Items of interest to beekeepers 27 April 2018

Supplied by Fran Bach








There will be no “Items for beekeepers…” for the next two weeks as I am heading to Canada on vacation! Catch you when I get back. Meantime, here are some important items.

Fran Bach


By Dan Lewis

2016 started with hopeful optimism and vocal support from many, then bureaucratic reality set in and the grand vision soon parsed into a flaccid assurance of “best efforts.” Nevertheless, with the visionary support of the Broward Regional Health Planning Council and the steadfast resolve of then-County Commissioner Stacy Ritter – the world’s first two honeybee Micro-apiaries were built and stocked with managed honeybees. The city of Oakland Park approved the first Apiary with the strong support from Mayor Lonegan and the Oakland Park staff.

Congressional funding support from Congressman Deutch and Wasserman-Schultz became overshadowed by the 2016 Presidential Transition and both national and international events. What was thought to be a simple, minimal and ridiculously bipartisan and politically popular grant request for environmental and honeybee support was stymied by the inability of the Trump administration to appoint a Commissioner of Agriculture or their top managers. There was no one to talk to. Congressional support, although enthusiastic was, thus far, a dead end and disappointing.

In 2016, the County wanted to lead in building Honeybee Micro Apiaries in their public lands, but the process became bureaucratically bogged down. The issues included suitable and willing park management teams combined with Apiary management contracting challenges. It is noteworthy, however that a quorum of the new nine-member County Commission attended the grand opening to the Tradewinds Park Honeybee Micro Apiary in 2017 and they each expressed their strong support for the program and offered any assistance needed as necessary. We continue to work with county staff and remain confident.

Some municipal officials and officers of community civic organizations attended the ribbon-cutting ceremonies at the first two micro apiaries. This support became fortuitous as they were able to pick up the meandering slack of the congressional and county efforts and keep the MAPs program growing with twelve micro apiaries in various stages of funding or construction today. If these micro apiaries are successfully funded and constructed, we will have gone more than halfway in attaining our original goal of 30 honeybee micro apiaries in Broward.

The two very active micro apiaries have not only evolved to now include a pollinator boundary constructed around the apiary for butterfly’s as well as some more diverse pollinators, but they are also a focal point for an explosion of educational programs, instructional videos, entomological research and civic volunteerism. Programs with homeschoolers, private schools, charter schools, the girl scouts, the Rare Fruit association, FAU now complement regular educational programs offered by the Urban Farming Institute, and the now combined efforts of the Broward Bee Association and the South Florida Bee Association. The clearest examples of this were the use of the first Micro Apiary at the Urban Farming Institute as the training center for all the Florida Department of Agriculture Honeybee inspectors in January 2018, as a state educational program and its part in providing data for an FAU doctoral dissertation.

Nationally and internationally, the Broward MAPs program has hosted dignitaries from the Caribbean Islands, both Central and South America, Canada as well as Maryland, North & South Carolina, Idaho, Texas, Georgia, and Virginia. In November 2018, the director of the Bee Lab for uber conglomerate Bayer will be at the micro apiary in Oakland Park for an instructional program. Notably, the South Florida Bee Association has already hosted the head of Florida’s Bee Lab Dr. Jamie Ellis, and multiple times, Dr. William Kerr from the University of Florida at the Oakland Park site as well.
In a very real sense, Broward’s Honeybee Micro Apiary project utilizing public lands to create a network of managed honeybee habitats for the environment, for science and for education has become a national model of a successful public-private partnership benefiting all of us.

In short, Broward’s honeybee micro apiary program is a big deal, good for the community, our environment, the diversity of Broward flora, and good politics. It has left the station and gathering steam (albeit slowly) to reach our goal of thirty micro apiaries in Broward.

Originally, we believed that the apiary management costs would be offset 10%-20% by honeybee products (honey, bees, wax, propolis), and 70% by a lower cost environmentally friendly honeybee recovery service to the public entities hosting the apiary.

Because of the unexpected and surprising widespread infestation of varroa mites (a gift from Asia that feeds on honeybees) in feral colonies, we found that we needed to have a quarantine site to take recovered honeybees before moving them into the Micro Apiaries. Once the recovered honeybees are healthy and in a strong colony, they can be moved. This process takes up to 7 weeks. The result was a longer than anticipated “stocking” time for the existing apiaries which is now part of our planning cycle.

The delay incurred in ensuring the health of recovered honeybee colony stock all but exacerbated the cost recovery anticipated from honeybee products and further delayed the stabilization of stocked honeybee colonies in the micro apiaries.

However, the micro apiaries sparked a remarkable demand for educational programs which has transformed the sustainability model dramatically. The micro apiaries reflect this exciting potential revenue stream with its design for observation windows for students of all sizes. Further, the micro apiaries now have with bordered butterfly and pollinator gardens on each of the non-observation sides of the apiary structure.

It is anticipated that environmental, and honeybee educational programs offered by the public entities hosting the apiary and beekeepers managing the apiary will be a significant sustainable revenue stream.

