Items of potential interest 11 December 2018

Rosanna Mattingly Editor, Western Apicultural Society Journal Editor, The Bee Line, Oregon State Beekeepers Association


Honeybee Protein Keeps Stem Cells Youthful

When The Queen Is Away

The Center For Honeybee Research Is Accepting Entries

Bee Motorway Plan To Create A Buzz

Wild West Seed Sees Flower Interest Rising

First-Ever Honey Bee Vaccine Offers Hope For Pollinators And Fruit Growers

Eyes In The Sky: Mapping Bee Health

Court Bans Use Of Chlorpyrifos Pesticide In U.S. New Butterfly Species Named After 17th-Century Female Naturalist

Fruit Flies First Began Feeding On Our Fresh Produce About 10,000 Years Ago

Pea Aphid Youngsters Use Piggyback Rides To Escape A Crisis

How Some Sap-Sucking Insects Fling Their Pee

Assassin Fly Babies Have ‘Swiss Army Knife’ Mouths


  1. Bayer To Fire 12,000 – One Of Every Ten Workers – After Monsanto Legal Troubles
  2. An Invitation From The Team In Montreal For Apimondia 2019
  3. The Insect Apocalypse Is Here. Here’s The Rest Of The Story
  4. Almond Board Of California Fueling Innovation With $6.8 Million Research Investment

FROM ABJ EXTRA 1. Brock Harpur Joins Purdue University


Honeybee Protein Keeps Stem Cells Youthful

An active protein component of royal jelly helps honeybees create new queens. Stanford researchers have identified a similar protein in mammals, which keeps cultured embryonic stem cells pluripotent.

A mammalian protein similar in structure to the active component of honeybee royal jelly — the queen-making goop that helps worker bees raise a new egg-laying diva for the hive — functions as kind of a fountain of youth for mouse embryonic stem cells, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The protein causes the cells to remain pluripotent, meaning they can become any cell in the body, under conditions that would normally trigger them to develop into specialized cells.

The unexpected finding is likely to fan the flames of a millennia-old debate as to the regenerative power of royal jelly. More importantly, the discovery reveals new pathways to pluripotency and suggests . . .

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Rebel honeybee workers lay eggs when their queen is away

The rebel workers are also more likely to infiltrate other colonies to have offspring

Yao-Hua Law Even honeybee queens have rebellious kids.

In a colony of European honeybees (Apis mellifera), only the queen lays eggs that hatch into female workers who maintain the hive and nurse the young. But at times a colony experiences periods of queenlessness, when the old queen has left and a new one isn’t ready. Some of the queen’s left-behind worker daughters seize this chance to lay their own eggs — and sometimes in an entirely new colony, finds a study published online October 31 in Ecology and Evolution.

The workers’ opportunistic egg-laying behavior was discovered in 2012 by researchers led by evolutionary biologist Karolina Kuszewska of Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. With no queen around to release chemicals that stunt workers’ ovarian growth, these “rebel workers” can lay eggs. Since rebel workers still do not mate as a queen bee would, they produce only sons that live only to mate. A departed queen’s replacement comes from a group of daughters born to fight one another until one survivor becomes the new queen.

Rebel workers are also more adventurous than normal worker bees, the new study shows. When . . .

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The Center for Honeybee Research Now accepting entries for the 8th Annual International ‘Black Jar’ Honey-TastingContest and would very much like to discover what is the favorite flavor in your region?

The Center is a 501-C (3) non-profit organization and the cash awards are funded by the $10 entry fees. Special Events surrounding the contest finals in June attract sponsors and donors to which in turn fund the Center’s research. No one receives pay in this all-volunteer effort.

The contest centers on “taste” and uses the subjective evaluation of successive panels of judges, who are not allowed to see the honey or know the origin or category they are sampling. Judges are not allowed to discuss what they are sensing nor signal one another through body language. Scores are given on a scale of one to ten and averaged. The final goal of these “blind tastings” is to select “The World’s Best Tasting Honey”.

