Items of interest to beekeepers 30 August 2017

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








LARRY CONNOR: HOW TO KEEP YOUR BEES ALIVE AND GROWING By Kathy Keatley Garvey How do you keep your bees alive and growing? That will be the topic of honey bee guru Lawrence “Larry” Connor of Kalamazoo, Mich., when he presents a special short course during the Western Apicultural Society (WAS) conference, to take place Sept. 5-8 in the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC), University of California, Davis. Connor will present the alternative short course, “Keeping Your Bees Alive and Growing,” at 1 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 6 for a $50 extra fee, announced WAS president Eric Mussun, Extension apiculturist emeritus. Said Connor: “We will start with the concepts in Two and a Half Hives: starting with two colonies of bees and making a nucleus the first season. We will show you how to harvest the bees and brood for a nucleus colony. The same system will for anti-swarm management after your first season. We will spend time looking at nucleus management to cycle new, mite-tolerant queens into your beekeeping, including when and how to establish these hives and prepare them for the winter.” He adds: “We will look at the general nature of bee population management—when to grow a hive and what to do when they fail to thrive. We will end with a discussion about establishing and maintaining a sustainable apiary—keeping your bees alive and thriving year to year. If we have time, we will work on your reading list in beekeeping.” A native of Kalamazoo, Connor holds a doctorate in entomology from Michigan State University, and worked as an Extension entomologist in apiculture at The Ohio State University from 1972 to 1976 before accepting a position in Labelle, Fla., to run a new bee breeding program,  Genetic Systems, Inc., the world’s first mass production facility for the instrumental inseminated queen honey bees. Connor left Florida in 1980 and began writing books with Wicwas Press LLC, a company he helped found and now owns. He has published more than a dozen titles dealing with bees, beekeeping, queen rearing and pollination. He regularly contributes to Bee Culture and the American Bee Journal magazines, addressing queen and drone biology and management and beekeeper interviews.  He is also an accomplished photographer, artist and actor. Connor will be one of some 16 speakers, ranging from California to Canada, to address the WAS conference. WAS originated at UC Davis. More information on the conference is available from the WAS website or by contacting Eric Mussen at WAS, open to all interested persons, is a non-profit educational organization, geared for small-scale beekeepers in the western United States. —– BENEFITS FOR BEEKEEPERS BATTLING DISEASES Some commercial beekeeping practices may harm honey bees more than help them WASHINGTON — Some commercial beekeeping practices may harm honey bees more than help them, scientists warn in a paper published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. “Western honey bees — the most important pollinators for U.S. food crops — are facing unprecedented declines, and diseases are a key driver,” says Berry Brosi, an evolutionary biologist at Emory University and a lead author of the review paper. “The way commercial operations are managing honey bees might actually generate more damaging parasites and pathogens by creating selection pressure for higher virulence.” The paper draws on scientific studies to recommend ways to reduce disease impacts, such as limiting the mixing of bees between colonies and supporting natural bee behaviors that provide disease resistance. The paper also highlights honey bee management practices in need of more research. During the past 15 years, ecological and evolutionary approaches have changed how scientists tackle problems of infectious diseases among humans, wildlife and livestock. “This change in thinking hasn’t sunk in with the beekeeping field yet,” says Emory evolutionary biologist Jaap de Roode, co-lead author of the paper. “We wanted to outline scientific approaches to help understand some of the current problems facing beekeepers, along with potential control measures.” Co-authors of the paper include Keith Delaplane, an entomologist at the University of Georgia, and Michael Boots, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Berkeley. Managed honey bees are important to the production of 39 of the 57 leading crops used for human consumption, including fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables. In recent years, however, managed honey bee colonies have declined at the rate of more than one million per year, representing annual losses between 30 and 40 percent. While pesticides and land-use changes are factors involved in these losses, parasites are a primary driver — especially the aptly named Varroa destructor. The parasitic Varroa mite and the numerous viruses it carries are considered the primary causes of honey bee colony losses worldwide. Varroa mites are native to Asia, where the Eastern honey bee species co-evolved with them before humans began managing bee colonies on commercial scales. As a result of this co-evolution, the Eastern honey bee developed behaviors — such as intensive mutual grooming — that reduce the mites’ negative impacts. The Western honey bee species of the United States and Europe, however, has remained relatively defenseless against the mites, which spread to the United States during the late 1970s and 1980s. The mites suck the blood of the bees and reduce their immunity. Even more potentially destructive, however, are the multiple viruses the mites transmit through their saliva. Deformed-wing virus, for instance, can cripple a honey bee’s flying ability and is associated with high bee larval mortality. Following are some of the potential solutions, in need of further study, outlined in the Nature Ecology & Evolution paper. Reduce mixing of colonies: A common practice at beekeeping apiaries is to move combs containing brood — eggs and developing worker bees — between colonies. While the practice is meant to equalize colony strength, it can also spread parasites and pathogens. Colonies are also mixed at regional and national scales. For instance, more than half of all honey bees in the country are involved in almond pollination in California. “For a lot of beekeeping operations, trucking their bees to California for almond pollination is how they make ends meet,” Brosi says. “It’s like the Christmas season for retailers.” Pollination brokers set up contracts for individual beekeepers on particular almond farms. “If the brokers separated individual beekeeping operations beyond the distance that the average honey bee forages, that could potentially help reduce the mixing of bees and the rate of pathogen transmission between the operations,” Brosi says. Improve parasite clearance: Most means of dealing with Varroa mites focus on reducing their numbers in a colony rather than wiping them out, as the mites are developing increased resistance to some of the chemicals used to kill them. Such incomplete treatments increase natural selection for stronger, more virulent parasites. Further compounding the problem is that large commercial beekeeping operations may have tens of thousands of colonies, kept in close quarters. “In a natural setting of an isolated bee colony living in a tree, a parasite that kills off the colony has nowhere to go,” de Roode explains. “But in an apiary with many other colonies nearby, the cost of parasite virulence goes way down.” Allow sickened colonies to die out: Keeping bees infected with parasites and viruses alive through multiple interventions dilutes natural selection for disease resistance among the bees. In contrast, letting infections take their course in a colony and using the surviving bees for stock could lead to more resistant bees with fewer disease problems. Support behavioral resistance: Beekeepers tend to select for bees that are more convenient to manage, but may have behavioral deficiencies that make them less fit. Some honey bees mix their saliva and beeswax with tree resin to form what is known as propolis, or bee glue, to seal holes and cracks in their hives. Studies have also shown that propolis helps keep diseases and parasites from entering the hive and inhibits the growth of fungi, bacteria and mites. “Propolis is sticky. That annoys beekeepers trying to open hives and separate the components so they try to breed out this behavior,” de Roode says. The paper concedes that commercial beekeeping operations face major challenges to shift to health management practices rooted in fundamental principles of evolution and ecology. “Beekeeping is a tough way to make a living, because it operates on really thin margins,” Brosi says. “Even if there are no simple solutions, it’s important to make beekeepers aware of how their practices may affect bees in the long term. And we want researchers to contribute scientific understanding that translates into profitable and sustainable practices for beekeeping.” —Emory Health Sciences via EurekAlert! —– RESEARCHERS EXAMINE SELF-MEDICATION ‘BEE’HAVIOR AMHERST, Mass. — A new study of possible self-medicating behavior in bumble bees conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst reports that a once-promising finding was not supported by further experiments and analysis. Doctoral candidate Evan Palmer-Young and his advisor, evolutionary ecologist Lynn Adler, had reported in 2015 that a common parasitic infection of bumble bees was reduced when the bees fed on anabasine in sugar water. Anabasine is a natural alkaloid, nicotine-like chemical found in plant nectar. The researchers had hoped their finding was evidence that bees may use “nature’s medicine cabinet” to rid themselves of the intestinal parasite Crithidia bombi, which can decrease the survival of queen bees over the winter and hamper the success of young colonies in the spring. But as they report in the current issue of PLOS ONE, those results were not borne out with further investigation. “Although uninfected bees in our experiments were not adversely affected by alkaloid-containing diets, anabasine had deleterious effects on infected bees. This is the first report of exacerbation of floral alkaloids’ negative effects by Crithidia infection,” they write. —– NO FLOWERS? NO PROBLEM – BEES HAVE OTHER WAYS OF FINDING SUGAR GAINESVILLE, Fla. — What’s a bee to do when there are very few flowers available and it needs a sugar fix? Wild bees may be responding to climate change and urban expansion by relying on insects to get the sweet stuff, according to a study by Joan Meiners, a Ph.D. student in the University of Florida IFAS School of Natural Resources and Environment. Non-honey bees, which live in holes in the ground instead of in hives, are the primary pollinators in wild habitats such as national parks and provide valuable pollination services in croplands, Meiners said. “These solitary bee species develop in the ground for about 11 months, and then come out to visit flowers for nectar and pollen—which they need for energy and to reproduce,” she said. Climate change has caused some flower species to bloom at different times than they have in the past, Meiners said. This causes a potential mismatch in bees and flowers meeting at the right time. With urban development also reducing the number of wildflower