Items of interest to beekeepers 17 June 2018

Fran Bach, (former) Western Apicultural Society Journal and Washington State Beekeepers newsletter editor










WHAZZUP WAS! 2018 CONFERENCE AUGUST 3 – 5 Plan to join beekeepers from across the West in August to meet and mingle with some of the most-influential and knowledgeable beekeepers. Expect some fun! We’ll convene the 41st Annual Western Apicultural Society (WAS) Conference on Friday, August 3, at the brand-new, eclectic, and undeniably unique Jack’s Urban Meeting Place (JUMP) in Boise, Idaho, a venue that truly offers something for everyone. Jennifer Berry and Randy Oliver will open the program with updates on current research projects. Dr. Dewey Caron will present on “Varroa, Forage, Pesticides – HBHC Resources for WAS.” The “Two Jerrys of Beekeeping” will tell us about Bayer’s current efforts to improve beekeeping (Jerry Hayes) and provide a personal perspective addressing the role of technology in beekeeping’s past and future (Jerry Bromenshenk). Sarah Red-Laird will lead a Next Gen session under the moniker, “The Future of Beekeeping is Ours!” and also present on “Education Programs, Research Projects, and University Collaboration on the Advancement of Saving Bees.” Melinda Jean Stafford will share insights for increasing success in young apiarists.  Following Sarah’s Next Gen session, an unofficial Pub Swarm will spend the evening exploring Boise’s new Ale Trail (get the app online for either Apple or Android systems) On Saturday, August 4, Jennifer and Randy will invite a handful of young beekeepers to join them on the outdoor JUMP patio, complete with pop-up apiary. The entire inspection will be visible to the rest of us through ceiling-to-floor windows as well as heard by way of Jennifer and Randy’s wireless mics. Later, Dr. Jamie Strange will share the state of the art on bumble bee biology and practical aspects of bumble bee culture. Dr. Ramesh Sagili will provide information on honey bee nutrition and an update on his activities with Bee Informed Partnership. And Ellen Topitzhofer will recount results from years of observations as a member of the Pacific Northwest Tech Transfer Team. Dr. Ron Bitner will present on “Bee-Friendly Farming: Ground Cover for Native Bees.” In the evening, we’ll be able to observe the practical application of his knowledge at Bitner Vineyards, the location of our annual banquet. We will conclude Sunday morning, August 5, with a panel discussion focusing on various master beekeeper programs available throughout the country. Panelists will describe their respective programs in the context of ability to provide positive community outreach as well as insight into how to develop a successful program. The WAS Conference is open to all. Come to Boise August 3–5, learn about recent advances in beekeeping, and enjoy the wonderful, summer climate in one America’s most-livable cities. For updates, visit: Steve Sweet, President —– BIP LAUNCHES FORST SOCIAL SCIENCE SURVEY – PLEASE PARTICIPATE! Hi there! As beekeepers, we all love to talk about bees and why we love what we do. Most surveys focus on the bees themselves, but for this one, we are interested in YOU! BIP is working with social scientists at the University of Minnesota to understand more about who beekeepers are, beekeeping organizations, what motivates your beekeeping, your perspectives on beekeeping policies, where you go for information about beekeeping, and what most concerns you in beekeeping today. There are a couple personal questions but don’t worry, your responses are anonymous and will be kept completely confidential! Although we don’t ask about your favorite color or your favorite meal (Red and cheeseburgers, right?), your participation will help us understand beekeepers and help the beekeeping community, BIP, and others develop strategies to promote and realize the benefits of beekeeping and best management practices. Within six months of completing the survey, we’ll send you a link to a BIP blog post with summary insights about the results and what it might mean for the future of beekeeping. Right now you are probably really eager to complete this survey so here’s what you do. Follow the link below and start answering questions! The survey should only take 10-15 minutes. We’ll only keep this survey open until July 13th, so don’t miss out – get started now! Thanks for all your help. We are all in this together and we are excited about this branch of our research! PS – If you have any questions or concerns about the survey, please contact Christopher Thoms at the University of Minnesota,, 612.624.0702. —– Sammy Ramsey, of the vanEngelsdorp Bee Lab, University of Maryland, spoke at the April meeting of the Alameda (CA) Beekeepers Association. This is a summary of his research findings, published in the most recent ABA newsletter. HOW DO VARROA MITES FEED ON BEES? Conventional wisdom is that Varroa mites feed on bees’ hemolymph, which is like blood. When Sammy reviewed the research, he didn’t think it actually supported that. His PhD thesis was to determine