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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.



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:

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:

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

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,  

Apply at

Beekeepers Accuse EPA of Hiding Pesticide Files


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.


University of Minnesota opens new Bee and Pollinator Research Lab

October 26, 2016

Bee and pollinator researchers at the University of Minnesota are ready to take their research to the next level in a new, state-of-the-art Bee and Pollinator Research Lab. After a multi-year fundraising campaign and building construction, the University takes another step toward discovering solutions every day to protect bees, which in turn will help to protect our food supply and human health.

The new Bee and Pollinator Research Lab, a part of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), will centralize and facilitate the important bee research projects currently underway. The facility expands and enhances the Bee Lab group’s internationally recognized research and teaching program and provides opportunities for enhanced interdisciplinary and international collaborations.

The 10,000-square foot laboratory consolidates lab space, honey extraction, observation hive space, offices and equipment space. The cost of the facility reached about $6 million, with state-funded bonds covering two-thirds of the cost of the project and the balance funded through private gifts.

The goal of bee research at the University of Minnesota is to promote the health of bee pollinators, and because of the new facility the research team can better accomplish that overarching goal and additionally provide the richest learning environment for students at all levels and from all backgrounds.

The Bee Lab research team is driven by the research of Dr. Marla Spivak, MacArthur Fellow and Distinguished McKnight Professor in Entomology, who conducts research on honey bees with support from Gary Reuter and graduate students; and Dr. Dan Cariveau who conducts research on the ecology and habitat needs of native bees.

Solving colony collapse while ensuring the world’s food supply from plants that rely on bees for pollination—from soy beans and almonds—requires a wide range of experts working together and from diverse perspectives and subject matter expertise. CFANS is leading the interdisciplinary effort to address these grand challenges—from pollinator research to plant genetics, and innovative ways to maintain and grow crop yields while protecting bees— to help solve hunger in the world.

In celebration of this accomplishment, the public is invited to attend a ribbon cutting ceremony and grand opening event to learn more about this new facility and the research efforts underway on October 29 beginning at 2 p.m. The event is an opportunity for the public to meet the facility, talk with researchers, and learn more about the importance of pollinators to our world food safety. 

More information about the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences can be found at


Bayer Ordered to Halt Ads Describing Its Pesticide, Which is Toxic to Bees, as “Vitamins for Plants”

Thursday, November 03, 2016

By Zack Huffman, Courthouse News Service

BOSTON (CN) — Bayer Crop Science, the world's largest agrochemical company, buckled to Massachusetts' demand that it stop advertising that its neonicotinoid pesticides are like "giving 'a daily vitamin' to plants," though the chemicals have been linked to honeybee colony collapse disorder.

Attorney General Maura Healey filed an Assurance of Discontinuance on Oct. 26 in Suffolk County Court to settle the dispute, which her office began investigating in September 2013. Bayer Cropscience promised to pay $75,000 and to stop its misleading advertising, for instance, that its neonicotinoid pesticide products are EPA-approved.

"Bayer made numerous misleading claims to consumers about the safety of its pesticide products, including falsely advertising that they were similar to giving 'a daily vitamin' to plants, when in fact, they are highly toxic to honey bees and other pollinators in the environment," Healey said in a statement.

The attorney general called the settlement "an unprecedented step from a major pesticide manufacturer to promote truth in advertising for consumers about products that expose bees and the environment to harm and in turn also impact farming and food production."

The lawn and garden products, which include Bayer Advanced All-in-One Rose and Flower Care, Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Protect and Feed II, and Bayer Advanced Season Long Grub Control Plus Turf Revitalizer, contain imidacloprid and/or clothianidin, which belong to a family of synthetic chemicals called neonicotinoids.

Neonicotinoids are systemic chemicals designed to spread their toxin throughout the plant, including the pollen, where the toxic pesticides are picked up by pollinators.

