Items of interest to beekeepers 30 March 2018

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






NEW EDITORS AT WASBA & WAS JOURNAL As many of you know, I am retiring from publishing the bee journals. This week, I get to introduce the new editors for both the Washington State Beekeepers (WASBA) Newsletter and the Western Apicultural Society (WAS) Journal. I have published the former for six years and the latter for fifteen. Along the way, I have got to know so many wonderful “bee people” It is my sincere hope you will extend your friendship and assistance to the new people as you have done for me. May I introduce Debbie and Tim Ade of Snohomish, Washington as the WASBA newsletter co-editors? The March issue is posted on the website ( and click on “March issue”). This was a bit of a joint effort, with me doing the “gathering” while Debbie compiled the pages. There are still a few pieces not yet in place to let me step away completely, but we are getting there. The March issue is just an example of the beautiful and informative work you can expect from Debbie and Tim. Earlier this week, WAS President Steve Sweet announced that Rosanna Mattingly, PhD, of Portland, Oregon has been hired as the new editor for the WAS Journal. Rosanna’s first issue will be in May, again a more-or-less joint effort until everything is in place. Many of you know Rosanna as the backbone of the Oregon Beekeepers Association, publisher for many years of their state newsletter, conference program etc; a major part of the website management/membership team; author in her own right of a number of beekeeping books and items (see; and with a long list of other credentials. I can’t say enough about the quality of Rosanna’s work. This is a great step forward at WAS. Meanwhile, I look forward to sitting on my deck and watching the sunsets, which are pretty spectacular in this corner of the world (south central Washington state). Don’t worry. I have plenty of projects to keep me busy. For a time, I will continue “Items for beekeepers…” – until the network is fully transferred to the new folk. After that, who knows? Au revoir • adios • lebewohl • arrivederci and all that! Fran —– IBRA AND NORTHERN BEE BOOKS (UK) NEED EDITORS/COMPILERS/AUTHORS FOR NEW BOOKS The following note was sent by Jeremy Burbidge in England concerning publication of books through the International Bee Research Association (IBRA) – You may be aware that Northern Bee Books is presently acting as a co-publisher  for some of the books produced by The International Bee Research Association. Northern Bee Books  are particularly keen to contact Bee Researchers in Universities in America who may be willing to act as editor/compiler or author for new scientific texts in their field. There is likely to be some recompense for this role.   Jeremy Burbidge —– NEW APP LISTENS TO THE PROBLEMS OF BEES YOU might expect to hear an angry buzzing when honeybees have been disturbed. But some apiarists reckon they can also deduce the condition of their bees from the sounds they make. A steady hum could be the sign of a contented hive; a change in tone might indicate that the bees are about to swarm. That intuition is about to be put to the test. Soon, beekeepers will be able to try to find out what is troubling a colony by listening to the buzz using a smartphone app. The app, which is in the final stages of testing, has been developed by Jerry Bromenshenk and a group of fellow bee experts at the University of Montana. It uses a form of artificial intelligence to analyse the sound that bees are making in order to deduce whether they are suffering from a number of maladies. Those afflictions might provide an indication of an impending Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a mysterious syndrome that has plagued beekeepers in North America and Europe. Unlike a natural swarm, in which a large group of worker bees leave with their queen to form a new colony, CCD involves bees suddenly disappearing for no obvious reason, leaving their queen behind. Although recent reports suggest there has been a reduction in bee die-offs, according to some estimates 10m hives in America alone were wiped out by CCD from 2006 to 2013. Besides hitting honey production, this can also hinder the pollination of certain crops. The development of the app has an unusual back story. The idea came from one of the many bee projects which Dr Bromenshenk and his colleagues are involved in. This work involves training bees to hunt for landmines. Landmines leak traces of explosive chemicals into the ground and the air. These tiny emissions can be detected by well-trained sniffer dogs. Since dogs can be heavy enough to detonate mines, some instead use rats that have been trained to do the same thing. Explosive reaction Training dogs and rats to find mines is slow and expensive. However, the Montana researchers reckon they can train bees to find mines in only a few hours. They do this by spiking a syrup feed with a small sample of explosive chemicals. The bees then associate the scent of the chemicals with food. This influences them to fly towards and around any source of the chemicals when foraging for nectar. As there could be some 20,000 bees flying, some means of tracking them is required. To do that, the researchers use lidar, a form of radar, which they tune to the frequency of the bees’ wing beats. This way an electronic map can be built up showing where the bees fly to, and thus where any landmines might be. In tests with the American army, the researchers found bees were more than 97% accurate in locating landmines. This work is ongoing, but it has also led to other research. The academics came to realise that if minehunting bees are to be deployed successfully by soldiers or civilian contractors, then the operators would need to have good beekeeping skills. Such skills, of course, can be taught but it would take a long time for novices to acquire the knowledge of an experienced beekeeper, let alone be in tune with the many ailments that bees are susceptible to. This led in turn to the idea of developing a machine that could, like a seasoned beekeeper, listen to the buzz of bees to help determine their health. For such an idea to work, it is necessary to attribute specific bee ailments to particular sounds. To do that, the university tapped into its worldwide network of beekeepers to find colonies that were known to suffer from only one problem, and to obtain sound recordings of bees in those colonies. The sounds that bees make come from their beating wings (although movements by other parts of their bodies may also be involved). Having built up a database of sounds, an artificial neural network, a form of machine learning used for pattern recognition, was employed to help build algorithms that can match bee sounds to those associated with certain hive problems. Rather than produce a stand-alone device, the group developed a system which could be used on a smartphone. The resulting app, which is called Bee Health Guru, is being produced by Bee Alert Technology, a company spun out from the university. To check