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February 4, 2016 - ABJ Extra

Dr. Thomas Rinderer has retired as director

of the Baton Rouge Bee Lab.


USDA News Release


Dr. Thomas Rinderer has retired as director of the Baton Rouge Bee Lab.

Dr. Thomas E. Rinderer, Supervisory Research Geneticist, retired on Jan. 2, 2016, after a research career of 40+ years. He has been in his assignment as Research Leader of the Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Laboratory in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, since 1977.

Dr. Rinderer’s research has resulted in 312 publications (246 in refereed journals), countless abstracts of papers presented at scientific meetings, 7 supervised theses/dissertations and research grants exceeding $2 million. His range of research topics has included genetics, breeding, behavior, morphology, pathology and toxicology. The range of organisms studied has included several species of honey bees, several species of mites parasitic on honey bees, several diseases of honey bees and two pests of bee hives.  

Dr. Rinderer is recognized nationally and internationally as an expert in honey bee biology, genetics and breeding. He has served as senior editor of the Journal of Apicultural Research and the journal Bee Science, has served as a reviewer for numerous other journals, and has served on international, federal, state and industry research panels evaluating funding for research grants. He is an adjunct professor of entomology at Louisiana State University.
A primary focus of the research has been the improvement of honey bees through genetic selection. Most recently, Dr. Rinderer discovered a stock of honey bees in far-eastern Russia, imported it through an APHIS-approved quarantine which he established, and documented it’s resistance to the parasitic mite V. destructor.  The level of resistance was sufficiently high that the need for mite control treatments was reduced by more than half. Continued selection in multi-state field trials through 12 years, using breeding methods developed specifically for this project, has produced a Russian honey bee stock having consistently improved resistance to V. destructor such that colonies rarely require chemical treatment to suppress V. destructor, has maintained resistance to the tracheal mite A. woodi, and has increased honey production to commercially acceptable standards.

Technology transfer efforts encouraged 18 commercial honey bee breeders in 2008 to form the “Russian Honeybee Breeders Assoc. Inc.”  All lines of the Russian honey bee stock have been transferred to members of the association who are now maintaining and selecting the stock using techniques and procedures obtained from extensive technology transfer efforts by Dr. Rinderer and his team.  In addition to developing Russian honey bees into a stock with excellent beekeeping functionality, Dr. Rinderer has been actively involved in the planning, development and execution of honey bee breeding programs to produce stocks of honey bees that have improved Varroa sensitive hygienic behavior and improved resistance to Nosema ceranae and Deformed Wing Virus.

Dr. Rinderer’s research accomplishments not only have gained him widespread international and national scientific recognition but also a universal recognition from the beekeeping industry of the nation.  On a number of occasions the beekeeping industry has expressed their gratitude to Dr. Rinderer for his contributions and delivered strong support to the program of the laboratory that he leads.  Through the years, Dr. Rinderer has engaged in cooperative research with individual beekeepers as a way to leverage research resources and build strong relations with the beekeeping industry.


February 4, 2016 - ABJ Extra

Bee Virus Spread Manmade and Emanates from Europe

 Hive bees. Credit: Professor Stephen Martin, University of Salford

The spread of a disease that is decimating global bee populations is manmade, and driven by European honeybee populations, new research has concluded.

A study led by the University of Exeter and UC Berkeley and published in the journal Science found that the European honeybee Apis mellifera is overwhelmingly the source of cases of the Deformed Wing Virus infecting hives worldwide. The finding suggests that the pandemic is manmade rather than naturally occurring, with human trade and transportation of bees for crop pollination driving the spread.

Although separately they are not major threats to bee populations, when the Varroa mite carries the disease, the combination is deadly, and has wiped out millions of honeybees over recent decades. Varroa feed on bee larvae while the Deformed Wing Virus kills off bees, a devastating double blow to colonies. The situation is adding to fears over the future of global bee populations, with major implications for biodiversity, agricultural biosecurity, global economies, and human health.

The study was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and supported by a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship. It involved collaborators from the universities of Sheffield, Cambridge, Salford and California, as well as ETH Zurich in Switzerland.
Lead author Dr Lena Wilfert, of the University of Exeter's Centre for Ecology and Conservation, on the Penryn Campus in Cornwall, said: "This is the first study to conclude that Europe is the backbone of the global spread of the bee killing combination of Deformed Wing Virus and Varroa. This demonstrates that the spread of this combination is largely manmade - if the spread was naturally occurring, we would expect to see transmission between countries that are close to each other, but we found that, for example, the New Zealand virus population originated in Europe. This significantly strengthens the theory that human transportation of bees is responsible for the spread of this devastating disease. We must now maintain strict limits on the movement of bees, whether they are known to carry Varroa or not. It's also really important that beekeepers at all levels take steps to control Varroa in their hives, as this viral disease can also affect wild pollinators."

Researchers analysed sequence data of Deformed Wing Virus samples across the globe from honeybees and Varroa mites, as well as the occurrence of Varroa. They used the information to reconstruct the spread of Deformed Wing Virus and found that the epidemic largely spread from Europe to North America, Australia and New Zealand. They found some two-way movement between Europe and Asia, but none between Asia and Australasia, despite their closer proximity. The team also looked at samples from other species suspected of transmitting the disease, including different species of honeybee, mite and bumblebees, but concluded that the European honeybee was the key transmitter.

Professor Roger Butlin, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Sheffield, said: "Our study has found that the deformed wing virus is a major threat to honeybee populations across the world and this epidemic has been driven by the trade and movement of honeybee colonies.

