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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.



Federal directive brings veterinarians and beekeepers together

Drugs for honeybee disease will require veterinary prescription in 2017 

Story and photos by R. Scott Nolen 

Posted Sept. 28, 2016

Come Jan. 1, 2017, hobbyist and commercial beekeepers alike will no longer be able to purchase antimicrobials over the counter, but instead, will need a veterinary feed directive or prescription for the drugs they administer to their honeybees.

The federal mandate requiring veterinary oversight of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals, including honeybees, is part of a Food and Drug Administration strategy to reform the way these drugs are legally used in food animals. 

For millennia, humans have relied on Apis mellifera for food, to create candles and cosmetics, and, most importantly, to pollinate crops, earning them the name “the angels of agriculture.” Veterinary medicine in the United States has, however, traditionally paid little attention to honeybees, the only insect listed as a food-producing animal.   

Dr. Christopher Cripps is a rarity as one of a handful of U.S. veterinarians knowledgeable about honeybee health and apiculture. Co-owner of honeybee supply business in Greenwich, New York, Dr. Cripps considers the FDA action an opportunity for veterinarians to access a relatively untouched animal industry valued by the Department of Agriculture at just over $327 million in 2015.

“The FDA has said veterinarians and beekeepers have to get together,” he said. “It’s new to us, and it’s new to beekeepers, who are used to having no one looking over their shoulder.”  

This past August, Dr. Cripps spoke at AVMA Convention 2016 about honeybee diseases, approved medications in apiculture, and what the new Veterinary Feed Directive means for veterinarians. Additionally, Dr. Cripps is part of a working group formed by the AVMA Food Safety Advisory Committee to help veterinarians understand the legal requirements of writing a VFD or prescription for honeybees.

“As a strong proponent of responsible antibiotic use, the AVMA has been involved in the changing regulations from the very start,” said Dr. Christine Hoang, an assistant director of the AVMA Animal and Public Health Division and staff adviser for the food safety committee.

“We’ve also recognized that minor species, including honeybees, have unique circumstances and needs that must be addressed. It will be a steep learning curve, but we are currently developing educational materials for our member veterinarians and are dedicated to collaborative solutions for the beekeeping industry,” Dr. Hoang said.

The National Honey Board puts the number of U.S. beekeepers at around 125,000, most of them hobbyists with fewer than 25 hives. Last year, domestic honey production totaled 157 million pounds, according to the USDA, which says managed honeybee colonies contribute roughly $15 billion to the value of U.S. agriculture each year through increased yields and superior harvests. 

Some 18 diseases attributable to bacteria, viruses, and parasites have been identified in honeybees. Arguably the greatest disease threat is the Varroa destructor mite, which drains the blood of adult bees and is a vector for various viruses that easily kill off weakened insects. Varroa mites are suspected to play an important role in colony collapse disorder, a mysterious occurrence in which most of the worker bees abandon a colony, leaving few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and queen.

American foulbrood disease is the most serious of the honeybee bacterial pathologies. The disease is caused by the spore-forming Paenibacillus larvae, which infects one- to two-day-old bee larvae and kills them during the pupal stage. Beekeepers have three FDA-approved antimicrobials to control foulbrood outbreaks—oxytetracycline, tylosin, and lincomycin—which are typically mixed with sugar and dusted over the frames inside a bee hive. 

In his presentation at the AVMA convention, Dr. Cripps cited a 2015 survey by the Bee Informed Partnership in which 357 of approximately 5,000 beekeepers admitted using antimicrobials in their bee colonies. Commercial beekeepers, who, on average, own approximately 900 hives, are the primary users of antimicrobials, he added.

Within the beekeeping community, there is little understanding of bacteriology or how antimicrobial resistance is spread, Dr. Cripps observed. “Basically, the beekeepers know that if oxytetracycline doesn’t work, I should use tylosin,” he explained.

Dr. Cripps described beekeepers as a lot like food animal producers, saying they are frugal yet willing to pay for services that promote the health of their colonies and result in increased honey production. “They’re OK with spending money so long as they’re getting something for the money they spend,” he explained.

Veterinarians can demonstrate their value to beekeepers, Dr. Cripps said, by delivering the same services they provide to owners of avian and mammalian livestock, such as preventive care, disease diagnosis and treatment, parasite control, and education in good husbandry practices. “I think the FDA is not looking for us to exchange our signature for money, which is basically how the beekeepers feel the veterinarians are going to be,” he said. “The FDA wants us to know what’s going on. We have a great education that puts us in a great position to help beekeepers understand the diseases their bees get and how to control and prevent them.”

Dr. Nicolas Vidal-Naquet, a lecturer of honeybee biology and diseases at the Veterinary School of Alfort in France, views the new federal Veterinary Feed Directive as “a very positive decision.” In an email to JAVMA News, Dr. Vidal-Naquet wrote, “This will lead veterinarians to get involved in apiculture, and this will lead beekeepers and other apiculture professionals to apply good practices in using veterinary medicines.”

Treating honeybees with antimicrobials is illegal in Europe, where miticides to control the Varroa mite are the only approved medications, according to Dr. Vidal-Naquet, author of “Honeybee Veterinary Medicine: Apis mellifera L.,” published in 2015.

“I think that antibiotic resistance is a real problem in the U.S. because of a misuse and overuse of antibiotics,” he said, adding he advocates for good husbandry practices as the ideal way of preventing and controlling honeybee diseases. 

Dr. Vidal-Naquet explained how European veterinarians, like their American counterparts, overlooked honeybees as a sector of animal agriculture until 2005, when the Nantes Atlantic College of Veterinary Medicine, Food Science, and Engineering in France established the first veterinary postgraduate degree in apiculture and honeybee diseases. At least 200 veterinarians have graduated from the Nantes program so far, Dr. Vidal-Naquet said, while veterinary schools in Germany, Spain, Italy, and Austria now devote some courses to honeybee health and husbandry. 

The catalyst for the novel veterinary degree was the desire of a small number of veterinarians who, Dr. Vidal-Naquet said, wanted their profession to do more to safeguard an increasingly threatened animal species whose importance to humans and the environment cannot be overstated.

Within a decade, that message had caught on, with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) devoting an entire issue of its 2014 “bulletin” to honeybees. Dr. Bernard Vallat, OIE director general at the time, called the potential loss of honeybees a “biological, agricultural, environmental, and economic disaster. Maintaining healthy populations of these key pollinating insects … is a critical health challenge deserving the full attention of the global community.”

