BIP Mobile Bee Diagnostic Lab

Our Bee Informed work trucks serve as virtual mobile bee labs, and are stocked with everything we need to take a variety of samples. On this particular day, the Pacific Northwest Tech Transfer Team was preparing to take virus samples in addition to the standard varroa/Nosema testing, as part of a longitudinal USDA study on bee viruses. Each individual bee will be tested (rather than the typical composite sample) to determine the type, variation and scope of viruses present. Numbered tags are stapled on each colony so they can be found again and longitudinally monitored over many months. The cardboard box contains a cooler full…

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Was it enough?

  One of the most critical aspects of maintaining healthy colonies is the control of Varroa mite levels. If you are a regular reader of these blogs, this will not be surprising to you. Visual inspection after applying a treatment may indicate a high mite drop but this may not be sufficient to determine if Varroa levels have been reduced to a satisfactory degree. One of the ways that BIP Tech Transfer Teams work with beekeepers is to quantify Varroa levels in order to determine the efficacy of a treatment and decide if further intervention is necessary. This level of vigilance can and should be…

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Emergency response team for crashing colonies

Tech-Transfer Teams provide third-party documentation of emergency events, such as acute pesticide poisoning, for beekeepers who request this service. The Northwest team responds to at least two emergency calls every year. BIP Tech Teams provide a complete colony health assessment during these calls to help find the underlying issue or at least rule out other possible contributing causes of colony loss. This includes sampling for Varroa mites, Nosema, tracheal mites, and viruses as well as pesticide analysis of dead bees, bee bread, fresh pollen, wax and honey. Sampling dead or dying colonies is difficult for everyone involved but knowing that there is a resource that…

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Making a Difference

Over the past seven years working with BIP, I have witnessed, first hand, improvements on the quality of the hygienic behavior in honey bee stock coming out of the Northern California Queen Breeders. Of all the variety of samples we perform as BIP Tech Teams, hygienic testing is my favorite because it means I get to look at the best performing colonies in each of the operations we work with. Over the years, I have noticed a decrease in the severity of European foulbrood, Chalkbrood and Sacbrood virus due to our collaborative efforts with the beekeepers in the program who select for hygienic behavior traits.…

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Data-Driven Applications for Beekeepers

With the withdrawal of Fumagillin from the market, there has been renewed interest among queen producers and honey producers alike in finding ways to control Nosema infection in their bees. The Texas BIP team recently helped a beekeeper look at whether essential oil patties or a sprayed-on probiotic would help reduce the Nosema load of spring splits. 30 colonies (8-12 colonies per group) were sampled for Nosema at time of check-back (mid-April 2018) and randomly selected to be part of one of three groups: untreated control, essential oil, or probiotic. When Nosema loads were sampled again (mid-May 2018), the levels had gone down in all groups in accordance with the usual seasonal pattern.…

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Advancing beekeeping through special projects and industry trials

The agriculture sector includes many industries, such as crop and livestock systems. Unlike beekeeping, these other industries have true extension services, which direct programs for change. These changes advance the industry, promote sustainable practices, and enhance production practices. However, beekeepers have rarely had true extension services and service to their issues, until now. The Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) is a non-profit organization that provides these types of extension services to beekeepers. One major service BIP provides is special projects and industry trials. These projects and trials performed for university, beekeepers and industry experts test ideas and concepts. Laboratory and field studies need replicates in real-time…

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A debt of gratitude

My grandfather was a lucky man. He married a wonderful woman who put up with him and he had two healthy children, a girl (my mom) and a boy (my uncle). He must have been born under an auspicious star because when he decided that it was time to leave Russia at the height of World War II, his charmed life kicked in. They escaped but others from their village were not so lucky. It took them 10 long years, moving across Europe, to finally make it to the US and he did what was necessary to keep his family alive (including raising a contraband…

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Bee Understanding

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to take part in the filming of a documentary by the Bee Understanding Project and it turned out to be a very fun and informative experience! The point of the film was to show the relationship between the almond and beekeeping industries through a job swap, where each participant, almond grower and beekeepers, could better see the other’s perspective. Unlike many other recent honey bee documentaries, this film does not portray commercial beekeepers or almond growers as the bad guys, but rather is fair in describing the challenges each of them faces as our agricultural systems become more…

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It’s (almost) over

Throughout much of the northern parts of the country, the spring and summer landscape is predominantly green with splashes of color provided by a diversity of blooming flowers.  As the season progresses the changing fall foliage dominates the autumn landscape with reds and golds but there is still one last floral splash of color that persist until frost in much of the country. Just as decreasing daylight and the changing of leaves indicate winter is approaching, the appearance of New England Aster bloom is a sure sign that the end of bee season is nearing. New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) is a member of the…

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The signs of mite damage- How to identify progressed varroosis?

Varroa infested colonies entered the United States in ~1987, and changed beekeeping forever. Beekeeping has always been time consuming, difficult and experience oriented; however, beekeeping became even more challenging when beekeepers were called to eradicate a bug on another bug. Since its introduction in the US, beekeepers have reported high annual colony losses due to mites. In fact, some beekeepers report 60% losses due to this troublesome pest. While beekeepers have faced devastating challenges before, including American Foulbrood, Varroa mites has presented damages never before seen. Varroa have become more difficult to manage since their introduction. The mites are seemingly embedded within the honey bee…

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