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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Related Topics

Research Project: IMPROVING HONEY BEE HEALTH, SURVIVORSHIP, AND POLLINATION AVAILABILITY

Location: Bee Research

2008 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
The objective of this program is to improve overall colony survival and availability for pollination by bringing together recent ARS research findings on mite-resistant bee stocks, improved diets, mite and disease control alternatives and general colony management techniques into a comprehensive bee management system. The overarching goal of this Areawide program is to increase colony survival and availability for pollination and thus increase the profitability of beekeeping in the U.S.


1b.Approach (from AD-416)
The Program will focus on bringing together recent ARS research including:.
1)two ARS bee stock improvements, Russian bees and the Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH) trait (Baton Rouge);.
2)improvements in nutrition, Mega Bee® (Tucson), HFCS research results (Weslaco);.
3)parasitic mite management techniques including new chemical controls 2-heptanone (Tucson), Hivastan® (Weslaco) and non-chemical controls plastic drone comb (Beltsville) and screen bottom boards (Beltsville);.
4)management practices including the use of antibiotics, Tylosin® (Beltsville) and Nosema controls (Weslaco and Beltsville). A year-round management scheme will be tested in large migratory and smaller non-migratory beekeeping operations with an emphasis on the larger migratory beekeepers that supply bees to almonds (almost half of all managed bees in the U.S.) The country will be divided into geographic regions as follows; East, Mid-West & West. It is imperative to tests in many geographic regions as bees and bee pests and diseases grow at different rates in different parts of the country.


3.Progress Report
The research described in this progress report is relevant to National Program 305 (Crop Production), Action Plan Component II (Bees and Pollination), Problem Area A (Honey bees). Moving “stress” was monitored for the first time and negative impacts were documented. The survival of young developing bees, brood, was monitored in honey bee colonies that were moved from California to Florida over a four-day period in March. Significantly more brood died in the transported colonies than in stationary colonies left in place in California. Temperature monitoring within the colonies revealed a decline in optimum temperature for developing bees and may be responsible for the brood death. Disruption of larval feeding during transport could also be a contributing factor. This accomplishment addresses the problem that the beekeepers face in moving bee colonies long distance for pollination and provides the first evidence of negative impacts on brood survival.

In a second 12-month study 200 commercial bee colonies were monitored for pest levels and queen and colony survival following gamma irradiation of used combs to kill potential pathogen carryover from used equipment. After nine months 70% of colonies on gamma irradiated comb survived compared to 30% survival of colonies on untreated control combs. This demonstrates that comb re-use can negatively impact colony survival and that comb remediation techniques may be feasible. Additionally, the survival of queens and colonies indicated a high rate of queen replacement and a 50% replacement rate of colonies over a 12 month period. Testing of an approved treatment, fumagillin, and new compounds for Nosema control are on-going. Scientists at the Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland are currently testing means to limit the negative effects of moving, equipment re-use and impact of known pests and pathogens on colony survival with the goal of providing solutions for beekeepers trying to meet the ever expanding pollination demands of U.S. agriculture.


4.Accomplishments
1. Documentation that moving “stress” can negatively impact survival of developing bees in colonies during long-distance transport.

The monitoring of young developing bees (brood) survival was followed in honey bee colonies that were moved from California to Florida over a four-day period in March. Significantly more brood died in the transported colonies than in stationary colonies left in place in California. Temperature monitoring within the colonies revealed a decline in optimum temperature for developing bees and may be responsible for the brood death. Disruption of larval feeding during transport could also be a contributing factor. This accomplishment addresses the problem that the beekeepers face in moving bee colonies long distance for pollination and provides the first evidence of negative impacts on brood survival. Scientists at the Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland are currently testing means to limit the negative effects of moving and thus provide solutions for beekeepers who must move bees to meet pollination demands of U.S. agriculture. This accomplishment addresses the goals of NP305 (Crop Production) Component IIA, Bees and Pollination-Honey bees.

2. Documented that using beeswax combs from dead colonies to start new colonies can negatively impact colony survival, presumably due to pathogen build-up on combs.

A 12-month study of 200 commercial bee colonies was monitored for pest levels and queen and colony survival following gamma irradiation of used combs to kill potential pathogen carryover from used equipment. After nine months 70% of colonies on gamma irradiated comb survived compared to 30% survival of colonies on untreated control combs. This demonstrates that comb re-use can negatively impact colony survival and that comb remediation techniques may be feasible. Development of new methods for pathogen management is a primary goal of NP305 (Crop Production), Component IIA, Bees and Pollination-Honey bees.


5.Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations
None.


6.Technology Transfer

None

Review Publications
Chen, Y., Evans, J.D., Smith Jr, I.B., Pettis, J.S. 2007. Nosema Ceranae is a long present and wide spread microsporidian infection of the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) in the United States. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology. 92:152-159.

Last Modified: 7/30/2014
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