"Domesticated honeybee colonies are hugely important for our agriculture systems, but this study shows the risks of moving animals and plants around the world. The consequences can be devastating, both for domestic animals and for wildlife. The risk of introducing viruses or other pathogens is just one of many potential dangers."

Senior author Professor Mike Boots of Exeter and UC Berkeley concluded: "The key insight of our work is that the global virus pandemic in honeybees is manmade not natural. It's therefore within our hands to mitigate this and future disease problems."



February 3, 2016 - ABJ Extra


US Spring Forecast: March Snow to Threaten Northeast;

April Warmth to Fuel Widespread Severe Weather Outbreaks

AccuWeather Global Weather Center - February 2, 2016 - AccuWeather reports  Punxsutawney Phil failed to see his shadow on Feb. 2, 2016, indicating an early start to spring for the United States. The decision marks only the 18th time Pennsylvania's most famous groundhog hasn't seen his shadow since the tradition began in 1887.
For the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, AccuWeather meteorologists are concerned for just the opposite, as cold air and the potential for snow will linger into the start of March. Elsewhere, springlike severe weather isn't predicted to become widespread until April.
The full 2016 U.S. spring forecast can be found below.

Cold air and snow possible for mid-Atlantic, Northeast into March; Drought may develop for Great Lakes, Ohio Valley
Warm weather lovers in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast will have to be patient, as winter plans to linger into March across both regions.
Cold air and stormy weather will take the stage from late February into the start of March, opening the door for a potential late-winter snowstorm.
"There could be a last surge of winter before we see the transition into spring," AccuWeather Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said. "For the Northeast, there's still an opportunity for some snow, although there's a higher chance that we'll see a cold snap rather than a big snowstorm."
A quick warmup will follow, however, allowing milder air to arrive faster than it has in the past two years for both regions.
"A lack of arctic air in the region and the sun getting higher and higher in the sky will make it feel pretty nice, I think, by mid-March in the Northeast," Pastelok said.
Through April, the weather pattern will lend itself to the occasional damp and dreary day before a turnaround in May.
"Big cities around the Great Lakes will have nice weather for outdoor projects and early planting in May," Pastelok said. "Expect mild temperatures, frequent sunshine and cooler nights."
May could also yield drought concerns for the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, prompting some early season heat. During the same month, the threat for severe weather will loom for the mid-Atlantic.
Severe weather outbreaks to target Southeast, Gulf Coast, Tennessee Valley; Chance for early tropical impact low
Spring will kick off with periods of wet weather across the Southeast, increasing the risk for flooding throughout the region. Florida, Georgia and South Carolina will be at an especially high risk.
From late February through March, the threat for severe thunderstorms will ramp up in Florida. Elsewhere however, severe weather will get a slow start with below-normal tornado totals predicted for the month.
Come April, warmer air will help to fuel severe storms, allowing multiple, widespread outbreaks to occur. Atlanta, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Chattanooga and Nashville, Tennessee, are all in the line of fire.
In the Gulf Coast states, the severe weather may turn into flooding events during April and May.
Those concerned for early tropical development can breathe a sigh of relief: The chance for an early impact will be low.
Severe weather to ramp up in April for Plains, Mississippi Valley, Midwest

Stable air in place across the central Plains and the Mississippi Valley during March and early April will help to hold back severe weather.
However, that will change as April progresses and storms track from the Southwest, leading to increased severe weather in the central and southern Plains, Mississippi Valley and Midwest.
"Intense warmth ahead of these storms coming out of the West is going to promote severe weather. Those are the ingredients you need," Pastelok said.
"The thing that worries me the most is that it could turn into heavy rain producers that could lead to flooding. And we've seen lots of flooding already over this past winter season in the Mississippi Valley."
Across the southern Plains states, flooding this year is not predicted to be as severe as last year, when between 15 and 20 inches of rain inundated Oklahoma and Texas.
Western drought woes to continue into spring
An El-Nino weather pattern has delivered rain and mountain snow to the western United States this winter, and that trend will largely continue during spring.
Drier-than-normal conditions will affect the Northwest in March; however, the rest of the West may continue to have surges of moisture into April.
Snow is forecast to fall across the high ground of the central and southern Rockies in March. In California, abundant precipitation could lead to additional flooding problems.
"Throughout the winter, the focus for precipitation has been on both northern and central California. While this will continue to be the case into spring, one or two systems are on the radar for Southern California in March," Pastelok said.
Rain and mountain snow have helped to ease short-term drought woes in the Golden State, but the long-term water crisis will continue.
"We've gotten the snow in the Sierra. We've gotten the rain in the short term. It will continue through the end of the wet season, which is good news as well," Pastelok said.
"That will help out agriculture in the short term. That will help out the drinking water situation. However, will it relieve all the other problems that occurred over the last four and a half years? Probably not. I think we need another season like this."


February 2, 2016 - ABJ Extra

Score Big with Honey!

(Courtesy of the National Honey Board)

This weekend the National Football League (NFL) is celebrating 50 years. That’s 50 years of “I could hear that from here!” tackles, “Did that just happen?!?” plays, “I can’t believe it!” tear-inducing losses and “We are the champions!” sweet victories.
But it’s not just about the game, or the coaches or the players. What makes the Super Bowl great is the experience of it all, the atmosphere you create when you bring good friends together with great food. That’s right, this is a holiday for food, and we’ve got five new recipes that will show you how to score big this weekend with honey!
So much more than just a sweetener, all-natural honey performs a slew of tasks, making it a true game changer in the kitchen:
•    Flavor: Honey not only imparts a unique flavor to any dish, but it also balances and enhances the flavor profiles of other ingredients used in a recipe.
•    Emulsifier: Honey acts as a binder and thickener for sauces, dressings, marinades and dips.
•    Humectant: Honey provides and retains moisture to a variety of dishes, helping you lock in moisture for grilled meats.
 So take it to the house and make honey your VIP this weekend.


