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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.

   

USDA Reminds Farmers to Certify Conservation Compliance by June 1 Deadline

Producers May Need to Take Action to Remain Eligible for Crop Insurance Premium Support

Source: USDA 

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 16, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds farmers that the 2014 Farm Bill requires producers to file a Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form (AD-1026) with their local USDA service center by June 1, 2015, in order to become or remain eligible for crop insurance premium support.

Most farmers already have a certification form on file since it's required for participation in most USDA programs such as marketing assistance loans, farm storage facility loans and disaster assistance. However farmers, such as specialty crop growers who receive federal crop insurance premium support, but may not participate in other USDA programs, also must now file a certification form to maintain their crop insurance premium support.

"USDA employees are working very hard to get the word out about this new Farm Bill provision," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "While many producers will not need to take action, we want to help make sure that those who are required to act do so by the June 1 deadline. We want all eligible producers to be able to maintain their ability to protect their operations with affordable insurance."

Producers should visit their local USDA service center and talk with their crop insurance agent before the June 1, 2015, deadline to ask questions, get additional information or learn more about conservation compliance procedures. Producers that file their form by the deadline will be eligible for federal crop insurance premium support during the 2016 reinsurance year, which begins July, 1, 2015. USDA will publish a rule outlining the linkage of conservation compliance with federal crop insurance premium support. Click here to view a copy of the rule.

The Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form is available at local USDA service center or online. When a farmer completes this form, USDA Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service staff will outline any additional actions that may be required for compliance with highly erodible land and wetland provisions. USDA's Risk Management Agency, through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, manages the federal crop insurance program that provides the modern farm safety net for America's farmers and ranchers.

This announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has implemented many provisions of this critical legislation, providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. Click here for more information.

 

Bee Losses Are Not Sustainable

The Bee Informed Partnership released its analysis of honey bee losses for 2014 yesterday, (http://beeinformed.org/2015/05/colony-loss-2014-2015-preliminary-results/ ) showing beekeepers lost 42 percent of their colonies between April 2014 and April 2015. The Associated Press noted “it’s not quite as dire as it sounds” because beekeepers can split their surviving hives, according to Dennis vanEnglesdorp of the University of Maryland.

Yes, it’s , beekeepers can split healthy hives to make more colonies. But apiaries with 40 percent losses probably don’t have very many healthy hives, and it’s not likely splitting weak colonies will succeed. Logistics aside, what is really missing from this picture is an understanding of the economic investment required to return the number of colonies to previous levels.

This is best understood from the vantage point of the beekeeper, in the context of almond pollination, the beekeeper’s primary economic event. One beekeeper explained it thus:

Do we count downhill such as 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, or do we count uphill such as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5?   Well, it depends on “where you start,” or “where you are going.”

If we count downhill, a beekeeper begins the year with 2,000 bee hives for honey production.  The beekeeper loses some during the summer, and gets the survivors ready for winter.  The beekeeper loses more colonies over the winter, and takes the remaining 1,000 good hives to almonds for rent.  So, the beekeeper’s losses are 50%.

If we count uphill, the beekeeper knows from past experience, to stay in business he/she needs to rent 1,000 hives to almonds.  For the beekeeper to ensure 1,000 hives will be available to rent to almonds, he will need to start with 2,000 hives. This means 1,000 colonies will have to be split. The original colonies will need to be re-queened in order to begin spring with 2000 hives.   Therefore, when counting uphill, the beekeeper preparing for almond pollination needs 200% more hives than he/she intends to rent. This costs staff time and hard cash for queens. Splitting a colony also takes away from its ability to make honey, as the field force is reduced.

So where should the counting start? Do we examine the beekeeper’s primary economic event (almond pollination), and count the economic inputs it takes to get there?  Or, do we examine the high number counting down towards the beekeeper’s primary economic event (almond pollination), even if this does not capture the beekeeper’s economic inputs?

A true and accurate mathematical analysis will reflect what is actually happening to the bees, and what beekeepers have to do to keep our agricultural system from collapsing.  Counting downhill from ivory towers, beekeeping becomes an easy race, but you have to discount how you got to the top of the hill.  Counting uphill shows the effort it takes to run the race. Counting downhill or uphill each year shows how the beekeeping race has changed, but fails to capture the big picture and the number of beehives which used to last three years now only last one year.

If other commodities were examined for their sustainability based on a similar survey what would be the response?   If half of the cattle died every year, and the cattle industry had to double in size to generate the same number of cattle sales, what would be the repercussions, the regulatory response, and the support offered to the industry?

It has been acknowledged honey bees and other pollinators are integral to agriculture and our wild lands, and an affordable and sustainable food supply.  Yet, we are not listening to the bees. Forty to fifty percent losses are not sustainable for either the bees or the beekeepers.

 

Michele Colopy
Program Director
Pollinator Stewardship Council, Inc.
P.O. Box 304
Perkinston, MS 39573
832-727-9492
progdirector@pollinatorstewardship.org
www.pollinatorstewardship.org

 

Bee ahead.

A creature loved by all, it serves a vital function in the terrestrial ecosystem – the honey bee, Apis mellifera. Indispensable for food production, the honey bee is the third most important domesticated animal for humans.

It’s a warning some attribute to Albert Einstein:
If the bee disappears off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. Without bees, after all, there would be practically no pollination of flowering plants, and the ecological and economic impacts of that would be dramatic. The Audi Environmental Foundation has been committed to preserving these flying insects for years. Now the foundation is funding a project with an entirely new approach to researching bee behavior: “Vorsprung durch Technik” in the beehive.

An audience with the queen. The Würzburg-based HOBOS project enables fascinating live views from inside an active bee colony.

The future of our planet depends on the intelligent, sustainable treatment of the biosphere by humanity. Playing an active part in species protection starts with knowledge. That’s why the Audi Environmental Foundation has been funding various bee projects since 2011, especially to make nature and our environment interesting and exciting for kids and teenagers.

One of these commitments is the HOBOS (HOneyBee Online Studies) project. This unparalleled online educational platform of the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg was launched in 2006 by Prof. Dr. Jürgen Tautz, a leading expert on bees. The centerpiece of the project is an active bee colony.

An array of cameras and sensors are used to record the bustling action in and around the beehive in Würzburg, which can be watched on video without disturbing the colony in the slightest. Data on the bee colony, the state of vegetation and the weather is recorded in real time. When do the honey bees swarm? Do bees sleep at night? And what do honey bees do in the winter? Read More: http://www.audi-reports.com/ar2014/stories/bee-ahead/


Monsanto Is in Hot Water - Again

Thursday, 02 April 2015 00:00 By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report

Stephen Melkisethian)

This story was updated at 10:20 a.m. EST on April 3. 

It's been a tough few weeks for Monsanto.

Late last week, companies "such as Monsanto" were implicated in a watchdog group's petition to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on behalf of anonymous scientists within the agency who say their research is suppressed when it upsets powerful agrichemical interests.

The allegations enraged the industry's critics, who have been busy touting recent reports linking popular herbicides often used in tandem with genetically engineered crops, or GMOs, to cancer and antibiotic resistance.

Both controversies are renewing calls for tougher restrictions on certain herbicides and mandatory packaging labels for groceries containing GMO ingredients.

"If true, this is a major scandal at the USDA," wrote Gary Ruskin, director of the pro- labeling group US Right to Know, in a March 30 letter to the US House and Senate agricultural committees demanding an investigation. "It is not the proper role of the USDA to engage in a cover up for Monsanto and other agrichemical companies."

