Newsnotes archive

January 2016


The First Human Uses of Beeswax Have Been Established in Anatolia in 7000 BCE

The current loss of bee populations as a result of pesticides, viruses and parasites has increased awareness about their economic importance and essential role in farming societies. Our relationship with bees stretches way back before modern farming, which is shown, for example, in various depictions in Ancient Egypt or, going back even further, in the prehistory of the Iberian Peninsula, as in the famous panel in the Araña rock shelter in Bicorp, Valencia. But in actual fact, until now we have had no direct information as to when and where our interest in bees and their products came about. This is what this piece of work is about.

Given that beeswax is a unique lipid complex, its ‘biological footprint’, which is fairly degradation resistant, can be identified in the study of the organic residues preserved in archaeological sites. With this aim in mind, the international research team led by the School of Chemistry of the University of Bristol, analysed ceramic vessels of the Neolithic period in the Near East, Europe and North Africa. “Now we know that beeswax was used continuously from the seventh millennium BCE, probably as an integral part in different tools, in rituals, cosmetics, medicine, as a fuel or to make receptacles waterproof,” explained Alfonso Alday, lecturer in the Prehistory Area and, together with the late Lydia Zapata, a UPV/EHU participant in the research.

Farming emerged during the Neolithic era in various spots in the Middle East, and on occasions it had unexpected consequences: the opening up of forests to gain land and pastures encouraged the development of landscapes in which bushes and flowers provided environments suited to bees. In some way, the bees were the ‘pursuers of agriculture’, spreading their habitat as more farmland was being prepared.

The work on over 6,400 prehistoric vessels has specified the where and when of the first uses of beeswax. Now we know that the oldest evidence of it is to be found in Neolithic sites in Anatolia (Cayonü) in the seventh millennium BCE, in other words, corresponding to the oldest pottery cultures in the region. It is in this same area that the famous Çatalhöyük settlement is located and from which comes an ancient pictorial depiction of a bees’ nest. The use of beeswax has also been detected in prehistoric populations in the north-west of Anatolia; it has been dated between 5,500 and 5,000 years BCE often mixed with the fat of ruminants.

In Europe the first known finds are somewhat later: in Greece around 4900-4500, in Rumania from 5500-5200 onwards, and in Serbia in 5300-4600. We are aware of its use round about the same time in Central Europe in the Neolithic culture of Austria and Germany. More recent are the French and Slovenian cases. On the Iberian Peninsula the 130 receptacles analysed have not preserved any remains of wax, so it is necessary to conduct further research given than in Levantine art there are various depictions of bees: “You have to bear in mind the fact that the detection of signs of lipids of the wax inside the vessels is very low and that the number of receptacles analysed in Iberia is still very low,” but the logical thing is that the bees would also have found suitable environments to develop on the Iberian Peninsula since the beginnings of farming, in other words, about 5,500 years ago,” added Alday.

On the other hand, in this work we have shown that in Denmark and in the British Isles the use of bee products was earlier than expected, while the absence of evidence above parallel 57 on the Eurasian Steppe is probably indicating to us the ecological limit of bee colonies.

Ancient Bees Gathered Pollen in Two Ways

Cell Press

Were ancient bees specialists, devoting their pollen-collecting attentions to very specific plant partners? Or were they generalists, buzzing around to collect pollen from a variety of flowers in their midst? Researchers who’ve studied an ancient lineage of bees now say in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on November 12 that the answer to both questions is yes. Bees living some 50 million years ago simultaneously relied on both strategies in foraging for pollen.

“Since the fossil record of bees extends to the Late Cretaceous, and an early bee-like ancestor is known from 100 million-year-old amber, it could very well be that this dual foraging behavior may be as old as bees themselves,” says Conrad Labandeira of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and a fellow at the Paleontological Society. “If this is the case, then the controversy as to whether the earliest bees were generalist or specialist pollen collectors may be moot: the earliest bees during the mid-Cretaceous may have been simultaneously generalists and specialists!”

The researchers, led by Heisenberg Fellow of the German Science Foundation Torsten Wappler from the University of Bonn in Germany, identified pollen found on the bodies of eleven individuals from six bee species of the tribe Electrapini collected from two sites in Germany. The bee specimens were 44 to 48 million years old, with pollen well preserved across their bodies.

The researchers found pollen from a wide variety of nectar-producing flower types all across the bees’ bodies--except, that is, on their legs. Pollen on the bees’ hind legs came from a much narrower range of flower types, which the bees packed carefully into pollen baskets. That pollen was eventually taken to feed young bees back at the hive.

“Pollen retrieved by the second, specialized mode represented flowers that were considerably more morphologically stereotyped than the first mode and originated from only three or four major taxa of plants, unlike the considerably greater, more diverse spectrum of plants of the generalist mode that formed the pollination mutualism,” Wappler explains.
The findings suggest that examples of one-for-one pollination--think yuccas and yucca moths or figs and fig wasps--are probably quite rare in nature.

“It may turn out that generalist pollination strategies in insects may be far more common than previously suggested,” Labandeira says. “In the case of bees, the simultaneous presence of generalist and specialist pollen-collection strategies--now documented in deep-time bee and pollen fossils--likely renders the existence of specialist-only pollen collection modes a rare to very rare phenomenon.”

They say researchers should now look for validation of the new findings in bee lineages that are even older.

Camelina Cover Crops a Boon for Bees

By Jan Suszkiw
USDA-ARS News Service

Camelina is an herbaceous, yellow-flowering member of the mustard family whose oil-rich seed and cold tolerance has piqued the interest of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists for its potential as both a winter cover crop and biodiesel resource.

Now, in the process of studying this plant, scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have found that its ...


December 2015


Missouri Beekeeper Increases His Bee Forage with Conservation Service Help

by Emily Murray
Public Affairs Specialist
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Columbia, MO

The closing days of World War II brought sleepless nights to David Panahi, then a four-year-old Iranian boy living in what is now Azerbaijan near the border of Russia. His father away with the Army, Panahi remembers countless nights lying alone on the floor, crying himself to sleep while the sound of bombs exploding filled the air.

During the few peaceful daylight hours, Panahi and his older brother crossed cautiously to the countryside and watched Russian farmers tend to their beehives.

“Watching those beekeepers collect honey, I said right then-and-there, ‘God, I’d really like to do that one day.’” Panahi said. “God is good and he had a plan. I just didn’t realize it was going to take 65 years to get to the point where I would be in a position to have hives,” Panahi laughed.

Panahi left Iran in 1977, two years before the Iranian revolution which sent the Shah into exile and left Ayatollah Khomeini at the helm of the country.

“If we had stayed in Iran, I’m fairly certain we would have been killed because of our affiliation with the Iranian Army,” Panahi said. 

Making the decision to move to America based on a picture of a palm tree that graced the cover of a magazine his Dad had shown him years earlier, Panahi and his two children packed up and left to begin new lives in the United States.

With stops in New York, Hawaii and a 37-year stay in California, Panahi and his wife Paula eventually found their way in 2006 to a picturesque acreage in Fair Grove, Missouri, and immediately began making plans for a farm.

“Within our first week here we bought horses, lambs, goats and geese,” Panahi said. “This place was a zoo.”

It wasn’t long after settling in at the Dallas County farm that Panahi connected with NRCS Resource Conservationist Myron Hartzell. Panahi needed a water source and Hartzell was happy to create a plan that included both a watering and rotational grazing system for his horses. It was around this time that Panahi returned to the plan he envisioned nearly seven decades earlier on the Russian border of Iran. He invested in his first three Italian beehives.
During a 2007 field visit with Hartzell, it came to light that Panahi now needed shade and winter protection for his new hive area and more blooming plants for pollinator habitat. After installing pasture fencing on his own, Panahi discovered that livestock, horses and goats were no longer the area he wanted to focus on.

Dedicating full energy to his beehives, Panahi increased to 10 hives in 2008, and 15 hives in 2009. Currently, Panahi has more than 100 Italian, Russian and Carniolan beehives scattered around his property and the properties of friends and acquaintances within a 90-mile radius.

“I make a visit to each of my hives once a week, at least three times a month,” Panahi said.
Routinely checking the queen, ensuring that the hives have enough space to spread out and feeding the bees with supplemental sugar water, Panahi’s pollinators produce an average of two tons of honey each year. However, due to the large amount of rainfall this year, Panahi expects less production since rain washes away nectar from the flowering blooms.

With assistance from Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Panahi’s pollinators are surrounded by fields of wildflowers, shrubs, red maples and fruit trees including pears, peaches, apples and even heat-loving figs. The native plants, Witchazel, Aromatic Asters and Goldenrod, were established with assistance from NRCS and designed to have continuous bloom periods throughout the growing season that enhance honey production and pollination activity.

“My neighbor told me there was no way that I would be able to get a fruit tree to grow in this part of Missouri,” Panahi said. “But the bees have helped produce some of the sweetest, juiciest fruit you can imagine. There is a good cross benefit between the pollinator crops and honey.”

NRCS Resource Conservationist Adam Coulter has worked extensively with Panahi over the past few years and now hosts some of Panahi’s hives on his own pollinator-friendly property.
“David is doing a great job building relationships in the community,” Coulter said. “He’s helping spread the word about the advantages of not only pollinator habitat but of NRCS assistance. His involvement in numerous local and state-level organizations is making people realize that NRCS is more than just an agency to help with terraces and livestock.”
Panahi sells his honey locally at the annual Fair Grove festival and has a shop on his property that runs on the honor system. His name and reputation for good, quality products that include honey, hives, queens and bee boxes, is extending his reach even further.

“I’m doing my best, as far as I know,” Panahi said. “I’ve learned a lot over the past few years. I attend classes and seminars, I’m a member of the Ozark and Missouri Beekeeping Associations and serve as a mentor to others beekeepers. I’m thankful for the assistance that NRCS has provided me. My gardens, fruit trees, wildflowers and trees have all been significantly enhanced by the bees and NRCS helped put that pollinator habitat in the ground.”

These Social Bees Farm and Eat Fungus or Die


Researchers have discovered that a social, stingless bee from Brazil feeds its larvae on a special type of fungus grown in the nest. Without it, very few young survive, according to a report in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 22.
The discovery marks the first such relationship between a social bee and cultivated fungus. The findings also raise concerns about the use of fungicides in agriculture, the researchers say.

“These bees do not survive without ...

November 2015


Evans Appointed as New Lab Director

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Jay Evans as the Research Leader of the Bee Research Laboratory (BRL) in the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.

Dr. Evans joined ARS as a Research Entomologist in 1998. During the ensuing years his research focused on threats to honey bee health, from bacteria to mites, and on the ways bees and beekeepers can reduce these threats. He published 120 research papers from his work. Dr. Evans was an early proponent of the Honey Bee Genome Project and helped recruit and lead scientists interested in applied genomics for bees. He has received the James Hambleton Bee Research Award from the Eastern Apicultural Society (2011), the BA Early Career Scientist Award (2002), and is on the Council of Fellows for the International Bee Research Association. Dr. Evans holds an AB in Biology from Princeton University and a PhD in Biology from the University of Utah. He has served as Acting Research Leader for the BRL since October, 2014.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Jay Evans to this very important leadership position.

Dariusz M. Swietlik, PhD
Director, Northeast Area
Agricultural Research Service
United States Department of Agriculture
10300 Baltimore Avenue, Building 003, Room 223
Beltsville, Maryland 20705-2325

Study Shows Africanized Bees Continue to Spread in California

University of California - San Diego

A study conducted by biologists at UC San Diego has found that the Africanized honey bee is continuing to expand its range northward since its introduction into Southern California in 1994.

The study, published in this week’s edition of the journal PLoS ONE, found that more than 60 percent of the foraging honey bees in San Diego County are Africanized and that Africanized bees can now be found as far north as California’s delta region.

“Our study shows that the large majority of bees one encounters in San Diego County are Africanized and that most of the bees you encounter are from feral colonies, not managed hives,” said Joshua Kohn, a professor of biology at UC San Diego who headed the study.
“The pattern of Africanization we documented in San Diego County and elsewhere in California appears consistent with patterns previously documented in Texas, where Africanized honey bees first appeared in the United States. After the initial wave of hybridization, the remaining bees have a mixture of African and European genes, with the majority of the genome from Africa.”

Africanized bees are hybrids of a subspecies from southern Africa that were brought to Brazil to improve honey production, but escaped and spread throughout South America and Central America, arriving in Mexico in 1985 and Texas in 1990. Their aggressive behavior and tendency to swarm victims have led them to be dubbed “killer bees.”

Kohn said that while the southern range of the bees has stabilized in Argentina, the northward expansion is still ongoing. He and his graduate student Yoshiaki Kono sought to determine how far and how fast the northward expansion of Africanized bees was occurring in California by examining the genetic markers of 265 honey bees they collected at 91 sites throughout the state.

They found Africanized genetic traits in honey bees as far north as 40 kilometers south of Sacramento in the state’s central valley. In the bees they collected in San Diego, they also discovered that more than 60 percent of foraging honey bee workers have Africanized genetic traits, but that African traits are found in only 13 percent of managed or commercial hives.

“Most of the bees you encounter in San Diego are from feral colonies, not managed hives,” said Kohn. “Bees from beekeepers are largely European.”

The biologists also found that the feral honey bees they collected in San Diego County were smaller than their counterparts in the northern parts of the state.

“One of the ways to tell the two bee types apart is their size,” said Kohn. “European bees tend to be larger than Africanized. So bees in San Diego County are smaller than they are further north because further north honey bees are largely European.”

Scientists estimate that Africanized bees are capable of expanding their range by as much as 300 to 500 kilometers per year. But because the UC San Diego biologists found Africanized bees only 250 kilometers from their northernmost limit in 2006, they concluded that Africanized bees’ expansion rate in California has slowed considerably.

Since Africanized bees have a limited ability to survive cold temperatures, this slower expansion rate could be an indication that they are approaching--or have already reached--their northernmost temperature limits. The biologists said their sampling last spring followed the warmest winter on record for the state and that a continued warming trend, predicted by some climate change models, could further expand the range of Africanized bees.

While the presences of Africanized bees increases the risk of negative interactions with humans, they may provide opportunities for improving the genetic stock of honey bees used in agriculture, said Kohn.

“Feral Africanized bees have replaced European ones everywhere from Brazil to California,” he noted. “Part of the reason for this is their increased aggression, but there may be other factors. For instance, Africanized honey bees may be better able to resist certain diseases that afflict honey bee colonies. By dissecting the genomes of Africanized honey bees to find regions responsible for advantageous traits, we may be able to combat recent declines in managed honey bee populations that are so critical for food production.”

True Source Honey
Issues Alert
on Honey Shipped from
Thailand and Taiwan

Washington, D.C. – The non-profit True Source Honey CertificationTM Program (, whose mission it is to protect consumers, retailers and manufacturers from illegally sourced honey, has issued an alert concerning honey labeled as coming from Thailand or Taiwan. Honey importers, retailers and manufacturers are advised to proceed carefully and consider additional safeguards if they are buying low-priced honey labeled as produced in Thailand or Taiwan, such as ensuring that honey imports are ...


October 2015


Some Honey Bee Colonies Adapt in Wake of Deadly Mites


by Krishna Ramanujan

A new genetics study of wild honey bees offers clues to how a population has adapted to a mite that has devastated bee colonies worldwide. The findings may aid beekeepers and bee breeders to prevent future honey bee declines.

The researchers genetically analyzed museum samples collected from wild honeybee colonies in 1977 and 2010; the bees came from Cornell University’s Arnot Forest. In comparing genomes from the two time periods, the results – published Aug. 6 in Nature Communications – show clear evidence that the wild honey bee colonies experienced a genetic bottleneck - a loss of genetic diversity - when the Varroa destructor mites killed most of the honey bee colonies. But some colonies survived, allowing the population to rebound.

“The study is a unique and powerful contribution to understanding how honey bees have been impacted by the introduction of Varroa destructor, and how, if left alone, they can evolve resistance to this deadly parasite,” said Thomas Seeley, the Horace White Professor in Biology at Cornell and the paper’s senior author. Sasha Mikheyev  an assistant professor of ecology and evolution at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) in Japan, is the paper’s first author.

“The paper is also a clear demonstration of the importance of museum collections, in this case the Cornell University Insect Collection, and the importance of wild places, such as Cornell’s Arnot Forest,” Seeley added.

In the 1970s, Seeley surveyed the population of wild colonies of honey bees (Apis mellifera) in Arnot Forest, and found 2.5 colonies per square mile. By the early 1990s, V. destructor mites had spread across the U.S. to New York state and were devastating bee colonies. The mites infest nursery cells in honey bee nests and feed on developing bees while also transferring virulent viruses.

A 2002 survey of Arnot Forest by Seeley revealed the same abundance of bee colonies as in the late 1970s, suggesting that either new colonies from beekeepers’ hives had repopulated the area, or that the existing population had undergone strong natural selection and came out with good resistance.

By 2010, advances in DNA technology, used previously to stitch together fragmented DNA from Neanderthal samples, gave Mikheyev, Seeley and colleagues the tools for whole-genome sequencing and comparing museum and modern

The results revealed a huge loss in diversity of mitochondrial genes, which are passed from one generation to the next only through the female lineage. This shows that the wild population of honeybees experienced a genetic bottleneck. Such bottlenecks arise when few individuals reproduce, reducing the gene pool. “Maybe only four or five queens survived and repopulated the forest,” Seeley said.

Flowers Can Endanger Bees

Study by UC Riverside entomologist and colleagues shows flowers serve as parasite-dispersing hubs

University of California - Riverside

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Despite their beauty, flowers can pose a grave danger to bees by providing a platform of parasites to visiting bees, a team of researchers has determined.
“Flowers are hotspots for parasite spread between and within pollinator populations,” said Peter Graystock, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Entomology at the University of California, Riverside and a member of the research team. “Both the flower and bee species play a role in how likely parasite dispersal will occur.”

The study, published online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, is the first to show that not only can bees disperse parasites around the environment, but also that flowers are platforms for a host of pollinator parasites subsequently dispersed onto visiting bees.
“By showing that visits from parasite-carrying bees can turn flowers into parasite platforms, we can say that it is likely that heavily visited flowers may become more ‘dirty’ with bee parasites,” said Graystock, the research paper’s first author. “Planting more flowers would provide bees with more options, and parasite spread may thus be reduced.”

The researchers found four common honey bee and bumblebee parasites dispersed via flowers: Nosema apis (causes a honey bee disease), Nosema ceranae (causes an emergent disease in honey bees and bumblebees), Crithidia bombi (causes a bumblebee disease) and Apicystis bombi (mostly found in bumblebees). These parasites are known to cause, lethargy, dysentery, colony collapse, and queen death in heavily infected bees.

Currently, bees are frequently transported across state and international territories.Quarantine and parasite screening usually cover only the screening of host-specific diseases. But bumblebees can transport honey bee parasites, and vice versa, the research team has now shown, and proposes that increased screening protocols be employed to protect pollinator diversity.

“With some 20,000 bee species, it is a surprise that only recently has research in pollinator health considered the interactions between bee species,” Graystock said. “Our finding may also affect the national and international trade of flowers unless sterilization of parasites on these flowers can be guaranteed. Otherwise flower movements may also be moving pollinator parasites to new territories.”

He explained that commercially imported bumblebees have been found to contain a cocktail of parasites that are harmful to both bumblebees and honeybees.

“We know these commercially imported bumblebees, when given the opportunity, will forage on the same flowers as wild bees and honeybees,” he said.

In their experiments, Graystock and his colleagues allowed one species of bee (honey bees or bumblebees) from hives containing parasites to forage on flowers for three hours. The bees were then removed and a second group of flowers were added to the foraging arena along with colonies of a second bee species (a species not used before). The new bees then foraged upon both the new and previously foraged flowers for three hours. All flowers were then sampled to see if parasites had dispersed onto them. Parasites found in the original patch confirmed parasite dispersal by the original hosts. Parasites found in the new group of flowers confirmed the non-target bee was able to disperse the parasites.

Next, Graystock, who works in the lab of Quinn McFrederick, an assistant professor of entomology, is looking at how flowers may also be hubs for transmitting not just parasites but also potentially beneficial microbes. He is looking, too, at the role different flowers play on bee survival and development.

How Bees Naturally Vaccinate Their Brood

Researchers discover process bees use to protect their offspring

Arizona State University
Tempe, Ariz. — When it comes to vaccinating their brood, bees don’t have a choice -- they naturally immunize their offspring against specific diseases found in their environments. And now for the first time, scientists have discovered how they do it.

