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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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2009 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
The Areawide Program will bring together recent improvements in mite-resistant bee stocks, nutrition, and pest and disease management techniques into a comprehensive management strategy to improve honey bee health in the U.S. The objective of this 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 ARS research from Beltsville, MD; Tucson, AZ; Baton Rouge, LA and Weslaco, TX. Specific objecives include: 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) 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, bee pests and diseases grow at different rates in different parts of the country.

3. Progress Report
The Areawide Program responsibility for the Honey Bee Research Unit in Weslaco, Texas, is California and Texas. A series of large-scale field trials have been conducted in California and Texas, testing the hypothesis that colonies compromised by poor nutrition are much more likely to succumb to the parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, and the microsporidian, Nosema ceranae. An experiment conducted in October 2008 to March 2009 near Escondido, CA, showed that colonies that moved to higher elevations survived winters with larger adult bee populations. Optimum time for feeding protein to honey bee colonies (Apis melifera L., Hymenoptera: Apidae) in preparation for almond pollination, was from September 2007 through February 2008. Two experiments were conducted near Escondido and LaGrange, CA. Both experiments showed that winter feeding should be started early for maximum effect. The LaGrange experiment showed that winter feeding could be done even at lower temperatures. Honey bee survival and performance, when fed six experimental pollen substitutes, indicated that performance on two of the experimental diets was as good as the standard diet, Mega Bee. The experiment on controlling Nosema ceranae with eight experimental medications found that none of the products were efficacious. We have conducted three large field experiments with novel treatments. Nothing to date has been as efficacious as the industry standard, fumagillin. Almond pollen collection by honey bee colonies heavily infested with Nosema ceranae were severely impacted. Four manuscripts have been written: 1) "Mountainside wintering improves colony strength and survival in Southern California", 2) "Overwintering nutritionally stressed honey bee colonies infested with Varroa destructor", 3) "Optimum time for feeding protein to honey bee colonies (Apis mellifera L., Hymenoptera: Apidae) in preparation for almond pollination", and 4) "Feeding over wintering honey bee colonies infected with Nosema ceranae." Our findings strongly support the hypothesis.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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