READ MORE: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29992-monsanto-is-in-hot-water-again#

   

 

I'll BEE back: Fleets of Terminator-style drones could have artificial brains based on honeybees

·         Scientists aim to build robot that thinks, senses and acts like honeybee

·         So far team has managed to replicate part of brain that allows bee to see 

·         Green Brain Project is a collaboration between Universities of Sheffield and Sussex 

 

By Sam Matthew

Published: 09:31 EST, 25 April 2015 | Updated: 11:02 EST, 25 April 2015

The humble honeybee may only be small, but scientists are hoping to use its brain to power a series of futuristic-style drones.

Boffins are currently working towards digitally recreating the cognitive abilities of the Apis Mellifera or European Honeybee.

Their final aim is to build a robot that thinks, senses and acts just like the tiny insects.

The artificial brain is being created by the Green Brain Project, which is a collaboration between researchers from the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex.

One day it is hoped the remote controlled machines could be used to pollinate crops or even assist on search and rescue missions.

'Bees and all other insects are miracles of engineering which we are nowhere near equalling,' Professor James Marshall reportedly told the BBC

'If we could even recreate a fraction of their abilities in a robot system then we would have made a tremendous advance.' 

Building an artificial brain is a complex process and so far, scientist have only managed to clone the part of the bee's brain which allows it to see

To do this they mapped out the brain of the honeybee and recreated it with circuits that fire on and off in an organic brain, Discovery Magazine reported.

The software is then uploaded into the drone's circuitry which enables it to fly around in a similar fashion to the bee.

The projects team now has three quadcopters and one ground robot, each with unique abilities and configurations. 

Tests are being carried out in a dedicated flying room based at the University of Sheffield.   

In a video footage showing initial tests the drone, powered by the artificial bee brain, can be seen flying down a corridor. 

On the Green Brain website it states: 'Since the start of the project, the GB team has setup the lab, built and tested our robots, and begun to demonstrate some sophisticated visual-based navigation and cognitive functions through embodiment. 

'Current projects include navigation using the GB models, flight tests of our models with the BeeBot quadcopter, developing a Ground Control Station, initial testing with the chemosensors and more.'

 

Bees' immunity as they evolved.

By Dave Armstrong

24 Apr 2015 9:29:11 GMT

Bumblebee genomes are less commercial that that of the honeybee, but have just proved to be remarkably similar. What does this say about the immune-related genes within the bee spectrum? We care about our crops and our flowers, the insects that cater to them and the wildlife aspects of bee roles within ecosystems. So therefore this revelation that all bees share a similar resistance to disease gives us great insight into why exactly our pollination problems are building up. The workers for this paper on A depauperate immune repertoire precedes evolution of sociality in bees were Seth M Barribeau of both East Carolina University, US, and the Institute of Integrative Biology in Zurich, Switzerland and dozens of colleagues throughout Europe and the US. They publish in Genome Biology.

2 species of Bombus, B. terrestris(European) and B. impatiens(North American), now show that limited anti-immune response is not limited to the most social insects and could be 105 million years old, when the solitary bee, Megachile, appeared, or even stretch back to the great split from the ants (which also have low numbers of anti-immune responses.) The importance of immune genes is so great that they could even have been associated with these great events in insect evolution.

Fairly obviously, the extreme cleanliness of bees leads to some conclusions as to how lack of immunity is combatted in reality. Hygiene is unusual in animals, and the bees’ levels of nest maintenance and mutual grooming could both help and hinder immunities from disease, parasitic infections and various effects on colonies based on individual life-history. Sociality is a big plus for cooperative working such as that found in all hymenopterans. The dangers are known to humans and other primates, as we also have the high population densities that create most problems.

In conclusion, the honey bees, bumble bees and even solitary bees are almost the same in restricting their anti-immune genes. However, the current selection processes that operate in these species work against a chemical background of insecticidal clouds and systemic plant dangers. This seems to have produced many different pressures in the honey bees compared to the bumbles. Our concern should be how we can aid the recovery, or even the survival of some of these species. They have suffered from almost every insecticide from organophosphates until the neonicotinoids, and survived! This spread of more and more noxious attacks on pollinators will lead to drops in agricultural production and possibly even loss of whole crops unless regulation arrives on the scene. The days of the cowboy farmer have gone in most countries. Now is the time of the scientist farmer whose knowledge could just see us through to the next phase of agricultural advance. One such example of new developments around a much safer spider venom pesticide was revealed in Saving bees with a new pesticide.

New research provides clues about honey bee decline

May 01, 2015 by Sofiya Cabalquinto

 

A new study by Heather Mattila, a leading honey bee ecologist and Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Wellesley College, published this April in PLOS ONE, reveals that inadequate access to pollen during larval development has lifelong consequences for honey bees, leading not only to smaller workers and shorter lifespans, but also to impaired performance and productivity later in life. For the first time, this study demonstrates a crucial link between poor nutrition at a young age, and foraging and waggle dancing, the two most important activities that honey bees perform as providers for their colonies and as pollinators of human crops. The study was co-authored by Hailey Scofield, Wellesley Class of 2013, a former undergraduate research assistant who will begin a Ph. D program (in Neurobiology and Behavior) at Cornell University in Fall 2015.

The need to study nutritional stress in honey bees has grown pressing in recent years. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency named nutritional stress one of the top research priorities for understanding unexplained losses of honey bee colonies, a phenomenon known in the U.S. as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). With bee pollination accounting for over $15 billion in food crops and $150 million in honey annually in the United States alone, bee losses have enormous ecological and economic consequences. If bees vanish, many plants, including vital food crops like apples, almonds, berries and cucumbers, may also be at risk. Researchers believe there may be several interrelated factors contributing to bee decline, including nutritional stress, loss of foraging habitat, pesticides, pathogens, and parasites. These concerns prompted President Obama to form a Pollinator Health Task Force in 2014, an unprecedented action that named studies of the effect of poor nutrition on bees as one of its primary goals.
While a number of sophisticated nutrition studies have been undertaken recently, the Wellesley study is the first to show that nutritional deficits early in life can have far-reaching consequences for adult honey bees, including effects on complex behaviors like foraging and waggle dancing. "Nutritional stress has long been known to shorten bees' lifespan," stated Mattila, "but we've never had such a clear understanding of its impact on the tasks they perform, or known that its effects persist until their last days, even when bees have plentiful food as adults."

The study is also one of the few to be conducted entirely in a natural hive environment, which allowed larvae and adults to function in normal colonies, rather than in the incubators and cages that are more typical of nutrition studies. This unique methodology allowed Mattila, Scofield, and their undergraduate research assistants to observe the bees foraging and dancing in a natural context, activities they would not be able to perform in artificial lab conditions.

Foraging and waggle dancing are especially important to the health of a honey bee colony because they are the key means by which honey bees acquire food supplies like nectar and pollen, and communicate with other bees about the location of food sources and nest sites. When honey bee larvae were raised with a limited pollen supply, as might happen during periods of bad weather or as a consequence of habitat loss or commercial management practices, there were multiple negative consequences. The pollen-stressed bees were lighter and died younger, and fewer bees foraged. Those that did foraged earlier, for fewer days, and were more likely to die after just one day of foraging. Pollen-stressed workers were also less likely to waggle dance than workers that had been well-fed as larvae, and if they danced, the information they conveyed about the location of food sources was less precise. "Their dances were often visibly inconsistent and almost disoriented in the worst instances," said Scofield.