An EPA report this year found possible links between neonicotinoid pesticides and honeybee colony collapse disorder, which destroyed more than 10 million beehives from 2007 to 2012. One-fourth of the American diet depends on honeybee pollination, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Worldwide, crops worth more than $200 billion a year depend on honeybee pollination, and colony collapse disorder has driven up farmers' costs of renting pollinating hives by 20 percent or more.

Neonicotinoid exposure on land and water also has been associated with adverse effects on fish, amphibians, birds and bats.

Healy claimed that Bayer deceptively advertised that its products were safe for the environment, particularly bees, and that gardeners should use as much as of the product as possible for preventative purposes and that the EPA approved of its ingredients.

Healy's office also investigated Scotts Miracle-Gro, but dropped the investigation after Scotts decided to phase out neonicotinoids from its lawn and garden products this year.

Bayer Crop Science spokesman Jeff Donald challenged what he called "exaggerated" claims from the attorney general's office regarding the use of nicotinoid pesticides.

"Crop Science maintains that the attorney general's office fundamentally misunderstands the science and extensive body of research related to pollinator health, refusing throughout the three-year period Bayer's repeated offers to provide experts in this field to discuss the science," Donald said.

The spokesman also pointed out that the Healey's office settled for partial reimbursement of costs after three years of investigation failed to yield direct support for the state's claims.

Kenyan farmers using honey bees to protect crops from elephants

By Africa correspondent Martin Cuddihy

Updated 14 Oct 2016, 7:14pm

The belief that elephants are afraid of mice has been tested and seemingly proved by science television program Mythbusters.

But it turns out elephants are also afraid of honeybees, and this is a life-changing fact for Kenyan farmers.

The elephants of Tsavo are world-renowned and more than 15,000 of them live in the national parks of eastern Kenya.

But elephants are wildlife and they do not really respect the boundaries of the park. How can they when most of it is not even fenced?

So farmers who live around the peripheries of the Tsavo conservancies have long battled with the world's largest land mammal.

There have been instances where elephants have been killed by farmers and communities because crops have been destroyed.

Ester Serem, a project officer with Save the Elephants, said the community was "scared of the elephants".

"We have had some instances where some people have been killed here," she said.

"When people see the elephants approaching, they just freak out."

Farmer Hezron Nzumu has spent many sleepless nights chasing elephants out of his paddocks.

"After we plant our crops we have to keep on changing. If I'm asleep, my wife would be awake. We have to keep on exchanging at night."

He would do whatever it takes to keep the elephants away.

"We have to beat the Mbati (a tin roof) whistling — using a whistle or making noise. Lighting fires and using torches."

'Phenomenal' beehive experiment

The discovery that elephants are afraid of bees has changed the way farmers are protecting their livelihoods.

Masters student Sophia Weinmann is studying Resource Conservation at the University of Montana. She has been helping to set up beehive fences and then records the result.

"Elephants can recognise the sound of them in their beehives," she said.

"If an animal comes up to the fence, sometimes they just hear the bees or they recognise the shape because they have been here before.

"They walk within a few metres of the hives and then they turn and walk away."

African honey bees are far more aggressive than their European cousins. In fact, certain sections of the tabloid media in the US simply refer to them as killer bees.

If their hives are disturbed, the insects will swarm. They have been known to kill people, and they have been known to kill elephants as well.

"If they don't recognise the hives straight away, if they come and they hit the wire, it'll shake the hive and the bees will come out and they'll sting the elephants around the eyes, ears, and the trunk and then the elephants will run away," Ms Weinmann said.

In fact, the bees are so aggressive that it is not safe to transfer a colony of bees into an empty hive. Extracting honey during the day is considered folly.

The trial has the approval of the of Kenya's Wildlife Service, the Government arm that controls the national parks.

"I think it's a phenomenal experiment," wildlife service director general Kitili Mbathi said.

"I've tasted the honey and it's delicious. If we can do more things like that we'll be winning."

The benefits to the farmers appears threefold. Primarily, it stops the elephants and that is what the whole program is designed to do.

There has been an 80 per cent reduction of elephant invasions on farms using the bee fences. But the farmer also gets to sell the honey — and anecdotally, their yields are up.