Curried Honey-Glazed Chicken Wings

Recipe courtesy of Marie Simmons, cookbook author.

•    1 cup - honey
•    1/2 cup - crushed tomatoes
•    2 teaspoons  - curry powder
•    1/2 teaspoon - ground cumin
•    1/4 teaspoon - ground cayenne, to taste for preferred heat level
•    1 tablespoon - apple cider vinegar
•    2-1/2 pounds - chicken wings

Combine honey, tomatoes, curry, cumin and cayenne in the food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil, gently, over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in the vinegar.

Meanwhile cut the chicken wings in thirds, cutting at the joints. Discard the wing tips. When the glaze has cooled combine the cut up wings and the glaze in a large heavy duty self-closing bag. Refrigerate, turning the bag once or twice, several hours or overnight.
When ready to cook the wings preheat oven to 375°F.  Line a large rimmed sheet pan with heavy duty foil and spray the foil with non-stick spray. Lift the wings from the marinade and arrange on the prepared baking pan. Transfer the remaining marinade to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and boil gently 10 to 15 minutes.

Bake the wings, turning twice and brushing with the boiled marinade, every 15 minutes. After 35 to 45 minutes the wings should be nicely browned and glazed. Serve either hot or at room temperature.

TIP: Try using a buckwheat, alfalfa or wildflower honey varietal in your marinade for an extra flavor boost.

Printer Friendly Version - Curried Honey-Glazed Chicken Wings


Chipotle-Mango Salsa

Recipe courtesy of Grill Nation: 200 Surefire Recipes, Tips and Techniques to Grill Like a Pro, (2015, Oxmoor House) by Travel Channel’s ‘American Grilled’ host  and Chef/Owner of  Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery, David Guas.

•    1-1/4 cups  -  mango, peeled and chopped
•    1/3 cup - red onion, chopped
•    1/3 cup - red bell pepper, chopped
•    1/3 cup - fresh lime juice
•    2 tablespoons  - honey
•    1/4 cup  - fresh cilantro, chopped
•    1 tablespoon  - canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
•    1 teaspoon  - Kosher salt
•    1/4 teaspoon - coarsely ground black pepper
•    2 - garlic cloves, minced

Stir together all ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Printer Friendly Version - Chipotle-Mango Salsa


Grilled Chicken Satay with Honey Peanut Sauce

For chicken satay skewers:

•    1.5 lbs. - boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into long strips (about 1 oz. each)
•    24 - skewers, soaked in water if wooden

•    2 tablespoons - olive oil
•    2 tablespoons - reduced sodium soy sauce
•    2 tablespoons  - honey
•    1 teaspoon - salt
•    1 teaspoon - pepper

Honey Peanut Sauce:
•    1/2 cup - crunchy peanut butter
•    1/3 cup - water
•    1/2 cup - honey
•    1/3 cup - soy sauce
•    1/3 cup - rice wine vinegar
•    2 cloves - garlic, minced
•    2 teaspoons - sesame oil
•    2 teaspoons - red pepper flakes
•    2 tablespoons - red chili sauce
•    Fresh limes for serving

Mix the olive oil, soy sauce, honey and salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Cut the chicken into strips and toss in the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
Whisk together all the ingredients for the Honey Peanut Sauce and set aside at room tempature to let the flavors meld.

Preheat the grill to medium high and thread the chicken strips onto the skewers.
Grill the chicken satay skewers for 3-4 minutes per side or until cooked through.
Remove from heat and serve warm or room temp along with Honey Peanut Sauce and fresh limes.

Tip: You can cut the chicken and prepare that marinade and sauce up to 2 days ahead for party prep.

Printer Friendly Version - Grilled Chicken Satay with Honey Peanut Sauce


Peppered Asiago Bacon Burgers with Honeyed Arugula

•    2 lbs. - ground chuck
•    1 cup - asiago cheese, grated
•    2 teaspoons - Salt, divided
•    2 teaspoons - Freshly ground black pepper
•    1 Tablespoon - Worcestershire sauce
•    1/3 cup - honey
•    2 Tablespoons - lemon juice
•    6 cups - arugula leaves
•    6 - sesame seed buns, or brioche
•    1/4 cup - mayonnaise
•    6 slices - bacon, cooked, crisp
•    6 slices - tomato

Combine ground chuck, asiago cheese, 1 teaspoon of the salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl. Form into 6 patties. Grill on closed grill until cooked through (about 4-5 minutes per side). In a medium bowl, whisk together honey, lemon juice and remaining salt. Add the arugula and toss to coat. Toast the buns lightly on the grill. Divide the mayonnaise between each of the six rolls, spreading on the bottom half of each. Place patties on buns, add one piece of bacon on top of each burger and top each with a slice of tomato. Evenly divide the honeyed arugula between each patty. Place bun tops on and serve.

Printer Friendly Version - Peppered Asiago Bacon Burgers with Honeyed Arugula

Honey Shandy

•    1 - lemon wedge
•    4 oz. - ginger ale
•    1/2 oz. - Honey Simple Syrup
•    1 bottle - honey wheat ale

Squeeze the lemon wedge and drop into a pilsner or pint glass. Add the ginger ale and honey simple syrup, then fill the glass with the honey wheat ale.