Importantly, nutritional stress interacts with a number of other stress factors, like pesticides and pathogens, which are already known to decrease longevity and impair foraging ability, creating a vicious cycle of poor health and population decline. Nutritional stress is also tied in part to a loss of foraging habitat, which can compound stresses from pesticide use and other commercial practices. Poor foraging and waggle dancing, in turn, could escalate bee decline if long-term pollen limitation if it prevents stressed foragers from providing sufficiently for developing workers. "If poor foraging habitats impose nutritional stress in colonies, then our study shows that the average stressed bee cannot compensate for reduced foraging opportunities by working harder to find food. This likely exacerbates nutritional stress and further limits the colony's ability to overcome food-finding challenges in areas that are no longer suitable for bees," explained Mattila.

The study also suggests that poor nutrition has the potential to undermine colony health and promote collapse. Conversely, ensuring that honey bees have access to diverse and plentiful forage throughout the year could mitigate the potential for collapse. "This means keeping bees in areas that are bee friendly, green, and full of flowering plants within the normal foraging radius of a colony, regularly checking colonies' food supplies, and providing supplements when natural forage is not available or colony stores are low," said Mattila. "Failure to provide these necessities may impose a legacy of dysfunction on colonies."

 

How the Queen Bee Avoids Inbreeding in Her Honeybee Colony

Catherine Griffin

First Posted: Apr 30, 2015 08:34 AM EDT

The queen bee in any colony has an important job: breeding. But how does this insect avoid inbreeding in her colony? High genetic diversity is important for the whole colony's survival and now, scientists have taken a closer look at the mechanisms that the queen bee uses.

Honeybees live in colonies that consist mostly of closely related members of the worker caste. Yet high genetic diversity is important; a genetically variable workforce may be best equipped to perform the diverse tasks required in the colony, and may be less susceptible to disease.

In order to solve the issue of inbreed, the queen bee uses two methods. One method is polyandry; she mates with a score of drones and uses their sperm to fertilize her eggs randomly so that workers have different fathers. The second technique is through high rates of recombination.

In order to better understand bee genetics, the researchers sequenced the entire genome of 30 African honeybees. This revealed that the frequency of recombination in the honeybee is higher than measured in any other animal; in fact, it's more than 20 times higher than in humans.

CORRECTION

 

On March 9, 2015, AHPA placed on its website a March 7, 2015 online news article published by the Pittsburg Tribune, and written by Rick Wills, with this headline: “Foreign producers import adulterated honey.”  AHPA has determined that this article contains several statements about Honey Solutions, a honey packer in Baytown, Texas, that are not accurate.  AHPA regrets these inaccurate statements.  AHPA has removed the article from its website, and is correcting and retracting the inaccurate statements with this posting.  

The article states that “[i]n 2013, Honey Solutions of Baytown, Texas, and” another company “agreed to pay millions of dollars in fines and implement corporate compliance measures as a result of a lengthy Justice Department investigation.”  This statement may be viewed as implying that the federal government conducted a single investigation of both Honey Solutions and the other company. In fact, the government conducted separate investigations of each company.  

The article also states that Honey Solutions “knowingly sold . . . tainted honey imports from China containing corn syrup or sugar.”  The government, however, did not claim that Honey Solutions purchased or sold any “tainted,” or impure, Chinese honey imports.        

The article further states that “Honey Solutions agreed to pay $1 million . . . for tax evasion.”  While Honey Solutions did agree to pay a $1 million fine as part of its settlement with the government regarding its investigation of Honey Solutions, the government did not charge Honey Solutions with tax evasion. 

Finally, the article states: “Two executives from the companies were sentenced to jail time.”  While two former executives of the other company received jail sentences in connection with the government’s investigation of that company, no Honey Solutions executive was sentenced to jail time in connection with the government’s investigation of Honey Solution’s sale of honey imports from China.   

 

Trade Issues Update
By Michael J. Coursey
Kelley Drye & Warren LLP

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is required by the so-called Byrd Amendment to the antidumping (AD) law to distribute all AD duties collected on honey imports from China that arrived between 2001 and 2007 to eligible domestic honey producers, including many AHPA members.  While CBP to date has collected less than one-fourth of the AD duties it has billed on those imports, the agency recently has improved its collections rate through significant recoveries under hundreds of “new shipper” customs bonds that secure the payment of a big part of the unpaid duties.   

Nevertheless, last year our trade counsel on this matter – Kelley Drye & Warren LLP – discovered that CBP was withholding from the domestic honey producers substantial amounts of these bond recoveries.  Instead of using the recoveries to pay off  the outstanding duties, CBP is using them to pay off the substantial “delinquency” interest that has accrued over the many years between the agency’s issuance of its bills for the duties and its receipt of payment under the bonds.  CBP’s withholding of this paid-off delinquency interest is particularly unfair to the domestic honey producers because the Byrd Amendment plainly requires CBP to distribute to the producers all collected interest on unpaid AD duties, as well as all collected duties.  Further, the extended delays during which substantial delinquency interest has accrued have been caused by CBP’s own mismanagement of the bond-collections process. 

Last week, three AHPA Board members,Darren Cox-President, Mark Jensen-Legislative Chair and Chris Hiatt-Executive Board Member, and Sioux Honey Association president David Allibone traveled to Washington, D.C. where they asked seven key Senators (listed below) to pass legislation that would force CBP to include in Byrd Amendment distributions all its recoveries under the new shipper bonds, regardless of whether CBP uses them to pay off delinquency interest or the unpaid duties themselves.  The AHPA/SHA delegation was well received by the Senators and their respective staffs, who generally registered support for including such legislation in one or both of two important international trade bills currently being considered by Congress.

Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT)

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA)

Senator John Thune (R-SD)

Senator John Hoeven ((R-ND)

Senator Jon Tester (R-MT)

Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)

 

Honey Bee Pollen Substitutes Survey

The survey is being conducted by Professor Jeri Wright at the Newcastle University (UK) on the use of Honey Bee Pollen Substitutes. The survey is being undertaken by Accelerate Associates, an independent research consultancy and should take no more than 10 minutes of your time.

A synopsis of the survey results will be made available to all survey participants and will be presented at the American Bee Federation's Annual Conference in January 2016. The synopsis will also appear in the American Bee Journal.

If you have any queries regarding the survey, please contact Accelerate on: enquiries@accelerate-associates.co.uk or telephone +44 (0)1785 747 102. LINK https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/beesurveys

Pollinator News                       


MP3s--Your questions

Beekeepers have been making their voices heard concerning the Managed Pollinator Protection Plans (MP3).   Developing the State Managed Pollinator Protection Plans is not a “mandate” from the federal government.  However, reviewing the letter from EPA to AAPCO it is “beneficial” to states to complete a plan.  Read the letter from EPA to AAPCO at this link 


There is no specific federal funding available for the planning process.  States, groups, or coalitions could seek USDA, EPA, State Specialty Crop Grant, SARE or private foundation funding to support planning efforts.  Motivations to complete an MP3 for beekeepers are to correct some of the incorrect statements about bees appearing on pesticide labels.  Some labels state honey bees will not forage at less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  That is incorrect.  Honey bees and native pollinators are known to forage at temperatures as low as 42 degrees Fahrenheit.   Bees will not forage after 3:00 p.m. is another fallacy on the federal pesticide label.  Whenever this is mentioned in beekeeping meetings, all beekeepers “guffaw.”  We know, we see our honey bees working from sunrise to sunset.  The 48 hour notice to move bees so pesticides can be applied to a blooming crop is not a reasonable mitigation measure. It reduces the amount of time bees can pollinate a crop.  And if the pesticide used has an extended residual toxicity, bees will die when they return to pollinating the crop, still reducing the crop yield due to the loss of bees alive to pollinate the crop.   If a beekeeper is willing to move their bees where is their pesticide free forage for the beekeeper to place their bees? 

