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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

2012 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:
Experiments were conducted to determine the interaction between pesticide exposure and pathogens. Bees exposed at the colony level to low levels of the systemic pesticide imidacloprid had a 3-4 fold increase in levels of the gut pathogen Nosema, raising concerns that sub-lethal pesticide exposure may be a contributing factor in pathogen growth.

Honey bee colony losses in the U.S. were surveyed for the sixth year in the fall and winter of 2011-12. The overall losses, due to a variety of causes, were 22%, down from the ca. 33% of the previous five years. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) symptoms were reported to a lesser degree than previous years. Scientists at the Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, are currently testing means to limit the negative effects of queen loss, transportation and other stress factors to provide solutions for beekeepers who must move bees to meet pollination demands of U.S. agriculture.

Most honey bee losses due to CCD occur in the late fall and winter in advance of almond pollination and many of these colonies originate in the mid-west. A study was initiated in 2009 that placed commercial colonies in pollen rich and pollen poor areas to determine if resource availability was driving at least a portion of the colony losses. Two hundred and eighty eight colonies were monitored at a total of 6 sites with half the colonies at each site being fed supplemental protein (MegaBee) in the late summer and fall. Colonies at poor sites produced lighter weight worker bees with lower vitellogenin levels, and feeding at these sites increased individual bee weights.

An extension Web site, launched in July 2008 to provide a platform for information exchange on honey bee issues, has been upgraded and improved by incorporating user feedback and the placement of recent research findings on the site for ready access by the public. Publications will be made available on the site along with a more user friendly synopsis of each publication. A new NIFA-CAP extension based grant called the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) was initiated this past year and data from the Areawide project will help to populate a large data set on pests and disease levels across the U.S. to be used as a decision making tool by beekeepers.


4.Accomplishments
1. Pesticide-pathogen interactions. BRL scientists demonstrated that sub-lethal pesticide exposure can cause an increase in the levels of the gut pathogen Nosema in honey bees. Interactions between several factors, demonstrated in this research, could underlay the recent declines in honey bee health.

2. Causes of honey bee winter declines. BRL scientists collaborated with the Apiary Inspectors of America, USDA-APHIS and the University of Maryland on a national survey to document colony losses. This survey, now in its sixth year, provides the only data on colony losses in the U.S. and the survey questions have been harmonized with European colleagues to allow for comparison of data collection in Europe.

3. Effectiveness of Varroa mite control products for small hive beetle control. BRL scientists collaborated with European colleagues to show that the commonly used organic acids and thymol for Varroa mite control were ineffective in controlling the small hive beetle. This is valuable information as some beekeepers felt they were getting control of both pests, but alternative small hive beetle controls are still needed.

4. Current state of Varroa mite research. A BRL scientist participated in a workshop with European scientists and co-wrote a white paper on the current state of knowledge and research gaps on Varroa mite biology behavior and control.


Review Publications
Buchholz, S., Merkel, K., Spiewok, S., Imdorf, A., Pettis, J.S., Westervelt, D., Ritter, W., Duncan, M., Rosenkranz, P., Spooner-Hart, R., Neumann, P. 2010. Organic acids and thymol: Unsuitable alternative control of aethina tumida murray (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae). Apidologie. 42:349-363.

Vanengelsdorp, D., Hayes, J., Underwood, R.M., Caron, D., Pettis, J.S. 2010. A survey of managed honey bee colony losses in the USA, fall 2009 to winter 2010. Journal of Apicultural Research. 50(1):1-10.

Pettis, J.S., Vanengelsdorp, D., Johnson, J., Divley, G. 2012. Pesticide exposure in honey bees results in increased levels of the gut pathogen Nosema. Naturwissenschaften. 99:153–158.

Dietemann, V., Pflugfelder, J., Anderson, D., Charriere, J., Chejanovsky, N., Dainat, B., De Miranda, J., Delaplane, K., Fuchs, S., Gallmann, P., Gauthier, L., Imdorf, A., Koeniger, N., Kralj, J., Meikle, W.G., Pettis, J.S., Rosenkranz, P., Sammataro, D., Smith, D., Yariez, O., Neumann, P. 2011. New avenues in the fight against the honeybee parasite Varroa destructor, a major threat to pollination. Apidologie. 51(1):125-132.

Last Modified: 8/19/2014
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