Bees Added To U.S. Endangered Species List For 1st Time

October 3, 20161:58 PM ET

Merrit Kennedy

Finally — some good news for the bees of Hawaii.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given endangered status to seven species of yellow-faced bees native to the islands. These are "the first bees in the country to be protected under the Endangered Species Act," according to the Xerces Society, which advocated for the new designation.

he new rule designating protections for the bees, published Friday in the Federal Register, states that yellow-faced bees are known "for their yellow-to-white facial markings." They look like small wasps, according to the rule, except for their "plumose [branched] hairs on the body that are longest on the sides of the thorax, which readily distinguish them from wasps."

The yellow-faced bee is the only bee native to Hawaii, meaning that it was able to reach the Hawaiian Islands on its own, according to a fact sheet provided by the University of Hawaii's Master Gardner Program. "From that one original colonist they evolved into 63 known endemic species, about 10% of the world's yellow-faced bees and more than are found in this genus in all of North America."

But the populations of these seven species are getting smaller and smaller, according to Fish and Wildlife. For example, the Hylaeus anthracinus was once found in dozens of locations around Hawaii but is now in only 15 — while Hylaeus hilaris and Hylaeus kuakea are each found only in one location.

The seven endangered species are impacted by a wide variety of threats, including habitat destruction because of urbanization or nonnative animals, the introduction of nonnative plant species, wildfires, nonnative predators and natural events such as hurricanes, tsunamis and drought.

The protected status "will allow authorities to implement recovery programs, access funding and limit their harm from outside sources," as Gregory Koob of the Fish and Wildlife Service told The Associated Press. He added that "all federal agencies must consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service when interacting with endangered species."

The Xerces Society called the new rule "excellent news" but added that "there is much work that needs to be done to ensure that Hawaii's bees thrive."

"These bees are often found in small patches of habitat hemmed in by agricultural land or developments," the group said. "Unfortunately, the [Fish and Wildlife Service] has not designated any 'critical habitat' areas of land of particular importance for the endangered bees."

As we've reported, pollinators are under threat around the world. A U.N.-sponsored report released in February found that "about 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species (such as bees and butterflies) are facing extinction." This could have major implications for world food supply, because "about 75 percent of the world's food crops ... depend at least partly on pollination."

Despite the threats, the University of Hawaii says these bees "have managed to persist with amazing tenacity." While this group of species is now endangered, new species of the genus are discovered regularly — "11 new native species have been found in the past 15 years."

The rule, which goes into effect at the end of the month, also gives the endangered designation to 39 plant species found on the islands and to three other creatures native to Hawaii — the band-rumped storm-petrel Oceanodroma castro, the orangeblack Hawaiian damselfly Megalagrion xanthomelas, and the anchialine pool shrimp Procaris hawaiana.

Queens, sex and colony collapse

Date: October 4, 2016

Source: Aarhus University

Summary: When a queen has sex with many different partners, it can increase her risk of infection with venereal disease. It can also lead to the collapse of her colony. This might read like ingredients for a juicy novel, but for bees it is reality.


When a queen has sex with many different partners, it can increase her risk of infection with venereal disease. It can also lead to the collapse of her colony. This might read like ingredients for a juicy novel, but for bees it is reality.

Scientists from Aarhus University have teamed up with American and German colleagues and found that the mating behaviour of queen bees increases the risk of the whole colony succumbing to the syndrome Colony Collapse Disorder because of a venereal disease.

In order to understand how this works you need to know a few things about the mating behaviour of bees.

When the bee colony's queen decides to mate, she flies a certain distance away from the beehive. She is drawn towards a particular goal: a concentrated swarm of randy drones that are gathered in the air in a so-called congregation area. In this buzzing confusion of drones the queen bee mates with several different males.

The drone, on the other hand, has only one shot. This is, however, quite dramatic, in that he blasts his semen into the queen. This explosive ejaculation leads to separation of the drone's penis from his body, his falling over backwards and dying shortly afterwards. The drone leaves part of his penis behind in the queen's body.

Mating with built-in risk

The scientists have now shown that the drone leaves behind not only his semen and part of his penis in the queen. His calling card can also include a virus that may infect the queen with the disease deformed wing virus. Since the queen mates with multiple partners in the course of a mating event, there are multiple risks of small Trojan horses being left behind in her.

All the queens in the study came from bee colonies that were free of infection with deformed wing virus. The drones in the control group also came from colonies without deformed wing virus while several of the drones in the experimental group were infected with the disease.

The research team, which consisted of scientists from the German bee research institute LLH Bieneninstitut, University of North Carolina, and Aarhus University, caught the queen bees on the queens' way home from mating. If the queen contained a piece of the drone penis (endophallus), this endophallus was removed and examined for deformed wing virus.

The scientists remove the endophallus from the mated queen. Photo: Roy Mathew Francis

Virus throughout the body

The results showed that queens that had mated with drones infected with deformed wing virus also often became infected with the disease. Virus was found in both the sexual organs and other body parts of the queens.

- We found answers to three essential questions: that drones infected with deformed wing virus are capable of mating naturally with queens, that deformed wing virus can be transmitted by natural mating, and that virus particles can be found throughout the body in mated queens shortly after mating, says senior scientists Per Kryger from the Department of Agroecology and continues:

- A significant portion of failed bee colonies is due to failure of the queen. This could explain the frequent loss of queens, since deformed wing virus can shorten the bees' life span. It is a serious problem when the queen dies and often means that the whole colony collapses.

MSU researchers spread the buzz about bee viruses

August 24, 2016 -- By Marshall Swearingen for the MSU News Service

BOZEMAN -- Researchers at Montana State University have published an informational paper in a scholarly journal summarizing what's known about the role that viruses play in honey bee health.

Co-authored by Michelle Flenniken, assistant professor in the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology in MSU’s College of Agriculture, and two MSU graduate students, the article, "The buzz about honey bee viruses," was published Aug. 18 in the journal PLoS Pathogens, which publishes “outstanding original research and commentary that significantly advances the understanding of pathogens and how they interact with their host organisms,” according to the journal website.

The article's release came two days ahead of National Honey Bee Day, which was declared in 2010 by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to further awareness of the important role that honey bees play in the food system and the threats the pollinators face, including from pathogens such as the viruses studied by the Flenniken lab.

"This is an exciting time in honey bee virology," the authors write in the paper, adding that the study of bee viruses is "a rapidly growing field currently in its infancy."

More than a dozen viruses circulate within and between honey bee colonies. Several viruses can be transmitted among multiple bee species, including bumble bees, and some viruses are carried by parasitic mites, for example, Varroa destructor.

