Cletus Calendar
June-2017

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

Here in Texas and many other parts of the South, beekeepers depend on the tallow tree for their main honey flow this time of year. Unfortunately, the state of Texas lists the tallow tree as an invasive species and does its best to remove it when possible. Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s during my commercial beekeeping days, the tallow tree was very abundant south of Houston all the way to the gulf coast. Today, you might find 10% of the tallow trees left in those areas. The tree has been removed for agricultural needs, residential building and of course from the states crack down on the tallow species.

For those of us who have depended on the tallow tree for needed surplus honey are currently moving our bees into the tallow areas. The flow in our area usually starts around the last week in May and will last around three weeks if the weather conditions have been good.

We will spend the last week of June and first part of July pulling the honey surplus off the hives and getting it extracted. For the small operator, this tallow flow is what they depend on for their beekeeping income for the year. If they don’t make a good tallow surplus, they will have to wait until the next year and try again. The larger operator will truck their bees out of Texas after the tallow flow to other parts of the country. They usually chase the different honey flows around the country to maximize their income.

With good beekeeping skills, good weather and a good nectar source, beekeeping can be fun and profitable. Enjoy your bees.

Dennis

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Neonic Pesticides Threaten Wild Bees' Spring Breeding, Study Finds


University of Guelph

This is a Bombus terrestris foraging on oil seed rape. Credit: Dara Stanley

  Neonicotinoid pesticides hinder wild queen bumblebee's reproductive success, according to a new University of Guelph study.

The study is the first to link exposure to thiamethoxam -- one of the most commonly used neonicotinoid pesticides -- to fewer fully developed eggs in queens from four wild bumblebee species that forage in farmland.

"Queen bees will only lay eggs when the eggs are fully developed," said Prof. Nigel Raine, holder of the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation.

If queens need to use energy to clear pesticides from their system instead of investing in eggs, then fewer fully developed eggs will result, he said.

"This will likely translate into slower egg-laying rates, which will then impede colony development and growth."

Published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the study was conducted by Raine, along with Mark Brown and Gemma Baron from Royal Holloway University of London.

Neonicotinoids are one of a number of factors contributing to the decline of bees and are currently being phased out or restricted in several countries including Canada.

The researchers examined the impacts of exposing queen bumblebees to thiamethoxam during the spring when they emerge from hibernation and are preparing to lay their first eggs and establish a colony.

"Given the vital role spring queens have in maintaining bumblebee populations, we decided to focus on assessing the impacts at this stage in the life cycle," said Raine, a professor in the School of Environmental Sciences. "These spring queens represent the next generation of bumblebee colonies."

Worker bees from those first eggs are needed to clean and guard the nest, find food and tend to the next batch of eggs. Without those workers, the colony will likely fail, said Raine.

In this study, about 500 queen bees from four species were caught in early spring and for two weeks were fed syrup treated with pesticide doses similar to levels found in pollen and nectar in the wild. They were then observed for another two weeks before they were frozen, dissected and examined.

The researchers found that across all four species the queen bees that were given higher doses of thiamethoxam had smaller, less-developed eggs than the queens not exposed to the pesticide.

Raine suspects the metabolic costs associated with the detoxification required from pesticide exposure results in a reduced amount of nutrients available for other biological processes such as egg development.

The researchers also found queen bees from two of the four species ate less nectar after being exposed to thiamethoxam.

"If their feeding rates drop off, the queens go into a dormant state," said Raine. "They won't have enough energy to fly or to collect pollen to feed their larvae. They may not even have enough resources to lay eggs."

The fact that queen feeding behavior was impacted by exposure to thiamethoxam in only two of the four bee species highlights the reality that sensitivity to pesticides differs among bee species, added Raine.

"Most of the work to determine levels of toxic exposure to pesticide has used honeybees as a model pollinator. But our findings show that bee species vary in their level of sensitivity to pesticides, which is important information that should be factored into regulatory decisions on these chemicals."

