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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Bee Research Laboratory » Research » Research Project #438129

Research Project: Managing Honey Bees Against Disease and Colony Stress

Location: Bee Research Laboratory

2021 Annual Report

The overarching goal of the project is to develop management strategies for bee diseases & colony health & to provide the beekeeping community with advice for best practices to build & maintain healthy bee populations for pollination. This goal will be achieved by pursuring the following specific objectives: OBJ 1: Develop diagnostic & data management tools for use in mitigating the effects of current & emerging honey bee diseases & pests & continue to operate the Agency’s Bee Disease Diagnostic Service. [NP305, Component 2, PS 2A & 2B] 1.A: Identify & characterize new & emerging pathogens that cause honey bee diseases & to develop efficient diagnostic markers to monitor disease onset & progression in honey colonies; 1.B: Develop diagnostic method for measuring stress in honey bees; 1.C: Improve diagnostic & informatic tools for bee health. OBJ 2: Develop novel & effective treatment solutions, including varroacides & natural products, that reduce the incidence & prevalence of bee diseases & disorders to help beekeepers maximize pollination services & honey production. [NP305, Component 2, PS 2A & 2B] 2.A: Develop tools & strategies for preventing & controlling honey bee pests that harm individual bees & damage hive products; 2.B: Develop RNAi based specific therapeutics for bee diseases; 2.C: Identify natural products that reduce bee diseases; 2.D: Develop novel methods to mitigate the detrimental effects associated with pesticide exposure. OBJ 3: Analyze the seasonal behavior & physiology of adult worker bees, & thus develop improved best management strategies for increasing the overwintering success of honey bee colonies in the field. [NP305, Component 2, PS 2A & 2B] 3.A: Refine our understanding of the seasonality of honey bee colonies & identify abiotic & biotic factors that disrupt the timing or occurrence of seasonal events; 3.B: Determine overwintering strategies of honey bee pests, including Varroa mites, wax moths, & small hive beetles, & develop methods & tools for their control; 3.C: Determine the effects to biological clock/seasonal physiology of honey bees from different overwintering strategies employed by beekeepers & develop successful overwintering strategies. OBJ 4: Determine the causes of queen failures & improve honey bee queen quality related to colony survivorship. [NP305, Component 2, PS 2A & 2B] 4.A: Improving queen genetic diversity & their resistance to diseases; 4.B: Compare available queen lines & stocks to determine their disease Resistance; 4.C: Define the epigenetic factors of queen fitness & develop strategies to improve queen quality. OBJ 5: Analyze the interactions between honey bee nutrition, their microbiomes, chemical stress, disease, & hive treatments, to improve bee health & performance. [NP305, Component 2, PS 2A & 2B] 5.A: Determine the effect of nutritional supplementation on honey bee behavioral development & disease immunity; 5.B: Determine the relationship between gut microbiota & nutrition on honey bee behavior & immunity to diseases & abiotic stressors; 5.C: Improve bee defenses in the face of abiotic & biotic stress.

Bee Research Laboratory scientists combine laboratory and field approaches and integrate physiology, molecular biology, toxicology, ecology, and multi-omics technologies (genome, metagenome, transcriptome, epigenome, metabolome, and microbiome) into an interdisciplinary research program to generate new knowledge, technologies, and tools for 1) diagnosing, treating, and mitigating bee diseases and pests, 2) creating platforms that provide data sources and analytic applications to advance bee research and to broaden the range of our custom services, 3) improving colonies' overwintering success, 4) developing strategies for improving queen quality, and 5) discovering nutrition-based approaches for disease prevention and health promotion and protecting bees from pesticides and other toxins present in the environment. BRL scientists work with industry leaders and stakeholders to help license and develop products that will be useful for beekeepers and customers.

Progress Report
This is the Annual report for project Managing Honey Bees Against Disease and Colony Stress which falls under National Program 305 (Crop Production), Action Plan Component II (Bees and Pollination), Problem Area A (Honey bees). During this period, the lab provided tools to improve honey bee health by publishing 21 papers and three invention disclosures while also pursuing one patented discovery from FY20. Research papers (five) and invention disclosures (two) documented novel therapeutic strategies for bee disease, a major current focus of the BRL. In addition, two new studies described disease vectoring in colonies, improving best-practice guidelines for effective bee disease and pest management. Despite COVID staffing issues, our Bee Disease Diagnostic Service responded to field colony losses by identifying disease-causing agents in bee samples sent by beekeepers across the U.S. These determinations included over 50 positive identifications of American foulbrood annually, helping in the control of this regulated infectious disease. During this period, we conducted laboratory experiment and showed how efficiently parasitic Varroa mites acquire viruses, a key step in the movement of viruses among bees and that bees themselves can serve as important virus vectors, after these bees have removed sick nestmates for the colony. This result, which received considerable beekeeper interest, shows the complexity of virus disease once disease is initiated. The information here will be used to improve best-management practices by beekeepers, ensuring bee and colony health for the industry.

