Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Sign In   |   Register
Community Search
Latest News

The materials and information included in this Latest News page are provided as a service to you and do not reflect endorsement by the American Honey Producers Association (AHPA). The content and opinions expressed within the page are those of the authors and are not necessarily shared by AHPA. AHPA is not responsible for the accuracy of information provided from outside sources.

      



 

 

Honey Bee Scientist Position at ARS-Poplarville

Research Entomologist

Agricultural Research Service

1 vacancy - Poplarville, MS

Work Schedule is Full-Time - Permanent

Closes Thursday 1/19/2017

Salary Range $71,012.00 to $92,316.00 / Per Year

Who May Apply: US Citizens and Nationals; no prior Federal experience is required.

Job Overview

Summary

Find Solutions to Agricultural Problems that Affect Americans Every Day, From Field to Table.

The mission of the Thad Cochran Southern Horticultural Laboratory (TCSHL) located in Poplarville, Mississippi, is the development of cultural practices, pest management strategies, and cultivars that improve small fruit, vegetable, and ornamental plant production in the Gulf coast States.

Vacant research positions may be filled at one of several grade levels depending upon the scientific impact of the person selected.  For this reason, you are encouraged to apply at all grade levels in the announcement, if multiple grades.  A peer review will be required for selections made at grades GS-13 and above and the selectee will be required to submit supplemental materials.

Research scientists have open-ended promotion potential. Research accomplishments and their impact on the duties and responsibilities of positions are evaluated periodically. The grade level is limited only by the individual's demonstrated ability to perform research of recognized importance to science and technology. *Final grade level may be determined by a peer review panel.

Full description and how to apply: https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/461173300/#btn-add-info

Cost of Pollination Report

National Agricultural Statistics Service NASS

Description:

This report includes current and previous year data on cost of pollination.

Publication Coverage: Dec 22, 2016 to Dec 22, 2016

https://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/MannUsda/viewDocumentInfo.do?documentID=2008


Professor, Bloomer student, others identify bacterium that may kill honey bees

UW-STOUT NEWS BUREAU

Dec 31, 2016

MENOMONIE — A University of Wisconsin-Stout biology professor and his students, including one from Bloomer, may have made an important discovery in the effort to determine why honey bee hives are dying out during the winters in the Upper Midwest.

Biology Professor Jim Burritt and his students have published research about a new strain of the bacterium called Serratia marcescens strain sicaria. With evidence of its killing power, they chose the name sicaria, which means assassin, and Ss1 for short.

The research, with student co-authors Anna Winfield, of Bloomer, and Jake Hildebrand, of Menomonie, was published Dec. 21 in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication for science and medicine research. The study, “Sepsis and Hemocyte Loss in Honey Bees,” can be found at http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0167752.

Winfield developed two screening tests to identify Ss1 based on its biochemical properties. She graduated with honors in May 2016 in applied science and is a microbiology graduate student at UW-La Crosse.

“Our results indicate that Ss1 may contribute to the wintertime failure of honey bee colonies. We believe this is important because most beekeepers in our area lose over half of their hives each winter. In Dunn County, the percentage of winter hive failure rates has been as high as 80 percent recently,” said Burritt, himself a longtime beekeeper.

The bacterium came to light under a microscope at UW-Stout as researchers looked for a different organism in blood drawn from sick bees in Dunn County. They saw something unexpected.

“It was clear we were looking at something different. As we did more testing on the organism, we began to realize we may be working with a new threat to honey bees,” Burritt said. “We then collaborated with experts in bacterial genetics and biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who used mass spectrometry and three independent, whole-genome methods to confirm this organism had not been previously described in the literature.”

With evidence of a possible new disease in bees, UW-Stout then recruited beekeepers in eight west-central Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota counties and received support from the Wisconsin and Minnesota beekeeping associations to provide samples from 91 hives for testing.

Burritt and his students tested 3,219 honey bees and 1,259 Varroa destructor mites, found in the hives, between December 2014 and September 2016. Ss1 was found in bees and mites from every participating county.

Of the hives sampled for bees, 48 percent tested positive for the new bacterium, including one package of bees shipped from another region of the country. Of the hives sampled for mites, 76 percent tested positive. Of the hives that died during the winter, 73 percent had the bacterium.

The UW-Stout discovery is a positive step toward a possible solution.

“Though our study does not provide information on how winterkill can be stopped, we believe it will create a clearer picture of the diseases and challenges that honey bees face,” Burritt said. “This view will be important in eventually developing strategies to help bees survive the long months of winter.”

“The well-being of honey bees and other pollinators is crucial to our ecosystem, a wholesome environment and our economy,” he added.

Along with finding the new strain of bacterium, also groundbreaking within the study is confirmation that Varroa destructor mites carry the Ss1 bacterium, Burritt said. Previously, mites were known only for transmitting viruses to honey bees.

The eight-legged Varroa mites are about the size of a poppy seed, Burritt said.

“With the help of the students, we developed a method to efficiently obtain culture information from many individual mites,” he said.

Students play key roles

Hildebrand, a senior, led the testing of bee blood, hemolymph, for infection and identified proteins in the blood that are important to their immune system.

Five other UW-Stout students are recognized in the published research. They are Morgan Ingold, of Waterford; Matheus de Jesus, of Brazil; Viviane Oshima, of Brazil; Brooke Sommerfeldt, of Park Falls; and Amber Thums, of Butternut. Professor Steve Nold provided help with bioinformatics.

“The honey bee studies at UW-Stout have required the research ideas, interest and hands of a lot of students, and we had plenty of each,” Burritt said.

The research also found the Ss1 bacterium has 65 genes not found in other strains of the Serratia genus, suggesting Ss1 has been successful borrowing genetic information from other bacteria.

In 2014 Burritt and his students published another study in PLOS One describing their new technique of hemocyte profiling of the blood cells of honey bees. The latest research builds on the previous effort by using the new profiling method; bees infected by Ss1 were found to have fewer of the blood cells that defend against bacterial infections, suggesting Ss1 may weaken bees’ immune systems.

The honey bee project at UW-Stout, led by Burritt, is in its sixth year and has involved hundreds of UW-Stout students doing research in microbiology classes, courses within the applied science major and in locations beyond the classroom.

“The well-being of honey bees and other pollinators is crucial to our ecosystem, a wholesome environment and our economy.” - Jim Burritt, UW-Stout biology professor


'Ant-like' bees among new desert species identified by USU entomologist

December 24, 2016 by Mary-Ann Muffoletto

Though declines in bee populations have heightened awareness of the importance of pollinating insects to the world's food supply, numerous bee species remain undescribed or poorly understood.

Utah State University entomologist Zach Portman studies a diverse group of solitary, desert bees that aren't major pollinators of agricultural crops, but fill an important role in natural ecosystems of the American Southwest, including the sizzling sand dunes of California's Death Valley.

With Terry Griswold of the USDA-ARS Pollinating Insects Research Unit at Utah State and John Neff of the Central Texas Melittological Institute in Austin, Portman reports nine, newly identified species of the genus Perdita in the December 23, 2016, issue of Zootaxa. His research was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship awarded in 2011 and a Desert Legacy Grant from the Community Foundation.

