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  April 2016
Christi's Corner
Between now and Saturday, please take a few minutes to make sure you are heard.  If we are going to fight on behalf of bees and beekeepers, we need to know how you and your bee operation are doing.  Click here for the BIP National Colony Loss and Management Survey or click here to print out the survey as an aid and in preparation for entering your information online.  Did you treat your colonies? Did you lose a few colonies? A lot of colonies?  There's considerable talk about colony losses; these surveys are the ONLY WAY we can tell what really happened.  Your results will be kept anonymous.  We need you to report by this Saturday, April 30.  Send this to your beekeeper neighbor too!  Thank you for taking the time to do the survey.  It's important!

Christi Heintz
Executive Director  

Billy's Blog
Planting forage is a great way to improve the short and long-term health of honey bees.  The nectar provided by flowers is energy for the adult bees.  The pollen bees collect from forage provides protein and nutrients to the brood that supplement patties cannot.  For the beekeeper, there is no reason not to plant forage.  However, beekeepers don't often have enough land to make planting forage worthwhile.  If they do own land, their bees are often off site pollinating all the food we eat.  So for part of the season, we rely on landowners, farmers, ranchers, and orchardists to plant other forms of food for our bees.  These non-beekeepers who plant forage have to weigh the benefits and costs before making it part of their yearly routine.  Here at Project Apis m. we take seriously the reservations some may have about bee forage cover crops or hedgerows.   A valid concern for an almond grower, for example, is competition between the cover crop and the almond blossoms.
Our Seeds for Bees program was responsible for over 3,000 acres of bee forage being planted here in California this year. That is equal to 7,669,324,000 seeds that bloomed to provide food for honey bees.  Those are a lot of flowers!  Growers pay good money for bees to be in their orchards pollinating the trees, not cover crop flowers.  
Mustard forage
Let me assure you, cover crops in orchards will not hurt almond yields.  This is more than an opinion.  This is a fact.  Almonds provide bees with large quantities of high protein pollen in a relatively small area, making it very easy for bees to collect.  Bees want to work almonds more than anything else on the landscape.  The anthers on the almond flower readily display the pollen, making it very attractive to honey bees.  A nice open, easily accessible flower is what they prefer.  In contrast, the hard-to-get pollen on the cover crop, located on the ground, is less appealing.  Honey bees want to fly the least amount of distance, do the least amount of work, and get the highest protein pollen available.  This means honey bees have a preference for almond pollen over anything that is provided by the Seeds for Bees program.  Bees generally have worked all the pollen from almond trees by mid-afternoon; then they switch their focus to other pollen sources.  There is one species of Phacelia I know of that bees do prefer over almonds.  We made sure not to include this particular plant in any of our Seed for Bees seed mixes. 
The research to back up these claims has been done by scientists at the UC Davis Williams Lab.  Ideally, I wanted to share that data with you all this month.  Unfortunately, this work is not published yet.  Dr. Neal Williams, Kimiora Ward, and Ola Lundin have been repeating this research over multiple years to ensure they have sound data.  Once they finish their work I will revisit this topic.
Billy Synk
Director of Pollination Programs

Danielle's Discourse
I joined PAm in 2016, but since that time I have reviewed 62 proposals requesting funding for honey bee research. This includes projects submitted for consideration by PAm in Canada and the US, Healthy Hives 2020 initiative, Almond Board of California, and some ad-hoc reviews for the Honey Bee Health Coalition. This is a small snapshot of the process, but even so, some of the proposals were duplicates - good ones and bad ones. The field of bee research and available funding is not large enough to avoid overlapping requests, which creates redundancies in the process. This wastes time and money for all of us. It is inefficient. There is an opportunity here to use our close networks as an advantage. What if research proposals were submitted once, to a coordinated process to distribute them for consideration by potential funders? 
At a minimum, this would save the time of repeated submission and review for all involved. When optimized, this process would facilitate harmonizing projects and identifying opportunities for synergy amongst working groups. Everybody stands to win, resources are conserved, communication and networks are strengthened, and progress is accelerated. PAm is a leader in this process, and we have been discussing the potential of this idea with several industry leaders, so far the response has been positive. PAm, Almond Board, AHPA, ABF, BIP, CBBA, CSBA, HBHC, NAPPC, NHB, State Dept's of Ag, State Beekeeping Associations, University Outreach Programs, commodity groups, corporate agriculture, private donors, etc... could band together to seamlessly fund bee research.  PAm feels strongly that we can streamline honey bee research efforts, and we invite your cooperation.