Here in the Southern Appalachians it is an accepted fact that “sourwood” honey can’t be beat. Have you heard of it? It rarely makes its way to markets beyond our region. I suspect this situation is common in regions around the globe. I’ve tasted delicious “fireweed” from your area – previous category winners from British Columbia  – and I’ve also heard of “snowbush”, but we’ve yet to receive a sample. I wonder if these are the only exceptional nectars collected by your bees? Perhaps there are exquisite blends produced in unique micro-climates?

Please view our short video on the Home Page of

Our purpose is to attract media attention to the immense diversity available in raw honeys and to educate a public unexcited by the bland blends on the shelves of commercial groceries.

Grand Prize $3,000

(10) Category Winners $150 each

The deadline is fast approaching: Dec.15, 2018

Registration online:

I might mention the honey does not have to be from this year, and contestants may enter as many times as they wish. We only require that the honey is gathered naturally by the bees without  additions by the hand of man.

We expect the Contest to continue to expand but we need the support and participation of beekeepers everywhere. Please spread the word?

Thank you for your consideration.


Carl Chesick, Director, Center for Honeybee Research

Asheville, NC, USA



Bee motorway plan to create a buzz

Conor Macauley

The first motorway map for bees and other pollinators in Northern Ireland has been published.

The B-Lines project is designed to give struggling pollinators a boost.

It sets out about 15 routes, each 3km (1.86 miles) wide, where conservationists and councils are being encouraged to concentrate their work.

It will include the planting of wildflower meadows, school pollinator projects and the creation of bee hotels and green roofs on public buildings.

People are being encouraged to register their existing conservation efforts on the B-Lines project website.

The routes are interconnected and the idea is to link existing habitats . . .

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Wild West Seed sees flower interest rising

Brad Carlson

Wild West Seed Inc. has a quiet but substantial presence in southwest Idaho, where it grows some of its flower seeds and most of its vegetable seed.

“The Treasure Valley is far and away our biggest production region by acres,” Business Development Manager Matt Hilbert said. “On the vegetable side, most is grown in the Treasure Valley.”

The 20-year-old Wild West Seed, a family-owned company based in Albany, Ore., produces open-pollinated flower, vegetable and herb seed, and wildflower mixes for other seed companies that sell primarily to home gardeners. With 10 full-time employees, it does business nationally and to an extent internationally — competing with big-name, merger-enlarged agribusinesses, among others. . . .

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First-Ever Honey Bee Vaccine Offers Hope for Pollinators and Fruit Growers


A growing number of honey bees die each year due to pesticides, vanishing habitats, poor nutrition, and climate change, with potentially disastrous consequences for agriculture and natural diversity.

Now, scientists at the University of Helsinki have developed the first edible vaccine against microbial infections, hoping to save at least some of the pollinators.

“We might be right now at a tipping point, without even realizing it,” Dalial Freitak, the lead scientist on the project, said in an interview on Wednesday. “We’ve been taking the pollination services for granted for so long. These insects are not there, they are disappearing.”

The first vaccine inoculates bees against . . .

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Eyes in the Sky: Mapping Bee Health

Devon Maloney

Among the most exciting aspects of BIP’s work is the wealth of data collected for years on honey bee health. This impressive, growing database is keeping a pulse on the health of American bees. With an abundance of information, and growing team to analyze it, we’ve begun to explore new methods to monitor and detect trends and to optimize sampling.

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Court bans use of chlorpyrifos pesticide in U.S.

Alan Kandel

The below by Stephen Kloosterman, Associate Editor, Vegetable Growers News.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in August ordered an EPA ban on the broad-spectrum pesticide chlorpyrifos.

The ban will take away a tool that many growers are still using, and its manufacturer says that additional legal recourse is being considered. But others in the industry say action was overdue and there are softer chemicals and biological controls lined up to take chlorpyrifos’s place as a bug killer.