Bees are not only protecting the crops, they are pollinating them as well.

Honey Bee-Conservation Efforts Behind This 2017 Color of the Year Choice

Dunn-Edwards Paints chose "Honey Glow" as the 2017 Color of the Year and will donate 10% of sales to

Posted on: October 21, 2016

By Lauren Shanesy

Dunn-Edwards Paints announced their 2017 Color of the Year this week, but this time around the decision was fueled by more than just popular design trends.

The color, "Honey Glow," is a warm golden yellow with brown undertones, which color expert for Dunn-Edwards Sara McLean said in a Tuesday news release is "a great color to make a bold statement in a room." McLean continued, "Honey Glow embodies the trend toward the warming of all colors – from neutrals to non-neutrals. It can pretty much match with everything from earthy, neutral palettes or colors like chocolate, red, gray, green and orange."

Ten percent of sales from Honey Glow paints will go to, a nonprofit organization that protects honeybees. The organization encourages urban beekeeping and educates people about making their garden bee friendly by avoiding pesticides, providing water and shelter, and adding pollinator-friendly plants says Dunn-Edwards.

FDA testing finds weed killer residue in honey, instant oatmeal

EPA calls glyphosate 'unlikely to be carcinogenic'; comments due by Oct. 17

By Cathy Siegner | October 12, 2016

Testing for glyphosate residue at a U.S. Food and Drug Administration laboratory in Atlanta has found up to 1.67 parts per million (ppm) in certain instant oatmeal cereals and up to 121 nanograms per gram (ng/g) in samples of honey.

Glyphosate is a widely used and controversial herbicide and the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. It was first licensed for use in the U.S. in the mid-1970s.

The test results were presented by Narong Chamkasem, a research chemist with FDA’s Southeast Regional Laboratory, at a scientific workshop this past July in Florida.

Chamkasem reported finding no glyphosate residues in organic oat samples from Bob’s Red Mill, Whole Foods, Sprouts and Nature’s Path, while other results from 10 unnamed brands ranged from 0.01 ppm in “apple cinnamon instant oat meal” to 1.67 ppm in “cinnamon spice instant oat meal.”

In 19 honey samples tested, he reported finding just a trace of glyphosate in 10 of them. Results from the other nine samples tested ranged from a low of 17 ng/g in Brazilian honey up to a high of 121 ng/g in honey from Louisiana.

The story was first reported by Carey Gillam here.

Maximum tolerance levels
The levels detected by the FDA testing are below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum tolerance level for glyphosate in oats, which is 30 ppm.

Other countries have lower maximum allowable limits on glyphosate residues in food and feed. The European Union, for example, has set a 20 ppm maximum residue level for glyphosate in oats.

There is currently no maximum tolerance level in the U.S. for glyphosate residues in honey, but the issue could land on the joint EPA/FDA agenda in the near future.

FDA started testing certain foods for glyphosate residues in February after the U.S. Government Accountability Office and others criticized the agency for not doing so and for not publicly revealing limitations in both its testing practices and its methodology.

Questions about safety
Because of potential links with certain types of cancer and reproductive and developmental problems, there are ongoing efforts to ban or limit the use of glyphosate in this country.

In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” based on “convincing evidence that these agents cause cancer in laboratory animals.”

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel is meeting next week in Arlington, VA, to discuss the carcinogenic potential of the herbicide, and EPA is planning to issue related human health and ecological risk assessments next spring.

Meanwhile, in a “Glyphosate Issue Paper” released Sept. 12, EPA has proposed classifying glyphosate as “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans at doses relevant for human health risk assessment.” Comments on the proposal are being accepted until Oct. 17 here.

Monsanto’s position is that detectable glyphosate levels in human food are too low to cause any health problems and that testing ensures its safety.

“When it comes to safety assessments, no other pesticide has been more extensively tested than glyphosate. In evaluations spanning four decades, the overwhelming conclusion of experts worldwide, including the EPA, has been that glyphosate can be used safely according to label instructions,” the company states on its website.