Danielle Downey
Director of Operations

The Word From Wardell
Dr. Gordon Wardell
I'm very fortunate to live on the Central Coast of California, especially this year.  El Nino didn't deliver all that was promised, but at least we received some good rains on the coast and may even get a little more rain as spring wears on.  The bloom on the coast is better than we have seen in several years.  The coastal hills are vivid with the pastels of the mustard, the bluish purple of phacelia and the orange of the California poppy...all on a backdrop of the green hills.  Definitely a pleasant site after the dry spring we encountered....Finish reading the update here.

Dr. Gordon Wardell
Chairman, Project Apis m.

Sampling in Florida (Photo courtesy of the Bee Informed Partnership, Anthony Nearman)

Did We Hit the Jackpot?
"This could be a game changer for honey bee colony health," says Grass Valley beekeeper and biologist Randy Oliver.  "Dr. Stephen Martin may have hit the jackpot."  Randy, as a PAm science advisor, brought Dr. Martin's research proposal to PAm and encouraged our organization to fund this research.  It was money well spent, to discover variants in Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and to better understand the interaction between DWV and Varroa.  Click here to read the article we published in Almond Facts.  

Our New PAm Board Members
 Gary Shilling

Pat Heitkam

Quick Links
New PAm Board Members 
We THANK our Recent Donors!
Hongmei Liu
Lockhart Fine Foods
Michael Ebersole 
Veronica Swarens
Root Candles
Olivarez Honey Bees
Scientific Ag Co. 
Greg Butler 
Daniel Howe

The BIP Box

A busy April...and, as always, a challenging month for weather
As we wait for the pesticide analyses of bee bread samples taken from colonies in almonds during February and March, our teams are gearing up for a very busy season.
It is always fascinating to follow crop pollination events, find out who is making splits, how queen production is faring and what weather patterns are either cooperating or wreaking havoc.
So far in April, both nosema and Varroa loads have remained low, averaging across all tech teams at 0.73 million spores/bee and 0.31 mites/100 bees, respectively.
Here is the news from our tech teams across the country.

Texas beekeepers are trying to weather the storm in East and Southeast Texas. The Houston area received up to 16 inches of rain within two days earlier this week; rain is still coming and water levels still rising. Many people have been evacuated from their homes, and the governor of Texas has declared a state of emergency in 9 counties so far. We are all hoping that the bees (and everyone else) will stay safe and dry. The big push for splitting and re-queening colonies is pretty much completed here in Texas, and beekeepers are checking back on their queens and hoping to make a good honey crop this late spring and summer (if it ever dries out!).

Northern California queen breeders are in the middle of grafting season and there has been good mating weather for the queens. There was a flash almond bloom this year which has caused the colonies to grow a little slower coming out of the orchards. Some colonies didn't have time to collect a lot of pollen and others plugged out quickly and the queen ran out of room to lay. This has made it difficult to get enough bulk bees while shaking for packages, but things are catching up due to the abundance of mustard and other flowers.

Early spring weather has been favorable with warm and dry conditions accelerating cherry and pear blooms in the Columbia Gorge. As pollination of those crops is wrapping up, many bees have been moved into blueberry fields in western Oregon. Beekeepers are also producing nucs and packages for distribution to the hobbyist market. The long-range forecast is for a return to cooler conditions with some rain for the remainder of the month and into early May.

An unseasonably warm spring is turning the plants green, with dandelions in full-on bloom around Minneapolis. Some beekeepers are in their winter locations in the deep South or the West applying treatments or doing check-backs to see if their queens were accepted, mated, and laying. Others are pollinating crops along the West Coast. Others yet are bringing loads of bees back to the Midwest. The last spring frost generally occurs around May 23 in Jamestown, ND, so there will be a few chilly days ahead. 

In Florida, a majority of the beekeepers have already treated for mites but some are just starting to treat before the Gallberry bloom.  It has been colder than normal over the past month which has slowed the buildup of colonies.  Beekeepers in areas with Tupelo are in high hopes for a good honey flow this year since there has not been a great flow in a number of years.  Small hive beetle seems to be under control now but will persist in the fall, especially with weaker, struggling hives.  Bears in northern Florida still threaten colonies, requiring beekeepers to make many round trips checking batteries in fenced apiaries.

 Bee Husbandry
-  Requeen, maintaining genetic quality to meet your objectives.
-  Select stocks that are productive and disease and pest resistant.
-  Encourage high drone densities during mating season to provide well-mated queens and genetically diverse crops.
-  Discourage stocks that are excessively defensive.
Control swarming by making nucs, splits or adding another super. 
-  Check hives for pests and diseases.  Early detection is key!
-  Use diagnostic services for objective colony assessment.
-  Follow guidelines for thresholds of Varroa and Nosema.  Treat when you have reached that threshold. 

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

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