Researchers from Arizona State University, University of Helsinki, University of Jyväskylä and Norwegian University of Life Sciences made the discovery after studying a bee blood protein called vitellogenin. The scientists found that this protein plays a critical, but previously....


September 2015


Dr. Connor Awarded Honor at HAS

At the Heartland Apicultural Society 2015 meeting in Albion, keynote speaker Dr. Lawrence John Connor received a pleasant surprise. He was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award given on behalf of the Michigan Beekeepers Association and the Heartland Apicultural Society for his work, “Mentoring the Next Generation of Queen Breeders”. A lifelong advocate of sustainable, practical and informed beekeeping practices, Dr. Connor continues  to advise, educate and present on all subjects of beekeeping, including his acclaimed queen rearing workshops, regular articles authored for industry trade magazines and books that he continues to author and publish as senior partner at his publishing company, Wicwas Press LLC. After graciously accepting his award, Dr. Connor returned to the work at hand, guiding eager minds toward their aspirations and paving the way for future generations of beekeepers.

Losses of Honey Bee Colonies Over the 2014/15 Winter

Preliminary results from an  international study
The honey bee research association COLOSS(1) has today announced the preliminary results of their international study of colony losses over the 2014-15 winter. Data were collected from 31 countries. Egypt, Russia and the Ukraine participated for the first time in this initiative, which is the largest and longest running international study of honey bee colony losses. In total 23,234 respondents provided overwintering mortality and other data of their colonies.

Collectively, all responding beekeepers managed 469,249 honey bee colonies. 67,914 of these colonies were dead after winter and an estimated 3 % of these colonies were lost because of unsolvable queen problems after winter. A preliminary analysis of the data shows that the mortality rate over the 2014-15 winter varied between countries, ranging from 5 % in Norway to 25 % in Austria, and there were also marked regional differences within most countries. The overall proportion of colonies lost (including colonies with unsolvable queen problems after winter) was estimated as 17.4 %, which was twice that of the previous winter.

The protocol used to collect this COLOSS data has been internationally standardized to allow comparisons and joint analysis of the data. A more detailed analysis of risk factors calculated from the whole dataset, as well as further colony loss data from other countries, will be published later in the year.

International Data Coordinator for the COLOSS Monitoring and Diagnosis Working Group Romée van der Zee from the Dutch Centre for Bee Research says: “North European countries have traditionally had lower losses, compared to west and central European countries. This can partly be explained by the later start of the breeding season of their honey bee colonies due to low temperatures in March/April, as was the case in 2014. This later start limits the number of brood cycles of the varroa mite, one of the main parasites of honey bees. However, honey bee colony loss is a multifactorial problem. There is clearly also a variation in losses between areas, which is not dependent on the varroa mite. One of the main aims of our network is to identify and describe such areas.”

1. COLOSS is a honey bee research association formerly funded by the European Union COST Programme (Action FA0803) and currently by the Ricola Foundation – Nature & Culture, which aims to explain and prevent massive honey bee colony losses. COLOSS does not directly support science, but aims to coordinate international research activities across Europe and worldwide, promoting cooperative approaches and a research program with a strong focus on the transfer of science into beekeeping practice. COLOSS has 552 members drawn from 78 countries worldwide. Its President is Prof. Peter Neumann of the University of Bern, Switzerland.


New Information About Stingless Bee Diversity in El Salvador

So called “stingless” bees have been managed by man in Mesoamerica since the time of the Mayan civilization, but are threatened by deforestation and urbanization, and traditional beekeeping using stingless bees has declined due to greater use of the more easily managed western honey bee. Despite this, there has hitherto been little information available about stingless bees in El Salvador. A new study published today in the Journal of Apicultural Research for the first time provides us with comprehensive information about stingless bee diversity in the country.

Stingless bees (Meliponinae) are a very diverse group of social bees native to areas of the world, (the Americas and Australia) where the more common social Apis honey bees are not naturally found. In this new study, Dr Carlos Iraheta and colleagues from the University of El Salvador studied bee diversity in each department of the country, the smallest in Central America. They located both wild and managed colonies of stingless bees. Greatly exceeding any previous records, they concluded that at least 20 species of stingless bees are found in the country. They found that the most common wild species was Tetragonisca angustula known locally as Jetaí, and the most common managed species was Melipona beecheii, known locally as Xunan Kab or the Royal Lady bee.

They found that the stingless bee species richness was associated with the vegetation cover, increasing with increased coniferous forest and fruit trees, also increasing with temperature, but decreasing with altitude. The authors found that coastal areas deforested for agriculture in the 1930s had no stingless bees present, whether wild or managed.

IBRA Science Director Norman Carreck says: “It is clear that populations of stingless bees are often fragile and easily influenced by land use changes. This new paper increases our knowledge of the native stingless bees present in this important country. We can only develop efficient strategies for conserving bee diversity if we have reliable information about present abundance.”

Oriental Honey Buzzards Might Stop to Smell the Pollen

Buzzard identifies food by the pollen smell, yellow color


Oriental honey buzzards, birds of prey, likely use a combination of their senses of smell and sight to identify nutritious pollen dough balls found in Taiwanese beehives, according to a study published July 15, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Shu-Yi Yang from National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Taiwan, and colleagues.

Scientists think that raptors, birds that hunt and feed on other animals, may use their sense of smell to detect food, but ...


August 2015


Bees: An Up-close Look at Pollinators Around the World

The upcoming book, Bees: An Up-Close Look at Pollinators Around the World, truly is unique, giving the reader a new way to appreciate and marvel at these “mvps” (most valuable pollinators, of course!). Authors Sam Droege and Laurence Packer present more than 100 of the most eye-catching bees from around the world as you’ve never seen them: up-close and with stunning detail. You’ll stare at alien-like faces, get lost in mesmerizing colors and patterns and find each shows a personality in the photos.
Bees: An Up-Close Look at Pollinators Around the World evolved from these photos becoming an internet sensation in 2014. Sam Droege, a wildlife biologist with the US Geological Survey, began posting photos to the USGS Bee Inventory & Monitoring Lab’s Flickr page, and thanks to some bee fans at Reddit, the page went viral, being shared and viewed hundreds of thousands of times. And recently Mr. Droege was extensively quoted in the national press around the White House announcement of the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.
The book is organized by the seven families of bees, with each photo accompanied by interesting, and often witty, facts and details about the bee by Laurence Packer, a professor of biology at York University. (Steve Roth,

Eva Crane Trust -News Update

The Trust was set-up by Dr Eva Crane in 2002 and is a grant-giving charity. It also aims to be a portal to information of interest to beekeepers and bee scientists
The web site has been in operation for some time but since May 12th it has become easier to use and offers an amazing range of information which is being constantly expanded. The 3 main portals are:

1.    Eva Crane Documents

This is being continually updated as we add more of Dr Crane’s original documents onto the site. These papers range from talks and presentations to her typescripts for book chapters and journal articles. It is truly a fascinating and informative collection.

2.    Apiculture Abstracts
From 1949 to 2005 Dr Crane instigated a method of collecting and collating bee-related abstracts from an infinite variety of sources and from all over the world. The collection has well over 60,000 abstracts in total. Now, working in collaboration with the National Library of Wales, the Trust is making freely available over 20,000 of these academic abstracts and hopes to add more as the time-consuming task permits. These are an excellent first step for researchers and inquisitive beekeepers wishing to source scientific data. What is more it is often possible, working through the National Library of Wales, to source the full original papers from the Eva Crane Collection.

3.    The Gallery
This is a personal collection of photographs taken by Dr Crane. It is an eclectic mix of world travel and beekeeping forays! There are approximately 500 images currently freely available, but this part of the web site is also being continually updated as there are a total of nearly 6,500 images which will eventually be made available.

For almost half a century Dr Crane was the driving force behind the provision of a sorting/clearing house and central reference point for bee information which was the equivalent of the internet of her day. The Trust would like to make sure this work is available for the enjoyment and benefit of all. It is hoped it will inspire further research and developments which might in turn be reflected on the web site that carries her name.
All updates will be regularly Tweeted: @evacranetrust

Richard Jones,
Chairman, The Eva Crane Trust

From Hive to Table

An International Conference on the Safety and Authenticity of Bee Products
Istanbul, Turkey 21/22 May 2015

This was the first international congress to focus solely on food and safety issues associated with the authenticity of bee products including honey, royal jelly, pollen and propolis. It was held under the auspices of Istanbul Technical University, Yildiz Technical University and the Faculty of Agriculture of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. It was attended by almost 200 delegates representing all the major countries of Europe.

Consumers today want to know that the food they buy is safe, meets the necessary quality requirements and is true to the product label. As a consequence of the recent horse meat scandal the European Commission defined the ten products that are at most risk from food fraud and, in March 2015, followed this up by recommending a coordinated control plan with a view to establishing the prevalence of fraudulent practices in the marketing of certain foods. One of the target products is honey. There is more equipment and there are more methods of testing foodstuffs today, with greater accuracy, than ever before. Yet, as we often see in the drug battle in sport, the fraudsters still manage to stay one step ahead of the testers.

During the course of two extremely full days a wide range of analytical methods were examined ranging from traditional HMF, pollen and sensory methods of assessment to the latest high tech methods using tandem quadrupole mass spectrometers and DNA analysis of honey.

Much attention was paid to pollutants and contaminants in honey including some problems, which are not always obvious, associated with GMOs. An example was given of a German professional producer who could not market his canola honey as it was found to have GMO contamination. The beekeeper knew there was no GMO crop within even the most extreme foraging distance of his bees and eventually the contamination was traced to the commercially available and approved pollen substitute that had been given to the bees and not related to their foraging.

The classic way of testing for authenticity is to focus on marker compounds, but the absence of certain marker compounds does not mean that the honey is not adulterated. In this way the cheats try to stay ahead of the game by coming up with adulteration syrup recipes that that do not have the marker compounds and so, unless the testers are also developing their side of the equation, the product can slip through the tester’s net. The way ahead is to develop full data profiles for each honey, easier said than done even with monofloral honeys, and then compare the test profile with the database profile which may be ...


July 2015


Nation’s Beekeepers Lost 40 Percent of Their Bees in 2014-15

Summer losses eclipse winter losses for the first time on record


Beekeepers across the United States lost more than 40 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2014 to April 2015, according to the latest results of an annual nationwide survey. While winter loss rates improved slightly compared to last year, summer losses--and consequently, total annual losses--were more severe. Commercial beekeepers were hit particularly hard by the high rate of summer losses, which outstripped winter losses for the first time in five years, stoking concerns over the long-term trend of poor health in honey bee colonies.

The survey, which asks both commercial and small-scale beekeepers to track the health and survival rates of their honey bee colonies, is conducted each year by the Bee Informed Partnership in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America, with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). A summary of the 2014-2015 results is available upon request prior to May 13, 2015; thereafter the results will be added to previous years’ results publicly available on the Bee Informed website.

“We traditionally thought of winter losses as a more important indicator of health, because surviving the cold winter months is a crucial test for any bee colony,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland and project director for the Bee Informed Partnership. “But we now know that summer loss rates are significant too. This is especially so for commercial beekeepers, who are now losing more colonies in the summertime compared to the winter. Years ago, this was unheard of.”

Beekeepers who responded to the survey lost a total of 42.1 percent of their colonies over the course of the year. Winter loss rates decreased from 23.7 percent last year to 23.1 percent this year, while summer loss rates increased from 19.8 percent to 27.4 percent.

Among backyard beekeepers (defined as those who manage fewer than 50 colonies), a clear culprit in losses is the varroa mite, a lethal parasite that can easily spread between colonies. Among commercial beekeepers, the causes of the majority of losses are not as clear.

“Backyard beekeepers were more prone to heavy mite infestations, but we believe that is because a majority of them are not taking appropriate steps to control mites,” vanEngelsdorp said. “Commercial keepers were particularly prone to summer losses. But they typically take more aggressive action against varroa mites, so there must be other factors at play.”

This is the ninth year of the winter loss survey, and the fifth year to include summer and annual losses in addition to winter loss data. More than 6,000 beekeepers from all 50 states responded to this year’s survey. All told, these beekeepers are responsible for nearly 15 percent of the nation’s estimated 2.74 million managed honey bee colonies.

The survey is part of a larger research effort to understand why honey bee colonies are in such poor health, and what can be done to manage the situation. Colony losses present a financial burden for beekeepers, and can lead to shortages among the many crops that depend on honey bees as pollinators. Some crops, such as almonds, depend entirely on honey bees for pollination. Estimates of the total economic value of honey bee pollination services range between $10 billion and $15 billion annually.

“The winter loss numbers are more hopeful especially combined with the fact that we have not seen much sign of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) for several years, but such high colony losses in the summer and year-round remain very troubling,” said Jeffery Pettis, a senior entomologist at U.S. Department of Agriculture and a co-coordinator of the survey. “If beekeepers are going to meet the growing demand for pollination services, researchers need to find better answers to the host of stresses that lead to both winter and summer colony losses.”

Honey Bee Health Coalition Ready to Provide Leadership in
Implementing National Pollinator Health Strategy

Strategy Highlights Coalition as Platform for Public-Private Coordination to Accelerate, Achieve Task Force Goals

[Keystone, Colorado, May 19, 2015] – The Honey Bee Health Coalition applauded the announcement of the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and other Pollinators ( and the accompanying Pollinator Research Action Plan, released today by President Barack Obama’s Pollinator Health Task Force. The Strategy represents a critical step in improving the health of honey bees and other pollinators that support billions of dollars annually in U.S. and Canadian agriculture. The Strategy sets clear goals for pollinator health that underscore the importance of the Honey Bee Health Coalition’s ongoing work. The Honey Bee Health Coalition commends the Task Force for its emphasis on public-private partnerships to improve pollinator health and stands ready to provide coordination and leadership. The Strategy specifically cites the Coalition as an example of a public-private partnership and vehicle for collaboration, outreach, and education.

“The Strategy released by the National Pollinator Health Task Force underscore the importance of...


June 2015


EPA Announces It Is Unlikely to Approve New Outdoor Neonicotinoid Pesticide Uses

As part of EPA’s ongoing effort to protect pollinators, the Agency has sent letters to registrants of neonicotinoid pesticides with outdoor uses informing them that EPA will likely not be in a position to approve most applications for new uses of these chemicals until new bee data have been submitted and pollinator risk assessments are complete. The letters reiterate that the EPA has required new bee safety studies for its ongoing registration review process for the neonicotinoid pesticides, and that the Agency must complete its new pollinator risk assessments, which are based, in part, on the new data, before it will likely be able to make regulatory decisions on imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran that would expand the current uses of these pesticides. Affected neonicotinoid actions include:

•    New Uses (including crop group expansion requests)
•    Addition of New Use Patterns, such as aerial application
•    Experimental Use Permits
•    New Special Local Needs Registrations

This is an interim position. However, if a significant new pest issue should arise that may be uniquely addressed by one of these chemicals, EPA is prepared to consider whether an emergency use under FIFRA section 18 might be appropriate. Due to the localized nature of many emergency pest management programs, it may be possible to develop mitigation or adjust the use pattern in a manner that would minimize exposure to bees. In the event that an emergency use is requested, the Agency plans to assess such requests by relying on available information and risk mitigation strategies.

More information on EPA’s efforts to protect pollinators:

Honey Bees use Multiple Genetic Pathways to Fight Infections

Honey bees use different sets of genes, regulated by two distinct mechanisms, to fight off viruses, bacteria and gut parasites, according to researchers at Penn State and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The findings may help scientists develop honey bee treatments that are tailored to specific types of infections. “Our results indicate that different sets of genes are used in immune responses to viruses versus other pathogens, and these anti-viral genes are regulated by two very distinct processes -- expression and DNA methylation,” said David Galbraith, graduate student in entomology, Penn State. The results will appear in todays (Mar. 26) issue of PLOS

According to Christina Grozinger, director of the Penn State Center for Pollinator Research, beekeepers lose an average of 30 percent of their colonies every winter and an average of 25 percent in the summer.

“Honey bees have more than 20 types of viruses, and several of them have been linked to losses of honey bee colonies,” she said. “Yet, beekeepers currently do not have any commercially available methods to reduce viral infections.” With a goal of uncovering which genes increase or decrease their activity in response to the presence of viruses, the researchers measured expression levels of all genes in the honey bee genome in both infected and uninfected bees. They found that the RNAi pathway had increased activity and, therefore, is likely an important anti-viral immune pathway in bees.

“Previous studies suggested the RNAi pathway was involved in anti-viral immune responses in bees, but we showed that expression levels of many genes in this pathway are significantly higher in virus-infected bees,” said Grozinger. “The RNAi pathway helps to cut up and destroy viral RNA so it is not infectious.” Scientists and beekeepers are increasingly interested in using RNAi approaches to control viruses and parasites in agricultural crops and in honey bee colonies, according to Grozinger.

“We will need to make sure that any artificial RNAi approaches do not interfere with the natural anti-viral RNAi mechanisms in honey bees,” Grozinger said. In addition to examining gene expression in virus-infected versus uninfected honey bees, the researchers also scanned the honey bee DNA for extra methylation marks that may have been added or removed from genes in virus-infected bees.

The team found that viral infections do change the pattern of DNA methylation in honey bees, and in a completely different set of genes from the ones in the RNAi pathway. Many of these differentially methylated genes are also involved in anti-viral responses in mammals, but they have not previously been linked to anti-viral responses in insects, said Grozinger.
“We found that there was very little overlap between differentially expressed and differentially methylated genes, suggesting dual genomic response pathways to viral infection,” said Galbraith. “For the first time, we characterized both the global gene expression and DNA methylation patterns associated with acute viral infection in honey bees. We confirmed that the RNAi pathway, which has been seen in other insects, is also an antiviral defense mechanism in honey bees. And, for the first time, we observed alterations in DNA methylation patterns in response to viral infection in honey bees.”

Rapid Increase in Neonicotinoid Insecticides Driven by Seed Treatments

(Courtesy of PENN STATE)

Use of a class of insecticides, called neonicotinoids, increased dramatically in the mid-2000s and was driven almost entirely by the use of corn and soybean seeds treated with the pesticides, according to researchers at Penn State.

“Previous studies suggested that the percentage of corn acres treated with insecticides decreased during the 2000s, but once we took seed treatments into account we found the opposite pattern,” said Margaret Douglas, graduate student in entomology. “Our results show that application of neonicotinoids to seed of corn and soybeans has driven a major surge in the U.S. cropland treated with insecticides since the mid-2000s.”

According to Douglas, research suggests that neonicotinoids may harm pollinators. The European Union suspended neonicotioid use on bee-attractive crops and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expediting their review.

After discovering that neonicotinoid seed treatments were not explicitly documented

May 2015


Small Hive Beetle Study in Rhode Island

Announcement of Rhode Island College and RI Beekeepers’ Association collaborative
research project “Protecting Honey Bees from the Small Hive Beetle in Rhode Island”

It is well-known that American honey bees are at risk with 40-70% losses of beehives reported throughout the US annually. American beekeepers have been battling various pests weakening the bees, including the varroa mite, since the 1990s. The most recent threat is the small hive beetle (SHB), an invasive species now established in the southern US states but migrating north and found recently in Rhode Island. Most beehives in the state are comprised of bees imported into the state from producers in Georgia and Florida with hundreds of packages delivered to the state in the springtime each year. For the past several years a number of RI beekeepers have reported the presence of the SHB in their hives, contrary to the accepted science that the SHB cannot survive the northern states’
winter temperatures.

Members of the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association (RIBA) and Rhode Island College (RIC), which established beehives for public education on campus in 2011, have entered into a collaborative agreement to study the presence and potential impact of this invasive species. A grant to study the SHB in the amount of $22,736 was funded by the RI Department of Environmental Management for a two year period, April 1, 2015- March 31, 2017, for an assessment of the presence of the SHB in the state. Fifty participants from RIBA, geographically representing the state’s 10 counties, will be recruited to receive SHB traps to monitor and count the presence of SHB in their hives. The result will be a first-time documentation and GIS mapping of the state’s beehives and the presence, or absence, of the SHB in the state. This will create a state-wide data base for quantifying bee populations and their overall health while observing the presence of the SHB. Where the SHB is found, mitigation strategies will be employed, assessed and reported to the RI community of beekeepers. The collaborating organizations, RIBA and RIC, will likewise conduct educational outreach primarily through the RIBA monthly meetings and the annual Bees Schools that are conducted at Rhode Island College, averaging 200 students per year.

