The National Meeting Report
I don’t know how many people were in Sacramento but it was a lot. I heard numbers ranging from 1200 to 1500. I would see people in the morning and then not see them again for a couple of days. There were a number of presentations that overlapped so I didn’t get to everything I wanted to.
The CCD update led off the meeting. CCD doesn’t play favorites. It hits both good beekeepers and bad ones. When it hits, the average loss is 75%. They are recommending to not put bad bees on top of good ones. Put bad on bad. If CCD is transferable this may limit exposure. When the colonies crash, there is no robbing, no wax moths and no beetles. Nodules have been found on bees that seem to be recovering from CCD. Others may have melanization of the sting gland (blackening). The malphigual tubules (kidneys) may also be blackened. Causes are unknown.
The top lines of investigation are (1) pathogens, (2) pesticides and (3) environmental stress. Virus detection is high on the priority list. Jerry Bromenshank has used his connection with the military to gain access to a $250,000 biological warfare machine to aid in virus detection. It’s known as the Integrated Virus Detection System. This machine will be available at UC-Davis during almond pollination for beekeepers who want to get their bees checked. Sixty bees are needed for a virus sample. After the bees are collected, they are placed in a zip-lock bag and refrigerated. At the testing location, the bees are chopped up in a blender. The big pieces are filtered out with cheesecloth or something similar. The machine converts the liquid sample to aerosol and charges the particles. Individual viruses have a specific size. The size of the virus determines the charge they can hold. The machine can measure the extent of the charge and print a profile of the different charges. Currently there are two viruses that are unidentified. Whether or not they are related to CCD is unknown. The Israeli Bee Virus was in 10% of the CCD samples; Nosema Cerana was in 90%. Another question that remains to be answered is, "What kind of virus loads do queens carry?”
When Dave Hackenberg got up to speak, he noted that CCD was the third most popular new word in 2007. The big question still remains. Where have all the bees gone and why? There are a lot of questions around systemic insecticides and insecticides in general. There may be interaction between insecticides and viruses; also between fungicides and insecticides. This interaction greatly increases toxicity. Maryann Frazier tested 91 pollen samples . She found 43 pesticides, 13 fungicides and 6 herbicides. There were up to 17 pesticides/sample. The average was five. Imadicloprid, which has been a big worry, was only found in five samples. Pesticides most commonly found were fluvalinate and coumaphous. This could be the result of beekeeper application. 100% of 18 wax samples had fluvalinate and coumaphous. Five brood samples had fluvalinate near the lethal level for bees. It’s possible insecticides may be migrating from the wax into the brood. Warning labels on insecticides are based on the lethal level for bees. The sub-lethal effects are unknown.
It is unknown if the cause of CCD is retained in the boxes. A test was done where 1/3 of the boxes were irradiated, 1/3 were aired out, and 1/3 were restocked with bees immediately. ½ of the colonies were moved for pollination and ½ were moved to honey locations. The bees moved for honey were moved fewer times. Both groups lost 5% to 10% of the colonies each move. The colonies in the irradiated boxes faired the best. The boxes that were restocked immediately faired the poorest.
Three migratory outfits on the east coast and seven on the west coast were examined for Nosema. None were found to have a problem with Nosema but two had a Varroa problem. The Baton Rouge lab has a load of bees on the ground in Louisiana that they are going to follow through a migration season.
There was a lot of discussion about protein supplements. Bees need protein. It provides key amino acids. Protein stimulates brood rearing and helps regulate the immune system of the bee. It has been proven that some pollen sources are not high in protein. Spring pollen is thought to be better than summer pollen. Bees coming off a honey flow are often low in protein. Bees need diverse protein sources but modern agriculture is a monoculture for the most part. Bees may add bacteria and yeast to pollen that improve it over time. In southern locations, protein patties may attract small hive beetles. It is possible to give a liquid supplement in this case.
The advent of modern pesticides changed the beekeeping dynamic. We have smaller colonies because the bees aren’t living as long. We need some nutritional monitoring tools to cope with this. The Tucson Diet was developed to improve bee nutrition. Bees fed this diet produced three times as much brood as colonies on other diets. Feed-Bee produced the poorest results among the supplements tested.
Bees expend their body reserves to make up for a protein shortfall. Generally speaking, foraging bees have a much lower protein content. The protein content of the body of a bee varies from 20% to 67%. Healthy bees have at least 40%. It would take 6# of Mann Lake patties to raise the protein content by 10%. It may be necessary to add lipids to patties to make them more nutritious. Some oils are being tested at the Tucson lab.
SMALL HIVE BEETLES
Small hive beetle larva is tapered on both ends. It has two probes on the back end that look like little pieces of thread sticking out. Beetles can lay huge masses of eggs in a short time. The eggs hatch in 24 hours. They will spend 5-14 days in the larva stage. Pupae can go up to 6’ deep into the soil to find proper conditions. The larvae can crawl up to 75’ to get to ground they can burrow into. They will pupate for 5-45 days. Heat and humidity control the speed of the life cycle. Adult beetles may live for 1 ½ years. They are often referred to as walking rice. They are about the same size and they pop when you step on them. Brood and pollen are the preferred food sources. Young adult beetles are reddish in color. As they age, they become black.
Beetles normally attack weakened colonies but like to winter in strong colonies where it’s warmer. Beekeepers have to keep things cleaned up-both in the yards and the honey house. Put yards in open, full sun locations. Permanent locations seem to build up beetles over time. Why do bees let beetles in? (1)We have manageable bees. They aren’t aggressive. (2)Beetles can mimic bee pheromones. (3)Colonies become weakened over time making them susceptible to beetles. Bee pheromones attract beetles. Swarms have been observed with very few beetles. After hanging for a couple of days, they become loaded with beetles. Sometimes the adult beetles don’t need to go into the hive. They lay their eggs in the cracks between the boxes.
Beetle larvae will go to the light. You can kill them with bleach on the floor. Another method is to have a low hanging light with a pan of water below it. On the hive itself, you can put an empty bucket on top of the hive over the hole in the inner cover. Beetles will hide in the space under the bucket. A piece of a Checkmite strip will kill them. Beetles are not active at 68 degrees. Humidity below 50% also slows them down.
It is possible to test for beetle presence in an area. Get a small bucket. Take a small piece of brood and about 50 bees. Suspend the brood in the bucket. Check for beetles after two days.
BITS AND PIECES
I just got in on the end of a presentation by Jennifer Berry. She said she doesn’t think small cell works. On the other hand, there is as commercial operator in Florida that is going to small cell. It cuts both ways. ......Oxalic acid is most effective at temps from 32 to 50 degrees when the bees are lightly clustered.....We have had Nosema Cerana since at least the mid 90’s....The gene pool for our bees has been greatly diminished. Martin Braunstein has been getting queens from Steve Sheppard. He is mating the offspring to his Argentine drones.... The Weslaco lab is recruiting a toxicologist...
The good thing that has happened is that we have gained the attention of the public and the larger research community. We need to take advantage of this.
Submitted by Phil Ebert