Apiary registrations whether voluntary or mandatory are not the panacea to pesticide related bee kills.  Voluntary registration, and use of these apiary websites, or sensitive crop registry websites are not enforceable.  The very nature they are voluntary gives a false sense of responsibility and communication.  The “48 hour notice to move bees” is part of the digital registry programs.  If a beekeeper is told to move their bees, and they do not, the responsibility for any bee losses due to the pesticide application falls to the beekeeper.  The “48 hour notice to move bees” misses the point of the registry programs.  These should be used to open communication, not speak in ultimatums.  The registry programs could work better, if they opened a conversation between beekeeper, applicator, and farmer about the pesticides being selected. Is there a product to address the pest with a short residual toxicity? Can the short residual toxicity product be applied at night? How much of the crop has been pollinated, remains to be pollinated, and how will removing bees affect the crop yield? What is the pest threshold level as determined by Integrated Pest Management practices?  If pollination is nearly completed, can the application be delayed a few days, so pollination can increase the crop yield?  The registry programs should “start” a conversation between the agricultural stakeholders for the best management practice that will lead to increased crop yields, and healthy bees available to pollinate the next farmer’s crop.  Instead, the “48 hour notice to move bees” is a label directive that has often become an ultimatum that stops communication.

The Presidential Memorandum on Pollinator Health directed the EPA and other federal agencies to “work with states.”  The Presidential memo is being translated into a White House Task Force Report on Pollinator Health that was to be released in Dec. 2014, but is now slated for some time this April.  While the federal government is directed to “work with states,” the states must work with all of the stakeholders. Facilitators of the MP3 planning meetings must be willing and capable to bring the stakeholders together, to listen to all the needs of the stakeholders, and to guide the stakeholders into developing actions which will result in a strategy where the MP3’s are truly protecting pollinators. The stakeholder planning meetings for the MP3s should not be “rubber stamps” of one industry, one regulatory agency, or one individual.  Gathering stakeholders does not mean securing like-minded people to approve the adoption of another states MP3.  Even the AAPCO Committee Report states:

“Development and implementation of managed pollinator protection plans depend on effective engagement of the stakeholders.  This involves direct meetings of beekeepers, crop producers, landowners, crop advisors, and others as needed.    Identifying and engaging stakeholders can be a hurdle for plan development.” page 3, AAPCO Committee Report (http://pollinatorstewardship.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/AAPCO_Committee_Report_-_2315.docx

Official Representatives of all State agricultural associations, including apiculture should constitute the composition of the MP3 stakeholder planning group.  Leadership, or members appointed by the state agricultural/apicultural associations’ leadership, should be invited to participate in the MP3 stakeholder planning group.  Representatives of State agricultural associations could provide up to three official representatives from their state associations to serve on the MP3 planning group/process.

Many beekeepers of a State Beekeeping Association maintain honey bees on their own property, and on their own farms to pollinate their own (and often their neighbor’s) crops.  Beekeeping is comprised of three distinct types of beekeeping: backyard, sideliner, and commercial, and should include all of those viewpoints in the MP3 process.   State Beekeeping Associations represent ALL beekeepers, and are the group to represent all beekeepers in the state.    All beekeepers are involved in honey production and pollination in their state.  Their honey bees pollinate local garden, city floral-scapes, city and state parklands, as well as crops.  All beekeepers are involved in honey sales from the local farmer’s market, local and regional grocer retailers, as well as honey wholesalers.  State Associations by their very nature represent all beekeepers in their state.  One beekeeper performing one category of beekeeping does not “represent” the entire beekeeping industry for the state.  Representatives of all state agricultural associations, including apiculture should constitute the composition of the MP3 planning groups.  Protecting pollinators does not stop at the crop field edge, but should include protection of pollinators in our cities from mosquito abatement programs.  Including city and urban beekeepers, who are pollinating our cities, and backyard and community gardens, provides for the “broad stakeholder consensus” these state MP3’s will need in order to be successful, and protect pollinators.

Adopting another states MP3 was an issue in the AAPCO report as well.
“There are large differences in crop production practices, managed pollinator practices, timing of placement of managed pollinators in and near crops, pest management issues, ownership of crop producing areas and of managed pollinator types across the country.  This large amount of diversity makes it unlikely that a single set of pesticide use directions can accommodate all the situations that arise in a way that both reduces all risk to managed pollinators and provides flexibility for crop producers to adequately protect crops.” (page 4, AAPCO Committee Report (http://pollinatorstewardship.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/AAPCO_Committee_Report_-_2315.docx )


This “large amount of diversity” is what should motivate states to create their own Pollinator Protection Plans.
The AAPCO Committee Report clarifies the value of MP3s: “The objective, to the extent possible, will be to build a broad stakeholder consensus on effective strategies for protecting pollinators that are the least disruptive to production agriculture and other affected stakeholders.”( page 1, AAPCO Committee report.)  The AAPCO Committee will urge stakeholders to identify different state scenarios, and the “attendant differences in management issues, to the USEPA during the comment period expected after announcement of the proposed pollinator protection policy.” 

So we all wait.  We wait for the White House Task Force Report on Pollinator Health; we wait for the public comment period concerning state pollinator protection plans.  Beekeepers must however, be prepared to participate; to be at the table, to be a representative of the agricultural stakeholder called “beekeeper.” Our honey bees (and the native pollinators) are relying on us.
To review the AAPCO Committee Report, the EPA letter to AAPCO, the Pollinator Stewardship Council comparison chart of MP3 plans, and more visit this link.

United States Honey Production Up 19 Percent

Honey production in 2014 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 178 million pounds, up 19 percent from 2013. There were 2.74 million colonies producing honey in 2014, up 4 percent from 2013. Yield per colony averaged 65.1 pounds, up 15 percent from the 56.6 pounds in 2013. Colonies which produced honey in more than one State were counted in each State where the honey was produced. Therefore, at the United States level yield per colony may be understated       , but total production would not be impacted. Colonies were not included if honey was not harvested. Producer honey stocks were 41.2 million pounds on December 15, 2014, up 8 percent from a year earlier. Stocks held by producers exclude those held under the commodity loan program.

 
Record High Honey Prices

Honey prices increased to a record high during 2014 to 216.1 cents per pound, up 1 percent from 214.1 cents per pound in 2013. United States and State level prices reflect the portions of honey sold through cooperatives, private, and retail channels. Prices for each color class are derived by weighting the quantities sold for each marketing channel. Prices for the 2013 crop reflect honey sold in 2013 and 2014. Some 2013 crop honey was sold in 2014, which caused some revisions to the 2013 crop prices.