For more information please contact RIC Principle Investigator, Dr. Geoff Stillwell (; Educational Outreach responsible persons, Dr. Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban ( and James Murphy (; RIBA president Ed Lafferty, (

New Research Finds Queen Bee Microbiomes are Starkly Distinct From Worker Bees

Indiana University
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — An Indiana University researcher and collaborators have published the first comprehensive analysis of the gut bacteria found in queen bees. Despite the important role of gut microbial communities — also known the “microbiome” — in protecting against disease...

April 2015


Wisconsin Honey Queen

The Wisconsin Honey Producers Association is proud to announce that Kim Kester was selected as the 2015 Wisconsin Honey Queen at their annual convention. Kim is the daughter of Jim and Barb Kester of Nekoosa, Wisconsin. She is a July 2014 graduate from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where she double-majored in Dairy Science and Poultry Science. She is currently a bull herdsman at Accelerated Genetics in Westby and is pursuing a Masters Degree in Agricultural Education at Iowa State University.

Prior to being selected as the Wisconsin Honey Queen, Kim served as the 2014 Waupaca County Honey Queen. In this role, she promoted the honey industry at fairs, agricultural festivals, and in schools.

Kim will spend the next year promoting the beekeeping industry in Wisconsin. She is available to speak with civic groups and appear at fairs, festivals, and farmers markets. She will also give presentations in schools about honeybees and the beekeeping industry. In January 2016, Kim will represent Wisconsin at the American Honey Queen competition at the American Beekeeping Federation Convention in Jacksonville, Florida.

To schedule an appearance with Wisconsin Honey Queen Kim Kester, contact Mary Kettlewell at 414.429.5502 or All appearances are free of charge.

New American Honey Queen and Princess

The American Beekeeping Federation is proud to announce that Gabrielle Hemesath and Hayden Wolf were selected as the 2015 American Honey Queen and Princess at its annual January convention in Anaheim, CA.

Queen Gabrielle is the 19-year-old daughter of Mary and Russell Hemesath of Clermont, IA, and the granddaughter of Karen Hemesath of Castalia, IA, and Imedla Schmitt of West Union, IA. She is a freshman at Iowa State University, pursuing a degree in marketing. Gabrielle became interested in beekeeping at a young age and has been employed by Fassbinder Apiaries since 2008, assisting in managing 2,000 beehives. She previously served as the Iowa Honey Queen.

Princess Hayden is the 19-year-old daughter of Gus and Joanna Wolf of Big Sandy, TX. She plans to pursue a degree in nutritional science with plans to become a registered dietitian. Hayden began beekeeping through a youth beekeeping scholarship program in 2009 and now cares for more than a dozen hives with her family. She previously served as the Texas Honey Queen.

Gabrielle and Hayden will spend the next year promoting the beekeeping industry throughout the United States in a wide variety of venues, including fairs, festivals, schools, and media interviews. To schedule an appearance with American Honey Queen Gabrielle Hemesath or American Honey Princess Hayden Wolf, please contact American Honey Queen Program Chairperson Anna Kettlewell at 414.545.5514.

Government Agents in Houston Seize Illegally Imported Honey Valued at $2.45 Million
HOUSTON— Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have seized since October illegally imported Chinese honey valued at $2.45 million destined for U.S. consumers.

The seized illicit honey that was abandoned or forfeited totals 660 barrels weighing 203,280 kilograms (448,156 lbs.). The containers’ shipping documents indicated the bulk honey originated in Latvia.

HSI and CBP have stepped up efforts regarding commercial fraud investigations that focus on U.S. economic, and health and safety interests. Anti-dumping schemes create a divergent market that negatively affects legitimate businesses.

“Helping to ensure a safe food supply is an important component of border security,” said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. “HSI and our law enforcement partners are committed to working together on behalf of the American people to identify and remove potentially dangerous or adulterated products from store shelves to help keep our families safe. We also work to ensure that no one benefits from circumventing U.S. trade and import laws.”

In December 2001, the U.S. Commerce Department imposed anti-dumping duties after determining that Chinese-origin honey was being sold in the United States at less than fair-market value. The duties first imposed were as high as 221 percent of the declared value. Later these duties were assessed against the entered net weight, currently at $2.63 per net kilogram, in addition to a “honey assessment fee” of one cent per pound of all honey.

In 2008, federal authorities began investigating allegations of organizations on the “supply side” of the honey industry that were circumventing anti-dumping duties through illegal imports, including transshipment and mislabeling. In October 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an import alert for honey containing the antibiotic Chloramphenicol, a broad spectrum antibiotic that is used to treat serious infections in humans, that is not approved for use in honey. Honey containing certain antibiotics is deemed “adulterated” within the meaning of federal food and drug safety laws.

This is an ongoing investigation with assistance provided by HSI Frankfurt Attaché Office and Latvian customs authorities.

Bee Disease Reduced by Nature’s ‘Medicine Cabinet,’ Dartmouth-led Study Finds

HANOVER, N.H. - Nicotine isn’t healthy for people, but such naturally occurring chemicals found in flowers of tobacco and other plants could be just the right prescription for ailing bees, according to a Dartmouth College-led study.
The researchers found that chemicals in floral nectar, including the alkaloids anabasine and nicotine, the iridoid glycoside catalpol and the terpenoid thymol, significantly reduce parasite infection in bees. The results suggest that growing plants high in these compounds around farm fields could create a natural “medicine cabinet” that improves survival of diseased bees and pollination of crops. The researchers studied parasite infections in bumble bees, which like honey bees are important pollinators that are in decline around the world, a trend that threatens fruits, vegetables and other crops that make up much of the food supply for people.

The findings appear in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. A PDF of the study and photos of bees are available on request. The study included researchers from Dartmouth and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Plants produce chemicals called ...


March 2015


National Honey Board Announces New Chief Executive Officer

Firestone, Colo., January 15, 2015 – The National Honey Board (NHB), an industry-funded agriculture promotion group, announced that the Board has unanimously selected Margaret Lombard as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) effective December 29, 2014. Lombard succeeds the NHB’s past CEO Bruce Boynton who announced his desire to retire in early 2014 after almost 26 years of service to the honey industry.

“After a thorough selection process, the Board is delighted to announce Margaret will lead the NHB as we navigate through the evolving and expanding landscape of the honey industry,” said Brent Barkman, chairman of the National Honey Board. “Margaret has extensive experience in food marketing and a comprehensive understanding of the food industry. I have no doubt that she is the right person to take the helm at the NHB.”
In her nearly 25 years in the food industry, Margaret has held a variety of leadership positions, including Vice President of Marketing for Raley’s Supermarkets and Vice President of Shopper Marketing for a national advertising agency. She has a proven track record for successfully driving innovation and growth. Her past clients include Mission Foods, Blue Diamond Almonds and Avocados from Mexico. Margaret holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Design from the University of California Davis, and a Master of Business Administration degree from California State University Sacramento. Her background in food and her commodity board experience make her ideally suited to lead the next phase of the NHB’s growth and success.

“I am honored to have been chosen by the Board to lead the NHB into the next exciting era,” said Margaret Lombard. “The NHB is doing some amazing work and is perfectly poised for growth as the trend towards natural ingredients continues to explode. I look forward to working with our Board and our staff in driving growth for the entire industry.”
The National Honey Board is an industry-funded agriculture promotion group that works to educate consumers about the benefits and uses for honey and honey products through research, marketing and promotional programs.

Getting Up Close and Personal on Nosema ceranae in Honey Bees

As one of the possible causes of honey bee losses, the gut pathogen Nosema ceranae has proved controversial. It seems accountable for colony losses in Spain, yet elsewhere it seems not to cause obvious problems despite being widespread. Two papers published recently in the Journal of Apicultural Research help to shed some light on the problem, with close studies of this organism and its relationship with its host.

Nosema ceranae, a microsporidian fungus, is a relatively new pathogen of honey bees, having only been discovered in 1994 on the Asian honey bee Apis cerana. It was found on the western honey bee Apis mellifera in 2005. It seems to have spread rapidly around the world and apparently displaced the similar species Nosema apis. This second parasite is a minor chronic infection of the western honey bee, known for more than one hundred years. However, no-one is absolutely certain of the history of these two species because their spores are indistinguishable under an ordinary light microscope. So far, few laboratories throughout the world are able to perform the costly molecular techniques necessary to reliably determine between the two Nosema species.

In a new paper, Dr Aneta Ptaszyńska and colleagues from the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin, and the University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Poland have demonstrated that Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) provides a solution. Close examination of the cell walls of Nosema spores revealed that they differ between the two species, with Nosema ceranae having a characteristic sculpted cell wall. The authors also studied the damage caused by the parasite to the intestines of infected bees. They found that the midgut of affected bees is completely covered with Nosema. This spore-made layer may be the cause of bee malnutrition and higher mortality of foragers.

In the second paper, Dr Predrag Simeunovic and colleagues from the University of Belgrade, Serbia, carried out a three-year study on the laying capacity of queen bees as affected by age and infestation by Nosema ceranae. The results clearly demonstrated not only that as queen bees age so colony productivity declines, but that interactions with Nosema ceranae infestation also occur. Curiously, although queen bees decline in all other respects during their third year, their egg-laying capacity was found to increase. This may be an influence of Nosema infection which was greatest in the oldest queens. The authors suggest that the infected queens may significantly increase their rate of egg-laying to compensate for the losses of heavily infected workers due to Nosema.

IBRA Science Director Norman Carreck says: “These two new papers add to our knowledge of this problematic pathogen and how it adversely affects honey bees.” (IBRA News Release)


 February 2015


Heartland Apicultural Society Conference Announced

The 14th Annual Heartland Apicultural Society’s summer conference will be held in Albion, Michigan July 9 through 11, 2015 Please join us for this three-day Celebration of bees and beekeepers. Confirmed speakers include Dennis VanEnglesdorp, Susan Cobey, and Roger Hopingarner to name but a few. Queen rearing, drone catching, microscope techniques, mead making, beginners to advanced, something for everyone!

2015 Pennsylvania Honey Queen and Princess Selected

The Pennsylvania Honey Queen Program is pleased to announce that Jessica Onstead was recently selected as the 2015 Pennsylvania Honey Queen and Blair Hetherington as the 2015 Pennsylvania Honey Princess.

Jessica, 21, is the daughter of Stephen Onstead and Fritz Onstead of Somerset, Pa. She is a graduate of Somerset Area High School, where she was a varsity member of the Lady Eagles tennis team, a member of the National Honor Society, a student of the month for the Somerset Kiwanis Club and a Somerset Welfare League cotillion honoree. Jessica is currently attending The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown for a degree in Business Economics and hopes to one day own her own business. In her free time, Jessica enjoys reading, baking and collecting stamps.

Blair, 20, is the daughter of Barron and Robin Hetherington of Ringtown, Pa. She is a graduate of North Schuylkill High School, where she was a member of the homecoming court and was the marching band’s featured baton twirler for three years. Blair is currently attending the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) for a degree in Food Science and a minor in Horticulture. She is a member of the Food Science Club, EARTH House and Ag Advocates. In her free time, Blair is a Crew Manager on her family’s 500 acre strawberry and vegetable farm.

As the 2015 Pennsylvania Honey Queen and Princess, Jessica and Blair will educate the public on the importance of honey bees and the benefits of honey by attending schools, fairs, festivals and participating in media interviews.

For more information on the Pennsylvania Honey Queen Program, visit and follow us on Facebook at PA Honey Queen Program. To schedule a presentation from the 2015 Pennsylvania Honey Queen or Princess, contact Rachel Bryson at

The Pennsylvania Honey Queen Program is an affiliate of the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association.

Secretary Vilsack Names Members to the National Honey Board

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2014 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has appointed three members and three alternates to serve on the National Honey Board. They will serve 3-year terms beginning Jan. 1, 2015, and ending on Dec. 31, 2017.

The producer member appointed is Mark A. Jensen of Power, Mont., incumbent, and the producer alternate member is Randy Verhoek of Baldwin, N.D.
The first handler member appointed is Eric S. Wenger of Peabody, Kan., and the first handler alternate member is Michelle Poulk of Corpus Christi, Texas.

Additionally, the appointed importer handler member is Mathias Leitner of Gilbert, Ariz., incumbent, and first handler alternate member is Jeffrey Z. Dong of Eastvale, Calif.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides oversight of the Board in accordance with the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996 and the Honey Packers and Importers Research, Promotion, Consumer Education and Industry Information Order. Under the Order, the program is financed by an assessment of $0.01 per pound on first handlers and importers of 250,000 pounds or more of honey or honey products annually. The program is administered by board members who are selected by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

Hive Minds and the  Internet of Bees

Arnia Remote Hive Monitoring Now Listening to Bees Across the Atlantic with Podsystem “Best Signal” M2M SIMs and Flat-Rate Data

PodsystemM2M, the expert in multi-network data SIMs for the M2M industry, has today announced ...


 January 2015


Heartland Apicultural Society Conference Announced

The 14th Annual Heartland Apicultural Society’s summer conference will be held in Albion, Michigan July 9 through 11, 2015 Please join us for this three-day Celebration of bees and beekeepers. Confirmed speakers include Dennis VanEnglesdorp, Susan Cobey, and Roger Hopingarner to name but a few. Queen rearing, drone catching, microscope techniques, mead making, beginners to advanced, something for everyone!

The Small Hive Beetle Is in Europe to Stay

The small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) is an exotic pest originally from South Africa which can infest honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies, destroying combs and brood often causing total colony loss. It invaded the southern USA in the 1990s causing significant economic loss, and has later been found in Australia, Canada and elsewhere. It is subject to statutory control in most European countries, and contingency plans have been in place for some years in anticipation of its arrival.

On 11th September 2014 the small hive beetle was discovered by beekeepers in Gioia Tauro, in south west Italy. The source of the outbreak is currently unknown. Attempts were made to eradicate the beetles, by killing colonies and treating soil with insecticide, setting up a 20 km protection zone and 100 km surveillance zone around the infested colonies.

Subsequent investigation has found that it is present in 48 apiaries of 13 bordering municipalities, all of them concentrated in an area of 10 km radius. Italian beekeepers have asked that the policy of compulsory destruction be halted, and other measures to avoid spread be implemented.

Dr. Franco Mutinelli of the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie says: ”Our inspections have shown us that the beetle is found in strong bee colonies as well as weak ones, in freshly made combs as well as old ones, and in nucleus colonies as well as full colonies. However, until now the infestation appears limited to this area of Calabria region.”
The President of the international honey bee protection network COLOSS, Prof. Peter Neumann says: “The COLOSS association is greatly concerned about this discovery, which represents the permanent arrival of this pest into Europe. It is inevitable that it will spread to other European countries, but we cannot yet predict what its effects on the beekeeping industry will be. COLOSS members will work together to bring scientific results into practice for the benefit of beekeepers to help them fight this serious pest.” (COLOSS Honey Bee Research Association News Release)

USDA to Provide $4 Million for Honey Bee Habitat

Announcement Builds on Previous Investment in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin

WASHINGTON, Oct.29, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to help farmers and ranchers in the Midwest improve the health of honey bees, which play an important role in crop production.

“The future of America’s food supply depends on honey bees, and this effort is one way USDA is helping improve the health of honey bee populations,” Vilsack said. “Significant progress has been made in understanding the factors that are associated with Colony Collapse Disorder and the overall health of honey bees, and this funding will allow us to work with farmers and ranchers to apply that knowledge over a broader area.”

An estimated $15 billion worth of crops is pollinated by honey bees, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is focusing the effort on five Midwestern states: Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. This announcement renews and expands a successful $3 million pilot investment that was announced earlier this year and continues to have high levels of interest. This effort also contributes to the June 2014 Presidential Memorandum – Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, which directs USDA to expand the acreage and forage value in its conservation programs.

Funding will be provided to producers through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

From June to September, the Midwest is home to more than 65 percent of the commercially managed honey bees in the country. It is a critical time when bees require abundant and diverse forage across broad landscapes to build up hive strength for the winter.

The assistance announced today will provide guidance and support to farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that will provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees. For example, appropriate cover crops or rangeland and pasture management may provide a benefit to producers by reducing erosion, increasing the health of their soil, inhibiting invasive species, and providing quality forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators.

This year, several NRCS state offices are setting aside additional funds for similar efforts, including California – where more than half of all managed honey bees in the U.S. help pollinate almond groves and other agricultural lands – as well as Ohio and Florida.
The 2014 Farm Bill kept pollinators as a high priority, and these conservation efforts are one way USDA is working to help improve pollinator habitat.

USDA is actively pursuing solutions to the multiple problems affecting honey bee health. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) maintains four laboratories across the country conducting research into all aspects of bee genetics, breeding, biology and physiology, with special focus on bee nutrition, control of pathogens and parasites, the effects of pesticide exposure and the interactions between each of these factors. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supports bee research efforts in Land Grant Universities. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conducts national honey bee pest and disease surveys and provides border inspections to prevent new invasive bee pests from entering the U.S. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) and NRCS work on improved forage and habitat for bees through programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and EQIP. The Forest Service is restoring, improving, and/or rehabilitating pollinator habitat on the national forests and grasslands and conducting research on pollinators. Additionally, the Economic Research Service (ERS) is currently examining the direct economic costs of the pollinator problem and the associated indirect economic impacts, and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts limited surveys of honey production, number of colonies, price, and value of production which provide some data essential for research by the other agencies.
For more on technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit or a local USDA service center.

A Monk in the Bee Hive

A Monk in the Bee Hive
weaves together the threads of nature and spiritual practice, sitting, silence and the sound of bees. Beekeeping and monasticism have for centuries been partners, and here this ancient practice continues, combining the mystery of the soul with the magic of the hive. Skye’s story brings sweetness and simplicity into our life, connecting us to the deeper roots of our own being. It leaves both sweetness and the fragrance of flowers behind, as well as silence and the ringing of temple bells.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Sufi teacher and author of The Prayer of the Heart in Christian and Sufi Mysticism.

How does a monk actually get into a bee hive?? Skye does it by going on a meditative journey which opens up a ...


December 2014


Honey Bee Health Coalition Letter to USDA & EPA
The Honorable Thomas Vilsack Secretary
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250

The Honorable Regina McCarthy Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of the Administrator – 1101A
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Mr. Secretary and Madam Administrator,
As leaders charged by the President to coordinate federal efforts to research, prevent, and recover from pollinator losses, you know that a lot rides on the health of the honey bee. You are in a unique position to help safeguard global food production, North American agriculture, and healthy ecosystems across the world, which is why we want to work with you to improve honey bee health.

The Honey Bee Health Coalition is one of the largest and most diverse groups of stakeholders representing more than 30 organizations working across food, agriculture, government, and conservation to reverse recent declines in honey bee health and promote their long-term health and the health of other pollinators. By coordinating together on key priorities we can include a broader set of stakeholders and achieve our mutual goals faster, with greater impact, and do so more cost effectively.

To that end, the Coalition issued the attached Bee Healthy Roadmap outlining steps for working together to improve honey bee health that will accomplish more than any one group can achieve on its own. The Coalition is committed to developing explicit goals, milestones and metrics to measure improvements in honey bee health. We’re working to achieve Healthy Honey Bees, Healthy People, and a Healthy Planet and we set ourselves four priority areas that need collective, science-based action:

• Put the best available tools, techniques, and technologies in the hands of beekeepers so they can better manage their hives. As noted in the Presidential Memorandum creating a federal strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators, we need ‘…expanded collection and sharing of data related to pollinator losses [and] technologies for continuous monitoring of honey bee hive health… and new cost-effective ways to control bee pests and diseases.’ Therefore, the Coalition aims to support on-the ground efforts underway to provide beekeepers with monitoring and expert advice and analyses to best manage hive health, as well as to promote development of new products and use of best practices for varroa mite control.

• Ensure honey bees – especially those in and around production agriculture – have access to a varied and nutritious diet. Our work aligns with the Pollinator Health Task Force focus on pollinator-friendly seed mixes and habitats. The Coalition is working on how to prioritize where forage is needed, what plants are needed, and at what times – and on public-private strategies to meet nutritional needs.

• Control crop pests while safeguarding pollinator health. The Coalition is promoting best practices to safeguard honey bee health and exploring opportunities to promote and improve reporting of honey bee health incidents related to crop pest control. These activities align with the Task Force’s work toward ‘identification of existing and new methods and best practices to reduce pollinator exposure to pesticides.’

• Work together to improve honey bee health. In alignment with the Task Force’s emphasis on public-private partnerships, the Coalition is promoting public-private collaboration across diverse stakeholders, including State and and local governments, farmers, corporations, and nongovernmental organizations.

