Items of interest to beekeepers February 18 2017

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







CATCH THE BUZZ EVENTS LINKS —– HONEY BEES OUTFITTED WITH TINY MICROCHIPS REVEAL POSSIBLE BIZARRE EFFECTS OF A COVERT, YET DEADLY, VIRUS BY Jen Viegas in Seeker Detective work involving honey bees outfitted with ultra-small microchips reveals that a virus once thought to be relatively benign is causing honey bees to live fast and die young. The pathogen, a covert form of deformed wing virus that is described in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, may even be exerting a form of mind control over worker honey bees. “It’s possible that the virus has evolutionary interests in manipulating workers to move out of the hive and then maybe transmit the virus to other patches in the environment or cause them to drift to other hives,” author Tom Wenseleers of the University of Leuven told Seeker. He added that the theory may seem far-fetched, “but is in fact not that unlikely, given that the virus has been found to concentrate in specific centers of the brain that are involved in higher cognitive processes.” He, lead author Kristof Benaets and their team tracked the movements of honey bees using the microchips — known as RFID tags — that weigh less than .0002 ounces. The little devices, affixed in this case to the backs of bees, are most commonly used to tag items in stores to prevent theft. The new study is among the first to tap the devices for investigating the impact of pollinator viruses. The researchers found that adult worker honeybees with deformed wing virus often show no outward physical symptoms of the illness, which can otherwise cause crippled wings when victims are infected in the larval stage. Still, the infected adult workers show bizarre behavior. They start foraging at much earlier ages, reduce their activity levels earlier than other adult workers and then die younger than honeybees without the virus. Aside from the possible mind control abilities of the virus, the initial fast living of the sick honeybees could be because the pollinators detect that they are ill and react by leaving the hive early in order to avoid infecting their nest mates, Wenseleers explained. Honey bees, like other insects, have an immune system and can fight off viral diseases, but their ability to do so has been suppressed in recent years. Other research has shown that certain pesticides can weaken honeybee immune systems, as well as diminish bee sperm. Yet another problem, according to Wenseleers, is “the free trade in bee queens, which are shipped around the world.” If these bees are infected with deformed wing virus, they can easily pass it on to their daughter workers. Solving the longstanding colony health issue is proving to be very challenging. To prevent the deformed wing virus from spreading, Wenseleers hopes that beekeepers will “rely more on locally acquired bee stocks, to avoid diseases from spreading.” Since parasitic Varroa mites are also known to transmit the virus to honey bees, efforts to control these pests are ongoing. Wenseleers said that “some beekeepers think that the best course of action may in fact be a very simple one: just let nature take its course and let the bees themselves develop Varroa resistance.” On the other hand, he added, the agrochemical company giant Monsanto has been trying to develop a method called RNA Interference (RNAi) to combat bee and other animal diseases, including deformed wing virus. RNA is a molecule in the cells of plants and animals that helps to make proteins. Wenseleers explained that the method relies on mixing synthetic RNA in a sugary syrup fed to bees. The synthetic compound “is designed to bind to specific genes of the pathogen or parasite, thereby preventing it from replicating.” The technique still needs refinement, possibly because the synthetic RNA is not stable enough over long periods of time. “With further development, though, this revolutionary new method could well have a lot of promise to treat viral diseases, including in crops, livestock or humans,” Wenseleers said. —– From Donna Nash in Santa Fe, NM – NEW MEXICO POLLINATOR BILL On February 9th, Bill SJM 4, known as the “Pollinator-Friendly Plant Labeling Project”, spearheaded by The Wild Friends Program at the UNM School of Law and sponsored by Senator Mimi Stewart, was put before the Senate Conservation Committee of the New Mexico Legislature – A joint memorial recognizing the Legislature’s support for a voluntary pollinator-friendly plant labeling project at local nurseries around the state; requesting the Governor to declare the second Bee Aware Day; requesting the Director of the Legislative Council Service to designate an area at the State Capitol as a pollinator garden to help educate the public about the importance of bees and other pollinators to humans. Read the entire bill in pdf form here: —– From Dr. Christina Grozinger at Pollinator-L – SUMMER POLLINATOR WORKSHOP FOR EDUCATORS AT PENN STATE We are pleased to announce a new workshop for middle and high school teachers to gain understanding of pollinator biology, health and conservation!  This is a collaboration between Penn State’s Center for Science and the Schools and the Center for Pollinator Research.  Please see the attached flyer and the website for more information: The program is called APPL-RED: Authentic Plant-Pollinator Landscape Research for Educators, and the workshop will run from July 24-28, 2017. —– From Véto-pharma in France – TAKE THE SURVEY! HONEY BEE VIRUSES Véto-pharma (, the French company, which manufactures Apivar and Varroa EasyCheck, has released a new survey to help beekeepers learn more about honey bee health. What do you really know about honey bee viruses? It’s time to dig a bit more into the subject, to find out about the important role that viruses play in the overall health of your colonies, and how you can manage them. A complete review of honey bee viruses, along with the results of the survey and a discussion of the answers, will be shared with you during the year.  Anne Dalmon, honey bee virus specialist at INRA (French National Institute for Agronomic Research), will contribute her insights as well. If you ready to be an expert in bee viruses – let’s go! You have until March 1st to complete the survey here: SPECIAL GIFT – 3 Beekeepers will be sorted by drawing lots among all the participants to win a beekeeping pack, including: 2 packs of ApiLife Var and 1 bottle of HiveAlive (100ml). To learn more about Véto-pharma: —– INVITATION You are invited to an Open House at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center on March 17, 2017. Scientists will be discussing research they are conducting on nutrition, pesticides and Varroa.  