 

See full Report Here:    

  

Tylosin, Tylan now requires veterinarian prescription:

http://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/guidancecomplianceenforcement/guidanceforindustry/ucm216939.htm

FDA is taking action to promote the judicious use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food animals. The goal of the strategy is to work with industry to protect public health by releasing two documents to help phase out the use of medically important antimicrobials in food animals for production purposes (e.g., to enhance growth or improve feed efficiency), and to bring the therapeutic uses of such drugs (to treat, control, or prevent specific diseases) under the oversight of licensed veterinarians.

The first document, New Animal Drugs and New Animal Drug Combination Products Administered in or on Medicated Feed or Drinking Water of Food-Producing Animals: Recommendations for Drug Sponsors for Voluntarily Aligning Product Use Conditions with GFI #209 (Guidance #213), provides guidance for drug companies to voluntarily revise the FDA-approved labeled use conditions to (a) remove the use of antimicrobial drugs for production purposes; (b) add, where appropriate, scientifically-supported disease treatment, control or prevention uses; and (c) change the marketing status from over-the-counter to Veterinary Feed Directive for drugs administered through feed or to prescription status for drugs administered through water in order to provide for veterinary oversight or consultation.

In order to help phase in veterinary oversight of those drugs that move from OTC to VFD status once changes are made in line with the guidance, FDA is also releasing a proposed rule for public comment that would update the agency’s existing regulations relating to VFD drugs. The use of VFD drugs in feed requires specific authorization by a licensed veterinarian based on procedures outlined in the agency’s VFD regulations. The VFD proposed rule is intended to update the existing VFD process to clarify and increase the flexibility of the administrative requirements for the distribution and use of VFD drugs. Such updates to the VFD process will assist in the transition of OTC products to their new VFD status.


Rapid increase in neonicotinoid insecticides driven by seed treatments

by Sara LeJeunese

April 2, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Use of a class of insecticides, called neonicotinoids, increased dramatically in the mid-2000s and was driven almost entirely by the use of corn and soybean seeds treated with the pesticides, according to researchers at Penn State.

“Previous studies suggested that the percentage of corn acres treated with insecticides decreased during the 2000s, but once we took seed treatments into account we found the opposite pattern,” said Margaret Douglas, graduate student in entomology. “Our results show that application of neonicotinoids to seed of corn and soybeans has driven a major surge in the U.S. cropland treated with insecticides since the mid-2000s.”

According to Douglas, research suggests that neonicotinoids may harm pollinators.  The European Union suspended neonicotioid use on bee-attractive crops and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expediting their review.

After discovering that neonicotinoid seed treatments were not explicitly documented in U.S. government pesticide surveys, the researchers synthesized available information to characterize the widespread use of these insecticides. First they compiled pesticide data from two public sources -- the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- that both reported aspects of neonicotinoid use, but did not estimate seed treatment use specifically. Using these data, together with information from insecticide product labels, the team estimated the percentage of land planted in corn and soybeans in which neonicotinoid-treated seeds have been used since these products were introduced in the mid-2000s. They corroborated their results with information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DuPont Pioneer, a major seed supplier.

The team found that in 2000, less than 5 percent of soybean acres and less than 30 percent of corn acres were treated with an insecticide, but by 2011, at least a third of all soybean acres and at least 79 percent of all corn acres were planted with neonicotinoid-coated seed, constituting a significant expansion in insecticide use. The researchers also found that the vast majority of neonicotinoids are used on crops, rather than in other arenas such as people’s homes or gardens, or in turf grass and ornamental settings. The results will appear today (Apr. 2,) in Environmental Science & Technology.

“Adoption of neonicotinoid insecticides by seed companies and farmers has been very rapid and does not appear to relate well to a corresponding risk from insect pests,” said John Tooker, associate professor of entomology. “This pattern suggests that neonicotinoids are often being used as an ‘insurance policy’ against uncertain insect attack, rather than in response to a documented pest threat.”

According to Douglas, the results inform an ongoing debate that is driven by detection of neonicotinoids in the environment and their possible negative effects on non-target animals, including wild and managed pollinators.

“Regulators, seed companies, farmers and the public are weighing the costs and benefits of neonicotinoid use,” she said. “This debate has been happening in a void of basic information about when, where and how neonicotinoids are used. Our work is holding up a mirror so that this conversation can be informed by basic facts about neonicotinoid use.”

In the future, the researchers plan to better document the prevalence of secondary insect pests targeted by seed treatments. They also will explore the unintended effects of neonicotinoid seed treatments on predatory insects that help to suppress insect pests. Finally, they are studying alternative management practices for early-season insect pests, for instance, using cover crops to reduce pest pressure and foster predatory insects.

The USDA’s Northeast IPM Center supported this research.

 

       

Bayer CropScience Pledges $100,000 for North Carolina Roadside Pollinator Plantings Project Will Expand Forage Habitat Key to Improving Pollinator Health, Agricultural Sustainability

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C., April 1, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- As part of its ongoing commitment to honey bee health, Bayer CropScience today pledged $100,000 to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to be used for the development of roadside pollinator plantings this spring. The project will provide approximately 46 new acres of bee-attractant vegetation alongside North Carolina's roads and highways, such as wildflower beds that promote honey bee population development and support crop pollination.

"This investment is a down payment on the sustainable health of pollinators in North Carolina and a model for how public-private partnerships, like that between Bayer and NCDOT, can benefit the environment and state," said Jim Blome, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience LP. "Bayer is dedicated to the establishment of new habitat for honey bees that will allow them to flourish, as they continue to play a critical role in creating sustainable agriculture."

Bayer's partnership with the NCDOT is the most recent in a series of collaborations that Bayer is forging as part of its recently launched Feed a Bee campaign (http://FeedABee.com) that has a goal of growing 50 million flowers and providing additional forage acreage for bees in 2015. Bees help to pollinate one of every three bites of food that we eat, and they need to eat too. Reduced bee habitat has decreased bees' food options, at a time when a growing world population is putting increased pressure on agriculture (and bees!) to produce. Feed a Bee collaborations will help ensure bees have access to the diverse pollen and nectar sources they need, especially during times when the fruit, nut and vegetable crops that they help to pollinate are not in bloom.

Some key Feed a Bee collaborations include:

Project Apis m. – Working to establish up to 3,000 acres of bee forage in California and Washington.

National Wildlife Turkey Federation – Supporting pollinator conservation efforts, including co-labeling of native seed mixes.

McCarty Family Farm – Working with this Kansas dairy operation, in conjunction with Project Apis m. and Pheasants Forever, to plant pollinator-attractant cover crops.

Conservation Technology Information Center – Establishing pollinator habitat in the Midwest/Great Plains.

Seeds for Bees: Fresno Fence Row Project – Partnering with Project Apis m. to evaluate seed mixes to plant in almond orchards.

Golf courses – Partnering with select golf courses to create and promote pollinator habitats.

NCDOT already plants more than 1,500 acres of wildflowers annually across North Carolina and has been transitioning the state's roadsides to incorporate a native planting zone that provides suitable habitat for many pollinator species. On April 1, NCDOT is celebrating 30 years of its Wildflower Program.

"Bayer's partnership will go a long way to continuing to bolster the aesthetic appeal of North Carolina's highways and expanding forage for pollinators," said Don Lee, unit head of the NCDOT's Roadside Environmental division. "The wildflower beds and native habitat along our roadsides set North Carolina apart, and this investment will help us increase sustainability and improve the environment for our honey bees in the process."

