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  February 2016
Christi's Corner
The numbers are staggering.  Nearly 1 million acres of almonds and 2 million colonies of bees in California - the almond bloom is underway!  See quick links in this enewsletter to follow the progress of bloom.  Meanwhile we have no shortage of honey bee health issues that confront beekeepers.  They've worked very hard to bring strong colonies to almonds and have invested much in feeding, transportation, treatment and labor costs.  Project Apis m. is at the forefront of helping bees and beekeepers.  New sponsors, grants and donations (see below) are being funneled into improving honey bee health.  A project we are very excited about is the sponsorship of our 2nd PAm-Costco PhD Scholar.  We have received applications from many well-qualified graduate students from our top universities.  We'd like to sponsor all of them!  The future looks bright with the science background, interest, and enthusiasm these young scientists exhibit to help us solve honey bee challenges!  Building honey bee research capacity is important to Project Apis m.!

Christi Heintz
Executive Director  

Billy's Blog
Varroa destructor, or simply Varroa, is a mite that can be harmful anytime of the year.  Springtime is when the mite populations are at the lowest, but this doesn't mean monitoring can be ignored. This is a reason our Bee Husbandry section suggests monitoring every month.  It is that important!  Varroa's damage to bee colonies is often delayed.  At a quick glance, colonies with high mite loads might seem fine, but once several rounds of compromised brood emerge the population will decrease dramatically. Varroa mites also carry and spread diseases so all bees in the hive are affected.  Click here to read more.  

Billy Synk
Director of Pollination Programs

Danielle's Discourse
Project Apis m. is now international!
Through PAm, Costco USA has been a leader investing in bee research and supporting scholars to secure a brighter bee future. Our success got the attention of Costco Canada, where PAm is now implementing a similar program! Of course many concerns about bee health are similar for our Canadian neighbors, and there is growing awareness at all levels: it's time to gather stakeholders, assess the situation, and find  solutions. In January, I attended the Canadian Bee Health Round Table meeting in Ottawa. This government-sponsored effort has stakeholder attendance similar to the USA Honey Bee Health Coalition (where PAm also has members on several committees). Their mission: to facilitate the continued growth of a healthy, innovative, and profitable apiculture sector in Canada. It was valuable to introduce PAm, meet those involved from all over Canada, and see their approach to the problems bees are facing. We all want the same thing- more sustainable beekeeping- so it's a win/win to harmonize and strengthen our efforts! 

Danielle Downey
Director of Operations

The Word From Wardell
Dr. Gordon Wardell
Just when I thought the year couldn't get any stranger - it does.  The threat of a strong El Niņo year has produced good snow pack in the Sierras but not much rain in the San Joaquin Valley yet.  Last week a high pressure center parked itself over the region and temperatures soared to as much as 20 degrees above normal.  Almond bloom came on so fast it was hard to comprehend. The warm temperatures make great flying weather for the bees which is important in a compressed bloom.   Good flight weather and varietal overlap should set a good crop this year if everything holds.  

Most beekeepers I have spoken with report that their bees are having problems of one sort or another this year.  Holding yards are stacked with piles of equipment where the bees looked good early in the season but they started going backwards in January and just didn't make it to bloom.  Reports of failing queens and colonies that just wouldn't brood up were common.  Normally, bees from the South--and in particular Florida--have thriving populations and big brood nests for pollination.  Not this year.  Mites, hive beetles and inconsistent forage took their toll.  Even with supplemental feeding, the bees didn't respond with the normal big brood patterns.  When asked, it's hard for the beekeepers to put their finger on the cause.  It is certainly a strange year.

In the last PAm newsletter, I prognosticated that the bee supply might be tight this year but should be sufficient. In the last couple weeks, I've given several talks at grower meetings, and at each one I asked if anyone had trouble finding colonies, nobody raised their hands.  While there are reports of almond growers not able to find bees for their ranches, I would have to say it's the exception not the rule. The reports I've heard of shortages came from the central and northern part of the San Joaquin Valley.   Neither the Almond Board of California nor Blue Diamond report growers calling to report their inability to secure colonies.   Again we have to take our hats off to the American beekeepers who managed to provide colonies for the largest commercial pollination event in the world. Two million colonies in one place (California) at one time.  Pollination is not something that can be outsourced; we can't rely on other countries to do this job for us, our borders are closed to bees on combs.  All of those bees come from this great country.  It's truly amazing when you consider the scope of the undertaking.  While our beekeepers may have had difficulties with their bees this year, I'm certain they will identify the problems, bounce back, and continue to provide honey, hive products and pollination that is an inspiration to our agriculture industry and the world.

