National Survey for Honey Bee Pests and Diseases in California

This Fall I had the opportunity to conduct the National Survey for Honey Bee Pests and Diseases with Katie Lee in Southern California. The main goal of this survey is to confirm the absence, or presence, of pests and diseases that are exotic, or not introduced at present, to honey bees in the United States. Exotic threats that are of the greatest concern to beekeeping in the U.S. are Apis cerana, Slow Paralysis Virus and the parasitic mites of the Genus Tropilaelaps which includes four known species, Tropilaelaps clareae, T. koenigerum, T. thaii and T. mercedesae. For more information on Tropilaelaps spp. and their life-cycle refer to Jennie Stitzinger’s Tropilaelaps Mites blog.

Sampling kit: Live bee shipping box with queen candy and water supply, bottle for adult bees sampled in alcohol, cup for larval stages samples in alcohol.

Over the course of a week, Katie and I visited eleven beekeepers in Riverside and San Diego Counties. Each beekeeper provided us with one bee yard from which we sampled eight hives. From each hive we collected a sample of live bees, pollen, bees in alcohol, and larval stages in alcohol. The live bee sample is used for virus testing. The bees in alcohol, once processed, yield a rough estimate of Varroa and Nosema levels for the bee yard sampled. The larval sample, which is collected by knocking a frame with open brood over a collection pan, allows Research Technicians at the University of Maryland to check for exotic mites that may have been knocked off the frame. The pollen sample will undergo pesticide analysis. Take a look at the 2011-2012 National Honey Bee Pests and Diseases Survey Report for a look at the evolution of this survey from its inception in 2009 to the present. The scope of this survey is impressive as it is currently conducted in thirty-four states providing a look at pest and disease levels from Hawaii to New Hampshire.

As I had never been involved in the National Honey Bee Pests and Diseases Survey, NHBS for short, I was excited at the prospect of learning how the survey is conducted and being a part of such a wide-ranging pest and disease survey. Another plus was that I got a snapshot of beekeeping in Southern California. To follow are a few fun facts that I learned while conducting the survey. Avocado orchards are sought-after overwintering locations as some trees bloom during winter months providing a source of nectar and pollen when it would otherwise be scarce. In the summer months many Southern California beekeepers take their bees to alfalfa fields in Imperial County. Located in the southeast corner of the state this county can reach temperatures above 110 °F in July and August. My favorite new discovery, however, is a native wildflower honey from Eriogonum fasciculatum, commonly called California Buckwheat. It’s amber in color, one might say complex in flavor and has a kick at the end that is very tasty. In regards to taste it might be my new favorite, after Starthistle of course! After all this talk of exotic threats I’ll end with a look at my new favorite native plant found in San Diego County.

Eriogonum fasciculatum, California Buckwheat, Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad, California.

Eriogonum fasciculatum, California Buckwheat, Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad, California.




Written By: Elizabeth Frost

Elizabeth Frost has written 10 post in this blog.

As a seasonal Field and Lab Technician I work within the California Tech Transfer Team from September through May serving Northern California queen breeders. From June through August I work within the Midwest Tech Transfer Team serving both migratory beekeepers and queen breeders in Minnesota and North Dakota. Services I provide include hive inspection, sampling for Varroa and Nosema, testing breeder queen colonies for hygienic behavior, and assisting in collaborative breeding efforts utilizing instrumental insemination. I received my Bachelor of Arts Degree in 2008 from the University of California, Davis with majors in English and Italian and a minor in Entomology. Prior to joining the Tech Transfer Teams within the Bee Informed Partnership I was a Field and Lab Technician at the Harry Laidlaw Honey Bee Research Facility from 2008 to 2012 under the direction of Susan Cobey at the University of California, Davis. I am based out of University of California Cooperative Extension, Butte County in Oroville, CA and University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN.


9 Responses to “National Survey for Honey Bee Pests and Diseases in California”

  1. David Bradshaw

    Hi Elizabeth,
    Nice to see you at the CSBA convention and nice blog!

    David Bradshaw