how mites feed and what they feed on. He compared Varroa mites to other arthropods that feed of hemolymph or blood and found differences: • Their digestive systems and excrement are quite different • They are not closely related genetically Next, he did an observational study of where on bees Varroa mites fed. Looking at mite placement, he found 99 percent of mites on the bottoms of the bees, wedging themselves under the plates called the metasomal sternites/tergites. The mite pierce multiple layers of soft tissue in the membrane between sternites/tergites and then inserts its feeding tube to feed on the “fat body.” Bees typically have a long section of fat, the fat body, running along their undersides. This is an organ, not just a mass of tissue, with nine different functions, including growth and development; metamorphosis; metabolic activity; water and temperature regulation; protein synthesis; immune function; and synthesis of vitellogenin, the substance that allows some bees in the colony to overwinter. When a mite has been feeding, it gets smaller and more dispersed. This indicates two things: The mite injects something into the bee to predigest tissue; and that fat is the mite’s food. Next, he stained the fat content and hemolymph of bees with specific stains that would fluoresce under a spectrophotometer. Then he put in mites and allowed them to feed. The mites consistently showed they had fed on fat. Finally, he raised groups of mites off bees, feeding them on various combinations of fat body and/or hemolymph. Mites that were fed on fat body laid the most eggs. Mites fed only on hemolymph laid no eggs. Moreover, mites fed hemolymh died as quickly as those fed nothing. Those fed on fat body lived substantially longer. His conclusion is that the mites feed on the fat body of the bee, not the hemolymph. He has also found bacteria inside bees near the feeding wound, and the bee’s immune system doesn’t seem to attack them. The bacteria haven’t been identified yet. Mites that kill colonies the quickest are also the ones that have a better chance of dispersing into other colonies. He thinks beekeepers should treat or intervene in some way, for example, by removing drone comb right before the drones hatch. He advises using more than one type of treatment, so you reduce mites with different characteristics with the different methods. Brood breaks are helpful, but there will still be mites on the adult bees. His data shows that in four consecutive years, beekeepers who treated for Varroa lost fewer colonies than those who didn’t treat. Why does this matter? It shows: • Need to update recommendations for treatment timing. • Supplementing protein without controlling Varroa is not helpful. • This info could lead to the development of systemic pesticides for Varroa. • Important to make sure bees that will overwinter, which are developing in the cells in August, are not harmed by Varroa—so that’s a good time to treat. —– Bee Informed Partnership Blog, June 11, 2018 DRIFT Bees have incredible navigation abilities that allow them to fly miles away from the colony to forage and return home with enough precision to locate the entrance to their colony, even when there are dozens of nearly identical hives within a small apiary site. The current understanding of navigation is that a combination of position relative to the sun and landmarks across the landscape get them close and then a combination of visual cues and pheromones to precisely locate the colony entrance. When a returning forager ends up returning to the wrong colony, she is typically not attacked as a robbing bee but accepted into the colony due to the pollen or nectar she carries. This process, known as drift, can lead to significant variations in colony strength over time and increase the potential for the spread of diseases and parasites within an apiary. Drift is generally not viewed as a huge problem, but there are some steps beekeepers can take to mitigate the amount of drift happening in their apiaries. When colonies are aggregated in large numbers and placed in rows of pallets, as is common in a commercial setting, there is potential for excessive drift. Many beekeepers elect to paint all of their woodware white, and this decision may be based on tradition, aesthetic, or other considerations. Others use a variety of colors, which creates a more vibrant apiary and may also help returning forages with orientation. While bees do not see the same spectrum of colors as humans, they are able to distinguish between different shades, assisting them in orientation. In general dark colors should be avoided, particularly in excessively warm and sunny locations, so colonies will not become excessively hot.  