Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NATURE vs NURTURE - Bees Tell All

Nature vs nurture: Bees tell all
Wednesday, 03 November 2010
The Australian National University

The study represents a giant step closer to
solving the nature-nurture debate.

The nature-nurture debate is a “giant step” closer to being resolved after scientists studying bees documented how environmental inputs can modify our genetic hardware.

The research team was led by Professor Ryszard Maleszka of The Australian National University’s College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, working with colleagues from the German Cancer Institute in Heidelberg, Germany. Their work has uncovered the extensive molecular differences that occur in the brains of two types of genetically identical, but behaviourally different, female honey bees – worker bees and queen bees. The workers and queens develop along very different paths when put on different diets.

Their work reveals for the first time the intricacies of the environmentally-influenced chemical ‘marking of DNA’ called DNA methylation, which has the capacity to alter gene expression without affecting the genetic code – a process referred to as ‘epigenetic’, or above the genome.

“This marking determines which genes are to be fine-tuned in the brains of workers and queens to produce their extraordinarily different behaviours. This finding is not only crucial, but far reaching, because the enzymes that mark DNA in the bee are also the enzymes that mark DNA in human brains,” said Professor Maleszka.

“In the bees, more than 550 genes are differentially marked between the brain of the queen and the brain of the worker, which contributes to their profound divergence in behaviour. This study provides the first documentation of extensive molecular differences that may allow honey bees to generate different reproductive and behavioural outcomes as a result of differential feeding with royal jelly.”

Professor Maleszka said that the work goes a long way to answering one of life’s biggest questions.

“This study represents a giant step towards answering one of the big questions in the nature-nurture debate, because it shows how the outside world is linked to DNA via diet, and how environmental inputs can transiently modify our genetic hardware,” he said.

“Similar studies are impossible to do on human brains, so the humble honey bees are the pioneers in this fascinating area.”

The researchers’ paper, ‘The Honey Bee Epigenomes: Differential Methylation of Brain DNA in Queens and Workers’ is published in this week’s PLoS Biology.

Friday, October 8, 2010

ANOTHER THOUGHT on CCD and the Plight of the BEE

Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery
Mike Albans for The New York Times

Members of a joint United States Army-University of Montana research team that located a virus that is possibly collapsing honeybee colonies scanning a healthy hive near Missoula, Mont.
Published: October 6, 2010

DENVER — It has been one of the great murder mysteries of the garden: what is killing off the honeybees?

Green Blog: Giving the Honeybee Its Due (October 7, 2010)
Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons (April 24, 2007)

Honeybees inside a healthy hive near Missoua, Mont.

Since 2006, 20 to 40 percent of the bee colonies in the United States alone have suffered “colony collapse.” Suspected culprits ranged from pesticides to genetically modified food.

Now, a unique partnership — of military scientists and entomologists — appears to have achieved a major breakthrough: identifying a new suspect, or two.

A fungus tag-teaming with a virus have apparently interacted to cause the problem, according to a paper by Army scientists in Maryland and bee experts in Montana in the online science journal PLoS One.

Exactly how that combination kills bees remains uncertain, the scientists said — a subject for the next round of research. But there are solid clues: both the virus and the fungus proliferate in cool, damp weather, and both do their dirty work in the bee gut, suggesting that insect nutrition is somehow compromised.

Liaisons between the military and academia are nothing new, of course. World War II, perhaps the most profound example, ended in an atomic strike on Japan in 1945 largely on the shoulders of scientist-soldiers in the Manhattan Project. And a group of scientists led by Jerry Bromenshenk of the University of Montana in Missoula has researched bee-related applications for the military in the past — developing, for example, a way to use honeybees in detecting land mines.

But researchers on both sides say that colony collapse may be the first time that the defense machinery of the post-Sept. 11 Homeland Security Department and academia have teamed up to address a problem that both sides say they might never have solved on their own.

“Together we could look at things nobody else was looking at,” said Colin Henderson, an associate professor at the University of Montana’s College of Technology and a member of Dr. Bromenshenk’s “Bee Alert” team.

Human nature and bee nature were interconnected in how the puzzle pieces came together. Two brothers helped foster communication across disciplines. A chance meeting and a saved business card proved pivotal. Even learning how to mash dead bees for analysis — a skill not taught at West Point — became a factor.

One perverse twist of colony collapse that has compounded the difficulty of solving it is that the bees do not just die — they fly off in every direction from the hive, then die alone and dispersed. That makes large numbers of bee autopsies — and yes, entomologists actually do those — problematic.

Dr. Bromenshenk’s team at the University of Montana and Montana State University in Bozeman, working with the Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center northeast of Baltimore, said in their jointly written paper that the virus-fungus one-two punch was found in every killed colony the group studied. Neither agent alone seems able to devastate; together, the research suggests, they are 100 percent fatal.

“It’s chicken and egg in a sense — we don’t know which came first,” Dr. Bromenshenk said of the virus-fungus combo — nor is it clear, he added, whether one malady weakens the bees enough to be finished off by the second, or whether they somehow compound the other’s destructive power. “They’re co-factors, that’s all we can say at the moment,” he said. “They’re both present in all these collapsed colonies.”

Research at the University of California, San Francisco, had already identified the fungus as part of the problem. And several RNA-based viruses had been detected as well. But the Army/Montana team, using a new software system developed by the military for analyzing proteins, uncovered a new DNA-based virus, and established a linkage to the fungus, called N. ceranae.

“Our mission is to have detection capability to protect the people in the field from anything biological,” said Charles H. Wick, a microbiologist at Edgewood. Bees, Dr. Wick said, proved to be a perfect opportunity to see what the Army’s analytic software tool could do. “We brought it to bear on this bee question, which is how we field-tested it,” he said.

The Army software system — an advance itself in the growing field of protein research, or proteomics — is designed to test and identify biological agents in circumstances where commanders might have no idea what sort of threat they face. The system searches out the unique proteins in a sample, then identifies a virus or other microscopic life form based on the proteins it is known to contain. The power of that idea in military or bee defense is immense, researchers say, in that it allows them to use what they already know to find something they did not even know they were looking for.

But it took a family connection — through David Wick, Charles’s brother — to really connect the dots. When colony collapse became news a few years ago, Mr. Wick, a tech entrepreneur who moved to Montana in the 1990s for the outdoor lifestyle, saw a television interview with Dr. Bromenshenk about bees.

Mr. Wick knew of his brother’s work in Maryland, and remembered meeting Dr. Bromenshenk at a business conference. A retained business card and a telephone call put the Army and the Bee Alert team buzzing around the same blossom.

The first steps were awkward, partly because the Army lab was not used to testing bees, or more specifically, to extracting bee proteins. “I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”

The process eventually was refined. A mortar and pestle worked better than the desktop, and a coffee grinder worked best of all for making good bee paste.

Scientists in the project emphasize that their conclusions are not the final word. The pattern, they say, seems clear, but more research is needed to determine, for example, how further outbreaks might be prevented, and how much environmental factors like heat, cold or drought might play a role.

They said that combination attacks in nature, like the virus and fungus involved in bee deaths, are quite common, and that one answer in protecting bee colonies might be to focus on the fungus — controllable with antifungal agents — especially when the virus is detected.

Still unsolved is what makes the bees fly off into the wild yonder at the point of death. One theory, Dr. Bromenshenk said, is that the viral-fungal combination disrupts memory or navigating skills and the bees simply get lost. Another possibility, he said, is a kind of insect insanity.

In any event, the university’s bee operation itself proved vulnerable just last year, when nearly every bee disappeared over the course of the winter.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

the SECRET to white whipped honey is.....

that it is WHIPPED - go to DYCE PROCESS at and learn how and why and when.

Monday, August 23, 2010


A new species of bee was found at the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve -

Mason-bee Cowichnius?

The non-aggressive mud-nest maker is among many of the bee species found at the preserve where native numbers are thriving due to the recovering site's diverse ecology so world Mason Bee expert, Terry Griswold, and Simon Fraser University biologist Elizabeth Elle reported. " The preserve has done a great job of getting rid of invasive species... Helped by a flock of sheep nibbling the preserve's invasive plant and grass shoots, and saving its native wildflowers. Eco-divsity is boosted by bees pollinating and fertizing all plants - including crops. ..Out of every three bites you eat give thanks to a bee." SPOTLIGHT May issue 2010
BC Canada


August 2010 we visited Vancouver Island to meet up with fellow bee keepers - to share ideas and stories on what is happening in the bee community in their part of the world. President of Cowichan Bee Association, George Field and wife, Delphine, were gracious enough to take the time. We met at Shawnigan Steeples Restaurant for dinner and a chat.

From an email: "this is the busy season, many of the
beekeepers are moving, splitting or chasing their bees at this time of year.
Here on the island there is a big controversy at this time over the movement
of bees on and off of Vancouver Island. The change in government policy has
many beekeepers hopping mad.
We had the Cowichan Beekeepers club meeting last Thursday evening and I read
your letter out at the meeting to see of interest, the problem here is that
last fall and through the winter many of the beekeepers of Vancouver Island
had up to 90% bee losses. The old "Colony Collapse" situation is what they
are calling it, many of the commercial beekeepers are now working very hard
to get their number of hives up so as to fulfill some pollination contracts
and get some honey for this year."

The Canadian government has allowed importation of bees from Chili and Argentina but no equipment (wood etc...) as the island has been 'safe' from unregulated importation; but recently all that has changed. The ban was lifted on equipment/bee importation onto the island and apparently the quarantine was not adhered to; one of the large pollinators fulfilled his pollination contracts first then brought the equipment etc for quarantine - by then the 'foreign invader' had infected the entire island hence the 90% loss among the bee keepers. The sanctuary of the island is now breached and has fallen prey, like the rest of the world to the Varroa mite, American/European Foulbrood, honeycomb-eating greater wax moth, small hive beetle...

According to the SPOTLIGHT, Friday May 28,2010 issue the headline reads: Beekeepers stung by lifted quarantine
The article goes on to state ..."The policy change basically lifts a 1987 honeybee importation quarantine. Commercial producer Larry Lindahl (beekeeper for 64 years), a former agricultural inspector with 180 bee colonies is stinging mad about the legislative changes made with little notice to beekeepers.....The quarantine had kept a list of honeybee pests out of Cowichan's 250 registered hives - you can double that figure for non-registered ones... What's the possible justification for a major change to the status quo without involving key stakeholders like island beekeepers? Demanded Annie Roman of the Cowichan Beekeepers Club. Beehaven Farm's Steve Mitchell saw his 20 colonies reduced to one thanks largely to last year's infestation by the Varroa mite. He too wants the quarantine reinstated to keep disease levels low among the island bees....."

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

China's Honey Trade Buzzing With Corruption

China's Honey Trade Buzzing With Corruption
By Alexa Olesen, Associated Press Writer


BEIJING (AP) -- Businessman Yan Yongxiang was trying to get around stiff U.S. levies on imports of cheap Chinese honey. So he sent 15 shipping containers of cut-rate honey to the Philippines, where it was relabeled and sent on to the United States.

It's called honey-laundering, and the subterfuge let Yan skirt $656,515 in taxes before he was caught in a bust and pleaded guilty. Yan's factory in central China's Henan province even filtered the metals and pollen from the honey so that U.S. tests would not show it came from China, according to the 60-year-old's plea agreement. Now he awaits sentencing in a U.S. jail.

Honey-laundering is just one of many unsavory practices that have besmirched China's vast honey industry and raised complaints from competing American beekeepers. China produces more honey than anywhere else in the world, about 300,000 metric tons (660 million pounds) a year or about 25 percent of the global total. But stocks are tainted with a potentially dangerous antibiotic and cheaper honeys are increasingly getting passed off as more expensive varieties.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seized 64 drums of Chinese honey tainted with chloramphenicol, an antibiotic, at a warehouse in Philadelphia. Last year, the agency said two Chinese honey shipments were found to contain the drug, which is approved for medical use but banned in food products because in rare cases it can cause aplastic anemia, a potentially fatal illness.

Experts say quality problems are hard to avoid in a business dominated by small manufacturers, many of whom are poor and uneducated.

Chinese honey collectors like Min Junguo, 47, spend every spring and summer chasing the flowers, lugging their bees from the chasteberry trees of south China to the yellow acacia blossoms around Beijing. While on the road, Min lives with his wife in a collapsible woodframe hut with a tarp draped over it and sleeps on a board propped up on boxes. He has a fifth-grade education and makes about $4,500 in a good year, though much of that gets spent on sugar to feed his bees in the winter and transportation fees.

Compared to the average rural income, which was just 5,153 yuan (about $760), in 2009, he is doing pretty well.

"I am not getting rich doing this, but it buys my freedom so I can be my own boss," said Min, as he stood in a shady patch of trees and flowers near the Great Wall, surrounded by more than 100 of his bee boxes.

Min denies using antibiotics. But China's supply chain for honey is long and little policed, so that it's hard to tell what corners are cut where. Min sells 5 tons of honey a year to roving middlemen, who batch it with other honey and resell it to factories and exporters.

One of Min's buyers, Wei Nianhai, said Chinese authorities have cracked down on illegal antibiotics like chloramphenicol in recent years, but it's still a hard habit to break for many bee keepers.

"If their bees got sick, the first thing in their mind is saving their bees instead of caring about the quality of honey," said Wei, a honey dealer from Chengde in central China's Henan province. "They can't afford the loss of bees."

He also admitted that he doesn't test the honey he buys for the antibiotic because he doesn't have the time or the equipment -- an indication of the lax enforcement behind China's food safety regulations.

Peter Leedham, managing director of the Suzhou office of the food testing company Eurofins Technology Service, says many Chinese bee keepers are untrained and unknowingly give their bees the medicine.

"A lot of the honey farmers or honey collectors here are small businesses or even families and they do it basically to supplement income," he said. "They often will be told to add this wonderful mixture to whatever they are doing because it will help improve their yields. And they are not told what's in it by the sellers or what it does."

Leedham said his clients, who rely on Eurofins to test samples of Chinese honey to ensure it meets export standards, are increasingly concerned about authenticity or cheaper Chinese honey being passed off as more expensive varieties.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York has called for a federal standard for pure honey similar to guidelines already established for olive oil to help combat fakes or blends. He has also lobbied for tougher measures against customs cheats like Yan and says that between $100-200 million in duties are being lost because of Chinese honey being laundered through India, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia and other countries.

Honey fraud and honey-laundering are part of a controversial debate over whether or not the U.S. needs heavy subsidies to protect its homegrown honey industry.

Eric Mussen, an apiculturist or bee expert at the University of California, Davis, said it costs U.S. beekeepers about $1.40 to make a pound of honey, including colony maintenance, transportation to honey production areas, harvesting and packing. Before tariffs, he said, Chinese honey was coming into the U.S. at about 35 cents per pound.

"Obviously, this is not a 'level playing field,'" Mussen wrote in an e-mail response to questions.

Mussen said if the antidumping tariffs were lifted, sales of U.S. honey "would probably drop way off, but not necessarily to zero. Many U.S. beekeepers would go out of business."

Fewer bees also could affect crops like California almonds, which rely on commercial crop pollination services that are carried out by bees, he said.

But Chinese honey makers and the Chinese government say the U.S. duties, which can be nearly double the sale value of the honey, are unfair and discriminatory.

China argues that because the U.S. subsidizes honey farmers, it doesn't need to protect them so vigorously from import competition. Chinese bee keepers this year welcomed a new measure that waived their highway toll fees, and they sometimes get local government support, but are not covered by a federal subsidy program.

Asked by a reporter to comment on honey laundering at a press briefing this month, Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Yao Jian sidestepped the question and expounded on China's frustration with U.S. import duties instead.

"Currently, the U.S. levies $2.63 in antidumping duties for every kilogram of Chinese honey," Yao said. "We hope to resolve this issue as soon as possible, and do away with this discriminatory measure. However, so far the U.S. side has not been very energetic in this regard."

The case of Yan, the seller busted for transshipping honey through the Philippines, so angered American beekeepers that a group of them wrote to Illinois District Court Judge Wayne Andersen in January, arguing he should get "the stiffest sentence that you are able to order."

E-mails seized by customs agents from Yan's buyer, a German company with offices in Chicago, showed staff there referred to him as "famous Mr. Non stop smoker." The buyer, Alfred L. Wolff, Inc., is being investigated for fraud.

Yet to his son, Yan is "a self-made entrepreneur who worked hard all his life," and became an unlucky pawn in an international trade dispute.

"I feel that this case is mainly about a controversy between the two countries and we're caught in the middle," said Yan Chaofeng by telephone from Changge, Henan province where his father's factory is located. "We've hired a lawyer but I'm afraid it won't make any difference, since the (U.S.) government is behind this."

Associated Press researcher Xi Yue contributed to this report.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Malte Baesler's 'take' on CCD - Hamburg

I. Worldwide Situation
In 2006 beekeepers reported for the first time a weird situation: large
populations of bees had abruptly disappeared. The hives were abandoned
by the worker bees. Since then, every year colony losses above average
are reported from countries all over the world. The term colony collapse
disorder (CCD) was introduced and scientists in many countries are
searching for the cause of this ecological and economical disaster. Till
this day, the reason could not be identified. But it is assumed that CCD
is the symptom of a complex problem due to a harmful environment for
bees caused by agriculture, diseases, and beekeepers.
Agriculture: Since end of World War II a diverse amount of different
pesticides have been developed and applied. Fortunately, some of them
have been prohibited again but, nevertheless, most of the nowadays
permitted pesticides are harmful to bees. Even if chemical companies
attest nontoxic to bees, these tests cannot eliminate risks because they
only determine the lethal dose of toxic for isolated adult bees. These
tests do not analyze the impact on the brood, on fertility, on the
orientation of the bees, and on accumulation in food and wax.
Furthermore, genetically modified crops are cultivated on our fields
that are suspected to be toxic for bees, too. Genetically modified crops
that are resistant to novel classes of highly potent pesticides and
plants that produce toxics by themselves primarily benefit the chemistry
Moreover, modern agriculture prefers mono cultures. Wild flowers with a
continuously and diverse flow of nectar and pollen are eliminated by
herbicides so that for the bees the environment appears like a desert
with some peaks of nectar and pollen flow, but unbalanced nutrition.
These malnourished bees are prone to parasites and diseases.
Diseases: Several parasites, bacterias, viruses, and fungal pathogens
are suspected to cause CCD or at least stress that contributes to CCD.
The usual suspect is varroa destructor mite, the world's most
destructive honey bee killer, that spread viruses such as deformed wing
virus, acute bee paralysis virus, and Israel acute paralysis virus.
Other scientists have suggested that diseases such as nosema apis and
nosema cerana are contributors to CCD, too.
Beekeepers: The beekeepers might also be a factor of influence of CCD.
Not only the bees carry in pesticides that might accumulate in honey,
pollen and wax, but also the beekeepers do. Medications to fight varroa
mite and other diseases are applied. Furthermore, the colony management
causes stress to bees leading to a weakened immune system. The beekeeper
uses frames with foundation to specify the cell types and cell sizes and
to suppress drone cells. But naturally the bees build different cell
sizes for brood and storage. A natural swarm knows at best which type of
cells are required and does not need any guideline. It is suspected that
during the past century the honeybee was accustomed to larger cell size
(from 4.9 mm to 5.4 mm diameter), supporting varroa mite. The growth of
drones is suppressed by foundations, too. In spring and summer time
drones are an integral part of the colony and are important for the
colony's harmony. Moreover, the beekeeper suppresses an other integral
instinct of the bees: swarming. Swarming is the only natural way of
reproduction. It is important, because both, the swarm and the remaining
colony, have a period with absence of brood and the colony can recover.
During colony management the brood nest is often torn by the beekeeper
and frames are interchanged. This management also causes stress to the
colony. Furthermore, in most regions wrong races of the European
honeybee are kept. Due to extensive queen breeding the bees are selected
for maximum honey production, gentleness, no propolis accumulation, and
a strong swarm sluggishness. As a result, thousands of queens are
daughters of the same mother, the gene pool depletes, and diseases might
spread easily. In addition, propagation of diseases is boosted by
national and international bee transports and package bees.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

U. S. Honey Bee Industry Struggles

U. S. Honey Bee Industry Struggles with 34% Colonies Loss

© 2010 by Linda Moulton Howe of

“The rate of honey bee loss experienced by the industry is unsustainable.”
- Apiary Inspectors of America Survey, Winter 2009-2010

A total 33.8% of U. S. commercial honey bee colonies
were lost in 2009-2010. But some individual beekeepers had to
replace 75% to 100% of their colonies.

Before the fall of 2006 and the first report of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD),
the U. S. commercial honey bee industry generally thrived on California almond
pollination, other orchard crops, vegetables and berries. But in January 2010,
many commercial beekeepers who trucked colonies to California for
almond pollination lost nearly 100 percent of their hives.

Updated: May 5, 2010 Gainesville, Florida - On April 22, 2010, the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) and the U. S. Department of Agriculture ARS Honey Bee Lab in Beltsville, Maryland, reported, “Preliminary Results: Honey Bee Colonies Losses in the U. S., Winter 2009-2010.”
[ See More Information below for complete summary report.]

Back in the winter of 2006-2007, Pennsylvania commercial beekeeper Dave Hackenberg reported a 60% loss of his honey bees and he meant gone - no bees at all in most of his colonies. That began the first scientific investigation of what came to be known around the world as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Where did the bees go? Why didn't the bees return to their hives? After five years of serious research, apiary specialists still don't have a final answer to those questions. But the new AIA survey shows that honey bees are under assault from a wide range of problems beyond CCD.

“Responding beekeepers (to the AIA survey) attributed their losses to:

- Starvation 32%
- Weather 29%
- Weak fall colonies 14%
- Varroa and other mites 12%
- Poor queens 10%
- CCD 5%

A total loss of 33.8% of managed honey bee colonies was recorded. This compares to total losses of 29%; 35.8%; and 31.8% recorded respectively in the winter surveys of 2008-2009; 2007-2008; 2006-2007.

All told, the rate of loss experienced by the industry is unsustainable.”

One of the authors of the AIA report is Jerry Hayes, Assistant Chief, Bureau of Plant and Apiary Inspection, Apiary Inspection Section, Division of Plant Industry, Florida Department of Agriculture, Gainesville, Florida, and I talked with him today about the new AIA U. S. commercial honey bee survey for winter 2009 to 2010.


Jerry Hayes, Asst. Chief, Bureau of Plant and Apiary Inspection, Apiary Inspection Section, Division of Plant Industry, Florida Dept. of Agriculture, Gainesville, Florida:

Yes, and we’re surprised, too, and concerned and a little embarrassed as well. We researchers thought we could do better at knowing more answers and improving the honey bee health by now.

When you look at bee losses through the rest of the other eight or nine months (beyond winter 2009-2010), many commercial beekeepers shared with me they have had to replace 75% to 100% of their bees through a whole 12-month cycle. The question is: how long can they do that? We keep saying that this is unsustainable and it is.

And I guess it’s tied to almond pollination that is driving and paying the bills for most commercial beekeepers. If the price of almonds goes down, or California has increased water restrictions that require almond acreage to be taken out of production. And also, there are strains of almonds now being created that are self-fertile, so they don’t require insect pollination – that would dramatically impact at least the commercial part of the beekeeping industry.

Hives of honey bees are loaded on to truck for transport up and down,
and between, American coasts as pollinators for hire.

UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk in a Dixon, California,
almond orchard in 2010. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey.

Western honey bee, or European honey bee (Apis mellifera),
gathering pollen from almond flower. On average, 34% of American
honey bees in commercial hives died by spring 2010. Some commercial
beekeepers reported having to replace up to 100% of their
colonies. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey.


Yes, the commercial industry for sure. Honey production is not a moneymaker anymore with all the honey imports from third world countries. The cost to produce honey in Florida, for example, is about $1/pound. But honey is being brought into the United States, and specifically Florida as I know this region, for 50 to 60 cents a pound.

It takes about 1.3 to 1.4 million colonies just to pollinate almonds. If that commercial market perhaps goes away because almond growers are shifting to self-pollinating orchards and to importing pollinators from Australia and Mexico – American beekeeper business will collapse.

Honey Bees Are Starving


That means the beekeeper didn’t leave enough resources in the colony so they would have enough food to eat over winter. Or the bees were in a northern winter situation and the bees could not be fed carbohydrates and sugars to keep them alive because perhaps the weather was so cold that the bees ate up their food prematurely. For example, recently the Midwest had a very cold, rainy winter that did not allow bees to store surplus honey for use later on. That is one of the problems.

Beekeepers can certainly purchase sugar syrups to supplement feedings, but a lot of the beekeepers simply did not have money to do that. So, they crossed their fingers and some of them won and some of them lost.


No, not really, because when bees die of starvation they die in the hive and that’s where their dead bodies will be. Colony Collapse Disorder is where the bees disappear entirely from the colony.

“Poor Queens”


The queen is the only fertile female in the colony of honey bees. She is the mother of everyone. So, when a queen is not fertile enough, not laying enough eggs to keep the colony populations up, then those colonies will get smaller. In winter situations, the bees cannot generate enough heat to stay alive. So, the honey bees will die in a colony just from lack of critical mass needed to produce enough honey.

Poor queens – we’re seeing more and more of this. The queens just aren’t good. So, the question is: Is the queen damaged in some way? Or is it the drone that is not contributing enough sperm that can be used over time by the queen. Both of these weaknesses can be caused by pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals used by beekeepers to control the varroa mites.

Varroa mites are about 1 millimeter long
and suck blood from both adult honey bees and their
developing brood. Image courtesy Univ. of Kentucky.

If you’ll make a fist and put it some place on your body, that’s how large this mite is on a honey bee and sucking the bee’s blood. And then you add in chemicals, herbicides and poor diet and honey bees are going to get sick. It's just like if I fed you a nutritionally incomplete diet of Hershey chocolate bars and then stressed you by loading your hive on a semi-truck and hauling your 3,000 miles and unloading you and putting you in contact with herbicides and pesticides, it would be like my spraying your face with Raid every day. Then if you have a big blood-sucking mite on you, you’re going to get sick!

This is exactly what we are doing with honey bees. But that’s the working business model! We don’t have any replacements right now and we don’t have any pollinators to take the place of honey bees.

121 Different Pesticides
Within 887 Wax and Pollen Samples
Penn State University Research


[ Editor's Note: “High Levels of Miticides and Agrochemicals in North American Apiaries: Implications for Honey Bee Health,” published March 19, 2010, in PLOS One. ]

Certainly honey bees have a weak enzyme system to break down chemicals. They don’t have a liver like we do to break things down. Once their enzymes are used up, they are gone. Are all these things good for honey bees? No, they are not. Contaminated pollen stored in hives can end up causing bees to get sick and die this way:

Honey bees don’t eat pollen. Honey bees collect pollen for protein, vitamins, minerals, lipids, but pollen is the male element of the flower and is protected from the environment by a silica shell around it. Silica is like glass. So, honey bees collect pollen and then add a variety of bacteria and yeast and fungi so t hat when the pollen is packed and stored in hive cells, it goes through a fermentation process that produces ‘bee bread.’ During the fermentation process, pressure builds up in the packed pollen and breaks open the silica shell and releases all the goodies and is preserved with lactic acid.

So, if you have a pollen that has a lot of chemicals and pesticides in it and even fungicides and you goof up the balance of these bacteria and fungi and yeast that the bees add to it to ferment it to make their bee bread and the fermentation process is not complete, then you are interfering with honey bee health by limiting their nutrition.


It certainly could. But there are a lot of other things to consider. Honey bees will forage efficiently in about a 2 to 2.5 mile radius of their colony, so they are environmental samplers. They bring a lot of things back to the colonies ranging from golf courses to sprayed lawns and airports and the roadsides. Honey bees are out there trying to gather diverse pollens and nectars to get complete nutrition, kind of like our human food pyramid. As a very small life form, an insect, that has a shallow immune system and shallow ability to break down chemicals, they can go down hill fast when things are out of whack.


Yes! The data doesn’t lie. Those are the numbers.

“Unsustainable” U. S. Commercial
Honey Bee Industry


That certainly is possible. I don’t know if it will come to an end, but it will certainly shrink. And if somebody else outside the U. S. borders can pollinate faster, better, cheaper, all you have to do is go into the produce section of your grocery store and read the labels about where food is coming from now. If you think the use of chemicals in the U. S. is bad, you ought to go to Guatemala and that will scare you to death!

If it wasn’t for beekeepers being able to take one hive of honey bees and split it and make two hives of honey bees and recoup losses, the U. S. commercial beekeepers would already be out of business.”

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Save the Bees! Grow Garden Plants Honey Bees Love
Bees and wild pollinators thrive on these garden plants.

Sami Grover

By Sami Grover | Fri May 29, 2009 16:08

bee hive

Chelsea Bay Wills

Animals | Gardening | Honey | Insects

Since the worrying discovery in 2006 of Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious ailment causing entire colonies of honeybees to disappear, there's been a great deal of attention paid to supporting bees and other pollinators. After all, honeybees are responsible for pollinating over 100 commonly eaten fruit and vegetable crops—so we'd do well to be kind to these furry little helpers. Without bees our food system would be in serious trouble. Luckily, apart from taking up beekeeping (which isn't as hard as it sounds either!), one of the best things we can do is also one of the easiest—plant flowers.

The list of flowers that are 'best' for bees varies depending on where you look, and honestly it's probably best not to get too hung up on the 'top' species. After all—bees need variety in their diet as much as we do, and they need to eat throughout the year. So here's a list of plants that my bees seem to like. It's by no means exhaustive, so feel free to add your own in the comments:
Honey Bee Friendly Garden Plants

* Rosemary
* Sage
* Mint
* Chives
* Oregano
* Marjoram
* Lavender
* Bee Balm
* Zinnia
* Sunflower
* Fennel
* Lamb's Ears


Meet Fenton Bailey, Producer of The Last Beekeeper

Rachel Cernansky

By Rachel Cernansky | Wed Sep 9, 2009 11:20

Fenton Bailey

Valerie Macon/WireImage/Getty Images

Animals | Endangered Species | Farmers Market | Honey | Insects

I recently had a chance to talk with Fenton Bailey, producer of The Last Beekeeper

The Last Beekeeper considers colony collapse disorder and follows the pilgrimage of the bees and beekeepers to the largest beekeeping event of the year--the mass pollination of California's almonds. Here's what the film's producer had to say about the documentary and the process of making it.

Planet Green: What surprised you the most while working on the film?
Fenton Bailey: What was surprising was just how connected one felt with the bees--because they are just insects, but like the beekeepers, it's amazing how quickly you sort of form this bond with them. You didn't expect that to happen.

They're very complicated creatures. They live in these socialized environments, and they have incredible communication systems, they look after each other. It's kind of breathtaking to see, and especially heartbreaking to see a bee that is sick or disoriented or dying.

PG: How did you get started working on a film about this issue?
FB: Stories started surfacing in the newspaper a few years ago about this massive die-off and I think it lept out at me because it was right around the time of An Inconvenient Truth: a lot of grassroots activity trying to get people more conscious about the planet and here amongst all that going on, was this singular story. And scientists are trying to figure out why the bees are dying, and to me, it was less about figuring out the problem and solving it, than it was about I suppose the poetry of the point we have come to as a society, and the kind of brilliance of our technology-based and consumer-based society.

We all lead aspirational and convenient lives on the one hand, but on the other hand, have all these less identified disadvantages and it felt that all that came together in the story of the bees. As we researched it, that became clearer to me, because there wasn't a single cause that could be solved with a single technological fix. It was an accumulation of problems. The bees are getting sick from multiple stresses placed upon them.

In a way, the problem is the life we make them lead and that was fascinating to me: a metaphor for where we are as a society, and actually the same kind of sickness that's affecting the bees is weirdly affecting us as humans--we are ridiculously stressed out, we are semi-poisoned by the food we eat, we aren't getting enough sleep, we are working too hard. In our drive to succeed, in our drive to compete, in our drive to accumulate, we are leading a life that's slightly out of balance. So it felt a very powerful illustration of something that's fundamentally wrong.

PG: Does that message come across in the film?
FB: World of Wonder is not a company known for its activist film-making. We say here's something that fascinates us, or here's a problem or a situation. So maybe people get that message from it, maybe they don't. I think it's hard to watch the film and not come away feeling a profound connection with the bees. And I think if that's all the film achieves, then it's succeeded beyond my wildest dreams, because that sense of who we are in relation to the world around us is very important, and I think a lack of that connection is still a huge problem.

PG: What can people do to help the bees?
FB: What you can do about it, if you want, is go and get a hive and stick it at the bottom of your garden--it's a bit like keeping a pet. The beekeepers that we met, they care passionately about their bees, they're not just some sort of industrial widget that they keep in boxes that make honey. They really love their bees and have this incredible connection.

It's funny to see a grown man, a tough, hardened grown man cry about his bees. It's very unexpected, and I don't think you need to take up the political cause necessarily, I think it's just incredibly fun to keep bees because they're incredibly rewarding things to keep, in the same way that people find having a dog very sustaining.

What's been very exciting to see is people taking up beekeeping and taking up the cause of the bees and trying to do something with the bees in a sort of grassroots way.

PG: That tough, hardened man you mentioned--what had gotten him so upset?
FB: His hives had just disappeared. He's a beekeeper so he makes his living and supports his wife and his kids from beekeeping, so you go out and look at your hives and 80 percent of them have disappeared, that's like a big oh-shit moment. And on the one hand, he can't put bread on his table, but on the other hand, in fact it's a tragedy--just as if anything you love and care about, if you woke up one morning and it was gone, you would have a huge sense of loss.

PG: The hives disappear that suddenly?
FB: It happens that suddenly, yeah. One minute they're there, and the next minute they're gone. It's the rapture of bees.

PG: What is the human role in the problem?
FB: The plight of the bees is entirely one created by humans, in that bees used to live in trees and they made their own hives and they flew around and it was great for them, they were happy about it. But a couple things have happened, we've basically industrialized bees and a number of pollinations, a number of fruits, like seedless fruits, you don't want bees cross-pollinating, you don't want bees just flying around, you want to control the pollination. Also, instead of just sitting around in their fields (and normally they hibernate during winter), what happens is they get put on the back of trucks, they get driven all over the country, then they get woken up and made to pollinate a whole bunch of almonds, then they get put back in their hives, put back on the truck, driven across country and made to pollinate a whole bunch of blueberries--rather than just being free, trying to fly around, do their thing, eat a bit of this, eat a bit of that, have a healthy mixed, balanced diet, have a bit of a rest. It's just like humans.

More on The Last Beekeeper and Beekeeping:
Meet Jeremy Simmons, Director of The Last Beekeeper
Green Your Yard, Part 2: Rethinking the Backyard
Save the Bees! Grow Garden Plants Honey Bees Love
Blogger Writes About Bee Colony Collapse Disorder in his Backyard

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Monday, March 16, 2009 Vancouver Island Quarantine

Capital Region Beekeepers Association

Representing beekeepers in the Greater Victoria area, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Vancouver Island Quarantine
If you want to start beekeeping on Vancouver Island or the Gulf Islands please remember that there is a quarantine on importing bees and used beekeeping equipment onto the Islands.

This is really, really important.

The Mainland has a number of diseases and pests that do not exist here. Even more importantly, they have some of the same things (varroa mite, for example) but in resistant forms. That is, the mites, the diseases are developing resistance to the treatments that are available. Those things are not resistant on the Island.

The key problems we have keeping bees are the direct result of someone breaking the quarantine. Take varroa as the example again. It arrived in the late 90s and has absolutely wreaked havoc. At a minimum, it has forced most beekeepers to medicate hives with products that cost money and that we have to manage carefully to keep out of the human food supply.

There are 10,000 bee colonies on the Island. Pretty much every one of them needs Apistan treatment and fumigillan, spring and summer. The Apistan alone must total over $120,000 annually. Because someone ignored the quarantine.

Stan Reist, the president of BCHPA, was at our club meeting on Wednesday last. He announced that three packages of bees from New Zealand had been burned in Vancouver that afternoon by the Ministry of Agriculture.

In addition, there is a beeyard on the Island which has stock imported last year from the Interior. Apparently, it was brought here by someone who got bees and used equipment, unaware that it was not safe and not legal. The beeyard is being monitored for European Foulbrood and will likely be destroyed as soon as it is established whether the bees are infected or not. Folks, this is really serious. We REALLY DON'T NEED ANY MORE DISEASES brought to the Island. And it is up to you.

There are good breeders on the Island. There are people who can safely and legally import queens. Buy from them.

The stock we have on the Island is well adapted to life here and they are a well of genetic diversity that we should be striving to maintain.

If you are looking for bees, only obtain them from here!
Posted by Heather and Dan at 9:43 PM
Labels: beekeeping

Thursday, May 20, 2010



Hemp as an assistance against bee dying? The substantial bee dying can be prevented by hemp, states the Swiss Association of Hemp Friends. Experts are sceptical -

Hemp makes bees HEALTHY - THE SWISS ASSOCIATION OF HEMP FRIENDS (VSHF) was established in 2009 in east Switzerland. It placed 24 honey bee colonies at Hanffeldern / fed them hemp syrup. The effect of the industrial hemp convinced VSHF board member Peter Brunner completely: Only 10% instead of up to 50% of the hemp bees died in the following winters, because the hemp works like an antibiotic.

The VSHF is convinced that owing to hemp much less bees would die. That hemp can help against the bee dying, Richard Wyss does not exclude this thought from the association German Swiss and Rätoromani bee friends. It is however sceptical. Bee researcher Jean Daniel Charrière of the research institute Agroscope Liebefeld Posieux. “A respectable, scientific proof that hemp helps against the bee dying, is still missing.” Agroscope will continue testing against the Varroa mite - and examine the effects of Hanföl.

20MINUTE EN LIGNE Chanvre comme aide contre la mort d'abeille ? La mort substantielle d'abeille peut être empêchée par le chanvre, énonce l'association suisse des amis de chanvre. Les experts sont sceptiques - Le chanvre rend des abeilles SAINES - L'ASSOCIATION SUISSE DES AMIS de CHANVRE (VSHF) a été établie en 2009 en Suisse est. Elle a placé 24 colonies d'abeille de miel chez Hanffeldern/leur a alimenté le sirop de chanvre. L'effet du chanvre industriel a convaincu le membre du conseil de VSHF Peter Brunner complètement : Seulement 10% au lieu jusqu'à de 50% des abeilles de chanvre est mort en hivers suivants, parce que le chanvre fonctionne comme un antibiotique. Le VSHF est convaincu que dû au chanvre beaucoup moins d'abeilles mourraient. Que le chanvre peut aider contre l'abeille mourant, Richard Wyss n'exclut pas cette pensée des amis d'association de Suisse allemand et de Rätoromani d'abeille. Il est cependant sceptique. Chercheur Jean Daniel Charrière d'abeille de l'institut de recherche Agroscope Liebefeld Posieux. « Une preuve respectable et scientifique que le chanvre aide contre l'abeille mourant, manque toujours. » Agroscope continuera d'examiner contre les acarides de Varroa - et examinera les effets de Hanföl.

Monday, May 17, 2010

French Beekeepers Warn of Losses Because of New Bayer Pesticide

BusinessWeek Logo
Monday May 17, 2010/

French Beekeepers Warn of Losses Because of New Bayer Pesticide
February 17, 2010, 1:22 PM EST
More From Businessweek
By Rudy Ruitenberg

Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) -- France’s beekeepers union forecast “massive” losses of bees this spring as the country’s farmers apply Bayer CropScience AG’s insecticide Proteus for the first time after the product received French approval last year.

“We’re very concerned,” said Sophie Dugue, a professional beekeeper and a member of the National Union of French Apiculture, or UNAF, at a press conference in Paris today. “We’ll see massive poisoning starting this spring.”

France is the world’s third-largest market for crop- protection products after the U.S. and Brazil, with a value of 1.9 billion euros ($2.6 billion) in 2008, according to data from Bayer. The country approved Proteus in September.

Dugue said beekeepers are worried because the Bayer insecticide will be sprayed on rapeseed, whose yellow flowers attract bees, while other insecticides with similar chemicals have been used to coat seeds. France is the European Union’s second-biggest producer of the oilseed crop after Germany.

“We’re aware of the concern of the beekeepers,” said Gilles Delanoe, a spokesman for Bayer CropScience in France. “If the product is applied according to the instructions, using good practices, it doesn’t present a risk for the bees.”

Proteus accounts for less than 1 percent of Bayer CropScience’s sales in France, according to Delanoe.

France had about 1.25 million beehives in 2008, about half of them owned by professional beekeepers, and the economic value of bees’ role as pollinators in France is about 2 billion euros, UNAF said in documents handed out at the meeting.

Fighting Insects

Proteus is used to fight a “broad spectrum” of sucking and chewing insects and has been registered in more than 50 countries including the U.S. and Brazil, according to Bayer CropScience’s Web site.

The pesticide combines the ingredients deltamethrin and thiacloprid, a systemic neurotoxin in a chemical class called neonicotinoids that also include the active ingredients of Bayer’s Gaucho and Syngenta AG’s Cruiser insecticides.

“The problem with Proteus is the mix of products,” Henri Clement, the president of UNAF, told reporters. “Beekeepers have every reason to be worried about the approval of this product.”

According to the UNAF, Italy has banned all neonicotinoids dangerous to bees.

Cruiser’s active ingredient thiamethoxam doesn’t pose a risk to foraging bees or the survival of colonies when used according to label instructions, Syngenta spokesman Médard Schoenmaeckers said in an e-mailed comment.

“Syngenta supports thorough research on the causes of bee health problems,” Schoenmaeckers said. It monitors farmers “to ensure the safe use of thiametoxam by growers,” he said.

Health Problems

Bayer’s Gaucho causes health problems to bees despite a French ban on using the pesticide on corn and sunflowers, according to UNAF. Beekeepers are finding bees are poisoned by feeding on sunflowers and cover crops planted following a Gaucho-treated crop such as wheat, UNAF said.

“We need new substances that respond to the needs of farmers so they don’t have harvest losses,” Delanoe said. Bayer works “closely” with beekeepers in Germany and the U.K., “we regret that’s not the case for France,” he said.

--Editors: M. Shankar, Dan Weeks.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stuart Wallace at

Saturday, May 1, 2010

California's Man-Made Drought

By MONICA SHOWALTER Posted 04/28/2010 05:39 PM ET
as seen on: INVESTORS.COM

Along California's Highway 5, which cuts through the Central Valley, an orchard near Fresno lies dead for lack of water. A federal judge's order in COALINGA, Calif. — Would France rip out its storied vineyards? Would Juan Valdez scorch Colombia's coffee crop? Sri Lanka its black pepper harvest? China its tea?

COALINGA, Calif. — Would France rip out its storied vineyards? Would Juan Valdez scorch Colombia's coffee crop? Sri Lanka its black pepper harvest? China its tea?

With global markets won by nations specializing in doing what they do best, and with regional reputations important enough to drive some nations to protectionism, it's almost unthinkable.

But then there's California.

On a springtime drive through the Central Valley, it's hard not to notice how federal and state governments are hell-bent on destroying the state's top export — almonds — and everything else in the nation's most productive farmland.

Instead of pink blossoms and green shoots along Highway 5 in April, vast spans from Bakersfield to Fresno sit bone-dry. Brown grass, dead orchards and lifeless grapevine skeletons stretch for miles for lack of water. For every fallow field, there's a sign that farmers have placed alongside the highway: "No Water = No Food," "No Water = No Jobs," "Congress Created Dust Bowl."

Locals say it's been like this for two years now, as Congress and bureaucrats cite "drought," "global warming" and "endangered species" to deny water to this $37 billion breadbasket through arbitrary "environmental" quotas.

It started with a 2008 federal court order that stopped water flowing from northern tributaries on a supposed need to protect a small fish — the delta smelt — that was getting ground up in the turbines of pump stations that divert the water south. The court knew it was bad law, but Congress refused to exempt the fish from the Endangered Species Act and the diversion didn't help the fish.

After that, the water cutoff was blamed on "drought," though northern reservoirs are currently full. Now the cry is "save the salmon," a reference to water needs of the state's northern fisheries.

Whatever the excuse, 75% of the fresh water that has historically irrigated California is now being washed to the open sea. For farmers in the southwest part of the valley, last year's cutoff amounted to 90%.

"It's pretty hard to keep crops alive at 10%," says Jim Jasper, who runs a 62-year-old almond farm in Newman that employs 170. "That's one irrigation, and trees take 10 to 12 over the growing season from March to October." Almond trees cost $8,000 per acre and take six years to start producing, so farmers reserved their 10% allocation for mature trees first.

The cutoff didn't kill just trees, however. It also devastated the area's economy. Unemployment in some valley towns has shot up to 45%. Mortgage defaults are on the rise, and food lines are lengthening.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


An article by Kathy Keatley Garvey of March 2010

The article deals with the sightings of the imperiled Franklin bumblebee, so aptly names after Henry J. Franklin in 1921, who monographed the bumblebees of North America and South America in 1912-1913. UC DAVIS researcher Robbin Thorp reported he sighted 100 Franklin bumblebees in 1998. "The last time I saw it was in August 2006 at Mount Ashland, when I spotted a single, solitary worker." The Franklin bumblebee is a distinctive black faced insect splashed with yellow marking on its thorax and top of its head. "It has a solid black abdomen and a black inverted U-shaped design on its yellow thorax." Thorp thinks the bumblebee may be extinct and that other bumblebees are at risk of extinction.(

The decline, disappearance and possible demise of the Franklin bumblebee is closely linked to the widespread decline of native North American pollinators -"The loss of a native pollinator could strike a devastating blow to the ecosystem, economy and food supply. One of the main reasons that the Franklin bumblebee is at risk is because it has such a small geographical range. It has the most restricted distribution range of any bumblebee in North America - and possibly of the world. Its range is about 190 miles north to south and 70 miles east to west, in a narrow stretch between southern Oregon and northern California, between the coast and Sierra-Cascade ranges."

It is not just the Franklin bumblebee that is at risk but populations of the Western bumblebee/Bombus occidentalis and two close relatives in the East - the rusty patched bumblebee/Bombus affinis, and the yellow banded bumblebee/Bombus terricola, are rapidly dwindling as well.

Bumblebees commercially reared to pollinate greenhouse tomatoes, peppers and strawberries pollinate 15% of our food crops - valued at $3B. Wildlife, birds, elk, deer, bears etc.. depend on pollination of fruits, nuts, and berries for their survival. "We're disturbing, destroying and altering the habitat where the native pollinators exist." Thorp says.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Well - New Yorkers have once again shown they are more AWARE and 'in touch' with nature than Californias - yes indeed!!!!

New York City LEGALIZED bee keeping IN the city.... a win/win situation
leaving California once again behind the times. shame on us.....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


SCIENCE NEWS/ August 15th, 2009; Vol.176 #4 /
Fossil shows first all-American honeybee

North America once had its own Apis species instead of today’s imports
By Susan Milius
August 15th, 2009; Vol.176 #4 (p. 13)

A 14-million-year-old fossil from Nevada shows the somewhat jumbled parts of a honeybee, recognizable by its distinctive pattern of wing veins (arrow) and other features shared by modern relatives.M. S. Engel/Proc. Cal. Acad. Sci.

North America did too have a native honeybee.

A roughly 14-million-year-old fossil unearthed in Nevada preserves what’s clearly a member of the honeybee, or Apis, genus, says Michael Engel of the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

The Americas have plenty of other kinds of bees, but all previously known honeybees come from Asia and Europe. Even the Apis mellifera honeybee that has pollinated crops and made honey across the Americas for several centuries arrived with European colonists some 400 years ago.

“This rewrites the history of honeybee evolution,” Engel says, turning over the long-held view of Europe and Asia as the native land of all honeybees.

The newly discovered bee, found squashed and preserved in shale, no longer exists as a living species, Engel says. To a specialist’s eye, it looks closest to another extinct honeybee, A. armbrusteri, known from Germany.

Engel and his colleagues christen the new North American honeybee Apis nearctica in the current, May 7, issue of Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences.

“It is indeed a big find,” says David Grimaldi of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. “Completely unexpected,” he says, considering all of the Eurasian fossils.

Grimaldi now compares the bees with horses. North America once had its own species, but the horses disappeared and Europeans eventually introduced theirs.

Engel says he wasn’t expecting to rewrite the continent’s history when he first heard the California Academy’s Wojciech Pulawski describe some unidentified fossils from west-central Nevada. But when Engel first saw a photo of what Pulawski had led him to believe was an unpromising mess, he says, “I did a double take.”

Engel spotted a definitive pattern in a wing that just buzzes honeybee. At the top of the wing, a vein thickens toward the middle, and veins below trace three characteristic shapes, including a (sort of) horse’s head and a falling-sideways blob.

The bee had come apart, but Engel revels in the honeybee traits he can see. “This thing had hairy eyes,” he says. Barbs on the stinger show up too. This bee probably had to leave its stinger behind at the cost of a fatal rip in its body, just as today’s honeybees do.

Apis nearctica’s honeybee ancestors may have made their way over a land bridge from Asia to traverse this great distance, Engel postulates as he reimagines the old view of honeybees. “I got to overturn some of my own stuff,” he says.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

And Humans think they have it bad!

Pests and parasites

Small hive beetle
Comb slimed by hive beetle larvae. Hives infested at this level will drive out bee colonies.

Aethina tumida is a small, dark-colored beetle that lives in beehives.

Originally from Africa, the first discovery of small hive beetles in the western hemisphere occurred in the US. The first identified specimen was found in St. Lucie, FL in 1998. The earliest specimens confirmed since then were collected from Charleston, SC in 1996. By December 1999, small hive beetle was reported in Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin, and was found in California by 2006.

The life cycle of this beetle includes pupation in the ground outside of the hive. Controls to prevent ants from climbing into the hive are believed to also be effective against the hive beetle. Several beekeepers are experimenting with the use of diatomaceous earth around the hive as a way to disrupt the beetle's lifecycle. The diatoms abrade the insect's surface, causing them to dehydrate and die.

Several pesticides are currently used against the small hive beetle. The chemical is commonly applied inside the corrugations of a piece of cardboard. Standard corrugations are large enough that a small hive beetle will enter the cardboard through the end but small enough that honey bees can not enter (and thus are kept away from the pesticide). Alternative controls (such as cooking-oil-based bottom board traps) are also becoming available. Also available are beetle eaters that go between the frames that uses cooking oil.


Wax moths
Wax moth (Aphomia sociella) - more often associated with bumble bees (Bombus sp.)
Main article: Waxworm

Galleria mellonella (greater wax moths) will not attack the bees directly, but feed on the wax used by the bees to build their honeycomb. Their full development to adults requires access to used brood comb or brood cell cleanings — these contain protein essential for the larvae's development, in the form of brood coocoons.

The destruction of the comb will spill or contaminate stored honey and may kill bee larvae.

When honey supers are stored for the winter in a mild climate, or in heated storage, the wax moth larvae can destroy portions of the comb, even though they will not fully develop. Damaged comb may be scraped out and will be replaced by the bees. Wax moth larvae and eggs are killed by freezing, so storage in unheated sheds or barns in higher latitudes is the only control necessary.

Because wax moths cannot survive a cold winter, they are usually not a problem for beekeepers in the northern U.S. or Canada, unless they survive winter in heated storage, or are brought from the south by purchase or migration of beekeepers. They thrive and spread most rapidly with temperatures above 30°C (90°F), so some areas with only occasional days that hot, rarely have a problem with wax moths, unless the colony is already weak due to stress from other factors.

Control and Treatment:
A strong hive generally needs no treatment to control wax moths; the bees themselves will kill and clean out the moth larvae and webs. Wax moth larvae may fully develop in cell cleanings when such cleanings accumulate thickly where they are not accessible to the bees.

Wax moth development in comb is generally not a problem with top bar hives as unused combs are usually left in the hive during the winter. Since this type of hive is not used in severe wintering conditions, the bees will be able to patrol and inspect the unused comb.

Wax moths can be controlled in stored comb by application of the aizawai variety of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) spores via spraying. It is a very effective biological control and has an excellent safety record[citation needed].

Wax moths can be controlled chemically with paradichlorobenzene (moth crystals or urinal disks). If chemical methods are used, the combs must be well-aired-out for several days before use. The use of naphthalene (mothballs) is discouraged because it accumulates in the wax, which can kill bees or contaminate honey stores. Control of wax moths by other means includes the freezing of the comb for at least twenty-four hours.


American foulbrood (AFB)
Field test for American Foulbrood

American Foul Brood (AFB), caused by the spore- forming Paenibacillus larvae ssp. larvae (formerly classified as Bacillus larvae), is the most widespread and destructive of the bee brood diseases. Paenibacillus larvae is a rod-shaped bacterium, which is visible only under a high power microscope. Larvae up to 3 days old become infected by ingesting spores that are present in their food. Young larvae less than 24 hours old are most susceptible to infection. Spores germinate in the gut of the larva and the vegetative form of the bacteria begins to grow, taking its nourishment from the larva. Spores will not germinate in larvae over 3 days old. Infected larvae normally die after their cell is sealed. The vegetative form of the bacterium will die but not before it produces many millions of spores. Each dead larva may contain as many as 100 million spores. This disease only affects the bee larvae but is highly infectious and deadly to bee brood. Infected larvae darken and die.


Until 1906 the two foulbrood diseases were not differentiated and the condition was generally referred to as foulbrood. Phillips (1906) used the terms European and American to distinguish the diseases. However the designations did not refer to the geographical distributions but to the areas where they were first investigated scientifically (Shimanuki, 1990). White (1907) demonstrated conclusively that a bacterium that he called Bacillus larvae was the cause of American Foulbrood (AFB) disease by fulfilling Koch's postulates. The geographical origin of AFB is unknown, but it is found almost worldwide (Matheson, 1993,1996)
[edit] Diagnosis

Lab testing is necessary for definitive diagnosis, but a good field test is to touch a dead larva with a toothpick or twig. It will be sticky and "ropey" (drawn out). Foulbrood also has a characteristic odor, and experienced beekeepers with a good sense of smell can often detect the disease upon opening a hive. In the photo at right, some larvae are healthy while others are diseased. Capped cells with decomposing larvae are sunken, as can be seen at lower right. Some caps may be torn, as well. Compare with healthy brood. The most reliable disease diagnosis is done by sending in some possibly affected brood comb to a laboratory specialized in identifying honey bee diseases.

Disease spread:

When cleaning infected cells, bees distribute spores throughout the entire colony. Disease spreads rapidly throughout the hive as the bees, attempting to remove the spore-laden dead larvae, contaminate brood food. Nectar stored in contaminated cells will contain spores and soon the brood chamber becomes filled with contaminated honey. As this honey is moved up into the supers, the entire hive becomes contaminated with spores. When the colony becomes weak from AFB infection, robber bees may enter and take contaminated honey back to their hives thereby spreading the disease to other colonies and apiaries. Beekeepers also may spread disease by moving equipment (frames or supers) from contaminated hives to healthy ones.

American Foul Brood spores are extremely resistant to desiccation and can remain viable for more than 40 years in honey and beekeeping equipment. Therefore honey from an unknown source should never be used as bee feed, and used beekeeping equipment

Hive to be burned completely

AFB spores are present in virtually every hive. Some brood in weakened colonies can become diseased. If the diseased larva dies within the hive, millions of spores are released.

Antibiotics, in non-resistant strains of the pathogen, can prevent the vegetative state of the bacterium forming. Drug treatment to prevent the American foulbrood spores from successfully germinating and proliferating is possible using oxytetracycline hydrochloride (Terramycin).[12] Another drug treatment is tylosin tartrate that was US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved in 2005.

Chemical treatment is sometimes used prophylactically, but this is a source of considerable controversy because certain strains of the bacterium seem to be rapidly developing resistance. In addition, hives that are contaminated with millions of American foulbrood spores have to be prophylactically treated indefinitely. Once the treatment is suspended the American foulbrood spores germinate successfully again leading to a disease outbreak.

Because of the persistence of the spores (which can survive up to 40 years), many State Apiary Inspectors require an AFB diseased hive to be burned completely. A less radical method of containing the spread of disease is burning the frames and comb and thoroughly flame scorching the interior of the hive body, bottom board and covers. Dipping the hive parts in hot paraffin wax or a 3% sodium hypochlorite solution (bleach) also renders the AFB spores innocuous.


European foulbrood (EFB)

Melissococcus plutonius is a bacterium that infests the mid-gut of an infected bee larva. European foulbrood is less deadly to a colony than American foulbrood. Melissococcus plutonius does not form spores, though it can overwinter on comb. Symptoms include dead and dying larvae which can appear curled upwards, brown or yellow, melted or deflated with tracheal tubes more apparent, and/or dried out and rubbery..

European foulbrood is often considered a "stress" disease - a disease that is dangerous only if the colony is already under stress for other reasons. An otherwise healthy colony can usually survive European foulbrood. An outbreak of the disease may be controlled chemically with oxytetracycline hydrochloride, but honey from treated colonies could have chemical residues from the treatment. The 'Shook Swarm' technique of bee husbandry can also be used to effectively control the disease, the advantage being that chemicals are not used. Prophylactic treatments are not recommended as they lead to resistant bacteria.


Fungal diseases

Ascosphaera apis is a fungal disease that infests the gut of the larva. The fungus will compete with the larva for food, ultimately causing it to starve. The fungus will then go on to consume the rest of the larva's body, causing it to appear white and 'chalky'.

Chalkbrood is most commonly visible during wet springs. Hives with Chalkbrood can generally be recovered by increasing the ventilation through the hive and/or by requeening the hive.
[edit] Stonebrood

Stonebrood is a fungal disease caused by Aspergillus fumigatus, Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus niger. It causes mummification of the brood of a honey bee colony. The fungi are common soil inhabitants and are also pathogenic to other insects, birds and mammals. The disease is difficult to identify in the early stages of infection. The spores of the different species have different colours and can also cause respiratory damage to humans and other animals. When a bee larva takes in spores they may hatch in the gut, growing rapidly to form a collarlike ring near the head. After death the larvae turn black and become difficult to crush, hence the name stonebrood. Eventually the fungus erupts from the integument of the larva and forms a false skin. In this stage the larvae are covered with powdery fungal spores. Worker bees clean out the infected brood and the hive may recover depending on factors such as the strength of the colony, the level of infection, and hygienic habits of the strain of bees (there is variation in the trait among different subspecies/races).
Wiki letter w.svg This section requires expansion.


Viral diseases
Acute bee paralysis virus (ABPV) or (APV)

ABPV (TaxID 92444) is considered to be a common infective agent of bees. It belongs to the family Dicistroviridae,[2] as does the Israel acute paralysis virus, Kashmir bee virus, and the Black queen cell virus. It is frequently detected in apparently healthy colonies. Apparently, this virus plays a role in cases of sudden collapse of honey bee colonies infested with the parasitic mite Varroa destructor.
[edit] Israel acute paralysis virus (IAPV)

A related virus described in 2004 is known as the "Israel acute paralysis virus" (TaxID 294365); The virus is named after the place where it was first idenitified - its place of origin is unknown. IAPV[4] has been suggested in September 2007 as a marker associated with Colony Collapse Disorder.
[edit] Kashmir bee virus (KBV)

This is another Dicistroviridae, related to the preceding viruses. Recently discovered, KBV (TaxID 68876) is currently only positively identifiable by a laboratory test. Little is known about it yet.
Wiki letter w.svg This section requires expansion.


Black Queen Cell Virus (BQCV)

This is another Dicistroviridae, related to the preceding viruses. As its name implies, BQCV (TaxID 92395) causes the queen larva to turn black and die. It is thought to be associated with Nosema.
Wiki letter w.svg This section requires expansion.


Chronic Paralysis Virus [CPV]
Cloudy Wing Virus (CWV)

Deformed Wing Virus (DWV)
Main article: Deformed Wing Virus

As indicated by the name, this virus produces deformed wings. Typically associated with Varroa destructor, it has been suggested as a contributing factor to Colony Collapse Disorder.[23] This deformity can clearly be seen on the honeybee on its wings. As a rsult of deformed wing virus bees are unable to leave the hive and forage for pollen and necture. Eventually resulting in a colony possibly starving to death
[edit] Sacbrood virus (SBV)

Morator aetatulas is the virus that causes sacbrood disease. Affected larvae change from pearly white to gray and finally black. Death occurs when the larvae are upright, just before pupation. Consequently, affected larvae are usually found in capped cells. Head development of diseased larvae is typically retarded. The head region is usually darker than the rest of the body and may lean toward the center of the cell. When affected larvae are carefully removed from their cells, they appear to be a sac filled with water. Typically the scales are brittle but easy to remove. Sacbrood-diseased larvae have no characteristic odor.
[edit] Kakugo virus (KV)


Chilled brood

Chilled brood is not actually a disease but can be caused by a pesticide hit that primarily kills off the adult population, or by a sudden drop in temperature during rapid spring buildup. The brood must be kept warm at all times; nurse bees will cluster over the brood to keep it at the right temperature. When a beekeeper opens the hive (to inspect, remove honey, check the queen, or just to look) and prevents the nurse bees from clustering on the frame for too long, the brood can become chilled, deforming or even killing some of the bees.

To minimize the risk of chilled brood, open the hive on warm days and at the hottest part of the day (this is also the time when the most field bees will be out foraging and the number of bees in the hive will be at its lowest). Learn to inspect your hive as quickly as possible and put frames with brood back where the bees can cluster on it immediately.

Dysentery in Honeybees


Nosema apis is a parasitic Microsporan organism that can cause Nosema disease and dysentery in honeybees. The group Microspora are unicellular and spore-forming in nature. They are not visible with the naked eye; microscopic examination is necessary.

All adult bee castes can be infected by Nosema disease with serious consequences for the colony. Nosema apis spores are ingested and then germinate very quickly ( Bailey, 1955 ) invading the mid-gut and epithelial cells of the bee. Huge numbers of spores, often more than 30 million, can be found in the mid-gut during a Nosema infection (Bailey and Ball, 1991).
Colony Effects

Although infected bees do not outwardly appear any different from non-infected individuals, Nosema-infected colonies can be recognised by certain traits even before microscopic analysis and confirmation of disease:

The lifespan of infected bees can be greatly reduced and such colonies dwindle in late winter or early spring.

Nosema infection promotes over-accumulation of water in the body of adult bees leading to dysentery. Digestion and production of royal jelly in worker bees can be severely affected. Because of restriction to the hive in winter temperatures, dysenteric bees defecated within the hive, on the combs and hive walls. This is more obvious in spring when liquid faecal spots can be seen on the outside of the hive also from the first cleaning flights.
Although infected bees do not outwardly appear any different from non-infected individuals, Nosema-infected colonies can be recognised by certain traits even before microscopic analysis and confirmation of disease:

When worker bees clean the hive they become infected with spores from this faecal material. Cleaning behaviour and polishing increases rapidly during the spring season and consequently the level of Nosema infection rises sharply during this time.

Nosema infection alters the behaviour of young adult bees so that they cease brood rearing and attending the queen earlier than normal and begin foraging and hive guarding like older bees (Wang and Moeller, 1970). Honey yields can be reduced in Nosema-infected colonies due to such reduction in brood care and provision of new workers for foraging.

The life span and egg production in infected queens is much reduced and supersedure is then common.


Good husbandry on the part of the beekeeper will help to prevent the incidence of Nosema within a colony. Damp apiary sites and lack of nutrients together with any other stress factors such as lack of space or infection with other disease can contribute to Nosema proliferation.

The fungal product fumagillin when fed to honeybee colonies suppresses the effects of Nosema apis and can be administered as a prophylactic or as a control treatment.

Nosema disease, an obscure killer

Diseases and Pests | Beekeeping Information Index
Mid-Atlantic Apiculture
(From Fundamentals of Beekeeping)

Nosema disease, an obscure killer, is caused by a spore-forming protozoan (Nosema apis) that invades the digestive tracts of honey bee workers, queens, and drones. Spores of the disease are ingested with food or water by the adult bee. The spores germinate and multiply within the lining of the midgut. Millions of spores are shed into the digestive tract and eliminated in the feces. Damage to the digestive tract may produce dysentery and weaken the bees. As a result, the productive life of the worker is shortened and its ability to produce brood food decreases, thus retarding brood production and colony development. When queens become infected, egg production and life span are reduced, leading to supersedure. Infected workers, unlike healthy workers, may defecate in the hive. Diseased colonies usually have increased winter losses and decreased honey production. The loss of queens in colonies just started from package bees is the most serious effect of the disease.

Even though nosema is a common disease of bees, it generally goes unnoticed in the apiary, since it does not produce signs or symptoms that are easily recognized under field conditions. In fact, the presence of the disease is not usually realized until most of the bees in the colony are infected. The only positive way of identifying the disease is through dissection of adult bees. The hind gut and digestive tract of diseased bees are chalky white or milky white. Healthy bees, on the other hand, have amber or translucent digestive tracts. In addition, individual circular constrictions of a healthy bee's gut are visible, whereas the gut of an infected bee may be swollen and the constrictions not clearly visible. Infection is best detected by the microscopic examination of macerated abdominal tissue for the presence of spores.

Nosema disease is most prevalent in the spring. Severity of infection varies among colonies, geographic regions, and from year to year. In over-wintered colonies, confined infected bees may defecate on the combs and infect healthy bees as they clean the combs in the spring. Food stores and soiled shipping cages are other sources of infection. Spores are spread by infected package bees, splits, and contaminated equipment. Combs from weakened colonies that died during the winter often have nosema-contaminated feces. Installation of packages or divisions on this equipment in the spring hampers colony development and often results in queenlessness.

Queens may become infected from various sources after they emerge from the queen cell or are released in the mating nucleus. When the disease is severe, colony populations may become depleted and eventually dwindle to a handful of bees and a queen. This is often referred to as "spring dwindling." In colonies that are only mildly affected, brood rearing eventually allows the colony to recover.

Colony confinement during winter or inclement weather in the spring encourages disease buildup. Winter cleansing flights enable bees to defecate outside, thus preventing spore contamination within the cluster. Nosema-sick bees often fly from the hive at marginal flight temperatures, probably because they are under stress. Since they are weak, they drop to the snow, become chilled, and are unable to return to the colony. Sick bees are thereby eliminated from the colony. The intensity of infection usually subsides in April as field flights begin and brood emergence accelerates.

Brood emergence, the colony's primary natural defense against nosema, replaces infected bees with young healthy bees. If nosema is already present, any break in the brood rearing cycle will likely increase the incidence of the disease, especially in early spring. Newly hived package bees are very susceptible to nosema. During the first three weeks following installation, when the colony has no emerging young bees, the disease spreads rapidly through the old adult population and to the queen.

The best defense against nosema is to winter only strong colonies with plenty of honey in the proper position and with young vigorous queens. Many different chemicals have been tested for control of the disease but only Fumidil-B® or Nosem-X™ (Fumagillin) have proven effective. Fumagillin is especially effective in suppressing nosema in overwintered colonies and newly established packages. Since Fumagillin does not affect spores of the nosema parasite, treatment with this drug will not completely eliminate the disease from the colony. The infection will continue after all the medicated syrup has been consumed.

For optimal nosema control in overwintered colonies, initial infection levels should be reduced in early winter. In late fall, when brood rearing normally declines, colonies should be fed about 1 gallon of heavy sugar syrup (two parts sugar, one part water) containing Fumagillin. The syrup should be stored where the last brood emerges and used as the colony's first winter feed. This procedure delays the initial buildup of any infection from winter confinement, which keeps the disease from reaching the high levels seen in un protected colonies. Colonies should receive a minimum of 1 gallon of medicated syrup containing 75 to 100 milligrams of Fumagillin (1 1/2 level teaspoons of Fumidil-B or 1 heaping teaspoon Nosem-X per gallon of syrup) in the fall. Packages newly installed in the spring should receive similar treatment. Fumagillin treatments are most effec tive when fed with sugar syrup. Research has shown Fumagillin's effectiveness is limited when fed with powdered sugar, extender patties, candy, or pollen supplements.

CAUTION: No medication should be fed to colonies when there is danger of contaminating the honey crop. Be sure to stop all drug feeding at least four weeks before the onset of the main surplus honey flow.

A personal commentary -

California Bee Keeping – is a Year Round adventure with nature – a crapshoot / expensive and frustrating, rewarding and enjoyable, hard labourious days and short nights.

The honey flow is NOT year round as many think – the honey ONLY flows IF there has been rain. One may see an abundance of flowers everywhere and think HONEY but without water there is none. RAIN = NECTAR = HONEY. It is that simple. No nectar NO HONEY>

Bee keeping techniques haven’t really changed all that much – the pests, the diseases, the travel, the expenses, and the return on the work – all that has changed. With the oncoming of the Africanized bee and the lack of understanding of the situation – the fear that caused so many ‘city fathers’ to ‘dissuade’ local bee keepers from keeping hives in backyards cut the control factor of marauding bees which could have been eradicated in part by informed bee keepers…. So instead we are inundated with this very territorial creature – one never quite knows when one’s hive has been ‘taken over’ as it were. The once backyard beekeeper without proper clothing no longer exists. Gloves, boots, suits one cannot do without here in California.

And importation issues of bringing in European bees (a milder creature) has stifled the gene pool expansion, which has diminished at an alarming rate here in the United States. Nature seems to be fighting back with the issue of sterility in males – both animal/insect and human with a rise of 18% in humans – something that is already seen in the queen bee who has to be replaced 2 and 3 times a year as she is continually superseded, or killed on sight/site or simply flies away.

The lack of education in schools of basic agriculture has created a widespread ignorance of just how important the bee is to pollination – no bee to pollinate the almond = no almond; strawberries would be white and hard…. (THE SILENCE OF THE BEE – video) ought to be a source of information for both the media and the layman as without the bee man is no long on this planet. Over population has put an impossible increase on food output, causing agriculture to change its focus to meet demand resulting in mono-crops (where once there was diversification ie. cotton, alfalfa etc there is either one or the other or none; hence nothing for the bee to live on - cotton is genetically altered and is deadly to the bee while alfalfa is slowly, though in some parts, all too quickly being replaced by switch grass, originally planted as bio fuel but replaced by corn, another genetic food deadly to bees so switch grass is now fed to cattle - there is no flower it is simply a fast growing grass with health benefit for animals still up for debate. Pesticides whether currently used or not have caused systemic damage to ground and water supply, genetically engineered product, an increase in air and noise pollution, viruses, pests, mites, transportation issues….. An endless array of living in the 21st Century.

Tracheal -- the vampire mite

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

OARDC/The Ohio State University

Horticulture and Crop Science

1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691

Controlling Tracheal Mites in the Bee Hive


Dr. James E. Tew

Dr. Diana Sammataro, Post-doctorial Researcher

Mr. David Heilman, University Apiarist


Tracheal mites (Acarapis woodi) were first reported in the United States from Texas in 1984. By 1992, severe colony losses due to tracheal mites were recorded throughout Ohio. Tracheal mites are microscopic parasites that live in the breathing tubes of adult honey bees where they feed on bee blood. Suffering colonies have dwindling populations, do not cluster well, and often die in the winter, frequently leaving behind large amounts of honey. Infested adults may act irritated or disoriented. Weak adults may be found crawling aimlessly near the entrance of the hive. Unfortunately, tracheal mites cannot be positively identified without dissecting the bees under a microscope. Two materials, vegetable oil patties and menthol, are useful in suppressing tracheal mite populations. Eradicating mite populations is not practical. Since any material only suppresses mite populations temporarily, beekeepers should be prepared to contend with tracheal mite infestations indefinitely.

Vegetable Shortening Patties

Precautions: As a matter of principle, don't have patties, or any other medications on during a nectar flow. Always follow label instructions.

Tracheal Mite

Product: Vegetable Shortening (eg. Crisco™)

Ratio: One part vegetable shortening to 2 parts white granulated sugar. Patty size should be about one-half pound (size of a hamburger).

Exposure Time: Continuous (except during nectar flow). Replace as often as needed. Most effective during spring and autumn.

Location within the colony: On broodnest top bars.

Comments and Suggestions:

  1. Vegetable shortening appears to disrupt the life cycle of the tracheal mite, thus suppressing mite populations.
  2. Vegetable shortening patties are considered to be more effective in controlling mites in Ohio than menthol. However, menthol is still useful.
  3. Vegetable patties with terramycin is useful in controlling American Foulbrood. Refer to the factsheet on American Foulbrood for specific recommendations.


Menthol is available in bulk quantities or in 1.8-ounce (50 grams) packets from most major bee suppliers. Treat only over-wintered colonies having no surplus honey intended for human consumption. Colonies should be treated in the fall or early spring when daytime temperatures are expect to be above 60°F but not over 95°F. Treatment must end one month before the first nectar flow to avoid contaminating marketable honey. Use one menthol pact per hive, on top bars in temperatures up to 80°F. Above 80°F, place the packet on the bottom board. Treat for 14 to 28 days with an entrance-reducer on the hive. Replace the menthol as needed during the treatment period.

Precautions: Treatments should not be in colony 4 weeks prior to honey flow. Allow vapors a few minutes to dissipate before working a treated colony. When stored, menthol crystals should be tightly sealed and refrigerated.

Product: Pure Menthol Crystals

Treatment: 1.8 oz (50 grams) packet of menthol crystals in a porous bag, such as a folded paper towel.

Rate: One 1.8 oz packet per average 2-story colony.

Number of Colonies per treatment: One (average 2-story colony).

Location within Colony: Above 8O°F, place crystals on bottom board, Below 8O°F, place crystals on top of frames in top supers.

Treatment Time: Spring preferably or autumn secondly

Treatment Duration: 14-28 days with entrance reduced, replace crystals as needed.

Comments and Suggestions: Menthol vaporization is temperature dependant. At temperatures above 7O°F, vaporization proceeds quickly; below 7O°F, vaporization proceeds more slowly. In essence, menthol treatments could stay on colonies anytime the temperature is high enough and there is no nectar flow in progress; however, this practice may be cost and labor prohibitive.

Results of Research: Using Essential Oils for Honey Bee Mite Control

West Virginia Unniversity

Extension Service

Jim Amrine, Bob Noel, Harry Mallow, Terry Stasny, Robert Skidmore
(Last Updated: December 30, 1996)

We have found that several essential oils can either kill, or adversely affect varroa mites.

Essential Oils have Two Modes of Action:

1) Toxicity by direct contact:
When varroa mites contact essential oils such as wintergreen, patchouli, tea tree oil, et al., mixed into oil or grease, they are killed on contact--usually within a few minutes.

2) Impaired reproduction via feeding syrups containing essential oils:
When varroa mites feed on larvae that contain essential oils, their reproduction is interrupted. If the oil is strong enough, the females are unable to lay eggs. If the oils are in lower concentration, eggs are layed, but development of immature mites is delayed; young mites do not reach maturity before the bees emerge from the cell; consequently, the immature mites die.

Involvement of Essential Oils in Impaired Reproduction of Varroa Mites: Syrup containing the essential oils is fed at the hive entrance or in the broodnest. Many bees feed on the syrup and pass the essential oils around by trophalaxis (adult bees sharing their food reserves). The syrup and essential oil is ingested by nurse bees and enters the communal food in the crop and passes into the milk glands. When the nurse bees feed larvae, the essential oils are in the bee milk and communal food and are ingested by the larvae. Thus, when female varroa mites feed on treated larvae or larval food at the bottom of the cell, they ingest the essential oils which adversely affect their reproduction. The probable mechanism is interference with enzymes in the complex gestation (especially in the production of nutrients and new proteins) of the oocyte and embryo-larva of the varroa mite. Research needs to be conducted to verify this hypothesis and to verify the presence of the essential oils in bee larvae and ultimately, in the female varroa mites.

Impaired reproduction is not observed when canola oil, mineral oil, or shortening (eg., Crisco, a vegetable lard) containing essential oils are delivered to the hives. The fats and greases do not enter the food chain as readily as syrups, and the amounts of essential oils ending up in larval food or in the larvae themselves are inconsequential. Thus, there is no interruption of the development of mite eggs or of immature varroa mites. The mites that directly contact these materials rapidly die; but others are able to escape the essential oils in grease or canola oil by entering cells of mature larvae that are about to be capped, or by moving onto displaced nurse bees (see below, "Recent Findings") near the top of the colony, where the grease patties and tracking strips are not placed. We found that putting paper towels soaked in canola + essential oils in the tops of colonies from July to September, kills the varroa mites residing on the displaced nurse bees which congregate in the upper supers of large colonies.

Feeding of sugar syrup with essential oils at the entrance, or in the brood nest, places the essential oils into the food chain and prevents oviposition by female mites or retards the development of immature mites in capped larval/pupal cells.

We had several colonies that were treated with tracking strips and grease patties only, and we saw resurgence of varroa mites, especially when bee populations were at their peak, lots of brood was present, and when the bees occupied many supers as well as two brood chambers. However, we also had several colonies that were treated with the tracking strips and grease patties, and were continually fed syrup + essential oils at the entrance; in these colonies very few varroa mites were found. Those few that were found appeared to have come into the colonies on drifting bees.