Full report at


An important commentary from Peter Borst in response to a call to sign on to a letter from ABF and AHPA to the EPA regarding glyphosate reregistration –


Hi all.

I received a copy of this today:
The American Beekeeping Federation and the American Honey Producers Association are submitting a letter to the EPA for glyphosate reregistration and asked me belatedly to write a letter as someone engaged in pollinator research to also write a letter. The attached letter is the result and it comes at a late date that precludes a consensus approach or group wide acceptance. James L. Frazier, Professor Emeritus, Penn State University

Excerpt from the letter:
“Glyphosate can also have direct effects on bees by contaminating surface waters (8,9,10,11) needed by active colonies as well as direct effects on individual bees.  These sublethal effects can alter the social dynamics within a colony, including reducing foraging efficiency of the foraging force, which can lead to cascading effects on colony demographic structure.”

These are the references cited:

8. USGS, Environmental Health-Toxic Substances, “Common Weed Killer is Widespread in the Environment,”http://

9. Toccalino, P.L. Robert J. Gilliom, Bruce D. Lindsey, and Michael G. Rupert. 2014, Pesticides in Groundwater of the United States: Decadal-Scale Changes, 1993–2011  http:// DOI: 10.1111/gwat.12176

10. Gives distribution and quantities of pesticide in US waters through 2011.

11. Assessment of the Impacts of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems. 2015.

I don’t know if anyone but me chases down the references, but I did.

The first one talks about glyphosate and water but never mentions bees. It does say: “Glyphosate by itself is no more than slightly toxic to birds, fish, and aquatic invertebrates.”

The second reference never mentions wildlife or pollinators but does say: “Pesticide concentrations seldom exceeded human health benchmarks in groundwater.”

The third, no mention of glyphosate or bees at all, it “examines the potential for pesticides to have adverse effects on human health, aquatic life, and fish eating wildlife.”

The last, which runs 175 pages, doesn’t really talk about herbicides much, it mostly about insecticides. It does say: “herbicides reduce the abundance of host and nectar plants.”

I am sorry, but I think it’s odd that the letter lists 50 references, but doesn’t really support the statement “Glyphosate can also have direct effects on bees by contaminating surface waters.”

Peter Borst
(Retired from the Dyce Lab for Honey Bee Studies at Cornell University, New York)

Catherine Wissner, a Western Apicultural Society board member and a horticulturist at the University of Wyoming, adds that fungicides act as a synergist and make insecticides 10x more lethal, but no one is paying attention to this, or researching it. She suggests a more appropriate direction for the national beekeeper organizations to take is to bring this issue to the EPA’s attention, since the fungicides are in mixes used for spraying everything from lawns to agricultural crops.


From the April Project Apis m. newsletter –


Beekeepers in the USA and Canada were surprised this month with a letter from Medivet, the single provider of a treatment for the honey bee gut parasite, Nosema. The letter to customers said the treatment, Fumagilin-B, is no longer available and, as a result, they anticipate closing their operation by June 2018. Many beekeepers use this treatment as part of their honey bee health management and with no alternative antibiotic for the treatment of Nosema, there is great concern about losing this tool.

In July 2017, Project Apis m. funded a project to study and innovate another avenue to drug development as treatments for Nosema, recognizing the value of supporting practical research. And now we have something under way! The project is led by Dr. Jonathan Snow, at Barnard College, who is approaching Nosema disease from a biomedical background, targeting the molecular pathways unique to microsporidian parasites, and there are already promising results. Using cage trials, one compound is as effective at killing Nosema as Fumagilin-B, without increased toxicity to bees.

When PAm funded this project, in partnership with the National Honey Board Production Research funds, we recognized the urgent need to add it to the honey bee health tool kit.  Dr. Snow will be consulting with the USDA to determine what could ‘fast track’ this treatment to market, if trials are successful. This situation is a great example of why choosing practical honey bee research is important. PAm is at the forefront of directing work that will support the beekeeping industry, and with trusted partners like the National Honey Board, we work to stay ahead of new risks to honeybee health. Stay tuned for progress on this project!

Click <> to learn more about Dr. Jonathan Snow’s Lab



Apply Now! Seed A Legacy Pollinator Habitat Program fall planting applications will be accepted from April 1st through August 31st, 2018.  If you are interested in learning more or applying to participate, please visit The Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund’s Seed A Legacy webpage <>.

The Seed a Legacy spring application process closed on March 31st with over 60 applicants. We would like thank all of our applicants who are committed to partnering with us in conservation.

What will BBHF Seed a Legacy participants be planting?

Each Seed a Legacy project has two separate plantings: one for monarch butterflies, and one for honey bees.  Each  of these plantings  benefits all pollinators and features region specific Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund NextGen Habitat Project Seed mixtures.

