Items of interest to beekeepers 3 September 2018

Inclusion of items here does not in any way imply endorsement by myself or the organizations I represent. They are included as information only, and I leave it to the reader to determine value. Rosanna Mattingly Editor, Western Apicultural Society Journal Editor, The Bee Line, Oregon State Beekeepers Association.







  1. Pollination Efficacies of Five Bee Species on Raspberry
  2. Glyphosate in Honey
  3. Grasshoppers and Crickets as Pollinators
  4. Making Mite-A-Thon a Success
  5. Apiary Industry Code versus Biosecurity Threats
  6. Bumble Bee and Hummingbird Pesticide Exposure
  7. Australia Has Near Miss on Varroa Entering Country


What Droopy Antennae, Crouching Cockroaches and Still Fruit Flies Have to Tell Us about the Secrets of Sleep

Slumbering bugs offer clues to explaining humans’ need for shut-eye

Laura Sanders

If you watch an exhausted baby carefully, you may be able to see gravity tug heavy eyelids down. Likewise, a sleeping honeybee’s usually perky antennae droop (as illustrated here, the top row shows various views of a honeybee awake, the bottom row shows the insect at rest).

This adorable sign of insect repose may seem unremarkable. But studying insect slumber may ultimately help solve some of sleep’s greatest mysteries, Charlotte Helfrich-Förster of the University of Würzburg in Germany argues in a 2017 review in Annual Review of Entomology.

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Is the Key to Saving Pollinators … Honey Bee Semen?

In the hopes of preserving their genetic diversity, entomologists are collecting and freezing this valuable fluid. To read more, visit:


The More Pesticides Bees Eat, The More They Like Them

Bumblebees acquire a taste for pesticide-laced food as they become more exposed to it, a behaviour showing possible symptoms of addiction.

This study of bumblebee behaviour indicates that the risk of pesticide-contaminated food entering bee colonies may be higher than previously thought, which can have impacts on colony reproductive success.

In research published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a team from Imperial College London and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) have shown that bumblebee colonies increasingly feed on pesticide-laced food (sugar solution) over time.

The researchers tested the controversial class of pesticides the ‘neonicotinoids’, which are currently one of the most widely used classes of pesticides worldwide, despite the near-total ban in the EU. The impact of neonicotinoids on bees is hotly debated, and the ban is a decision that has received mixed views.

Lead researcher Dr Richard Gill, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: “Given a choice, naïve bees appear to avoid neonicotinoid-treated food. However, as individual bees increasingly experience the treated food they develop a preference for it.

“Interestingly, neonicotinoids target nerve receptors in insects that are similar to receptors targeted by nicotine in mammals. Our findings that bumblebees acquire a taste for neonicotinoids ticks certain symptoms of addictive behaviour, which is intriguing given the addictive properties of nicotine on humans, although more research is needed to determine this in bees.”

The team tracked ten bumblebee colonies over ten days, giving each colony access to its own foraging arena in which bees could choose feeders that did or did not contain a neonicotinoid.

They found that while the bees preferred the pesticide-free food to begin with, over time they fed on the pesticide-laced food more and visited the pesticide-free food less. They continued to prefer the pesticide-laced food even when the positions of the feeders were changed, suggesting they can detect the pesticide inside the food.

Lead author Dr Andres Arce, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: “Many studies on neonicotinoids feed bees exclusively with pesticide-laden food, but in reality, wild bees have a choice of where to feed. We wanted to know if the bees could detect the pesticides and eventually learn to avoid them by feeding on the uncontaminated food we were offering.

“Whilst at first it appeared that the bees did avoid the food containing the pesticide, we found that over time the bumblebees increased their visits to pesticide-laden food. We now need to conduct further studies to try and understand the mechanism behind why they acquire this preference.”

Dr Gill added: “This research expands on important previous work by groups at Newcastle and Dublin Universities. Here, we added a time dimension and allowed the bees to carry out more normal foraging behaviour, to understand the dynamics of pesticide preference. Together these studies allow us to properly assess the risks of exposure and not just the hazard posed.

“Whilst neonicotinoids are controversial, if the effects of replacements on non-target insects are not understood, then I believe it is sensible that we take advantage of current knowledge and further studies to provide guidance for using neonicotinoids more responsibly, rather than necessarily an outright ban.”


This Beetle Had a Head Full of Pollen for 99 Million Years

Frankie Schembri

While examining a boganiid beetle preserved inside a piece of amber for 99 million years, researchers found a welcome surprise: flecks of pollen collected inside the hairy pocket at the base of the insect’s jaws. The pollen likely came from a cycad, a prehistoric fernlike plant with a thick trunk and pineapple-shaped cones, the scientists report yesterday in Current Biology. Though the beetle has long been suspect No. 1 for shuttling pollen from male to female cycads, the new specimen, found in Myanmar, significantly strengthens the case, The New York Times reports. Researchers hope to use the beetle to investigate the ancient relationship between pollinators and plants some 250 million years ago, long before flowering plants appeared and dinosaurs still walked the planet.

