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.

Where ever you live in the world you should apply the information on working your bees that is given below when the weather conditions in your area are right. So take notes and be ready.

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Cletus Notes

Hello Everyone,

Here in Bryan, Texas as well as most of Texas, the temperatures normally soar into the triple digits in August and September. Our bees work feverously to keep their hive cooled down. There should be a good water source close by for the bees to collect water (preferably not the neighbors swimming pool.) and take it back to the hive where it is stored inside the uncapped cells. The house bees stand close to these water filled cells and fan their wings. The air movement will evaporate the water which will in turn help cool down the inside of the hive.

In some areas around the state, the aster and goldenrod plants are beginning to bloom and the bees have an opportunity to collect nectar from them that will be stored for their winter food source. Sometimes there will be enough nectar coming in for the beekeeper to add a honey super or two and make a surplus.

Here at Lone Star Farms September is usually a slow work month because we rarely ever place honey supers on our hives for the fall flow. (This year is not an issue because of the drought.) We believe that it is better to leave the fall flow for the bees. We run each hive in two brood boxes and allow the bees to fill both their boxes with the fall nectar. That is one reason we don’t have to feed our bees very often. Remember, honey is much healthier for the bees than sugar water. Besides, the bees have already provided us with a good early spring and early summer surplus.

If you take care of your bees first, they will take care of you. Enjoy your bees.

Dennis Brown

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How Bees Naturally Vaccinate
Their Babies

Tempe, Ariz. -- When it comes to vaccinating their babies, bees don't have a choice -- they naturally immunize their offspring against specific diseases found in their environments. And now for the first time, scientists have discovered how they do it.

Researchers from Arizona State University, University of Helsinki, University of Jyväskylä and Norwegian University of Life Sciences made the discovery after studying a bee blood protein called vitellogenin. The scientists found that this protein plays a critical, but previously unknown role in providing bee babies protection against disease.

The findings appear today in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

"The process by which bees transfer immunity to their babies was a big mystery until now. What we found is that it's as simple as eating," said Gro Amdam, a professor with ASU's School of Life Sciences and co-author of the paper. "Our amazing discovery was made possible because of 15 years of basic research on vitellogenin. This exemplifies how long-term investments in basic research pay off."

Co-author Dalial Freitak, a postdoctoral researcher with University of Helsinki adds: "I have been working on bee immune priming since the start of my doctoral studies. Now almost 10 years later, I feel like I've solved an important part of the puzzle. It's a wonderful and very rewarding feeling!"

How it works
In a honey bee colony, the queen rarely leaves the nest, so worker bees must bring food to her. Forager bees can pick up pathogens in the environment while gathering pollen and nectar. Back in the hive, worker bees use this same pollen to create "royal jelly" -- a food made just for the queen that incidentally contains bacteria from the outside environment.

After eating these bacteria, the pathogens are digested in the gut and transferred to the body cavity; there they are stored in the queen's 'fat body' -- an organ similar to a liver. Pieces of the bacteria are then bound to vitellogenin -- a protein -- and carried via blood to the developing eggs. Because of this, bee babies are 'vaccinated' and their immune systems better prepared to fight diseases found in their environment once they are born.

Vitellogenin is the carrier of these immune-priming signals, something researchers did not know until now.

First edible vaccines for bees
While bees vaccinate their babies against some diseases, many pathogens are deadly and the insects are unable to fight them.

But now that Amdam and Freitak understand how bees vaccinate their babies, this opens the door to creating the first edible and natural vaccine for insects.

"We are patenting a way to produce a harmless vaccine, as well as how to cultivate the vaccines and introduce them to bee hives through a cocktail the bees would eat. They would then be able to stave off disease," said Freitak.

One destructive disease that affects bees is American Foul Brood, which spreads quickly and destroys hives. The bacterium infects bee larvae as they ingest food contaminated with its spores. These spores get their nourishment from the larvae, eventually killing them.

This disease is just one example where the researchers say a vaccine would be extremely beneficial.