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Immunotherapy Against Bee Stings in Some Cases Incomplete


Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health
 

 Summer is approaching, and for many allergy sufferers this means it is time to start fearing bee stings. "Allergic reactions to insect venoms are potentially life-threatening, and constitute one of the most severe hypersensitivity reactions," explains PD Dr. Simon Blank, research group leader at the Center of Allergy & Environment (ZAUM), a joint undertaking by the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the TUM.

This is where allergen-specific immunotherapy, commonly known as allergy shots, can help. The treatment involves injecting very small doses of the venom under the patient's skin. The idea is to force the body to become accustomed to the poison and consequently to put an end to the immune system's excessive reaction. According to Blank and his team, however, it may be necessary to improve the procedure.
 

Allergens strongly underrepresented

"We now know that bee venom is a cocktail of many different substances. In particular, there are five components that are especially relevant for allergy sufferers," Blank explains. "In our current investigation of commercial preparations, however, we were able to show that these so-called major allergens are not present everywhere at sufficient levels, and some allergens are seriously underrepresented!"

While some preparations contained uniform levels of all venom components, in others up to three of the five allergens were present at levels that were too low, according to the authors. The scientists cannot concretely state exactly what this means for the therapeutic success. "So far, studies have not been able to prove how significant this is for the treatment. Because more than six percent of the patients are sensitized only against these three allergens, however, their underrepresentation could affect the treatment success, at least for these patients."
 

Customized immunotherapy against bee stings?

Consequently, if patients react to specific allergens in bee venom but these are possibly not found in the preparations at sufficient levels, the question that must be asked is what good does immunotherapy against bee stings do for the individual.

ZAUM Director Prof. Dr. Carsten Schmidt-Weber sees it like this: "The vast majority of patients benefit from such a treatment. A desirable objective that results from this work, however, would be for patients to receive a customized treatment in the future. This would be a preparation with exactly the allergens to which the particular patient actually reacts." Due to costs and the relatively small number of patients, however, such developments are still a long way off.

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How Varroa Mites Take Advantage
of Managed Beekeeping Practices


Closer colonies and less swarming allow
mite populations to grow and spread


Entomological Society of America
 

Annapolis, MD; May 3, 2017--As the managed honey bee industry continues to grapple with significant annual colony losses, the Varroa destructor mite is emerging as the leading culprit. And, it turns out, the very nature of modern beekeeping may be giving the parasite the exact conditions it needs to spread nearly beyond control.

In an article to be published next week in the Entomological Society of America's Environmental Entomology, researchers argue that the Varroa mite has "co-opted" several honey bee behaviors to its own benefit, allowing it to disperse widely even though the mite itself is not a highly mobile insect. The mite's ability to hitchhike on wandering bees, the infections it transmits to bees, and the density of colonies in managed beekeeping settings make for a deadly combination.

"Beekeepers need to rethink Varroa control and treat Varroa as a migratory pest," says Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman, Ph.D., research leader and location coordinator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service's Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona, and lead author of the research.

In the wild, bee colonies tend to survive despite Varroa infestations, and colonies are usually located far enough apart to prevent mites from hitching rides to other colonies on foraging bees. Wild bee colonies' natural habit of periodically swarming--when the colony grows large enough that a portion of its bees splinter off to create a new colony elsewhere--also serves as a mechanism for thinning out the density of mite infestations and their associated pathogens. In managed honey bee settings, though, these dynamics are disrupted, DeGrandi-Hoffman says. Colonies are kept in close proximity, and swarming is prevented.

DeGrandi-Hoffman, USDA-ARS colleague Henry Graham, and Fabiana Ahumada of AgScience Consulting, conducted an 11-month study of 120 honey bee colonies in one commercial bee operation, comparing those treated with mite-targeting insecticide (miticide) in the spring and fall with those treated only in the fall, and they found no significant difference in the results: more than half of the colonies were lost across the board. This aligns with what has been seen by beekeepers and researchers alike in recent years: Varroa populations continue to grow even after being treated with effective miticides. But why? The answer may be in its dispersal mechanisms.