Honey bee colony losses have averaged 33 percent annually since 2006, increased from a historic average of approximately 12 percent. There are multiple factors, including chemical exposure, lack of quality forage and pathogen prevalence and abundance that impact bee honey bee colony losses. Flenniken said colonies afflicted with Colony Collapse Disorder, which accounts for approximately five percent of annual losses but is poorly understood, have a higher prevalence of certain viruses.

"We know that certain viruses correlate with poor colony health and colony losses, but the specific viruses differ depending on location and other variables," said Flenniken. "There's not one virus that's always the culprit."

According to co-author Alex McMenamin, a doctoral student in MSU's Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Agriculture and College of Letters and Science and a member of the Flenniken lab, new technologies are opening frontiers for bee pathogen research.

Until very recently, researchers have only been able to study the impact of viruses on bees at the macroscopic level, McMenamin said.

"Now, we can study individual viruses and their interactions with individual honey bee cells,” he said.

"We can look at all the genes that are expressed or 'turned on' when a bee is infected with a virus," Flenniken added.

Eventually, pinpointing the molecular behavior of bee viruses and the bees' immune response could help researchers understand the specific role those pathogens play in the complex equation of colony deaths, as well as develop management strategies to boost colony health.

Flenniken and the other co-authors, which includes Department of Microbiology and Immunology doctoral student Laura Brutscher, were invited to write the review paper as part of a special series that the PLoS Pathogens website calls a "living collection of short, educational, and highly useful articles."

John Sherwood, head of MSU's Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology, said Flenniken and her collaborators are at the forefront of research into honey bee viruses.

"There is a lot of concern about honey bee colony collapse, but it's been a very difficult puzzle to solve," Sherwood said. "What's unique about Michelle's work is that until recently there has been relatively little research on the viruses [that may be key pieces of the puzzle].”

Publishing an article about bees in a journal that covers immunology, virology and microbiology is another illustration of how the study of pollinators is branching out beyond the fields of entomology and ecology, Flenniken said.

"Researchers from multiple disciplines are talking to each other about pollinator health," she said, "and are pressing forward to address some of the important questions in bee biology."

Michelle Flenniken, or (406) 994-7229

Can CRISPR Carry Agriculture Innovation To The Next Level?

By: Frank Giles September 13, 2016
For years, the discussion surrounding genetics in agriculture focused on the use of GMOs and transgenics. With it came controversy about the safety and processes used to genetically modify crops. Despite scientific consensus that GMOs are safe, the debate continues.

But, as is often the case, science marches forward and a new genetics breakthrough called CRISPR/Cas9 promises to supersede GMOs. The technology is making headlines already and will surely make more in the future.

The technique, which was discovered in 2012 by Jennifer Doudna, a Biochemist with UC Berkeley, and Emmanuelle Charpentier, a Microbiologist now at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, is highly technical to describe. In layman’s terms, it allows DNA to be edited, turning off undesirable outcomes at the gene level. Desirable traits also can be added at the cellular level.

CRISPR is short for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.” The technology is derived from the age-old battle between viruses and bacteria. Viruses attack bacteria and take them over. Sometimes bacteria survive an attack, and when they do, they save a copy of the DNA from the virus. The viral DNA is saved in the part of the bacteria called CRISPR. When the virus attacks the bacteria again, the bacteria arms the Cas9 protein with the bit of viral DNA. The Cas9 protein then moves throughout the cell looking for the attacking viral DNA. When it finds the matching viral DNA, the Cas9 essentially cuts the virural DNA, rendering it ineffective.

“One of the major advantages of CRISPR/Cas9 technology is that a gene can be knocked out,” says Dr. Wayne Hunter, a Research Entomologist at USDA’s Horticultural Research Laboratory in Ft. Pierce. “So, if a gene would normally produce a toxin or allergic protein, the plant would no longer be able to produce that protein. Plus, since no additional genetic material would be added — the plant would not be transgenic.”

And the process can be implemented quickly. In a New York Times article, geneticist Bruce Conklin said of the technology: “In the past, it was a student’s entire PhD thesis to change one gene. CRISPR just knocked that out of the park.”

Not only is the technique much faster than conventional breeding, it also is very versatile. The approach has worked in just about every cell type tested thus far — plant and animal.

And to grasp the rate at which researchers are studying CRISPR/Cas9, there were hardly any scientific publications on the technology in 2012. In 2014, there were more than 225 published.

To say CRISPR/Cas9 is every bit as revolutionary as the Internet or the smartphone is an understatement. Scientists are studying applications to fight cancers and it already has been demonstrated the technology can remove HIV from infected human cells. It comes with ethical questions as well for how this technology may benefit humans in the future. The idea of designer babies with reduced diseases linked to faulty genes, or the potential to slow or reverse the aging process may one day be possible using CRISPR/Cas9. Many more human health, animal, and plant applications are being investigated.


Request for Technical Assistance - USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program

Winrock International is seeking a skilled volunteer with business experience in the apiary industry to travel to Bangladesh on an assignment for the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program. Winrock sends U.S. volunteer experts on short-term assignments overseas to help improve agricultural businesses, small organizations, academic/training institutions, and the lives of local farmers. While experts serve on a volunteer basis and no salary or consultant fee is paid – Winrock does cover all costs associated with the assignments, such as travel, meals, transportation and lodging.

The Tropica Honey-Allwells Marketing Ltd. has requested the support of an F2F volunteer for a 21 days volunteer assignment (including travel) located in Dhaka, Tangail and Sirajgonj. The volunteer will meet and discuss with the host and its partners to assess the overall status of beekeeping in the country and explore opportunities for collaboration among different actors. The volunteers will visit nearby apiculture areas and meet with different actors of honey supply chains to assess the existing beekeeping practices, honey extraction, processing, bottling, packaging, quality control, marketing, support services, and opportunities to improve marketing systems for bee products (honey, pollen, royal jelly, wax, etc.) through a partnership approach. This approach will focus on increasing economic opportunities for youth and the sustainability of the apiary industry.

Based on the information and knowledge gathered, the volunteer will conduct a seminar for potential collaborators, a 2-day training workshop for the host and partner staff, a 1-day training workshop for the youth beekeepers, and prepare strategic guidelines on improved marketing of bee products for the host’s partners. The seminar will help disseminate useful information about the potential of the apiary industry in Bangladesh, emphasizing different uses of honey, pollen, royal jelly, etc. for improved nutrition as well as development of medicinal, cosmetic and other value-added products, which is expected to create enthusiasm of the participants to explore the untapped opportunities. 