Unexpected finds include the curious ant-like males of two of the species, which are completely different in appearance from their mates.

"It's unclear why these males have this unique form, but it could indicate they spend a lot of time in the nest," Portman says. "We may find more information as we learn more about their nesting biology."

Some of these bees, found exclusively in North America, sport scientific names inspired by Shakespearean characters, such as Perdita titania, named for the fairy queen from A Midsummer Night's Dream. Elusive and tiny, Portman tracks the bees by watching for their buzzing shadows in the blinding, midday sunlight the diminutive insects tend to favor.


"Their activity during the hottest part of the day may be a way of avoiding predators," says the doctoral candidate in USU's Department of Biology and the USU Ecology Center. "They appear to be important pollinators of desert plants commonly known as 'Crinklemats.'"

Crinklemats, flowering plants of the genus Tiquilia, grow low to the ground and feature ridged, hairy leaves and small, trumpet-shaped blue blossoms.

"Like the bees, Tiquilia flowers are very small," Portman says. "The bees must squeeze into the long, narrow corollas and dunk their heads into the flowers to extract the pollen."

The scientists report the female bees use pollen collected from the flowers to build up a supply to nourish their young. Once they have completed a pollen provision, the bees lay their eggs on the stash and leave their offspring to fend for themselves.

Portman says the bees have developed a special adaptation called a "hair basket," with inward-facing, hooked hairs, that allows them to collect pollen as they dive into a flower.

"We don't yet know if the bees use their legs to scoop pollen into the basket or if they simply collect it using their heads," he says. "There's still a lot of unknowns."

Portman says understanding more about these adaptations between the bees and the flowers they pollinate may be critical to the preservation of their surrounding environment.

Beyond their role as pollinators, he says the bees are interesting from an ecological and evolutionary standpoint due to their adaptations to arid habitats and high contrast color patterns.

"Some of the bees feature stripes and others have spots, which could be patterns for camouflage or a form of mimicry," Portman says. "These are characteristics we're still exploring."

Much of what Portman and his colleagues know about bees of the Perdita genus is built upon the work of the late University of California, Riverside entomologist Phillip Hunter Timberlake. Born in 1883, Timberlake described and named more than 800 bee species during his astounding 70-year career.

"Timberlake was considered eccentric, but his scholarship is to be admired," Portman says. "Although identifying Perdita and finding the bees' nests is challenging, these bees have a lot to tell us about adaptation to a harsh and inhospitable environment."

More information: Portman, Zachary M., John L. Neff and Terry Griswold. "Taxonomic revision of Perdita subgenus Heteroperdita Timberlake (Hymenoptera: Andrenidae), with descriptions of two ant-like males," Zootaxa, 23 Dec 2016. dx.doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4214.1.1

Journal reference: Zootaxa search and more infowebsite

Provided by: Utah State University

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-12-ant-like-bees-species-usu-entomologist.html#jCp

USDA honeybee researchers in Baton Rouge focus on causes of population decline

BY GRETA JINES | Special to The Advocate

Dec 26, 2016 - 2:20 pm

In recent years, considerable buzz has focused on the health of a small, but critically important, insect — the honeybee.

Parasites, pesticides, diseases and habitat loss have all played a part in a marked decline in the number of honey bee colonies, a growing problem for beekeepers, according to Robert Danka, research leader at the USDA's ARS Honey Bee  Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Laboratory in Baton Rouge.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture operates the lab from a facility on Ben Hur Road near LSU's campus.

Danka said beekeepers in the past have lost roughly 10 to 15 percent of their colonies annually, a loss that was sustainable. Currently, though, they are losing twice that number of colonies, despite the best efforts of beekeepers to keep them healthy.

"Some bee colonies die every year," Danka said. "Ten percent is one thing, but 30 to 40 percent is something different."

Even with higher levels of annual colony losses during the past 10 years, there have not been clear decreases in honey production or shortages of colonies for pollination, Danka said.

Several causes, or stressors, threaten honeybee health, he said. These include pests, parasites, pathogens, pesticides, habitat loss and overworked bees.

In the Baton Rouge area, he noted, the new expanse of student housing has contributed to the loss of bee habitat. For example, Danka said, land that’s now dedicated to apartment complexes The Woodlands of Baton Rouge and The Cottages of Baton Rouge are areas that used to house bees.

Danka said honeybees have faced a variety of pests throughout the years, but the Varroa mite, which is from the far east sectors of Asia, is the greatest threat to colonies of European honeybees, except in Australia.

Many bees used for beekeeping worldwide, including in the United States, originally are from Europe. The Varroa mite, which lives for only a few days if not on a honeybee, reproduces on an immature bee, he said.

Danka said researchers at the federal bee facility have been identifying characteristics of mite-resistant bees and breeding resistant bees for the past two decades.

While the decline in bee populations nationally has been alarming, Louisiana has fared better than many other areas, according to Danka and Kristen Healy, an assistant professor who specializes in medical entomology and public health entomology at LSU.

Healy noted that temperature is a stressor for honeybees, which don't do well in cooler climates. Louisiana’s warmer year-round climate is more suitable to them.

Like Danka, Healy said multiple factors contribute to the decline in the honeybee population.

“Think about how a human deals with stress,” Healy said. “You pile so many stressors onto an individual that it compounds the effects of each one of those stresses.”

Healy and others at LSU, in conjunction with the USDA lab, are studying pesticide effect on bees. When it comes to pesticides, she said, the primary risk factors are toxicity and exposure.

While some pesticides are worse than others, the goal is to release pesticides at night when bees are back in their hives.

“Generally, beekeepers have pretty close contact with their bees,” Healy said. “With pesticides, it tends to be more acute mortality so you (suddenly) will see a lot of dead bees in front of a hive.”

Chris Frink, an avid beekeeper and president of the Capital Area Beekeepers Association in Baton Rouge, has three honeybee hives in his backyard. He said he lost two colonies during the summer but attributed that to the excessive rain.

The weather conditions "kept them from flying and might have made it easier for pests to flourish,” Frink said.

Club meetings, he said, routinely include discussions on how to test for Varroa mites, treatment for bees and how to keep colonies healthy.

“We’re not rescuing bees from extinction by getting backyard beekeepers going, but we are raising awareness about the importance of bees to our food system, gardens and yards,” Frink said, noting the important part they play in plant pollination.

HoneyBEE  (Beekeeping Electronic Education) – developed by Meghan Milbrath, an extension and outreach specialist at Michigan State University. 

The HoneyBEE app will be for the development of beekeeping skills through the management of virtual honey bee colonies. This game will be a fun and engaging way for non-beekeepers to have a peek into the beekeeping world.  It will also help individuals consider the challenges in a risk-free environment before spending money or purchasing any animals. 

HoneyBEE is a game with the goal to successfully manage a virtual beekeeping colony and to build a sustainable virtual beekeeping operation.  The game will be based on real honey bee management data and will be a fun and engaging way for individuals to learn the basics of honey bee care and running a small honey bee business.  Players will start with one colony and will have to provide ‘care’ to the colony to keep it healthy and for it to grow.  Players will learn how to monitor health indicators and will have options to respond to multiple scenarios.   Players will be able to choose multiple locations and scenarios and can challenge themselves by trying different management strategies.   Successful players with hive products that can be sold - earning the player virtual money that can be used to purchase more colonies and more equipment and grow their operation.   Beekeepers who don’t successfully take care of their bees will have their colonies die, and they can start the game over.