In the past 20 years, the Missouri-based agrochemical giant has developed soybeans, sugar beats, canola and corn varieties genetically engineered as “Roundup Ready” to help make them immune to its branded glyphosate-based herbicide. The idea is to kill the weeds but not the crop.

The recent FDA testing results, the EPA risk assessment process, and the ongoing debate about the safety of glyphosate use on food and feed comes at a particularly delicate time for Monsanto.

The company was just purchased last month for $66 billion by German drug and agrochemical company Bayer, and the EU license for glyphosate was set to expire this year.

However, after some EU member states objected to renewing it, an eleventh-hour decision extended the license for 18 months — until the end of 2017 — pending further scientific study.

Quaker Oats lawsuit
A San Francisco woman filed a potential class-action lawsuit earlier this year against the Quaker Oats Co. alleging that the firm deceptively labels its products sold at retail as “100% Natural” when glyphosate is sprayed on the oats as a drying agent shortly before harvest.

The main plaintiff, Danielle Cooper, asked that the court order the company to issue refunds to purchasers of its products and to embark on a “corrective advertising campaign to inform the public of the true nature of Quaker’s carcinogen-contaminated oats.”

Quaker, which was bought by PepsiCo in 2001, stated that it does not add glyphosate during any part of the oat milling process, although the chemical is “commonly used by farmers across the country who apply it pre-harvest.” The company also noted that it “thoroughly cleanses” all oats it receives for processing.

“Any levels of glyphosate that may remain are trace amounts and significantly below any limits which have been set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as safe for human consumption,” Quaker stated on its website.

“It’s important to put this into perspective,” the Chicago-based company added. “The typical consumer would, on average, have to consume approximately 1,000 bowls of oatmeal a day to even come close the safe limit set by the U.S. government. We proudly stand by the safety and quality of all of our products. Producing healthy, wholesome food is Quaker’s number one priority and we’ve been doing that for nearly 140 years.”

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© Food Safety News

Sticky situation: Truly local honey producers face competition from unregulated fakes

Hanna Raskin

Sep 27, 2016

Everyone knows you can catch flies with honey. But it turns out you also can use facsimiles of the sticky stuff to capture unsuspecting customers’ money.

“It’s illegal to commit fraud, and that’s what they’re doing,” Darren Cox, president of the American Honey Producers Association, says of dealers who pass off sugar syrup and tainted foreign honey as the output of local bees. To further confuse buyers, duplicitous honey blenders often package their honey in old-timey beehive-shaped glass jars and sell them at farmers markets. As Cox sees it, “It’s like going to the store and buying hamburger and finding out it’s made of earthworms.”

Concerns about honey’s legitimacy aren’t new. Because fake honey can’t be distinguished by sight, and because the federal government has rebuffed industry requests to create legal standards for what qualifies as honey, it’s routinely counterfeited: In his new book, “Real Food, Fake Food,” Larry Olmsted calls honey “the third most faked food in the world” after fish and olive oil.

As an example of honey deceit, Olmsted cited the case of a German distributor who managed to smuggle $80 million worth of contaminated Chinese honey into the U.S. before federal agents charged into his Chicago office. “What’s especially sad is that it is easy to buy real honey, made by small producers all around the country, and widely available at farmers markets and gourmet stores,” he writes. “By simply avoiding big supermarket brands and buying it from someone who makes it locally, you should be safe.”

But Cox says that’s increasingly untrue. According to the National Honey Board, the average retail price of a pound of honey has nearly doubled over the past 10 years. Seduced by the prices that honey-happy Americans are willing to pay for their favorite sweetener, ever-smaller operations are stirring negligible amounts of domestic honey into huge quantities of cheap honey from India and Vietnam and selling the mix as U.S.-made. “That’s perfectly legal by our standards,” grouses Farron Tucker, who’s been making honey in South Carolina for more than half a century.

“It’s just a river of corruption that needs to be cleaned up,” Cox says.

