2004 OBA Tech-Transfer Program Research Projects/Programs

2004 Overview

Alison Skinner, Janet Tam and Rachel Bannister

A. Breeding and Maintaining Parasitic Mite Resistant Honey Bee Stocks:

1. Maintenance of Tracheal Mite Resistant Honey Bee Stocks

Ten bee breeders participated in the tracheal mite resistance testing. Two assays were completed in early September, evaluating a total of 77 colonies for the resistance trait. Bee breeders will be advised to use the top 25% of the resistant lines in their breeding programs.

2. Maintenance of the Hygienic Trait in the Ontario Bee Stocks

In August and September, 12 bee breeders participated in hygienic testing of potential breeder colonies. 231 colonies were tested using the liquid nitrogen freeze kill method. Colonies ranking in Group 1 (>75% of killed brood cells removed) and Group 2 (50-75% of killed brood cells removed) can be used as breeders for varroa resistance. The most hygienic of the colonies were included in the 2004 tracheal mite resistance testing.

3. Incorporation of the Suppression of Mite Reproduction (SMR) Trait into the Ontario Bee Stocks

The Suppression of Mite Reproduction (SMR) trait is the third selection characteristic for parasitic mite resistance in honey bee stocks in Ontario. This trait has not yet been established in Ontario’s breeding program. In August and September, 42 frames from potential breeder colonies were collected from 5 beekeepers and frozen for later examination. Cells containing tan stage pupae with purple eyes will be uncapped until 30 cells containing mites are found or until 500 cells are opened, whichever comes first. Colonies which exhibit the trait will be included in the 2005 breeding program.

4. Survey of the Quality of Honey Bee Queens from Ontario Breeders

A diseased, injured or poorly mated queen is not able to sustain a colony. Twenty-three queens and their attendants were evaluated for the presence of tracheal mites and nosema spores. The queens were also examined for physical damage and the number of sperm in the spermatheca were counted. Each of the 4 participating breeders will be provided with his/her results. The results will ensure Ontario queen quality and will highlight problem areas that can be corrected. The survey will improve the marketability of Ontario queens in Canada and the US.

5. The Importation of Russian Honey Bee Eggs into Ontario

The tech-transfer program is working with the Russian honey bee breeder to establish a sustainable Russian breeding program in Ontario. The province is continuing the importation of Russian genetics. The Russian lines are maintained by the breeder in Ontario and further selected for economic and mite resistance characteristics. This was the first year that the Russian stock was available to beekeepers across Canada. In 2004, two new lines of Russian honey bees were released by USDA-APHIS. Russian honey bee eggs representing these lines were imported from Lisbon, New York, to a quarantine facility in Moose Creek, Ontario. The queens were mated with Russian drones in the isolated mating yard of the Russian bee breeder.

6. Health Status of Colonies Tested in the Breeding Program

Samples were taken from 129 potential breeder colonies of 7 bee breeders and stored in alcohol. The levels of varroa and tracheal mite infestation and the presence of nosema spores will be determined. The results of this survey will indicate the health of the colony to the beekeeper and will highlight problem areas that can be corrected. Monitoring the health of breeder colonies will ensure the quality of queens produced in Ontario.

B. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program to Control Honey Bee Parasitic Mites:

1. Determining Formic Acid Efficacy on Varroa Mites in the Spring

Formic acid was evaluated for its efficacy as a treatment applied in the spring. 15 of the 30 colonies in the trial remained untreated as a control group and Mite-AwayII™ was applied to the remaining colonies. After three weeks of treatment, CheckMite+™ was used to determine total mite population. Ambient and hive temperatures were also recorded and pads were weighed to determine acid evaporation rates. The number of frames of bees and brood was monitored before treatment, after three weeks of Mite-AwayII™ treatment and after an additional three weeks of treatment with CheckMite+™.

2. Improving Oxalic Acid Efficacy on Varroa Mites in the Fall

In October and November, oxalic acid will be applied to bee colonies with both single and double brood chambers. Efficacy and colony strength will be monitored.

3. Coumaphos Resistance Test

Trials were conducted in Grenville, Dundas and Stormont Counties using the Pettis test to evaluate the varroa for CheckMite+™ and Apistan® resistance. CheckMite+™ resistance was found. The beekeepers were provided with their results and an alternate form of treatment was suggested. Pettis testing was also completed in Wellington county. No CheckMite+™ resistance was found.

4. Fall Treatment Comparison

Five treatments and a control were applied to 30 colonies in October. The five treatments were; MiteAwayII™, Apistan®, CheckMite+™, trickled oxalic acid and vaporized oxalic acid. The efficacy of each treatment was determined using week-long sticky boards for a period of three weeks, followed by three weeks with CheckMite+™ as a finisher treatment.

5. Organic Beekeeping Practices

This project is being completed in conjunction with Dr. Ernesto Guzman and Paul Kelly of the University of Guelph. Forty-five colonies have been established on an organic farm and are being managed organically. Different combinations of organic treatments (Mite-AwayII™ and oxalic acid) and cultural techniques for varroa mite control are being evaluated. These include the removal of drone brood, interruption of brood rearing and the use of a screened bottom board. Honey production from each of the treatment groups was recorded. Knowledge of colony mite levels is essential to manage a colony without the use of conventional chemicals. Colonies were monitored using a 24 hr sticky board, ether roll, sugar dust, alcohol wash and uncapping drone brood. The data collected will be used to determine the relationship between each of the monitoring techniques and the 24 hr sticky board, as well as to determine similarities between colony samples taken from the brood chamber and the honey super.