Target audiences – people who are interested in keeping bees, teachers, beekeeping clubs, individuals who want to play a virtual game with bees.

Example – a player will start with a colony, and will chose the location (e.g. Michigan).  The player will choose when to check on the hive and will receive information on the health and status of the colony.  The player can choose to feed the colony, to add supplements, to monitor for disease, to treat for disease, to split the colony etc.  The colony will respond to the player’s action or inaction depending on the time of year, weather etc.   A beekeeper who is successful will be able to grow their operation, and can bring in income by putting money in their operation, getting virtual grants, or selling hives or hive products. 

Benefits – The game will be based on real honey bee management data, and can be integrated into beekeeping and science education.   Factors such as pests, pathogens, weather, habitat, will all affect the virtual beekeeping operation, and the beekeepers can try different scenarios to find management strategies that work to keep colonies successful.   

Need – Honey bees are struggling, and entering the beekeeping industry can be difficult for the general public.  This app will educate the public on the issues surrounding honey bees and beekeeping.   Many people have recently heard about beekeeping, and want to start, but underestimate the work and costs involved, or may not enjoy it.   This app will allow them to experience the art, joys and challenges of keeping bees before spending money, getting hot, or stung, and will be another tool for them to learn how to better care for their animals.

https://www.gofundme.com/pd-honeybee

 

Honeybee memories: Another piece of the Alzheimer's puzzle?

December 8, 2016

A breakdown of memory processes in humans can lead to conditions such as Alzheimer's and dementia. By looking at the simpler brain of a honeybee, new research published in Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, moves us a step towards understanding the different processes behind long-term memory formation.

"We show that DNA methylation is one molecular mechanism that regulates memory specificity and re-learning, and through which experiences of the organism could be accumulated and integrated over their lifetime," says Dr Stephanie Biergans, first author of the study and researcher at the University of Queensland, Australia.

"Honeybees have an amazing capacity to learn and remember," says the researcher. "They can count up to four, and orientate themselves by learning patterns and landmarks. They are also social insects that interact, teach and learn, making them successful foragers. Bees remember how to find a food source, how good the source was, and how to return to the hive."

As such, the honeybee can form complex memories through processes much like those happening in human brains. But, the honeybee brain is simpler and they have a smaller genome. This makes them an ideal model for investigating how the different processes needed for long-term memories happen.

Scientists know that when a memory is formed, molecular changes can trigger physical changes to the brain, including new or altered neural connections and activity. These build up over a lifetime to create our long-term memory.

One series of molecular changes that can occur due to experience or environmental changes and that affect memory formation is the differential expression of certain genes, mediated, among others, through processes collectively called epigenetic mechanisms. They regulate gene expression through modifications of the DNA or its associated proteins, without changing the genes themselves.

"We knew that DNA methylation is an epigenetic process that occurs in the brain and is related to memory formation," Biergans explains. "When we block this process in honeybees it affects how they remember."

Biergans taught two groups of honeybees to expect sugar in the presence of a particular smell. One group learned over an extended period, being exposed to the sugar and smell together many times. The other was given the combination only once. Using an inhibitor compound, Biergans halted DNA methylation in some bees in each group. The bees' memory formation in the two groups were tested and compared, with and without, DNA methylation occurring. By changing the smell that accompanied the food, Biergans and colleagues also found that DNA methylation affects how a bee can re-learn.

"When the bees were presented with sugar and a smell many times together, the presence of DNA methylation increased memory specificity - they were less responsive to a novel odour. On the other hand, when only introduced to the combination once, DNA methylation decreased specificity," she summarises.

For a foraging honeybee, this makes total sense. When a bee gets food from a single flower, it's not worthwhile remembering how it smells. That bee will have a general memory of the site, but will shop around and try other flowers - there is no specificity to its foraging. But, when each flower with that smell proves over and over to be a good source of nourishment, the bee will stick to those flowers and seek them out.

DNA methylation also occurs in the human brain and the team's findings are key to understanding how we remember. And, how we forget.

"By understanding how changes to the epi-genome accumulate, manifest and influence brain function, we may, in the future, be able to develop treatments for brain diseases that also develop over a lifetime. There is thought to be a genetic predisposition for some conditions, such as Alzheimer's and dementia, but in many cases environmental factors determine whether the disease will manifest," Biergans concludes.

Iowa company's '100% pure' honey laced with weed-killer, lawsuit says

Donnelle Eller , deller@dmreg.com 5:17 p.m. CST December 5, 2016

Two national advocacy groups are suing a Sioux City cooperative they say is falsely advertising its honey as pure, despite tests that show it contains traces of glyphosate, used in Roundup, the most widely used farm herbicide in the world.

The Organic Consumers Association and Beyond Pesticides claim that Sioux Honey Association, the 95-year-old cooperative that makes Sue Bee Honey, is misleading consumers by labeling its honey as pure and natural.

The advocacy groups say their lawsuit is more than a labeling dispute — it's an attempt to push retailers and, ultimately, federal agencies to adopt better standards and practices that would protect bees, honey and consumers from contamination from herbicides that are widely applied by farmers.

The lawsuit points to U.S. Food and Drug Administration documents that indicate Sue Bee Honey contains traces of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. It also highlights a gap in government oversight over the herbicide, which experts say is inadvertently getting into honey.

While the herbicide residue "may be due to the application of glyphosate on crops by neighboring farms and unrelated to beekeeping activities," the advocacy groups say "labeling and advertising of Sue Bee products as 'Pure,' '100% Pure,' 'Natural,' and 'All-Natural' is false, misleading and deceptive."

Sioux Honey Association, with 300 members nationally, didn't respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit and testing.

The EPA hasn't set maximum levels for glyphosate in honey that would effectively establish consumer safety levels. That leaves beekeepers caught between consumers, farming and the government, said Darren Cox, president of the American Honey Producers Association.

By comparison, the European Union has set maximum residue limits for glyphosate in honey at 50 parts per billion.

Cox wants the federal government to set tolerances, which could restrict how farmers apply the popular herbicide.

"We can’t wave a magic wand and make that happen," he said.

Monsanto, the St. Louis-based maker of Roundup, is downplaying the study findings, saying that even the highest levels of glyphosate found in the honey samples are still well within the "acceptable daily intake" set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"You could consume more than 25 gallons of honey every day for the rest of your life and still not exceed the EPA’s exposure limits," Monsanto said in a statement.

Regardless, Andrew Joseph, the state apiarist and a beekeeper, said any trace of herbicide in honey is cause for concern. Honey purity is a source of pride for beekeepers.

"There’s no beekeeper that’s in any way happy about this," said Joseph, who keeps about 130 hives. "All of us who are aware of this study are fairly frustrated, and we’d like more answers."

Is it safe for people?

The FDA study also showed that honey sold in Iowa contains glyphosates, with one sample reaching as high as 653 parts per billion.

