Items of interest to beekeepers 9 June 2018

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






NATIONAL HONEY BOARD SURVEY – TO MEASURE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF HONEY INDUSTRY – BUT HURRY! Industry can promote its economic contributions – but only if beekeepers, importers, packers and processors participate in study FREDERICK, Colo. (May 16, 2018) – From beekeepers and honey importers to packers and processors, the honey industry plays a unique and vital role in the U.S. economy.  To illustrate the industry’s true impact, the University of California is asking business owners to complete a short survey. The questionnaire will measure the economic impact of all aspects of the honey industry by calculating the number of jobs the industry creates and its total economic activity. The questionnaire’s data will be used to create a final report that showcases the role of the honey industry in the broader U.S. economy as well as its impact on regional economies throughout the country. To accurately assess this large and varied industry, the University of California is looking to the businesses that make up the honey industry to take part in the questionnaire. The information will be entirely confidential, with the survey conducted online through a secure form without personally-identifiable information. Participants have until Friday, June 15, 2018 to complete the survey. “The University of California Agricultural Issues Center at UC Davis is committed to helping agricultural organizations better understand their economic impact,” said Project Scientist Dr. Bill Matthews. “We’re looking forward to quantifying the honey industry’s important role within the U.S. economy.” To participate in the U.S. Honey Industry Impact Questionnaire, please visit the US Honey Economic Impact Survey,, before June 15, 2018. “The honey industry makes significant contributions to the US economy,” said Margaret Lombard, CEO of the National Honey Board. “Finally being able to quantify our impact the way other industries have will allow us to generate goodwill for our industry’s many contributions.” To learn more about the University of California Agricultural Issues Center at UC Davis, please visit For more information on the National Honey Board, please visit —– DECODING THE HONEY BEE DANCE COULD LEAD TO HEALTHIER HIVES Unravelling one of the most elaborate forms of non-human communication – the honey bee’s waggle dance – could help researchers better understand insect brains and make farming more environmentally friendly. It’s part of a field of work looking at insect neurology which is helping to unravel the complexity of their brains. Bees have evolved a unique, and ingenious, way to communicate with each other – the waggle dance. By shaking their abdomens in a particular way, a bee can tell others in its hive the specific direction and distance of a food source or a new site for a nest. ‘If nectar or pollen is in the direction of the sun, a bee will run a figure of eight that is orientated towards the top of the hive. If pollen is found 90 degrees from the sun they will point that way instead,’ explained Dr Elli Leadbeater, a bee expert from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of London, in the UK. The longer the bees spend dancing corresponds to the better quality of a food source, while the more time spent on each figure eight represents the distance from the pollen or nectar. Researchers now believe that decoding this information-packed dance further could reveal a link between bees’ brains and how the surrounding environment affects them. In a project called BeeDanceGap, Dr Leadbeater is working to identify the exact genes in the bee brain that play a role in helping the insects understand this waggle dance. To do this, researchers must first identify the best dancing bees in a test hive and watch them as they reveal a food source to other worker bees. The newly educated bees are then captured as they leave the hive so their brain tissue can be genetically analysed to determine which genes associated with learning and memory were activated from following the waggle dance. Only a few individuals are used in this way and the genetic data provides a deep insight into the neurology of a bee’s brain – at a time crucial to their future. Collapse Beekeepers around the world have reported that many of their bees leave and never come back, causing hives to suddenly collapse. Experts believe there are several factors contributing to this widespread loss of bee colonies, including climate change, parasites and habitat loss. Agrichemicals like pesticides and neonicotinoids, which are used to kill unwanted insects on farms, have also been strongly linked to the problem. ‘The rate pesticides or neonicotinoids are applied to crops don’t necessarily kill bees but they make them worse at foraging,’ said Dr Leadbeater. ‘They get lost or bring back less nectar or pollen. If you do damage to just one part of the brain of a lot of individual bees, it can have huge consequences for the whole colony.’     ‘If you do damage to just one part of the brain of a lot of individual bees, it can have huge consequences for the whole     colony.’  (Dr Elli Leadbeater, University of London, UK) Neonicotinoid pesticides have been found to bind to parts in the insect brain, disrupting neural transmission. This leads to some brain cells either failing to develop or not functioning properly. The EU recently banned neonicotinoids, which Dr Leadbeater believes is a huge step forward in protecting bees, but she said governments still need more rigorous ‘long-term environmental safety monitoring’. Without this, there is a risk that other agricultural products used in place of neonicotinoids could impact honey bees in a similar way. But when the first results of BeeDanceGap are published later this year, they could contribute to building better criteria for testing future agriculture practices or products. Dr Leadbeater believes it will provide a new understanding of a bee’s brain, and so help identify problems sooner. The impacts of quickly identifying problems go far further than just supporting beekeepers and their insect charges. Protecting honey bees, along with bumblebees and wild bees, is also essential to maintain a healthy and productive environment. These insects pollinate over 80% of crops and wild plants in Europe. According to Professor Martin Giurfa, from the Research Center on Animal Cognition at CNRS in France, ‘preserving little brains is about preserving biodiversity’. More than machines Honey bees have a higher social complexity than many other species. Alongside the waggle dance communication, each hive has a division of labour where different workers have responsibility for a variety of tasks – such as foraging for pollen, nursing the young, building hives and even removing the dead. Prof. Giurfa is co-leading the BrainiAnt project, which looks at how this type of complex social behaviour evolved and how it affected the structure of insect brains. He said that when ‘you understand how bees perceive the world, it is easier to find ways to protect them’. Through the work of researcher Dr Sara Arganda, the project is investigating a part of the insect brain called the mushroom body, where learning occurs and long-term memories are stored. Researchers analysed bee behaviour and gave them memory tests, such as navigating paths using colour cues, in order to learn more about the structure of insect brains. The project strengthened the argument that bee brains are more complex than previously thought. ‘Most findings are saying that insects are more than simple machines, which comes from studies in the honey bee,’ said Prof. Giurfa. ‘(But) the entrance region of the mushroom body shows a level of complexity and the studies show that this complexity is not rigid, it is plastic.’ This means its structure is changing all the time, which mirrors how human brains work. ‘(Bee) brains are capable of sophisticated performances such as learning concepts and rules; they are incredible organs and they need to be defended,’ said Prof. Giurfa To further advance understanding of the mushroom bodies and how they function in different species, the project is being co-led by Professor James Traniello at Boston University in the US, an expert in ant evolutionary neurobiology. Ants, which are related to honey bees, have brains that may be 100 times smaller, and due to their minute size, provide insights into how insect brains are structured. ‘What happens to neural tissue at an extremely small size?’ asked Prof. Traniello. ‘Are you losing neurons, are neurons becoming more efficient in their actions, how many neurons do you have to string together to form a circuit that enables behaviours as complex as what you would see in ants? How does the collective intelligence of an ant colony impact the structure of the brain?’ If BrainiAnt can answer these questions, it would provide a clearer picture of the evolution and function of ant brains. ‘The next step is trying to understand the genes that are involved in regulating brain size, compartment variability, metabolism and other functions,’ said Prof. Traniello. He added that a better understanding of neural tissue could also help to guide attempts to genetically engineer bees so their brains are resistant to environmental threats like neonicotinoids. Although far off, it could mean that bees, and the benefits they bring to the environment, will have a more secure future. bee-dance-could-lead-to-healthier-hives.  Originally published on Horizon ( —– HAS MEETS IN ST. LOUIS IN JULY. FANTASTIC LINE-UP OF SPEAKERS! Heartland Apicultural Society will hold its 17th annual beekeeping conference on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis from July 11-13. The deadline for $100 early bird registration is June 15. Registration is open now athttp:// . Known as HAS, the conference will offer all beekeepers a uniquely inexpensive, world-class program led by a distinguished faculty of preeminent beekeeping authorities, instructors, research and applied scientists, and regional experts. The course program includes hands-on apiary and laboratory demonstrations, scientific research reports, and panel discussions, presented over three days, by an internationally prominent faculty in a national university setting. The course curriculum features instruction for both beginners and experienced beekeepers in the classroom and the bee yard, including the latest scientific techniques for overcoming the challenges that threaten honey bees. Practical skills like queen-rearing, making nucs, hive inspections, making candles, comb and creamed honey, and bottling and labeling will complement the scientific presentations. Research reports will focus on colony health developments, organic and biological pest control, and technology’s effects on pollinators, agriculture, and the environment. Evening events will include dinner with live music and a movie on campus, a tour and buffet dinner at the world-famous Anheuser-Busch Brewery, and an evening banquet at the #1 ranked St. Louis Zoo. The conference schedule is posted at .  