Dr. Gordon Wardell
Chairman, Project Apis m.

Bee Organizations Commit to Helping Bees Via Project Apis m.

Bee associations and clubs across the US are supporting honey bee research through Project Apis m.  In the past 7 months, several clubs from California to New Hampshire have entrusted PAm with funding to solve honey bee problems.  Topping the list, was a generous contribution from Idaho Honey Industry Association.  Wisconsin Honey Producers Association, Montana State Beekeepers, and Los Angeles County Beekeepers were significant contributors to PAm.  St. Croix Beekeepers, California State Beekeepers, Wyoming Beekeepers Association, South Dakota Beekeepers Association, and the New Hampshire Beekeeper Association are also contributing to PAm's honey bee research efforts.  Project Apis m. sincerely thanks those bee clubs and associations who want to support our hard-working scientific community!

PAm Launches Varroa-Resistant Bee Research
PAm's Director of Operations, Danielle Downey, secured $80,000 from USDA-APHIS to select and improve Varroa-resistant honey bee stocks for commercial beekeepers.  A bee that overcomes Varroa challenges without treatment would be a key development for beekeepers, as long as the Varroa resistant bees are as good or better than currently available commercial stocks with regard to other traits such as colony size, temperament, brood pattern, spring growth rate, swarming and honey production. Stabilizing these traits in mite-resistant bees and getting them adopted by the industry is the goal of this research.  PAm will be working with researchers at the USDA-ARS Bee Breeding Lab (Baton Rouge, LA); beekeeper David Thomas/Hawaii Island Honey Company (Hilo, HI); and Arista Bee Research (Netherlands) to conduct this project.

Quick Links
We THANK our Recent Donors!
Gemperle Enterprises
Brian Silveira
Hiatt Honey LLC
Headwaters Farm
Bayer Crop Science
Stout Farms
Lockhart Fine Foods
Veronica Swarens
Wyoming Beekeepers Assn.
Idaho Honey Producers Assn.
New Hampshire Beekeepers Assn.

The BIP Box
As we write this, most of our BIP-serviced commercial operations are in almonds. The weather has cooperated and, as far as we know, none of our teams got stuck in the mud.  Tech Teams have sampled CA, TX and FL. In general, sampled colonies look good.  But with recent snow-related closures, the Maryland Lab is working on overdrive to process thousands of samples, turning them around as quickly as possible so commercial operations can stay on top of their management plans and receive assurance that their last Varroa treatments worked. 
January averages for Varroa were at 0.70 mites/100 bees from all the teams and are holding at 0.51 mites/100 bees thus far in February.  Those bees coming from the Midwest have slightly higher mite levels, but they are still well below the economic threshold.  Nosema loads spiked in January, with averages from all tech teams at 1.33 billion spores/bee. February averages are slightly lower at 0.89 million spores per bee.
As all beekeepers know, every year is a different year.  We certainly see this in the data on parasite loads. The most successful beekeepers all seem to realize this and have become practiced at rolling with the punches, learning from mistakes, and constantly changing their management practices in response to current realities--which is why regular tech team sampling is an essential part of any modern, successful beekeeping operation.  The only thing constant is change....and Varroa mites.

Not Too Late to Apply for Healthy Hives 2020 Funding
PAm is administering the proposal, accountability and funding process for the Healthy Hives 2020 project (HH2020).  HH2020 is an initiative of the Bayer CropScience Bee Care Program with the goal of improving the health of honey bee colonies in the United States by the year 2020. Click here for the RFP.  Due date is March 1.

Propolis Benefits Touted in UMN Research
Renata Borba, PhD student under Dr. Marla Spivak, recently published her research on propolis in the Journal of Experimental Biology.  Results suggest that using the bees own natural defense mechanism, in the form of a propolis envelope within the hive, builds colony strength and increases colony survival.
PAm was proud to assist in providing financial support for this study.  Click here to read the full article.

 Bee Husbandry
-  Make sure the hive has enough honey frames: if not, feed syrup.
-  Spring is an excellent time to feed thin syrups, 1:1 sugar to water ratio.
-  Thin syrups (pseudo nectar) stimulate wax glands. Wax is needed to draw out cells on new frames.
-  EFB treatments, if needed, should happen well before a honey flow.
-  In warmer climates, hive population will increase rapidly; make sure you are supering the colony before it gets too crowded.
-  Check your mite levels; cooler weather is the only appropriate time for formic or oxalic acid treatment. Use these materials now; other chemicals can be used later in the season when it's warmer.

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

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