Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Related Topics


Location: Bee Research Laboratory

2011 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 research 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 test in many geographic regions as bees and bee pests and diseases grow at different rates in different parts of the country.

3. Progress Report
Pesticide exposure is of concern for honey bee colonies and debate continues about the role of pesticides in pollinator health. Samples were collected from across the U.S. of bees, pollen and wax to determine the diversity and levels of pesticides present in honey bee colonies. A broad range of pesticides were documented in bee hives with 121 different pesticides detected. The pesticides found were from colonies classified as either healthy or suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and no correlations were obvious to CCD alone. The range of pesticides found is of concern for bee health. Honey bee colony losses continue and data are needed to document bee survival to insure pollination needs can be met. A fourth year of honey bee colony losses in the U.S. was surveyed in the fall and winter of 2010-2011. The overall losses, due to a variety of causes, were 34%. 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. A targeted survey of ten commercial beekeeping operations was conducted in advance of almond pollination in California. This survey is in its fourth year and is designed to give an overview of the strength of colonies used in almond pollination each year. Increasing colony strength for pollination was correlated with decreasing levels of pests and diseases but no single factor was consistently shown to negatively impact colony strength. ARS scientists at the Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, are currently testing means to limit the negative effects of 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. 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. Additionally, the pollen at each site was analyzed for pesticide residue to determine if pesticide exposure was occurring. The survivorship of the colonies in the first and second 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. Research findings must be transferred to the user; in this case beekeepers across the U.S. To meet this need an extension website ( was launched in July 2008 to provide a platform for information exchange on honey bee issues. The website 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.

4. Accomplishments
1. Publication of the pesticide levels in North America honey bee colonies. A survey was conducted that examined the pesticide levels in honey bee colonies in the U.S. The publication of the survey results documented high levels of a broad range of pesticides in both dying colonies and colonies identified as being apparently healthy. This survey lays the groundwork for more detailed studies on specific interactions between pesticides as it provides a tool to decide which pesticides are most abundant in bee colonies and thus warrant further study. Beekeepers can use this information to identify possible pesticide contamination from specific crops and avoid placing colonies in harmful places. ARS scientists at the Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, in conjunction with university partners, are currently testing various pesticide combinations based on the findings from this published survey to determine their impact on individual bee and or colony health.

Review Publications
Mullin, C., Frazier, M., Frazier, J.L., Ashcraft, S., Simonds, R., Vanengelsdorp, D., Pettis, J.S. 2010. Pesticides and honey bee health: High levels of Acaricides and crop protection chemicals in U.S. apiaires. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 5(3):e9754.

Vanengelsdorp, D., Speybroeck, N., Evans, J.D., Nguyen, B., Mullin, C., Frazier, M., Frazier, J., Cox-Foster, D., Chen, Y., Tarpy, D., Haubruge, E., Pettis, J.S., Saegerman, C. 2010. First analysis of risk factors associated with bee colony collapse disorder by classification and regression trees. Journal of Economic Entomology. 103:1517-1523.

Last Modified: 06/22/2017
Footer Content Back to Top of Page