John Vargo, research and development coordinator at the State Hygienic Laboratory, who co-authored the study, pulled honey jars from the shelves of Iowa City area grocery stores last spring to replicate testing that FDA chemist Narong Chamkasem developed.

The testing is able to detect glyphosate more accurately at lower levels than existing assessments.

Vargo tested nine honeys at the University of Iowa lab and found eight samples had glyphosate levels at more than 10 parts per billion. Four samples had levels higher than the 50 parts per billion limit established in Europe. One sample was 13 times higher than that limit.

Whether those levels are harmful is up for debate.

An email between FDA officials, used in the lawsuit to connect the FDA samples to Sue Bee Honey, states that recent EPA evaluations have "confirmed that glyphosate is almost non-toxic to humans and animals."

"While the presence of glyphosate in honey is technically a violation, it is not a safety issue," wrote Chris Sack, an FDA residue expert, to Chamkasem and others.

But a prominent global agency reached a different finding on glyphosate last year. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, labeled the chemical as "probably carcinogenic to humans.”

The European Food Safety Authority and other global groups have disagreed. And the EPA released a finding in September that said "the strongest support is for 'not likely to be carcinogenic to humans' at the doses relevant to human health risk assessment."

Nowhere is safe from contamination

Vargo said he couldn't determine if the honey he bought in Iowa came from state beekeepers. He declined to name the specific brands he purchased.

The lawsuit said a Sue Bee Honey sample tested in the study — and purchased in Atlanta — showed glyphosate levels at 41 parts per billion.

The Sioux Honey Association, formed by five beekeepers in western Iowa in 1921, has bottling plants in Sioux City, Ia.; Anaheim, Calif.; and Elizabethtown, N.C., that process about 40 million pounds of honey annually.

The cooperative lists three beekeepers in Iowa as members.

Altogether, Iowa has about 4,500 beekeepers who manage about 45,000 hives, said Joseph, the state apiarist.

Beekeepers have few options when it comes to avoiding areas where glyphosate is used, especially in Iowa, where about 25 million acres were planted to row crops this year, primarily corn and soybeans.

The majority of Iowa and U.S. farmers grow genetically modified corn and soybeans that can be sprayed with glyphosate or other herbicides, killing the weeds without harming the crops.

Joseph said an important part of beekeeping is finding hive locations that will be "good, productive and safe areas for our bees."

"I don’t think there’s anywhere that would be safe" from possible contamination, he said. "I don’t think there’s any place for beekeepers to hide."

Cox, the American Honey Producers Association president, said beekeepers can't "mitigate the exposure" insects encounter as they forage, typically in about a 3-mile radius around their hives.

"I don’t know how you would fix that," he said. "Bees need agriculture, and agriculture needs bees."

Pesticides are everywhere

Nationally, bees pollinate dozens of fruits, nuts and vegetables in $25 billion of agricultural production, federal data show.

But Iowa's dominant crops don't rely on bees for pollination. Corn is pollinated by the wind, and soybeans self-pollinate.

Still, bees forage soybean and cornfields for pollen and nectar, said Matthew O'Neal, an Iowa State University entomologist. And research shows soybean fields visited by bees can push yields 6 percent to 18 percent higher.

"The boost isn't trivial," O'Neal said. "There’s a reason for soybean farmers to think about encouraging bees on their farms" by planting areas with prairies that provide strong forage for pollinators.

He said the presence of glyphosate in honey is "alarming to people, but it shouldn’t be surprising," given the herbicide's prevalence.

Vargo said other foods, even water, can have small traces of chemicals such as glyphosate.

For example, EPA set glyphosate levels in drinking water at 700 parts per billion.

"Pretty much any product that you test, if you have equipment that’s sensitive enough, you’ll likely find low level detects of pesticides," Vargo said.

Most of the time, though, the amount present isn't a high enough level to be considered a health risk.

The FDA said it tested soybeans, corn, milk and eggs for glyphosate this year as part of a special assignment. Preliminary results showed no pesticide residue violations.

Honey was not part of that assessment, the agency said. The FDA chemist conducted that research independently.

Cox said he's concerned the honey industry is being unfairly singled out. Joseph, the state apiarist, agreed.

"I could have had more glyphosate in morning coffee" than most consumers would find in a year of eating honey, he said.

'EPA has sat silent'

Cox said the honey industry has lobbied EPA for greater protections for bees from pesticides, including herbicides, insecticides and fungicides.

"We’ve asked EPA to put caution labels on other products that were causing harm to our pollinators and to our bees, and we’ve not been successful in those efforts," he said. "EPA has sat silent."

Researchers have recently linked bee deaths to dust from neonicotinoids, used to treat seeds so plants are healthier. The insects also are threatened by Varroa mites, a parasite that attacks bees, and dwindling forage areas such as pastures and prairies.

Iowa and other states ask beekeepers to register their hives and limit when some pesticides can be sprayed to protect nearby colonies.

Bees can find similar threats in cities, O'Neal said. Glyphosate is used to kill weeds on lawns, and communities that spray insecticides for mosquitoes, especially given concerns about the spread of the Zika virus, can wipe out entire bee operations.

"Those are tragedies that can be avoided," he said.

The canary in the coal mine

Most of the threats bees face impact the insects themselves, not their honey, experts say.

Last winter, for example, about 60 percent of beekeepers nationally reported losses that exceeded the acceptable average. About 28 percent of the U.S. bee colonies were lost over the 2015-16 winter, according to a beekeepers survey.

Joseph, the Iowa apiarist, said bees reflect what's going on in the environment around them.

"People view bees as a canary in a coal mine," Joseph said. "Whatever is good or bad — it’s reflected in the hives."

Cox hopes the federal government takes a stronger look at how glyphosate could be getting into honey — whether it's in water, sprayed on flowering plants or taken into the plant from the soil.

Federal tolerance levels would help reassure consumers that honey is safe, said Joseph and others.

Even though tolerances could be helpful, they also could have negative ramifications, Cox said, especially since beekeepers are unable to control glyphosate's widespread use.

"What do you do with the honey if you’ve exceeded a limit? Do you take your $1 million or $2 million harvest to the landfill, get rid of jobs and close up business?" Cox said.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Names Members and Alternates to the National Honey Board

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2016 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today appointed four members and five alternate members to serve on the National Honey Board. The appointees will serve three-year terms beginning Jan. 1, 2017, and ending Dec. 31, 2019, except the additional alternate producer member, who will serve the remainder of a term expiring Dec. 31, 2018.

The producer member appointed is Blake Scott Shook, of Melissa, Texas, and the alternate producer member is Joan M. Gunter, of Towner, N.D, with Joseph M. Sanroma, of Lecompte, La., appointed as an additional alternate producer member.            

The first handler member appointed is Michelle Poulk, of Waxahachie, Texas, and Melissa Ashurst-Foott, of El Centro, Calif., is the alternate first handler member.

The appointed importer member is Andy Sargeantson, of New Canaan, Conn., with Gregory B. Olson, of Bloomington, Minn., as the alternate importer member.   

The marketing cooperative member appointed is Lisa L. Hansel, of Sioux City, Iowa, and Jeff Hull, of Battle Lake, Minn. is the alternate marketing cooperative member.