Why this discovery is important to humans
It's widely known that pollinators, including bees, are facing serious environmental dangers.

During the past six decades, managed honey bee colonies in the United States have declined from 6 million in 1947 to only 2.5 million today. Not only are bees affected by diseases, they have been decimated by a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder. Researchers don't know exactly what causes this, but pesticides, pests, pathogens and nutrition problems may all be contributing factors.

According to a 2014 report by the U.S. government, pollinators are instrumental for a healthy economy and critical to food security, contributing 35 percent of global food production. In North America, insects pollinate 87 of the top 115 food crops and honey bees are vital in keeping fruits, nuts and vegetables in our diets.

Humans depend on bees and other pollinating insects for a huge portion of their food supply. Insect vaccines could play an important role in helping to combat colony collapse disorder, in addition to fighting a variety of diseases.

All egg-laying species have vitellogenin
This discovery could have far-reaching benefits for other species, as well as substantial, positive impacts on food production. All egg-laying species including fish, poultry, reptiles, amphibians and insects have vitellogenin in their bodies.

The food industry could implement the use of natural vaccines that would not only be inexpensive to produce, they could easily be used in developing countries.

"Because this vaccination process is naturally occurring, this process would be cheap and ultimately simple to implement. It has the potential to both improve and secure food production for humans," said Amdam.

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Flowers Can Endanger Bees

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Despite their beauty, flowers can pose a grave danger to bees by providing a platform of parasites to visiting bees, a team of researchers has determined.

"Flowers are hotspots for parasite spread between and within pollinator populations," said Peter Graystock, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Entomologyat the University of California, Riverside and a member of the research team. "Both the flower and bee species play a role in how likely parasite dispersal will occur."

The study, published online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first to show that not only can bees disperse parasites around the environment but also that flowers are platforms for a host of pollinator parasites subsequently dispersed onto visiting bees.

"By showing that visits from parasite-carrying bees can turn flowers into parasite platforms, we can say that it is likely that heavily visited flowers may become more 'dirty' with bee parasites," said Graystock, the research paper's first author. "Planting more flowers would provide bees with more options, and parasite spread may thus be reduced."

The researchers found four common honey bee and bumblebee parasites dispersed via flowers: Nosema apis(causes a honey bee disease), Nosema ceranae(causes an emergent disease in honey bees and bumblebees), Crithidia bombi(causes a bumblebee disease) and Apicystis bombi(mostly found in bumblebees). These parasites are known to cause, lethargy, dysentery, colony collapse, and queen death in heavily infected bees.

Currently, bees are frequently transported across state and international territories. Quarantine and parasite screening usually cover only the screening of host-specific diseases. But bumblebees can transport honey bee parasites, and vice versa, the research team has now shown, and proposes that increased screening protocols be employed to protect pollinator diversity.

"With some 20,000 bee species, it is a surprise that only recently has research in pollinator health considered the interactions between bee species," Graystock said. "Our finding may also affect the national and international trade of flowers unless sterilization of parasites on these flowers can be guaranteed. Otherwise flower movements may also be moving pollinator parasites to new territories."

He explained that commercially imported bumblebees have been found to contain a cocktail of parasites that are harmful to both bumblebees and honeybees.

"We know these commercially imported bumblebees, when given the opportunity, will forage on the same flowers as wild bees and honeybees," he said.

In their experiments, Graystock and his colleagues allowed one species of bee (honey bees or bumblebees) from hives containing parasites to forage on flowers for three hours. The bees were then removed and a second group of flowers were added to the foraging arena along with colonies of a second bee species (a species not used before). The new bees then foraged upon both the new and previously foraged flowers for three hours. All flowers were then sampled to see if parasites had dispersed onto them. Parasites found in the original patch confirmed parasite dispersal by the original hosts. Parasites found in the new group of flowers confirmed the non-target bee was able to disperse the parasites.

Next, Graystock, who works in the lab of
Quinn McFrederick, an assistant professor of entomology, is looking at how flowers may also be hubs for transmitting not just parasites but also potentially beneficial microbes. He is looking, too, at the role different flowers play on bee survival and development.

