About The Bee Informed Team

The Bee Informed Team regularly announces the release of results at beeinformed.org. The Bee Informed Partnership is an extension project that endeavors to decrease the number of honey bee colonies that die over the winter. A listing of all project activity reports can be found at the 'Results' tab above. Results published in scientific journals are included as links. Who's on the team? See the Team Pages.

Bee Informed National Management Survey 2012-2013

Management Survey 2012 – 2013

How average losses were calculated and presented  |  Watch a vlog here

Watch through all the vlogs in order here.


Summary of respondent losses  |  Watch the vlog!


Varroa control  |  Watch the vlog!


Tracheal mite control  |  Watch the vlog!


Bacterial brood disease control  | Watch the vlog!


Nosema control  |  Watch the vlog!


Carbohydrate Feed  |  Watch the vlog!


Protein Feed  |  Watch the vlog!


Feed Supplements  |  Watch the vlog!


Comb Management   |


Small Hive Beetle Control   |  Watch the vlog!

Winter Preparation  |  Watch the vlog!

Treatment of Dead Outs and Colony Replacement  |  Watch the vlog!

Colony Placement and Honey Production  |  Watch the vlog!

A “House Moment” in a Bee Lab Continued: Making the Connection

chemical

Picture from Chemspider

Remember our recent report concerning pesticides? I used a chemical reference database to go through the list and see if I could find any that were lipid-soluble. While many pesticides I looked at were not lipid-soluble, the four chemicals implicated in increasing honeybee vulnerability of Nosema infection in the study above are lipid-soluble. The clearest example is with the fungicide chlorothalonil due to the molecule’s relatively simple chemical structure. The aromatic ring makes the chemical lipid-soluble and the four chlorines make the molecule stable in the environment.

bee

Picture from Beediseases

Not to offend any honeybees reading our blog, but honeybees have fat! Ya’ll wear it well though ;)

 

 

 

fatty

Picture of bee abdomen showing fat bodies “fb” on interior of shell (Cruz et al. 1999)

Aggregations of fatty tissues called fat bodies on the inner surfaces of their abdomens to be more exact. I was not able to find any good pictures of honeybee fat bodies online, but I did find a good picture of fat bodies in the stingless bee Scaptotrigona postica seen in the picture to the right.

An article on honeybee anatomy titled “Standard methods for Apis mellifera anatomy and dissection” published in the Journal of Apiculture Research says fat bodies are most prominent and abundant in larvae, young bees, non-foraging bees, winter brood honeybees, and queens (Carreck et al 2013).

Honeybees experience rapid reductions in fat tissue volume. Honeybee fat bodies are metabolized for energy during periods of food scarcity, during winter hibernation, and during development. Because developing bees, queens, and winter brood bees have more prominent fat bodies, and because these groups are often more vulnerable to extraneous factors effecting their health, it’s possible the metabolism of fat tissue and release of any fat-soluble chemicals could more likely harm these groups compared to others. Winter bees for instance don’t defecate for the entirety of their hibernation and may have reduced toxin-clearing system function. If colonies are already weakened by food scarcity, extreme cold, or pathogen infection, honeybee health could be further diminished by toxic chemicals, lowering immune system function and possibly increasing likelihood of pathogenic infection.

My focus next semester will be to find a way to isolate honeybee fat bodies and layout appropriate experiment methodology to test for the presence of pesticides and other potentially toxic synthetic compounds. I’m curious to see whether we find any of the four pesticides implicated in increasing chances of Nosema infection in previous research, and at what concentrations. It would also be interesting to test for common impurities and toxic byproducts of these and other chemicals, because sometimes an unstable chemical can degrade to a substantially more toxic chemical in the environment. Looking forward to an exciting new year working in the lab and learning much more about factors affecting honeybee health, how to prevent losses, and how to improve bee health.

This post was written by Todd Waters, an undergraduate intern in our lab. 

References:

CARRECK, N L; ANDREE, M; BRENT, C S; COX-FOSTER, D; DADE, H A; ELLIS, J D; HATJINA, F; VANENGELSDORP, D (2013) Standard methods for Apis mellifera anatomy and dissection. In V Dietemann; J D Ellis; P Neumann (Eds) The COLOSS BEEBOOK, Volume I: standard methods for Apis mellifera research. Journal of Apicultural Research 52(4): http://dx.doi.org/10.3896/IBRA.1.52.4.03

Cruz, Landim C., and Reginato R.D. (1999) Preliminar Report on the Presence of Tegumentar Glands in the Thorax of Meliponinae Bees (Hymenoptera, Apidae). Revista Brasileira de Biologia 59(1): 167-172. Web. 6 Jan 2014.