Volunteer Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree or higher in relevant field
  • Strong marketing and partnership development experience in beekeeping and bee products
  • Sound knowledge in US, Europe and Asian honey markets
  • Familiarity with improved practices in bee keeping and bee products (honey, pollen, royal jelly, etc.) development
  • Sound knowledge and good communication and presentation skills to conduct training, workshops and seminars
  • Experience in preparing strategic marketing plans
  • Can ideally travel December 1-21, 2016 (although this is not a requirement so please contact Samantha for more information)
  • Must be a U.S. citizen

For more information about this opportunity, please contact Samantha Williams at To learn more about volunteering with Winrock, visit

About Winrock International: 

Winrock International is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged men, women, and youth around the world. By linking local individuals and communities with new ideas, methodologies, and technology, Winrock increases long-term productivity, equity, and responsible resource management, and strengthens civil society. Since 1991, Winrock has fielded over 5,400 skilled professionals as volunteers on development programs in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Eurasia, impacting approximately 8.2 million people worldwide. Experienced professionals donate their time and introduce new information and technology, share firsthand experiences, and exchange ideas. The local organizations, businesses, and individuals that benefit from volunteers incorporate new information into their operations, processes, and planning. This interchange results in increased productivity and sales and new jobs and businesses. 

Pesticide manufacturers' own tests reveal serious harm to honeybees
by Damian Carrington

Thursday 22 September 2016 02.00 EDT

Bayer and Syngenta criticised for secrecy after unpublished research obtained under freedom of information law linked high doses of their products to damage to the health of bee colonies

Unpublished field trials by pesticide manufacturers show their products cause serious harm to honeybees at high levels, leading to calls from senior scientists for the companies to end the secrecy which cloaks much of their research.

The research, conducted by Syngenta and Bayer on their neonicotinoid insecticides, were submitted to the US Environmental Protection Agency and obtained by Greenpeace after a freedom of information request.

Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used insecticides and there is clear scientific evidence that they harm bees at the levels found in fields, though only a little to date showing the pesticides harm the overall performance of colonies. Neonicotinoids were banned from use on flowering crops in the EU in 2013, despite UK opposition.

Bees and other insects are vital for pollinating three-quarters of the world’s food crops but have been in significant decline, due to the loss of flower-rich habitats, disease and the use of pesticides.

The newly revealed studies show Syngenta’s thiamethoxam and Bayer’s clothianidin seriously harmed colonies at high doses, but did not find significant effects below concentrations of 50 parts per billion (ppb) and 40ppb respectively. Such levels can sometimes be found in fields but concentrations are usually below 10ppb.

However, scientists said all such research should be made public. “Given all the debate about this subject, it is hard to see why the companies don’t make these kinds of studies available,” said Prof Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex. “It does seem a little shady to do this kind of field study - the very studies the companies say are the most important ones - and then not tell people what they find.”

Prof Christian Krupke, at Purdue University in Indiana, said: “Bayer and Syngenta’s commitment to pollinator health should include publishing these data. This work presents a rich dataset that could greatly benefit the many publicly funded scientists examining the issue worldwide, including avoiding costly and unnecessary duplication of research.”

Ben Stewart, at Greenpeace, said: “If Bayer and Syngenta cared about the future of our pollinators, they would have made the findings public. Instead, they kept quiet about them for months and carried on downplaying nearly every study that questioned the safety of their products. It’s time for these companies to come clean about what they really know.”

Syngenta had told Greenpeace in August that “none of the studies Syngenta has undertaken or commissioned for use by regulatory agencies have shown damages to the health of bee colonies”. Goulson said: “That clearly contradicts their own study.”

Scientists also noted that the companies have been previously been critical of the research methods they themselves used in the new studies, in which bees live in fields but are fed sucrose dosed with neonicotinoids.

In April 2016, in response to an independent study, Syngenta said: “It is important to note that the colony studies were conducted by directly feeding colonies with spiked sucrose, which is not representative of normal field conditions.”

In 2014, commenting on another independent study, Bayer told the Guardian the bees “are essentially force-fed relatively high levels of the pesticide in sugar solutions, rather than allowing them to forage on plants treated with” pesticide.

“If someone had done this type of study and found harm at more realistic levels, the industry would have immediately dismissed it as a rubbish study because it was not what happens naturally to bees,” said Goulson. “So it is interesting that they are doing those kinds of studies themselves and then keeping them quiet.”

Utz Klages, a spokesman for Bayer, said: “The study [Bayer] conducted is an artificial feeding study that intentionally exaggerates the exposure potential because it is designed to calculate a ‘no-effect’ concentration for clothianidin. Although the colony was artificially provided with a spiked sugar solution, the bees were allowed to forage freely in the environment, so there is less stress - which can be a contributing variable - than if they were completely confined to cages. Based on these results, we believe the data support the establishment of a no-effect concentration of 20ppb for clothianidin.”

He said a public presentation would be made at the International Congress of Entomology next week in which the new results would be discussed.

A spokesman for Syngenta said: “A sucrose-based mechanism was used on the basis that it was required to expose bees artificially to thiamethoxam to determine what actual level of residue would exert a toxic effect.”

Given the lower concentration usually found in fields, he said: “The reported ‘no adverse effect level’ of 50ppb indicates that honey bee colonies are at low risk from exposure to thiamethoxam in pollen and nectar of seed treated crops. This research is already in the process of being published in a forthcoming journal and is clearly already publicly available through the FOI process in the US.”

Matt Shardlow, chief executive of conservation charity Buglife, said: “These studies may not show an impact on honeybee health [at low levels], but then the studies are not realistic. The bees were not exposed to the neonics that we know are in planting dust, water drunk by bees and wildflowers, wherever neonics are used as seed treatments. This secret evidence highlights the profound weakness of regulatory tests.”

Researchers also note that pollinators in real environments are continually exposed to cocktails of many pesticides, rather than single chemicals for relatively short periods as in regulatory tests.


Technical Transfer Team Job Posting – We are growing!

September 9, 2016 • Blog

The Bee Informed Partnership ( is seeking additional Technical Transfer Team  members to work with commercial beekeepers in the following states: Minnesota (serving beekeepers in MN and ND), Florida (serving beekeepers in FL and GA), Texas (serving beekeepers in TX and ND), and possibly two new teams in the northern Midwest and Northeast. Teams will serve beekeepers in the home states as well as when they move their colonies into almonds in California.  The salary range is $40,000-42,000 (based on experience) per year and will include full medical and retirement benefits.

For Minnesota, the team will be based out of the University of Minnesota. For Florida, the team will be based out of the University of Florida (Gainesville) and for Texas, the team will be situated at Texas A&M.  The home institutions for the two northern teams has not been determined yet.