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Pesticides Found in Most Pollen
Collected from Foraging Bees
in Massachusetts

Boston, MA -- More than 70% of pollen and honey samples collected from foraging bees in Massachusetts contain at least one neonicotinoid, a class of pesticide that has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which adult bees abandon their hives during winter, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study will be published online July 23, 2015 in the Journal of Environmental Chemistry.

"Data from this study clearly demonstrated the ubiquity of neonicotinoids in pollen and honey samples that bees are exposed to during the seasons when they are actively foraging across Massachusetts. Levels of neonicotinoids that we found in this study fall into ranges that could lead to detrimental health effects in bees, including CCD," said Chensheng (Alex) Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School and lead author of the study.

Since 2006, there have been significant losses of honey bee colonies. Scientists, policymakers, farmers, and beekeepers are concerned with this problem because bees are prime pollinators of roughly one-third of all crops worldwide.

Previous studies analyzed either stored pollen collected from hives or pollen samples collected from bees at a single point in time. In this study, the Harvard Chan School researchers looked at pollen samples collected over time--during spring and summer months when bees forage--from the same set of hives across Massachusetts. Collecting pollen samples in this way enabled the researchers to determine variations in the levels of eight neonicotinoids and to identify high-risk locations or months for neonicotinoid exposure for bees. To do so, the researchers worked with 62 Massachusetts beekeepers who volunteered to collect monthly samples of pollen and honey from foraging bees, from April through August 2013, using pollen traps on the landings of beehives. The beekeepers then sent the samples to the researchers.

The researchers analyzed 219 pollen and 53 honey samples from 62 hives, from 10 out of 14 counties in Massachusetts. They found neonicotinoids in pollen and honey for each month collected, in each location--suggesting that bees are at risk of neonicotinoid exposure any time they are foraging anywhere in Massachusetts.

The most commonly detected neonicotinoid was imidacloprid, followed by dinotefuran. Particularly high concentrations of neonicotinoids were found in Worcester County in April, in Hampshire County in May, in Suffolk County in July, and in Essex County in June, suggesting that, in these counties, certain months pose significant risks to bees.

The new findings suggest that neonicotinoids are being used throughout Massachusetts. Not only do these pesticides pose a significant risk for the survival of honey bees, but they also may pose health risks for people inhaling neonicotinoid-contaminated pollen, Lu said. "The data presented in this study should serve as a basis for public policy that aims to reduce neonicotinoid exposure," he said.

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Losses of Honey Bee Colonies Over
the 2014/15 Winter

The honey bee research association COLOSS(1) has today announced the preliminary results of their international study of colony losses over the 2014-15 winter. Data were collected from 31 countries. Egypt, Russia and the Ukraine participated for the first time in this initiative, which is the largest and longest running international study of honey bee colony losses. In total 23,234 respondents provided overwintering mortality and other data of their colonies.

Collectively, all responding beekeepers managed 469,249 honey bee colonies. 67,914 of these colonies were dead after winter and an estimated 3 % of these colonies were lost because of unsolvable queen problems after winter. A preliminary analysis of the data shows that the mortality rate over the 2014-15 winter varied between countries, ranging from 5 % in Norway to 25 % in Austria, and there were also marked regional differences within most countries. The overall proportion of colonies lost (including colonies with unsolvable queen problems after winter) was estimated as 17.4 %, which was twice that of the previous winter.

The protocol used to collect this COLOSS data has been internationally standardized to allow comparisons and joint analysis of the data. A more detailed analysis of risk factors calculated from the whole dataset , as well as further colony loss data from other countries, will be published later in the year.