As part of the project, NCDOT will plant hybrid sunflower and hybrid canola seed along the roadsides in each of the state's 14 transportation divisions. Varieties will be chosen that allow for control of undesirable weeds and obtain maximum bloom for pollinators. In areas of the state that are east of Interstate 77, drivers can expect to see hybrid sunflower plantings beginning in early summer, followed by a second crop in bloom in the fall. In areas of the state to the west of I-77, drivers can expect to see hybrid sunflowers blooming along roadsides in mid- to late-summer, and due to climatic differences in that region, a crop of canola planted in the fall.

Research scientists from Bayer CropScience will monitor the North Carolina roadside plantings to collect pollen and to determine the diversity of pollinator species that forage in those locations. Bayer's collaboration with the North Carolina Department of Transportation is a part of its commitment to protect and improve pollinator health. For more information on Bayer's bee health initiatives, please visit: http://www.bayercropscience.us/our-commitment/bee-health. You can also follow and share with us on Twitter @BayerBeeCare, on Facebook at facebook.com/BayerBeeCareCenter and view photos on Flickr.

 

Honey bees use multiple genetic pathways to fight infections

Published: Friday, March 27, 2015 - 10:08 in Biology & Nature

Honey bees use different sets of genes, regulated by two distinct mechanisms, to fight off viruses, bacteria and gut parasites, according to researchers at Penn State and the Georgia Institute of Technology. The findings may help scientists develop honey bee treatments that are tailored to specific types of infections. "Our results indicate that different sets of genes are used in immune responses to viruses versus other pathogens, and these anti-viral genes are regulated by two very distinct processes -- expression and DNA methylation," said David Galbraith, graduate student in entomology, Penn State. The results will appear in todays (Mar. 26) issue of PLOS Pathogens.

According to Christina Grozinger, director of the Penn State Center for Pollinator Research, beekeepers lose an average of 30 percent of their colonies every winter and an average of 25 percent in the summer.

"Honey bees have more than 20 types of viruses, and several of them have been linked to losses of honey bee colonies," she said. "Yet, beekeepers currently do not have any commercially available methods to reduce viral infections." With a goal of uncovering which genes increase or decrease their activity in response to the presence of viruses, the researchers measured expression levels of all genes in the honey bee genome in both infected and uninfected bees. They found that the RNAi pathway had increased activity and, therefore, is likely an important anti-viral immune pathway in bees.

"Previous studies suggested the RNAi pathway was involved in anti-viral immune responses in bees, but we showed that expression levels of many genes in this pathway are significantly higher in virus-infected bees," said Grozinger. "The RNAi pathway helps to cut up and destroy viral RNA so it is not infectious." Scientists and beekeepers are increasingly interested in using RNAi approaches to control viruses and parasites in agricultural crops and in honey bee colonies, according to Grozinger.

"We will need to make sure that any artificial RNAi approaches do not interfere with the natural anti-viral RNAi mechanisms in honey bees," Grozinger said. In addition to examining gene expression in virus-infected versus uninfected honey bees, the researchers also scanned the honey bee DNA for extra methylation marks that may have been added or removed from genes in virus-infected bees.

The team found that viral infections do change the pattern of DNA methylation in honey bees, and in a completely different set of genes from the ones in the RNAi pathway. Many of these differentially methylated genes are also involved in anti-viral responses in mammals, but they have not previously been linked to anti-viral responses in insects, said Grozinger.

"We found that there was very little overlap between differentially expressed and differentially methylated genes, suggesting dual genomic response pathways to viral infection," said Galbraith. "For the first time, we characterized both the global gene expression and DNA methylation patterns associated with acute viral infection in honey bees. We confirmed that the RNAi pathway, which has been seen in other insects, is also an antiviral defense mechanism in honey bees. And, for the first time, we observed alterations in DNA methylation patterns in response to viral infection in honey bees."

Source: Penn State

 

10-year-old Austin entrepreneur competes on 'Shark Tank'

 
Ashley Goudeau, KVUE 11:15 p.m. CDT March 22, 2015

AUSTIN -- The beverage choices in East Austin's Quickie Pickie seem endless, but only one brand has a sweet little face on the label, Bee Sweet Lemonade.

"There's no dye, it's sweetened with honey and when you buy a bottle you save a bee," said Bee Sweet Lemonade Founder and CEO Mikaila Ulmer.

Mikaila isn't your average business owner, she's just 10 years old.

"I started when I was four and half years old," she said.

The combination of the Austin Lemonade Day children's business fair, her great-grandmother's 1940s recipe for flaxseed lemonade and two bee stings in one week sparked an idea for Mikaila.

"I was terrified of bees and I would over react and freak out and so my parents wanted me to do some research on the bees and I did that research and in doing that research I found out how incredibly important pollinators they are and that they're dying. So I decided to create a product that helps save the bees," said Mikaila.

She told her parents she wanted to sell her lemonade in stores and donate a portion of the profits to protect bees. Six years later, Bee Sweet Lemonade is sold at Whole Foods Markets in three states and other stores and restaurants.

"We didn't know where it would go, we certainly didn't expect it to get to this point, but we knew if she had an interest, it was not only important for her to develop a business idea, but her to walk away with the clear understanding her parents supported her," said Mikaila's father Theo Ulmer.

Bee Sweet has grown into a family business.

"I'm everybody's boss," laughed Mikaila.

She runs the show, her parents help out and her 7-year-old brother Jacob has a hand in sales.

"I answer the math questions, so I can figure out the money and stuff," said Jacob.

Now there's a new opportunity for Mikaila. She was encouraged to to audition for the show 'Shark Tank' where she would exchange stake in her lemonade business for money to grow it. She auditioned and was accepted to be on the show.

"We were just kind of reluctant," said Mikaila.

"We were confident in her, we just as parents weren't really sure, you know, how they would take it," said Mikaila's father.

Mikaila said the business leaders on the show didn't cut her any slack, but taught her valuable lessons.

"Working hard pays off. That you need passion and courage and guts. And I also learned that you can still be sweet and be profitable," she said.

Click Here for News Report: 

 

Pesticides Not the Sole Culprit in Honey Bee Colony Declines

Field-based study shows honey bee colonies are not harmed by realistic levels of exposure to the world’s most common insecticide

Colony declines are a major threat to the world’s honey bees, as well as the many wild plants and crops the bees pollinate. Among the lineup of possible culprits—including parasites, disease, climate stress and malnutrition—many have pointed the finger squarely at insecticides as a prime suspect. However, a new study from the University of Maryland shows that the world’s most common insecticide does not significantly harm honey bee colonies at real-world dosage levels.

The study, which was published March 18, 2015 in the journal PLOS ONE, looked at the effects of the insecticide imidacloprid on honey bee colonies over a three-year period. To see significant negative effects, including a sharp decrease in winter survival rates, the researchers had to expose the colonies to at least four times as much insecticide encountered under normal circumstances. At 20 times the normal exposure levels, the colonies experienced more severe consequences.

The study does not totally absolve imidacloprid of a causative role in honey bee colony declines. Rather, the results indicate that insecticides are but one of many factors causing trouble for the world’s honey bee populations.

“Everyone is pointing the finger at these insecticides. If you pull up a search on the Internet, that’s practically all anyone is talking about,” said Galen Dively, emeritus professor of entomology at UMD and lead author of the study. “This paper says no, it’s not the sole cause. It contributes, but there is a bigger picture.”

