Chalkbrood Disease Primer

When I started inspecting colonies for honey bee diseases in Pennsylvania in 2008, the first and most prevalent disease I found was chalkbrood. I observed this disease a few weeks into the spring season while inspecting a few colonies. I had seen the disease on several other occasions, so it was very easy to identify by the hard “chalk-like” mummies inside the cells. Ascosphaera apis is the fungus responsible for this bee disease. The exact origin of chalkbrood is unknown, but it most likely arrived from Europe with the alfalfa leafcutter bee (Megachile rotundata), when the bee species was introduced to assist with pollination demands…

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The Challenges Of Setting Up A Small Case Study Experiment: Part I

This year, I vowed I would conduct one or two small case study trials to investigate some hunches I have had for a while. I am mostly curious about Oxalic Acid Sublimation (OAV) as a treatment against Varroa mites. Primarily I would like to investigate the recommended dosage. But before I can set this up as a valid experimental design, I need to set up some colonies to perform an experiment on. At the Bee Informed Partnership, we look at thousands of colonies each year, but we usually do not maintain our own. This year, I set up a small apiary and ran into some…

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Look Down

Separating a hive from the bottom board and tilting it forward is a useful first step before proceeding further with a colony inspections for several reasons. A tilt allows you to assess the overall weight of a hive while letting the bottom board carry the weight. Tilting also facilitates looking at the bottom bars to assess the coverage and density of bees allowing for a population estimate to be made. These are both valuable pieces of information that allow broad inferences about colony health to be made, but tilting the hive forward before proceeding further also allows you to examine the state of the bottom…

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American Foulbrood – Connecting Beekeepers with Diagnostic Resources

As a Field Specialist on the BIP Tech Transfer Team, part of my job is to help commercial beekeepers to “nip problems in the bud”. Here is a recent event that illustrates the impact we have through the Tech Team Program. While doing routine sampling for a beekeeper, I happened to find a colony that had every major sign of American Foulbrood. American Foulbrood, or AFB, is a bacterial disease of the brood, that used to be the major scourge of beekeeping. Inspection programs, careful follow-up by beekeepers, and antibiotics for treatment and prevention probably have all helped reduce its impact on bee health. However,…

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2019 California Spring Update

Many California beekeepers reported that the start of this year was the worst in 20+ years. Several factors contributed to this year’s issues, starting with the numerous fires last year causing nearly 3 months of smoke in the area. Once the days got longer, queens started laying but the temperatures dropped again and egg laying stopped once more resulting in smaller colonies after almonds. In fact, most colonies were 2-3 weeks or even a month behind, which delayed the start of queen production. Many producers had to source bulk bees from beekeepers further south to begin starters, builders and nucs. Once queen producers started generating…

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Wintering Sheds: Why are more North American beekeepers overwintering their bees in cold storage?

More and more US beekeepers are starting to place their bees in sheds for the fall, for indoor wintering. While beekeepers in Canada have done this for decades, the popularity of the practice in the US is more recent. Beekeepers began by using structures already built for onion and potato storage in Idaho to house their bees in the fall. These beekeepers then remove the bees in January, and bring them to California for almond tree pollination. Many beekeepers are still using old potato and onion sheds in Idaho, but as the popularity of this practice has increased, some beekeepers have built sheds just for…

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New Web-based Tool for Fast Identification of Bee Mites

Parasitic mites are known to be a factor in recent declines in bee pollinator populations. In particular, Varroa destructor, an introduced parasite and disease vector, has decimated colonies of the western honey bee, one of the most important agricultural pollinators in the world. Further, global trade in alternative pollinators increases the likelihood of moving mites, so there is a potential for more Varroa-style invasions. USDA’s Identification Technology Program (ITP) has released Bee Mite ID: Bee-associated Mite Genera of the World, its latest identification tool, to help biosecurity specialists and beekeepers identify the mites of greatest concern, which could help prevent such invasions. Bee Mite ID…

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The National Honey Bee Disease Survey: Varroa & Nosema in the US

The National Honey Bee Disease Survey investigates honey bee apiaries throughout the US to see if three exotic honey bee pests are still absent from our shores. Samples collected from 41 states and two territories reveal that we are still free of the Tropilaelaps mite, Slow bee paralysis virus, and the Asian honey bee Apis cerana.  If you think varroa is tough to manage, its diminutive cousin Tropilaelaps can reproduce much faster, resulting in many more mites feeding on developing honey bee larvae.  We don’t want any of these three exotics as they would add additional stress and pressure to honey bee health. While sampling for…

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Why did my honey bees die?

  Learning to identify a common cause of winter death in Northern Climates By Meghan Milbrath, Michigan State University Extension, March 8, 2016 Guest Blog Beekeepers in northern climates have already lost a lot of colonies this winter.  While official counts won’t be recorded for a few months, some trends are starting to emerge.  One of these trends is a specific type of colony death.  In Michigan, I’ve received so many calls describing the scenario below, that I can describe the deadout before opening the hive, or before the beekeeper describes it over the phone.  While I may impress some with these predictive powers, the…

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Bee Informed Partnership Diagnosis and treatment of Common Honey Bee Diseases Wins Bronze!

At Apimondia this year our training manual for ‘Common honey bee diseases’ was submitted in the book category.  This simple training manual was entered among many other highly competitive books and won a bronze award to our surprise!  I originally wanted to create a honey bee disease/diagnosis manual because  most of the literature had very small, poor quality photos which made disease identification difficult.  So for the past 7 years I had been collecting images of the various bee diseases and pests I came across during colony inspections in Pennsylvania as well as in migratory operations around the country.  In 2011, I moved to Northern…

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