The monarch butterfly seed mix is highly diverse, containing over 40 species of plants and including between 5,000 and 8,000 milkweed seeds per acre, and the honey bee seed mix contains 7-10 legume species along with  other blooming plants.   Both seed mixes provide high-quality nutritional benefits and habitat for monarch butterflies, honey bees, native bees, and other pollinators.  Planting the mixes separately allows for better establishment and ensures that the plants reach their full potential.

NextGen Habitat Project designs are documented to provide increased pollinator benefits over other pollinator conservation programs. As Dr. Clint Otto, Research Ecologist with the US Geologic Survey says: “High-quality forage goes hand-in-hand with pollinator health and productivity.”  The Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund is making an impact on pollinator health today.

For more information about the BBHF and its habitat programs, please visit,  contact the BBHF at, or call 800-407-5337.



1. Monsanto and St. Louis Biotech Startup Develop Tool to Protect Bees and Fight Pests –

Monsanto and St. Louis-based biotech company RNAgri are collaborating to develop a technology that will help farmers and beekeepers ward off pests.

The technology uses a naturally occurring process called RNA interference. DNA contains genetic information that RNA transports throughout a cell to allow the cell to produce proteins. The honeybee, for example, produces some types of proteins that attract varroa mites, a parasite that scientists believe to be a cause of colony collapse disorder. RNA interference could stop those proteins from being produced and prevent varroa mites from harming bees.

RNA interference technology has developed in two ways. First, a crop could be engineered to stop the production of certain proteins that draw pests to damage it. Second, the crop’s leaves could be sprayed with RNA interference technology. The latter has not been as developed as the former and that’s largely because it’s still quite expensive, RNAgri CEO John Killmer said.

“A few years ago, one gram of RNA [interference] costs tens of thousands of dollars. When you’re going after targets in broad-acre agriculture, that’s millions and millions of grams and therefore thousands of metric tons of RNA [interference],” Killmer said. “You can’t do that at tens of thousands of dollars a gram. You need a cost of RNA that’s less than a dollar a gram. That’s what we’re achieving and hope to deliver to Monsanto.”

RNAgri,  largely funded by BioSTL’s investment arm BioGenerator, has been developing the technology to ward off a number of pests, including fire ants. The startup’s expertise will help Monsanto’s ongoing projects to address varroa mites in backyard bee hives and canola flea beetles for canola farmers.

RNA interference targets specific pests, as opposed to attacking potentially many kinds of pests. That allows the user to control the impact the product has on the environment.

“At the end of the day, mites are kind of like bees, so finding something that differentiates them and doesn’t harm the bee is really tough,” said Greg Heck, science strategy operations manager at Monsanto.

CATCH THE BUZZ – Monsanto and St. Louis Biotech Startup Develop Tool to Protect Bees and Fight Pests.


2. Earth BioGenome Project aims to sequence, catalogue and characterize all species more complex than bacteria –

Biology’s version of the moonshot, a US$4.5-billion effort to bring millions of powerful solutions to agriculture’s challenges, aims to sequence, catalogue and characterize all of Earth’s more than 1.5 million species more complex than bacteria.

The 10-year Earth BioGenome Project (EBP) will create a new foundation for biology, helping shed light on major issues facing humanity, such as the impact of climate change on biodiversity, the conservation of endangered species and ecosystems, and the preservation and enhancement of ecosystem services.

EBP calls for scientists globally to sequence the genomes of 9,330 species, one from each plant, animal and protozoan taxonomic family as reference genomes, in the first three years.

The plan calls for sequencing the genome of one species from each genus – the next taxonomic division finer than family – during years four to seven, although in less detail, for a total of about 150,000 genera.

CATCH THE BUZZ – Earth BioGenome Project aims to sequence, catalogue and characterize all species more complex than bacteria.


3. 6 of 10 Top Honey Producing States Now Under Drought Conditions, Again!
By David Montgomery The Pew Charitable Trusts Research & Analysis Stateline

AUSTIN, Texas — Less than eight months after Hurricane Harvey pelted the Texas Gulf Coast with torrential rainfall, drought has returned to Texas and other parts of the West, Southwest and Southeast, rekindling old worries for residents who dealt with earlier waves of dry spells and once again forcing state governments to reckon with how to keep the water flowing.

Nearly a third of the continental United States was in drought as of April 10, more than three times the coverage of a year ago. And the specter of a drought-ridden summer has focused renewed urgency on state and local conservation efforts, some of which would fundamentally alter Americans’ behavior in how they use water.  Moreover, 6 of the 10 top honey producing states are already under drought conditions, including  ND, SD, CA, FL, TX, and ID. A second year of drought in these states would be disastrous for the 2018 US honey crop.

In California, for example, officials are considering rules to permanently ban water-wasting actions such as hosing off sidewalks and driveways, washing a vehicle with a hose that doesn’t have a shut-off valve, and irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians. The regulations, awaiting a final decision by the California State Water Resources Control Board, were in force as temporary emergency measures during part of a devastating five-year drought but were lifted in 2017 after the drought subsided.

CATCH THE BUZZ – 6 of 10 Top Honey Producing States Now Under Drought Conditions, Again!