In a 2-1 decision, a panel of judges held that the EPA was in direct contravention of federal law by allowing the product’s use. The panel also found that “there was no justification for the EPA’s decision in its 2017 order to maintain a tolerance for chlorpyrifos in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children,” according to . . .

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New Butterfly Species Named After 17th-Century Female Naturalist

Brigit Katz

From an early age, the 17th century, barrier-breaking naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian loved insects—particularly butterflies. She collected every caterpillar she could find, and watched closely as they shrunk into pupae and then blossomed into fluttery insects. Merian published her meticulous observations in beautifully illustrated books, bringing empirical rigor to a field largely dominated by men who clung to the belief that insects generated spontaneously. And in a fitting new development, a rare butterfly has been named in Merian’s honor.

The newly named butterfly is known to scientists from only two male specimens, reports Sarah Laskow of Atlas ObscuraOne has been held by the Smithsonian Natural History Museum since 1981, but for many years it languished in a drawer, forgotten. Recently, however . . .

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Fruit Flies First Began Feeding on Our Fresh Produce About 10,000 Years Ago

Jason Daley

Humanity has had a few long time companions over the millennia, including dogs, lice and the plague. Among the most annoying, however, is the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, the tiny little red-eyed insect that tends to spoil fresh fruit. Though the little buggers seem to have followed humans all across the world and into the laboratory, their exact origin story was unknown.

According to Nell Greenfieldboyce at NPR, a new study presents an answer. Researchers understood that the flies likely started out somewhere in Africa, but they have never been found living in the wild. During a recent survey of fruit fly genetics with sub-Saharan ancestry, it was found that the most diverse set of fruit fly genes come from Zambia and Zimbabwe, suggesting that the wild ancestors of the flies might originate in the forests of south-central Africa.

But Marcus Stensmyer from the University of Lund in Sweden and co-author of the study Current Biology tells Greenfieldboyce that expeditions to find the flies in the area struck out. Then he and his team began to think . . .

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Pea aphid youngsters use piggyback rides to escape a crisis

Susan Milius

First it’s mammal bad breath. Then it’s babies pestering for piggyback rides. A near-death experience is tough on pea aphids.

When warm, moist breath signals that some cow or other giant is about to chomp into foliage, tiny green aphids feeding on that foliage drop toward the ground by the hundreds (SN Online: 8/10/10). “It literally rains aphids,” says ecologist Moshe Gish, who in 2010 described the breath cue.

Now Gish and Moshe Inbar, both at the University of Haifa in Israel, describe what pea aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum) do after they hit the ground. . . .

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How some sap-sucking insects fling their pee

Emily Conover

Some sap-sucking insects can “make it rain,” flinging droplets of pee while feeding on plant juices. Now scientists have explained how the insects, known as sharpshooters, create these sprays using tiny catapult-like structures that propel the waste at extreme accelerations.

A tree infested with sharpshooters exudes a steady pitter-patter of pee. “It’s crazy just to look at,” says engineer Saad Bhamla of Georgia Tech in Atlanta. That intriguing process — which can dampen unsuspecting passersby — got Bhamla and colleagues hooked on studying how the insects release their waste.

The researchers took high-speed video . . .

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Assassin fly babies have ‘Swiss army knife’ mouths

Joshua Rapp Learn

Australia’s splendid assassin fly (Blepharotes splendidissimus) earns its fearsome moniker. About the size of a bottle cap and sporting a similar metallic luster, they ambush butterflies and dragonflies in midair, killing them with a venomous bite. Now, scientists have discovered that even the larvae of these flies are vicious.

The mouths of these maggots are “the insect equivalent of a Swiss army knife,” researchers report in Austral Entomology. Using scanning electron microscopy to produce photos like the one above, the team discovered blade-shaped mandible hooks with backward-pointing teeth—all the better to pierce into soft-bodied bugs in the soil where these larvae live. These hooks also have grooves that, when pushed together, form a tube the maggots use to inject venomous saliva into their prey. The venom injector tool doubles as a straw, allowing the larvae to suck out the body parts of their victims, the authors report.