Pettis JS, Lichtenberg EM, Andree M, Stitzinger J, Rose R, et al. (2013) Crop Pollination Exposes Honey Bees to Pesticides Which Alters Their Susceptibility

to the Gut Pathogen Nosema ceranae. PLoSONE 8(7): e70182. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070182. Web. 2 Dec 2013.

 

A “House Moment” in a Bee Lab: Background

The Bee Informed Partnership laboratory at University of Maryland, College Park participated in research to test for the presence of a wide range of pesticides in pollen samples of commercial honeybees. We wanted to know what bees were eating, how many pesticides were present in bee food and at what concentrations, and how pesticide use might correlate to Nosema infection. Nosema is a microsporidian gut-pathogen of honeybees that causes Nosemosis, a bee disease that weakens immune systems and harms colony health. Beekeepers and many in the agricultural community are paying close attention to Nosema due to the recent discovery of a new fungal pathogen, Nosema ceranae, in European honeybees. Research indicates the rapid spread of Nosema ceranae throughout honeybee populations alongside continued infections from long-time nemesis Nosema apis, compounded with affects of infection from an entourage of other new and dangerous pathogens, is playing some role in the honeybee population losses of the last several years.

The report, titled “Crop Pollination Exposes Honeybees to Pesticides Which Alters Their Susceptibility to the Gut Pathogen Nosema ceranae,” was published in an open-access online scientific journal PlusOne (see the report here). Researchers collected pollen pellet samples of commercial bees to find out what they were eating, what types, concentrations, and combinations of pesticides and other chemicals honeybee colonies were exposed to, and colony infection rates of Nosema ceranae. The study found that fungicide levels in particular, were high in both crop and non-crop pollen samples and that some honeybee colonies were exposed to a cocktail of as many as 17 different pesticides (Pettis et al. 2013).

first graph

This figure shows concentrations of different classes of pesticides in honeybee pollen pellet samples (Pettis et al. 2013).

Second Graph

This figure shows correlation between fungicide concentration and Nosema infection rates (Pettis et al. 2013).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, the study found that ‘two fungicides chlorothalonil and pyraclostrobin, and two miticides, amitraz and fluvalinate [emphasis added], increased bees’ susceptibility to Nosema infection’ (Pettis et al. 2013). While not as toxic as many pesticides, these fungicides and miticides can potentially cause lethal or sub-lethal effects on honeybee health at high concentrations (Pettis et al. 2013). Additionally, research indicates the two fungicides listed above decrease honeybee median lethal dose of miticides, making bees more vulnerable to adverse effects from these chemicals. Relative vulnerability to Nosema infection was more than two times higher with chlorothalonil use and almost three times higher with pyraclostrobin.

I recently attended a graduate student level lecture on toxicology of synthetic chemicals that focused on lipid-soluble and persistent compounds.  One of the most shocking parts of the lecture was watching a video of school children bathing in DDT in the early 1950’s. Many times, the belief in the safety of modern synthetic chemicals, particularly ones that brought great short-term benefits, made people reluctant to question whether or not their use might come with unintended consequences. We learned about many cases where these chemicals caused sub-lethal effects after bioaccumulation processes in the environment concentrated them above safe levels, especially in animal species such as humans higher up the food chain.

Bioaccumulation occurs with compounds that are (1) persistent in the environment, and (2) lipid-soluble. Bioaccumulative organic compounds often have multiple attached halogens such as chlorine, or fluorine, as well as one or more aromatic groups. The halogens provide stability to the compound preventing degradation, and the aromatic groups make the compound soluble in fat tissues. Animals including bees have toxin-clearing mechanisms that remove toxins from the blood, however lipid-soluble chemicals can become trapped in fat tissue and remain out of reach of these mechanisms. These chemicals can accumulate to higher and higher concentrations over the lifetime of the organism. Accumulated synthetic compounds then can be passed to higher-level predators, like DDT’s bioaccumulation and effects on Bald Eagles, or they can be passed to offspring through fat-rich solutions like breast milk. Concentrations are highest in older adults, but young organisms often experience the most severe effects of toxicity during delicate development processes.