Board members selected by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture administer the program. USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides oversight of the National Honey Board in accordance with the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996 and the Honey Packers and Importers Research, Promotion, Consumer Education and Information Order.   USDA encourages board membership that reflects the diversity of the individuals served by the programs.

Since 1966, Congress has authorized the establishment of 22 research and promotion boards that are industry-funded and empower agricultural industries, including the forest products industry, with a framework to pool resources and combine efforts to develop new markets, strengthen existing markets, and conduct important research and promotion activities. AMS provides oversight, paid for by industry assessments, which helps ensure fiscal responsibility, program efficiency and fair treatment of participating stakeholders.

For more information about the National Honey Board, contact Patricia Petrella at (202) 720-9915, or email Patricia.Petrella@ams.usda.gov.

For more information about research and promotion programs, visit www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/research-promotion.  

Get the latest Agricultural Marketing Service news at www.ams.usda.gov/news or follow us on Twitter @USDA_AMS. You can also read about us on the USDA blog.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

Varroa Mite IPM Videos

The Honey Bee Health Coalition released a series of videos today to help beekeepers promote colony health and combat costly and destructive Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) infestations. The videos can be found on the Coalition website at honeybeehealthcoalition.org/Varroa and provide detailed step-by-step instructions on how to monitor hives for Varroa and safely treat when levels get too high. The videos complement the Coalition’s wildly popular Tools for Varroa Management Guide.

“The Honey Bee Health Coalition’s Tools for Varroa Management Guide has provided beekeepers in the US and Canada with invaluable tools and techniques to confront destructive Varroa mite infestations,” said Mark Dykes, Apiary Inspectors of America. “These videos will show beekeeper real world application techniques that will help them correctly apply treatments.”

 

Local jewelry maker’s designs help honeybees

Posted on December 1, 2016 by Alli Marshall

Press release from Ilana Fiorenza:

Artist and jewelry designer Ilana Fiorenza is a metalsmith, a freeform beadweaver and makes wearable and often symbolic jewelry. Recently she was inspired by the beauty and industriousness of the honeybee when her parents began to keep bees at their West Asheville home, fascinated that the life’s work of a honeybee amounts to a 12th of a teaspoon of honey, and was inspired to create her line of “honeypot” jewelry. “I think it is poignant that the honeybee works so hard to create such a small amount of honey, and that they are now facing decline, so I think the honeypots help us to appreciate the beauty and sweetness in the smallest of things,” said Ilana. “I want my work to have social meaning and importance.”

Each unique locally-hand blown glass vessel holds approximately the amount of honey from Ilana’s family’s hives that a single honeybee can make in her lifetime. The vessel is sealed, so it will not go bad. “Honey lasts forever,” Ilana likes to say. Ilana also donates a portion of proceeds from the sale of the honeypots to a nonprofit called Bee City USA, which works to raise awareness about the plight of the honeybees and helps to create pollinator gardens and other bee-friendly infrastructure.

Ilana sells her honeypots online on Etsy and on her website ilanadesigns.com. Downtown shops Desirant and Kress Emporium carry Ilana’s honeypots as well, and you can find her selling those and other designs at the Portico Artists’ Market at the Grove Arcade on most weekends.

Scientists consider potential of honey bee brood as food source

"Honey bees and their products are appreciated throughout the world," said researcher Annette Bruun Jensen.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Honey bee brood -- a combination eggs, larvae and pupae -- is considered a delicacy in Mexico, Thailand, Australia and elsewhere. In a new study, scientist considered the potential of honey bee brood as a staple food and source of protein for the planet's ballooning population.

The obvious advantage of bee brood is its nutritional efficiency. It compares favorably to beef in terms of protein quantity and quality, but its production requires only a fraction of the space and energy.

Those who are already accustomed to eating bee brood appreciate the delicacy for its nutty flavor and crispy texture. It can be cooked or dried and is often added to egg dishes and soups.

Beekeepers already remove frames of bee brood from managed hives as a way to control the spread of Varroa mites, a harmful parasite.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen see these frames as an untapped resource.

"Honey bees and their products are appreciated throughout the world," researcher Annette Bruun Jensen said in a news release. "Honey bee brood and in particular drone brood, a by-product of sustainable Varroa mite control, can therefore pave the way for the acceptance of insects as a food in the western world."

Bruun Jensen and her colleagues described the potential of bee brood as sustenance in a new paper published this week in the Journal of Apicultural Research.

Despite its promise, the finer points of bee brood farming and harvesting need to be worked out.

Though research suggest the brood can be frozen and stored for up to 10 months without sacrificing flavor, more research needs to be done to ensure the fragile foodstuff can be safely transported at scale. Scientists also need to further study the food safety risks.

 Another species of Varroa mite threatens European honeybees

November 17, 2016 WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A sister species of the Varroa destructor mite is developing the ability to parasitize European honeybees, threatening pollinators already hard pressed by pesticides, nutritional deficiencies and disease, a Purdue University study says.

Researchers found that some populations of Varroa jacobsoni mites are shifting from feeding and reproducing on Asian honeybees, their preferred host, to European honeybees, the primary species used for crop pollination and honey production worldwide. To bee researchers, it's a grimly familiar story: V. destructor made the same host leap at least 60 years ago, spreading rapidly to become the most important global health threat to European honeybees.

While host-switching V. jacobsoni mites have not been found outside of Papua New Guinea, Purdue researchers Gladys Andino and Greg Hunt say vigilance is needed to protect European honeybees worldwide from further risk.

"This could represent a real threat," said Andino, a bioinformatics specialist with Information Technology at Purdue. "If this mite gets out of control and spreads, we might have another situation like V. destructor."

Varroa mites are obligate parasites, meaning their lifecycle is inextricably entwined with that of their bee hosts. The mites can do serious damage to their hosts' health due to their relatively large size – "think of a tick as big as your fist," Hunt said. Mites latch on to bees and feed on their hemolymph, insects' rough equivalent to blood, leaving behind open wounds that are susceptible to infection. They can also transmit diseases such as deformed wing virus and have been linked to colony collapse disorder.

To gain insight into the biology behind V. jacobsoni's host switch, Andino and Hunt, professor of behavioral genetics and honeybee specialist, studied the differences in gene expression between V. jacobsoni mites that fed and reproduced on Asian honeybees and those that parasitized European honeybees. Knowing which host cues mites respond to and the genes involved could lead to potential control strategies, the researchers said.

"If we can understand the mechanism, we might be able to disrupt, block or manipulate that," Andino said. "But first we have to understand what is happening and which genes are involved in allowing the mites to shift to a new host."

Andino and Hunt sequenced and assembled the first V. jacobsoni transcriptome, a catalog of all of the proteins made by an organism that shows which genes are actively being expressed. They then used the transcriptome to compare gene expression in populations of V. jacobsoni.

They found 287 differentially expressed genes between the mite populations that only parasitized Asian honeybees and those that successfully fed and reproduced on European honeybees. A change in gene expression is often a sign that an organism is reacting to a change in its environment – in this case, a new host species.

Of these 287 genes, 91 percent were up-regulated in the host-switching mites. Many of these genes were related to stress responses, "which makes sense," Andino said.