Each keynote speaker is scheduled for three presentations. Some of the highlights include: • Marla Spivak, MacArthur Fellow and Professor at the University of Minnesota, will open the conference with her perspective on how • Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Director of the Bee Informed Partnership at the University of Maryland, will provide perspectives on hive management based on his years of collecting and analyzing hive management survey data. • May Berenbaum, Professor and Head of the Entomology Department at the Universilty of Illinois, will address effects of agricultural technology on honey bees. • The Univeristy of Minnesota Bee Squad, a team of professional beekeeping instructors, will present beekeeping techniques in classrooms and in the bee yard during each breakout session of the conference. • Keith Delaplane, Professor and Director of the University of Georgia Honey Bee Program, will address the practical challenges of integrating hive management with evolution and ecology, and present classic talks on honey bee biology. • Dewey Caron will present his comprehensives perspectives on the art and science of beekeeping. • Samuel Ramsey from the University of Maryland will present ground-breaking and inspiring research regarding varroa destructor. • Jennifer Berry, University of Georgia research Manager, will report on her recent studies of oxalic acid applications. • Leading agricultural and entomological scientists will participate in moderated panel discussions of some of the most important and controversial topics affecting bees and beekeepers. —– APPLE GROWER POLLINATION PRACTICES AND PERCEPTIONS OF ALTERNATIVE POLLINATORS IN NEW YORK AND PENNSYLVANIA Abstract Pollinator declines coupled with increasing demand for insect pollinated crops have the potential to cause future pollinator shortages for our most nutritious and valuable crops. Ensuring adequate crop pollination may necessitate a shift in pollination management, from one that primarily relies on the managed European honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) to one that integrates alternative pollinators. While a growing body of scientific evidence supports significant contributions made by naturally occurring, native bees for crop pollination, translating research to practice requires buy-in from growers. The intention of agricultural extension is to address grower needs and concerns; however, few studies have assessed grower knowledge, perceptions and attitudes about native pollinators. Here we present findings from questionnaire-based surveys of over 600 apple growers in New York State and Pennsylvania, coupled with ecological data from bee surveys. This hybrid sociological and biological survey allows us to compare grower knowledge and perceptions to an actual pollinator census. While up to 93% of respondents highly valued importance of native bees, 20% growers did not know how much native bees actually contribute to their orchard pollination. Despite the uncertainty, a majority of growers were open to relying on native bees (up to 60% in NY and 67% in PA) and to making low-cost changes to their farm’s management that would benefit native pollinators (up to 68 in NY and 85% in PA). Growers consistently underestimated bee diversity, but their estimates corresponded to major bee groups identifiable by lay persons, indicating accurate local knowledge about native bees. Grower reliance on honey bees increased with farm size; because native bee abundance did not measurably decrease with farm size, renting honey bees may be motivated by risk avoidance rather than grower perception of lower native bee activity. Demonstrated effectiveness of native pollinators and clear guidelines for their management were the most important factors influencing grower decision to actively manage orchards for native bees. Our results highlight a pressing need for an active and research-based extension program to support diversification of pollination strategies in the region. —– BEE JOBS 1. Lab assistant, López-Uribe Lab,e Penn State University Primary duties will include: • Conducting basic molecular biological work, such as sample processing, DNA and RNA extractions, PCR and qPCR reactions, microsatellite genotyping, and ddRAD library preparation. • Training and coordinating lab work with other lab personnel (including students and visiting scholars) in various molecular biological techniques. • Maintaining and curating a database to organize lab samples. • Maintaining and curating a database of our bee collection. • Conducting literature reviews on various topics related to conservation, genetics, fisheries, ecology, and evolution. • Insect (bee) identification skills are highly desirable. • Assisting with field experiments when necessary. Inquiries about the position and details about how to apply for the position can be directed to Margarita López-Uribe at 2. Environmental Educator and Beekeeper, Appalachian Headwaters, Summers County, West Virginia Position Overview: Appalachian Headwaters is a nonprofit organization focused on sustainable economic development and restoration of native ecosystems in central Appalachia. We are hiring an Educator to our staff with a strong interest and background in environmental science and ecology. The position will initially focus on reforestation of mined land, native plant cultivation, and natural beekeeping. Beekeeping experience is beneficial but not required. Responsibilities: · Work with team to implement the Beekeeping Collective program · Help to conduct educational programming on the art and science of beekeeping throughout central Appalachia · Help develop policies, educational programming, and research projects focused on native pollinators in our region · Travel to, visit, and advise individual beekeepers throughout