One example of bioaccumulation that really sparked my imagination concerned gastric bypass surgery patients. According to a study presented by our professor, gastric bypass patients sometimes experience complications caused by acute toxicity after surgery. The study found acute toxicity to be the result of rapid metabolism of fat tissues, releasing a lifetime of accumulated fat-soluble chemicals into the blood stream faster than toxin-clearing systems could get rid of them. While the reported effects were sub-lethal, some patients did experience lowered immune system function among other symptoms, with severity depending on how much weight was lost, how fast, and age at time of surgery.

A few questions came to mind: Are pesticides fat-soluble and can they bioaccumulate in fat tissues? Do honeybees have fat? Do honeybees ever experience rapid reduction of fat tissue volume? Are there any points in time honeybees might be more vulnerable to release of bioaccumulating toxins into the blood?

What are some questions that you think of given the examples above?

This post was written by Todd Waters, an undergraduate intern in our lab. Part two of his blog will be posted next week. 

References:

CARRECK, N L; ANDREE, M; BRENT, C S; COX-FOSTER, D; DADE, H A; ELLIS, J D; HATJINA, F; VANENGELSDORP, D (2013) Standard methods for Apis mellifera anatomy and dissection. In V Dietemann; J D Ellis; P Neumann (Eds) The COLOSS BEEBOOK, Volume I: standard methods for Apis mellifera research. Journal of Apicultural Research 52(4): http://dx.doi.org/10.3896/IBRA.1.52.4.03

Cruz, Landim C., and Reginato R.D. (1999) Preliminar Report on the Presence of Tegumentar Glands in the Thorax of Meliponinae Bees (Hymenoptera, Apidae). Revista Brasileira de Biologia 59(1): 167-172. Web. 6 Jan 2014.

Pettis JS, Lichtenberg EM, Andree M, Stitzinger J, Rose R, et al. (2013) Crop Pollination Exposes Honey Bees to Pesticides Which Alters Their Susceptibility

to the Gut Pathogen Nosema ceranae. PLoSONE 8(7): e70182. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070182. Web. 2 Dec 2013.

Healthy Advantages of Working in the “Bee Lab”

I was fortunate enough to spend my semester interning for the VanEngledorp lab. Throughout my internship I got a firsthand look at how a lab functions and was able to participate. Mainly I would clean and prep samples for the various services this lab provides for apiaries. However, occasionally I would help with checking apiary samples for varroa.
imageWhat I found to be most interesting to learn from this lab, was the benefits of honey for your body. This Is because I love to learn about how to achieve and maintain a healthy well-being, which is why im majoring in kinesiology. For example in a recent medical case a patient was failing to keep his wound from infecting. The prescribed antibiotics were failing to help the patient, so to think outside of the box, he tried applying honey to his wounds. as a result his infections were gone and his wounds began healing properly (Nordqvist 2013).
Additionally, honey is great for physical activity. Honey can be used as a source of a quick energy boost prior to exercise, carbs while exercising, and lastly a healthy alternative to sugar for after the workout (“Honey” 2013).
Lastly,  if you eat raw locally produced honey before allergy season hits, you can reduce your likelihood of suffering from bad allergy attacks (Duncan 2013). I also enjoyed interning here because when it came time for me to par take in labs for my classes at UMD I felt as though I had an advantage, since I’ve already been working at a lab.

This post was written by Byron Mariani, an undergraduate intern in our lab. 

Works Cited
 Nordqvist, Joseph. “What are the health benefits of honey?.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264667.php.
Duncan, Lindsey. “Honey’s Unknown Benefits.” The Dr. Oz Show. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013. http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/lindsey-duncan-nd-cn/honey-s-unknown-benefits.
“Honey.” Nature’s Energy Food. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.< http://www.honey.com/honey-at-home/honeys-natural-benefits/natures-energy-food>.

An Intern’s Intro to Honey Bees

lab

This past semester, I have been working as an undergraduate intern in Dr. vanEngelsdorp’s honey bee lab at the University of Maryland. My previous bee knowledge consisted of only a few fun facts learned in intro biology courses and some honey extracting methods learned while working with another professor in the entomology department here at UMD. Needless to say, my expertise in honey bees has vastly grown. I could tell you the differences between a queen, drone, and worker bee and why they do a few of the many amazing things they do.

