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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Location: Bee Research Laboratory

2010 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
Surveys were conducted to determine the rate of honey bee colony losses in the U.S. in the fall and winter of 2009 - 2010. The overall losses, due to a variety of causes, were 34% up from an average of 29% for 2008. Individual beekeepers reported that starvation and or queen failure was their primary reasons for colony losses while Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) symptoms were reported as a lesser cause. Beekeepers reporting CCD-like symptoms reported higher losses than those that did not report CCD-like symptoms. The overall rate of colony losses has remained steady for four years at approximately 33% and is unsustainable. 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 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. Additionally, the pollen at each site was analyzed for pesticide residue to determine if pesticide exposure was occurring and if so, was it a contributing factor. 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. The survivorship of the colonies in the first year of study could not be tied to any specific factor but colonies at poor sites produced lighter weight worker bees with lower vitellogenin levels and feeding at these sites increased individual bee weights. No trends at the colony level were evident in the first year. The study is designed to run for three additional years. An extension Web site was launched in July 2008 to provide a platform for information exchange on honey bee issues. The Web site 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. The Web site provides an avenue to disperse up to date information and research findings to stakeholders. Publications will be made available on the site along with a more user friendly synopsis of each publication. An “ask the experts” section will allow stakeholders to pose specific questions to scientists who are supporting the site.

4. Accomplishments
1. Publication of the symptoms of Colony Collapse Disorder. A descriptive epidemiological publication was realized that defined the field symptoms of CCD and described the level of pests and other pathogens that were present in CCD vs non-CCD colonies. This paper documented high levels of pathogens in CCD and suggested that CCD is an interaction between pathogens and other stress factors. While not able to demonstrate causation this paper provides the basis to define CCD and points out areas of hypothesis-driven research that can be conducted to address uncertainties in bee health relative to CCD. This paper clarifies what is and is not CCD and proposes a number of bee health questions that need to be studied in detail. Scientists at the Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, in conjunction with university partners are currently testing many of these hypothesis proposed as potential causes of CCD.

Review Publications
Ellis, J., Evans, J.D., Pettis, J.S. 2009. Reviewing colony losses and Colony Collapse Disorder in the United States. Journal of Apicultural Research. 49:134-136.

Schafer, M.O., Ritter, W., Pettis, J.S., Neumann, P. 2009. Winter losses of honeybee colonies (Apis mellifera): The role of infestations with Aethina tumida and Varroa destructor. Journal of Economic Entomology. 103:10-16.

Pettis, J.S., Delaplane, K. 2010. Coordinated responses to honey bee decline in the USA. Journal of Economic Entomology. 41:256-263.

Last Modified: 08/17/2017
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