Printer Friendly Version - Honey Shandy


January 28, 2016 - ABJ Extra

EPA Posts List of Pesticides Registered to

Combat Varroa Mites in Bee Hives

The EPA has posted a list of pesticides registered for use against Varroa mites to help beekeepers identify products that can help fight this invasive species of bee pest. As part of EPA’s role in the National Pollinator Health Strategy, the Agency has expedited its review of registration applications for new products targeting pests harmful to pollinators.

In 2015, EPA expedited the review of applications for oxalic acid and a new biochemical miticide, potassium salts of hops beta acids, to provide more options for beekeepers to combat Varroa mites. More pest control options help avoid the development of resistance toward other products. The list we published today makes it that much easier for beekeepers to identify all products that are registered for use against Varroa and helps advance toward the goals in the National Pollinator Health Strategy.

Find out about other EPA efforts to address pollinator loss.


January 26, 2016 - ABJ Extra

2016 American Honey Queen & Princess Hail

from Wisconsin & Texas

(From American Honey Queen Program, Anna L. Kettlewell,
Chairperson, 10432 W. Norwich Avenue, Greenfield, WI 53228)

The American Beekeeping Federation is proud to announce that Kim Kester and Tabitha Mansker were selected as the 2016 American Honey Queen and Princess at its annual January convention in Jacksonville, FL.

Queen Kim is the 23-year-old daughter of Jim and Barb Kester of Nekoosa, WI.  She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she double-majored in dairy science and poultry science.  She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Agricultural Education at Iowa State University.  Kim began beekeeping in 2014 and now owns six hives of bees.  She previously served as the Wisconsin Honey Queen

Princess Tabitha is 20-year-old daughter of Gary and Wanda Mansker of Nevada, TX, and granddaughter of Bobby Lou Mansker of Lubbock, TX.  She lives with her family on a small farm and enjoys caring for their many animals.  Tabitha was deeply involved in 4-H for more than 8 years and enjoys all aspects of agriculture.  Currently, she is pursuing studies in business and marketing and has hopes of becoming a teacher. Tabitha stays busy helping to manage her family’s 16 hives of bees and extracting honey for many commercial beekeeping operations.  She previously served as the Texas Honey Queen.

Kim and Tabitha 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 Kim Kester or American Honey Princess Tabitha Mansker, please contact American Honey Queen Program Chairperson Anna Kettlewell at 414.545.5514.


January 26, 2016 - ABJ Extra

New ARS Bee Genebank Will Preserve Honey Bee Genetic

Diversity and Provide Breeding Resources

by Kim Kaplan
 Semen collected from honey bees and cryopreserved (frozen) will form the basis of anew national bee genebank. Click the image for more information about it. 
The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is organizing a national bee genebank as part of the agency's response to ongoing problems facing the country's beekeepers. Average losses of managed honey bee colonies have increased to more than 30 percent per year due to pathogens, pests, parasites, and other pressures including deficient nutrition and sublethal impacts of pesticides. These stresses have threatened the continued business sustainability of commercial beekeepers.

The genebank, which will be located in Fort Collins, Colorado, will help preserve the genetic diversity of honey bees, especially for traits such as resistance to pests or diseases and pollination efficiency. It will also provide ARS and other researchers access to resources from which to breed better bees, according to entomologist Robert Danka, with the ARS Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Research Unit in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Danka is helping shape the bee genebank—the Russian honey bee and Varroa Sensitive Hygiene lines developed at the Baton Rouge lab will be among those conserved first.

To help make the genebank a practical reality, ARS researchers are developing better long-term storage techniques for honey bees, including improving cryopreservation of bee sperm and embryos. Their work will include creating a way to reliably revive frozen embryos and grow them into reproductively viable adults after storage.
Another component needed to create the new genebank is a germplasm species committee, which will decide which species and subspecies to collect and preserve. ARS and Washington State University are working with beekeepers on the next steps for the committee.

ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.

Read more about the new genebank in the January 2016 issue of AgResearch.


January 21, 2016 - ABJ Extra

Small Farms Benefit Significantly From a Few Extra Pollinators

American Association for the Advancement of Science

A white-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum) pollinating a sunflower (Helianthus sp.).
This material relates to a paper that will appear in the 22 January 2016, issue of Science, published by AAAS. The paper, by Lucas Alejandro Garibaldi at Instituto de
Investigaciones en Recursos Naturales, Agroecología y Desarrollo Rural (IRNAD) in Río
Negro, Argentina, and colleagues was titled, "Mutually beneficial pollinator diversity
and crop yield outcomes in small and large farms." Credit: Arnstein Staverløkk

Higher numbers of pollinators can significantly increase crop productivity of small-sized farms, while large farms experience a similar yield benefit only if increases in pollinator density are accompanied by diversity, a new study finds. More than two billion people are reliant on small-scale agriculture in developing nations, and while much evidence demonstrates that pollinators can beneficially affect crop yield, how these helpful critters affect small-scale farms compared to larger farms is mostly unknown. To gain more insights, Lucas Garibaldi et al. analyzed 344 fields of small and large holdings in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, recording the number of pollinators (density), their biodiversity, and the yield of each crop over a five-year period. For small holdings less than two hectares, their analysis found that yield gaps -- the difference between crops that yielded the most produce compared to those that yielded the least -- could be closed by 24% through higher pollinator density; the authors note that the remaining 76% of the yield gap may be partially closed by technologies that optimize other agricultural factors, such as nutrients and water. In contrast, for larger holdings, a similar yield benefit from pollinator density only occurred if accompanied by high pollinator diversity. The authors suggest that large crops may benefit less from pollinator density because these are more likely to be pollinated by flower visitors with longer foraging ranges, which are usually generalist species, such as honey bees. Although pollinator dynamics are being increasingly threatened in agroecosystems because of declining floral abundance and diversity, the authors note that there are opportunities to reverse the trend by a number of different means, including planting flower strips, more targeted use of pesticides, and restoring natural areas adjacent to crops.


