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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

2022 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, and despite COVID challenges, 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 70 positive identifications of American foulbrood annually, helping in the control of this regulated infectious disease. Through 124 total published peer-reviewed papers and five invention disclosures, the six Bee Research Laboratory (BRL) scientists (five Cat. 1 and one Cat. 4) generated large sets of genetic data and publicly accessible platforms that have allowed for the development of diagnostic and detection tools and therapeutic strategies, produced new knowledge relating to mechanisms in underlying complex diseases, facilitating the development of novel therapeutic strategies for bee ailments caused by various factors, and leading to the formulation of the best practice guidelines for effective bee disease and pest management.

1. Development of novel bee medicines. Challenges to honeybee health arise from disease agents, chemical stress, and nutritional challenges. Of these, disease agents are the most treatable by management changes made by beekeepers. ARS scientists in Beltsville, Maryland, screened 50 plant compounds vetted for immune-enhancement and reduction of virus loads. One class of plant compounds was approved for patenting as a control measure for nosema disease using RNA interference to control the deadly varroa mites.

2. Mitigating the impacts of parasitic mites and their associated viruses. ARS scientists in Beltsville, Maryland, have led research documenting the means by which viruses move within honeybee colonies, showing the key roles played by varroa mites and bee-to-bee transmission. This research resulted in participation by an ARS scientist in an international consortium to identify novel mite controls. The research quantified the risks to bees not just of mite parasites but of the movement of viruses from bee to bee even following the control of mite numbers. These insights will lead to management changes directed at minimizing bee losses.

3. Insect and microbial genomics. ARS scientists in Beltsville, Maryland, are leaders in efforts to sequence the genomes of agriculturally important insects, developing new methods and delivering genome insights to researchers and industry stakeholders. Efforts have shown weaknesses in a key bee parasite, Nosema ceranae, with possible control strategies.