“I’ve always loved honey,” says Tucker, who was 8 years old when his Uncle Heyward gave him a hive. “I’m diabetic now, but I could do a jar of honey and a glass of milk. I’ve had people say, ‘I don’t like honey.’ I say, ‘Try my honey. If you don’t like it, spit it right there on the ground.’ They’d go away with $20, $30 worth.”

Yet for decades, Tucker barely broke even selling honey drawn from 50 hives on his Upstate farm. Then he met Kathy Bayer-Crooks.

Bayer-Crooks is about half Tucker’s age, half his size and twice as likely to wear protective gear when extracting honey from hives. In 2008, she moved from Nebraska to Anderson. Within a few years, dissatisfied with her desk job, she was keeping chickens behind her subdivision home. When she decided to add honeybees to her lot-size farmstead, she bought them from Tucker.

Soon, Bayer-Crooks was giving Tucker advice. She suggested he infuse his honey with trendy flavors such as lavender and chili, and hawk it at festivals. At first, Tucker protested. But he eventually reasoned that “she knows how to sell stuff better than I do,” and went along with the plan.

“I just looked on and grinned and it’s worked out real well,” he says. Grinning still, he adds, “Let’s get everything perfectly clear now: She’s the business of the operation. I’m just the good looks.”

Horsecreek Honey Farms now has about 1,000 hives scattered across South Carolina and another 500 hives in Nebraska. “We’re at the point that we’re expanding so rapidly that we need more help,” Bayer-Crooks says. But Tucker says they haven’t abandoned the methods he learned from his uncle, which include letting bees find their own food rather than suckling them on sucrose and processing honey without heat. That latter technique is used to prevent honey from crystallizing on supermarket shelves, but it also alters its fundamental character. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s not honey,” Tucker says. “That’s syrup.”

It’s obvious why producers are tempted to stretch what their bees make with bulk honey from elsewhere, Bayer-Crooks says: “South Carolina is a tricky state. The rain washes away the pollen, and the bee losses are out of control.”

In addition to geographically restricted crises, such as Dorchester County’s recent airborne pesticide application that killed off millions of bees, the state’s commercial apiarists are dealing with the same problems afflicting hives nationwide. According to Cornell University, heavy use of pesticides; habitat destruction and viruses have contributed to a decline so dramatic that U.S. bees can only satisfy about one-quarter of Americans’ annual honey demand.

Still, Tucker says, “As long as it can be what it’s supposed to be, I’ll keep at it. Anyone can do import honey. That goes on so much.”

To be clear, there is no documented evidence backing up Tucker’s claim: State officials say they haven’t received any formal complaints about South Carolina honey companies. But industry insiders say cheating is an open secret.

GrowFood Carolina started distributing Horsecreek’s honey in March. Manager Sara Clow says she’d long been looking for a honey that met the food hub’s exacting standards for quality and transparency.

“All of the smaller honey producers here are fabulous, but they can only sell direct to consumers,” she explains.

Transparency is critical because the honey industry is largely self-monitored. “The problem is we don’t have Homeland Security checking to see whether this is honey or not honey,” Cox, the American Honey Producers Association president, says of imports. Nor is the Food and Drug Administration involved in checking labels for veracity. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture has taken a similar hands-off approach, allowing producers to grade their own honey.

For Cox, that amounts to a violation of food safety, particularly in a marketplace where imported honey can cost as little as $1 a pound, and command $60 a quart when disguised as a local product.

In South Carolina, anyone with a honey house that passes state inspection can use the Certified SC Grown emblem on their packaging, so long as they’re willing to sign a contract saying the honey is produced in South Carolina. In the history of the promotional program, the only instances of decertification have involved grocery stores accidentally misapplying the logo, according to S.C. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Stephanie Sox.

“I guess you just have to take people’s word for it,” she says.