Together we can collaboratively implement solutions among food, agriculture, government, and conservation partners. Together we can achieve a healthy population of honey bees as well as healthy populations of native and managed pollinators. Together we can ensure healthy, sustainable agriculture and healthy ecosystems, and healthy ecosystem services for years to come.
Knowing that the Coalition can’t improve honey bee health on its own, we want to provide you with this Roadmap to share the priorities we’ve identified and ask for your input and feedback so that we can effectively work with you, as appropriate, to achieve our mutual goals.

Dangerous Liaisons: The Problem with Asian and Australian Honey Bees Mating

Australian beekeepers are being warned about the risk of unnatural matings with a new study showing honey production and pollination services could be at risk due to the presence of Asian honey bees in Queensland.

The Asian honey bee (Apis cerana) became established in Cairns in 2007 and research has now been conducted on what impact there might be if they mate (interspecific mating) with the European-derived honey bees (Apis mellifera) which are the basis of the honey and pollination industries throughout Australia.

Professor Ben Oldroyd and Dr. Emily Remnant of the University of Sydney conducted the research as part of the Asian Honey Bee Transition to Management Plan, with funds from the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council, administered through the Honey Bee and Pollination Program. The Program is managed by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) and Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL).

The research found that queens and drones of these two species often meet and mate as they fly at similar times and places. Genetic testing using DNA markers showed the presence of Asian honey bee sperm in the sperm storage organs of one-third of the Australian commercial queens sampled in Cairns.

Dr. Michael Hornitzky, chair of the program’s advisory committee, said both commercial and hobby beekeepers are on the front line of biosecurity and need to be aware of possible threats to bees, such as interspecies mating, as well as best practice management and control methods.

“Australia’s European honey bee colonies will become increasingly at risk of collapse if mating with Asian honey bees becomes a regular occurrence. Depending on the proportion of Asian and European honey bee males that mate with the queen, her fertility will be reduced and her eggs will not hatch, reducing the productivity of colonies headed by European honey bee queens that mate in areas where Asian honey bees are present.

“This in turn could lead to bees being less effective at honey production and pollination. We know that in Australia approximately 65% of horticulture and agricultural crops produced require pollination services from honey bees, so this is a key concern, especially as it will impact feral bee colonies as well as managed hives. This important research serves as a warning to beekeepers that it’s better to source queens only from areas where Asian honey bees are not present.

“We should do everything we can do to ...


 November 2014


Evolutionary History of Honey bees Revealed by Genomics

In a study published in Nature Genetics, researchers from Uppsala University present the first global analysis of genome variation in honey bees. The findings show a surprisingly high level of genetic diversity in honey bees, and indicate that the species most probably originates from Asia, and not from Africa as previously thought.

The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is of crucial importance for humanity. One-third of our food is dependent on the pollination of fruits, nuts and vegetables by bees and other insects. Extensive losses of honeybee colonies in recent years are a major cause for concern. Honey bees face threats from disease, climate change, and management practices. To combat these threats it is important to understand the evolutionary history of honeybees and how they are adapted to different environments across the world.

“We have used state-of-the-art high-throughput genomics to address these questions, and have identified high levels of genetic diversity in honeybees. In contrast to other domestic species, management of honey bees seems to have increased levels of genetic variation by mixing bees from different parts of the world. The findings may also indicate that high levels of inbreeding are not a major cause of global colony losses”, says Matthew Webster, researcher at the department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, Uppsala University.

Another unexpected result was that honey bees seem to be derived from an ancient lineage of cavity-nesting bees that arrived from Asia around 300,000 years ago and rapidly spread across Europe and Africa. This stands in contrast to previous research that suggests that honey bees originate from Africa.

“The evolutionary tree we constructed from genome sequences does not support an origin in Africa, this gives us new insight into how honeybees spread and became adapted to habitats across the world”, says Matthew Webster.

Hidden in the patterns of genome variation are signals that indicate large cyclical fluctuations in population size that mirror historical patterns of glaciation. This indicates that climate change has strongly impacted honeybee populations historically. “Populations in Europe appear to have contracted during ice ages whereas African populations have expanded at those times, suggesting that environmental conditions there were more favorable”, says Matthew Webster.

The researchers also identified specific mutations in genes important in adaptation to factors such as climate and pathogens, including those involved in morphology, behavior and innate immunity.

“The study provides new insights into evolution and genetic adaptation, and establishes a framework for investigating the biological mechanisms behind disease resistance and adaptation to climate, knowledge that could be vital for protecting honey bees in a rapidly changing world”, says Matthew Webster.

Bacteria from Bees Possible Alternative to Antibiotics

Raw honey has been used against infections for millennia, before honey - as we now know it - was manufactured and sold in stores. So what is the key to its antimicrobial properties? Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have identified a unique group of 13 lactic acid bacteria found in fresh honey, from the honey stomach of bees. The bacteria produce a myriad of active antimicrobial compounds.

These lactic acid bacteria have now been tested on severe human wound pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA), Pseudomonas aeruginosa and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), among others. When the lactic acid bacteria were applied to the pathogens in the laboratory, it counteracted all of them.

While the effect on human bacteria has only been tested in a lab environment thus far, the lactic acid bacteria has been applied directly to horses with persistent wounds. The LAB was mixed with honey and applied to ten horses; where the owners had tried several other methods to no avail. All of the horses’ wounds were healed by the mixture.

The researchers believe the secret to the strong results lie in the broad spectrum of active substances involved.

“Antibiotics are mostly one active substance, effective against only a narrow spectrum of bacteria. When used alive, these 13 lactic acid bacteria produce the right kind of antimicrobial compounds as needed, depending on the threat. It seems to have worked well for millions of years of protecting bees’ health and honey against other harmful microorganisms. However, since store-bought honey doesn’t contain the living lactic acid bacteria, many of its unique properties have been lost in recent times”, explains Tobias Olofsson.

The next step is further studies to investigate wider clinical use against topical human infections as well as on animals.

The findings have implications for developing countries, where fresh honey is easily available, but also for Western countries where antibiotic resistance is seriously increasing.

Sunspot Activity Affects Honey Bees’ Ability to Find Their Way Home

Fluctuations in magnetic fields, including those caused by solar storms, may interfere with the magnetoreceptors in honey bees so that fewer bees return to their hives from foraging trips. A new study published today in the Journal of Apicultural Research finds that this disruption may be so severe that the flying bees disappear from their hive and that these losses may contribute to colony failure.

Bees can sense and use the earth’s magnetic fields to help them to identify their position and find their route home. This ability called magnetoreception is similar to that found in birds, fish and dolphins. Whilst bee magnetoreception has long been known, this new paper by Dr Thomas Ferrari from Pollen Bank, California, USA, for the first time identifies solar activity as one of the many causes of honey bee disappearance.

Widespread honey bee colony loss is not a new problem, and we now understand that many of these losses are due to various interacting factors including pests, diseases, pesticides and availability of suitable forage. Yet sometimes bees disappear without showing signs of illness, leaving adequate food, healthy brood but only a small cluster of bees. With good husbandry these remaining bees can sometimes be restored into a vibrant colony, and the disorder is not transmitted to other colonies. This situation can be distinguished from swarming behaviour and is one form of colony collapse - the flying bees simply vanish and their colonies fail.

Like humans, bees use several different senses for navigation, but magnetoreception seems to become increasingly important the further the bee is from its hive. Through a series of experiments that subject foraging bees to magnetic fields to disrupt their ability to navigate, Dr Ferrari shows that they are less able to find their way home. Their homing ability also seems to be affected by uncontrolled, natural fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetosphere. The study links documented periods of increased levels of solar storms and disruption to the magnetosphere to increased levels of honey bee colony loss.

IBRA Science Director Norman Carreck says: “For humans, the impact of sunspots on magnetic fields and their effects on bees is a difficult concept to grasp. Perhaps we could liken it to humans, who rely on sight, becoming lost in fog when we have no visual clues to help us identify our location. In unfamiliar territory any landmarks would be harder to recognise, so we find it harder is to work out where we are. This interesting study throws light on a curious aspect of bee biology. It is only part of the story of colony losses, but an aspect which merits further study.”

Natural American Foods Drive Sales with USA-Made Smokey the Bear Honey

New Natural American Foods Line
Benefits USDA Forest Service,
Supports American Beekeepers

ONSTED, Mich. (Aug. 26, 2014) – Natural American Foods, a worldwide leader in honey processing and distribution, is launching nationally  its USA-made, Grade A, Smokey the Bear branded honey for retailers.  Through an innovative partnership with the USDA Forest Service, a portion of the proceeds from every sale of Smokey the Bear honey goes to support educational efforts on wildfire prevention ( In addition, this new line supports American beekeepers by sourcing honey directly from U.S. hives. The honey category is on the rise, growing at four times the rate of that of jelly and jam.

“Smokey the Bear is synonymous with fire prevention, and bear packaging is a familiar sight for retail honey customers.  We married the two ideas to create a...


 October 2014


Honey Flavor Wheel: Do You Know How to Describe the Flavor?

by Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology
and Nematology

DAVIS--When you taste honey, do you know how to describe the flavor?
You probably will when you use the UC Davis Honey and Pollinator Center’s newly published Honey Flavor Wheel.
“This gives a huge lexicon to the tastes and aromas we find when tasting honey,” said Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollinator Center, affiliated with the Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The Honey Flavor Wheel production involved six months of research and development. “We brought together a group of 20 people--trained tasters, beekeepers and food enthusiasts--who worked together with a sensory scientist to come up with almost 100 descriptors,” Harris said. “This wheel will prove invaluable to those who love honey and want to celebrate its nuances.”
“I have always been astonished by the range of flavors in honey,” Harris said. “And its aromas, too. Developing the wheel has been an astonishing learning experience at all levels. I now truly pay attention as I taste many different kinds of foods. I notice flavors from beginning to end.
“I had one wonderful surprise during the tasting series. The sensory scientist we worked with, Sue Langstaff, had been to New Zealand and brought back several honeys. One was a wildflower called Viper’s Bugloss. What an amazing aroma! Imagine sitting in a garden. The sun has just set. And the heady aromas of jasmine and orange blossom together crowd the air. This is the scent of Viper’s Bugloss. An astonishing honey. Now I want more!”
Harris’ favorite honey? Sweet clover. And that’s not to be confused with clover. “Sweet clover is a tall, five-foot wildflower that grows in profusion in Montana, the Dakotas and elsewhere in the high plains of the United States,” Harris said. “It is light in color, spicy with a wonderful cinnamon hint!
“When we tasted it, one of our analytical panel members said: ‘There is really only one word for this. Yum!’
“And that is how I feel, too!” Harris said.
The front of the colorful wheel shows the descriptors, including fruity, floral, herbaceous, woody, spicy, nutty, confectionary, caramel and earthy. No longer can you just say “sweet” when you taste honey or “sour, salty and bitter.” If it’s fruity, can you determine if it’s berry, citrus, dried fruit, tree fruit or tropical fruit? If it falls into the confectionary category, can you pinpoint marshmallow, vanilla, maple, butterscotch, toffee, molasses, cotton candy, crème brûlée, burnt sugar or brown sugar?
There’s even an “animal” category” where you can opine that your sample of honey reminds you of a barnyard. Retired Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who has coordinated and conducted the annual honey tasting at the UC Davis Picnic Day for 38 years, remembers tasting buckwheat honey in Oregon that reminded him of “goat.”
“Maybe the honey bees drank goat pee,” he said, smiling. “Actually, the environmental conditions where the plants are growing can have quite an effect on the odors and flavors of some honeys, while others just seem to be the same everywhere. The ‘goat’ honey that I tasted was buckwheat. In many cases, buckwheat honey seems more similar to blackstrap molasses than anything else. It is normally quite robust, but can be mild. In some cases it has been described as having a ‘barnyard’ odor and flavor--goat? A search of websites suggests that the mild-tasting samples can become more pungent, with off-flavors developing if it’s left sitting around for some time or if it’s been heated.”
The back of the Honey Flavor Wheel relates how to taste honey and shares four honey profiles (Florida tupelo, California orange blossom, Northwest blackberry and Midwestern clover) “so the consumer can get an idea of how to use this innovative product,” Harris said.
The Honey Flavor Wheel, measuring 8.25 inches, sells for $10 each, with all proceeds supporting bee health research at UC Davis. The product is available at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science and soon will be available online, at the UC Davis Campus bookstore and at the downtown Davis Campus Bookstore.

New Data Reflects the Continued Demand for Farmers Markets

Three New USDA Directories Help Connect Consumers and Farmers through Local Food Opportunities

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator Anne Alonzo announced in August that USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory now lists 8,268 markets, an increase of 76 percent since 2008. The data reflects continued demand and growth of farmers markets in every region of the country. Alonzo also announced that AMS is developing three new local food directories that will expand USDA’s support for local and regional foods by providing easy access to the most current information about the local food market.
Alonzo made the announcements at the Dane County Farmers Market in Madison, Wisconsin, the country’s largest producer-only market, where she kicked off the 15th annual “National Farmers Market Week”, from Aug. 3 through Aug. 9, 2014.
“The National Farmers Market Directory numbers reflect the continued importance of farmers markets to American agriculture. Since its inception, the directory has proven to be a valuable tool for accessing up-to-date information about local farmers markets,” Alonzo said. “Farmers markets play an extremely important role for both farmers and consumers. They bring urban and rural communities together while creating economic growth and increasing access to fresh, healthy foods.”
The USDA National Farmers Market Directory, available at, provides information about U.S. farmers market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, and much more. The data is collected via voluntary self-reporting by operating farmers market managers and is searchable by zip code, product mix, and other criteria. The National Farmers Market Directory receives over two million hits annually.

In addition to USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, AMS is adding:

USDA’s National Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) Enterprise Directory - A CSA is a farm or network/association of multiple farms that offer consumers regular deliveries of locally-grown farm products during one or more harvest season(s) on a subscription or membership basis.

USDA’s National Food Hub Directory - A Food Hub is a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products to multiple buyers from multiple producers, primarily local and regional producers, to strengthen the ability of these producers to satisfy local and regional wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.

USDA’s National On-Farm Market Directory -
An On-Farm Market is a farm market managed by a single farm operator that sells agricultural and/or horticultural products directly to consumers from a location on their farm property or on property adjacent to that farm.

USDA invites local food business owners who fall within these categories to list their operational details in the new directories These new directories will be available online early in 2015, giving potential customers, business partners, and community planners easy, one-stop access to the most current information about different sources of local foods.

2014 Directory Highlights
According to USDA’s 2014 National Farmers Market Directory, the states with the most farmers markets reported are California (764 markets), New York (638 markets), Michigan (339 markets), Ohio (311 markets), Illinois (309 markets), Massachusetts (306 markets), Pennsylvania (297 markets), Wisconsin (295 markets), Virginia (249 markets), and Missouri (245 markets). All geographic regions saw increases in their market listings, with the most growth in the South. The 10 states with the biggest increases in the numbers of farmers markets include Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Arkansas, North Carolina, Montana, Florida and Nebraska. Five of these states – Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and North Carolina – are part of USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity, where USDA has increased investment in rural communities through intensive outreach and stronger partnerships.
Farmers market development is a cornerstone of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, which coordinates the Department’s policy, resources, and outreach efforts related to local and regional food systems. Secretary Vilsack has identified strengthening local food systems as one of the four pillars of USDA’s commitment to rural economic development.

Venom Gets Good Buzz as Potential Cancer-fighter

SAN FRANCISCO — Bee, snake or scorpion venom could form the basis of a new generation of cancer-fighting drugs, scientists report. They have devised a method for targeting venom proteins specifically to malignant cells while sparing healthy ones, which reduces or eliminates side effects that the toxins would otherwise cause.
“We have safely used venom toxins in tiny nanometer-sized particles to treat breast cancer and melanoma cells in the laboratory,” says Dipanjan Pan, Ph.D., who led the study. “These particles, which are camouflaged from the immune system, take the toxin directly to the cancer cells, sparing normal tissue.”
Venom from snakes, bees and scorpions contains proteins and peptides which, when separated from the other components and tested individually, can attach to cancer cell membranes. That activity could potentially ...


 September 2014


Scientists Track Gene Activity When Honey Bees Do and Don’t Eat Honey

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Many beekeepers feed their honey bees sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup when times are lean inside the hive. This practice has come under scrutiny, however, in response to colony collapse disorder, the massive -- and as yet not fully explained -- annual die-off of honey bees in the U.S. and Europe. Some suspect that inadequate nutrition plays a role in honey bee declines.

In a new study, described in Scientific Reports, researchers took a broad look at changes in gene activity in response to diet in the Western honey bee (Apis mellifera), and found significant differences occur depending on what the bees eat.

The researchers looked specifically at an energy storage tissue in bees called the fat body, which functions like the liver and fat tissues in humans and other vertebrates.
“We figured that the fat body might be a particularly revealing tissue to examine, and it did turn out to be the case,” said University of Illinois entomology professor and Institute for Genomic Biology director Gene Robinson, who performed the new analysis together with entomology graduate student Marsha Wheeler.

The researchers limited their analysis to foraging bees, which are older, have a higher metabolic rate and less energy reserves (in the form of lipids stored in the fat body) than their hive-bound nest mates -- making the foragers much more dependent on a carbohydrate-rich diet, Robinson said.
“We reasoned that the foragers might be more sensitive to the effects of different carbohydrate sources,” he said.

The researchers focused on gene activity in response to feeding with honey, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), or sucrose. They found that those bees fed honey had a very different profile of gene activity in the fat body than those relying on HFCS or sucrose. Hundreds of genes showed differences in activity in honey bees consuming honey compared with those fed HFCS or sucrose. These differences remained even in an experimental hive that the researchers discovered was infected with deformed wing virus, one of the many maladies that afflict honey bees around the world.

“Our results parallel suggestive findings in humans,” Robinson said. “It seems that in both bees and humans, sugar is not sugar -- different carbohydrate sources can act differently in the body.”

Some of the genes that were activated differently in the honey-eating bees have been linked to protein metabolism, brain-signaling and immune defense. The latter finding supports a 2013 study led by U. of I. entomology professor and department head May Berenbaum, who reported that some substances in honey increase the activity of genes that help the bees break down potentially toxic substances such as pesticides.

“Our results further show honey induces gene expression changes on a more global scale, and it now becomes important to investigate whether these changes can affect bee health,” Robinson said.

Loss Benefits Available to Beekeepers Don’t Miss the Sign-up Deadline

There is potential assistance available to you under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey bees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) authorized under the Agricultural Assistance Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill) for eligible honey bee losses.

The 2014 Farm Bill authorized $20 million each fiscal year for ELAP to provide emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honey bees and farm-raised fish. ELAP covers losses due to an eligible adverse weather or loss condition, including blizzards and wildfires, as determined by the Secretary. More specifically, for honey bee losses, ELAP provides assistance for the loss of honey bee colonies in excess of normal mortality. Also, the program covers damage to honey bee hives and honey bee feed that was purchased or produced for eligible honey bees, including additional feed purchased above normal quantities to sustain honey bees until such time that additional feed becomes available.

ELAP sign-up began at local FSA service centers on April 15, 2014, for eligible honey bee losses suffered during the 2014 program years. If you have suffered 2014 honey bee losses, you must submit an application for payment and a notice of loss to the local FSA office that maintains your farm records; however, if the local FSA office that maintains your farm records is not in close proximity to the physical location where the honey bee loss occurs, you may submit a notice of loss to the local FSA office in the county where the loss occurs.

For 2014 program year (losses occurring on or after October 1, 2013, through September 30, 2014), sign-up ends November 1, 2014. Please contact you local FSA office for types of records needed and to schedule an appointment. FSA will use data furnished by you to determine eligibility for program benefits. Furnishing the data is voluntary; however, without all required data, program benefits will not be approved or provided.

For a Fact Sheet overview of the 2014 Farm Bill USDA ELAP program and beekeeper eligibility, you can access the FSA website:

Losses of Honey Bee Colonies Over the 2013/14 Winter

Preliminary Results From an International Study
The honey bee protection network COLOSS1 has today announced the preliminary results of an international study to investigate honey bee winter colony losses. Data were collected from Israel and Algeria and 19 European countries. In total 17,135 respondents provided overwintering mortality and other data of their honey bee colonies. Collectively, all responding beekeepers managed more than 376,754 colonies. A preliminary analysis of the data show that the mortality rate over the 2013-14 winter varied between countries, ranging from 6% in Norway to 14 % in Portugal, and there were also marked regional differences within most countries. The overall proportion of colonies lost was 9 %, the lowest since the international working group started collecting data in 2007.

