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January 11, 2021

Scientists Developing New Solutions for Honeybee Colony Collapse

January 10, 2021 UC San Diego

In an effort to halt a worldwide decline in honeybees, scientists at UC San Diego and other UC campuses have established a network of bee researchers and engineers. The network, one of the largest in the country, will develop new solutions by joining various avenues of expertise.

Scientists at four University of California campuses, including UC San Diego, are leading a new effort to stop and reverse a worldwide decline in honeybees, which threatens food security and prices.

Honeybees pollinate more than 80 agricultural crops, which account for about a third of what we eat. Several factors, including pesticide exposure and the spread of parasites and environmental changes, are to blame for the widespread collapse of bee colonies over the past decade.

To boost dwindling honeybee populations, the University of California’s Office of the President has awarded $900,000 to a four-campus network of bee researchers and engineers.

“This will become one of the largest honeybee health networks in the country,” said Boris Baer, a professor of entomology at UC Riverside and principal investigator of the project. “I’m very excited about so many different kinds of bee expertise joining forces through this project.”

At UC San Diego, James Nieh, a Division of Biological Sciences professor in the Section of Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution, and his students will be testing how nutritional supplements may help bees that have been exposed to pesticides and on how to harness the natural honey bee microbiome against a very common bee gut disease.

“We want to use what evolution has already given us to deal with bee disease because this should be a more natural and sustainable approach,” said Nieh. “Researchers have also focused a great deal on the harms caused by pesticides and this has helped improve some aspects of regulation. But we need to develop treatments for bees that are exposed to these chemicals because we will not realistically be able to eliminate all pesticide use.”

Research in Professor Joshua Kohn’s lab at UC San Diego is aimed at understanding the complex genomes of feral honey bees in Southern California. These bees have genomes that are a complex mixture of genomes of honey bee varieties from Africa, Europe and the Middle East. They are highly genetically diverse and ecologically successful. Their genomes likely hold variation useful to breeding domesticated honey bees with increased levels of resistance to the common diseases that currently plague the honey bee industry.

“This network of bee researchers comprises a unique mixture of expertise that can apply highly multidisciplinary approaches to benefit the honey bee industry essential to the production of many of California’s most economically important crops,” said Kohn.

The network, which includes researchers from the Davis and Merced campuses, is approaching the problem in three main ways.

The first is through breeding programs—a particular focus of Baer’s laboratory. “We seek to identify and breed bees that are better able to cope with environmental stress,” he said.

A second goal of the new network is to develop medications and treatments for sick bees. Certain types of honeybees generate molecules that make them more tolerant of pesticides and parasites. New technology will enable the scientists to isolate those molecules and use them as a basis for drugs.

Finally, the group is looking to give beekeepers tools to better monitor bees’ health. Small devices will be able to “listen” and “smell” inside hives to give beekeepers indications about the health of the hive.

“We know bee queens have a special pheromone they give off when they’re hungry or dying, and these can be traced,” Baer said. “We are essentially building ‘electronic veterinarians.’”

Preventative devices like these are key to keeping bees alive, because once the colony collapses, it’s too late to bring it back, Baer said.

The network’s goals closely mirror those of UC Riverside’s Center for Integrative Bee Research, or CIBER, which is also attempting to address the ‘pollinator crisis.’

Both groups are working closely with local beekeepers and getting feedback on whether the tools being developed are working for them.

“Together, we’ll develop innovative tools needed to effectively combat declining honeybee health, keep our food affordable and safeguard the livelihood of those working with bees,” Baer said.

Funding will also help provide research opportunities for undergraduates, including underrepresented students, with the goal of ensuring that the pipeline of students who enter research, academia, industry and multiple other professions reflects the diversity of the communities in which they learn and work.

New bee species found in the Great Smokies

06 January 2021

By Jonathan Austin • Contributing writer | A recently documented bee species has been identified living in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Will Kuhn, director of science and research at Discover Life in America, said the bee, Epeolus inornatus, was found during two observations off Baskins Creek Trail, located just outside Gatlinburg.

“We collected this back in 2019. We had a study going, sampling for insects at a couple of different places in the park after the 2016 Chimney Tops 2 Fire,” Kuhn said.

Researchers were looking to see “if the fire was having long-term effects on the biodiversity, looking for turnover in the plant life, which would result in turnover in insects,” he said.

“The Baskins Creek area was pretty much burned to the ground,” he said.

Discover Life in America is a nonprofit whose main project, the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, is dedicated to cataloguing every single species within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s 816-square-mile boundary.

The newly described bee species, given the common name “cellophane-cuckoo bee,” was observed in the park on June 28, 2019. Kuhn posted images of the bee to iNaturalist, an app and website that shares data with experts around the globe.