The positions require at least 2 years beekeeping experience, preferably in a commercial beekeeping setting.  It entails intense fieldwork at times, extensive travel, close interaction with beekeepers and many other members of the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) team.  These interactions require the applicant to be a good beekeeper, work well in a team environment, listen well, be non-judgmental, communicate effectively with team members, be self-starting, hardworking, and sensitive about privacy and security of all data collected.  The job entails the following:

Field Work:

  • Be the primary contact between BIP and the beekeepers for any virus/pest/hygienic sampling and testing and presenting results
  • Accurately, efficiently, and confidently, identify, diagnose, record, and report biotic and abiotic components of a honey bee hive through inspections and assessments
  • Lift heavy honey supers to sample the broodnest during honey production
  • Collect a wide range of samples from colonies to be tested for but not limited to the following:  parasitic mites, Nosema, viruses, pesticides, reproductive potential and hygienic testing
  • Work with and ship hazardous materials such as dry ice, liquid nitrogen, alcohol and live bees
  • Have a clean driving record and be capable of safely operating a vehicle off road in a variety of ground conditions
  • Travel is required, often to somewhat remote areas, occasionally with limited notice.  On average, 5-8 trips are made each year with time spent away from home at or exceeding 60 days/year.

Lab and Administrative Work:

  • Work with BIP scientists to develop and conduct applied experiments
  • Manage BIP lab space at the home institution, including purchasing supplies
  • Write a weekly BIP blog
  • Examine manuals to determine the use of new equipment, tools and computer programs
  • Meet at least once a quarter for a formal meeting to present BIP plan/results with BIP team and/or beekeepers
  • Process samples for Nosema and Varroa mite loads
  • Keep data and data summaries organized on a regular basis to keep up to date records of each individual beekeeper
  • Record, copy and place in binders: economic baselines, management surveys, records of receipts of purchases such as travel, gas, equipment, etc.
  • Develop and give presentations, posters and other media to communicate project related goals
  • Keep abreast of and be able to communicate new developments in relevant topics (bee science, management, legislation, etc.)
  • Willingness to adapt at a moment’s notice, enjoy a thrilling fast paced atmosphere, and have a passion for bees

Those interested should email a current resume and at least two references to Karen Rennich at  Application deadline is September 30, 2016.

 Written By: Karen Rennich


PAm update- for Honey Producers newsletter Sept 2016

Danielle Downey, Executive Director, Project Apis m.

PAm’s Forage Initiatives: Can You Spare Some Range?

Project Apis m. is 10 years old! We have infused over $6 million into research seeking practical solutions for bees and beekeepers that pollinate our crops. Our donors include beekeepers, growers, brokers, corporations, the general public concerned about bees, and we also compete for grants. In addition to research projects, PAm has some high impact forage initiatives that are growing quickly. They are Seeds for Bees, and the Honey Bee and Monarch Butterfly Partnership.

Seeds for Bees is a program to plant forage in California, in and around almond orchards. Cover crops have many benefits for soil health and water retention, adding value to the orchard. Of course at PAm, our aim is to increase the diversity and duration of bloom to supplement nutrition for 1.6 million honey bee colonies pollinating almonds for about two months. Here’s how it works: almond growers contact Billy Synk, who manages this program. Billy talks to them about the three seed mixes that are available to choose from, and sends the grower the free seed and instructions to establish that cover crop. Its that free, and that easy! The choices include a mustard mix, a clover mix, and vetch. You can read about them here on our website: There is still time to enroll in Seeds for Bees, so if you have pollination contracts with growers, encourage them to consider planting cover crops, it’s a win win win- for bees, beekeepers and growers! Contact

PAm’s Honey Bee & Monarch Butterfly Partnership


Another PAm forage program is supporting bees in their summer season- where they spend many months getting fat and happy, produce a honey crop, and replenishing for the next round of pollination. This project is a unique conservation initiative, called the Honey Bee and Monarch Butterfly Partnership. Founded by Pheasants Forever, Browning’s Honey and Project Apis m., the mission is simple: to increase and improve pollinator forage and habitat by developing affordable, pollinator-focused seed mixes that include native plants. We believe there is room for conservation acres on every farm, and that good nutrition is a way to mitigate all the other stresses our bees face. The seed mixes are designed for high bloom diversity and duration. Each project has two practices- a honey bee mix and a native mix. About $90/acre will establish perennial habitat, and landowner incentives include free seed and up to $65/acre. The pilot year in ND and SD was a huge success, and this year we will expand to include MN, IA, NE and MO. Help grow this program! Contact us to donate, or to help landowners near your summer apiaries to enroll in this program.


To Bee or Not To Bee: CBP and Partners Seized 132 Drums of Honey

Release Date: September 14, 2016

MIAMI – On Aug. 12, Import Specialists from the Miami based Agriculture & Prepared Products Center of Excellence & Expertise (APP Center) in collaboration with U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) Officers and Special Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Chicago, seized around 42 tons of illegally imported Chinese honey.  This represents the third such significant seizure of honey in four months.

The honey was contained in 132 fifty-five gallon drums that were falsely declared as originating from Taiwan to evade anti-dumping duties applicable to Chinese-origin honey.  The evaded anti-dumping duties on this shipment of Chinese honey would be nearly $180,299 based on the rates imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce, had CBP not intervened.

Prior to seizing the smuggled honey, samples were sent to the CBP Laboratory for analysis, where it was determined that the honey had a greater than 99 percent probability match with honey originating from China.

Import Specialists have been working with HSI agents on honey transshipment for years following concerns from industry experts about how anti-dumping circumvention schemes like the one announced today foster a divergent market which severely disadvantages legitimate importers, processors and end-users of honey versus those who place cost above truth-in-labeling.  Today’s seizure follows a string of successful criminal prosecutions by HSI Chicago agents of multiple U.S. importers convicted of illegally transacting in smuggled Chinese honey disguised as Taiwanese – among many other false origins – who were ultimately sentenced and subsequently deported.

“Customs and Border Protection considers Trade Enforcement a priority since it levels the playing field for legitimate companies. The agency certainly does not want questionable companies having a competitive edge because they choose not to correctly describe their products to evade duties,” stated Center Director for Agriculture & Prepared Products Center of Excellence & Expertise Dina M. Amato.

Upon successful forfeiture of the honey to the United States following the government’s ongoing investigation into the full supply chain, the seized honey will be destroyed.