However, a mix of pastel colors and tones can provide some variation to help bees distinguish individual colonies without adding the potential for thermal stress. In addition to variations in color, placement relative to other colonies and objects in the landscape can offer navigational aids that limit drift. Many beekeepers have observed that when a number of colonies are placed in a long line the colonies at the downwind end of the line accumulate more bees and yield greater honey harvests while those at the upwind end of the line are often short on bees and lighter in honey stores. By placing an array of hives in circles or arcs, with entrances pointed in different directions, the downwind drift effect can be lessened.  Prominent landscape features can also be helpful in providing orientation assistance. In addition to potentially providing a windbreak, a structure, tree line, or hedgerow close to hives can reduce drift. Orientation landmarks can be particularly important when setting up yards for mating nucs. It is essential that queens return to the correct nuc after orientation and mating flights so extra consideration should be given to visual cues in order to minimize drift in mating yards. Drift is not something that most beekeepers give a lot of thought and it is certainly not among the most critical factors impacting colony health. Nevertheless, there is a growing understanding of the impacts of horizontal transmission of varroa mites between colonies and the ability to control varroa levels within and between apiaries. Phoretic varroa on drifting foragers are one way that ‘clean’ colonies may become reinfested. Given the ever-increasing number of challenges to bee management, reducing drift represents one area where beekeepers can potentially reduce colony stress for a minimal amount of effort. Written By: Dan Wyns I was introduced to honey bees over a decade ago while in New Zealand on a working holiday and have been consumed with caring for and learning about them ever since. Prior to joining BIP I was a commercial beekeeper in New Zealand and western Canada where I was fortunate to gain a diversity of beekeeping experience across a variety of climates and agricultural landscapes. I joined BIP in 2014 as a member of the PNW tech transfer team and spent 3 years working with beekeepers across OR, WA and ID. The addition of a Tech Transfer position in Michigan has allowed me to carry on working with bees and beekeepers while relocating to my home state.  I was born in Grand Rapids, raised in Grand Haven, and studied in Ann Arbor so the opportunity to serve the beekeeping community here is especially satisfying. My family roots run deep in Michigan horticulture and I look forward to continuing that tradition by working to promote colony health and support local agriculture. —– Sent by Tim Hiatt, Washington State, from Capital Press, June 15 2018 – BEEHIVE SOLAR PROJECT DRAWS OPPOSITION By Mateusz Perkowski A farmland conservation group is appealing a 73-acre solar project in Oregon’s Clackamas County which won land use approval because beehives will be raised on the property. 1,000 Friends of Oregon, a nonprofit, is challenging the county’s conditional use permit for the project near Estacada before the state’s Land Use Board of Appeals. Meanwhile, the Oregon Board of Agriculture is also asking state land use regulators to consider issuing emergency rules in reaction to the project. Clackamas County approved the permit from Steve Schmitt and Pacific Northwest Solar LLC last m! onth, finding the solar facility will not preclude the property’s use as a commercial agricultural enterprise. The project developer proposes keeping about 100 honeybee colonies at the site while cultivating “bee-friendly forage” around the solar panels and “shade resistant native plants” beneath them. Under Oregon’s land use law, solar power facilities can be no larger than 12 acres without an exception to the statewide goal of preserving farmland. However, a hearing officer with Clackamas County has ruled the project will take up less than 12 acres since the area under the panels will be used for forage. “There does not seem to be any disput! e that an apiary is a farm use,” said Fred Wilson, the county! ’s hearing officer. The project developer estimated the apiary will generate $75,000 per year but opponents claimed the actual revenue would be about 80 percent lower. Despite these differences, the hearing officer was convinced the apiary qualified as a commercial agricultural enterprise. “Even if income is less than the projected amount, the proposed apiary seems more likely than not to produce significant amounts of income that would still constitute contributing in a substantial way to the area’s existing agricultural economy,” he said. Although the hearing offi cer found that using the site for renewable energy and a farm use “would seem to be a win-win scenario,” his rationale is troubling to the Oregon Farm Bureau. A similar justification could be used to build a shopping mall on high value farmland if goats were allowed on the property, said Mary Anne Cooper, public policy counsel for the organization. “As much as that would be a fun shopping mall, it’s not a farm use,” Cooper testified before the Oregon Board of Agriculture during its June 7 meeting in Hood River, Ore. The board, which advises the Oregon Department of Agriculture, unanimously decided to send a letter to