“The world expert on this genus, who had actually recently named this particular bee species, identified it for us,” Kuhn said. “We noticed we didn’t have it on our list of park species. It’s probably been here before, we probably just hadn’t detected it,” he said.

The new bee is called the cellophane-cuckoo bee because it is a kleptoparasite — a creature that habitually robs food from animals of other species — of the cellophane bee.

 “Cellophane bees are solitary bees, not social, like honey or bumble bees,” said Kuhn. “Lady cellophane bees dig little nests in the ground for their larvae. They paint the walls of each little cell with this glue-like stuff that dries like cellophane to protect their eggs from mold and moisture.


They make a little cell, fill it with pollen for their larvae to eat, then lay an egg and seal the cell up with cellophane. 

“Now, cellophane-cuckoo bees cheat the system, like a cuckoo bird. They sneak into the nests, cut a little hole in a cell’s cellophane wrapper, lay their own egg, reseal and leave, all without collecting any food for their larvae. The cellophane-cuckoo bee egg hatches first and eats its host’s egg and all the delicious pollen the cellophane bee left for its larvae.” 

The bee was identified by Thomas M. Onuferko, of the Department of Biology at York University in Toronto. It was one of 15 newly recognized bees of its genus described in a scientific paper published in May 2018. 

Kuhn said the cellophane-cuckoo bee is known to pollinate only two plants. One is a relative of the blueberry called the farkleberry, and the other one is the turkey oak, which is a type of red oak.

So far, the ATBI has identified 1,028 species in the park that have never before been seen on earth. However, the cellophane-cuckoo bee belongs to the larger group of 10,411 species the inventory has identified that may have been seen other places before but had not been previously documented in the park. The bee in question is found across the Southeastern United States from Texas to New England.  In all, the ATBI has logged 21,080 unique species in the park. 

That number is likely to grow. Kuhn said his group “already has several other species that we need to confirm, that seem to be other new species records for the park. We have a backlog of, particularly, insect material, waiting for their secrets to be revealed.” 

(Jonathan Austin is the editor of Smoky Mountain Living Magazine.)

Massive beehive theft, one of Fresno County’s largest, results in man’s conviction

By Robert Rodriguez

January 08, 2021 05:00 AM,

Updated January 08, 2021 11:12 AM

A Sacramento man Thursday was sentenced in Fresno County Superior Court to four years probation and ordered to pay $13,000 in restitution for his role in the theft of more than 1,200 beehives.

The 2017 theft was one of the largest in the region. It involved the heist of hives from 10 different beekeepers over a two-year period. The value of the stolen hives was estimated at $200,000.

Beehives have become an attractive commodity for thieves as the demand for pollination grows from the state’s almond industry, valued at $6 billion in 2019.

Fresno County, home to more than 264,000 acres of almonds, has become a hot spot for thefts.

Nearly three years ago Fresno County Sheriff’s ag crimes detectives found Pavel Mihauloviz Tveretinov and Vitaliy Yeroshenko, both of the Sacramento area, tending more than 100 stolen beehives in an orchard near Central and Temperance avenues in Fresno.

Further investigation found they were in control of 1,200 hives. Both men were arrested and faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

Yeroshenko ultimately was the only one to accept his punishment. He pleaded no contest Nov. 5 to three counts of receiving stolen property. His sentence could have been much tougher, if there was evidence showing he was involved in the theft of the hives, said Judge Heather Mardel Jones.

Still, Yeroshenko was found in possession of the stolen hives. His attorney Ryan Friedman of Sacramento said in an interview Thursday that Tverentinov was more involved, but he died in August of cancer.

Friedman said his client did not steal the hives. “It was a tough situation to be in for him (Yeroshenko),” Friedman said. “The way it looked, he was guilty by association. He realizes now he exercised poor judgment to be associated with him (Tverentinov).”

One of the beekeepers who will receive $10,000 in restitution for his stolen hives was thankful for the settlement. Tim Balzhyk, owner of Desert Valley Honey in Phoenix, estimated his losses added up to at least $20,000.

“The District Attorney’s office explained to us that the guy who took the hives had died so it was going to be difficult to get back what was stolen,” Balzhyk said.

For beekeepers, combating bee thieves has become as common as trying to protect their colonies against parasitic insects, deadly pesticides and mysterious diseases.

“As quickly as I can unload my bees, someone else can come in at night and load them onto their truck,” he said. “It’s kind of crazy. But that’s the bee business.”

Read more here:

USDA Provides more than $70 Million in Fiscal Year 2021 to Protect Agriculture and Natural Resources from Plant Pests and Diseases

Last Modified: Jan 5, 2021

WASHINGTON, January 5, 2021 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is allocating more than $70 million to support 383 projects under the Plant Protection Act’s Section 7721 program to strengthen the nation’s infrastructure for pest detection and surveillance, identification, threat mitigation, to safeguard the nursery production system and to respond to plant pest emergencies.  Universities, states, federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, nonprofits, and Tribal organizations will carry out selected projects in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico. 