Imidacloprid is one of a broad class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, so named because they are chemically derived from nicotine. In tobacco and other related plants, nicotine acts as a deterrent by poisoning would-be herbivores. While nicotine itself was once used as an insecticide, it has fallen out of favor because it is highly toxic to humans and breaks down rapidly in sunlight. Neonicotinoids have been engineered specifically to address these shortcomings.

“Imidacloprid is the most widely used insecticide in the world. It’s not restricted because it is very safe—an order of magnitude safer than organophosphates,” Dively said, drawing a comparison with a class of chemicals known to be highly toxic to nearly all living things.

For the study, Dively and his colleagues fed pollen dosed with imidacloprid to honey bee colonies. The team purposely constructed a worst-case scenario, even at lower exposure levels. For example, they fed the colonies tainted food for up to 12 continuous weeks. This is a much longer exposure than bee colonies would experience in real-world scenarios, because most crops do not bloom for such an extended period of time.

Even at these longer exposure periods, realistic dosage levels of imidacloprid did not cause significant effects in the honey bee colonies. Only at higher levels did the colonies start to have trouble producing healthy offspring and surviving through the winter.

“A lot of attention has been paid to neonicotinoids, but there isn’t a lot of field data. This study is among the first to address that gap,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at UMD who was not involved in the study. “It’s not surprising that higher levels will hurt insects. They’re insecticides after all. But this study is saying that neonicotinoids probably aren’t the sole culprit at lower, real-world doses.”

Dively and vanEngelsdorp both agree that a synergistic combination of many factors is most likely to blame for colony declines. Climate stress could be taking a toll, and malnutrition could be a factor as well. The latter is a particular concern for industrial bee colonies that are rented to large-scale agricultural operations. These bees spend much of their time eating pollen from one or two crops, which throws their diet out of balance.

“Except for the imidacloprid exposure, our test colonies were treated well,” said coauthor David Hawthorne, associate professor of entomology at UMD and director of education at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). “They weren’t exposed to additional real-world stressors such as malnourishment or multiple pesticides. Colonies coping with these additional pressures may be more sensitive to imidacloprid.”

Dively, Hawthorne and their colleagues found some evidence for at least one synergistic combination. At the highest dosage levels (20 times the realistic dosage) colonies became more susceptible to Varroa mites, parasites that target honey bee colonies. A mite infestation can cause a whole variety of problems, including viral infections and an increased need for other pesticides to control the mites.

“It’s a multifactorial issue, with lots of stress factors,” Dively said. “Honey bees have a lot of pests and diseases to deal with. Insecticide exposure is one factor among many. It’s not the lone villain.”

In addition to Dively and Hawthorne, study authors included UMD technician Michael Embrey, Alaa Kamel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Jeffery Pettis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This research was supported by the USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory (Cooperative Agreement No. 58-1275-7-364), the Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees, the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

The research paper, “Assessment of Chronic Sublethal Effects of Imidacloprid on Honey Bee Colony Health,” Galen P. Dively, Michael S. Embrey, Alaa Kamel, David J. Hawthorne and Jeffery S. Pettis, was published online March 18, 2015, in the journal PLOS ONE.

Media Relations Contact: Matthew Wright, 301-405-9267, mewright@umd.edu

University of Maryland
College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
2300 Symons Hall
College Park, MD 20742
www.cmns.umd.edu
@UMDscience

 

Bees go online to build the buzz on their health

Citizen scientists track activity, including wing speeds, in bid to halt decline of species

By Marcel Sangsari, for CBC News Posted: Mar 15, 2015 11:00 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 15, 2015 2:29 PM ET

What will spying sensors reveal about the secret world of bees? The latest buzz from the Open Source Beehives project, a network of citizen scientists tracking bee decline, is coming this spring: sensor kits to track the health of bees.

By connecting passive beehives to the web, Open Source Beehives hopes they will become as busy as the bees inhabiting them. Beehives will become "active, data-generating habitats for a superorganism," says Tristan Copley Smith, co-founder of the project.

"Bees are one of the most complex and industrious species on the planet. Embedding sensors at this kind of scale and having those sensors offloading data in real time…could turn out insights into how these creatures operate and what affects them," he says.

Bees, which pollinate one-third of our food, could use the help. Falling bee populations are an acute problem in many industrialized countries.

Already, test sensors have taken basic measurements such as internal and external hive temperature, humidity and location using GPS devices. 

The version for public release will include audio sensors to monitor the hive’s status. By lending an ear to the frequencies of bee wings, Open Source Beehives hopes to capture what’s going on inside the hive.

"When the colony is preparing to swarm, the queen makes a ‘piping’ sound," wrote Smith in an email. "It is likely frequencies change due to…different hive events, so this will be a great way to grow associations…between hive events and audio," he wrote.

Open Source Beehives says it will add an infrared bee counter, a sensor to detect levels of pesticides, and a web camera to spy on bee behaviour.

Since its crowdfunding campaign raised more than $63,000 US in March and April 2014, the project has invested in specialized sensors that will transmit data from a smart board placed inside its beehives to an online platform.

So far, the team of beekeepers, designers, engineers and open-source advocates, based in Denver and Barcelona, has made available two open-source beehive designs that anyone can download free and load onto a CNC router, a type of computer-controlled cutting machine. The machine automatically cuts out the design from a single sheet of plywood in less than an hour.

Open Source Beehives estimates that 100 to 200 of its hives have been made around the world, with more than 1,000 designs downloaded during its crowd-funding campaign.

Understanding the bee numbers

One goal of the project is to provide an easy entry into global bee conservation. The numbers can be a bit hard to understand.

Overall, for example, Statistics Canada says this country's honey bee population grew to 694,217 hives in 2014, 4 per cent higher than in 2013. Over the same period honey production rose by 6.6 per cent to 81.6 million pounds.​

But in Canada last year, about 58 per cent of Ontario bees died during an especially long winter, while other provinces lost on average about 19 per cent of their swarms, according to a survey by the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists

This apparent contradiction is explained by two facts: The Statistics Canada figures show aggregate numbers, while provinces are affected unequally by bee losses. Also, bee losses are greatest over winter.

Agriculture Canada cites a combination of factors affecting bee health, including exposure to pesticides, parasitic varroa mites and nosema disease, poor queen quality, hive management practices, and the weather.

U.S. winter losses over 2006-2011 averaged 33 per cent each year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture warns, "If losses continue at the 33 percent level, it could threaten the economic viability of the bee pollination industry."

Europe faces a similar problem.

No one really knows why bees are dying in such large numbers, but several jurisdictions have taken preventive measures against neonicotinoids, a group of systemic insecticides used in agriculture to protect crops from insect pests.

An international Task Force on Systemic Pesticides recently found that neonics pose a serious risk of harm to pollinators, with bees at jeopardy from high exposure through air and plants and from medium exposure through water.

In Ontario bee deaths have been linked to exposure to neonicotinoids. In response, the province announced a plan in November 2014 to sharply restrict the use of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds by 2017.

Other bee-killers

However, neonicotinoids may not be the sole culprit.

Rod Scarlett, executive director of the Canadian Honey Council, a beekeeping industry organization, and co-chair of a national roundtable on bee health, says that losses vary from province to province and region to region each year because there is no single cause of bee losses.

"There is a problem and improvements can be made, [but] it is not as dire as it is made out to be," says Scarlett.

Meanwhile, as the machinery become more abundant and cheaper, open source beehives are more accessible.