These figures compare with losses over the same period of 7.85% in England and Wales (provided by the UK Food and Environment Research Agency). Losses of colonies in the USA between Oct. 1, 2013 and April 1, 2014 were also substantially

The protocol used to collect this COLOSS data has been


 August 2014


EPA is Advancing Pollinator Science and Sharing Useful Information with Growers and Beekeepers

On June 20, 2014, President Obama issued a directive to federal agencies to create a federal strategy to promote honey bee and other pollinator health.  The President’s directive created a Pollinator Health Task Force, co-chaired by EPA and USDA, and charged federal agencies with expanding federal efforts and taking new steps to reverse pollinator losses.  Scientists believe that honey bee losses are likely caused by multiple stressors, including poor bee nutrition, loss of forage lands, parasites, pathogens, and pesticides.  EPA will address the role of pesticides and take action, as appropriate, to protect pollinators.

Two important tools are being released today as part of EPA’s ongoing actions to protect pollinators. These and other EPA pollinator protection efforts complement those of the USDA, the lead federal agency tasked with identifying and mitigating the causes of U.S. honey bee decline.

EPA’s New Pollinator Risk Assessment Guidance:  EPA has posted its new Pollinator Risk Assessment Guidance online. The guidance is part of a long-term strategy to advance the science of assessing the risks posed by pesticides to bees, giving risk managers the means to further improve pollinator protection in our regulatory decisions. Among other things, EPA anticipates the guidance will allow the agency to assess effects from systemic pesticides quantitatively on individual bees, as well as on bee colonies. The guidance, developed in cooperation with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory agency, builds upon our ongoing efforts to advance the science of pollinator risk assessment.

We are already implementing elements of the guidance in our ongoing registration review of neonicotinoid pesticides, as well as in our other pesticide regulatory work. The agency is currently reviewing new data we required of the registrants, including refined semi-field studies under more real-world application conditions. Other data from ongoing full-field studies will take up to several years to complete.

RT25 Data Now Online:  At the request of beekeepers and growers alike, the agency has also posted our Residual Time to 25% Bee Mortality (RT25) Data online. Bees may be susceptible to harm from direct exposure to pesticides sprayed on flowering plants, but pesticide residues generally decrease in toxicity as the spray dries and time passes. Farmers and beekeepers can use EPA’s RT25 data to gauge the amount of time after application that a particular pesticide product remains toxic enough under real-world conditions to kill 25 percent of bees that are exposed to residues on treated plant surfaces. Some have used this information to select pesticide products with shorter periods in which the chemicals remain active and can affect bees.

USDA Provides $8 Million to Help Boost Declining Honey Bee Population

Five Midwest States Receive Additional Incentives to Establish Honey Bee Habitats

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2014 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), today announced $8 million in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) incentives for Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin farmers and ranchers who establish new habitats for declining honey bee populations. More than half of the commercially managed honey bees are in these five states during the summer. Today’s announcement comes in addition to $3 million USDA designated to the Midwest states to support bee populations earlier this year through the Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

“American agricultural production relies on having a healthy honey bee population,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “In recent years, factors such as diseases, parasites, pesticides or habitat loss have contributed to a significant decline in the honey bee population. This $8 million is part of the Administration’s ongoing strategy to reverse these trends and establish more plant habitat on Conservation Reserve Program lands to restore the bee population.”

The new CRP pollinator initiative is designed to further enhance current CRP land, allowing it to provide better access to nutritious pollinator forage. The program allows for managing or replacing existing vegetation, known as ‘covers’, with lower cost, high nutrition seed mixes that can support distinct blooming cycles of plants that benefit pollinators. Honey bees, the pollinator workhorse of U.S. fruit and vegetable agriculture, will have more blooms from which to collect nectar and pollen to sustain and promote colony growth and honey production throughout the growing season. By assisting honey bees, the pollinator initiative helps USDA continue to secure the food supply. More than $15 billion worth of agricultural production, including over 130 fruits and vegetables, depend on the health and well-being of honey bees.

Now is a critical time for efforts to support honey bee populations. The honey bee population in the United States has been declining for decades. The number of managed U.S. honey bee colonies dropped from 6 million in 1947, to just 2.5 million today.

This week, President Obama issued a memorandum directing U.S. government agencies to take additional steps to protect and restore domestic populations of pollinators, including honey bees. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will co-chair a new Pollinator Health Task Force to focus federal efforts to conduct research and take action to help pollinators recover from population losses. This includes a public education campaign to teach people ways that they can help pollinators in their own homes or businesses.

USDA is already actively pursuing solutions to the multiple problems affecting honey bee health. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) maintains four laboratories across the country conducting research into all aspects of bee genetics, breeding, biology and physiology, with special focus on bee nutrition, control of pathogens and parasites, the effects of pesticide exposure and the interactions between each of these factors. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supports bee research efforts through grants and research to Land Grant Universities. The Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conducts national honey bee pest and disease surveys and provides border inspections to prevent new invasive bee pests from entering the U.S. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) and NRCS work on improved forage and habitat for bees through programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and EQIP. Additionally, the Economic Research Service (ERS) is currently examining the direct economic costs of the pollinator problem and the associated indirect economic impacts, and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts limited surveys of honey production, number of colonies, price, and value of production which provide some data essential for research by the other agencies.

The CRP pollinator initiative, administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), takes advantage of the new pollinator seed mixes developed by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. FSA also recently announced the restart of continuous enrollments in CRP, including its Pollinator Habitat Initiative to enroll 100,000 acres of longer lasting meadows of high-quality native wildflowers that support honey bees, pollinators and other wildlife populations.

For more information about new the pollinator initiative in the five Midwestern states, the continuous enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program, and the pollinator habitat initiative, agricultural producers are encouraged to contact their local FSA office or go online at

New Coalition Brings Together Diverse Stakeholders to Improve Honey Bee Health

KEYSTONE, CO, June 18, 2014 – At the Saint Louis Zoo’s Annual Pollinator Dinner last night, The Keystone Center announced the formation of a new Honey Bee Health Coalition. Recognizing that declines in honey bee and pollinator health have put agriculture, healthy ecosystems, and worldwide food security at risk, this diverse coalition was formed to promote collaborative solutions.

Ed Spevak of the Saint Louis Zoo’s WildCare Institute Center for Native Pollinator Conservation and the Zoo’s Curator of Invertebrates introduced the Honey Bee Health Coalition, noting that it brings together beekeepers, growers, researchers, government agencies, agribusinesses, conservation groups, manufacturers and consumer brands, and other key partners in the U.S. and Canada to improve the health of honey bees and other pollinators, ecosystems, and the security of our food supply. Approximately 80% of flowering plants rely on the honey bee and other native and managed pollinators; these plants include crops like almonds, apples, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, squashes, tomatoes, and alfalfa among many others.

“We helped found this Coalition because honey bees support approximately $18 billion of United States food production annually,” said Randy Verhoek, president of the American Honey Producers Association. “In the United States, approximately 30% of managed honey bees now die each winter,” he continued, “compared to around 15% that beekeepers consider acceptable. This makes it increasingly difficult for beekeepers to stay in business, hurting not only the beekeepers and their families but also the farmers and agricultural communities that rely on those bees to pollinate crops.”

“If we do not act collaboratively to find solutions that work for all involved, honey bee health, the ability to produce fruits, nuts and vegetables, and the ability to sustain ecosystems and the economy will all be impacted,” said Jerry Hayes, Honey Bee Health Lead for Monsanto. “A healthy bee population is imperative for our industry and for our supply chain, and we need collaboration across stakeholders. This coalition is a great step in this direction.”

“The Coalition has already made important progress in identifying critical areas for collaboration, including bee forage and nutrition, crop pest management, hive management, and outreach, education and communications,” said Richard Joost, Director of Research for the United Soybean Board. “The Coalition will address these critical areas by building consensus on key strategies, creating a platform for collaboration, and funding partnerships, pilots, and programs.”

The idea for the Coalition first took shape as part of a Clinton Global Initiative Commitment in 2013. In a very short period of time the coalition members have turned that idea into a reality.

Coalition members currently include the Agricultural Retailers Association, the Almond Board of California, the American Beekeeping Federation, the American Honey Producers Association, the American Seed Trade Association, Bayer CropScience, Browning Honey Company, the Canadian Honey Council, CropLife America, CropLife Canada, Ducks Unlimited, DuPont, Eastern Missouri Beekeepers Association, Land O’Lakes, Inc., Monsanto Company, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Pheasants Forever, Project Apis m., the Saint Louis Zoo’s WildCare Institute Center for Native Pollinator Conservation, Syngenta, Unilever, United Soybean Board, the University of Maryland’s Department of Entomology, and the U.S. Canola Association. The Coalition also includes ex officio participation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Funding has been provided by the Agricultural Retailers Association, the American Honey Producers Association, Bayer CropScience, CropLife America, DuPont, Eastern Missouri Beekeepers Association, Land O’Lakes, Inc., Monsanto, Syngenta, Unilever, and the United Soybean Board.

About the Honey Bee Health Coalition

The Honey Bee Health Coalition brings together beekeepers, growers, researchers, government agencies, agribusinesses, conservation groups, manufacturers and brands, and other key partners to improve the health of honey bees and other pollinators. Our mission is to collaboratively implement solutions that will help to achieve a healthy population of honey bees while also supporting healthy populations of native and managed pollinators in the context of productive agricultural systems and thriving ecosystems. The Coalition is focusing on accelerating collective impact to improve honey bee health in four key areas: forage and nutrition, hive management, crop pest management, and communications, outreach and education.

Through its unique network of private and public sector members, the ...


July 2014


Yearly Survey Shows Better Results for Pollinators, but Losses Remain  Significant

USDA Office of
Communications Press Release

USDA Announces Fall Summit on Bee Nutrition and Forage; Launches “Bee Watch” Website to Broadcast  Bee Activity and Increase Public  Awareness of the Role of Pollinators in Crop Production

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2014 - A yearly survey of beekeepers, released today, shows fewer colony losses occurred in the United States over the winter of 2013-2014 than in recent years, but beekeepers say losses remain higher than the level that they consider to be sustainable. According to survey results, total losses of managed honey bee colonies from all causes were 23.2 percent nationwide. That number is above the 18.9 percent level of loss that beekeepers say is acceptable for their economic sustainability, but is a marked improvement over the 30.5 percent loss reported for the winter of 2012-2013, and over the eight-year average loss of 29.6 percent.

More than three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants rely on pollinators, such as bees, to reproduce, meaning pollinators help produce one out of every three bites of food Americans eat.

“Pollinators, such as bees, birds and other insects are essential partners for farmers and ranchers and help produce much of our food supply. Healthy pollinator populations are critical to the continued economic well-being of agricultural producers,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “While we’re glad to see improvement this year, losses are still too high and there is still much more work to be done to stabilize bee populations.”

There is no way to tell why the bees did better this year, according to both Pettis and Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a University of Maryland assistant professor who is the leader of the survey and director of the Bee Informed Partnership. Although the survey, conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland Bee Informed Partnership shows improvement, losses remain above the level that beekeepers consider to be economically sustainable. This year, almost two-thirds of the beekeepers responding reported losses greater than the 18.9 percent threshold.

“Yearly fluctuations in the rate of losses like these only demonstrate how complicated the whole issue of honey bee health has become, with factors such as viruses and other pathogens, parasites like varroa mites, problems of nutrition from lack of diversity in pollen sources, and even sublethal effects of pesticides combining to weaken and kill bee colonies,” said Jeff Pettis, co-author of the survey and research leader of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. ARS is USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency.

The winter losses survey covers the period from October 2013 through April 2014. About 7,200 beekeepers responded to the voluntary survey.

A complete analysis of the bee survey data will be published later this year. The summary of the analysis is at
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also announced today that it will hold a summit this fall aimed at addressing the nutrition and forage needs of pollinators. The summit will take place in Washington D.C. on October 20-21 and will be attended by a consortium of public, private, and non-governmental organizations. Attendees will discuss the most recent research related to pollinator loss and work to identify solutions.

Additionally, today USDA launched the People’s Garden Apiary bee cam at the USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. as an additional effort to increase public awareness about the reduction of bee populations and to inform Americans about actions they can take to support the recovery of pollinator populations. The USDA “Bee Watch” website ( will broadcast honey bee hive activity live over the Internet 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Created in 2010, the People’s Garden Apiary is home to two beehives. The bees are Italian queens, the most common bee stock and the same used in many honey bee colonies throughout the United States.

In March of 2014, Secretary Vilsack created a Pollinator Working Group, under the leadership of Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, to better coordinate efforts, leverage resources, and increase focus on pollinator issues across USDA agencies. USDA personnel from ten Department agencies (Agricultural Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Farm Services Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Economic Research Service, Forest Service, Agricultural Marketing Service, Risk Management Agency and Rural Development) meet regularly to coordinate and evaluate efforts as USDA strives toward improving pollinator health and ensuring our pollinators continuing contributions to our nation’s environment and food security.
Earlier this year, USDA made $3 million available to help agriculture producers in five states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan) provide floral forage habitats to benefit pollinating species on working lands. The Honey Bee Pollinator Effort is intended to encourage farmers and ranchers to grow alfalfa, clover and other flowering habitat for bees and other pollinators.

The President’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal provides $71 million for pollinator health activities through multiple USDA agencies. This includes an increase of $40 million in combined mandatory and discretionary funds to advance efforts, in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency and other Federal partners, to respond to the decline in honey bee health and ensure their recovery. This coordinated effort is focused on targeted research that addresses multifactorial stressors, their interaction, and identification and implementation of measures to improve and increase habitat available to pollinators on Federal and private lands. In addition, this initiative will help prevent introductions of invasive bees, bee diseases, and parasites; document the status of honey bee health factors associated with bee losses and honey bee production; and work with stakeholders on best management practices. A coordinated communication strategy, including outreach and education, will engage the public to help solve this important challenge.

Bee Biodiversity Boosts Crop Yields

Research from North Carolina State University shows that blueberries produce more seeds and larger berries if they are visited by more diverse bee species, allowing farmers to harvest significantly more pounds of fruit per acre.

“We wanted to understand the functional role of diversity,” says Dr. Hannah Burrack, an associate professor of entomology at NC State and co-author of a paper on the research. “And we found that there is a quantifiable benefit of having a lot of different types of bees pollinating a crop.”

The researchers looked at blueberries in North Carolina because it is an economically important and well understood crop that relies on insect pollination.

Within the blueberry fields, the researchers identified five distinct groups of bee species: honey bees, bumble bees, southeastern blueberry bees, carpenter bees and a functionally similar collection of species that they termed small native bees.

The researchers found that for each group above one, farmers saw an increase of $311 worth of yield per acre. For example, if two bee groups pollinated a field, the boost would be $311 per acre; for three bee groups, the boost would be $622 per acre, and so on.
“For North Carolina blueberries as a whole, we calculate the benefit of each group to be approximately $1.42 million worth of yield each year,” Burrack says.

“We think the benefit stems from differences in behavior between bee groups, in part depending on the weather,” explains Dr. David Tarpy, an associate professor of entomology at NC State and co-author of the paper. For example, southeastern blueberry bees work well regardless of inclement weather, whereas honey bees only perform at their best on calm, warm, sunny days.

“This can make a big difference, since blueberries bloom in March and April in North Carolina,” Burrack says. “That means the weather can swing from great to awful, as we saw this year.”
There is some research showing that having native, flowering plants near blueberry fields can increase native bee populations over time, but the researchers are now planning to see what role crop management can play in fostering bee diversity at crop sites.

“We’ve shown that there is a real financial benefit associated with biodiversity,” Burrack says. “The next step is to figure out how to foster that diversity in practical terms.”

Happy Bees Down on the Farm in Indiana

How A Beekeeper And A Grower Created A New Home For Honey bees

 by Dr. Becky Langer
Project Manager
Bayer Bee Care Program in North America

HANOVER, Ind. – Eleven years ago, a pilot flew into the grass runway airport that Ginger Davidson and her husband, Rich, own and manage near this southern Indiana community and sent her life in a new

During a conversation, the pilot mentioned he was a beekeeper and Ginger said she was thinking about becoming a beekeeper. “The next thing I know, he was flying back in, helping me put my bees in my hives,” said Davidson. “I started with two hives and it kind of gets under your skin. I am up to 60 hives right now.”

Davidson, who operates her honey bee business under the trade name, Geez Beez, sells honey as well as bees and queens. “My husband thinks it’s not too profitable,” she said. “The bee side is very profitable and the honey side helps cover expenses. I like to say that I break even but I’m working on it.”

Davidson’s apiary was hit by a tornado in March 2012 and she lost half of her hives. When she was chosen to receive a 2013 U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) North Central Region SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) Farmer/Rancher grant to promote sustainable beekeeping, she needed more bees so she purchased an apiary to replace lost hives and expand her operation. That meant she had to find more locations to place her hives – then fate stepped in at a USDA pasture management seminar.

“When you have 110 acres of which 50 are grass, you spend a lot of time mowing,” explained Davidson. “You try to find ways to reduce mowing time and to best utilize the land in airport friendly ways.” Davidson attended the seminar to learn new methods to manage the airport’s acreage. She mentioned to the instructor, Robert Zupancic who works out of the USDA’s office in nearby North Vernon, Ind., that she was looking for land for her honey bees. Zupancic knew exactly who to call.

The Bairds To The Rescue
“We have been friends with Robert for years and he knew that we have had beekeepers on our land in the past to help pollinate our pumpkins and squash,” said Linda Baird, whose family operates a farm about 30 miles from Davidson’s home. “We think it is mutually beneficial and we need the pollination.”

The 2013 Indiana Farm Family of the Year, Linda and her, husband, Kevin, along with sons Michael and Jared, are third-generation farmers, operating under the trade name, Cornucopia Farm. In addition to growing pumpkins and squash, they also grow corn, soybeans, and mums, bale straw for sale, and have a few cattle. On their 375-acre farm, they operate a seasonal market, have school tours to educate the public about agriculture, and, somewhat legendary locally, host an annual corn maze event.

“My husband and I went to meet them,” said Davidson. “We wanted to be sure the bees would be safe.” The Davidson’s were particularly concerned about chemical spraying near their hives, but the Bairds make sure that is not a problem.

“If we spray, and we only spray on as needed basis, we spray when the bees are in their hives,” said Baird. “I think if we all follow label directions and do the right thing, it will help the bees.”

Both Davidson and Baird are aware of concerns that pesticides may be causing honey bee colony decline. “I don’t believe pesticides are the only thing causing the problems,” said Davidson. “I think they (bees) are getting stresses from many

Davidson said the key is communication between beekeepers and growers. “We need to communicate more,” she said. “Growers don’t understand the beekeepers and the beekeepers don’t understand the growers. We need each other to survive.”
Baird agrees. “The bees are no trouble,” she said. “We think more people should help to increase our bee population…(and) providing habitat for them. That is what we are doing.”
Bringing together growers and beekeepers to have a positive impact on honey bee health is the goal of a broad-based stewardship campaign introduced during the spring of 2013 by Bayer CropScience North America. The campaign, launched under the acronym, C.A.R.E. urges growers to:

  • Communicate planting activities and be aware of beekeepers in the area;
  • Be Aware of wind speed, direction during planting;
  • Help Reduce potential risk to pollinators by using Fluency Agent, a new seed lubricant for corn and soybeans; and
  • Ensure seed is planted correctly.

“Linda Baird and Ginger Davidson are an excellent example of what happens when beekeepers and growers collaborate,” said Dick Rogers, apiologist and research manager, Bayer Bee Care Center in North America. “We believe that this type of collaboration will go a long way in helping all of us protect honey bees.”

In addition, there are a few intangible benefits. “It’s been a great relationship so far; the bees like it there,” said Davidson. “I have placed an observation hive in their store so the kids can see the bees working.”

On the Baird side of the ledger, Jared Baird, a sophomore at Purdue University, signed up for a beekeeping class this year. And for Linda, she and the bees couldn’t be doing better, “I’ve got more bees than I have had in the past, so I am happy.”

Researching an Endangered Relationship

Imperfect together? Climate change could endanger the relationship between bees and the plants they pollinate say NJIT Researchers.
The timing has been ....


June 2014


80,000+ Beehives Damaged or Dead; Beekeepers Meet With EPA

Courtesy of Pollinator Stewardship Council

In March the Pollinator Stewardship Council received reports of bee kills at the end of the almond bloom. A meeting with EPA was held by Pollinator Stewardship Council and the American Beekeeping Federation, March 24 in Los Banos, California to discuss the pollinator losses during almond pollination. More than 70 beekeepers attended in person and on a conference call.