"If you're feeding on a new host, you're going to be stressed. You have to adapt. The food is different and might not be optimal for development," she said. "Potentially, European honeybees are not fulfilling the requirements these mites are used to getting from Asian honeybees."

Some genes involved in reproduction and egg production were overexpressed while some genes linked to digestion genes showed reduced expression, compared with the same genes in V. jacobsoni mites that exclusively parasitized Asian honeybees.

Andino and Hunt said the mites' leap to European honeybees likely occurred within the last decade. Previously, V. jacobsoni mites were occasionally found on European honeybees but seemed unable to produce healthy offspring, limiting their destructive capacity.

Catching the host transition in its early stages will allow researchers to continue to investigate the complex genetic details behind the shift and monitor infected European honeybees, Hunt said.

"This happened once with one species of mite, and it looks like it's happening again. Maybe if we catch this as it's beginning, we'll be able to figure out why it's happening or, down the road, stop it."

The paper was published in BMC Genomics on Wednesday (Nov. 16) and is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12864-016-3130-3.

Funding for the study and an ongoing genome-sequencing project was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.           

Writer: Natalie van Hoose, 765-496-2050, nvanhoos@purdue.edu 
Sources: Gladys Andino, 765-494-0935, gandino@purdue.edu
Greg Hunt, 765-494-4605, ghunt@purdue.edu

Courts ignore risks of neonic seed coatings, leadership left to states

San Francisco, CA - Earlier today a federal court determined that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not required to evaluate and regulate seeds coated with pesticides linked to bee declines.                       

At issue are over 150 million acres of crops -- particularly corn and soybeans and primarily in the Midwest -- that are planted with neonicotinoid (“neonic”) insecticide seed coatings. Beyond exposure to toxic airborne dust at the time of planting with these seeds, bees are also vulnerable to the insecticides that persist throughout crops and in the soil and water many months later. Neonics, including products manufactured by Bayer and Syngenta, not only kill bees outright but are also linked to problems with reproduction, navigation and communication in the pollinators. And according to EPA, in most cases the coatings don’t even have much benefit in preventing pest problems.

The case challenging the lack of seed coating oversight was brought forward by the Center for Food Safety on behalf of Pesticide Action Network (PAN), along with concerned farmers and beekeepers.

In his conclusion, District Court Judge William Haskell Alsup stated: The Court is most sympathetic to the plight of our bee population and beekeepers. Perhaps the EPA should have done more to protect them, but such policy decisions are for the agency to make.          

Lex Horan, midwest organizer with PAN released the following statement:

“States will need to fill the void created by EPA’s lack of leadership. EPA has failed to address repeated concerns about the issues of pesticide seed coatings and the threats to bees, beekeepers and our food system. As EPA shirks its responsibility, states can do their part to stem pollinator decline by following Minnesota’s lead: implementing science-based plans created through a transparent public process to protect bees by reducing neonicotinoid use.”

Gail Fuller, a Kansas grain farmer and a plaintiff in the case on the ruling:

"This decision does nothing to alter my resolve. My local beekeeping group has spent the last few meetings doing nothing but trying to figure out how to keep their hives alive. Harvest was poor, and losses are mounting. EPA and the states must address the issue of pesticide seed coatings rather than hide their head in the sand."

Media Contacts:

Paul Towers, PAN, 916-216-1082 or ptowers@panna.org (link sends e-mail)
Lex Horan, PAN, 651-245-1733 or lex@panna.org


Market Probe, Inc., a marketing research firm, is conducting an online survey among beekeepers and would like to invite you to share your opinions. This is not an effort to sell you anything.  We are interested in your input regarding current bee health. Please be assured that your individual responses will be strictly confidential, being reported only in aggregate with other beekeepers.

This online survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. If you qualify and complete the survey, we will send you a check for $75 in appreciation of your time and opinions.

It will take only a couple minutes to determine if you fit into one of the groups for this study.

To determine qualification and to participate, please click on the following link, or copy-and-paste the link into your browser:

http://survey.us.confirmit.com/wix/p3081446965.aspx
To ensure the study is not closed before you have an opportunity to take part, please logon at your earliest convenience.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation!

Market Probe, celebrating more than 30 years in business.

**This survey and the Market Probe company are not affiliated with American Honey Producers Association**

New Federal Grants For Connecticut Research On Honeybee Health, Better Strawberries, Hops

Gregory B. Hladky 

Breeding parasite-resistant honeybees and improving crops like strawberries and hops are some of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station projects being targeted with $240,000 in new federal grants.

The money is coming through a U.S. Department of Agriculture program designed to fund new research targeting specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, honey and maple syrup.

One of the projects being funded is an attempt to develop honeybees capable of resisting the ravages of the varroa mite, one of the key suspects in massive bee die-offs in recent years.

A state survey found that 60 percent of Connecticut's honeybees died over the summer of 2014 and the winter of 2015. Various scientific studies indicate that such die-offs are likely the result of a combination of pesticides, poor diet and parasites like the varroa mite and the diseases they transmit to bees.

Existing efforts to breed varroa-mite resistant honeybees can lead to "excessive inbreeding," according to Connecticut scientists. The new $59,254 USDA grant will help pay for a program to collect feral bees living in state forests "to produce queens that will support populations of [varroa-mite resistant] and genetically diverse workers within each colony," according to state officials.

At the project's conclusion, the queen-rearing and breeding program will be handed off to a new, local non-profit association.

A separate grant of nearly $60,000 will go to an effort to help farmers and beekeepers to create habitats that provide the sort of varied and healthy flowers and plants that honeybees and other pollinators like butterflies need for good nutrition.

"Each of these projects will help Connecticut growers produce valuable specialty crops and enhance the viability of agriculture in our state," said James LaMondia, chief scientist at the agricultural experiment station.

Connecticut Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky said the agricultural station research is a response "to new challenges facing farmers today."

Another of the studies being paid for with the federal grants involves determining if tiny "nanoscale" particles of copper and zinc in fertilizer can improve disease resistance in crops like pumpkins and strawberries. $60,000 in federal money is being used for this project.

Deformed wing virus: Major risk to bee colony collapse

By Tim Sandle     Nov 18, 2016 in Environment

Bee populations are in decline globally. There are several reasons: pesticides, habitat loss, mite infestation and viruses. New research has focused on a pathogen called deformed wing virus, and offers some hope.

With the deformed wing virus, scientists have, for the first time, managed to simulate the course of disease using artificial genetic material of the virus. Understanding this process is key to helping bee colonies in many regions of the world. Bees are major contributors to global agriculture.

Deformed wing virus is associated with Varroa mites. Varroa mites can only reproduce in a honey bee colony. It attaches to the body of the bee and weakens the bee by sucking hemolymph.

The virus is concentrated in the heads and abdomens of infected adult bees. The virus is suspected of causing the wing and abdominal deformities. The lifespan of an infected bee is reduced to under 48 hours. Although the virus is most probably carried by mites, the virus has been found to be present in many hives where there are no mites.

Then new study into the disease has come from the Institute of Virology at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. To track the spread of the virus, the research group developed a molecular clone and this has allowed for study of the disease under laboratory conditions.