With the recent enactment of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (TFTEA), Congress recognized that industries and companies that circumvent U.S. law and regulation remain a risk to this nation’s economic security.  Among its provisions, TFTEA requires CBP and HSI to collaborate to enhance trade enforcement.  One of the ways of meeting this requirement comes in the form of an increased and more focused perspective by CBP in the trade arena.

Over the past few years, CBP has stood up ten industry based Centers of Excellence & Expertise as part of CBP’s plan to become more industry and account focused in order to protect the interests of legitimate businesses.  These Centers are placed around the country and the Agriculture & Prepared Products Center of Excellence & Expertise is one of these centers and it is headquartered out of CBP’s Miami Field Office in Florida.  The APP Center currently employs CBP Import Specialists around the U.S. in dozens of ports of entry whose main focus is ensuring the legitimacy of importations in the agricultural/food industry.

This recent seizure and others occurring around the country in a number of other industries are a great indication that CBP’s efforts are paying off and that the recently enacted TFTEA is already making an impact in the trade enforcement arena.

The public may submit allegations and tips concerning food fraud to the APP Center at:


Study: Scientists That Won’t Link Pesticides To Bee Deaths Are Often Funded By Agrochemical Industry

‘Syngenta and Bayer have a substantial amount of influence in the debate,’ said one neurobiology researcher in response to a Greenpeace analysis of corporate corruption in pesticide research.

By MintPress News Desk | September 14, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS — Pesticide manufacturers have spent millions influencing researchers who are investigating the role of neonicotinoids, a nicotine-like chemical found in many major pesticides, in bee die-offs, according to a recent analysis by Greenpeace.

The analysis arrives just weeks after scientists released the results of a long-term study that shows neonicotinoids are extremely dangerous to wild bees in the United Kingdom.

Bayer and Syngenta, two of the world’s top manufacturers of neonicotinoid-based pesticides, gave over £2 million (over $2.6 million) to British universities engaged in research on pesticides and plant sciences between 2011 and the start of 2016, reported Joe Sandler Clarke, a journalist for Greenpeace’s Energydesk, on Aug. 29.

“Syngenta and Bayer have a substantial amount of influence in the debate,” Dr. Christopher Connolly, a reader in neurobiology at Scotland’s Dundee University, told Clarke.

Energydesk sent Freedom of Information requests to 135 universities, requesting details on studies funded by Bayer or Syngenta, and heard back from 70 institutions. Among the top recipients of corporate funding were Nottingham University, which received £557,500 from Syngenta for research into plant sciences between 2011 and 2015, and Reading University, which received £587,952 for similar research during the same period.

Dave Goulson, a professor of biology at Sussex University, acknowledged that it’s difficult to measure the exact extent of corporate influence in his field. However, he told Clarke:

“It does seem to be the case that research funded by agrochemical companies rarely seems to find evidence that their products harm the environment, while independently-funded research often finds major adverse effects caused by the same products.”

He further acknowledged: “Scientists are under huge pressure to obtain research funding and so are naturally likely to be keen to keep their funders happy.”

Scientists increasingly confident that ‘neonicotinoids are harmful’

While it appears some researchers were taking corporate money to follow an agribusiness agenda, others continue to document the harm caused by neonicotinoids.

Neonicotinoid pesticides were banned from use on all flowering plants in the European Union in 2013. A team of seven scientists recently compared wild bee populations to levels of neonicotinoid use on oilseed rape crops in the U.K. between 1994 and 2011. The study, published Aug. 16 in the science journal Nature Communications and led by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, showed that the populations of dozens of wild bee species declined significantly as the use of neonicotinoid pesticides increased, with the populations of one species down as much as 30 percent.

“[T]he average decline in population across all 62 species was 7.0 percent, but the average decline among 34 species that forage on oilseed rape was higher, at 10 percent,” reported Kate Kelland, a Reuters journalist who attended a press conference led by Ben Woodcock, who co-led the study.

Woodcock told reporters:

“Prior to this, people had an idea that something might be happening, but no one had an idea of the scale. [Our results show that] it’s long-term, it’s large scale, and it’s many more species than we knew about before.”

Connolly, the neurobiologist interviewed by Greenpeace, has also authored important research into the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides. In April, he and seven other researchers released a study in the journal Scientific Reports which showed two major neonicotinoids, Bayer’s imidacloprid and Syngenta’s thiamethoxam, have harmful effects on bee populations and the brain cells of individual bees. Surprisingly, a third chemical, Bayer’s clothianidin, appeared to actually increase the number of queens produced by a colony.

Connolly, who supports an ongoing ban on all neonicotinoid pesticides, including those containing clothianidin, praised the recent study by Woodcock and company. “The evidence against neonicotinoids now exists in key bee brain cells involved in learning and memory, in whole bees, entire colonies and now at the level of whole populations of wild bees,” he told Kelland.

Overall, there seems to be growing consensus among scientists that neonicotinoids pose a threat to bees. Dr. Nick Isaac, lead researcher of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology’s study, told Greenpeace’s Clarke:

“Neonicotinoids are harmful. We can be very confident about that.”

*Workman Publishing is giving AHPA members a special discount of 40% off on 10-24 copies, 50% off on 25 copies or more. If you have any questions or would like to place an order, please contact Emily Krasner at 212-614-7592 or *


From Seafood to Steaks, Cheese to Olive Oil, Spices to Honey, and much more, hardly a month goes by without another food scandal. But the world is still full of healthy and delicious Real Foods you can enjoy without worries.

REAL FOOD FAKE FOOD is a new hardcover release from Algonquin. It asks the big question: What Are You Really Eating?

“The world is full of delicious, lovingly crafted foods that embody the terrain, weather, and culture of their origins. Unfortunately, it’s also full of brazen impostors that are hard to identify. In this entertaining and important book, Larry Olmsted helps us fall in love with the real stuff and steer clear of the fraudsters. I’ll never look at a menu the same way again.”

You’ve seen the headlines: Parmesan cheese made from sawdust. Lobster rolls containing no lobster at all. Extra-virgin olive oil that isn’t. Fake foods are in our supermarkets, our restaurants, and our kitchen cabinets. Award-winning food journalist and travel writer Larry Olmsted exposes the pervasive and dangerous fraud perpetrated on unsuspecting Americans.

Real Food, Fake Food brings readers into the unregulated food industry, revealing the shocking deception that extends from high-end foods like olive oil, wine, and Kobe beef to everyday staples such as coffee, honey, juice, and cheese. It’s a massive bait and switch where counterfeiting is rampant and where the consumer ultimately pays the price. Restaurants and retailers are equally suspect.