“State governments, academic institutions, and other essential cooperators across the country use these USDA funds to protect American crops and natural resources and ensure the marketability of our agricultural products across the globe,” said Greg Ibach, Under Secretary for USDA’s Marketing and Regulatory Programs. 

The fiscal year 2021 project list includes 29 projects funded through the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN). The NCPN helps our country maintain the infrastructure necessary to ensure that pathogen-free, disease-free and pest-free certified planting materials for fruit trees, grapes, berries, citrus, hops, sweet potatoes, and roses are available to U.S. specialty crop producers. 

Since 2009, USDA has supported more than 4,400 projects and provided nearly $670 million in funding through the Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program. Collectively, these projects allow USDA and its partners to quickly detect and rapidly respond to invasive plant pests and diseases. 

In FY 2021, funded projects include, among others: 

  • Asian giant hornet research and eradication efforts: $944,116 in Washington and other states;

  • Exotic fruit fly survey and detection: $5,575,000 in Florida and California;

  • Agriculture detector dog teams: $4,287,097 to programs in California, Florida, and nationally to support detector dog teams;

  • Honey bee and pollinator health: $1,337,819 to protect honey bees, bumble bees and other important pollinators from harmful pests;

  • Biosecurity: $1,339,183 to Texas to monitor for pests in agricultural shipments at ports of entry;

  • Stone fruit and orchard commodities: $1,158,000 to support pest detection surveys in 10 states including New York and Pennsylvania;

  • Forest pests: $876,485 for various detection tools, control methods development, or outreach to protect forests from harmful pests in 16 states, including Arkansas, Indiana, South Carolina, and New Hampshire;

  • Phytophthora ramorum (sudden oak death pathogen) and related species: $513,497 in 14 states and nationally for survey, diagnostics, mitigation, probability modeling, genetic analysis, and outreach;

  • Solanaceous plants (including the tomato commodity): $434,000 to support surveys in 13 states including Texas, Mississippi, and South Carolina. 


USDA will use $14 million to rapidly respond to invasive pest emergencies should a pest of high economic consequence be found in the United States. In the past, USDA has used these funds to rapidly respond to pests such as grasshoppers, Mormon crickets, the Asian giant hornet, coconut rhinoceros beetle, exotic fruit flies, and the spotted lanternfly. 

As the United States and the world recognize the International Year of Plant Health through June 2021, this funding highlights USDA’s continued commitment to safeguarding our agricultural resources for current and future generations. 

Learn more about the Plant Protection Act, Section 7721 on the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website:

Buzzworthy: New Bee Species Discovered In Israel

January 11, 2021

A new species of bee unique to the sand dunes of Israel’s coastal plains has been identified and described by Alain Pauly, a taxonomist from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels.

The newly found Lasioglossum dorchini bees – female on left, male on right. (Photo by Alain Pauly/Belgian Journal of Entomology)

Crop pollination relies mainly on managed colonies of the domesticated honeybee. However, wild, unmanaged bees are also highly effective in pollinating natural and agricultural systems.

Native bees are the most important wild pollinator group. This is why researchers have been trying to conserve native bee habitats in Israel’s coastal region, where large-scale eucalyptus plantings caused dramatic changes in habitat characteristics and decreased local biodiversity.

Israeli and Belgian researchers led by Prof. Yael Mandelik and PhD candidate Karmit Levy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem spent the past five years studying the effect of restoration activities and how they benefit the local bee population.

During their studies at Alexander River National Park, they found the new wild bee species.

The discovery was recently published in the Belgian Journal of Entomology.

“Beyond just the professional excitement of discovering a new species that was previously unknown to science, this finding has broader applicative value in helping us better understand bee communities, their habitat requirements and the pollination services they may provide,” Mandelik said.

A new bee species is discovered in Israel appeared first on ISRAEL21c.

(Edited by Carlin Becker and David Martosko)


As AHPA continues to work on behalf of all beekeepers, one of our initiatives is advocating with the FDA in Washington D.C. to update honey labeling guidelines.  As part of this effort, we need your help to collect pictures of honey labels from around the United States.  Our goal is primarily to find honey that is mislabeled according to current FDA guidelines.  Secondarily, we need examples of any labels which misrepresent country of origin or are purposefully confusing to consumers so that we can advocate for positive changes and updates. 

Search the App Store or Google Play for "AHPA app”.  We need to collect as many pictures from honey on the store shelf as possible.  Please take a few minutes to help collect this data.

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