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 ...


 The 2012 American Bee Research Conference was held February 7-8 at APHIS Headquarters in Greenbelt, MD in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Apiary Inspectors of America.  The twenty-sixth American Bee Research Conference will be held in Hershey, PA in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Honey Producers Association in January 2013.  To access these abstracts now, click on the link below. These abstracts represent some of the latest bee research being conducted in the United States.  Enjoy!

icon 2012_Proceedings_ABJ.pdf (565 KB)