Bees were released from almond pollination, and beekeepers began to see the effects of a tank mix that caused dead adult bees, and dead, dying, and deformed brood. A poll taken of the 75 beekeepers at the meeting showed 80,000 colonies damaged: 75% of them severely damaged. Additional reports place an average loss of 60% of hives in almonds as being impacted. Of that 60%, 40% lost adult bees and had dying brood, 20% of the hives were dead completely. These losses were experienced by beekeepers who wintered in California, as well as those who brought their bees into almonds from southern states.

The meeting addressed the bee kills in almonds, and the new label language for foliar applications of clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and the two new products tolfenpyrad and cyantraniliprole. The majority of the meeting addressed the damages beekeepers suffered from a tank mix that included an insect growth regulator (IGR) and a fungicide. The tank mix was applied “per the label.” However, the IGR has decimated the ability of beekeepers to make splits for the next crop pollination, to breed queens, or to make packages of bees. Many beekeepers expressed grave concern that the tank mix was applied in one area, but honey bees from other orchards, under another grower’s pollination contract received damage due to drift, and foraging range. Some of the bee damage was not evident until truckloads of bees returned to their southern homes. The effects of fungicides and IGRs were delayed just enough that beekeepers did not realize the impact until their hives were released from pollinating almonds. Research has shown fungicides are detrimental to pollinators. (Fungicides can reduce, hinder pollination potential of honey bees
Research and experience has shown night applications of pesticides in almonds causes less damage to pollinators. Beekeepers at the Los Banos meeting stated they have been experiencing damage to their bees in almonds for six years. The damages decreased when growers applied products at night, or did not apply any products during the bloom; but this year some practices changed, and bees were heavily impacted. The impact was so great a few beekeepers said they would not return to almonds, as they cannot take these losses to their bees and their business.

The bee kills in almonds at the end of this season were due to products used “per the label.” The fungicides, the IGRs were all used per the label. The tank mixing of products were all used per the label. Directions on pesticide labels generally state the herbicide, fungicide, insecticide “is physically and biologically compatible with many registered pesticides, fertilizers or micronutrients . . . If you have no experience with the combination you are considering, you should conduct a test to determine physical compatibility. To determine physical compatibility, add the recommended proportions of each chemical with the same proportion of water as will be present in the chemical supply tank into a suitable container, mix thoroughly, and allow to stand for five minutes. If the combination remains mixed, or can be readily re-mixed, the mixture is considered physically compatible.” One beekeeper described tank mixing this way, “The pesticide label basically instructs you to take a quart jar and mix the products you want to use into the jar. If it does not ‘blow-up’ go ahead and mix the full chemicals and apply to the crop.” (Pesticide Mixtures Have Damaging Effects on Bees

Earlier we reported that the EPA stated the new pesticide label language will now only be required for foliar applications of clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and the two new products tolfenpyrad and cyantraniliprole. At the Los Banos meeting the representatives from EPA stated they had not seen the letter from Mr. Jim Jones to the bee industry, and they were not aware of the issues the bee industry had concerning the new label language. EPA listened politely, but made no promise to do anything, stating that changing label wording is a long and drawn out process, and one that cannot be done quickly. Beekeepers on the other hand did make promises: promises to add a pesticide surcharge to pollination contracts next year; promises that if no enforceable change to labels is made before next years’ pollination to stay in Georgia or Florida and make honey in a safe environment rather than risk another season of severe hive damage. Beekeepers at the meeting asked EPA for two things: adding a statement on the label instructing applicators when and how to apply pesticides to not damage pollinators; and curtail the use of tank mixing.

Paramount Farms, the largest almond grower in the world, testified at the meeting they use no crop protection products during almond pollination season, and have found their yields improved when they made the decision to better time their pesticide use.
At the Los Banos meeting March 24 the beekeepers did a rough tally of total estimated losses. 1.7M colonies supplied by 1300 commercial beekeepers were needed to pollinate almonds. Even with the drought, all available honey bees were utilized for almond pollination. Of the 1.7M total colonies, it is estimated fifteen to twenty-five percent were damaged (dead, loss of brood, loss of adult foragers in full or in part) which equals 255,000 to 425,000 colonies of honey bees severely impacted in almonds. The conservative value of these losses is $63,750,000 to $106,250,000; however beekeepers are still assessing their damages. This figure does not include the loss of viable colonies to satisfy subsequent pollination contracts. This figure does not take into account the losses in selling bulk packages of honey bees, queens, or frames of brood to establish new hives. With severely damaged hives some beekeepers have been forced to cancel orders.

Almonds are the beginning of the crop pollination season. Almonds are the first crop honey bees pollinate. What happens to honey bees in almonds affects the ability of crop pollination services to apples, cranberries, canola, tangelos, blueberries, squash, watermelon, kiwi, plums, apricots, cherries, seed crops, and so much of our vegetables and fruit. One beekeeper who pollinates Washington apples after almonds was short 1200 hives due to his losses during almond pollination. What happens to honey bees in almonds does not stay in almonds; it affects how many bees are available to pollinate other crops, the cost of pollinating those crops, and the cost of the food you buy to feed your family.
The Pollinator Stewardship Council works with beekeepers to collect reports of bee kills across the U.S. in rural, suburban, and urban areas. Please contact the Pollinator Stewardship Council to file your bee kill report at 832-727-9492 or info@pollinator

Bayer CropScience Opens North American Bee Care Center

State-of-the-Art Facility Dedicated to Improving Honey Bee Health through Research and Development, Education

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – In celebration of Bayer CropScience’s more than 25-year commitment to pollinator health, the company celebrated the grand opening of its North American Bee Care Center, at its North American headquarters in Research Triangle Park. The $2.4 million center brings together significant technological, scientific and academic resources, with goals of promoting improved honey bee health, product stewardship and sustainable agriculture. A 6,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, the Center will complement the Eastern Bee Care Technology Station in Clayton, N.C., and a Bee Care Center at the joint global headquarters campus of Bayer CropScience and Bayer Animal Health in Monheim, Germany.

The North American Bee Care Center, part of the company’s $12 million investment in bee health in 2014, brings together some of the brightest minds in agriculture and apiology to develop comprehensive solutions for bee health. This includes entomologists and apiarists, graduate researchers and more, all of whom are invested in the continuation of Bayer CropScience’s commitment to honey bee health excellence. The North American Bee Care Center team includes Becky Langer, Bee Care program manager; Dick Rogers, M.Sc., bee health expert and manager, Bee Care Center Research Program; Dr. Ana Cabrera, pollinator safety and varroa mite research scientist; Sarah Myers, apiarist and event manager, Bee Care Center; Kim Huntzinger, bee health laboratory diagnostic specialist; Sadye Howald, field apiarist in Indiana; and Jim Dempster, apiarist at Eastern Bee Care Center Technology Station in Clayton, N.C.

The center houses a full laboratory with a teaching and research apiary, honey extraction and hive maintenance space; interactive learning center; and meeting, training and presentation facilities for beekeepers, farmers and educators, as well as office space for a full staff and graduate students. On-site honey bee colonies, pollinator-friendly gardens and a screened hive observation area serve to further education and collaboration that will foster significant improvement in honey bee health and stewardship measures and best management practices.

“Honey bees are essential to modern agriculture production, and our North American Bee Care Center will help facilitate the research needed to help honey bees meet the increasing global demand for crop pollination,” said Jim Blome, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience LP. “Healthy honey bees mean a more substantial and nutritious food supply for us all, and we understand the many complex issues affecting honey bees’ ability to thrive, including disease, parasites such as Varroa mites, genetics and more.”

A hub for worldwide honey bee health initiatives, the Center supports scientific research and development, and education of the public on honey bees’ integral role in agriculture. The Center serves as a hub for premier technological, scientific and academic resources to protect and improve honey bee health and sustainable agriculture. Additionally, the North American Bee Care Center is targeting LEED Silver certification. The environmentally sustainable facility will help Bayer CropScience reduce its carbon footprint in an effort to promote corporate environmental stewardship. Products and technology developed at the Center will control parasitic mites in honey bee hives, help manage a Healthy Bees program, assess the safety of crop protection products to bees, and much more. Other activities conducted on-site include a Sentinel Hive monitoring program, varroagate testing and development, Varroa resistance monitoring and varroacide screening.

“Bayer CropScience actively seeks to ....

 May 2014


Nectar: A Sweet Reward from Plants to Attract Pollinators

Flowering plants need sugar transporter SWEET9 for nectar production

Evolution is based on diversity, and sexual reproduction is key to creating a diverse population that secures competitiveness in nature. Plants as largely immobile organisms had to solve a problem: they needed to find ways to spread their genetic material beyond individual flowers. To make sure that flying pollinators such as insects, birds and bats come to the flowers to pick up pollen, plants evolved special organs, the nectaries, to attract and reward the animals. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena (Germany) and their colleagues from Stanford and Duluth (USA) have identified the sugar transporter that plays a key role in plants’ nectar production. SWEET9 transports sugar into extracellular areas of the nectaries where nectar is secreted. Thus, SWEET9 may have been crucial for the evolution of flowering plants that attract and reward pollinators with sweet nectar. (Nature, March 16, 2014, doi: 10.1038/nature13082)

Despite the obvious importance of nectar, the process by which plants manufacture and secrete it has remained a mystery. New research from a team led by Wolf Frommer, director of the Plant Biology Department, Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, in collaboration with the Carter lab in Minnesota and the Baldwin lab at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, now identified key components of the sugar synthesis and secretion mechanisms. Their work also suggests that the components were recruited for this purpose early during the evolution of flowering plants. Their work is published by Nature.
The team used advanced techniques to search for transporters that could be involved in sugar transport and were present in nectaries. They identified SWEET9 as a key player in three diverse flowering plant species, thale cress Arabidopsis thaliana, turnip Brassica rapa and coyote tobacca Nicotiana attenuata, and demonstrated that it is essential for nectar production.

In specially engineered plants lacking SWEET9, the team found that nectar secretion did not occur but sugars rather accumulated in the stems. They also identified genes necessary for the production of sucrose, which turn out to be also essential for nectar secretion. Taken together, their work shows that sucrose is manufactured in the nectary and then transported into the extracellular space of nectaries by SWEET9. In this interstitial area the sugar is converted into a mixture of sucrose and other sugars, namely glucose and fructose. In the plants tested these three sugars comprise the majority of solutes in the nectar, a prerequisite for collection by bees for honey production.

“SWEETs are key transporters for transporting photosynthates from leaves to seeds and we believe that the nectarial SWEET9 sugar transporter evolved around the time of the formation of the first floral nectaries, and that this process may have been a major step in attracting and rewarding pollinators and thus increasing the genetic diversity of plants,” Frommer said.

Honey is a New Approach to Fighting Antibiotic Resistance: How Sweet It Is!

Honey, that delectable condiment for breads and fruits, could be one sweet solution to the serious, ever-growing problem of bacterial resistance to antibiotics, researchers said here today.

Medical professionals sometimes use honey successfully as a topical dressing, but it could play a larger role in fighting infections, the researchers predicted. Their study was part of the 247th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.

The meeting, attended by thousands of scientists, features more than 10,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics. It is being held at the Dallas Convention Center and area hotels through Thursday.

“The unique property of honey lies in its ability to fight infection on multiple levels, making it more difficult for bacteria to develop resistance,” said study leader Susan M. Meschwitz, Ph.D. That is, it uses a combination of weapons, including hydrogen peroxide, acidity, osmotic effect, high sugar concentration and polyphenols — all of which actively kill bacterial cells, she explained. The osmotic effect, which is the result of the high sugar concentration in honey, draws water from the bacterial cells, dehydrating and killing them.

In addition, several studies have shown that honey inhibits the formation of biofilms, or communities of slimy disease-causing bacteria, she said. “Honey may also disrupt quorum sensing, which weakens bacterial virulence, rendering the bacteria more susceptible to conventional antibiotics,” Meschwitz said. Quorum sensing is the way bacteria communicate with one another, and may be involved in the formation of biofilms. In certain bacteria, this communication system also controls the release of toxins, which affects the bacteria’s pathogenicity, or their ability to cause disease.

Meschwitz, who is with Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., said another advantage of honey is that unlike conventional antibiotics, it doesn’t target the essential growth processes of bacteria. The problem with this type of targeting, which is the basis of conventional antibiotics, is that it results in the bacteria building up resistance to the drugs.
Honey is effective because it is filled with healthful polyphenols, or antioxidants, she said. These include the phenolic acids, caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid and ellagic acid, as well as many flavonoids. “Several studies have demonstrated a correlation between the non-peroxide antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of honey and the presence of honey phenolics,” she added. A large number of laboratory and limited clinical studies have confirmed the broad-spectrum antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties of honey, according to Meschwitz.

She said that her team also is finding that honey has antioxidant properties and is an effective antibacterial. “We have run standard antioxidant tests on honey to measure the level of antioxidant activity,” she explained. “We have separated and identified the various antioxidant polyphenol compounds. In our antibacterial studies, we have been testing honey’s activity against E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, among others.”

Asian Hornet trap launched to Combat the Latest Honey Bee Pest in Europe

Beekeepers now have a weapon to counter the Asian hornet, a new invasive honeybee pest that is threatening honey bee colonies across Europe.

ApiShield, just launched by Vita (Europe) Ltd, has been designed specifically to trap the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina). The trap doesn’t require any bait or chemicals and beekeepers can easily incorporate it into existing husbandry routines.

The Asian hornet is native to China, but arrived in a pottery consignment in Bordeaux, France in 2004. Since then they have devastated honey bee colonies in many parts of France and have already spread into Belgium, NW Spain, N Portugal and Italy and might reach the UK at some point in the future.

The hornets’ mode of attack is highly organized. In the summer a few hornets terrorize honeybee colonies by picking them off one by one as they return to the hive. Faced with this threat, the honey bees eventually stay home for safety, but then weaken by starvation. At the end of the season more hornets arrive and swoop en masse to invade the hive and consume the bees and the hive stores.

Native honey bees have no defense against the marauding hornets. Removing nests is usually impractical because, although very large, they are built high in trees and do not become easily visible until leaf fall in Autumn when the damage to honeybee colonies has been done.

ApiShield, the new trap from Vita, lures hornets into a trap in the bottom of the beehive. The trap, which acts as a base for a hive, has a modified front entrance for the honey bees and decoy side entrances that attract the Asian hornet and other flying honey bee pests. The hornets try to enter the hive by the unguarded side entrances, but become trapped in the false bottom, and then dehydrate and die. The beekeeper simply removes the dead hornets as required.

Dr. Max Watkins, technical director at Vita, explained how the trap foils invaders, but not the hive’s inhabitants: “The hive’s honey bees don’t use the decoy side entrances because when the base is first installed the side entrances are blocked and the bees quickly learn to use the proper front entrance. They then guard the front entrance in their usual way. The side entrances are then opened.

“Asian hornets, wasps and even robber bees wanting to invade the hive find the front entrance guarded and opt for the undefended decoy side entrances. The hornets can smell the bees through the side entrances but when they enter they cannot reach them because of the wire mesh floor above them. The hornets are trapped and cannot exit because of the funnel design of the decoy entrances. They dehydrate and die and can be easily removed by the beekeeper.”

The trap, invented under the name of Apiburg® by Prof. Michael Ifantidis in Greece, has been rigorously tested in France and Greece where hornets are already decimating honey bee colonies.

Although designed specifically to trap the Asian hornet, field trials have proved it to be very effective in catching other honey bee pests and predators including many wasps, wax moth and other types of hornet. Robber bees, often the cause of transmitting Varroa or other disease between hives, also get fooled into using the trap entrances. In addition, ApiShield can act as a varroa screen to measure mite infestation levels.

Dr. Watkins added: “The ApiShield trap is elegant, simple, and requires little maintenance. Its proven efficacy goes far beyond protection against the Asian hornet. Even before the Asian hornet arrives in a region, it will be worthwhile installing a trap to act as an early-warning sentinel. At the end of the season, a trap is especially effective in trapping Asian hornet queens seeking winter shelter -- trapped queens in autumn reduce the population for the following season thereby acting as a severe brake on the hornet’s advance.”
Unlike bait traps, ApiShield does not trap non-target pollinators such as flies and butterflies. ApiShield is also far more effective than bait traps and does not require bait replenishment -- ever-present honey bee pheromones act as the bait.

Apishield is now available for all major hive types including British National, Dadant and Langstroth. Currently available in hard-wearing pine wood, a polystyrene version is also planned for the near future. (

Virtual Bees Help to Unravel Complex Causes of Colony Decline

New Computer Model to Help Scientists, Beekeepers and Regulators to Understand Multiple Environmental Effects on Honey Bee Colonies

Scientists have created an ingenious computer model that simulates a honey bee colony over the course of several years. The BEEHAVE model, published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology, was created to investigate the losses of honeybee colonies that have been reported in recent years and to identify the best course of action for improving honey bee health.

A team of scientists, led by Professor Juliet Osborne from the Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter (and previously at Rothamsted Research), developed BEEHAVE, which simulates the life of a colony including the queen’s egg laying, brood care by nurse bees and foragers collecting nectar and pollen in a realistic landscape.
Prof. Juliet Osborne said: “It is a real challenge to understand which factors are most important in affecting bee colony growth and survival. This is the first opportunity to simulate the effects of several factors together, such as food availability, mite infestation and disease, over realistic time scales.”

The model allows researchers, beekeepers and anyone interested in bees, to predict colony development and honey production under different environmental conditions and beekeeping practices. To build the simulation, the scientists brought together existing honey bee research and data to develop a new model that integrated processes occurring inside and outside the hive.

The first results of the model show that colonies infested with a common parasitic mite (varroa) can be much more vulnerable to food shortages. Effects within the first year can be subtle and might be missed by beekeepers during routine management. But the model shows that these effects build up over subsequent years leading to eventual failure of the colony, if it was not given an effective varroa treatment.

BEEHAVE can also be used to investigate potential consequences of pesticide applications. For example, the BEEHAVE model can simulate the impact of increased loss of foragers. The results show that colonies may be more resilient to this forager loss than previously thought in the short-term, but effects may accumulate over years, especially when colonies are also limited by food supply.

BEEHAVE simulations show that good food sources close to the hive will make a real difference to the colony and that lack of forage over extended periods leaves them vulnerable to other environmental factors. Addressing forage availability is critical to maintaining healthy hives and colonies over the long term.

Prof. Osborne added: “The use of this model by a variety of stakeholders could stimulate the development of new approaches to bee management, pesticide risk assessment and landscape management. The advantage is that each of these factors can be tested in a virtual environment in different combinations, before testing in the field. Whilst BEEHAVE is mathematically very complex, it has a user-friendly interface and a fully accessible manual so it can be explored and used by a large variety of interested people”.
BEEHAVE is freely available at

The project was funded by an Industrial Partnership Award from BBSRC with co-funding from Syngenta. It involved collaboration between ecologists and modellers from Exeter (Prof. Osborne, Dr Becher and Dr Kennedy, who started the project at Rothamsted Research), Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ Leipzig (Prof. Grimm and Ms Horn) and Syngenta (Dr P Thorbek).

Prof. Osborne’s research group studies the behaviour and ecology of bees and other pollinators. They started the project when based at Rothamsted Research and moved to the University of Exeter in 2012. They work with beekeepers, conservation organisations, farmers and industry with the aim of conserving bee populations, and protecting and promoting wild flower and crop pollination.

Prof. Melanie Welham, BBSRC’s Science Director, said: “Healthy bees are vital to our food supply as they pollinate many important crops. This virtual hive is an important new research tool to help us understand how changes to the environment impact on bee health.”
Dr. Pernille Thorbek (Syngenta) adds: “Studying several stressors in multifactorial field trials is immensely complicated and difficult to do. BEEHAVE is an important new tool which can simulate and explore interactions between stressors and can improve understanding and focus experimental work.”

“BEEHAVE can help explore which changes to agricultural landscapes and beekeeping practices will benefit honey bees the most.”

Dr. David Aston, President of the British Beekeepers Association, commented that: “This model will be an important tool in helping us to understand the interactions and impact of the diverse stressors to which honey bee colonies can be exposed.

“Not only will it be invaluable for scientific research purposes but it will also be an important training tool to help beekeepers better understand the impacts of their husbandry and other factors on the health and survival of their colonies.

Historic Illinois Bee Castle

James Canty Morrison was born in Iredale County, North Carolina Nov. 21, 1813. In 1834 he came to Hillsboro and lived one year in the home of his sister, Elizabeth D. Witherspoon, and her husband . . . a year later he came to Christian County and settled here on this property.
James Canty did very well for himself and the community. Based on records from 1891 he owned a total of 772 acres, 319 acres to the North and 453 acres to the East.