But Olmsted does more than show us what foods to avoid. A bona fide gourmand, he travels to the sources of the real stuff, to help us recognize what to look for, eat, and savor: genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy, fresh-caught grouper from Florida, authentic port from Portugal. Real foods that are grown, raised, produced, and prepared with care by masters of their craft. Part cautionary tale, part culinary crusade, Real Food, Fake Food is addictively readable, mouthwateringly enjoyable, and utterly relevant. Larry Olmsted convinces us why real food matters.

Real Food, Fake Food has been profiled by,, Men’s Journal, Outside, Men’s Health, New York Magazine, Prevention, The Globe & Mail, and many other news outlets.


A new way of protecting bees against varroa mites

The bee gate
Mariano Higes

Western honey bees are in danger: American and European beekeepers have been reporting massive bee losses for several years. One of the main causes of these losses is the varroa mite. In the past, efforts to control this parasite have concentrated exclusively on treatment in the hive, but foraging bees then bring back new mites when they return home. Bayer’s scientists have been working with bee researchers from Frankfurt University to develop the varroa gate, which is designed to prevent reinfection. This innovative front door should effectively protect the hive against the deadly parasite.

Life in the hive is highly organized, with busy insects working all around the queen. Worker bees distribute pollen, clean and look after larvae, or defend the entrance against enemy invaders like wasps and other honey thieves. But the varroa mite, Varroa destructor, slips in unnoticed on the bodies of some worker bees, evading the strict door policy. It brings a deadly danger with it; this tiny, brown arachnid can wipe out entire bee colonies. Like a tick, it fastens itself onto a bee with its jaws and so sneaks its way into the realm of the hard-working nectar collectors. Once inside, mites reproduce by laying their eggs in the honeycombs where new bees are raised. After ten to fourteen days their offspring spread throughout the bee population along with the newly emerged bees.

Varroa mites transmit dangerous viruses and bacteria

Varroa mites transmit pathogens like viruses and bacteria which are damaging to bee health. This parasite has wiped out entire populations of Western honey bees over recent years. Without human intervention, infestation with varroa means certain death sooner or later for honey bees in Europe and America. Things are different in Asia, where the deadly mite originated. There, a balanced relationship between the parasite and its original host, the Eastern honey bee or Apis cerana, has evolved over many generations.

The varroa mite was not seen in Europe until the 1970s and in America until the 1980s, but since its introduction it has caused massive bee deaths, as the Western honey bee has no defense against the parasite.

This was a disaster not just for beekeepers: in most countries honey bees are the main pollinator of crops such as apples, oilseed rape and almonds. In Europe, they are therefore regarded as the third most important domesticated animal after cattle and pigs.

”But this service provided by nature is under threat – and so is our food supply – if varroa is not adequately controlled,” comments Dr. Klemens Krieger, a parasitologist working in Bayer’s Animal Health Division.

However, for years the mite was not recognized as the main cause of large-scale bee death. Says Krieger, “Many scientists concentrated on viral infections or other factors such as pesticides or pollen from genetically modified crops, ignoring the harmful effects of the varroa mite.”

He followed a different path, reasoning that “Why focus on viruses, for instance, if they cannot do any damage without the mite that carries them?” A four-year field study by the Bee Research Institute in Oberursel, Germany has found that the parasite is at the heart of the problem: “If we keep up our efforts at controlling the varroa mite, many more bee populations will survive,” explains Professor Nikolaus Koeniger, who was the institute’s director for many years; he and his wife have been devoted to studying the varroa mite for decades.

As this famous bee expert couple knows, it is horizontal infection that is most dangerous. “Particularly at the end of the flowering period, foraging bees from healthy colonies invade colonies weakened by varroa to steal honey.

They then become infected and take back large numbers of mites to their own population.” The researchers want to prevent this transfer of mites, since “it is vital for effective mite control to stop new pests constantly entering the hive.”

They have therefore concentrated on the strategically most important point, and the joint efforts of the Bee Institute and Bayer have led to the creation of the varroa gate, a structure at the entrance to the hive. Every bee must climb through this gate when leaving or returning to its own hive. At first sight it doesn’t look anything special: just a plastic strip with holes through which the bees fly in and out.

Inspired by tick collars worn by dogs and cats

Only a closer look shows the immense benefits of this innovation. The plastic strip is coated in chemicals. Whenever a bee passes through the gate, it touches the edge. This transfers a mite poison (acaricide) to the bee and kills any mites it may be carrying. The substance needs to be permanently available on the surface of the strip so that protection can last for several weeks. This proved to be a particular technical challenge. It was solved when Bayer’s scientists thought back to an earlier project: the flea and tick collar Seresto™ for dogs and cats.

This innovative collar was the result of a joint venture by scientists from Bayer HealthCare’s Animal Health Division, Bayer MaterialScience and Bayer CropScience.

They used a little physical trick: “The active substance molecules move between the polymer chains of the plastic matrix. They are always trying to balance out the gap in concentrations between the collar and the animal’s coat, and so rise to the surface. When some of the active substance is removed, it is automatically replenished,” says Krieger, explaining the principle.

Scientists are now using the same system to protect bees: “The acaricide is embedded in the plastic. When some is transferred to the legs or hairs of a bee, fresh supplies are automatically released from the strip to balance out the gap in concentrations between the plastic matrix and the surface,” he explains. This means that the device remains fully effective for the several weeks needed for treatment. At the same time, the amount of chemical available is never more than necessary. Scientists are still fine-tuning the formulation and application rate, and are testing two Bayer substances on bee populations in the field at various concentrations.

The findings to date show that “the bees have been fully protected against reinfection, and no side effects have been seen,” says Gudrun Koeniger.

The bee experts have also been testing for residues in honey and wax.

According to Krieger, “the analysts have been working at the limits of their equipment and methods.” But the formulation is not the only important factor in really barring the way to mites.

Integrated control approach vital for real protection

Careful consideration must also be given to the shape of the  gate: “What we are doing is building a barrier on the beehive, but it must not interfere with hive ventilation or traffic,” comments Nikolaus Koeniger. And yet it must release enough chemicals to control the mites. Scientists are conducting a battery of tests to find just the right delicate balance between shape, formulation and function, testing various hole sizes and distances, for example.

To ensure that Western honey bees can continue to do their vital pollination work in future, beekeepers will be able to install this innovative bee protection gate to protect their colonies against parasites in late summer, before the bees become dormant for the winter and stop flying. It is then that long-lived winter bees emerge, to ensure that the colony survives the winter. “We have learned over the past few decades that no single weapon is effective in controlling mites. We need an integrated approach to mite control,” comments Gudrun Koeniger. The bee gate should close an important gap in the integrated control concept.