High Number of Pesticides Within Colonies Linked to Honey Bee Deaths

Some compounds commonly regarded as “bee-safe” could be a major contributor to honey bee colony losses in North America

Honey bee colonies in the United States have been dying at high rates for over a decade, and agricultural pesticides—including fungicides, herbicides and insecticides—are often implicated as major culprits. Until now, most scientific studies have looked at pesticides one at a time, rather than investigating the effects of multiple real-world pesticide exposures within a colony.

A new study is the first to systematically assess multiple pesticides that accumulate within bee colonies. The researchers found that the number of different pesticides within a colony—regardless of dose—closely correlates with colony death. The results also suggest that some fungicides, often regarded as safe for bees, correlate with high rates of colony deaths. The study appeared online September 15, 2016, in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

“Our results fly in the face of one of the basic tenets of toxicology: that the dose makes the poison,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at UMD and senior author on the study. “We found that the number of different compounds was highly predictive of colony death, which suggests that the addition of more compounds somehow overwhelms the bees’ ability to detoxify themselves.”

The researchers followed 91 honey bee colonies, owned by three different migratory commercial beekeepers, for an entire agricultural season. The colonies began their journey in Florida and moved up the East Coast, providing pollination services for different crops along the way. They also spent time in locations meant for honey production, as well as “holding areas” where beekeepers prepare large numbers of colonies for upcoming pollination contracts.

A total of 93 different pesticide compounds found their way into the colonies over the course of the season, accumulating in the wax, in processed pollen known as bee bread and in the bodies of nurse bees. At every stop along the beekeepers’ itinerary, the researchers assessed three different parameters within each colony: the total number of pesticides; the total number of “relevant” pesticides (defined as those above a minimum threshold of toxicity); and each colony’s “hazard quotient,” a measure devised by other researchers to integrate the total hazard posed to each colony by the cumulative toxicity of all pesticides present.

ll three measures correlated with a higher probability of colony death or queen failure. In addition, the researchers found between five and 20 different pesticide residues in every sample of bee bread that exceeded a hazard quotient’s safety threshold. The highest number of pesticides accumulated in the colonies early on, shortly after beekeepers placed colonies into early season flowering crops like apples and blueberries. Honey production stopovers and holding areas offered the bees some respite from further contamination.

The study results also suggest that some fungicides, which have led to the mortality of honey bee larvae in lab studies, could have toxic effects on colony survival in the field. In the current study, pesticides with a particular mode of action also corresponded to higher colony mortality. For example, the fungicides most closely linked to queen deaths and colony mortality disrupted sterols—compounds that are essential for fungal development and survival.

“We were surprised to find such an abundance of fungicides inside the hives, but it was even more surprising to find that fungicides are linked to imminent colony mortality,” said Kirsten Traynor, a postdoctoral researcher in entomology at UMD and lead author on the study. “These compounds have long been thought to be safe for bees. We’re seeing them at higher doses than the chemicals beekeepers apply directly to the colonies to control varroa mites. So that is particularly concerning.”

The current study borrows a concept from human cancer research: the “exposome,” or the sum total of chemicals an organism is exposed to over its lifetime. But instead of looking at individual bees, the researchers assessed each colony as a single “superorganism” that functions as a single, cohesive unit.

Within this framework, the researchers tracked the death of queen bees, which is a life-threatening event for the colony as a whole. In some cases, a colony is able to create a new queen, but if those efforts fail the entire colony will die. In the current study, colonies with very low pesticide contamination in the wax experienced no queen events, while all colonies with high pesticide contamination in the wax lost a queen during the beekeeping season.

“This is a huge problem for beekeepers currently. Not long ago, a queen would typically last up to two years. But now many commercial beekeepers replace the queens in at least half of their colonies every spring in the hopes that this will prevent premature queen deaths,” Traynor explained. “Even with such measures, many queens still don’t make it through one season.”

The research team did not find a significant contribution from neonicotinoid pesticides. These compounds, derived from nicotine, are currently some of the most common pesticides in use globally. Because of their ubiquitous use, neonicotinoids have received significant media attention for their potential role in honey bee declines.