More specifically, I have been working on a Nosema spore project. Along with two other interns, I have been preparing and examining bee samples for Nosema spores. We each made a sample of 30 and 100 bees (crushed and mixed with 1 mL water for each bee) and then shared our own samples with each other so that every sample was tested three times. The main goal of the project is to test sampling methods; as in would we find different results from a smaller or larger sample set of bees, or how often a sample would be an outlier from the actual average for that batch.

lab2At first, sampling would take me nearly my entire three-hour-per-week session to complete. I had used microscopes and all of the other tools used in the lab in previous biology classes, but that was back in freshman year and I was a little rusty. Luckily, everyone in the lab was extremely nice and helpful whenever I had a question. A few short months later, and I can complete the same amount of sampling in half the time. My experience in the lab was a great one and I am really glad I was able to learn a little more about the amazing honey bee.

This post was written by Kyle Runion, an undergraduate intern in our lab. 

Brood Comb Management and Treatment of Dead Outs: National Management Survey 2011-2012

The way comb in bee hives are replaced and treated may effect the health of the hive. This summary report from the 2012 National Winter Loss and Management Survey relates brood comb management techniques to reported winter losses.

Replacement of combs in existing colonies is often recommended to remove the buildup of pesticides and pathogens in combs. The survey found that beekeepers who replaced 50% or more of the comb in their colonies lost more colonies than those who did not replace any suggesting there may be an upper limit to the amount of comb replacement that is desirable.

Another management strategy relating to brood combs, is the reuse of old combs from either dead colonies or purchased colonies. The survey found that beekeepers who reported that they did reuse old comb lost on average 4.7 more colonies per 100 managed colonies than those who did not reuse old comb. This agrees with the understanding that moving around old combs can put colonies at risk.

Brood Comb Management

comb replacement

Comb replacement is often recommended to beekeepers because pathogens, pesticides, and other chemicals can build up in the wax potentially affecting colony health. Beekeepers where asked, on average, how many frames from the brood area they replaced in the last year (0%, 10%, 20%, 25-50%, >50%, Figure 1). Beekeepers who replaced 50% or more of the comb in their colonies lost significantly more colonies (30.7% loss) than those who did not replace any, or 10% of the combs in their brood chambers (22% and 21% respectively). There was some difference based on region. Beekeepers in northern states who replaced 50% or more of the comb in their colonies lost on average 10 more colonies per hundred than those who did not replace any of the combs in their brood chambers. The same comparison was not significant when only looking at southern states.

combreplacementFigure 1: Winter losses reported by beekeepers with varying degrees of brood comb replacement.

This survey was not meant to determine the cause of differences, so we cannot comment on the reason those replacing no or few comb lost fewer colonies overwinter than those who replaced 50% or more of their colonies frames.

Brood comb Reuse

When colonies die or when brood combs are otherwise taken out of production, beekeepers typically reuse the combs from those colonies because new colonies can grow very quickly in combs that have already been constructed. Plus, new combs normally require new frames which is an added expense. Beekeepers were asked if they re-used brood combs that were either previously taken out of production or purchased. They were also asked about any treatments or culling of the combs done prior to reintroducing them to colonies.

In both northern and southern states , beekeepers who reported reusing old brood comb in their colonies reported losing more colonies than those who did not. Beekeepers who reported that they reused comb lost on average 4.7 more colonies per 100 managed colonies than those who did not reuse old comb. In other words, beekeepers who did reuse old brood comb lost an average 18.4% more colonies than beekeepers who did not reuse old comb, see Figure 2.

broodcombresuseNewHeaderFigure 2: Winter losses for beekeepers who reported reusing old brood comb in their colonies compared to beekeepers who did not report reusing brood comb.

Responses about treatments of comb before reuse included: culling, freezing, fumigating with acetic acid , irradiating, and using PDCB crystals. No significant differences in losses were found when examining these answers. Few beekeepers reported irradiation (22) and fumigation (20) of combs before reuse. We did not collect data on what proportion of the colonies within operations received reused combs, nor did we collect data on why beekeepers re-used comb. Conclusions about causation cannot be made from these reports. It could be that beekeepers whom lost more colonies had more comb to reuse, or it could be that reusing old brood comb puts colonies at risk. Neither conclusion can be made from this survey.

Treatment of Dead Outs

When a colony dies beekeepers can choose to use the equipment immediately or store the equipment for future use. Beekeepers who did not report storing their used equipment saw 14.6 fewer overwintered colonies lost per 100 managed colonies, or an average of 40.6% less than those that reported not using equipment.

The best way to start or obtain a new colony was by splitting. Which showed significantly lower mortality rate than alternative methods.

newcolonyFigure 3: Average winter colony mortality suffered by beekeepers who reported different methods for starting a new colony between April 2011 and March 2012.

Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only. References to commercial products or trade names do not imply endorsement by the Bee Informed Partnership or its members. The results presented here are the summary of the population who responded. The sample may not be representative of the beekeeping population at large. These results simply highlight differences in the sample population. The results cannot be considered conclusive, causative, protective, or attest to product efficacy or lack of efficacy

Methods

Management Survey 2011 – 2012

How average losses were calculated and presented  |  Watch a vlog here

Appendix Items

Download the complete reports in the list below

Comb Management

Treatment of Dead Outs and Colony Replacement

All survey reports listed here: Bee Informed National Management Survey 2011-2012 

Colony Placement and Honey Production: National Management Survey 2011-2012

Many bees are used for pollination of crops or happen to be kept near large agricultural areas and often feed from certain crops. There is some speculation that certain crops and therefore nutrition can have an effect on colony health. For 2011-2012, we found that hives that were around cotton had fewer losses than hives that were not around cotton. But, since cotton is exclusively grown in the South, the regional difference can be accounted for the difference since there were more losses in the north overall. The amount of hives that beekeepers who had their colonies near cotton were consistent with the amount of loss suffered in the South overall.

Honey Production

Honey production happens year round, but for the year 2011-2012 it seems that honey production in the spring is a better indicator of survivorship. Beekeepers who had below average or no honey crops in the spring lost significantly more colonies that those who had normal or above average honey production. These trends did not hold true for the other seasons.

honeyproduction

DISCLAIMER

This information is for educational purposes only. References to commercial products or trade names do not imply endorsement by the Bee Informed Partnership or its members. The results presented here are the summary of the population who responded. The sample may not be representative of the beekeeping population at large. These results simply highlight differences in the sample population. The results cannot be considered conclusive, causative, protective, or attest to product efficacy or lack of efficacy

Methods

Management Survey 2011 – 2012

How average losses were calculated and presented  |  Watch a vlog here

Appendix Items

Download the complete reports in the list below

Colony Placement and Honey Production

All survey reports listed here: Bee Informed National Management Survey 2011-2012 

Working at the NCSU Bee Lab

Jordan Arata, one of our undergraduates who worked for our lab this summer was ‘stationed’ at the North Carolina State University lab working with Dr. David Tarpy.  He details his experiences below.  Jordan is also President of the UMD Apiary club.

This summer I had the pleasure of working and learning at David Tarpy’s honey bee research facility at North Carolina State University. There, I worked alongside my friend Sam Freeze to help David Tarpy, Mike Simone-Finstrom, Jennifer Keller, and Ming Huang with various projects and experiments.

5174beb7adb3e.image

Photo Credit: Charlie DeBoyace

One of these experiments investigated virus transmission in raising new queens. This was done by comparing the prevalence of different viruses in grafting source colonies and cell builder colonies to the prevalence of virus in the raised queens to determine which virus prevalence the queens matched, and hence, whether the viruses were transmitted from the grafting source or the cell builders. I also helped with a somewhat similar experiment that examined gut samples across multiple generations of queens and offspring to determine the sources and/or transmission of beneficial micro biome in the bees’ digestive tracts.

Another experiment I helped with examined the effects of genetic diversity on various immunity traits of colonies. These traits included how much tree resin (propolis) the bees gathered, how many different tree resins the bees gathered, hygienic responses including the removal of dead bees and cleaning (themselves and others), individual internal immune responses, and how these responses changed with the introduction of disease.

We used many interesting techniques at the lab for these and other experiments. Many of our experiments required sampling of nurse bees. For this, we would store frames of emerging brood in the incubator overnight, mark the newly emerged bees the next day, and place them back into their hives so that when we sampled in five days, we could easily find five day old bees (most likely nurse bees).

We also needed to limit mating in queens in some experiments. For this, we weighed down virgin queens with magnets (shown to decrease diversity) and limited the length of mating flights and the number to one mating flight. A mating sign is a small white “plug” that contains the drone’s mucus, plus the endophallus and other parts of the male genitalia that can be seen on the queen after she successfully mates.

Cows observing colony inspections.

Cows observing colony inspections.
Photo Credit: Jordan Arata

While at the lab, I was also exposed to “you never know what bees will do”. I had always heard that bees sometimes do weird things without a hint of explanation, yet never truly believed it until I worked at a bee lab. Some of these memorable instances included a colony absconding and trying to move in with an existing colony, and a laying queen flying away while I was inspecting a colony and turning up again two days later.

I am interested to hear if anyone else has seen bees do some weird things. Please share below!