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  August 2015 
Christi's Corner
Our enewsletter is chock full of useful information for you!  See Dr. Eric Mussen's article block on pesticides, Billy Synk interview with Joe Traynor,  and Dr. Gordon Wardell's discussion about August bees.   Now to give a very quick overview of Project Apis m. activities:  1) PAm representatives are off to Canada to assist Costco with their investment in honey bee research.  The funding for this research, as with U.S. sales, comes from a portion of Costco's honey sales in Canada.  In the U.S., PAm directs the Costco funding toward long-term stock improvement, building Tech Transfer Teams and a PhD scholarship (Laura Brutscher, Montana State University).  2) This past month we finished a 3-year, $344,000 Specialty Crop Block Grant on honey bee forage (see article block below).   3) At the June CDFA Healthy Pollinators Working Group meeting, CDFA reported on the different pollinator projects supported by Specialty Crop Block Grants.  Less than 1% of these Block Grants have gone to pollinator projects, a very small percentage given the importance of honey bees to the pollination specialty crops!  Project Apis m. has been the most successful recipient of the pollinator-specific California Specialty Crop Block Grant funding, but truthfully, Bee Block Grants should be considered.  And 4) Another role PAm has played recently is helping coordinate a Honey Bee Health Coalition/NAPPC joint meet-and-greet just after the Coalition fall meeting and just prior to the annual NAPPC conference October 20th in Washington, DC.  Hope to see many of you there!

Christi Heintz
Executive Director  

Considering Pesticides in 2015
Not too long ago, our chief concerns about most insecticides and honey bees were acute poisoning with organophosphate and carbamate products.  While many colonies died outright, many more survived with contaminated pollens that caused up-to-a-month mortality of newly emerged adult workers that consumed the pollen.  The notable exception was Penncap-M, where stored contaminated pollen would kill bees up to a year later.
The pyrethroids came next and were a bit more subtle.  The quick-killing compounds eliminated foraging populations without leaving large numbers of dead bees in and around the hives.  Pyrethroid-contaminated pollens appeared not to be much of a problem until cold weather arrived.  When bees that ate the contaminated pollen moved to the outer layer of winter clusters their cooler body temperatures could not detoxify pyrethroid residues.  This phenomenon led to significantly increased winter colony losses.
With a few notable exceptions, the use of fungicides and insect growth regulators (IGRs) in commercial agriculture resulted in few detectable detrimental effects on foraging bees or colony populations.  Pesticide applications containing adjuvants, such as emulsifiers, spreaders, stickers, etc. appeared to cause few problems for foraging bees and their colonies.
Since crop pests tend to become selected for resistance over time, chemists continue to develop pesticides that use unique biochemistry disruptors to inhibit growth or kill target pests.  Since it is difficult to find metabolic pathways that interfere only with the pest of interest, these chemistries can affect "non-targets."  This is particularly true when many pesticides and adjuvants are tank-mixed together and applied to bee-attractive bloom.  Many of these combinations have been shown to increase physiological effects of components (synergism) such that mixes, expected to be benign to bees, kill them.
Additionally, while we used to worry about insecticide residues in the parts per million (PPM), newer chemicals produce negative effects at parts per billion (PPB), and recent research suggests that hormonal effects at parts per trillion (PPT) may be more common than anyone expected.  Currently we are just beginning to develop ways to find such tiny quantities of these residues.  It would be interesting to determine if honey bee's biological detoxification systems are activated by such low level concentrations in bee bodies, or the chemicals still can produce negative effects without being detected.  Researchers and regulators have to adjust to new realities of toxic effects and synergisms of pesticides at mostly undetectable levels.
Given all this, if we wish to protect honey bees and other pollinators, we should attempt not to apply ANY pesticide to bee-attractive bloom of any kind - commercial agriculture, backyard gardens, or pestiferous weeds.

Dr. Eric Mussen
Emeritus Extension Apiculturist

Billy's Blog
One morning, several weeks ago, I had a chance to travel to South Lake Tahoe and meet Joe Traynor at his Tahoe home. Though I have a background in beekeeping, and understand the commercial industries dependent upon pollinators, I had yet to speak with a bee broker at great length.  Early into our meeting I realized Joe retained a wealth of information regarding honey bees, pollination, California agriculture, and the bee brokering business.  Joe started Scientific Ag Co. in 1973 and has been providing advice and pollination services ever since.  I sat with him on his deck talking bees, almonds and forage until lunch.  Some of our conversation I will share with you here...

