Crop Protection Agent (CPA) supervised disease and management monitoring:
The US apicultural industry is comprised of relatively few (~1,200) full-time commercial beekeepers and many (>20,000) part-time backyard beekeepers. However, the vast majority of colonies are owned and operated by large operations. It is the losses suffered by these large operations that have the greatest potential of affecting the greater agricultural economy. Similarly, queen producers are equally concentrated, with the CA and HI queen breeders producing well over half of the queens in the country. Considering the importance of these groups in ensuring a healthy bee population to meet pollination demands either directly (i.e., large pollinating operations) or indirectly (e.g., providing the queens needed for production), special resource allocation to these two groups will have the largest impact on improving colony health nationally.
We will train teams of Crop Protection Agents (CPAs) to interact with important stakeholder groups. The personnel we plan to hire to make up these initial teams have already been identified and have interacted with this stakeholder group while performing National Honey Bee Disease survey and other colony health monitoring projects.
Utilizing trained CPA teams, we will help participating beekeepers document and monitor management practices and initiate and sustain parasite-monitoring programs for an extended period of time. We intend to initiate two CPA teams. The first will be permanently based in northern California where their efforts will focus on 10 – 20 queen producers. The second team will be initiated in year two and will be based in the Oroville, CA office during the winter months. This team will monitor select migratory beekeepers who pollinate CA almonds and move their colonies to northern states for the summer.
The CPA teams will perform intensive interviews once every 4 months to capture detailed information about operational inputs, outputs, and management plans, while collecting intensive hive health measures and samples from a set number of apiaries (n=10 per beekeeper). Personal relationships among these stakeholders and CPA teams are expected to develop so that emerging conditions that may not be captured in standard management questions will be detected. These teams will conduct and demonstrate the utility of disease and parasite management monitoring, helping to interpret the results of the surveys in real time.
We will implement a cost recovery business model for this level of monitoring in order to sustain the effort beyond the grant’s duration and also hire and train more CPA teams to meet other migratory beekeepers’ needs.