-and fourth-generation farmers who live on the land and plan to pass it down to their children. The announcement was made at the 45th annual Almond Conference, an event that convenes almond farmers and processors to dialogue with researchers about the latest science. The California Almond community, through ABC, has invested nearly $70 million over 40 plus years to build a foundation of research on improving how almonds are grown, processed, and consumed. Growing Good highlights the industry’s continually evolving farming and processing best practices based on that research investment, which has built a foundation for continuous improvement that is helping almonds to be an economically, environmentally and socially responsible crop for California. 2. Grupo Bimbo Names Honey Holding “Supplier of the Year” for the United States – Honey Holding, dba Honey Solutions, a leading processor of industrial honey, announced recently that the company has been named “Supplier of the Year” for the United States by Grupo Bimbo for its role in generating cost savings for the world’s largest bakery company and for its comprehensive corporate sustainability program. The 2017 Grupo Bimbo USA Supplier of the Year Award was presented to Honey Holding at its Global Suppliers’ Meeting November 14, 2017 in Mexico City. Douglas Murphy, Managing Director and CEO of Honey Holding, received the Award on behalf of Honey Holding. Mr. Murphy addressing the audience of nearly 400 attendees acknowledged the collaborative strategic partnership between Grupo Bimbo and Honey Holding as an underlying basis for the cost savings generated in 2017. At this event, Daniel Servitje, President and CEO of Grupo Bimbo shared the company’s recent acquisitions, challenges and global strategy for as well as participated in the award presentation to Honey Holding. 3. The Minnesota Department Of Agriculture Says It Received 253 Complaints From Soybean Growers Last Season – Minnesota announced restrictions Tuesday on how farmers can use the herbicide dicamba in 2018, responding to complaints by soybean growers across the country that it harmed their crops this year. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture set a June 20 cutoff date for applying the herbicide and prohibited applications when the temperature or forecast high for the day is above 85 degrees. The rules are meant to reduce instances of the herbicide drifting and damaging neighboring fields, which has been a problem in soybean- and cotton-growing states nationwide this year. “We will be closely monitoring the herbicide’s performance with these restrictions in 2018,” Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson said in a statement. Farmers have used dicamba for decades, and its problems with volatility and drift were well-known. But its use has surged in the last couple years since agribusiness companies Monsanto, BASF and DuPont introduced genetically engineered, dicamba-tolerant varieties of soybeans and cotton so that farmers could use the herbicide to control tough weeds in those crops, such as pigweed, that have become resistant to other weed killers such as glyphosate, also known as Roundup. 4. California’s Nascent Coffee Industry To Hold Summit January 18th – Coffee is being commercially grown in California and coffee drinkers can’t get enough of the locally produced beverage, which currently retails for about $18 per cup. Anyone who is interested in growing, processing or marketing specialty coffee in California is invited to a Coffee Summit on Jan. 18 at Cal Poly Pomona. Until recently, American coffee was grown commercially only in Hawaii. To make the most of their precious water, California farmers have begun experimenting with coffee plantings and producing beans that fetch a premium. “There are about 30,000 coffee trees now planted on about 30 farms and that acreage will continue to grow during 2018 with new plantings,” said Mark Gaskell, UC Cooperative Extension advisor who works with coffee growers in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. “Only a relatively small amount of the planted acreage is now producing, but the market interest and demand continue to outpace anticipated new production for the foreseeable future.” Although coffee plants are self-pollinating, David W. Roubik of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Balboa, Panama, reported back in 2002 that coffee-bean yields skyrocket when the shrubs’ flowers are visited by pollinating insects. And in much of the Western Hemisphere’s coffee-growing neotropics, those pollinators have become honey bees. 5. Porsche Is Actually Harvesting The Honey From Colonies Around Its Production Facility In Leipzig, Germany – When was the last time the words “Porsche” and “honey” were mentioned in the same sentence? Years ago? Never? As implausible as it sounds, it’s not a figment of our imaginations anymore; it’s the real deal. Porsche, the company famous for building some of the most iconic sports cars in the history of the world, is now selling honey. Before you start snickering at the thought of Porsche branching out from the auto world into the food business, it’s important to remember that this isn’t a hokey joke that was made up for spits and giggles. Porsche is actually harvesting the honey from bee colonies it set up in May 2017 around its production facility in Leipzig, Germany. In the short space of seven months, Porsche has already produced more than 400 kilos (882 pounds) of honey, which it now sells in jars at its customer center shop. It’s unclear if harvesting and selling honey was one of Porsche’s end-goals when it established a 132-hectare nature reserve around its area in the early 2000’s, but the project has reaped benefits for a lot of parties concerned. Back in 2002, Porsche established colonies of Exmoor ponies and cattle in the area. The years that followed saw a dramatic increase in animal life, a lot of whom have made the area their homes. The bees themselves were only introduced this year in response to the declining population of German bees. As it turned out, Porsche’s decision to introduce the insect has been so successful that the company already has plans to expand it in 2018. “We will continue the initiative next year, and we are planning to expand it. Our nature reserve offers the ideal conditions for bees,” Gerd Rupp, chair of the executive board at Porsche Leipzig, said in a statement. If that expansion happens, you can be sure that we’ll be seeing more of the “Turbienchen” honey in our lives. 6. China Honey Demand Key to Capilano Growth – Soaring Chinese demand and growing local health markets represent the sweetest opportunity for honey producer Capilano, a new analyst report says. Rising demand for honey in China and a growing local health market are the best opportunities for Australia’s biggest honey producer, Capilano, to grow, a new analyst report says. Last year Capilano secured 75 per cent of Australian honey production, but it is in China, where a “thriving demand” for imported honey products continues to grow that the biggest opportunities exist, according to Patersons research analyst Jon Scholtz. Mr Scholtz said Capilano shares are currently fairly priced at $17.72, but a growing potential for sales traction into richer export markets – especially China – will be critical to improving revenue and share price. 7. Slovenia To Get State And Tuition Funded Beekeeping Academy – Ljubljana, 13 December – The government decided to establish a beekeeping academy only a week before the UN General Assembly passed the legislation of Slovenia’s proposal to declare 20 May World Bee Day. The school, which will charge tuition, is an answer to foreign demand for Slovenian beekeeping knowledge, Agriculture Minister Dejan Židan said.     The school will be a part of the Agricultural Institute and will be located in Lukovica at the seat of the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association. Its establishment is a part of the changes to the Agriculture Act, which the government adopted today. “The objective is to meet the demand from abroad and pass our knowledge and competence on to others. We will start to market this through the Slovenian beekeeping academy,” Židan told the press after the government session. The school will be partly funded by the state, while the rest will come from tuition fees, said Židan. He added that the academy will have a programming committee, which will include among others representatives of the Chemistry Institute, the Ljubljana faculties of biotechnology and veterinary medicine, as well as the Maribor Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Touching on the vote at the UN, Židan said Slovenia’s World Bee Day initiative was approved by the General Assembly. So far, 115 countries signed the initiative, including the US, Russia, Brazil and all EU member states. The Agriculture Ministry is also preparing a minister-level meeting focusing on the importance of bees, while the Beekeepers’ Association will hold an international conference.