Mr. Morrison built the Bee Castle here on his property. The Bee Castle was an original out-building of the Morrison Farm. The Bee Castle (which is about the size of a garage) has two rows of slots about one inch wide and six inches long running along the sides of the building. A board extends outward forming a runway for the bees. On the inside of the building there were bee hives for each of the entrances; the bees would enter from the outside through the slots, deposit the honey and thereby fill the hives. The hives would be protected from the weather and the beekeeper could walk down the center, extract the honey and repair hive bodies from the center inside the building.

April 2014


Managed Honey Bees Linked to New Diseases in Wild

Diseases that are common in managed honey bee colonies are now widespread in the UK’s wild bumblebees, according to research published in Nature. The study suggests that some diseases are being driven into wild bumblebee populations from managed honey bees.

Dr. Matthias Fürst and Professor Mark Brown from Royal Holloway University of London (who worked in collaboration with Dr. Dino McMahon and Professor Robert Paxton at Queen’s University Belfast, and Professor Juliet Osborne working at Rothamsted Research and the University of Exeter) say the research provides vital information for beekeepers across the world to ensure honey bee management supports wild bee populations.

Dr Fürst, from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, said: “Wild and managed bees are in decline at national and global scales. Given their central role in pollinating wildflowers and crops, it is essential that we understand what lies behind these declines. Our results suggest that emerging diseases, spread from managed bees, may be an important cause of wild bee decline”.

This research assessed common honeybee diseases to determine if they could pass from honey bees to bumblebees. It showed that deformed wing virus (DWV) and the fungal parasite Nosema ceranae - both of which have major negative impacts on honey bee health - can infect worker bumblebees and, in the case of DWV, reduce
their lifespan. Honey bees and bumblebees were then collected from 26 sites across the UK and screened for the presence of the parasites. Both parasites were widespread in bumblebees and honey bees across the UK.

Dr. Fürst explained: “One of the novel aspects of our study is that we show that deformed
wing virus, which is one of the main causes of honey bee deaths worldwide, is not only broadly present in bumblebees, but is actually replicating inside them. This means that it is acting as a real disease; they are not just carriers.” The researchers also looked at how the
diseases spread and studied genetic similarities between DWV in different pollinator populations. Three factors suggest that honey bees are spreading the parasites into wild bumblebees: honey bees have higher background levels of the virus and the fungus than bumblebees; bumblebee infection is predicted by patterns of honey bee infection; and honey bees and bumblebees at the same sites share genetic strains of DWV. “We have known for a long time that parasites are behind declines in honey bees,” said Professor Brown. “What our data show is that these same pathogens are circulating widely across our wild and managed pollinators. Infected honey bees can leave traces of disease, like a fungal spore or virus particle, on the flowers that they visit and these may then infect wild bees.”

While recent studies have provided anecdotal reports of the presence of honey bee parasites in other pollinators, this is the first study to determine the epidemiology of these parasites across the landscape. The results suggest an urgent need for management
recommendations to reduce the threat of emerging diseases to our wild and managed

Professor Brown added: “National societies and agencies, both in the UK and globally, currently manage so-called honey bee diseases on the basis that they are a threat only to honey bees. While they are doing great work, our research shows that this premise is not true, and that the picture is much more complex. Policies to manage these diseases need to take into account threats to wild pollinators and be designed to reduce the impact of these diseases not just on managed honey bees, but on our wild bumblebees too.”

National Honey Board Funds New Honey Bee Research Projects Focusing on Honey Bee Health

Firestone, Colo., The National Honey Board has approved funding for eight new research projects focusing on honey bee health. The Board’s Research Committee, with input from an independent panel of experts, selected the projects from 25 proposals received from researchers around the world. The total dollar commitment for the eight projects is $235,646. In addition, the Board’s 2014 budget includes $50,500 for ongoing bee research projects from prior years.

The eight new projects approved for funding in 2014 include:

  • 1. “Are virus levels reduced in honey bees from propolis-stimulated hives?,” Dr. Kim Mogen, University of Wisconsin - River Falls.
  • 2. “Drought stressed sunflowers: Impacts on pollen nutritional value and concentrations of seed treated pesticides,” Dr. Dennis vanEngelsdorp, University of Maryland.
  • 3. “Probiotic use of Acetobacteriacea Alpha 2.2 for improving honey bee colony health,” Dr. Vanessa Corby- Harris and Dr. Kirk E. Anderson, USDA Carl Hayden Bee Research Center.
  • 4. “Evaluating potential of predatory mite (Stratiolaelaps scimitus) as a biological control agent for Varroa mites and testing Amitraz (Apivar) efficacy and mite resistance,” Dr. Ramesh Sagili and Ashrafun Nessa, Oregon State University.
  • 5. “A proteomic approach to evaluate effects of fumagillin and discover new target genes for treatment of Nosema ceranae in honey bees,” Dr. Leellen Solter, University of Illinois.
  • 6. “Characterizing the contribution of supplemental feeding to honey bee (Apis mellifera) colony strength, Nosema virulence, and detoxification gene activity,” Dr. Daniel Schmehl, University of Florida.
  • 7. “Community-based evaluation of a novel resistance mechanism of bees against Varroa,” Dr. Greg Hunt, Purdue University.
  • 8. “Field exposure and toxicity of neonicotinoid insecticides to honey bees via flowering field margins: The importance of continual pesticide exposure in bee forage,” Dr. Jonathan Lundgren and Dr. Christina Mogren, USDA-ARS, Brookings, SD. Scott Fausti, South Dakota State University.

Honey bee research projects funded by the National Honey Board are listed on the
Board’s website, Visitors can click on the “Honey Industry” tab and
then go to “Honey and Bee Research” for further information on ongoing and completed
projects. The call for proposals for  2015 funding is expected to be posted on
the Board’s website by the end of August, with proposals due by mid-November.

The National Honey Board is an industry-funded agriculture promotion group that works to educate consumers about the benefits and uses for honey and honey products through research, marketing and promotional programs.

March 2014

Pathogenic Plant Virus Jumps to Honey Bee

A viral pathogen that typically infects plants has been found in honey bees and could help explain their decline. Researchers working in the U.S. and Beijing, China report their findings in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.
The routine screening of bees for frequent and rare viruses “resulted in the serendipitous detection of Tobacco Ringspot Virus, or TRSV, and prompted an investigation into whether this plant-infecting virus could also cause systemic infection in the bees,” says Yan Ping Chen from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, an author on the study.

“The results of our study provide the first evidence that honeybees exposed to virus-contaminated pollen can also be infected and that the infection becomes widespread in their bodies,” says lead author Ji Lian Li, at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science in Beijing.

“We already know that honey bees, Apis melllifera, can transmit TRSV when they move from flower to flower, likely spreading the virus from one plant to another,” Chen adds.

Notably, about 5% of known plant viruses are pollen-transmitted and thus potential sources of host-jumping viruses. RNA viruses tend to be particularly dangerous because they lack the 3’-5’ proofreading function which edits out errors in replicated genomes. As a result, viruses such as TRSV generate a flood of variant copies with differing infective properties.

One consequence of such high replication rates are populations of RNA viruses thought to exist as “quasispecies,” clouds of genetically related variants that appear to work together to determine the pathology of their hosts. These sources of genetic diversity, coupled with large population sizes, further facilitate the adaption of RNA viruses to new selective conditions such as those imposed by novel hosts. “Thus, RNA viruses are a likely source of emerging and reemerging infectious diseases,” explain these researchers.

Toxic viral cocktails appear to have a strong link with honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a mysterious malady that abruptly wiped out entire hives across the United States and was first reported in 2006. Israel Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV), Acute Bee Paralysis Virus (ABPV), Chronic Paralysis Virus (CPV), Kashmir Bee Virus (KBV), Deformed Wing Bee Virus (DWV), Black Queen Cell Virus (BQCV) and Sacbrood Virus (SBV) are other known causes of honeybee viral disease.

When these researchers investigated bee colonies classified as “strong” or “weak,” TRSV and other viruses were more common in the weak colonies than they were in the strong ones. Bee populations with high levels of multiple viral infections began failing in late fall and perished before February, these researchers report. In contrast, those in colonies with fewer viral assaults survived the entire cold winter months.

TRSV was also detected inside the bodies of Varroa mites, a “vampire” parasite that transmits viruses between bees while feeding on their blood. However, unlike honeybees, the mite-associated TRSV was restricted to their gastric cecum indicating that the mites likely facilitate the horizontal spread of TRSV within the hive without becoming diseased themselves. The fact that infected queens lay infected eggs convinced these scientists that TRSV could also be transmitted vertically from the queen mother to her offspring.

“The increasing prevalence of TRSV in conjunction with other bee viruses is associated with a gradual decline of host populations and supports the view that viral infections have a significant negative impact on colony survival,” these researchers conclude. Thus, they call for increased surveillance of potential host-jumping events as an integrated part of insect pollinator management programs.

Solving of 200-Year-Old Bee Puzzle Began at UC Davis

Arizona State University Provost Robert E. Page, Jr., emeritus professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and two other UC Davis-affiliated scientists are among the key members of a scientific team from the United States, Germany and France that cracked the 200-year secret of complementary sex determination in honey bees.
The research, “Gradual Molecular Evolution of a Sex Determination Switch in Honeybees through Incomplete Penetrance of Femaleness,” is published in the December edition of Current Biology. The research shows that five amino acid differences separate males from females.

The lead author, Martin Beye, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Duesseldorf, Germany, was Page’s former UC Davis postdoctoral researcher. Bee breeder-geneticist Michael “Kim” Fondrk provided the genetic material from crosses using Page’s bees that he tends at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis.

“The story goes back to Johann Dzierson in the mid 1800s through Mendel, through Harry Laidlaw to me and to my former postdoc at Davis, Martin Beye,” Page said.

“Much of the work was done at UC Davis beginning in 1990,” Page said.  “From 1999-2000, Martin Beye was a Fyodor Lynen Fellow in my lab funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.  During that year he began the sequencing and characterization of the csd gene; the paper was eventually published as a cover article in Cell.”

Said Fondrk: “This project was a long time in making; it began soon after our Cell paper was published in 2003. First we needed to assemble variation for alleles at the sex locus, by collecting drones from many different, presumably unrelated queens, and mating one drone each through an independently reared set of queens using instrumental insemination (which was Fondrk’s task). “Then a second set of crosses was made to identify and isolate individual sex alleles. The progeny that resulted from this cross were taken to Germany where Martin Beye’s team began the monumental task of sequencing the sex determination region in the collected samples.”

“It’s taken nearly 200 years, but scientists in Arizona and Europe have teased out how the molecular switch for sex gradually and adaptively evolved in the honey bee,” wrote ASU spokesperson Margaret Coulombe, director of academic communications for the ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Silesian monk Johann Dzierson began studying the first genetic mechanism for sex determination in the mid-1800s. Dzierson knew that royal jelly determines whether the females will be queen bees or honey bee colonies, but he wondered about the males.

Dzierson believed that the males or drones were haploid – possessing one set of chromosomes, a belief confirmed in the 1900s with the advent of the microscope. In other words, the males, unlike the females, came from unfertilized eggs.

“However, how this system of haplodiploid sex determination ultimately evolved at a molecular level has remained one of the most important questions in developmental genetics,” Coulombe pointed out in her news release.

The collaborators resolved the last piece of the puzzle.

“Once again, the studies by Dr. Rob Page and his colleagues have unraveled another mystery of honey bee development,” commented Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who was not involved in the study but knows the work of many of the collaborators. “It would be interesting if someone investigated the same type of sexual dimorphism in other hymenopterans to determine if they all use the same, ancient-based mechanism.”

The authors studied 14 natural sequence variants of the complementary sex determining switch (csd gene), for 76 genotypes of honey bees.

“While complex, the researchers had several tools at hand that their predecessors lacked to solve this sexual determination puzzle,” Coulombe wrote. “First, honey bees are ideal study subjects because they have one gene locus responsible for sex determination. Also, Page and former graduate student Greg Hunt identified genetic markers – well-characterized regions of DNA – close to the complementary sex determining locus to allow gene mapping. In addition, Hunt and Page found that the honey bees’ high recombination rate – the process by which genetic material is physically mixed during sexual reproduction – is the highest of any known animal studied, which helped Beye isolate, sequence and characterize the complementary sex determining locus. Page and Beye were also able to knock out an allele and show how one could get a male from a diploid genotype; work that was featured on the cover of the journal Cell in 2003.

“However, the questions of which alleles were key, how they worked together and in what combinations and why this system evolved were left unanswered, though tantalizing close. This compelled the current team of collaborators to step back to review what actually constitutes an allele.”

Page was quoted in the news release: “There has to be some segment of that gene that is responsible in this allelic series, where if you have two different coding sequences in that part of the gene you end up producing a female. So we asked how different do two alleles have to be? Can you be off one or two base pairs or does it always have to be the same set of sequences? We came up with a strategy to go in and look at these 18-20 alleles and find out what regions of these genes are responsible among these variants.”

“In this process,” Page said, “we also had to determine if there are intermediate kinds of alleles and discover how they might have evolved.”

“What the authors found,” wrote Coulombe, “was that at least five amino acid differences can control allelic differences to create femaleness through the complementary sex determiner (csd) gene – the control switch.”

Page explained: “We discovered that different amounts of arginine, serine and proline affect protein binding sites on the csd gene, which in turn lead to different conformational states, which then lead to functional changes in the bees – the switch that determines the shift from female to not female.”

The authors also discovered a natural evolutionary intermediate that showed only three amino acid differences spanned the balance between lethality and induced femaleness, Coulombe wrote. The findings suggest that that incomplete penetrance may be the mechanism by which new molecular switches can gradually and adaptively evolve. 

Other co-authors included Christine Seelmann and Tanja Gempe of the University of Duesseldorf; Martin Hasslemann, Institute of Genetics at the University of Cologne, Germany; and Xavier Bekmans with Université Lille, n France. Grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft supported their work.

Page, who studies the evolution of complex social behavior in honey bees, from genes to societies, received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1980, and served as an assistant professor at Ohio State University before joining the UC Davis Department of Entomology in 1989. He chaired the department for five years, from 1999 to 2004 when ASU recruited him as the founding director and dean of the School of Life Sciences, an academic unit within College of Liberal Arts and Science (CLAS).

Recognized as one of the world’s foremost honey bee geneticists, Page is a highly cited entomologist who has authored more than 230 research papers and articles centered on Africanized bees, genetics and evolution of social organization, sex determination and division of labor in insect societies. His work on the self-organizing regulatory networks of honey bees is featured in his new book, The Spirit of the Hive: The Mechanisms of Social Evolution, published in June 2013 by Harvard University Press.

(by Kathy Keatley Garvey, UC-Davis Dept. of Entomology and Nematology)

Ancient Pheromones Keep Queens in Charge

Researchers have identified a particular class of structurally similar, queen-specific hydrocarbons that suppress the reproduction of ant, wasp and bumblebee workers alike -- and they suggest that these pheromones have been around, signaling fertility in social insects, for nearly 150 million years. Previous studies have shown that when it comes to such social insects, queens maintain their monopoly on reproduction by emitting chemical signals that render their loyal workers infertile. But, even though these signals, called pheromones, achieve the same end in various species, they are structurally diverse. Annette Van Oystaeyen and colleagues studied the chemical profiles of the outer skeleton, or cuticle, of the desert ant, the common wasp and the buff-tailed bumblebee and found several compounds that were specifically overproduced in the queens of each species. They tested those chemicals on workers and discovered that, even when their queens were gone, the presence of saturated hydrocarbons kept the workers infertile. (Meanwhile, however, control groups of the insect species rapidly developed ovaries in the absence of their queens.)
Van Oystaeyen and her colleagues compared their findings to those of 90 other published studies and investigated the chemicals that have been consistently overproduced by queens across 64 different species. Their findings reveal that saturated hydrocarbons are, by far, the most common class of chemicals overproduced by social insect queens. In fact, their study suggests that similar hydrocarbons were used by the solitary ancestors of ants, wasps and bumblebees to indicate their reproductive status millions of years ago. The study suggests that these chemicals have been evolutionarily stable, and that queen pheromones are honest signs of the queen’s fertility (not manipulative signals, variable over time, meant to actively suppress worker reproduction). A Perspective article by Michel Chapuisat explains this study in more detail and highlights its implications regarding the ancient origins of eusociality.

February 2014


A Unique Gift to UC Davis: One to ‘Bee Hold’

by Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Dept. of Entomology

DAVIS--It was a gift to bee-hold--and a gift meant to keep on giving. No, not a donor organ, tree, or a smile. In this case, the gift was for generations of honey bees at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis.

During a pollinator education program, employees of Valent U.S.A. Corporation, based in Walnut Creek, wanted to do something significant, something that would help the troubled bee population, and something that would promote team building.

So more than 270 employees engaged in a beehive building exercise, constructing 26 Langstroth bee hives. They delivered them to the Laidlaw facility in early December where bee breeder-geneticist Michael “Kim” Fondrk, extension apiculturist Eric Mussen and staff research associate/Laidlaw manager Billy Synk, all of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, gratefully accepted them.

The gift is valued at $4290. Said Mussen: “This is an incredible gift.”
“They did a good job,” said Fondrk, who provided workshop tips on how to build the bee boxes, using the right materials and specifications.

“We are thrilled to donate these hives to the Laidlaw facility,” said Meg Brodman, manager of marketing communications for Valent. “We recognize the incredible work being done by your organization and we thank you for your commitment to supporting the needs of America’s farmers through pollinator research, particularly in California, where we are also headquartered.”

“Pollinator safety,” she said, “continues to be a focus within our organization, and we at Valent, along with our counterparts in crop protection, are keenly focused on efforts that will support education and research for pollinator safety in agriculture.”

The bee boxes will be used beginning in the spring of 2014, just in time for the seasonal population build-up. In the peak season, each hive will hold some 60,000 bees. Brian Johnson, assistant professor, keeps his research bees at the apiary; his lab studies the genetics, behavior, evolution, and health of honey bees. Fondrk, who also keeps his bees in a nearby apiary, manages the research bees of Robert E. Page Jr., emeritus professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. Johnson and associate professor Neal Williams, pollination ecologist, are co-directors of the Laidlaw facility.

Making the trek to UC Davis were Eric Tamichi, manager of registration and regulatory affairs; Linda Obrestad, regulatory division; and Brodman. Brodman described Valent as a “growing crop protecting company, offering a diverse line of conventional and biorational products, including herbicides, insecticides, fungicide, seed protection and plant growth regulators that protect agricultural crops, enhance crop yields, improve food quality, beautify the environment and safeguard public health.”

As for the bees, a few buzzed down to investigate their new homes as the crew wheeled the boxes into the building.

Friendship Between Researcher, Teenager Benefits Honey Bees

by Kate Wilhite
College of Agricultural, Human &
Natural Resource Sciences
Washington State University

PULLMAN, Wash. – At just 16 years old, Sheridan Miller is already a veteran fundraiser. The Mill Valley, Calif., teenager recently donated $1,400 she raised to help support Washington State University’s honey bee stock improvement program. Over the past six years, she has raised more than $5,000 to help fund research aimed at combating colony collapse disorder (CCD) and saving the honey bee.

A bee ally is born
Miller first became interested in honey bees when she was 10. She heard her mom talking about how bees were disappearing and became concerned.

“I remember being incredibly worried, because she said most ice cream flavors would be gone along with their disappearance,” said Miller, referring to the vital role bees play in agriculture through the pollination of about 100 crops, including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries, pears, apples, cranberries and almonds.

About the same time, Miller had a school assignment to create a presentation on the topic of her choice. She chose to research honey bees and CCD. What she learned was far more disturbing than the disappearance of ice cream flavors, she said.

Energy and commitment

Energized by this new knowledge, Miller decided to help. She held her first fundraiser at age 10 and has made donations to bee research every year since. This year she organized and hosted a lecture for local honey bee enthusiasts and concerned citizens. The featured speaker was Sue Cobey, a WSU bee breeder-geneticist who Miller supported previously at the University of California, Davis.

“Sue was kind enough to come to Mill Valley to talk about her work with honey bees,” said Miller. “She really did an amazing job and continues to do amazing work each and every day.”
Miller’s parents are proud of their daughter’s commitment to the cause and her fund-
raising skills. Her father, Craig, describes Miller’s accomplishments as “remarkable.”
For this year’s fundraiser, she rented a clubhouse from the city of Mill Valley, got facility administrators to waive their insurance and down payment requirements, secured sponsors to pay for food and beverages and publicized the event. She also enlisted Cobey, who agreed to fly down and speak for more than two hours.