International Data Coordinator for the COLOSS Monitoring and Diagnosis Working Group Romée van der Zee from the Dutch Centre for Bee Research says: “North European countries have traditionally had lower losses, compared to west and central European countries. This can partly be explained by the later start of the breeding season of their honey bee colonies due to low temperatures in March/April, as was the case in 2014. This later start limits the number of brood cycles of the varroa mite, one of the main parasites of honey bees. However, honey bee colony loss is a multifactorial problem. There is clearly also a variation in losses between areas, which is not dependent on the varroa mite. One of the main aims of our network is to identify and describe such areas.”

1. COLOSS is a honey bee research association formerly funded by the European Union COST Programme (Action FA0803) and currently by the Ricola Foundation – Nature & Culture, which aims to explain and prevent massive honey bee colony losses. COLOSS does not directly support science, but aims to coordinate international research activities across Europe and worldwide, promoting cooperative approaches and a research programme with a strong focus on the transfer of science into beekeeping practice. COLOSS has 552 members drawn from 78 countries worldwide. Its President is Prof. Peter Neumann of the University of Bern, Switzerland.
Website
http://www.coloss.org/

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Apicultural Conference Tackles
Neonic Issue


Italy Banned the Seed Treatments in 2008

by Jeffrey Carter

When neonicotinoid seed treatment insecticides were effectively banned in Italy in 2008, corn growers in the northwestern part of the country grumbled.

They feared yield losses to insect pests if the chemicals were to be taken away.

Those fears never materialized, according to Franco Mutinelli who spoke at the Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS) conference in Guelph, Ontario on August 12.

The scientist and government official described yield impacts as slight and today, seven years later, Italy’s bee industry is healthy.

“Corn producers were afraid but they did not experience any dramatic yield losses,” Mutinelli said, speaking just prior to participating in a panel discussion exploring issues surrounding the chemicals.

“Spring bee losses disappeared between March and June when corn is sown after the ban was enforced . . . Over the last three years our winter losses have been below 10 percent – a normal range.”

Mutinelli heads his government’s National Reference Laboratory for beekeeping, the Experimental Veterinary Sciences Division, and Diagnostic Services for Histopathology and Parasitology and has been involved with Italy’s national honey bee monitoring program which tracts pesticide residues along with honey bee pest and disease pressures.

He said there are about 50,000 beekeepers in Italy and 1.3 million honey bee colonies. Varroa mite along withnosema ceranaeand nosema apisand other ailments are a concern. Most recently small hive beetle has been identified in two areas.

Colony losses reached 50 to 60 per cent in Northern Italy prior to 2009, Mutinelli said. That’s where most of the country’s grain corn is grown. As in North America today, the insecticides were automatically part of seed corn purchases in Italy prior to 2009.

There’s no data for the central part of the country. In Southern Italy losses ranged from 10 to 30 per cent prior.

While the restrictions amount to a ban when it comes to seed treatments, the insecticides continue to be used as foliar sprays for such crops as fruit and in greenhouses.

Mutinelli said both growers and beekeepers are now aware of the challenges posed by the insecticides and their use is regulated. With fruit trees, for instance, neonicotinoid sprays can only be used after the trees have bloomed and environmental persistence is far less of an issue.

Also part of the panel were: Ernesto Guzman, this year’s recipient of the James I. Hambleton Award for research excellence and director of the Honey Bee Research Centre at the University of Guelph; Nigel Raine with the University of Guelph’s School of Environment Sciences; and Purdue University entomologist Christian Krupke.

In contrast to Mutinelli, Krupke does not support a regulated approach to neonicotinoids. Instead, he suggested that farmers be allowed to know the true cost of the treatments and then decide whether or not to purchase them.

Usage would likely drop significantly with that type of system in place, he said.

Krupke referred to a three-year research study in Illinois showing no statistical yield benefit from the technology for corn production.

That’s a similar result to information in a leaked report from Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency. It cited trials showing only a small yield benefit for Canadian corn growers and essentially no benefit for soybean growers

“The biggest issue is that we are dramatically over using these compounds,” Krupke said.

“This is not the way we should be growing these crops. This is absolute nonsense.”

Farmers have suggested that the repeated use of neonicotinoids, primarily clothianidin and thiamethoxam, have reduced pest pressure to the point that they’re no longer an issue. However, Krupke said that observation cannot be backed up with data.