“We just did not find neonicotinoids in the colonies,” vanEngelsdorp explained. “There were some trace residues of neonicotinoids in a few samples, but not nearly on par with other compounds. However, it’s possible we did not test the right matrix—we did not test nectar, for example—or that the product breaks down faster than others in the collection process or that neonicotinoids are simply not very prevalent when crops are flowering.”

Because industrial practices have changed since the researchers collected the data for this study, Traynor and vanEngelsdorp acknowledge that further research could reveal new patterns in the relationship between pesticides and honey bee health. But the current study nonetheless offers some important insights for beekeepers and farmers alike.

“We have to figure out ways to reduce the amount of products that bees are exposed to while still helping farmers produce their crops,” vanEngelsdorp said. “This will require careful examination of spray plans, to make sure we only use the products we need, when we need them, in order to reduce the number of products bees are exposed to while pollinating different crops.”

In addition to Traynor and vanEngelsdorp, study co-authors include Jeffery Pettis (U.S. Department of Agriculture), David Tarpy (North Carolina State University), and Christopher Mullin, James Frazier and Maryann Frazier (Pennsylvania State University).

The research paper, “In-hive Pesticide Exposome: Assessing risks to migratory honey bees from in-hive pesticide contamination in the Eastern United States,” Kirsten Traynor, Jeffery Pettis, David Tarpy, Christopher Mullin, James Frazier, Maryann Frazier and Dennis vanEngelsdorp, was published in the online journal Nature Scientific Reports on September 15, 2016.

This work was supported by the National Honey Board. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of this organization.

Entomology Today

Anthranilic Diamides Can Potentially Replace Neonicotinoid Seed Treatments in Vegetable Crops

October 19, 2016 by Entomology Today

By Rebecca A. Schmidt-Jeffris and Brian A. Nault

When used as foliar sprays, neonicotinoids have caused some concern among the general public because — like any pesticide — they can harm bees and other beneficial insects. However, using neonicotinoids as seed treatments minimizes these risks, and has become a commonly used tool for proactively protecting crops from insect damage. These seed treatments have benefits that include relatively low costs, low mammalian toxicity, and reduced worker handling of pesticides.

Within the processing vegetable industry, crops like snap bean are typically grown using neonicotinoid treated seeds to control seed and seedling pests, while pyrethroids are used later during the crop’s development to control foliar- and pod-feeding pests. Like neonicotinoids, pyrethroids can negatively impact non-target organisms and some insect pest populations can become resistant to them. Although both neonicotinoids and pyrethroids are typically cost-effective and reliable chemistries for reducing insect damage, we sought to determine if an alternative class of chemistry could be effectively used. If successful, farmers would have an additional tool for insect management, which could be especially important if neonicotinoids and/or pyrethroids lose their registrations.

Anthranilic diamides have the potential to replace neonicotinoids and pyrethroids in vegetable pest management. Chlorantraniliprole and cyantraniliprole are two active ingredients that are currently registered for use on many vegetable crops. The systematic activity and residual control provided by these products make them ideal candidates for delivery as either seed treatments or as foliar sprays to manage a variety of pests in many crops. Anthranilic diamides are also considered to be fairly selective, with low toxicity to many beneficial arthropods. However, only chlorantraniliprole is registered as a seed treatment on rice and corn in the U.S.

Registrations of new active ingredients on vegetables and other specialty crops typically occur after they are registered on row crops grown on large acreages. Such decisions, which are made by crop-protection companies, are financially based. The IR-4 Project, which is headquartered at Rutgers University in Princeton, NJ, was created to work with crop protection companies and specialty-crop industries to generate information that will lead to registrations of new crop-protection products on specialty crops. If anthranilic diamide seed treatments effectively manage vegetable pests, future registrations of these chemistries on specialty crops might be obtained through the IR-4 Project’s assistance.