January 21, 2016 - ABJ Extra

New Study Challenges Popular Explanation for Why

a Social Insect Becomes a Worker or Queen

Rockefeller University
Above, individual members of a colony of clonal raider ants, Cerapachys biroi, have been tagged for behavioral studies. While some ants form a tight cluster and nurse the ant larvae, others leave the cluster to explore and forage.
Credit: Daniel Kronauer/The Rockefeller University

The exquisite social hierarchy of insect colonies has long fascinated scientists. Take two eggs--both contain identical genetic material, but while one becomes a sterile worker, the other may develop into a queen that can reproduce. Workers perform brood care and other crucial tasks that keep the colony going, and typically live for a few weeks or months, whereas the egg-laying queens of some species live for years or decades.

What accounts for this dramatic divergence in the two insects' development? Within the last decade, many scientists have come to believe that DNA methylation--a mode of genetic regulation in which chemical tags turn genes on or off--is involved.

However, this explanation doesn't hold up to scrutiny, according to new findings from Rockefeller University published on January 21 in Current Biology. The researchers studied DNA methylation in clonal raider ants, Cerapachys biroi, which can switch between performing either brood care or egg-laying. When comparing methylation patterns in the brains of workers and queens, they found no overall differences.

"Discovering that there is no evidence to support methylation as a reason why two ants can behave so differently was, on the one hand, a little sobering," says senior author Daniel Kronauer, assistant professor and head of Rockefeller's Laboratory of Social Evolution and Behavior. "On the other hand, this finding could be really important for those who want to understand the evolution of social behavior and the function of DNA methylation in insects."

The case for methylation
Previous research had found methylation differences in the brains of insect queens and workers--making many scientists believe these differences cause the animals to take on different social roles. "It was a great story, and everyone ran with it," says Peter Oxley, a co-first author and postdoc in the lab.

But these previous studies looked at average levels of methylation within a sample of each insect type--taking, for instance, a group of worker ants, mixing their DNA together, and measuring the average amount of methylation among all their brains.

These experiments consistently found differences between worker and queen insects--but that test alone won't tell you if the difference is significant, explains Kronauer. The average amount of methylation present in one group will most likely differ from the average amount present in another group. To be meaningful, those differences must be consistent across multiple groups of workers and queens.

A lack of evidence
To take that extra step, members of Kronauer's team--including co-first author Romain Libbrecht, who at the time was a postdoc in Kronauer's lab and presently works at the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland--measured methylation levels from multiple samples of ants performing brood care or laying eggs. In these experiments, the distinctions found in previous research didn't hold up. The team did see differences in methylation between samples; however, these differences were equivalent between samples of workers, as well as between samples of queens. "It dawned on us that there was really nothing there," Kronauer says.

It's not that methylation doesn't do anything at all--in fact, the researchers found that it is primarily associated with genes that serve crucial functions for workers and queens alike, suggesting that DNA methylation might contribute to the stable expression of so-called household genes.

And, Kronauer notes, "we can't say for sure there is no difference in methylation between queens and workers. What our study does show is that the current evidence is inconclusive. That does not rule out the possibility that future studies with even higher resolution and more statistical power could find such differences."


January 15, 2016 - ABJ Extra

EPA Opens Public Comment Period on the First of

Four Preliminary Risk Assessments for

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has opened the 60-day public comment period for its preliminary pollinator risk assessment for imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid insecticide, in a Federal Register notice published today. After the comment period ends, the EPA may revise the pollinator assessment based on comments received and, if necessary, take action to reduce risks from the insecticide.

The preliminary risk assessment identified a residue level for imidacloprid of 25 ppb, above which effects on pollinator hives are likely to be seen and below which effects are unlikely. These effects may include reduction in numbers of pollinators as well as the amount of honey produced.

The imidacloprid assessment is the first of four preliminary pollinator risk assessments for the neonicotinoid insecticides. Preliminary pollinator risk assessments for three other neonicotinoids, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, are scheduled to be released for public comment in December 2016.

A preliminary risk assessment for all ecological effects for imidacloprid, including a revised pollinator assessment and impacts on other species such as aquatic and terrestrial animals and plants will also be released in December 2016.

EPA encourages stakeholders and interested members of the public to visit the imidacloprid docket, review the risk assessment and related documents, and submit comments. All comments submitted will be accounted for in our final risk assessment. The risk assessment and other supporting documents are available in the docket at: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketBrowser;rpp=25;so=DESC;sb=postedDate;po=0;dct=SR;D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0844.

EPA is also planning to hold a webinar on the imidacloprid assessment in early February. The times and details will be posted at: http://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/how-we-assess-risks-pollinators.


January 14, 2016 - ABJ Extra



(Courtesy of www.beeinformed.org)

Dr. Vanessa Corby-Harris from the USDA-ARS is currently enrolling participants in a study to look at the effects of a probiotic, Parasaccharibacter apium (or P. apium) on colony health. In both lab and small-scale field studies, she sees a potential benefit of P. apium to colony health. Bees supplemented with this bacterium can survive better in the lab and are more resistant to Nosema. Supplemented hives also show a slight trend of being stronger in the spring. If you are interested in participating or know someone who might be interested, please direct yourself to the project website. Participation can be anonymous and is free of charge. It’s a win-win for bee research and beekeepers!