1. Novel Therapeutics for bee disease. Honey bees face numerous parasites and pathogens. Beekeepers, especially in the commercial sector, often cannot avoid disease exposure and are demanding better treatment options. ARS scientists in Beltsville, Maryland, developed both gene-based (RNA interference) and molecule-based (natural compounds) candidates for controlling bee disease and are disseminating those results by articles and patented efforts, as appropriate. These efforts (five research papers and two invention disclosures) expand the available tool for beekeepers, helping to ensure better colony healthy, pollination services, and the production of honey and other hive products.

Review Publications
Posada-Florez, F.J., Lamas, Z., Hawthorne, D., Chen, Y., Evans, J.D., Ryabov, E.V. 2021. Pupal cannibalism by worker honey bees contributes to the spread of Deformed wing virus. Scientific Reports. 11:8989.
Huang, Q., Wu, H., Li, W., Guo, R., Xu, J., Dang, X., Ma, Z., Chen, Y., Evans, J.D. 2021. Genome and evolutionary analysis of Nosema ceranae: a microsporidian parasite of honey bees. Frontiers in Microbiology.
Huang, S., Zhang, Y., Chen, Y. 2020. Foundation of Food and Agriculture Research. Apiculture of China. 6:52-53.
Guo, Y., Zhang, Z., Wang, L., Li, K., Yao, J., Yang, H., Huang, J., Wu, J., Chen, Y., Li, J. 2021. Transcriptome profiling reveals a novel mechanism of antiviral immunity upon Sacbrood virus infection in honey bee larvae (Apis cerana). Frontiers in Microbiology.
Posada-Florez, F., Ryabov, E., Heerman, M., Chen, Y., Evans, J.D., Sonenshine, D., Cook, S.C. 2020. A novel system for maintaining Varroa destructor mites on artificial diets and its application for studying mites as a vector for honey bee viruses. PLoS ONE. 15(11): e0242688.
Sun, L., Zhang, X., Xu, S., Hou, C., Xu, J., Zhao, D., Chen, Y. 2021. Antiviral activities of a medicinal plant extract against Sacbrood virus in honeybees. Virology Journal.
Huang, Shaokang, Li, Jianghong, Zhang, Yi, Li, Zhiguo, Evans, J.D., Rose, Robyn, Gilligan, Todd, Lebrunc, Anne, He, Nan, Zheng, T., Zhang, T., Hamilton, M.C., Chen, Y. 2021. A novel method for the detection and diagnosis of virus infections in honey bees. Journal of Virological Methods. 293:114163.
Chen, G., Wu, Y., Wen, Z., Deng, J., Wang, S., Chen, Y., Hu, F., Zheng, H. 2021. Seasonal variation of viral infections between the Eastern honey bee Apis cerana and the Western honey bee Apis mellifera in China. MicrobiologyOpen.
Rodriguez-Garcia, C., Heerman, M.C., Cook, S.C., Evans, J.D., Hoffman, G.D., Banmeke, O.A., Zhang, Z., Huang, S., Hamilton, M.C., Chen, Y. 2021. Transferrin-mediated iron sequestration suggests a novel therapeutic strategy for controlling Nosema disease in the honey bee, Apis mellifera. PLoS Pathogens. 17(2):e1009270.
Tauber, J.P., Childers, A.K., Evans, J.D. 2019. Draft genome of the yeast Kodamaea ohmeri, a symbiont of the small hive beetle. Microbiology Resource Announcements. 8:e00450-19.
Woodard, H.S., Federman, S., James, R.R., Danforth, B.N., Griswold, T.L., Inouye, D.W., Mcfrederick, Q.S., Morandin, L.A., Paul, D., Sellers, E., Strange, J.P., Vaughan, M., Williams, N.M., Branstetter, M.G., Burns, C., Cane, J.H., Cariveau, A., Cariveau, D., Childers, A.K., Childers, C., Cox-Foster, D.L., Evans, E., Graham, K., Hackett, K.J., Huntzinger, K., Irwin, R., Jha, S., Lawson, S., Lebuhn, G., Lopez-Uribe, M., Melathopoulos, A., Otto, C., Ponisio, L., Richardson, L., Rose, R., Singh, R., Steeger, T., Wehling, W. 2020. Toward a U.S. national program for monitoring native bees. Biological Conservation. 252.
Madella, S., Grubbs, K.F., Alburaki, M. 2020. Non-invasive genotyping of honey bee queens Apis mellifera L.: Transition of the DraI mtDNA COI-COII test to in silico. Insects. 12(1):19.
Liu, Y., Beaurepaire, A., Rogers, C.W., Lopez, D.L., Evans, J.D., Straub, L., Neumann, P., Cook, S.C., Huang, Q. 2020. Gene expression and functional analyses of odorant receptors in small hive beetles (Aethina tumida). International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 21(13):4582.
Tauber, J., Einspanier, R., Evans, J.D., Mcmahon, D. 2020. Co-incubation of dsRNA reduces proportion of viable spores of Ascosphaera apis, a honey bee fungal pathogen. Journal of Apicultural Research.