the Land Conservation and Development Commission to consider emergency rules for the situation. A broader resolution calling for stronger land u! se protections for farmland when siting solar projects and other ener! gy facilities was also unanimously approved by the Board of Agriculture. For example, the resolution “supports a better definition of highly productive farmland” to consider factors other than just soil types, such as irrigation availability or unique climate. Concern about solar development on farmland has already convinced Yamhill County to prohibit such facilities on top soil classes while Marion County has excluded them from “exclusive farm use” zones, said Jim Johnson, ODA’s land use specialist. —– TWO HEALTHY BEES 2020 WEBINARS DURING POLLINATOR WEEK. COMMERCIAL BEEKEEPING PLANS AND DEFORMED WING VIRUS UPDATE Register for these webinars here: Webinar #1: June 19, 2018, 12 – 1 p.m. EDT Hive Management 2.0: Developing a Practical Tool for Commercial Beekeepers Dr. Brandon Hopkins, Assistant Professor, Department of Entomology at Washington State University, and Brody Tomazin, Commercial Beekeeper Commercial beekeepers have many decisions to make each day that can have major impacts on bee health. What if there was a reliable system to track those decisions, plus evaluate the immediate and long-term impacts of those decisions? This webinar will provide an overview of a tool we are developing that does just that, seamlessly integrating into beekeepers’ workflow and optimizing ongoing management strategies for improving commercial honey bee colony health. Dr. Brandon Hopkins was a leader in the development of cryopreservation of honey bee germplasm for breeding and conservation, a discovery that enabled the establishment of the world’s first honey bee germplasm repository at Washington State University (WSU). He also administers the WSU Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory, a facility that provides beekeepers with timely information on the health of their colonies.  His research efforts have been focused on developing practical solutions for the beekeeping industry, ranging from bee breeding to Varroa control. Brody Tomazin, Commercial Beekeeper Brody Tomazin is a beekeeper in Blackfoot, Idaho, and president of the Idaho Honey Industry Association. He and his father-in-law Jay Miller run 2J Honey Farms and Round Valley Honey Company. They currently manage 4,000 hives. Webinar #2: June 21, 2018, 12 – 1 p.m. EDT The Changing Face of Deformed Wing Virus Dr. Stephen Martin, Professor, School of Environment & Life Sciences at University of Salford, Manchester, UK, and Randy Oliver, Commercial Beekeeper and Founder of The spread of the Varroa mite has dramatically changed the viral landscape of the honey bee since the mite’s first arrival in the U.S. Research shows that the situation is continuing to evolve, as the deformed wing virus is consistently evolving, too. This webinar will briefly outline the history of this virus, its association with Varroa, how it is changing and practical insights on what this means for beekeepers. Dr. Stephen Martin’s research program uses social insect systems (ants, bees and wasps) to investigate the role of pathogens and pests on their population dynamics, as well as the evolution of chemical recognition systems. Dr. Martin spent seven years in Japan studying hornets and then seven years working with the National Bee Unit in the UK on the Varroa mite, followed by 12 years at Sheffield University to continue his honey bee research and chemical ecology research. In 2012, Dr. Martin moved to Salford University, Manchester. His research has generated 200+ publications, including ones in Nature and Science. Currently, Dr. Martin’s research focuses on understanding the interactions between the deformed wing virus, the Varroa mite and the honey bee. Randy Oliver, Commercial Beekeeper and Founder of Randy Oliver owns and operates a small commercial beekeeping enterprise in the foothills of Grass Valley in northern California. He and his two sons manage about 1,000 colonies for migratory pollination and produce queens, nucs and honey. He has over 40 years of practical beekeeping experience, and he holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biological Sciences. Randy researches, analyzes and digests beekeeping information from all over the world in order to broaden his own depth of understanding and knowledge, and also to develop practical solutions to many of today’s beekeeping problems, which he then shares with other beekeepers through his various articles in bee magazines, his speaking engagements worldwide and on his website: —– BEE JOBS 1. Postdoc in Insect Phylogenomics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York We seek a candidate with a strong background in systematics, evolution, and phylogenomics to conduct research on the phylogenetic relationships and patterns of diversification among the aculeate wasps and bees. A full description of the position and application procedures can be found at:–Department-of-Entomology_WDR-00015174 2. Postdoctoral associate position in mathematical modeling and analysis of pollinator disease transmission, McArt Labs, Cornell University, Ithaca NY The Ellner, Myers and McArt labs at Cornell University are looking for a postdoctoral researcher to join an interdisciplinary team focused on understanding the spread of disease in bee populations as mediated through their pollination activities. Position available for two years. Open immediately. Brief descriptions of the overall project can be found via the following links: Please contact Steve Ellner ( and Chris Myers ( 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 who we can contact for reference letters. 