The P. apium Project



January 11, 2016 - ABJ Extra

Conflict Among Honey Bee Genes Supports Theory of Altruism



If a worker behaves altruistically and helps rear her sisters' offspring, she will ensure
that her matrigenes -- those genes she inherits from her queen mother -- are passed on
to the next generation. This image shows honey bee workers caring for their queen
moher by grooming her. Credit: David Galbraith, Penn State

Using modern genetic approaches, a team of researchers has provided strong support for the long-standing, but hotly debated, evolutionary theory of kin selection, which suggests that altruistic behavior occurs as a way to pass genes to the next generation.

The researchers -- who include Christina Grozinger, distinguished professor of entomology, and David Galbraith, postdoctoral scholar in entomology, both at Penn State; David Queller, Spencer T. Olin Professor, Washington University in St. Louis; and others -- investigated kin selection by examining the social behavior of worker honey bees, which are all female.
They found that the genes the workers inherit from their queen -- matrigenes --direct worker bees' altruistic behavior -- forgoing production of their own offspring to help rear their siblings. When the queen dies, the workers can begin to selfishly compete with one another to lay eggs. The genes they inherit from their different fathers -- patrigenes -- direct this behavior.

"We usually think of honey bees as ideal cooperators, with all the members of the colony working together harmoniously," said Grozinger. "Our studies demonstrate that there is actually conflict -- called intragenomic conflict -- among the genes inherited from the father and those inherited from the mother."

According to Grozinger, in a normal colony, the queen lays all the eggs and the workers remain sterile and help raise the queen's offspring. When the queen dies, the workers either behave altruistically by remaining sterile and helping rear the remaining offspring and the new offspring of their sisters or they behave selfishly by activating their own ovaries and laying their own unfertilized eggs, which develop into males.

"In 2003, David Queller published a key model using kin selection theory that predicted that under queenless conditions in a honey bee colony, the patrigenes would promote selfish behavior in the workers, while the matrigenes would promote altruistic behavior," said Galbraith.

According to Queller, this conflict is the result of unequal distribution of the matrigenes and patrigenes among the workers. All the workers in the colony share the same set of matrigenes. In contrast, because the queen mated with 10 or more males, the workers have different patrigenes. If a worker behaves altruistically and helps rear her sisters' offspring, she ensures that her matrigenes are passed on. However, more of her patrigenes pass to the next generation if she behaves selfishly and lays her own eggs.

"It is very strange to think that your genes might be fighting with each other based on whether they came from your mother or your father," said Queller. "Yet, this is just what we found. It turns out that when a queen dies, worker bees behave the way their fathers want them to, producing sons when possible." The results appear today (Jan. 11) the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to Queller, this intragenomic conflict supports the theory of kin selection first proposed by William Hamilton in 1964. Altruism is defined as reducing one's own reproductive output to help others reproduce. So kin selection theory predicts that altruism will only evolve to help related individuals. Using kin selection theory, David Haig, professor, Harvard University, developed models predicting intragenomic conflict, which Queller then extended to social insect societies.

In 2010, however, biologist E.O. Wilson and colleagues published a paper that argued kin selection is not needed for altruistic behavior to evolve.

"While Queller's model made very specific predictions about the behavior of matrigenes and patrigenes in social insects, it was not possible to test this prediction until modern genomic tools were developed that allowed us to specifically track both matrigenes and patrigenes in the same individual," said Grozinger.

The researchers created 18 different male-female crosses of two different genetic stocks of honey bees -- Africanized bees, which produce larger ovaries, and European bees, which produce smaller ovaries. The crosses enabled the workers to determine which of the genes -- those from fathers versus those from mothers -- were active in the offspring. The team housed the worker bee offspring without a queen, stimulating some to start producing eggs.
The researchers first demonstrated that worker bees with Africanized fathers and European mothers had larger ovaries and were more likely to become reproductively active than bees with European fathers and Africanized mothers. According to Grozinger, this demonstrated that the reproductive traits of the workers were more strongly influenced by their patrigenes than matrigenes.

"We identified more than 100,000 sections of DNA, called single nucleotide polymorphisms, that were present in the genomes of either the mother or the father, but not both," said Galbraith. "This exercise enabled us to determine which pieces of RNA in their worker offspring were produced by the matrigenes versus patrigenes."

Next, the researchers harvested workers bees' ovaries and sequenced the entire set of RNA molecules to see which of their inherited genes were expressed to a greater extent.
"We found that expression of the patrigenes, but not matrigenes, was strongly associated with worker egg-laying behavior," Galbraith said.

According to researchers, they next plan to explore intergenomic conflict in other systems.
"What is amazing about Queller's model is that it provides very detailed predictions for how matrigenes and patrigenes behave in different social insect species and different contexts -- in some cases, matrigenes are the selfish ones," Grozinger said.

Other authors on the paper include Sarah Kocher, associate researcher, Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, Princeton University; Tom Glenn, owner of Glenn Apiaries; Istvan Albert, associate professor of bioinformatics, Penn State; Greg Hunt, professor of entomology, Purdue University; and Joan Strassmann, Charles Rebstock Professor of Biology, Washington University in St. Louis. The National Science Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation supported this research.


January 7, 2016 - ABJ Extra

MN beekeeper: Feds Must Tighten Rules

on Insecticide Coated Seed

MN beekeeper: Feds must tighten rules on insecticide coated seeds
Minnesota Public Radio News

Jeff Anderson is a beekeeper and the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that seeks to force the Environmental Protection Agency to label insecticide-coated seeds.