A CNC router is available in woodshops, woodworking businesses, and digital Fab Labs and Makerspaces. The FabHub and The Maker Map offer directories.

The cost to manufacture an open source beehive is between $300 to $400 for the plywood and use of fabrication lab facilities.

Stephan van Heerden, an IT consultant in Toronto and a bee hobbyist since 1992, sees potential in open source beehives but wants a cheaper version.

The project’s pre-assembled hives are $350 US plus shipping compared to the cost of building your own non-open-source beehive, which would be between $200 and $300.

"It is 100 per cent feasible, yes…but the price has to come down," says van Heerden. "If [the] cost…isn’t prohibitive, I’d like to get back into it."

Open Source Beehives plans to make an Eco Hive available later this year, at $250 US plus shipping, as part of its new open source urban farming project called Aker.

Technology to solve social problems

David Neumann, an interactive media and web design professor at Humber College, contributed $600 US toward the project’s crowd-funding campaign. Neumann plans to set up his hive this spring in his dad’s backyard near Kitchener-Waterloo.

Open Source Beehives appealed to Neumann’s interest in using technological tools to tackle social problems.

"I look for solutions…What I enjoy about open source is that you have the ability to adapt [the design], create it, modify it, and remix it to change things. You can really customize things the way you want," says Neumann.

Neumann sees promise in using a sensor to get information on bee health. "If you can gather data from all over the place, you have a more likely chance of having context…and…potentially to solve the problems."

Others are skeptical. According to Tibor Szabo, president of the Ontario Beekeepers' Association, the sensors are overly simplistic.

"Neonics kill in parts per trillion," says Szabo. "For testing you need a high-tech lab for thermal imaging and to put 70 advanced thermometers in beehives. [Open Source Beehive’s] measurements need to be more specific," he says.

But Neumann is convinced that more data will advance the science, even if the contribution is something as simple as helping reframe the question. "It may not provide…more answers," says Neumann. "But…it’ll provide… more questions that lead to better answers. It might help you redefine the question."

Marcel Sangsari is a fellow in global journalism at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

Honeybee forage bill passes state House

Posted on March 7, 2015

By Ross Courtney / Yakima Herald-Republic

OLYMPIA — A bill that would help provide forage for honeybees easily passed the House on Friday.

House Bill 1654 would direct the state’s Noxious Weed Control Board to try a pilot project of replacing invasive weed species with high-pollen varieties of native plants.

The measure was sponsored by Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, and passed 67-31.

The state’s weed board has the mandate to eradicate invasive weeds, but many of those weeds provide a food source for honeybees, which pollinate the state’s multibillion-dollar fruit crop each year. The measure would have the board choose high-pollen producing native plants to replace the weeds they remove.

House Bill 1654 is one of two bills in the Legislature dealing with honeybees.

Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, sponsored Senate Bill 6402, which offers beekeepers the same tax breaks already given to other agricultural producers. That measure has reached the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

 

Lower Virus Infections in Varroa destructor-Infested and Uninfested Brood and Adult Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) of a Low Mite Population Growth Colony Compared to a High Mite Population Growth Colony

Berna Emsen, Mollah Md. Hamiduzzaman, Paul H. Goodwin, Ernesto Guzman-Novoa

Published: February 27, 2015

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118885

Abstract

A comparison was made of the prevalence and relative quantification of deformed wing virus (DWV), Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV), black queen cell virus (BQCV), Kashmir bee virus (KBV), acute bee paralysis virus (ABPV) and sac brood virus (SBV) in brood and adult honey bees (Apis mellifera) from colonies selected for high (HMP) and low (LMP) Varroa destructor mite population growth. Two viruses, ABPV and SBV, were never detected. For adults without mite infestation, DWV, IAPV, BQCV and KBV were detected in the HMP colony; however, only BQCV was detected in the LMP colony but at similar levels as in the HMP colony. With mite infestation, the four viruses were detected in adults of the HMP colony but all at higher amounts than in the LMP colony. For brood without mite infestation, DWV and IAPV were detected in the HMP colony, but no viruses were detected in the LMP colony. With mite infestation of brood, the four viruses were detected in the HMP colony, but only DWV and IAPV were detected and at lower amounts in the LMP colony. An epidemiological explanation for these results is that pre-experiment differences in virus presence and levels existed between the HMP and LMP colonies. It is also possible that low V. destructor population growth in the LMP colony resulted in the bees being less exposed to the mite and thus less likely to have virus infections. LMP and HMP bees may have also differed in susceptibility to virus infection.

Citation: Emsen B, Hamiduzzaman MM, Goodwin PH, Guzman-Novoa E (2015) Lower Virus Infections in Varroa destructor-Infested and Uninfested Brood and Adult Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) of a Low Mite Population Growth Colony Compared to a High Mite Population Growth Colony. PLoS ONE 10(2): e0118885. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0118885

Academic Editor: Nicolas Chaline, Universidade de São paulo, BRAZIL

Received: July 15, 2014; Accepted: January 14, 2015; Published: February 27, 2015

Copyright: © 2015 Emsen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper.

Funding: This study was funded by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grant (400571) to EGN. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist

Introduction

The parasitic mite Varroa destructor has become the most serious health problem of the western honey bee, Apis mellifera, worldwide. This mite is one of the factors associated with the unprecedented loss of honey bee colonies recently experienced in parts of Europe and North America [14]. Recent studies suggest that V. destructor may be so harmful to honey bees not only because of its feeding on the bee's haemolymph, but also because it transmits and favors the multiplication of honey bee viruses. Increases in the incidence and levels of several honey bee viruses have been observed with V. destructor as an inducer/or vector of several viruses [5].

The viruses most commonly found in surveys of honey bee colonies worldwide, are deformed wing virus (DWV), acute bee paralysis virus (ABPV), sac brood virus (SBV), black queen cell virus (BQCV), Kashmir bee virus (KBV) and Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV) [58]. DWV, ABPV and KBV have been associated with cases of bee mortality [912], and IAPV has been related to the so-called Colony Collapse Disorder [13]. DWV in particular, has been linked with winter bee mortality in recent studies [14].

It is well known that honey bee genotypes vary in their resistance to V. destructor [1517]. However, not much research has been done to show whether honey bee genotypes differ in susceptibility to viruses or if differences in susceptibility are affected by the developmental stage of the bee [18, 19].

The objective of this study was to determine and compare the prevalence and relative amounts of DWV, IAPV, BQCV, ABPV, SBV and KBV in brood and adult honey bees between colonies with either low or high V. destructor population growth. These colonies had previously bee shown to differ in grooming behavior and V. destructor reproduction rates [20, 21].

READ MORE: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0118885

Community Leadership Award

Deadline: April 3, 2015

Each year, the Bayer Bee Care Community Leadership Award is given to a beekeeper who uses his or her interest in and commitment to honey bees to benefit the community. The award winner is selected from a pool of applicants by the Bayer Bee Care Team and a panel of judges.

Any beekeeper may apply. Activities the beekeeper may be engaged in include, but are not limited to, the use of beekeeping in therapy, such as with at-risk youth or veterans, bee care education for children or adults and community events that allow non-beekeepers to understand the inner working of a bee hive and more.

To apply, complete the entry form and essay questions and include a letter of reference from any of the following:

  • an apiarist
  • a community leader
  • a member of a relevant organization, such as a beekeeper association

Applicants may apply by filling out the below form or access a print and email version by

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