At the event, Miller sold hand-rolled beeswax candles, booklets about honey bees and raffle tickets for a donated gift basket.

“Sheridan cares so much about people and the earth,” said her father. “We are amazed at her energy level and the fact that, instead of burning out, she seems to be getting even more committed to her efforts. She often tells us of her next idea where she hopes to raise even more money than the last time.”

Developing high-level connections
Miller first met Cobey at UC Davis in 2009. Cobey was manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility (, the largest and most comprehensive state-supported apiculture facility in North America. She gave Miller and her family a tour of the bee lab, with the goal to “enamor them with the bees and show what can be done,” said Cobey.

“Sheridan was excited about the breeding program we were working on as one piece of the puzzle in dealing with the collapse of colonies,” Cobey said. “She wanted to support this.”
After that first meeting, Miller kept in touch with Cobey, writing and asking questions. When Cobey came to work for WSU, Miller’s interest and donations followed.

“Sue has been generous with her time and her gratitude toward Sheridan,” said Craig. “She has instilled confidence in Sheridan and an incredible sense of pride.

“I guess an organization could simply send a thank-you note for a donation,” he said. “Sue, on the other hand, sent friendship, knowledge, encouragement – and even bees!”

Combating CCD with better breeding
Beekeepers first sounded the alarm about CCD when entire apiaries of bees began disappearing circa 2006. Researchers now believe that CCD may be caused by a variety and combination of factors, including pesticides, parasitic mites, pathogens, viruses and malnutrition resulting from the declining diversity and abundance of flowers.

The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that nearly one-third of all honey bee colonies in the country die annually.

Miller’s donations, along with other funding, support Cobey, who is working with Steve Sheppard, chair of the WSU Department of Entomology (, to establish the first genetic repository of honey bee semen in the world. The project’s goal is to preserve and increase genetic diversity known to increase honey bee fitness and the ability to better cope with environmental challenges.

“Our project at WSU includes the importation of honey bee germplasm for breeding purposes in collaboration with U.S. honey bee queen producers who supply stock to beekeepers nationwide,” said Cobey.

Restrictions on honey bee importation into the United States have been in place since 1922 in an effort to protect domestic bees from imported mites and other dangers. The restrictions have resulted in a limited gene pool for U.S. honey bees.

“A million-and-a-half queens are commercially produced annually to supply the industry. These are descended from about 500 queen mothers – a relatively small number,” said Cobey.

“Lack of genetic diversity can lead to reduced fitness,” she said. “We look at genetic diversity as our tool box for selection toward more hardy strains of honey bees.”
Recent improvements in technology have made it possible for Cobey and fellow researchers to collect and successfully preserve honey bee semen. Germplasm imported from several races of honey bees in Europe is being crossed with domestic breeding stocks to create healthier, more robust bees.

Researchers are also collecting domestic strains of bees to preserve for future selection programs.

The outlook from a budding beekeeper
Miller’s passion for helping honey bees has led her to become a backyard beekeeper. Cobey set her up with her first hives.

“It’s been quite the experience, and I mean that in the best way,” said Miller. “Bees are such fascinating creatures; we as people can learn so much from the way they live.”
She offers the following tip for new beekeepers: “Don’t be tentative,” she said. “I was incredibly tentative the first few times around the hive, and it just holds you back from learning as much as you can about these insects.”

While Miller isn’t sure what she wants to be when she grows up, she will always maintain her love of bees.

“I want to continue in the field of science, whether that is in honey bee research or in the medical field,” Miller said. “I have so many things I want to pursue, and I am very excited to have fun learning where my biggest passions lie.

“I always want to be a backyard beekeeper, though,” she added. “I really sympathize with these tiny creatures’ plight and see them as ‘a canary in a coal mine’ for our somewhat ailing world.”

What advice does Miller have for others who are concerned about problems in the world?
“Honestly, and I know this sounds cliché, but every little bit counts,” she said. “CCD is an incredibly terrifying prospect … but it will only continue to keep getting worse if we just sit on the sidelines and let it happen.

“I have only made a tiny impact,” she said, “but if everyone made just as tiny an impact with this issue, or with other huge issues in the world, we would have 7 billion people making a gigantic impact – together.”

To learn more about honey bee research at WSU, visit

January 2014 Interactive Websites

Offered by National Honey Board

In an effort to provide food manufactures with information about the use of honey as an ingredient in products, the National Honey Board created the interactive websites. These five websites were launched to provide manufacturers with industry-specific technical, marketing and formulation assistance in the areas of baking, beverage, confectionery, dairy and snacking.
The National Honey Board encourages industry members to utilize the information and content found on these websites to stay up-to-date on the latest food product trends and innovation, as well as the most recent technical data available.
To find out more about these sites, the National Honey Board encourages you to visit This informative website contains information on baking with honey, including retail and wholesale baking formulas and technical specifications.  Some of the newer technical materials include Frequently Asked Questions from the retail and wholesale baking industries, and information on Honey Substitution. This website offers insight into the expanding beverage industry as manufactures realize the value of using an all-natural sweetener with exceptional flavor and marketing impact. This website provides confectionery manufacturers with new product ideas and stories about the latest candy industry trends. From ice cream to yogurt, this website offers dairy food and beverage manufacturers the latest information on honey and dairy products made with honey. An online guide to snack food products made with honey, as well as technical and marketing information for using honey in savory and salty snacks.

Texas Honey Broker Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Avoiding $37.9 Million in Tariffs on Chinese-Origin Honey

U.S. Dept. of Justice News Release

CHICAGO — A Texas honey broker was sentenced Nov. 14, 2013 to three years in federal prison for illegally brokering the sale of hundreds of container loads of Chinese-origin honey, which was misrepresented as originating from India or Malaysia, to avoid anti-dumping duties when it entered the United States. The defendant, JUN YANG, pleaded guilty in March to facilitating illegal honey imports by falsely declaring that the honey originated in countries other than China to avoid $37.9 million in anti-dumping duties.
Yang, 40, of Houston, operated National Honey, Inc., which did business as National Commodities Company in Houston, and brokered the sale of honey between overseas honey suppliers and domestic customers. He was ordered to begin serving his sentence on Jan. 15, 2014, by U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras, who cited the “inescapable harm” to the U.S. honey industry in imposing the sentence.
Yang has already paid financial penalties totaling $2.89 million to the government, including a maximum fine of $250,000, mandatory restitution of $97,625, and agreed restitution of $2,542,659.
“This is a significant sentence against a perpetrator of one of the largest food fraud schemes uncovered in U.S. history,” said Gary Hartwig, Special Agent-in-Charge of HSI Chicago. “Unbeknownst to Yang, he was dealing with an undercover HSI agent who was one step ahead of his illegal activities. Together with our partners at Customs and Border Protection, we will continue to protect American industries from deceptive import practices, while facilitating the lawful flow of goods across our borders that is so critical to the U.S. economy.”
According to court documents, Yang caused transportation companies to deliver to U.S. honey processors and distributors 778 container loads of honey, which were falsely declared at the time of importation as being from Malaysia or India, knowing that all or some of the honey had actually originated in China. As a result, the honey, which had an aggregate declared value of nearly $23 million when it entered the country, avoided anti-dumping duties and honey assessments totaling more than $37.9 million.
In addition, Yang admitted that he sold purported Vietnamese honey that tested positive for the presence of Chloramphenicol, an antibiotic not allowed in honey or other food products. After learning of the unfavorable test results, Yang obtained new test results that purported to show that the honey was not adulterated, and he instructed the undercover agent to destroy the unfavorable test results. This adulterated honey was seized by the government.
The sentence was announced by Mr. Hartwig and Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
Yang was among a group of individuals and companies who were charged in February of this year in the second phase of an investigation led by agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
In December 2001, the Commerce Department determined that Chinese-origin honey was being sold in the United States at less than fair market value, and imposed anti-dumping duties. The duties were as high as 221 percent of the declared value, and later were assessed against the entered net weight, currently at $2.63 per net kilogram, in addition to a “honey assessment fee” of one cent per pound of all honey. In October 2002, the Food and Drug Administration issued an import alert for honey containing the antibiotic Chloramphenicol, a broad spectrum antibiotic that is used to treat serious infections in humans, but which is not approved for use in honey. Honey containing certain antibiotics is deemed “adulterated” within the meaning of federal food and drug safety laws.
In 2008, federal authorities began investigating allegations involving circumventing antidumping duties through illegal imports, including transshipment and mislabeling, on the “supply side” of the honey industry. The second phase of the investigation involved the illegal buying, processing, and trading of honey that illegally entered the U.S. on the “demand side” of the industry.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew S. Boutros.

Make Sure You Don’t Buy Illegal Honey from China

Check Your Honey with a New Look-Up Tool on

Washington, D.C. – November 14, 2013 – A new search function on allows U.S. shoppers to be sure that they’re not mistakenly buying honey that has been illegally shipped from China. In one easy step they can help ensure the safety and quality of their honey, while also supporting U.S. honey producers and beekeepers. In addition, retailers and manufacturers are able to trace their product back to the hive.
By going to and clicking on the starburst at the top of the page, consumers can enter the UPC code on the back of their packaged honey to see if it is True Source Certified™.
Millions of pounds of illegally sourced honey may continue to enter the United States, despite continuing federal crack-down efforts. True Source Certification™ helps ensure honey’s safety and quality because it traces the source of that honey from hive to table. The program has been applauded by honey industry leaders, including the American Honey Producers Association and the American Beekeeping Federation.
“The True Source Certified logo tells you that the honey you’re buying was ethically and legally sourced,” says True Source Honey Executive Director Gordon Marks. “If you don’t see the logo, ask your retailer or honey company to join the program. And make sure that your favorite foods with honey – from breakfast cereals to snacks – are made by a manufacturer that purchases honey from a True Source Certified honey company.”
Earlier this year, two of the nation’s largest honey suppliers admitted to buying illegally imported Chinese honey, including some that was adulterated with unauthorized antibiotics.
About one-third of honey sold in North America today is now True Source Certified. Many large grocery retailers and club stores only use certified honey for store brands, including Costco (Kirkland Signature) and Target (Market Pantry and Simply Balanced).
The U.S. imports more than 60% of the honey it needs from other countries. Most is from high-quality, legal sources. But some honey brokers and importers illegally circumvent tariffs and quality controls, selling honey to U.S. companies that is of questionable origin. This threatens the U.S. honey industry by undercutting fair market prices and damaging honey’s reputation for quality and safety.
True Source Honey, LLC is an effort by a number of honey companies and importers to protect consumers and customers from illegally sourced honey; and to highlight and support legal, transparent and ethical sourcing. The initiative seeks to help maintain the reputation of honey as a high-quality, highly valued food and further sustain the U.S. honey sector. Visit Follow us on Facebook.

Queen Bee’s Honesty is the Best Policy for Reproduction Signals

Queen bees convey honest signals to worker bees about their reproductive status and quality, according to an international team of researchers, who say their findings may help to explain why honey bee populations are declining.
“We usually think of animals’ chemical signals (called pheromones) as communication systems that convey only very simple sorts of information,” said Christina Grozinger, professor of entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research, Penn State. “However, this study demonstrates that queen honey bees are conveying a lot of nuanced information through their pheromones.
“In addition, until now, no one knew if queen bees were manipulating workers into serving them or if they were providing valuable, honest information to workers. We have found that the information queens are conveying constitutes an honest message about their reproductive status and quality. The queens are ‘telling’ the workers that they are queens, whether or not they are mated and how well mated they are. In other words, whether or not they have mated with a lot of males.”
Why do worker bees care if their queen is well mated? According to Elina Niño, postdoctoral fellow, Penn State, previous research has shown that colonies headed by more promiscuous queens -- those who mate with many males -- are more genetically diverse and, therefore, healthier, more productive and less likely to collapse.
“Beekeepers have been very worried about their queens, since they seem to not be lasting as long -- a few weeks or months instead of one or two years,” said Niño. “We know that workers will replace their queens when they are not performing well. So if worker bees are able to detect poorly mated queens and take steps to remove them, that could be an explanation for the rapid rates of queen loss and turnover that beekeepers have been reporting.”
The researchers, who represent Penn State, North Carolina State University and Tel Aviv University, describe how they assigned queen bees to a variety of treatment groups. They reported their findings in the Nov. 13, 2013 issue of PLOS ONE.
In one group, they inseminated queens with a small volume of semen to mimic a poorly mated queen scenario. In a second group, the researchers inseminated queens with a large volume of semen to mimic a well-mated queen scenario. In a third and fourth group, they inseminated queens with low and high volumes of saline. A fifth group was an untreated control.
The researchers then dissected the queens, removing two glands that are known to produce pheromones -- the mandibular gland and the Dufour’s gland. Next, the team extracted the glands’ secretions and analyzed their chemical compositions using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Finally, the researchers presented the gland extracts to worker bees and observed the extent to which they were attracted to different extracts.
The team found that worker bees preferred pheromone extracts of queens that were inseminated with semen rather than saline. They also found that queens inseminated with higher volumes of semen or saline as opposed to those that were inseminated with low volumes of semen or saline were preferred by worker bees.
“These results suggest that queens are signaling detailed and honest information about their mating state and reproductive quality to workers, and workers are capable of adjusting their behavior accordingly,” Niño said. “When workers replace failing queens, it is particularly damaging to beekeepers since it can take up to three weeks for the new queen to begin laying eggs and another three weeks for the new workers to emerge as adults. This reduces the workforce and therefore reduces honey production and even pollination efficiency.”
The team also found that the mandibular gland and the Dufour’s gland differ in their functions.
“The Dufour’s gland seems to inform workers that queens have mated, while the mandibular gland seems to indicate the queen’s mating quality,” Niño said. “This also means that these glands are likely being regulated via different neurophysiological pathways.”
According to Grozinger, in addition to signaling queen bee reproductive status and quality, queen bee pheromones regulate how fast workers mature and transition from taking care of developing larvae to foraging outside the hive.
“It is possible that changing the quality of the pheromone could disrupt this and other processes, which could have large-scale effects on colony organization and survival,” she said.
Through funding from the Department of Agriculture, the researchers are beginning to examine the effects of viruses, pesticides and poor nutrition on queen pheromone quality to see if the queen also is providing workers with information about her health.
“The more we know about what affects the queen’s health the better chance we will have of creating high-quality queens and disease-resistant stocks of honey bees,” Niño said.

Beekeepers, Growers Laud Bayer Cropscience’s New Fluency Agent

Testimonies and Trials Confirm Seed Treatment Technology Lowers Dust
during Planting; Further Reducing Potential for Honey Bee Exposure

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (Nov. 19, 2013) – Bayer CropScience conducted successful field trials of its new seed treatment application technology. The product is designed to further reduce potential dust exposure to honey bees during a typical planting process, while offering improved handling efficiencies for growers.
As an alternative to standard talc and graphite lubricants, the new Bayer fluency agent – made of a polyethylene wax substrate – was shown to significantly decrease dust and emissions during laboratory testing:

•    Ninety percent reduction in total dust versus talc
•    Sixty percent reduction in total dust versus graphite

Video testimonials from growers and beekeepers further illustrated the success of the large-scale field trials. The video captures the commercial viability of the new fluency agent under field conditions and features feedback from participants, such as:

•    Performed equal to or better than comparable talc or graphite lubricants;
•    Decreased level of dust during application and easier to avoid dust when checking boxes; and
•    Showed equivalent results at significantly lower use rates than talc when comparing planting uniformity.

The development of the new fluency agent is just the latest example of Bayer‘s dedication to crop protection and commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable agricultural practices, including the protection of beneficial insects such as honey bees. For additional information and background on other sustainability initiatives please visit

New Product- Beeshield™

by Justin Jay Brown
head of research and development

The ways of the beekeeper have always been very simple; put your bees in a nice foraging area, move them to desired honey-flows and pollinating locations and then reap the benefits of having colonies: honey, pollen, wax, etc. The times have changed dramatically in the last 50 years, and in particular of the last ten years. Bees have been dying and disappearing at a rate that seems as unbelievable as it is mysterious. Beekeepers are losing anywhere from 30-99% of their hives in a single winter!  These are losses that are not acceptable or sustainable for the commercial beekeepers of the world.  Many different reasons have been thrown out to the community: mites, viruses, drought, starvation, brood disease and, of course, pesticides.  An important fact to keep in mind is that it isn’t just one of these factors, but the combination of them all that are smashing down on the busiest worker on the planet. The weight is just becoming too much for our little friends and we are seeing the effects of it the world over. 
Let’s start with starvation. Farmers have been using a modern agronomy program for crops that basically hasn’t changed since the 1950’s. The problem is that this standard NPK program is destroying the soil’s ability to hold water, resulting in a drought. On top of that, it destroys the natural organic life in the soil that allows the plant to absorb the nutrients it needs to produce nectar and pollen. Hence, the nutritional value of nectar and pollen has been declining since the 1950’s, some as much as 38%, so it makes sense that the bees are starving. They are eating food that is almost 40% less nutritious and, since the bee’s only source of food without supplementation is pollen and nectar, this is a large problem indeed. The more nutritious food the bee eats, the better its production of glycolipoprotein or its food storage/immune system. When the bees have an unhealthy food source, they no longer develop properly, their immune systems weaken and they die. Knowing this, it becomes apparent why these next factors are taking such a toll on the bee.
Viruses - there are around 14 different viruses that infect the honey bee in North America, some are tolerated while others destroy a colony. Mites - they are the transport vectors for many harmful viruses and, if the bees have a weakened immune system, these parasites can take over and destroy entire colonies. Last, but most certainly not least, are pesticides, which have been the most destructive factor for the honey bee since 1997. Nationwide protests to ban certain types of pesticides believed to be responsible for killing bees are ongoing.
Just one of any of these factors can be harmful to a colony. Unfortunately, all of these factors are now in play, resulting in a crisis for the health and lives of the honeybee. Something must be done and it must happen soon. There needs to be an increase in nutrient absorption for the honey bee so they have a fully developed immune system.
Hope is not lost, beekeepers are a resourceful lot and much can be done now to save an industry that provides for so many across the world. As a beekeeper and researcher for Shamrock Bees and, now, head of research and development at, a division of 1st Light Trading, LLC., I have been on a mission to find something to save our bees. BEESHIELD™ is an organic product, a supplemental spray and syrup additive, that prevents viruses from being able to infect healthy tissue, thus preventing viruses from harming a colony. The shield has been on the market since mid-January, with beekeepers ranging from California all the way to Alabama (Wood Creek Apiary, WA., Shamrock “S” Pollination, CA., and Wild West Honey, WY. to name a few), reporting promising results. BEESHIELD™ also binds to harmful pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides that are everywhere in the modern agricultural environment, dramatically reducing/eliminating the harmful effects of these on the bee. Another benefit we’ve seen is that it increases the transport of nutrients into the bee’s system, increasing the production of the vital component glycolipoprotein, making for a stronger and healthier hive.  I believe now that there is hope where there seemed to be none and that there is a powerful shield to protect our bees.


Raymond Klein

Raymond Michael Klein was born Jan. 6, 1912 to Nicholas and Frances (Wieber) Klein on a farm outside of Richmond, MN; he was the sixth of ten children. After attending country school, he helped operate  the family farm until he enrolled at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul Campus. He graduated in 1940 with a degree in apiculture. During the summer of 1940, he took a job with Tanquary Honey Farms in Marshall, MN, hoping it would be the warmest locale of the three oportunities he was offered.
In 1943 Ray went to California to assist in the war effort. He worked for Kaiser Shipyards building Liberty ships, as well as drove a San Francisco city bus, transporting sailors to and from Treasure Island Naval Base. During the 1940’s, Ray and his brother Eugene (Slim) were well known baseball players for the Marshall A’s. In 1950, Ray purchased Tanquary Honey Farms and renamed it Marshall Honey Farms. His lifelong love of beekeeping led to a successful business. In 1951, he established Klein’s Honey which is still available today, more than 60 years later.
On June 14, 1951, he was united in marriage to Cecilia (Haas) Klein in St. James Catholic Church in St. Paul, MN. They made their home in Marshall and were blessed with two children.
Ray died Wednesday, October, 2, 2013 in Marshall. Survivors include his children, Stephen (Kay) Klein of Marshall and Rosemary (Mark) Martin of Villa Hills, KY; 7 grandchildren, Caroline (Rob) Koska, Stephanie, Nicholas, Christian Klein; Jordan, Jacob and Matthew Martin; sister-in-law Rita Klein of Cold Spring and numerous nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.