—– CATCH THE BUZZ 1. Comparative Pollination Efficacies of Five Bee Species on Raspberry Show Honey Bees Doing Just Fine

Unlike many other rosaceous fruit crops, commercial raspberry cultivars are largely self-fertile and mostly self-pollinate autogamously. However, their floral morphology does not allow for complete autopollination, which often yields unmarketable small or crumbly fruits. Insect visitation is therefore essential to maximize raspberry production. Honey bees are typically used to pollinate commercial raspberries, but escalating prices for hive rentals coupled with increasing acreage encourages evaluation of other manageable pollinators. Four other manageable bee taxa—various Bombus spp., Osmia lignaria SayOsmia aglaia Sandhouse, and Osmia bruneri Cockerell—are all promising raspberry pollinators. Because honey bees remain the least expensive option on a per forager basis, adoption of an alternative pollinator should entail some other advantage, such as superior pollination efficacy. In this study, we compared honey bees with these other bee species for their pollination efficacies at red raspberries, measured as the number of drupelets resulting from a single visit to a virgin flower. Each species’ single-visit pollination efficacy was also compared with drupelet set from both unvisited and hand-pollinated flowers, and their pollination effectiveness scores were calculated. All five bee species were equally effective raspberry pollinators; therefore, honey bees remain the most cost effective option for open field pollination of raspberry. Mason bees and bumble bees may have greater utility during cool weather or for protected cultivation systems, contexts unfavorable to honey bee foraging.

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  1. FDA Finds Glyphosate in Honey. What Now?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found residues of the weed killer glyphosate in samples of U.S. honey, according to documents obtained by the consumer advocacy group U.S. Right to Know through a Freedom of Information Act request. Some samples showed residue levels double the legally allowed limit in the European Union.

There is no legal tolerance level for glyphosate in honey in the U.S., so any amount of detectable glyphosate in honey could technically be considered illegal. Some of the honey tested by the FDA had glyphosate residues at 107 parts per billion, well more than the 50 parts per billion set as a maximum allowed in the European Union, the documents state.

Records obtained from the FDA, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, by U.S. Right to Know detail a range of revelations about the federal government’s efforts to get a handle on rising concerns about glyphosate. In addition to honey, the records show government residue experts discussing the prevalence of glyphosate found in soybean samples and the belief that there could be a lot of “violation for glyphosate” residue levels in U.S. crops.

Glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto‘s Roundup herbicide, is the most widely used herbicide in the world and concerns about glyphosate residues in food increased after the World Health Organization in 2015 said its cancer experts determined glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. Other international scientists have raised concerns about how heavy use of glyphosate is impacting human health and the environment.

  1. Grasshoppers and Crickets as Pollinators! Who Knew?? 

Orthopterans like grasshoppers and crickets are widely recognised as agricultural pests as they eat and destroy food crops. However, their tropical relatives provide a valuable service to plants by serving as pollinators, according to a study led by biologists from the National University of Singapore (NUS).

“When people think of pollinators, bees and butterflies are usually the first that come to mind. There are very few records of orthopterans that visit flowers, and none of the studies involve Southeast Asian orthopterans,” said Mr Ming-Kai Tan, a PhD student from the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science, who is the first author of the research paper.

Mr Tan and his colleagues conducted surveys in five Southeast Asian countries and discovered that orthopterans visit flowers more frequently than previously known, and they pollinate the flowers they visit. The results were published in the Journal of Orthoptera Research in November 2017.

“Given that more orthopteran species are being discovered in this region, there is a pressing need to better understand the biological roles they play, particularly when they visit flowering plants, and how they contribute pollination services for urban plants and agricultural crops,” added Mr Tan, who has discovered over 60 species of orthopterans new to science since 2009.

Flower-visiting orthopterans as pollinators

Pollination is crucial for plant reproduction and supply of food crops for human consumption. As many Southeast Asian countries rely on agriculture as the main source of economic growth, baseline information on flower-visitors are useful in identifying orthopterans that are potential pests, and those that may potentially be pollinators.

“Without such studies, it is not possible to assess the risks presented by these potential pest species, as well as to further examine the beneficial roles of the flower-visiting orthopterans,” explained project supervisor Associate Professor Hugh Tan, who is also from the NUS Department of Biological Sciences.

To better understand the roles that orthopterans play in pollination ecology, the research team conducted field surveys across different vegetation and localities in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia between 2015 and 2018. The study involved both day and night surveys during which flower-visiting orthopterans were searched and recorded using photographs and videos.

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  1. Get Ready for the Mite-A-Thon! September 8 to 15, 2018    

The Mite-A-Thon Partners  SPREAD THE WORD – Local beekeeping clubs and associations are key to making the Mite-A-Thon a success!

The Mite-A-Thon is a tri-national effort to collect mite infestation data and to visualize Varroainfestations in honey bee colonies across North America within a one-week window.  All beekeepers can participate, creating a rich distribution of sampling sites in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

OBJECTIVE: 1) To raise awareness about honey bee colony Varroa infestations in North America through effective monitoring methods. 2) Management strategies will be made available for discussion within bee organizations utilizing Mite-A-Thon partner developed information and outreach materials.

PARTICIPANTS: All beekeepers in North America are encouraged to participate.