The researchers also conducted mathematical simulations of Varroa mite population dynamics to examine the effects of both migration of foragers between colonies and swarming. When bees can wander into other colonies--either to "rob" them of their honey or because they've simply lost their way--Varroa populations across colonies climb. Likewise, prohibiting colonies from splintering periodically via swarming also leads mite populations to rise.

In the wild, DeGrandi-Hoffman and her colleagues note, driving a colony to collapse is against Varroa mites' own interest; if the colony dies, the mites die with it. But in commercial beekeeping settings, increasing infestation of a colony activates the dispersal mechanisms the mites need to spread. Weakened foragers are more likely to wander to other colonies, and weakened colonies are more likely to see foragers from healthy colonies visit to rob them of honey. In both cases, mites can hitch a ride from one colony to another.

It all adds up to a critical point for managed honey bee industry. The researchers cite the need for new integrated pest management strategies to treat Varroa destructor as a migratory pest, as well as for further research into the specifics of Varroa dispersal.

"Colony losses in the U.S. are at unsustainable levels for commercial beekeepers. These beekeepers supply colonies for the pollination of crops that represent one-third of U.S. agriculture and are essential components of heart healthy and cancer-prevention diets," says DeGrandi-Hoffman. "This research provides evidence that the tried and true ways of controlling Varroa are no longer feasible, and that new methods that are designed for control of a migratory pest are required."

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Mountain Honey Bees have Ancient
Adaptation for High-altitude Foraging

Despite differences, mountain and savannah
honey bees in East Africa are same sub-species

Mountain-dwelling East African honey bees have distinct genetic variations compared to their savannah relatives that likely help them to survive at high altitudes, report Martin Hasselmann of the University of Hohenheim, Germany, Matthew Webster of Uppsala University, Sweden, and colleagues May 25th, 2017, in PLOS Genetics.

Honey bees living in the mountain forests of East Africa look and behave differently from bees inhabiting the surrounding lowland savannahs. Mountain bees are larger, darker and less aggressive than savannah bees, and can fly at lower temperatures and conserve honey when flowers aren't blooming. To understand the genetic basis for these high-altitude adaptations, researchers sequenced the genomes of 39 bees from two highland and two lowland populations in Kenya. The genomes of all the populations are highly similar, but two regions located on chromosome 7 and 9 show consistent differences between bees living in high and low-altitude environments. The segment on chromosome 7 contains e.g. receptor genes for a neurotransmitter called octopamine, which plays a role in learning and foraging. The clear divergence of these two genetic variations suggests that they have an ancient origin and likely existed in bee populations before the groups spread their mountain and savannah habitats.

This comprehensive study of the genomes of high-altitude honey bees in Kenya reveals novel insights into their evolutionary history and the genetic basis of local adaptation. Scientists had thought that mountain and savannah populations were each distinct sub-species. The high degree of similarity in their genomes, as revealed in the current study, shows that they constantly interbreed. The highly diverged segments likely represent structural rearrangements, such as inversions, in which the exchange of genetic material is suppressed. Previous studies have identified octopamine as an important signaling molecule in other insects living in low temperature and low oxygen conditions.

Martin Hasselmann adds: "Our findings complement several other landmark studies (for example in Heliconius butterflies and Solenopsis ants) where adaptations have been similarly tied to structural variants or supergenes. However, this phenomenon has never been documented in honey bees before. Our results should therefore spur further research into the role of supergenes in environmental adaptation. We are planning now to measure the distribution of these divergent segments in other geographic locations and to elucidate the functional link of these genes with behavior."

East African honey bees are shown. The dark monticola bee (top) is associated with the isolated highland forests and the bright scutellata bee (bottom) occurs in the surrounding lowland savannahs. Credit: Andreas Wallberg and colleagues.