We conducted a series of studies in western New York to determine if anthranilic diamides delivered via multiple approaches could successfully control two major pests of the processing snap bean industry — the seed corn maggot (Delia platura) and the European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis). The results are published in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

Currently, seed corn maggots are managed with a neonicotinoid seed treatment, and European corn borers are controlled with foliar-applied pyrethroids. Chlorantraniliprole and cyantraniliprole were tested in different formulations as seed treatments and in-furrow and foliar applications, and were then compared to the standard neonicotinoid seed treatment and pyrethroid foliar sprays.

Efforts were made to substantially elevate infestations of both seedcorn maggot and European corn borer in these field trials. The anthranilic diamides performed as well as the industry standards when applied in a similar manner (i.e., comparing seed treatments with seed treatments and foliar applications with foliar applications). Many anthranilic diamide seed treatments reduced seed corn maggot damage to levels equivalent to the industry standard. Foliar applications, regardless of active ingredient (anthranilic diamide or pyrethroid), were typically more successful at controlling European corn borer than seed treatments or in-furrow applications. However, one chlorantaniliprole seed treatment was equally effective as a pyrethroid foliar spray, and many of the seed treatments and in-furrow applications substantially reduced damage compared with damage levels in the untreated control. It is possible that under lower, more typical pest pressure, these seed treatments would have performed as well as the foliar applications.

Our results demonstrate that anthranilic diamides have the efficacy of replacing their industry standard counterparts when applied in the same manner. Anthranilic diamides could replace neonicotinoid seed treatments, and foliar-applied diamides, which are already commercially available, could replace pyrethroids. More importantly, our study demonstrated that a single seed treatment of chlorantraniliprole has the potential to manage both a seed/seedling-feeding and foliar-feeding pest simultaneously, providing protection throughout the growing season. This could reduce the risk of pesticide exposure to applicators and non-target organisms, while simultaneously decreasing application costs due to the reduction in labor, fuel, and water use from switching from multiple foliar sprays to a single seed treatment.

While anthranilic diamides have been effective pest control tools, they have not been a cost-effective option for some crops. Diamides are more expensive to produce than pyrethroids and neonicotinoids, resulting in higher prices for farmers who purchase them. Reduced prices of diamides or decreased availability or efficacy of older materials will likely be needed to change existing patterns of pesticide use. Nevertheless, we envision that anthranilic diamides will play a critical role in future vegetable pest management programs.

Read more at:

Anthranilic Diamide Insecticides Delivered via Multiple Approaches to Control Vegetable Pests: A Case Study in Snap Bean

Chemicals: Patent Application Titled "Compositions, Additives, and Methods for Mitigating Or Controlling Seed Dust" Published

2016 OCT 14 (VerticalNews) -- By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Chemicals & Chemistry -- According to news reporting originating from Washington, D.C., by VerticalNews journalists, a patent application by the inventors HUANG, Yaodong (Cary, NC); ELDRIDGE, Justin (Durham, NC); HANSON, William (Wake Forest, NC); MATHEW, Philip (Morrisville, NC); PATEL, Smita (Raleigh, NC), filed on April 11, 2014, was made available online on September 29, 2016.

No assignee for this patent application has been made.

Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "There is a need to develop new techniques for reducing and/or mitigating the amount of seed dust associated with the treatment, coating, and planting of seeds. Depending on the type of seed coating or treatment employed, seed dust can accumulate during a variety of situations associated with the processing, shipping, and/or planting of seeds. For instance, in situations where seeds are pre-treated with a coating agent or composition, placed into bags and shipped to a location, seed dust can accumulate in seed bags due to seed-to-seed and/or seed-to-bag interactions. Seed dust can also accumulate during the storage or handling of seed or seed bags. As such, there is a need to find an alternative to traditional seed coatings that are capable of limiting dust associated with the treating, coating, planting, and/or shipping of seeds. To this end, the disclosed compositions and methods have the ability to reduce and mitigate seed dust in a manner that was not previously recognized."

In addition to obtaining background information on this patent application, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "In an aspect, the disclosure provides for a method of reducing or controlling seed dust by treating a seed with a dust reducing composition including:


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.

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Cassie Cox
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