  • Encourage your members to participate in September, through meetings, newsletters, emails, social media etc.
  • Teach new beekeepers how to monitor for mites in August.
  • Help your members prepare their monitoring materials.
  • Support your members in making sure they are able to monitor mites effectively and report their data.

DATA COLLECTION: Varroa monitoring data will be uploaded to

CONTACT: or 415 362-1137

Get resources and stay up to date at!

  1. Apiary Industry Launches New Code to Fight Potential Billion-Dollar Biosecurity Threats

Lucas Forbes

A major biosecurity incident in the bee industry could cost Australian agriculture billions, which is why beekeepers must get on board with a new code of practice, according to the Apiary Alliance.The South Australian chairman of the alliance, Danny Le Feuvre, said that all registered commercial and recreational beekeepers would soon be receiving new information about how to comply with the code. Industry groups and the Federal Government developed the code, which is intended to make it easier to track biosecurity threats by requiring registered beekeepers to keep records of pests or diseases. “If we had something like varroa mite or tracheal mite, that could be devastating to our agricultural industries,” Mr Le Feuvre said.

“There’s very, very big numbers that the impact of an incursion could cost our country, millions or even billions of dollars.” Under the code, beekeepers must regularly inspect their hives for pests and diseases, protect their hives from exposure, and allow their business to be assessed by bee biosecurity officers. While Australia’s bee industry is measured as being worth about $100 million a year, that only measures the value of products produced, such as honey and wax. However, the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council said that 65 per cent of Australian agriculture production relied on the pollination services that honeybees provide. Mr Le Feuvre said the official launch of the code was set for September.

Too many almonds, not enough bees

The news of the code comes as pollination season picks up around the country. Mr Le Feuvre also owns Australian Bee Services and has 1,700 hives in South Australia. He said that the expansion of the almond industry had exceeded the capacity of the pollination industry.

The expansion in the almond industry has created a boom in demand for pollination services.Mr Le Feuvre said there were enough hives to meet demand from the almond industry “on paper”.However he said in practice it would require every commercial hive in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales to be used exclusively for almond pollination at this time of year. Mr Le Feuvre has 300 hives on Kangaroo Island, but said the other 1,400 were going to the Riverland to supply to almond industry.

  1. Bumble Bees and Hummingbirds Are Being Exposed to Neonicotinoids and Other Pesticides

Alan Harman

Bumble bees and hummingbirds are being exposed to neonicotinoid and other pesticides through routes that are widespread and complex, Canadian researchers report.

To measure exposure to pesticides in these pollinators, investigators from Environment and Climate Change Canada made novel use of cloacal fluid and fecal pellets from hummingbirds living near blueberry fields in British Columbia.

They also collected bumble bees native to Canada, and their pollen, and blueberry leaves and flowers from within conventionally sprayed and organic blueberry farms.

The researchers report in the journal Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry that they detected pesticides and related compounds in cloacal fluid and fecal pellets of hummingbirds revealing for the first time that hummingbirds are exposed to and accumulate pesticide exposures of multiple types.

Bumble bees, their pollen, and blueberry flowers also contained pesticides, with the highest concentration of the insecticide imidacloprid in pollen from organic farms.

“Hummingbirds and bumble bees are important pollinators of wild and agricultural plants and they survive each day on a razor’s edge due to their high energy needs,” says lead author Christine Bishop.

“Pesticide exposure in these animals may have impacts on their health and the ecosystem services they provide to humans and wildlife,” she says. 7. Australia Has a Near Miss on Varroa Entering the Country

An intensive surveillance effort wrapped up Friday last week that saw every hive — six sentinel hives and 23 private hives — within a 2km radius of the Port of Melbourne tested four times. This was in addition to the monitoring of 21 swarm catch boxes, and sweep netting and ground surveillance.

Agriculture Victoria’s chief plant health officer Rosa Crnov described the joint government and industry effort as “very successful”.

“We really are confident we didn’t find the mite,” Dr Crnov said.

“We inspected every known hive in that site, we also examined sentinel hives during that period, we destroyed a couple of feral hives and during that process we found no varroa mite, so it’s a great outcome for us.”

Agriculture Victoria’s incident management team, which conducted the bee hive surveillance, was stood down on Friday.

Surveillance began for the world’s worst honey bee pest after it was found in a container of industrial electrical equipment that originated in the US and docked at the Port of Melbourne on June 23.

When the container was opened staff noticed bees flying around and quickly secured it.

The European honey bees were then killed by insecticide treatment, and testing later confirmed they were carrying Varroa destructor.

The pest is often cited as the most serious threat to the viability of the Australian honey bee industry, and is prevalent in every continent of the world except Australia.

As a precaution, new sentinel hives have been established around the port and will be regularly monitored over the next six months.

Dr Crnov urged bee keepers to remain vigilant for unusual signs in their hives. “Regularly test hives using the sugar shake method and follow the Australian Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice,” she said.

Australian Honey Bee Industry Council executive director Trevor Weatherhead said testing was precautionary and he did not expect the discovery of any varroa infected bees.

He said “interestingly” DNA tests showed the bees to be Apis mellifera mellifera.