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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

2012 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 ‘Healthy Hive Initiative’ is focused on assessing the natural healthy microbial flora living in bee bread. Bee bread samples were collected from various sources over the past three years and screened for microbial populations using standard molecular biology techniques. The samples came from migratory colonies in almond orchards, from stationary apiaries (either established or started from packages) or from controlled experiments conducted by the USDA (antibiotic feeding). Most of the bee bread taken from colonies actively foraging on almonds, exhibited an atypical single microbe pattern which changed when tested after being moved to another crop. There is a typical pattern of microbes present in healthy honey bee colonies both throughout the hive and over a period of time. In addition, any bee bread samples obtained from colonies described as Colony Colapse Disorder or with ‘entombed’ pollen has virtually no microbial signature compared to a healthy hive. There have also been isolated instances of microbial presence declining during an active blooming season corresponding with queen failure and an inability to requeen naturally. To date, over forty organisms have been isolated. Work is under way to establish their species and determine where they fit in the patterns being found in our screening work to support our diagnostic efforts. This research relates to objective 3E, improving bee immune response by determining the role of symbiotic microbes in bee nutrition


Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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