In addition, tours of the laboratory and hands-on instruction in beekeeping techniques will also be offered.  Please see attached invitation for more details. Please RSVP your attendance by March 9, 2017 to Anita Robles via email at Please forward this information to everyone you know who might be interested in visiting our Open House on March 17, 2017. —– And in the realm of “good reads though not necessarily bee-related” here’s one that will blow your socks off! THE SOLUTION FOR US ENERGY POLICY IS REALLY, REALLY SIMPLE By Alex Berezow, Senior Fellow of Biomedical Science, American Council on Science and Health Some policy issues are so complicated, there appears to be no good or easy solution. Take foreign policy, for example. With nearly 200 countries in the world, each with its own strategic goals and interests, it is nearly impossible either to ensure that everybody gets along or to craft policies that advance American interests while treating everyone else fairly. Deception and communication barriers, such as language and culture, exacerbate the problem. Indeed, statecraft is a job full of contradiction and frustration. Not so for energy policy. This is one area in which, if so desired, America could go it alone. Better yet, the solution to America’s energy problem would simultaneously solve climate change. That’s a win-win. Here’s how to do it: 1. Build Generation IV nuclear power plants. There are several different kinds of Generation IV nuclear power plant designs possible, such as pebble bed and molten salt, but they all have one thing in common: They are meltdown-proof. This is not just “theoretical”; they are physically incapable of suffering a catastrophic failure because they have been fundamentally re-engineered. For instance, if a molten salt reactor fails, cleanup involves a broom and dustpan. China is building a pebble bed reactor that may go online later this year. And despite what activists say, nuclear waste can and should be stored safely at Yucca Mountain. 2. In the meantime, embrace fracking and natural gas. Like all fossil fuels, natural gas is an imperfect solution. It emits greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide when burned and methane from accidental leaks. But it’s a temporary bridge fuel to a carbon-free future. Also, it is better for the environment than coal, and the fracking revolution has driven down the price of fossil fuels, which makes Vladimir Putin unhappy. Making Putin unhappy is a totally righteous thing to do. 3. Upgrade energy infrastructure. Many technological hurdles remain in the way of a carbon-free future. Solar and wind power are intermittent. To address that, we must develop batteries or capacitors capable of storing energy when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. (Developing better batteries will also encourage the production of more electric vehicles.) Furthermore, the power grid must be upgraded to carry electricity over long distances. A large solar installation in Arizona, for instance, would need to use ultra-high-voltage direct-current (UHVDC) power lines, rather than the alternating current (AC) lines typically used. 4. Invest in solar and fusion research. Solar power is not yet efficient enough. (Highly efficient solar panels are outrageously expensive.) A breakthrough creating cheap, efficient solar power is surely on the horizon, but it has yet to happen. Fusion power, which harnesses the same reaction that powers the sun, turns out to be rather difficult to sustain on Earth. Both are research problems that the federal government can help to resolve by providing R&D funding (as opposed to subsidizing companies). In the distant future, solar and fusion will likely play a major role in powering the planet. In summary, America’s energy policy should be to use natural gas as we build meltdown-proof nuclear reactors and upgrade our infrastructure for a future powered exclusively by solar, wind, and fusion. The perfect energy solution is really quite simple. Implementing it only requires political will and scientifically savvy voters. Unfortunately, both are in short supply. —– CATCH THE BUZZ 1. Court revives suit over government pesticide approvals By Sudhin Thanawala, Associated Press SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court Thursday revived a sweeping lawsuit accusing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of endangering scores of protected species by approving toxic pesticides without required consultation with wildlife officials. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed part of a lower court ruling in the 2011 suit against the EPA by two environmental groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North America. The groups say the EPA has approved hundreds of pesticides that are known to be harmful to endangered and threatened species such as the California condor without legally required consultations with wildlife officials that could limit the pesticides’ impacts. 2. 2016 Organic Survey being conducted. If you’re organic, get counted. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service is conducting the 2016 Certified Organic Survey, a yearly census taken to gather new data on certified crops and livestock commodities in the U.S. “In recent years, U.S. farms and ranches have experienced tremendous growth in certified organic agriculture sales. Last year, NASS reported that U.S. certified organic producers sold a total of $6.2 billion in products in 2015, up 13 percent since 2014,” said Adam Cline, NASS census section head, in a news release. “As sales from certified organic agriculture products increase, demand for accurate statistics about certified organic farming grows. This survey will be another step forward by USDA in its commitment to helping certified organic agriculture thrive and will ensure that future decisions impacting the industry stem from factual information.” The 2016 Certified Organic Survey will provide information for USDA’s Risk Management Agency to evaluate crop insurance coverage allowing for adequate pricing for organic producers. The report will be released September 2017. Certified Organic growers were invited to participate using a survey ID sent in the mail. To replace that ID or for any other questions, email More information can be found at