The essential reagent is an infectious DNA clone, a double-stranded DNA copy of the viral genome carried in a bacterial plasmid (a plasmid is a small, circular, double-stranded DNA molecule which naturally exists in bacterial cells).To generate the viral clone required a complex process. The scientists amplified genetic RNA material of a virus and saved it as a DNA copy. In tests on honey bees (Apis mellifera), the viral clone produced the same disease symptoms discoloration, dwarfism, and later death. The tests were conducted on adult bees, larvae and pupae.

The model showed how the virus targets neural, gland and connective tissue cells. It is hoped that testing the model will allow for the future strategies to be developed and to protect colonies.

The research has been published in the journal PLOS One and the research is reported to “Construction and Rescue of a Molecular Clone of Deformed Wing Virus (DWV).”

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/environment/offering-bees-hope-by-tackling-deformed-wing-virus/article/479925#ixzz4QfH7meXH



Another species of Varroa mite threatens European honeybees

November 17, 2016

A sister species of the Varroa destructor mite is developing the ability to parasitize European honeybees, threatening pollinators already hard pressed by pesticides, nutritional deficiencies and disease, a Purdue University study says.

Researchers found that some populations of Varroa jacobsoni mites are shifting from feeding and reproducing on Asian honeybees, their preferred host, to European honeybees, the primary species used for crop pollination and honey production worldwide. To bee researchers, it's a grimly familiar story: V. destructor made the same host leap at least 60 years ago, spreading rapidly to become the most important global health threat to European honeybees.

While host-switching V. jacobsoni mites have not been found outside of Papua New Guinea, Purdue researchers Gladys Andino and Greg Hunt say vigilance is needed to protect European honeybees worldwide from further risk.

"This could represent a real threat," said Andino, a bioinformatics specialist with Information Technology at Purdue. "If this mite gets out of control and spreads, we might have another situation like V. destructor."

Varroa mites are obligate parasites, meaning their lifecycle is inextricably entwined with that of their bee hosts. The mites can do serious damage to their hosts' health due to their relatively large size - "think of a tick as big as your fist," Hunt said. Mites latch on to bees and feed on their hemolymph, insects' rough equivalent to blood, leaving behind open wounds that are susceptible to infection. They can also transmit diseases such as deformed wing virus and have been linked to colony collapse disorder.

To gain insight into the biology behind V. jacobsoni's host switch, Andino and Hunt, professor of behavioral genetics and honeybee specialist, studied the differences in gene expression between V. jacobsoni mites that fed and reproduced on Asian honeybees and those that parasitized European honeybees. Knowing which host cues mites respond to and the genes involved could lead to potential control strategies, the researchers said.

"If we can understand the mechanism, we might be able to disrupt, block or manipulate that," Andino said. "But first we have to understand what is happening and which genes are involved in allowing the mites to shift to a new host."

Andino and Hunt sequenced and assembled the first V. jacobsoni transcriptome, a catalog of all of the proteins made by an organism that shows which genes are actively being expressed. They then used the transcriptome to compare gene expression in populations of V. jacobsoni.

They found 287 differentially expressed genes between the mite populations that only parasitized Asian honeybees and those that successfully fed and reproduced on European honeybees. A change in gene expression is often a sign that an organism is reacting to a change in its environment - in this case, a new host species.

Of these 287 genes, 91 percent were up-regulated in the host-switching mites. Many of these genes were related to stress responses, "which makes sense," Andino said.

"If you're feeding on a new host, you're going to be stressed. You have to adapt. The food is different and might not be optimal for development," she said. "Potentially, European honeybees are not fulfilling the requirements these mites are used to getting from Asian honeybees."

Some genes involved in reproduction and egg production were overexpressed while some genes linked to digestion genes showed reduced expression, compared with the same genes in V. jacobsoni mites that exclusively parasitized Asian honeybees.

Andino and Hunt said the mites' leap to European honeybees likely occurred within the last decade. Previously, V. jacobsoni mites were occasionally found on European honeybees but seemed unable to produce healthy offspring, limiting their destructive capacity.

Catching the host transition in its early stages will allow researchers to continue to investigate the complex genetic details behind the shift and monitor infected European honeybees, Hunt said.

"This happened once with one species of mite, and it looks like it's happening again. Maybe if we catch this as it's beginning, we'll be able to figure out why it's happening or, down the road, stop it."

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-11-species-varroa-mite-threatens-european.html#jCp

Bacterial Imbalances Can Mean Bad News for Honey Bees

By Jan Suszkiw
November 16, 2016

A team of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and their collaborators have established a strong link between honey bee health and the effects of diet on bacteria that live in the guts of these important insect pollinators.

In a study published in the November issue of Molecular Ecology, the team fed caged honey bees one of four diets: fresh pollen, aged pollen, fresh supplements, and aged supplements. After seven days, the team euthanized and dissected the bees and used next-generation sequencing methods to identify the bacteria communities that had colonized the bees' digestive tract.

The team also compared the thorax (flight muscle) weight and size of each group's hypopharyngeal glands as measures of the diets' effects on bee growth and development. The glands enable nurse bees to produce "royal jelly," a substance that's fed to developing larvae, ensuring the hive's continued survival. The flight muscle weight represents the potential for work after the nurse bee transitions into the role of forager.

In general, bees given fresh pollen or fresh supplements fared better than bees given pollen or supplements that had first been aged for 21 days, reports Kirk Anderson, senior author and a microbial ecologist with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Tucson, Arizona.

Bees fed fresh diets suffered fewer deaths, made better use of energy for growth, and had lower levels of gut pathogens such as Nosema ceranae, according to Anderson and co-authors University of Arizona graduate student Patrick Maes, ARS lab technician Brendon Mott, and Randy Oliver of Scientificbeekeeping.com.

In the study, the nutritional value of pollen lasted longer than that of supplement. Bees consumed significantly more aged supplement than aged pollen, but this didn't translate into long-term benefits. For example, bees consuming aged supplement had plump nurse glands but suffered significant losses in flight muscle, suggesting that nutrition diverted to feed developing larva came at a significant cost to the bees' own adult development. Poor development, in turn, can translate to early mortality or inefficient food collection when these nurse bees transition to the role of foragers.

Anderson says the effects of diet on gut bacteria populations (or "gut microbiome") are poorly understood but warrant study because of the implications for honey bee health and the insect's importance as a chief pollinator of 100-plus flowering crops. Put another way, consumers owe one in every three bites of food they eat to the work of honey bees and other pollinators.

Other key findings include -

  • Bees fed fresh pollen or fresh supplements had more beneficial gut bacteria, like Snodgrassella alvi, whose presence was correlated with increased health, and decreases in gut pathogens Nosema and F. perrara bacteria.
  • Five to eight types of gut bacteria were consistently found in bee gut.
  • Dysbiosis was systemic, occurring throughout the honey bee gut.

 Anderson says that with continued research, new supplement formulations or usage practices could be created to improve not only the health of honey bees but also the bacteria that live within them.

ARS is USDA's principal in-house scientific research agency.

North American Pollinator Protection Campaign Report

By Chris Hiatt
Executive Board Member, AHPA

Darren Cox, Chuck Kutik, and I attended the 16th annual North American Pollinator Protection Campaign in October at the APHIS headquarters in Belstville, MD.  It also included a tour of the Beltsville Bee Lab.  It's always fun to see everyone in action running bee and wax samples and talking to the staff that are on the front lines of bee research.  