Minnesota beekeeper sues EPA over insecticide-coated seeds - TwinCities.com
Pioneer Press

Full Coverage


January 6, 2016 - ABJ Extra

EPA Releases the First of Four Preliminary Risk Assessments

for Insecticides Potentially Harmful to Bees

First-of-its-kind assessment delivers on President Obama’s
National Pollinator Strategy

WASHINGTON-- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a preliminary pollinator risk assessment for the neonicotinoid insecticide, imidacloprid, which shows a threat to some pollinators. EPA’s assessment, prepared in collaboration with California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation, indicates that imidacloprid potentially poses risk to hives when the pesticide comes in contact with certain crops that attract pollinators.

“Delivering on the President’s National Pollinator Strategy means EPA is committed not only to protecting bees and reversing bee loss, but for the first time assessing the health of the colony for the neonicotinoid pesticides,” said Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Using science as our guide, this preliminary assessment reflects our collaboration with the State of California and Canada to assess the results of the most recent testing required by EPA.”

The preliminary risk assessment identified a residue level for imidacloprid of 25 ppb, which sets a threshold above which effects on pollinator hives are likely to be seen, and at that level and below which effects are unlikely. These effects include decreases in pollinators as well as less honey produced. . 

For example, data show that citrus and cotton may have residues of the pesticide in pollen and nectar above the threshold level. Other crops such as corn and leafy vegetables either do not produce nectar or have residues below the EPA identified level. Additional data is being generated on these and other crops to help EPA evaluate whether imidacloprid poses a risk to hives.

The imidacloprid assessment is the first of four preliminary pollinator risk assessments for the neonicotinoid insecticides. Preliminary pollinator risk assessments for three other neonicotinoids, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, are scheduled to be released for public comment in December 2016.

A preliminary risk assessment of all ecological effects for imidacloprid, including a revised pollinator assessment and impacts on other species such as aquatic and terrestrial animals and plants will also be released in December 2016.

In addition to working with California, EPA coordinated efforts with Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency. Canada’s Imidacloprid pollinator-only assessment – also released today – reaches the same preliminary conclusions as EPA’s report.

The 60-day public comment period will begin upon publication in the Federal Register. After the comment period ends, EPA may revise the pollinator assessment based on comments received and, if necessary, take action to reduce risks from the insecticide.

In 2015, EPA proposed to prohibit the use of pesticides that are toxic to bees, including the neonicotinoids, when crops are in bloom and bees are under contract for pollination services.  The Agency temporarily halted the approval of new outdoor neonicotinoid pesticide uses until new bee data is submitted and pollinator risk assessments are complete.

EPA encourages stakeholders and interested members of the public to visit the imidacloprid docket and sign up for email alerts to be automatically notified when the agency opens the public comment period for the pollinator-only risk assessment. The risk assessment and other supporting documents will be available in the docket today at: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketBrowser;rpp=25;so=DESC;sb=postedDate;po=0;dct=SR;D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0844.

EPA is also planning to hold a webinar on the imidacloprid assessment in early February.  The times and details will be posted at:  http://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/how-we-assess-risks-pollinators


January 6, 2016 - ABJ Extra

Iowa Honey Producers Launches Searchable City

Beekeeping Ordinance Website

(Courtesy of the National Honey Board)

The Iowa Honey Producers Association have announced the immediate availability of www.BeeLaws.org. This website helps Iowa residents learn their city’s ordinances related to beekeeping.¬¬¬ It is believed to be the first searchable bee law website in the nation.

Anyone curious about placing a bee hive can open the website, choose a city listed on the front page, read pertinent excerpts from that city’s ordinances, and see contact information for city staff. Digital code citations are given where possible.

“I am very excited for this new website,” said Roy Kraft, president of the Iowa Honey Producers Association. “One of the most common questions we get as beekeepers is if it’s legal to keep bees where someone lives, and no one really knew until now.”

Andy Joseph, state apiarist for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, chose 77 cities from around the state for inclusion on BeeLaws.org, with the hope of growth in the number of apiaries in and around those cities. Cities where beginning beekeeping classes were held in 2015 were also included on the website. No more cities will be added in 2016 while Julia McGuire, project investigator, conducts analysis of the bee law website and its impact.

Positive Environmental Impact

With national concern over pollinator presence and pollinator habitat, www.BeeLaws.org aims to responsibly fill the knowledge gap of Iowans interested in beekeeping.
“With increased interest in beekeeping over the last year and a half, I want to help people keep bees and I want to help them do it legally,” said McGuire, coordinator of the Des Moines Backyard Beekeepers club and beekeeper since 2011. “BeeLaws.org aims to remove the burden of taking time to find the appropriate staff member at city hall, and then potentially facing negative impacts. If you cannot find a place in town to legally keep bees, you can hopefully use the website to find legal, nearby areas without having to spend a lot of time on the phone and free of risk.”

Written in lay terms, www.BeeLaws.org is a mobile-friendly website and is supported by the IHPA and the Iowa Specialty Crop Block Grant Program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Founded in 1912, the IHPA, a 501(c)(5) agricultural organization and affiliate of the Iowa State Horticultural Society, serves over 900 members through monthly newsletters, a summer field day, and an annual meeting for education and networking. The organization aims to grow the Iowa honey industry through education and promotion.

The website content of www.BeeLaws.org was valid at the time of the 2015 survey and is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA, IDALS, or the IHPA.

The Des Moines Backyard Beekeepers is an informal club with internet presence at www.desmoinesbackyardbeekeepers.org


January 5, 2016 - ABJ Extra

Power Up Your New Year, Honey!