the region · Recruit and educate new beekeepers to Beekeeping Collective · Help maintain apiaries with beekeeping team · Help develop native plant growing program · Help with reforestation and reclamation projects Qualifications: · B.A./B.S. or Masters in environmental science, ecology, agriculture, forestry, or related field · Teaching experience preferred · Beekeeping experience or interest preferred but not required · Excellent interpersonal skills with the ability to relate to people of diverse backgrounds · Strong organizational skills with the ability to handle multiple and diverse tasks · Willingness to commit to natural, low-chemical beekeeping methods Please submit a resume, two or three references and cover letter to Position open until filled. Info at 3. Biologist (Computational Bioinformatics), USDA Baton Rouge, LA For full job posting and information: Open until filled or until December 28, 2018. —– CATCH THE BUZZ 1. Dairy Alfalfa Doesn’t Get to Bloom, but Beef Alfalfa Does. Where to Put Your Bees is Simple – About 35% to 50% of the season’s total alfalfa yield is harvested in the first cut, making your first trip across the field critical to a successful silage harvest. In the East and Midwest, there’s often a high desire among producers to wait to harvest because they’re going to substantially increase their yields for every day they wait. However, there is a downside to waiting. “In Pennsylvania, we may see a 200- to 400-lb. increase per day per acre; Wisconsin is a little bit lower than that, and when you get out to Idaho, they see larger increases per day with later cuts because they irrigate,” says Marvin Hall, professor of forage management at Penn State University. The downside to waiting is that the fiber content of the forage is going up as the yield goes up, so it’s a compromise between quality and yield. 2. USDA Reopens Application Period for Livestock Indemnity Program and Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish – WASHINGTON, May 31, 2018 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will begin accepting disaster assistance program applications on June 4th from agricultural producers who suffered livestock, honey bees, farm-raised fish and other losses due to natural disasters. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is reopening the application period for two disaster assistance programs in response to statutory changes made by Congress earlier this year. “When disasters hit, help is as close as your USDA service center,” said Bill Northey, Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. “After any catastrophic event, an eligible producer can walk into any one of our local offices and apply for help.” Beginning June 4, FSA will accept new applications for losses for calendar year 2017 or 2018 filed under the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) or Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP). Producers who already submitted applications and received decisions on their applications for these years do not need to file again, but they can reapply if they have additional losses or their application was disapproved because it was filed late. 3. Monsanto Name Goes, But By Any Name, It Will Be The World’s Largest Seed And Ag-Chemical Company – Originally, it was just a name — Olga Monsanto’s name, to be precise.     Around the turn of the 20th century, she married a man named John Francis Queeny. He named his artificial sweetener company after her. And over decades, that company expanded from the sweetness business into agri-chemicals, where it began to dominate the industry. These days Monsanto is shorthand for, as NPR’s Dan Charles has put it, “lots of things that some people love to hate”: Genetically modified crops, which Monsanto invented. Seed patents, which Monsanto has fought to defend. Herbicides such as Monsanto’s Roundup, which protesters have sharply criticized for its possible health risks. Big agriculture in general, of which Monsanto was the reviled figurehead. And soon Monsanto will be no more. Bayer, the German pharmaceutical giant and pesticide powerhouse, announced in 2016 it would be buying Monsanto in an all-cash deal for more than $60 billion. 4. NASA Soil Moisture Data Advances Global Crop Forecasts, and Can Help Beekeepers Predict Honey Crops, Or No Honey Crop – Data from the first NASA satellite mission dedicated to measuring the water content of soils is now being used operationally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to monitor global croplands and make commodity forecasts. The Soil Moisture Active Passive mission, or SMAP, launched in 2015 and has helped map the amount of water in soils worldwide. Now, with tools developed by a team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, SMAP soil moisture data is being incorporated into the Crop Explorer website of the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, which reports on regional droughts, floods and crop forecasts. Crop Explorer is a clearinghouse for global agricultural growing conditions, such as soil moisture, temperature, precipitation, vegetation health and more. “There’s a lot of need for understanding, monitoring, and forecasting crops globally,” said John Bolten, research scientist at Goddard. “SMAP is NASA’s first satellite mission devoted to soil moisture, and this is a very straightforward approach to applying that data.” Variations in global agricultural productivity have tremendous economic, social and humanitarian consequences. Among the users of this new SMAP data are USDA regional crop analysts who need accurate soil moisture information to better monitor and predict these variations.