The researchers also found . . .

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German pharmaceuticals and chemicals giant, Bayer, announced plans to cut 12,000 out of 118,200 jobs worldwide, or roughly 1 in 10 jobs, in hopes of cutting costs and regaining investor favor after a series of legal setbacks over its purchase of Monsanto earlier this year.

As the FT reports, the proposed reorganization include a plan to exit the market for animal health products, as well the company’s Coppertone sun care and Dr. Scholl’s foot care product lines; Bayer also plans to sell the group’s 60% stake in service provider Currenta

“Including the synergies expected from the acquisition of Monsanto, Bayer anticipates annual contributions of €2.6bn from 2022 on as a result of its planned efficiency and structural measures,” the group said in a statement.

Werner Baumann, the Bayer chief executive, said: “With these measures, we are positioning Bayer optimally for the future as a life sciences company.”

The group’s shares have tumbled in recent months, after a California court awarded $289MM in damages to a school groundskeeper with terminal cancer.

The jury found that the man’s sickness was the direct result of his exposure to the infamous weed killer manufactured by Monsanto. The sum has since been reduced by a higher court, but analysts and investors worry that the avalanche of follow-up cases will be costly for Bayer all the same.

The $66bn merger with Monsanto in 2016 created the world’s biggest seeds and pesticides company.

Its decision to sell its animal health business means Bayer will now focus on pharmaceuticals, consumer health and crop science.

More than 4,000 jobs in the combined crop science division will go by the end of 2021.

Bayer chief executive Werner Baumann said: “These changes are necessary and lay the foundation for Bayer to enhance its performance and agility.”

The job cuts and sales will result in costs of more than €4bn.




Dear Apimondia community,

The Canadian Honey Council and its industry partners are proud to invite you to join the 46th Apimondia Congress, which will be held in Montréal, Canada from September 8-12, 2019. Apimondia 2019 Montréal proposes a theme outlining the importance of bees for our society:

“Working together within agriculture, Canada’s answer to sustainable beekeeping”

Montréal is internationally renowned for its hospitality, great attractions and centrally located modern congress facilities with easy access to the Montréal Trudeau International Airport. The Canadian Honey Council has a team that is working with the City of Montréal and the Palais des congrès de Montréal Convention Center to organize this grandiose event.

The Congress will cover a broad spectrum of beekeeping and apicultural sciences, including state of-the-art lectures, plenary sessions and various symposia within each of the Apimondia Standing Commissions. The Montréal Congress will strive to be a showcase of world-wide advancements in the science of apiculture. Emphasis will also be placed on presentations or discussions of topics that are of high prominence in the beekeeping community or that challenge our concepts of modern beekeeping, through roundtables and special interest group sessions. The poster sessions, offering lively interaction between presenters and participants, are regarded by many as the heart of the Congress. We will also endeavour to use web-based streaming of all plenary sessions to allow participation of a new category of virtual registrants in aspects of the Congress.

When you visit Montréal, you step into an exquisite blend of the world’s cultures. The city brings together many parts of the world and cultural communities to live together in harmony. Some 100 languages are spoken in Montréal. French is the official language, but you can be served in English wherever you go. Montréal has something for everyone, with an incredible array of festivals, a lively entertainment district and choices of cuisine to satisfy even the most ardent foodies. Day or night, you’ll never be at a loss for something to do in Montréal.

Montréal has an international reputation for being a safe city. It is among the top cities in the world to live in based on criteria such as safety, quality of life and cost of living. You have nothing to fear as you move around and go about your business, whether day or night.

We are looking forward to welcoming you to Montréal in 2019!




Brooke Jarvis

You’ve heard about this story. Insects disappearing, and birds disappearing because there’s fewer insects to eat, and what else? This story is eye opening. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, here it is. Sit back, read the whole article in one sitting if you can. It’s long. Very long. It’s important. Very important.     Kim Flottum

It was summer. He was out in the country, moving fast. But strangely, he wasn’t eating any bugs.