(Courtesy of the National Honey Board)

Hello 2016! Is there anything as beautiful as the start of a new year? So new and fresh, without a single blemish or “what if” attached to it. We all come into the new year with eyes full of wonder and hopes of all the things we wish to accomplish this year.
Maybe it’s something as small as being more active on a daily basis, or perhaps as large as running your first marathon. With 17 grams of carbohydrates, and only 64 calories per tablespoon, honey is a great all-natural energy source that will fuel you as you work towards your various activity goals.
Or perhaps you want to tackle the room in your house that is made for cooking with some new and exciting dishes. Honey not only adds flavor, but balances other ingredients in recipes making it ideal in sweet, spicy and savory dishes alike.
Whatever your goal, we’re here to support you with sweet honey tips, tricks and, of course, delicious honey recipes for every occasion!
Let us be among the first to welcome you to the New Year with these five delightful honey recipes created to power up your year. Happy 2016 everybody!

Honey Apple Yogurt Parfait with Honey Almond Cherry Granola

•    1 1/2 tablespoons - honey
•    1 cup - plain Greek yogurt
•    1 tablespoon - orange juice (100% natural)
•    1/4 teaspoon  - ground cinnamon
•    1/8 teaspoon - ground nutmeg
•    1 - large Fuji apple
•    2 tablespoons - lemon juice
•    1/4 cup - Honey Almond Cherry Granola (recipe here)

In a medium bowl, mix yogurt, orange juice, honey, cinnamon and nutmeg together. Set aside. Dice apple into 1/2 inch cubes. Toss with fresh lemon juice to keep apple from browning. Build parfait by first layering 1/4 cup spiced yogurt, 1/4 cup diced apple, then 1/4 cup granola. Repeat order and serve.

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Southwest Salmon & Black Bean Salad with Honey Cilantro Lime Dressing

Dressing (yields ½ cup):

•    1 tablespoon - honey
•    3 1/2 tablespoons - lime juice, freshly squeezed
•    2 tablespoons - extra virgin olive oil
•    2 tablespoons - cilantro
•    1/2 teaspoon - garlic, minced
•    2 tablespoons - canned green chile

•    1 - 15-ounce canned corn, drained and rinsed (or 1 ½ cups frozen corn)
•    6 cups - romaine lettuce, chopped
•    1 - 15-ounce canned black beans, drained, rinsed and patted dry
•    1 - red pepper, diced
•    5 ounces - canned wild salmon or 2 foil pouches
•    1 - avocado, diced
•    1 ounce - Cotija or Feta cheese

In a medium skillet, add drained and rinsed corn. Over medium-high heat, char corn kernels in dry skillet until slightly blackened, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Add all dressing ingredients into a blender or blend using immersion blender. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix chopped lettuce, black beans, red pepper and charred corn together. Add salmon, diced avocado and about half of the prepared dressing to bowl and mix to combine. Top salad with crumbled Cotija cheese.

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Honey Greek Yogurt & Cherry Smoothie

•    12 oz - red cherries, fresh, pitted, frozen
•    1/2 oz - beet juice, fresh
•    8 1/2 oz - 2 % greek yogurt
•    3 oz - honey, wildflower (optional)
•    3 Tbsp - almonds, sliced, toasted (garnish)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth.
Pour 3, 8 ounce portions and serve immediately with a tablespoon of toasted, sliced almonds to garnish.

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Oat & Honey Bites

•    1/3 cup - honey
•    1 1/2 cups - rolled oats
•    1/2 cup - sliced almonds
•    2 tablespoons - chia seeds
•    1/4 cup - 72% dark chocolate, roughly chopped
•    1/2 cup - dried cranberries, roughly chopped
•    2/3 cup - natural peanut butter
•    3/4 teaspoon - vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, add oats, almonds, chia seeds, chocolate and cranberries into the bowl. Stir all ingredients together until combined. Add honey, peanut butter and vanilla extract to a medium bowl and mix all ingredients together until combined. Add peanut butter mixture to oats mix and stir until combined. Be sure dry ingredients are coated. Place mixture into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, as this will allow it to harden and make it easier to work with. Shape mix into one-inch rounded balls and place on a platter or cookie sheet. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container up to five days. You can also freeze and take out as needed.

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Spice-Crusted Salmon with Orange-Honey Glaze


•    3/4 cup - orange juice
•    1/4 cup - honey
•    2 tablespoons - lemon juice
•    1 teaspoon - grated ginger
•    1 1/2 teaspoons - cornstarch, mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons water
•    Salt and black pepper to taste
•    2 - egg whites
•    2 tablespoons - cumin seed
•    2 tablespoons - whole coriander
•    2 tablespoons - fennel seeds
•    2 tablespoons - vegetable oil
•    4 (4-ounce) - wild Alaska salmon filets or wild Alaska halibut filets, skin on

To make Orange-Honey Glaze, in a small nonreactive saucepan, whisk together orange juice, honey, lemon juice and ginger. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; whisk in cornstarch mixture and simmer 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

In a shallow bowl, lightly whisk egg whites until foamy. In an electric spice grinder or a blender, grind spices to coarse powder and spread on a plate. Dip flesh side of filets first in egg whites, then in spice mixture. In a sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Place filets in pan, skin side up, and cook about 5 minutes or until a medium brown crust forms on the flesh side, being careful that spices do not burn. Carefully turn with a spatula and cook on skin side about 5 minutes or until a small sharp knife feels no resistance when pushed into the flesh. Place the fish, crust side up, on a warm serving platter or on individual plates and drizzle with Orange-Honey Glaze.

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