habitats, wild bees could come out of the ground to find very little food available to them. When this happens, Meiners discovered that some wild bees turn to plant-feeding insects for food. The plant-feeding insects suck out nutrients from their host plant, and then secrete a nutrient-rich carbohydrate known as honeydew that is similar to nectar sugar, Meiners said. “We are the first to study solitary bees feeding on honeydew while they wait for more flowers to bloom,” she said. “And one of the most interesting things about this behavior is that these bees can find the honeydew without any colorful petals or scents to guide them there.” —– From Dr. Christine Grozinger – MORE BEE JOBS 1. Bee taxonomy technician position, Cornell University — open immediately The McArt lab in the Department of Entomology at Cornell University is interested in hiring a technician with experience in bee taxonomy. The technician will work closely with personnel in McArt’s lab on an NIH-funded project that is investigating how pathogen transmission and disease spread occur in plant-pollinator networks. Duties will include sorting and identifying field-collected bee specimens and helping to dissect and prepare the specimens for pathogen screening. All specimens are collected from local field sites in New York, which is known to have a bee diversity of approximately 416 species. This is a 6-month position with possibility for longer-term renewal. Salary commensurate with experience and an excellent benefits package included. While the position is based at Cornell, the technician will interact regularly with a cross-disciplinary group of Co-PIs and postdocs/grad students at UC Riverside, UMass-Amherst, NC State and the departments of Physics and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell. Brief descriptions of the overall project can be found via the following links: Please contact Scott McArt ( directly if you are interested in the position, including your CV, a brief 1-paragraph statement of interest and a list of 2-3 references. —– CATCH THE BUZZ 1. USDA Program To Develop Honey Bee Habitat And Private Lands Concervation Incentives – NRCS Announces EQIP Signup for 2018 Funding, Apply by October 20, 2017 Providing Conservation Practices to Protect Natural Resources West Bend/Sheboygan Falls. – August 16, 2017 Farmers and forest landowners will want to plan ahead and sign up early for USDA conservation funding. Michael Patin, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) District Conservationist in West Bend and Sheboygan Falls, announced farmers and forest landowners interested in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) need to apply by October 20, 2017, for funding in 2018. Applications are being taken at the West Bend and Sheboygan Falls Service Centers. EQIP is the primary program available to farmers for farm and woodland conservation work, offering payments for over 110 basic conservation practices. Last year, Wisconsin received about $25 million in funds for EQIP practices. “By getting applications in early, we have time for staff to visit individual farms to help plan all practices needed and offer advice,” said Michael Patin, District Conservationist. “It’s easier to do an accurate plan before the snow starts, when you can better see the landscape.” All eligible applications received by October 20, 2017, will be evaluated, prioritized and ranked for funding in 2018. Farmers may contact their local USDA Service Center to get started on producer eligibility and planning. Biggs reminds farmers who are interested in practices that may require permits, such as manure storage or streambank restoration, to begin planning and seeking permits as soon as possible. Applicants with shovel-ready projects (designs completed and permit applications submitted) will receive higher priority. Signup by October 20, 2017 for Several Special Initiatives Focusing on Conservation Efforts Great Lakes Restoration Initiative:  Through GLRI, NRCS offers financial assistance to agricultural producers for implementing practices that improve water quality in selected watersheds.  Eligible watersheds in Wisconsin include the Door-Kewaunee Rivers, Lower Fox River, Manitowoc-Sheboygan, and the Milwaukee River. Milwaukee and Oconomowoc River Basin Regional Conservation Partnership Program:  The Milwaukee & Oconomowoc River Basin Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) promotes coordination between NRCS and local partners to deliver conservation assistance to producers and landowners. NRCS provides assistance to producers through partnership agreements and through program contracts or easement agreements. Other active projects include improvement of monarch habitat statewide. 2. Have Flowers Devised The Ultimate Weapon Of Distraction? Nectar Not Just A ‘Come On’ To Bees, It’s A Honeytrap! – Nectar, the high-energy ‘honey’ produced by flowers, might be a brilliant distraction technique to help protect a flower’s reproductive parts, according to new research. Rather than merely providing a ‘come-on’ to bees and other insects to attract them to pollinate the flower, nectar could be playing a much more subtle and entrancing role. Scientists from across the world have studied the part played by herbivores, such as sawflies, which eat petals and nectar, on an iris found in the Himalayas. They are now confident that a visiting insect which feasts on the nectar and the gland which produces it, and makes merry, is playing into the hands of the flower and ensuring it survives and thrives. Scientists at the universities of Wuhan, China; Calgary, Canada; Portsmouth, UK; and at the Fairylake Botanical Garden in Shenzen, China, have published their findings in Biology Letters.