3. Postdoctoral Position at the University of Arizona, Tucson: Understanding the performance of distributed problem-solving strategies in social insects. We are looking for a postdoctoral researcher who will develop, perform, and publish empirical and modeling studies of ant and bee behavior, focusing on how these animals solve problems as a group, and which strategies of collective organization may represent adaptations to particular environments or problems. This position is part of a DARPA-funded collaboration to develop better active cyberdefense strategies using distributed agents. Send inquiries to Anna Dornhaus ( Review of applications will begin on June 20th and continue until the position is filled. Candidates should apply to 4. Two new bee health researchers for the Salud Apicola 2020 programme of Fraunhofer Chile Research. The position is based in Santiago de Chile, however, the programme covers Argentina, Costa Rica and Colombia initially. Spanish is a must. Position 1: Position 2: —– CATCH THE BUZZ 1. To Give Bees a Break, Farmers Pollinated an Apple Orchard Using Drones – With bee populations continuing to decline, farmers, conservationists, and technologists alike are busy searching for a solution to help carry out pollination. A New York-based company recently lent a high-tech hand to assist a local apple orchard pollinate its 300 acres of tasty crops. The Beak & Skiff Apple Orchard in LaFayette called in startup Dropcopter and its pollen-spreading UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to perform the world’s first apple orchard pollination by drone. 2. Fungicides Seem to be Much More of a Problem Than We Thought When it Comes to Honey Bees – Highly variable winter weather and mites have hammered Ian Merwin’s honey bee hives for losses in recent years. And this Trumansburg, N.Y., grower counts on them to pollinate 150 apple varieties in three orchards at his Black Diamond Farm. But something more was happening. Working with Cornell Entomologist Christopher McArt, additional bee health challenges were discovered on this 64-acre farm in New York’s Southern Tier region. “Beekeepers have been losing honey bees at an alarming rate,” McArt says. “Our research indicates fungicides pose a much higher risk to bee health than previously realized, potentially making the bees more susceptible to disease. Using fungicides in tandem with insecticide sprays can make the insecticides even more toxic to the bees.” 3. New Computer Simulation Program from UK Predicts Colony Development with Exposure to Pesticides, and More – The many threats facing bumblebees can be tested using a virtual safe space created by scientists at the University of Exeter.   Bumble-Beehave provides a computer simulation of how colonies will develop and react to multiple factors including pesticides, parasites and habitat loss.    The tool lets researchers, farmers, policymakers and other interested parties test different land management techniques to find out what will be most beneficial for bees. Field experiments can be very timely and costly, so results from Bumble-Beehave can help refine and reduce the number of experiments needed.    The program – freely available online – is a powerful tool that can make predictions, according to a new study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.    “We know that pollinator decline is a really big problem for crops and also for wildflowers,” says Grace Twiston-Davies, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.    “Bumble-Beehave takes into account the many complicated factors that interact to affect bumblebees. This provides a virtual safe space to test the different management options. 4. New Research Shows Impact of Bees on Coffee Productivity – Bees and other pollinators play an outsized role in the world’s food supply, but it was often considered that their effect on coffee production was negligible. New research demonstrates that bee pollination can result in a 10 to 20 per cent ‘pollination effect’ in coffee. More than that, bee projects can contribute to improved livelihoods for coffee farmers and their families. “It’s common knowledge that bees are in jeopardy around the world, which is why this research is so important. Every day we learn more about how bees and other pollinators are indispensable players in food production,” said Janice Nadworny, co-director of Food 4 Famers.