Review Publications
Lawniczak, M.K., Durbin, R., Flicek, P., Lindblad-Toh, K., Wei, X., Archibald, J.M., Baker, W.J., Belov, K., Blaxter, M.L., Bonet, T., Brown, C., Childers, A.K., Coddington, J.A., Crandall, K.A., Crawford, A.J., Davey, R.P., Di Palma, F., Fang, Q., Haerty, W., Hall, N., Hoff, K., Howe, K., Jarvis, E.D., Johnson, W.E., Johnson, R.N., Kersey, P.J., Liu, X., Lopez, J.V., Mungall, C.J., Myers, E.W., Pettersson, O.V., Phillippy, A.M., Poelchau, M.F., Pruitt, K.D., Rhie, A., Castilla-Rubio, J., Sahu, S.K., Salmon, N.A., Soltis, P.S., Swarbreck, D., Thibaud-Nissen, F., Wang, S., Wegrzyn, J.L., Zhang, G., Zhang, H., Lewin, H.A., Richards, S. 2022. Standards Recommendations for the Earth BioGenome Project. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 119(4):e2115639118.
Saha, S., Cooksey, A., Childers, A.K., Poelchau, M.F., Mccarthy, F.M. 2021. Workflows for rapid functional annotation of diverse arthropod genomes. Insects. 12(8):748.
Wu, Y., Zheng, Y., Wang, S., Chen, Y., Tao, J., Chen, Y., Chen, G., Zhao, H., Wai, K., Dong, K., Hu, F., Feng, Y., Zheng, H. 2021. Genetic divergence and functional convergence of gut bacteria between the Eastern honey bee Apis cerana and the Western honey bee, Apis mellifera. mSystems. 37:19-31.
Tauber, J.P., Mcmahon, D., Ryabov, E., Kunat, M., Ptaszynska, A., Evans, J.D. 2022. Honeybee intestines retain low yeast titers, but no bacterial mutualists, at emergence. Yeast. 39(1-2):95-107.
Milbrath, M., Fowler, P., Abban, S.K., Boncristiani, D.L., Evans, J.D. 2021. Validation of diagnostic methods for European Foulbrood on commercial honey bee colonies in the United States. Journal of Insect Science. 21(6):6.
Palmer-Young, E., Raffel, T., Evans, J.D. 2021. Hot and sour: parasite adaptations to honey bee body temperature and pH. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 228(1964):1-10.
Evans, J.D., Banmeke, O., Palmer-Young, E., Chen, Y., Riabov, E. 2022. Beeporter: a high-throughput tool for non-invasive analysis of honey bee virus infection. Molecular Ecology Resources. 22:978–987.
Weaver, D., Cantarel, B.L., Elsik, C., Boncristiani, D.L., Evans, J.D. 2021. Multi-tiered analyses of honey bees that resist or succumb to parasitic mites and viruses. BMC Genomics. 22(1).
Posada-Florez, F., Abban, S.K., Smith, I.B., Cook, S.C. 2022. Development and evaluation of a new effective tool and method for assessing varroadestructor (Acari: Varroidae) mite populations in honey bee colonies . Insects. 13(5):457.
Penn, H.J., Simone-Finstrom, M.D., Chen, Y., Healy, K.B. 2022. Honey bee genetic stock determines DWV symptom severity but not viral load or dissemination following pupal exposure. Frontiers in Genetics. 13:909392.
Li, K., Mcmahon, D., Zhang, L.Z., Zeng, Z.J., Evans, J.D., Huang, Q. 2021. Honey bee habitat sharing enhances gene flow of the parasite Nosema ceranae. Microbial Ecology. 83:1105-1111.
Boncristiani, D.L., Tauber, J.P., Palmer-Young, E., Cao, L., Chen, Y., Grubbs, K.F., Lopez, J.A., Meinhardt, L.W., Nguyen, V., Oh, S., Peterson, R.J., Zamora, H., Evans, J.D. 2021. Impacts of diverse natural products on honey bee viral loads and health. Journal of Insect Science. 11:10732.
Palmer-Young, E., Schwarz, R., Chen, Y., Evans, J.D. 2022. Can floral nectars reduce transmission of Leishmania. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. e0010373.
Palmer-Young, E., Schwarz, R., Chen, Y., Evans, J.D. 2022. Punch in the gut: Parasite tolerance of phytochemicals reflects host diet. Environmental Microbiology. 24(4):1805-1817.
Alburaki, M., Corona, M.V. 2022. Polyurethane honey bee hives provide better winter insulation than wooden hives. Journal of Apicultural Research. 61(2):190-196.
Alburaki, M., Madella, S., Corona, M.V. 2021. RFID technology serving honey bee research: A comprehensive description of a 32-antenna system to study honey bee behavior. Sensors. 4(4):88.
Li, K., Wang, L., Zhang, Z., Guo, Y., Guo, J., Chen, Y., Zhuang, D., Li, J. 2021. Dynamic change of gut microbiota in the male bee of Bombus terrestris. Journal of Agricultural Science. 13(9).
Chen, G., Wang, S., Jia, S., Feng, Y., Hu, F., Chen, Y., Zheng, H. 2021. A novel strain of virus discovered in China specific to the parasitic mite Varroa destructor poses a potential threat to honey bees. Viruses. 13(4):679.
Scoaris, D.O., Hughes, F.M., Silveira, M.A., Evans, J.D., Pettis, J., Bastos, E.M., Rosa, C.A. 2021. Microbial communities associated with honey bees in Brazil and in the United States. Brazilian Journal of Microbiology. 52:2097-2115.
Hernandez-Rodfiguez, C.S., Moreno-Marti, S., Almecija, G., Christmon, K., Johnson, J., Ventelon, M., Vanengelsdorp, D., Cook, S.C., Gonzales-Cabrera, J. 2021. Resistance to amitraz in the parasitic honey bee mite Varroa destructor is associated with mutations in the B-adrenergic like octopamine receptor. Journal of Pest Science.
Kumar, D., Alburaki, M., Tahir, F., Goblirsch, M.J., Adamczyk Jr, J.J., Karim, S. 2022. An insight into the microRNA profiles of an ectoparasite mite Varroa destructor (Acari: Varroidae), the primary vector of Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) of the honey bee Apis mellifera L. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.
Sonenshine, D.E., Posada-Florez, F., Laudier, D., Gulbronson, C.J., Ramsey, S., Cook, S.C. 2021. Histological atlas of the internal anatomy of female varroa destructor mites in relation to feeding and reproduction. Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 115(2):163-193.
Alburaki, M., Madella, S., Vu, P., Corona, M.V. 2022. Influence of honey bee seasonal phenotype and emerging conditions on diet behavior and susceptibility to imidacloprid. Apidologie. 53:12.