on the health of a colony of bees it is usually necessary to open the hive, a procedure which involves using smoke to pacify the bees. That is a time-consuming process for commercial beekeeping operations, some of which may have several thousand colonies to take care of. With the app, all a beekeeper need do is to hold their smartphone near to the hive’s entrance for 30 seconds while it analyses the sound of the bees. The app then lists any health problems which it detects. Seven different disorders will at first be checked, says David Firth, a team member who is helping to bring the app to market. These include the presence of hive beetle, a serious honeybee pest, parasitic mites and “foulbrood”, a bacterial infection which can destroy bee colonies. The results might also point to early signs of CCD, which is now regarded as being caused by a combination of problems rather than one particular disease. In a 2010 paper in PLoS One, Dr Bromenshenk and his colleagues found that a bee virus and a fungus from a species known as Nosema were often prevalent in collapsed honeybee colonies, and that it was likely the two working together were more lethal to bees than either pathogen alone. With the permission of users, data from the app can be shared with the researchers, who plan thereby to update the software to detect other diseases and problems, says Dr Firth. This could include exposure to pesticides, in particular a group called neonicotinoids which are suspected of harming honeybees (pesticide producers reject such claims). Finally, if all works to plan, bees will get to have their say about the things that cause them harm. —– BEE JOBS Westerman Lab Postdoctoral Fellow in Behavioral Genomics at The University of Arkansas The Westerman Lab at the University of Arkansas is seeking a creative and motivated Postdoctoral Fellow to investigate the genetics and neurobiology of mate preference plasticity in butterflies, to begin as soon as late Spring/Early Summer 2018. The Westerman Lab studies mechanisms underlying behavioral diversity and plasticity, with a focus on sensory system development and visual learning in butterflies. Current research topics include the role of genetics and social environment in mate preference development, behavioral and developmental plasticity, and sensory biases. The lab is an integrative animal behavior group, and integrates a wide range of techniques, including, but not limited to, genomics, transcriptomics, controlled laboratory experiments, histology, and field ecology. Research incorporates both tropical butterflies and those native to Northwestern Arkansas, and takes advantage of multiple species-rich field sites within a 30-minute drive of campus. For more information, please visit the lab website at For a complete position announcement and information regarding how to apply, visit —– CATCH THE BUZZ 1. Bites, Kicks, And Stings From Farm Animals, Bees, Wasps, Hornets, And Dogs Continue To Represent The Most Danger To Humans, According To A New Study In Wilderness & Environmental Medicine – Philadelphia, February 28, 2018 — A new study released in the latest issue of Wilderness & Environmental Medicine shows that animal encounters remain a considerable cause of human harm and death. Researchers analyzed fatalities in the United States from venomous and nonvenomous animals from 2008-2015. They found that while many deaths from animal encounters are potentially avoidable, mortality rates did not decrease from 2008-2015. The animals most commonly responsible for human fatalities are farm animals, insects (hornets, wasps, and bees), and dogs. In a follow-up to their previous study looking at data from 1999-2007, researchers from Stanford University used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) database to collect data by type of animal and individuals’ age, race, sex, and region where the fatalities occurred. They found that from 2008-2015, there were 1,610 animal-related fatalities in the US, with the majority of deaths the result of encounters with nonvenomous animals (57 percent). 2. Agricultural Appropriations Bill Up For Funding. Write these Congressmen to make sure it works – Concise group statement pasted below.  Complements and reinforces the Letter sent by CP2C co-chairs Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and 21 other Members to House Ag Approps leadership.  That effort was endorsed and supported by P2 and other groups. Deadline for outside testimony:  Senate-noon, March 30, and House-noon, April 13. Who can sign?  National, State and Local Organizations. Respond directly, with organization name as you would like it to be listed, or go to   You can also help by spreading the word to other organizations that may be interested.                                                           ********************* Dear Chairman Hoeven and Ranking Member Merkley: (Senate-March 30) Dear Chairman Aderholt and Ranking Member Bishop: (House-April 13)      The undersigned strongly urge you to provide robust funding in the Fiscal Year 2019 Agricultural Appropriations bill for federal pollinator-related programs. Specifically, please appropriate adequate funding for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), National Institutes of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).      Pollinators are vital to our nation’s economy and ecosystem, contributing nearly $20 billion to the nation’s economy and supporting one out of every three bites of food we eat.  The significant decline in commercial honey bees and native pollinator populations has been well documented.      These USDA agencies are undertaking several extensive and long-term research initiatives and are leading efforts to foster private industry and researcher collaboration and utilize input from stakeholders in ongoing efforts to help develop effective solutions. Congress has been engaged and supportive on a bipartisan basis on this vital issue, and continued funding support is essential.      Thank you for your consideration of this important request. Sincerely, 3. Improving Pollinator Buffer Establishment Faces Weeds, Seed Size and Germination Issues – It can be difficult to establish pollinator habitats via various NRCS conservation practices (e.g. conservation cover, contour buffer strips, field border, filter strip).  The most significant challenge appears to be seedbed preparation and subsequent planting.  The most frequent challenge with the seedbed is the weed seed bank.  Weeds often germinate and grow faster than the desired plant species and challenge the early establishment of those plants.  Additionally, plant mixes that benefit pollinators often contain seeds of widely varying size and shape.  Thus, if the plant mix is planted using only one planting method (e.g. drill, broadcast, etc.), then certain species/types will benefit, while others suffer.  The Norman A. Berg National Plant Materials Center (MDPMC) pollinator buffer establishment project aims to address seedbed preparation and planting method to identify methods to improve establishment of a diverse pollinator habitat.