2006 OBA Tech-Transfer Program Research Projects/Programs

2006 Overview

Alison Skinner, Janet Tam and Melanie Kempers

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

1. Maintenance of Tracheal Mite Resistant Honey Bee Stocks

Seven bee breeders participated in the tracheal mite resistance testing. One assay was completed in early September, evaluating 72 colonies for the resistance trait. Bee breeders are advised to use the top 25% of their resistant stock in their breeding programs.

2. Maintenance of the Hygienic Trait in Ontario Bee Stocks

In July and August, 12 bee breeders participated in the testing of potential breeder colonies for hygienic behaviour. 304 colonies were tested using the liquid nitrogen freeze kill method. Colonies which ranked in Group 1 (>75% of killed brood cells removed) and Group 2 (50-75% of killed brood cells removed) are recommended for use as breeders for varroa mite and brood disease resistance. Hygienic colonies were included in the 2006 tracheal mite resistance testing.

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

Queens were submitted by five Ontario bee breeders for evaluation. Twenty-seven 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 estimated. Monitoring the queen health will ensure the quality queens produced in Ontario.

4. Health Status of Colonies Tested in the Breeding Program

Bee samples were taken from 145 potential breeder colonies from six bee breeders and stored in ethanol. Additional sample delivery is expected in November. Varroa and tracheal mite infestation levels and the presence of nosema spores will be determined. The results of this survey will indicate the health of the colonies and will highlight problem areas that can be corrected. Monitoring the health of breeder colonies will ensure the quality of the bee stock produced in Ontario.

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

1. Spring Oxalic Acid / Mite-AwayII™ Treatment Comparison

In March, 106 colonies in two locations were divided into four treatment groups: a single trickled oxalic acid application (n=43), two trickled oxalic acid applications, ten days apart (n=43), a Mite-AwayII™ (formic acid) treatment (n=10) and no treatment (control)(n=10). Varroa mite infestation was determined using the alcohol wash method pre-treatment, ten days after treatment and 24 days after treatment.

2. Spring Oxalic Acid / Mite-Wipe™ Treatment Comparison

In March, 113 colonies in a single location were divided into five treatment groups: a single trickled oxalic acid application (n=23), two trickled oxalic acid applications, 11 days apart (n=22), a single Mite-Wipe™ (formic acid) application (n=23), two Mite-Wipe™ applications, three days apart (n=23) and no treatment (control)(n=22). Varroa mite infestation was determined using the alcohol wash method pre-treatment, 11 days after treatment and 25 days after treatment.

3. Honey Bee Mite Scouting

Mite scouting is a service whereby adult bees are sampled from colonies, disease levels are determined and results are reported back to the beekeeper. In the spring, eight beekeepers participated in the conclusion of a trial mite scouting program supported by the Agricultural Adaptation Council. During March, April and May, 574 colonies located in 45 yards were scouted. In the fall, a pay per service honey bee mite scouting program was launched. 286 colonies were scouted in 31 yards. Samples of adult bees were collected in ethanol and analyzed for varroa mites, tracheal mites and nosema disease. Results were promptly provided to each beekeeper.

4. Resistance Testing

The Pettis test was used to determine the presence of varroa mites resistant to conventional miticides such as Apistan® (fluvalinate) and CheckMite+™ (coumaphos). At times, Bayvarol® (flumethrin) an unregistered treatment, was tested to determine its efficacy in Ontario. In the spring, resistance testing was conducted near Kingston, Ontario, in three bee yards belonging to two beekeepers. In the fall, resistance testing was conducted in 15 bee yards belonging to six beekeepers.

5. Organic Honey Bee Colony Management

The Tech-transfer team and the University of Guelph established an organic beekeeping project in 2003. A combination of soft chemical treatments, cultural management techniques and effective monitoring are used to maintain a bee yard organically. No synthetic chemicals nor antibiotics are used. In the spring and summer of 2006, 24 hour sticky boards and frequent visual examinations were used to monitor for mites and diseases. Organic acids were used to control varroa and tracheal mites. An early fall treatment of Mite-AwayII™ was applied in September. Mite fall was monitored using sticky boards. A late fall treatment of trickled oxalic acid will be applied in November and subsequently monitored.

6. Fall Formic Acid Treatment Comparison

Mite-AwayII™, 3 applications of Mite-Wipe™, 6 applications of Mite-Wipe™ and no treatment (control) were applied to 24 colonies in October (n=6). Three weeks after treatment, Bayvarol® was applied as a finisher treatment for an additional three weeks. Varroa mite fall was monitored during the three weeks of treatment and three weeks of finisher treatment using sticky boards.

7. Two Season Treatment Comparison

This trial was conducted to determine the effects of different combinations of fall and spring treatments on varroa mite levels. Forty-two colonies in a single location were divided into 6 treatment groups (n=7): fall trickled oxalic acid and no spring treatment, fall and spring trickled oxalic acid, fall Mite-AwayII™ and no spring treatment, fall and spring Mite-AwayII™, fall CheckMite™ and no spring treatment and finally, no treatment (control). Mite fall was monitored for three weeks following fall treatments using sticky boards. Colonies will be assessed in the spring of 2007 for strength and mite levels before spring treatment applications. Mite levels, colony strength and honey production will be monitored throughout the summer.

8. Small Hive Beetle

A project has been initiated to prepare for the invasion of the small hive beetle into Ontario. Control methods used in the US will be studied in New York to determine their suitability in Ontario. To date, a background review on the beetle and control methods is underway.

C. Maintaining Food Safety in the Honey Bee Industry:

1. Environmental Contaminants

Research is being conducted on potential environmental sources of honey contamination. Veterinary drugs (primarily sulfonamides) and areas where they may be residual in the environment, thus accessible to foraging bees, are being identified. In the spring of 2006, brood chamber honey samples were taken from colonies which showed positive test results in the fall of 2005. Additional honey samples will be collected from bee colonies in areas at risk. Agricultural practices will also be surveyed in these areas.

2. Sulfonamide Residue Trial

Two single brood chamber colonies were fed sulfa treated sugar syrup in the fall. Honey produced by these two colonies in 2007 will be analyzed for residues.

D. Progressive Training and Information Program for Beekeepers:

1. Beekeeping and Queen Rearing Workshops

Four “Introductory Beekeeping with an Emphasis on IPM” workshops were held in Frankford (May), Guelph (June), Oro Station (June) and in Casselman (July). Another workshop, “Introductory Queen Rearing” was conducted twice, in Frankford (May) and Guelph (June). The workshops consisted of classroom presentations accompanied by hands-on sessions in the bee yard.

2. Business Skills for Beekeepers

Beekeepers need access to business management training to augment their beekeeping skills. In most bee operations, management decisions are being made without the proper background information. The proposed training sessions would provide the hands-on learning which would teach beekeepers to keep proper financial records and make educated management decisions. The two-day workshop will take place early in the winter of 2007.