2007 OBA Tech-Transfer Program Research Projects/Programs

2007 Overview

Alison Skinner, Janet Tam and Melanie Kempers

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

1. Maintenance of the Hygienic Trait in Ontario Bee Stocks

In July, August and September, 12 bee breeders participated in the testing of potential breeder colonies for hygienic behaviour. 295 bee 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.

2. Health Status of Colonies Tested in the Breeding Program

Bee samples were collected from 150 potential breeder colonies from 4 bee breeders and stored in ethanol. Additional sample delivery is expected in November. Varroa and tracheal mite infestation levels will be determined and samples will be checked for nosema spores. 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. Two Season Treatment Comparison

This trial was conducted to determine the effects of different combinations of fall and spring treatments on varroa mite levels. It was initiated in the fall of 2006 and was completed this spring. 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. Colony strength and mite levels were assessed in the spring prior to and following treatment applications.

2. Monitoring Regimes for Honey Bee Colony Health in Response to High Winter Losses in Ontario

High colony mortality was experienced by beekeepers in certain areas of Ontario in the winter of 2006-2007. As a result, a survey of colony health and beekeeping practices was conducted around the province. Sixty-four bee yards from 25 beekeeping operations were surveyed. From these yards, 450 live colonies were sampled and 37 samples were taken from colonies which had died, for a total of 487 samples. Samples were tested for varroa mites, tracheal mites and nosema disease. Samples showing high levels of nosema spores were sent away for testing to determine the strain of Nosema (Nosema apis or Nosema ceranae).

3. Honey Bee Mite Scouting

Mite scouting is a pay per service program whereby adult bees are sampled from colonies, disease levels are determined and results are reported back to the beekeeper. In the spring, 5 beekeepers participated in the mite scouting program. During March and April, 281 colonies located in 39 yards were scouted. In August and September, 460 colonies from 8 beekeepers were scouted in 63 yards. Samples of adult bees were collected in ethanol and analyzed for varroa mites, tracheal mites and nosema disease.

4. Mid-Season “Flash” Formic Acid Treatment Preliminary Trial

16 varroa mite infested bee colonies in 3 yards were treated with Mite-AwayII™ (n=6), Mite-AwayII™ with a hivetop feeder in place (n=4) and no treatment (n=6). Treatments were applied on August 17th and removed on August 20th. Adult bee samples were taken on August 7 and on August 20 and varroa mite levels were monitored using the alcohol wash method. Sticky boards were used to monitor varroa mite drop over the 3 day treatment period.

5. 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). In August, September and October, resistance testing was conducted in 5 bee yards in Middlesex and Wellington counties and Niagara and Halton regions.

6. Organic Beekeeping Practices

The OBA Tech-Transfer Program 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 or antibiotics are used. In the 2007 season, 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. In the fall, colonies were divided into 4 treatment groups: early fall Mite-AwayII™, early fall Mite-AwayII™ and late fall oxalic acid, early and late fall oxalic acid and late fall oxalic acid. Early fall treatments were applied on September 20th. Mite fall was monitored using weekly sticky boards. Late fall treatments will be applied in November and subsequently monitored.

7. Small Hive Beetle

Small hive beetle control methods used in the US were studied in 2 bee yards in Corfu, New York to determine their suitability in Ontario. The West trap, Hood trap, parasitic nematodes and a bottom board trap using CheckMite+™ were applied on August 2nd and removed on September 13th. Regular inspections were conducted to count trapped beetles and to determine beetle abundance in the colonies.

8. Timing of Treatment Application Trial

Mite-AwayII™, Apistan®, CheckMite+™, 6 applications of Mite-Wipe™ and no treatment (control) were applied to 50 bee colonies (n=10) at three different times. After three weeks of treatment, a finisher treatment was applied for an additional 3 weeks. The first treatments were applied at the end of August in the Niagara area (Apistan® was used as the finisher), the second treatments were applied at the end of September in Halton Region (Apistan® was used as the finisher) and the third set of colonies were treated at the end of October, in the Guelph area. Varroa mite levels were monitored by sampling adult bees from each colony before treatment, post-treatment and post-finisher treatment, and conducting an alcohol wash on each sample.

9. Tower Trial

A preliminary trial has been initiated to examine the practicality of adjacent bee colonies sharing a “tower” of honey supers. This allows for easy access to the brood chamber for the drone brood trapping method of varroa mite control. In 2008, mite levels, queen survival and honey production will be monitored.

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 were collected from bee colonies in areas at risk in August 2007 and agricultural practices in the area were surveyed.

D. Progressive Training and Information Program for Beekeepers:

1. Business Skills for Beekeepers Workshop

A business management workshop for beekeepers was conducted to promote good management practices and to offer the skills necessary to run an efficient beekeeping business. The two-day workshop was held on February 19th & 20th, and included topics such as financial record keeping, management decision making, hiring an employee, offshore labour program, taxation essentials, food safety and traceability, group liability insurance and other farm insurance needs, time management and planning, honey house set-up and the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS) Program. The lecture material and handouts were compiled in binders for the participants and was also made available to people who were unable to attend the workshop. An evening social took place at the same location on the evening of February 19th and gave the attendees a chance to interact with other members of the beekeeping community.

2. Beekeeping and Queen Rearing Workshops

Three “Introductory Beekeeping with an Emphasis on IPM” workshops were held in Frankford (May) and Guelph (May and June). Another workshop, “Introductory Queen Rearing” was conducted twice, in Guelph (May) and Embrun (June). The workshops consisted of classroom presentations accompanied by hands-on sessions in the bee yard. A total of 103 people attended these five workshops in 2007.