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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: EXAMINATION OF MICROBES IN HEALTHY HONEY BEE COLONIES

Location: Honey Bee Research

2011 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
In order to clearly determine how the microbial patterns affect individual hives and colonies it will be necessary to contiue to follow all of the test hives over several more seasons and even through winters (albeit with fewer samplings due to cold). Further, there is a definite need to establish some clear reporting systems whereby all beekeepers providing samples to this project also provide the same corroborating information to allow the project team to accurately compare one pattern to another in relation to the condition of the hive. In fact, for the near term it may be necessary to restrict much of the sampling to only those hives that can be reached by the project team in PA or associated USDA scientists. One critical aspect of this next season will be the need to identify and follow particular hives (both migratory and stationary). This would eliminate (or restrict) the ability of the project to take in a wide range of samples but it would certainly allow for the needed correlation of hive health with microbial patterns. Given the surprising difference between the microbial profiles of raw pollen and apparently more mature bee bread the project needs to establish one or more large observation hives that will allow us to track single cells of bee bread from initial packing with pollen through time to the point where the bees begin to use it to feed developing larva. It will also be important to begin a closer analysis of royal, worker and drone jellies to see if these do indeed create different nutritional situations in the various cells. Finally, the project needs to consider actual instrumentation of an active hive using newly available remote sensing systems for real time measurement of pH inside cells containing bee bread and developing larva as well as systems for real time measurement of air quality and the presence of fermentation gases within active hives over the season.


1b.Approach (from AD-416)
1. Samples of bee bread and uncured honey will be collected from colonies both exposed to (and not exposed to) pesticide applications. Comb containing stored pollen will be cut and wrapped in foil; these will be placed in a cooler until the samples are shipped to PA. 2. Work done by the researcher will be to investigate the presence of beneficial as well as pathogenic microflora by quantitative (isolation and identification) analysis of bee bread and honey.


3.Progress Report

The microbial patterns of healthy vs. failing colonies will be evaluated by following the fate of colonies over several seasons. The development of measurable benchmarks is needed to determine warning signs when colonies are in trouble. Nutritional status of these colonies is also being established by sampling bee bread, bee brood food (from food glands of bees) and bee larvae using proteomics, to look at which proteins are expressed by bees under various conditions. Examination of food glands and honey stomachs, as well as Varroa mites from colonies that are failing and otherwise compromised vs. colonies that are robust, have begun. Samples will be collected periodically over several seasons from both Eastern and Western U.S. colonies and will take several years to complete; this project is an extension of the work outlined in projects 5342-2100-15-07S and 08S. The results of this study will give beekeepers another yardstick to measure how healthy their colonies are, if they are failing, and what actions to take to save colonies. This work was monitored by conference calls and e-mails.


Last Modified: 9/21/2014
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