If you are a member and have anything that you feel is important to chemical free beekeeping, please email it to me. I will post it in this section in a future issue. Thank you. Dennis

I don't know about you but since all my hives have been tucked in for winter, I have been working on my honey-do list. "Joy". Have you ever noticed that there are very few things on your honey-do list that you like to do? If the composer of a honey-do list would add something that we liked to do every third item or so, we would most likely complete the list much sooner if we had to go down the list in order. Well, what do I know, I am the doer not the composer? If I were really as smart as I think I am, I would be the composer, not the doer. I need to work on that. Put that on my list would you?

Time to take inventory of your bee supplies. Time to decide what your "Bee" goals are for the New Year and make sure that you have all the equipment to accomplish those goals. Order what you need and get it ready during the next three months. (Depending on where you live you may have more time.) Read your books and magazines and ponder on how your season went this year. Make changes in your strategy if need be.    Dennis

 (This article was submitted by member “Amy Hutto”.)

B.C. scientists to use honeybee genome to reverse catastrophic colony losses.

B.C. scientists are using the genome of the honeybee to develop new tools for breeders in an effort to reverse the catastrophic mortality that has plagued bee colonies around the world over the past five years. 

The three-year $5.7-million project led by University of B.C. biochemist Leonard Foster aims to develop tests that beekeepers can apply to individual colonies to identify those with a genetic predisposition to better hygiene and disease resistance. Beekeepers can then use selective breeding to create stronger stocks. 

The stakes are high. Pollination by honeybees is crucial to the viability of many of North America’s commercial crops, especially fruit and nuts. Honeybee activity increases the productivity of vegetable and fruit crops by anywhere from 20 to 90 per cent. 

The value of pollination to agriculture is estimated to be $2.5 billion in Canada and at least $15 billion in the United States. 

Beekeepers had for decades experienced colony losses of 10 to 15 per cent annually for decades until five years ago the mortality suddenly jumped to 30 per cent, with some regions such as Vancouver Island experiencing up to 90 per cent mortality, said Foster. 

With the supoport of Genome Canada and Genome BC, Foster hopes to create quick tests that will detect naturally occuring proteins and genetic traits in bees that are more hygenic and more disease resistant. 

Foster is also developing novel ways to treat the viruses that affect bees using RNAi, the system that turns gene expression on and off. 

While Foster was hesitant to say that the health of North America’s bee colonies is a full-blown crisis, as crops are still being pollinated, but disturbing trends are emerging. 

“After five straight years of 30 per cent losses you’d expect that we’d have no bees,” said Foster. But what beekeepers do is commit resources to rebuild colonies after every winter … but that effort means they can’t use those bees for pollination and they can’t make money.” 

Beekeepers stung by consecutive years of losses and the prospect of paying thousands of dollars each spring to rebuild with fresh imported queens means that many are simply leaving the business, Foster said. 

“When the big beekeepers start to go out of business then the blueberry farmers won’t be able to get enough bees to pollinate their crops,” said Foster. Many crops are simply not profitable without the extra production that pollination provides.

Foster’s lab at UBC specializes in bees and their health issues, his life-long interest. 

“My parents were beekeepers so I grew up around bees and I worked in the bee lab as a Bachelor student at [Simon Fraser University] when I was there,” Foster said. 

From Genome BC: 

Interestingly, there are many social behaviours that enable bees to resist disease, such as hygienic behaviour: a cleaner hive tends to suppress the spread of some diseases. By detecting and analyzing naturally occurring proteins and gene traits in the more hygienic bees, these bees can be introduced into breeding programs. 

In addition to protein analysis, Dr. Foster is developing a completely novel approach for treating the viruses that affect bees using RNAi (the biological system that controls which genes are turned ‘on’ and ‘off’) to develop a treatment that is specific to this organism. The method is expected to have no detrimental side effects and there is also essentially no way that the organism can develop a resistance to it. 

“Disturbingly, this last year there was another drop in the honey bee population by approximately 30% in Canada and the US,” says Dr. Foster. “This level of annual loss has been consistent over the past five years in both countries. Contributing factors of these losses are various bacteria, viruses, fungi and mites attacking the bees. Despite some human intervention in the form of chemical pesticides, the culprits have evolved and are now able to resist traditional methods.” The tools being developed in this project are expected to be less susceptible to evolutionary resistance and the development timeline should be less than traditional pesticides. 