Billy Synk
Director of Pollination Programs

Focus on Forage
In April we finished up a Best Management Practices Specialty Crop Block Grant and this month a honey bee forage grant.  The forage grant's objective was to build bee health while developing honey bee habitat.  We evaluated low-moisture-requiring wildflower and oilseed crops in several regions of California.  The grant helped us to reach out to over 4,400 individuals in 50 different presentations on the importance of diverse flowering resources to bee nutrition status and health, receiving national attention and even an invitation to the White House.  PAm's efforts are  mentioned in the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees.  The grant helped us fund research at CSU Fresno and at UC Davis.  At UCD, Dr. Neal Williams was the lead scientist.  Look for a searchable online database of Honey Plants of California to be released this fall.   For more information on PAm's honey bee forage efforts, visit the Forage Tab on our website. 

The Word From Wardell
Dr. Gordon Wardell
Summer is winding down and I can't think of a better way to bring the beekeepers perspective to this newsletter than through the words John Miller shared with me last week.  John is a fourth generation North Dakota commercial beekeeper, almond pollinator, bee forage advocate, past President of the California State Beekeepers Association and CFO of Project Apis m.   
John writes:  "The last good honey days of 2015 in the Dakotas occurred August 12th-15th.  It's been an uneven season, as it always is in the Dakotas.  Some areas of the state didn't get enough rainfall to sustain the sweet clover bloom.  In many areas, sweet clover and alfalfa got the bees off to a good start.  We are now in late season and beekeepers' attention is on preparing hives for the rigors of the pollination season, just a short six months away.
Varroa counts are now increasing rapidly. Honey gathering has fallen as blossoms dry.  Hives are gathering lots of pollen, packing the basement instinctively for the long dearth of nectar and pollen. Hives now convert to scarcity model from abundance model. Further, as hives stop rearing drones, the favored host of Varroa, the mites are moving into worker brood.  Worker brood has a shorter incubation time than drones.  Parasitized worker bees have short, unproductive lives even in the winter when bees typically live longer.  
Without control, hives enter fall with high mite loads.  Years of data prove such hives will perish.  This fall season is a critical time for beekeepers to finish the harvest, and address hive-health issues.
Good, strong hive clusters, back-grounded with appropriate treatments for diseases of the brood, and Varroa have higher survival rates for that long period from September to February 15, when the first blooms of spring, usually mustard, where available, or almond bloom begins.
Beekeepers will supplement hives with feed syrup, protein products, and medications.  These activities are expensive, and labor intensive.  The reward to both almond growers and beekeepers is robust, well provisioned hives ready to go when pollination season begins."  (John Miller, 2015)
John's admonition about Varroa mite management is critical. If you do regular monitoring during the year you should double your monitoring efforts this time of year even if you treat for mites at the appropriate time.  You may be taking care of your mite situation but your neighbors may not be so rigorous and your clean bees could bring all of those wayward mites back to your operation.  
See below the Honey Bee Health Coalition's guide to effective Varroa mite sampling and control to help beekeepers think through their mite management strategy.  The guide explains practical, effective methods to monitor mites in your colonies. It helps interpret your findings and suggests treatments based on infestation level and where the bees are in the yearly cycle.  Mite control measures are broken down by the four population phases of a colony, Dormant Phase, Population Increase, Population Peak and Population Decrease.  This is an informative, educational synopsis of Varroa mite control that discusses chemical interventions and 'soft' controls including organic acids, essential oils.  The guide is definitely worth reviewing.   

Dr. Gordon Wardell
Chairman, Project Apis m.

In This Issue:
We THANK our recent donors!
Scientific Ag Co.
Indonesian Imports, Inc.
Kona Queen Hawaii, Inc.
Lockhart Fine Foods

Tools for Varroa Management

The Honey Bee Health Coalition has completed the first edition of 'Tools for Varroa Management, A Guide to Effective Sampling & Control.'  The guide lays out an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy for managing Varroa mite infestations; including how to monitor mite levels, chemical and non-chemical methods to control the mites, and methods to determine which treatment is appropriate for a beekeeper to use at different phases in a colony's life cycle.   To view a press release click hereTo view the Guide click here.  

August Bee Husbandry
* Inspect and Monitor for Varroa - check often
-  Be aware that strong colonies in mid-Summer can be highly infested with Varroa mites and can crash late-Summer and Fall.

Inspect and monitor for Nosema - check often
-  Be aware that Nosema in the presence of high Varroa mite levels can compromise colony health.

- Nutrition in the form of natural forage can be limited in late summer.

- When floral resources are inadequate, feed bees sugar syrup and pollen substitutes to improve colony survival and performance.

- Project Apis m. has videos on Varroa, Nosema and Nutrition - check them out!

Honey bee on Horsemint 
(Lemon Bee Balm) 
8,000 ft elevation, Arizona mountains, August

Indian Blanketflower (Gaillardia pulchella) growing taller than Shane! This plant is loved by honeybees (and to be picked by 4-year-olds). Very drought tolerant and easy to grow; produces an amber buttery tasting honey.

Project Apis m. | |
6775 Chardonnay Rd
Paso Robles, CA 93446

Project Apis m. is a 501 (c) (5) non-profit organization.