The control offered by the neonicotinoids is limited in both corn and soybeans, likely because the window of control is far narrower than many farmers believe, he said.

Raine, who moved to Guelph from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of London in England a year ago, stressed the danger neonicotinoids pose to all pollinators, including the hundreds of native bee species in Canada along with butterflies, moths, wasps, hoverflies and other insects.

Globally, pollinators, including honey bees, provide around $425 billion in pollination services annually, he said. Of the food consumed by the human population, one-third requires pollination from insects other than honey bees.

There’s now clear evidence pollinators are declining globally to the point that food crop yields and quality could be impacted.

“If something isn’t done, it will come to a point when we will have a pollinator deficit,” Raine said.

Like other conference speakers, Raine said neonicotinoids are not the sole reason for pollinator decline. Rather, the insecticides appear to be just one aspect of the problem. Other factors include habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation.

With honey bees specifically, there is also a range of pathogens and parasites, including the varroa mite.

Guzman agreed with Raine’s assessment and referred to what may be a synergistic effect when two or more factors behind
pollinator decline combine.

In Ontario, he said colony losses are at an unsustainable level. Only by splitting healthy hives and importing bees have beekeepers maintained colony numbers in the province.

While it’s now broadly recognized that honey bees can be killed outright by neonicotinoids, Guzman said the jury is still out as to whether they’re impacted on a sub-lethal level.

He cited the work led by two of his Guelph associates. David MacKay and Nuria Morfin both spoke earlier concerning the preliminary results from their research.

In a laboratory experiment, Morfin has linked sub-lethal levels of neonicotinoid exposure to reduced grooming and hygienic behavior in honey bees along with memory loss.

MacKay talked about differences in honey bee colonies placed on an organic farm and a conventional farm near Strathroy, both of which are in a corn-soybean rotation.

While honey production was strong at both sites, it was higher at the untreated site. In addition, there were fewer dead bees at the untreated site and foraging bees at the untreated site collected more nectar.

Hives were placed at the site at the beginning of May and left for the entire season.

Cynthia Scott-Dupree, another Guelph researcher, also spoke earlier. She cited her research conducted in Southwestern
Ontario in 2012 and 2007 that showed no connection between neonicotinoid seed treatments and sub-lethal impacts on honey bees.

In 2012, Scott-Dupree placed honey bees in treated and untreated canola fields for two and a half weeks and then moved them to a non-agricultural location for the remainder of the year.

The EAS conference was last held in Ontario in 1992. The annual event attracts beekeepers from across the northeastern part of North America and around the world.

This year’s conference location was apt. Ontario, a significant corn and soybean growing area, is a focal point for those opposing neonicotinoid insecticides and those favoring their use.

Canada’s government continues to review the conditional registration of seed treatment insecticides – they’ve been widely used since 2006.

In Ontario, however, the provincial government imposed stringent restrictions – as opposed to a ban – on their use earlier this year. Their intent is to reduce usage of the neonicotinoids as seed treatments by 80 per cent by 2017.

The move is controversial and, in the eyes of many observers, has created a rift within Ontario’s farming community.

While not all its members may agree with their actions, the Grain Farmers of Ontario has vocally opposed the legislation.

The group launched legal proceedings asking for a stay of the regulations which were introduced on July 1. That action will be heard by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on September 28.

The Ontario Beekeepers Association has recognized the seed treatments as a major concern since 2012 when major bee kills – since linked to the chemicals – were recorded around the time corn was planted.

The Ontario honey bee industry has been struggling for several years. Colony over-wintering losses recorded in the spring of 2014 were put at 58 per cent. This year’s losses were also high and beekeepers have noted losses at other times of the year, queen issues and poor colony health.

Guzman, asked about the situation, said the current levels of loss are unsustainable over the long term. Beekeepers in Ontario have been routinely splitting their healthy colonies and importing bees in an effort to maintain their businesses.