Due to our mild climate, most bee breeding in Canada happens in BC and the impact of our bees across North America is enormous. BC breeders ship bees across Canada to promote pollination and the establishment of new colonies. The expected results from the research will generate significant benefits to Canadian agriculture and should lead to a decrease in colony losses, increased honey production and greater availability of bees for pollination.

 A Widely Used Bee 

Antibiotic May Harm rather than help. 

Honey bee populations have been mysteriously falling for at least five years in the United States, but the cause of so-called colony collapse disorder (CCD) is still largely unknown. 

In a report published Nov. 2 in the online journal PLoS ONE, researchers report that a widely used in-hive medication may make bees more susceptible to toxicity of commonly used pesticides, and that this interaction may be at least partially responsible for the continuing honey bee population loss. 

The researchers, led by David Hawthorne of University of Maryland, pre-treated healthy honey bees with the antibiotic oxytetracycline, and then exposed the bees to two pesticides that are commonly used in bee hives to control parasitic varroa mites. In both cases, the pre-treated bees were much more sensitive to pesticide exposure than were bees that had not been treated. 

The team suspected that oxytetracycline may interact with specific bee proteins called multiple drug resistance (MDR) transporters, making them less effective and therefore rendering the bee more at risk to the pesticides. To test this hypothesis, they pre-treated the bees with another drug, verapamil, which is known to inhibit a particular MDR transporter. These insects showed increased sensitivity to five different pesticides, supporting the group's theory that MDR transporters, and specific combinations of independently safe chemicals, may play an important role in CCD. 

Citation: Hawthorne DJ, Dively GP (2011) 'Killing Them with Kindness? In-Hive Medications May Inhibit Xenobiotic Efflux Transporters and Endanger Honey Bees'. PLoS ONE 6(11): e26796. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026796


Real Numbers On Pesticide Losses 

Kim Flottum 

A year ago a commercial beekeeper in Pennsylvania had 200 colonies killed by a misapplication of pesticides. The spray was put on at the wrong time of day, on a crop that had blooming weeds. In 30 days all 200 colonies were all dead. The beekeeper did some, what I would call informal notebook figuring on what the cost of that spray entailed to the farm crops, and the farmers, that those 200 colonies would have worked for, for a whole season. Because this email program doesn’t do columns very well, I’m going to spell out each crop, but you can tidy them up if you wish later. 

Remember, 200 colonies. You know beekeepers with that many colonies. 

For this calculation, farm gate value is what a farmer would lose without those 200 colonies pollinating the various crops this beekeeper pollinates over the course of a season. For Retail value loss, this is the ultimate cost to the US Agriculture economy because the food those bees would have produced, wasn’t produced. 

For almonds, the farm gate value of lost almonds is $50,000.00 The Retail value loss is $500,000.00. 

For Georgia Blueberries, farm gate value loss was $10,000.00, and the retail value loss is $800,000.00 

For Pennsylvania apples, the farm gate value loss is the same as the retail value loss, $2,000,000.00 

For Maine Blueberries, farm gate value loss was $50,000.00, and retail value loss was $500,000.00 

And for Pennsylvania pumpkins, farm gate value loss was $5,000, but the retail value was $1,000,000.00 

The farm gate value loss…that is, the money farmers lost because those bees weren’t there, totals just over $2,000,000.00. Because 1 farmer screwed up that much money was lost to many other farmers. You might wonder why they would tolerate that kind of behavior, wouldn’t you? 

If you total the loss to the agriculture economy because of this one incident, that is, killing 200 colonies of honey bees, the total value is $4,800,000.00…nearly $5 million. That figure would, we suspect, get the attention of any government official who is worried about the financial condition of his local economy. 

Of course there’s the loss to the beekeeper, too. Without those 200 colonies there is the $30,000.00 replacement cost, and $102,000.00 lost in pollination fee income, for a total of $132,000.00. 

But look at the comparative losses. The real loss to the beekeeper, a mere $132,000.00 is less than 3% of the retail loss…in science, that’s not a significant figure, and in economics that’s a rounding error. In beekeeping, it’s a bankrupt business. If you want to put a realworld figure on that, each and every one of those 200 colonies ultimately generates...$24,000.00 for this nation's economy. $24,000.00. That is the true value of a pollination unit in a professionally run Commercial Beekeeping Business. 

As we said, this is a quick estimate, but if you look at it, it’s a pretty good estimate. There is a real financial loss…not only to beekeepers, but to growers, processors, wholesale and retail sellers, and ultimately consumers when pesticide application regulations are ignored or violated. And more importantly, when those regulations are not enforced by those responsible.  Unfortunately, there's nothing left to take to the bank.