For a moment, Riis was transported to his childhood on the Danish island of Lolland, in the Baltic Sea. Back then, summer bike rides meant closing his mouth to cruise through thick clouds of insects, but inevitably he swallowed some anyway. When his parents took him driving, he remembered, the car’s windshield was frequently so smeared with insect carcasses that you almost couldn’t see through it. But all that seemed distant now. He couldn’t recall the last time he needed to wash bugs from his windshield; he even wondered, vaguely, whether car manufacturers had invented some fancy new coating to keep off insects. But this absence, he now realized with some alarm, seemed to be all around him. Where had all those insects gone? And when? And why hadn’t he noticed?

Riis watched his son, flying through the beautiful day, not eating bugs, and was struck by the melancholy thought that his son’s childhood would lack this particular bug-eating experience of his own. It was, he granted, an odd thing to feel nostalgic about. But he couldn’t shake a feeling of loss. “I guess it’s pretty human to think that everything was better when you were a kid,” he said. “Maybe I didn’t like it when I was on my bike and I ate all the bugs, but looking back on it, I think it’s something everybody should experience.”

For the rest of this story, please click the NYT link and see for yourself.



Almond Board of California

The Almond Board of California (ABC) announced a $6.8 million investment in 75 independent research projects exploring next-generation farming practices including optimal use of everything almond orchards grow. In addition to improving production practices, the research projects help the California almond community provide almond lovers around the world with a safe, wholesome and sustainable product.

The announcement was made at the 46th annual Almond Conference, an event held in Sacramento, California, convening almond farmers, processors and researchers to discuss the latest science behind responsible almond farming. ABC’s research programs provide a scientific basis for best practices across several priority areas, including water sustainability, pollinator health and finding new uses for almond coproducts, including hulls, shells and woody material.

“Innovation is at the core of sustainable almond farming. Driven by family farmers, the almond community is committed to continuous improvement, ensuring a better environment and future for our children and grandchildren, neighbors and employees,” said Almond Board of California President and CEO, Richard Waycott. “Since 1973 almond farmers and processors have invested $80 million in research through the Almond Board to improve our understanding of almonds’ impact on human health, ensure food quality and safety, and improve farming practices while minimizing environmental impacts.”

Finding New Uses for Almond Coproducts

Almonds grow in a shell, protected by a hull, on a tree. Farmers have always taken responsibility for these coproducts, ensuring they are put to beneficial use rather than sent to landfill. Today, the California almond community is focusing research investment on optimal uses for these coproducts, embracing a zero-waste approach that addresses critical needs across multiple industries.

This year ABC funded . . .

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  1. Brock Harpur Joins Purdue University

Brock Harpur is currently a National Science and Engineering Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the Donnelley Centre, University of Toronto. His work brings together large data sets to explore the evolution and genetics of honey bees. Brock completed his Ph.D. on population genomics of honeybees at York University (Canada). He has established beekeeping programs in Northern Canada, worked with the City of Toronto to establish goals for pollinator health, and given public talks to dozens of local organizations. Brock has been awarded the Eickwort Award from the International Union for the study of Social Insects, the prestigious Julie Payette Research Scholarship from the National Science and Engineering Research Council, an Ontario Graduate Scholarship, the Entomological Society of Canada’s President’s Prize, and was an Elia Research Scholar during his time at York University.

The lab has positions available!

We have two Graduate Research Assistantships (Ph.D.) available beginning Summer/Fall 2019 in the lab. We’re looking for Ph.D. students to combine genomics, transcriptomics, computational biology, and biochemistry to understand how transcript regulation evolves and influences the behavior and physiology of eusocial bees. Application of molecular techniques and outreach to beekeepers and the community will be an integral part of the students’ training.

Interested candidates should contact Dr. Harpur.  To be considered for this position send a C.V., contact information for 3 references and a 1-page cover letter describing research interests and background.  We could also use some MsC students!  Contact Dr. Harpur: