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.


by Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

Varroa mites were first reported in Kentucky in the Bluegrass region of the Commonwealth in 1991. They have spread to and become a major pest of honey bees in many states since their introduction into Florida in the mid 1980's.

Varroa MiteVarroa mites are external honeybee parasites that attack both the adults and the brood, with a distinct preference for drone brood. They suck the blood from both the adults and the developing brood, weakening and shortening the life span of the ones on which they feed. Emerging brood may be deformed with missing legs or wings. Untreated infestations of varroa mites that are allowed to increase will kill honeybee colonies. Losses due to these parasitic mites are often confused with causes such as winter mortality and queenlessness if the colonies are not examined for mites.

The adult female mites are reddish-brown in color, flattened, oval, and measure about 1 to 1.5 mm across. They have eight legs. They are large enough to be seen with the unaided eye on the thorax, most commonly, and on the bee's abdomen. Their flattened shape allows them to hide between the bee's abdominal segments. This mite is often confused with the bee louse, but the bee louse has only six legs, is more circular in shape, and is slightly larger.

Mites develop on the bee brood. A female mite will enter the brood cell about one day before capping and be sealed in with the larva. Eggs are laid and mite feed and develop on the maturing bee larva. By the time the adult bee emerges from the cell, several of the mites will have reached adulthood, mated, and are ready to begin searching for other bees or larvae to parasitize. There is a preference for drone brood. Inspection of the drone brood in their capped cells will often indicate whether or not a colony is infested. The dark mites are easily seen on the white pupae when the comb is broken or the pupae are pulled from their cells.

Mites spread from colony to colony by drifting workers and drones within an apiary. Honey bees can also acquire these mites when robbing smaller colonies. It is best to isolate captured swarms, package bees, and other new colonies from other colonies and examine them for mites before placing them in an apiary.

Early detection of low levels of mite infestations is key to its successful management. While they can be spotted during colony inspection if present in high numbers, this tends to only identify larger infestations. There is a product available, Apistan, that will kill the mites and cause the mites to drop from the bees. Two strips should be hung in the brood nest area of the colony for approximately 4 weeks. This is to be used with sticky paper and a fine-mesh screen on the bottom board of a colony to capture any mites that may have been present. A considerable amount of cell cappings and other debris will also collect on the sticky paper, so it is best to inspect the sticky paper carefully for mites after removal. This method is able to detect low level infestations. Apistan strips are available from most of the large beekeeping suppliers and can be used both for detection and treatment of varroa infestations.

If a colony is found to be infested, all colonies at the site should be treated for mites with Apistan strips in the same manner. These strips contain the miticide fluvalinate and are not to be used during honey flow, or when there is surplus honey present in the colony that may be removed for human consumption at a later date. Therefore, late fall, after removal of surplus honey, or early spring, prior to honey flow, are the best times to treat for varroa mites.

Always carefully follow all label instructions with regard to the storage, use and disposal of pesticides.

Revised: 10/01

CAUTION! Pesticide recommendations in this publication are registered for use in Kentucky, USA ONLY! The use of some products may not be legal in your state or country. Please check with your local county agent or regulatory official before using any pesticide mentioned in this publication.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Doing the BEE Dance

Stop dancing! - (National Geographic)

Bees do their famous waggle dance when they want to tell hive mates where to find a good source of food and other resources. But what do they do when they discover that their co-workers may be buzzing off into a trap, such as a spider lurking at the food source?

They break up the waggle dance by butting their heads into the bees dancing, according to research published yesterday in the journal Current Biology.

The waggle dancer (at center with yellow and pink paint marks) is frozen when receiving a stop signal from a bee marked "S" to her left.

Photo courtesy of James Nieh

A biologist at the University of California at San Diego has discovered that honey bees warn their nest mates about dangers they encounter while feeding with a special signal that's akin to a "stop" sign for bees, the university said in a news statement.

The discovery resulted from a series of experiments on honey bees foraging for food that were attacked by competitors from nearby colonies fighting for food at an experimental feeder, the university explained. "The bees that were attacked then produced a specific signal to stop nest mates who were recruiting others for this dangerous location."

Honey bees use a waggle dance to communicate the location of food and other resources. Attacked bees directed "stop" signals at nest mates waggle dancing for the dangerous location, scientists say.

NGS stock photo by Bianca Lavies

James Nieh, an associate professor of biology at UCSD who conducted the experiments, said this peculiar signal in bee communication was known previously by scientists to reduce waggle dancing and recruitment to food, but until now no one had firmly established a "clear natural trigger" for that behavior.

"The stop sign is a brief vibrating signal made by the bee that lasts for about a tenth of a second with the bee vibrating at about 380 times a second. It is frequently delivered by a sender butting her head into a recipient, although the sender may also climb on top of the receiver," Nieh said.

Bee researchers originally called it a "begging call," because they believed the signaling bee made it to obtain a food sample from the receiver, UCSD said.

"But Nieh discovered in his experiments that one trigger for this signal---which caused the waggle dancers to stop and leave the nest---was attacks from bee competitors and simulated predators. The more dangerous the predator or competitor, he found, the more the stop signals bees produced to stop other bees from recruiting to that location," UCSD said.

"This signal is directed at bees who are recruiting for the dangerous food location and decreases their recruitment," explained Nieh. "Thus, fewer nest mates go to the dangerous food site. This is important because an individual experiences danger and stops recruiting, but the stop signal enables her to 'warn' nest mates who have not yet experienced danger and are still recruiting. The end result is that the colony will reduce or cease recruitment to the dangerous food patch in proportion to the danger experienced."

Nieh found in his experiments that during aggressive food competition, attack victims significantly increased their production of stop signals to nest mates, some by more than 40 times. Bees foraging for food that attacked other bees or experienced no aggression did not produce stop signals. But bees exposed to a "bee alarm pheromone" increased their stop signaling by an average of 14 times. Those whose legs were mechanically pinched in a simulated bite increased their stop signals by an average of 88 times.

Honey bees from different colonies fight for space at a crowded feeder.

Photo cortesy of James Nieh

Nieh said that cooperation within and between cells in an organism relies upon positive and negative feedback. "Superorganisms," such as honey bees, are like a multi-cellular organism because each individual bee, just like a body cell, acts for the good of the whole, the colony. Superorganisms use many types of positive feedback signals, but there are few known examples of negative feedback signals.

What's interesting to biologists about the discovery of the stop sign, Nieh said, is that it's an example of a negative feedback, in which the colony's actions are stopped for the good of the colony.

"This is only the second example of a negative feedback signal ever found in a superorganism and is perhaps the most sophisticated example known to date," he said.

Nieh was assisted in his experiments by UC San Diego undergraduate volunteers working in his laboratory. His study was supported by the UC San Diego Opportunities for Research in Behavioral Sciences Program, which is supported by the National Science Foundation. ORBS is a program for high school students and undergraduates that provides research experience for students who are traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.