Speaking at the meeting was Bruce Rodan from the Biotechnology and Science Office of the White House, Rick Keigwuin from EPA, officials from Fish and Wildlife and myself, giving the beekeeper's perspective of our challenges.

Dennis Van Englesdorph from the Bee Informed Partnership had an interesting slide in his talk showing the cost of replacing dead-outs at current national mortality levels. The partnership painted worker bees in collapsing hives and then checked 4 beeyards within a 2 mile radius. They found the painted bees in 3 of the 4 yards, showing that mites can easily be brought in to your hives from outside sources.  Dr. David Inouye from the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory presented a table which showed a 3-fold increase in pollinator publications over the last 20 years.  James Strange from the ARS Logan lab related data showing that viruses such as Isreali Acute Bee Paralysis Virus are being passed from bumblebees to honeybees and vice-versa. A model presented by Gloria de Grandi-Hoffman from ARS Tuscon showed that warmer fall temperatures might result in higher mite loads.  Danielle Downey from Project Apis M. had an interesting stat saying that 75% of the nations' hives spend the summer in eight midwestern states:  North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa.  This coincides with the nationally designated monarch flyway, which is trying to improve and set aside more pollinator habitat and plant milkweed.  

Every year NAPPC sponsors 6 studies on bee research, some of which are done by upcoming entomology students.   Hongmei Li-Byarlay from North Carolina St. presented the first-ever study done on bees using CRISPR, a genome editing method which aims to get rid of viruses. Her use of CRISPR could be looked back on as an historic moment in bee research. Google CRISPR to educate yourself on this new technology. 

Elisa Bernklau from Colorado St. showed her studies on bee longevity using phytochemicals.  Her control bees lived 23 days longer with infusions of caffeine and 12 days longer with kaempferol. Beekeepers just need recommendations to start adding some to our syrup feedings!  

Overall, it's always good to see so many people from diverse backgrounds working together trying to improve the habitat and health of pollinators.  

 

Postdoctoral Position on Plant-Pollinator Interactions at Penn State's Center for Pollinator Research 

Penn State’s Department of Entomology and Center for Pollinator Research seeks a Postdoctoral Research Associate to lead a USDA-SCRI funded project examining pollinator interactions with ornamental plant species.  The candidate should have extensive experience in (1) working with honey bees (2) evaluating foraging behavior of bees (3) palynology and (4) use of molecular tools to identify plant species from pollen samples.  The candidate should have excellent written and oral communication skills, the ability to collaborate with and coordinate the efforts of a large team of researchers from different universities, and a track record of publishing his/her work in scientific journals and presenting to broad audiences.  Preference will be given to candidates with a PhD in Entomology, Biology, or related field.  This is a one-year appointment, with possibility of extension.  For more information, please contact Christina Grozinger, Professor, Department of Entomology, Penn State University, cmg25@psu.edu.  

Apply at  https://psu.jobs/job/67504

Beekeepers Accuse EPA of Hiding Pesticide Files

By NICHOLAS IOVINO 

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Beekeepers and environmentalists on Thursday accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of withholding documents they say will prove the agency has a "pattern and practice" of shirking its duty to regulate bee-killing pesticides.

Lead plaintiff Jeff Anderson, a beekeeper who owns honey farms in California and Minnesota, sued the EPA this past January, claiming a guidance document the agency issued in 2013 illegally widened exemptions for pesticide-coated seeds and their resulting dust-off.

Anderson says a particularly toxic strain of pesticides known as neonicotinoids has killed hundreds of thousands of bees in recent years, poisoned birds and contaminated large swaths of soil and water. He says the EPA has failed to regulate neonicotinoids in the form of coated seeds and seed dust-off, even though it is required to under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

During a summary judgment hearing Thursday, plaintiffs' attorney Adam Keats said the EPA only turned over 200 pages of internal emails and documents, many of which were "riddled with redactions," and withheld an additional 5,000 pages of germane material.

"The administrative record is woefully incomplete," Keats said. "It left us in the dark on many issues we feel would be relevant to the case."

After the plaintiffs moved to compel the EPA to produce more documents in September, U.S. District Judge William Alsup ordered the agency to turn over 5,000 pages of court-sealed files for him to review behind closed doors.

In their cross-motion for summary judgment, the plaintiffs urged the judge to keep two questions in mind as he sifts through the 5,000-plus pages of internal EPA files.

The plaintiffs asked Alsup to assess whether those documents address a link between neonicotinoid-coated seeds and harms to bees or if the EPA took a position on whether neonicotinoid-coated seeds and their dust-off are exempt under FIFRA.

Alsup suggested Thursday that the government could be withholding relevant documents, based on his prior experience as a Justice Department attorney in the 1970s. During his time there, Alsup said he routinely witnessed government lawyers try to exclude pertinent files from disclosure in lawsuits.

"I was jaded by that experience," Alsup said.

Addressing the merits of the parties' motions for summary judgment, U.S. government attorney Rochelle Russell argued the guidance document issued in May 2013 merely conveyed recommended guidelines for investigating bee deaths and did not equate to a final agency action reviewable by the court under the Administrative Procedure Act.

The document, titled "Guidance for Inspecting Alleged Cases of Pesticide-Related Bee Incidents," states in part that "treated seed (and any resulting dust-off from treated seed)" may be exempt from registration under FIFRA.

On claims the EPA adopted a "wholesale" policy of not regulating pesticide-coated seeds and dust-off as required under FIFRA, Russell said "decisions to enforce or not enforce" are left up to the discretion of federal agencies and are not subject to judicial review under the 1985 Supreme Court ruling Heckler v. Chaney.

However, Keats cited an exception to the Heckler presumption of non-reviewability as articulated by the Ninth Circuit in its May 2016 ruling Garcia v. McCarthy. That ruling held courts may review an agency's action or inaction if the agency "consciously and expressly adopted a general policy that is so extreme as to amount to an abdication of its statutory responsibilities."

Briefly addressing another motion for summary judgment filed by intervening farming industry groups, attorney Karen Carr argued all pesticides approved for use in American agriculture are already subject to a "rigorous regulatory process."

"They want EPA to regulate the seeds as well," Carr declared. "Granting the relief plaintiffs seek would have a crushing effect on American agriculture."

Keats replied that the unregulated spread of "incredibly toxic and incredibly deadly" pesticide-coated seeds has already cost beekeepers billions of dollars in financial damage.

Keats works for the Center for Food Safety, one of Anderson's co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit, in Sacramento.

Carr is with Arent Fox in Washington D.C., representing a cadre of pesticide and farming industry groups including CropLife America, Agricultural Retailers Association and American Soybean Association.


Before the hearing started, Alsup said he was leaning toward granting the EPA's motion for summary judgment, but the judge also suggested the plaintiffs might benefit from additional discovery materials he is still reviewing behind closed doors.

Sign In


Forgot your password?

Haven't registered yet?

Cassie Cox
Executive Secretary
PO Box 435
Mendon, UT 84325
office:281-900-9740
cassie@AHPAnet.com