Central Valley Farmers Aim To Sting Beehive Thieves

September 8, 2016 7:30 PM

STANISLAUS COUNTY (CBS SF) — A growing number of thieves are targeting farmers in California’s Central Valley by stealing beehives, but those farmers are planning to fight back with a sting operation of their own.

Almond farmer and beekeeper Orin Johnson likes to call himself the poster child for bee theft.

“I’ve had four bee thefts,” said Johnson. “Three of the four were in the last three years.”

From January to March, California’s booming almond crop creates enough demand for bees that they’re shipped in from across country.

“Probably 90 percent of all the bees in the U.S.,” explained Johnson.

The increasing scarcity of a troubled bee population only drives up that demand.

“As you get closer to that income of renting them to almond growers, the value almost doubles,” said Johnson.

Add it all up and you get an annual bee crime spree. “I had a local friend of mine and they came in with a truck in the night and they took off I believe 120 hives,” lamented Johnson.

So after several years of bee heists, the problem is only getting worse. So this week, the California Beekeepers Association launched a series of meetings to prepare for next season. But keeping track of all of these hives is not going to be easy.

“I only run about 500 hives,” said Johnson. “A lot of people think that’s a lot.”

Farmers have come up with some ideas of how to keep an eye on all of those hives.

“Game cameras. Hunters and sportsmen use them to see game,” said Johnson.

Another option farmers are looking at is GPS tracking chips, but that presents a different problem.

“If you buy 10 of them and you have 5000 hives, you have what –1/100th of a percent of that? Those are the hives they’re going to steal,” Johnson explained. “That’s the problem.”

Farmers here have until January to draw up security plans, but odds are the help and honey delivered by these hives will be stung by another year of poaching from California’s bee bandits.

According to the Bee Keepers Association, this year alone an estimated 1,600 beehives have been stolen.

Video & Story:


That stings: Study finds insecticide hurts queen bees' egg-laying abilities

by Scott Schrage | University Communications

The world’s best-selling insecticide may impair the ability of a queen honey bee and her subjects to maintain a healthy colony, says new research led by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln entomologist.

The research examined the effects of imidacloprid, which belongs to a popular class of nicotine-based insecticides known as neonicotinoids. Honey bees often become exposed to neonicotinoids in the process of pollinating crops and ornamental plants while foraging for the nectar and pollen that feed their colonies.

Queen bees in colonies that were fed imidacloprid-laced syrup laid substantially fewer eggs – between one-third and two-thirds as many, depending on the dose of imidacloprid – than queens in unexposed colonies, the study reported.

“The queens are of particular importance because they’re the only reproductive individual laying eggs in the colony,” said lead author Judy Wu-Smart, assistant professor of entomology. “One queen can lay up to 1,000 eggs a day. If her ability to lay eggs is reduced, that is a subtle effect that isn’t (immediately) noticeable but translates to really dramatic consequences for the colony.”

Wu-Smart and her colleague, the University of Minnesota’s Marla Spivak, assessed colonies populated by 1,500, 3,000 and 7,000 honey bees. Some colonies received normal syrup, with others given syrup that contained imidacloprid in doses of 10, 20, 50 and 100 parts per billion, or PPB.

Colonies that consumed the imidacloprid also featured larger proportions of empty cells, the signature hexagonal hollows that serve as cribs for honey bee broods. About 10 percent of cells in the unexposed colonies were vacant, compared with 24, 31, and 48 percent of the 20, 50 and 100 PPB colonies, respectively. The finding suggests poor brood health in the exposed colonies, Wu-Smart said.

The researchers further found that exposed colonies collected and stored far less pollen, which they convert into a “bee bread” that provides crucial protein for recently hatched larvae. While more than four percent of the cells in unexposed hives contained pollen, less than one percent of cells in even the 10 PPB colonies did.

And the honey bee equivalent of biohazard containment – the removal of mite-infested or diseased pupae before they can infect the hive – also suffered. An unexposed colony of 7,000 bees removed more than 95 percent of the ailing brood, but a 100 PPB colony eliminated only 74 percent and a 50 PPB colony just 63 percent. Wu-Smart said this reduction in hygienic behavior indicates that the exposed colonies could be more susceptible to pests and pathogens.

Yet Wu-Smart and Spivak also discovered that some of the insecticide’s apparent effects, such as decreasing the amount of time a queen spent moving through the hive or the number of worker bees foraging for food, dissipated as the size of a colony increased.

“What we can say is that smaller colonies tend to be more vulnerable, because the queens are more likely to become exposed,” Wu-Smart said. “When we look at our general beekeeping practices, the early spring is when colonies are at their smallest size. They’re coming out of winter, and a lot of them are naturally smaller.”

Unfortunately, Wu-Smart said, growers typically apply insecticides or sow insecticide-treated seeds at that same time. Even imidacloprid-treated crops that bees typically do not pollinate, such as corn, can contribute to exposure when winds sweep up the dust stirred by planting machines and carry it across miles of landscape. That dust can settle in willow trees, dandelions, clovers and other flowering plants that represent food sources for honey bees.

Though Wu-Smart said she doesn’t consider banning neonicotinoids a practical step in protecting honey bee colonies, she did advocate for regulating insecticide-treated seeds the same way the industry does with sprays and other application techniques.

“When you spray a pesticide, you have to consider things like wind and temperature to reduce drift,” she said. “You can’t aerial-spray on a windy day. With seed-treated products, there is no label telling (growers) that it’s been treated with an insecticide. There is no restriction as to when you can plant.

“When we do a lot of the extension outreach and talking to growers, many of them are unaware that this is even a problem. So just having that label on the bag saying that planting these seed treatments on a windy day could potentially cause some effects on bees could be useful.”

The new study represents another step toward understanding the complex, often intertwined ways that neonicotinoids and other insecticides affect honey bee colonies, Wu-Smart said.

“What we’re seeing now is that beekeepers will … check their hives, say that the hives look good, come back a few weeks later, and (see) the colony start to look really weak,” she said. “They’ll come back (again), and the colony is dead or dying. So it’s a slow decline of their colony health.

“In many of these cases, we want to figure out why these colonies are dwindling when they should be at their peak production. This is providing some of that insight. It’s not answering all the questions, but it’s definitely something to consider.”

Wu-Smart and Spivak published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports. The research was supported in part by a fellowship Wu-Smart received from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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Cassie Cox
Executive Secretary
PO Box 435
Mendon, UT 84325