2011 OBA Tech-Transfer Program Research Projects/Programs

2011 Overview

Les Eccles, Janet Tam, Melanie Kempers, Jessica Morris & Devan Rawn

Funding sources are provided in brackets

TTP = OBA Tech-Transfer Program;

FIP = Farm Innovation Program;

CAAP = Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program;

OMAFRA = special funding from OMAFRA;

KTT = OMAFRA/U of G Knowledge, Translation and Transfer Program

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

1. Maintenance of the Hygienic Trait in Ontario Bee Stocks (TTP)

Hygienic behaviour is important for mite and disease resistance within a colony. Colonies which ranked in Group 1 (>80% of killed brood cells removed) and Group 2 (60-80% of killed brood cells removed) were recommended for use as breeders for the subsequent generation. In May, the liquid nitrogen freeze kill method was used to test hygienic behaviour on 18 potential breeder colonies for one bee breeder. In August and September, 271 colonies were tested for seven breeders. A total of 289 colonies were tested for eight bee breeders in 2011.

2. Health Status of Colonies Tested in the Breeding Program (TTP)

Honey bee samples were collected from potential breeder colonies. At the time of hygienic behaviour testing, forager bees were collected. Bees were also collected from the brood chamber before treatments were applied in the fall. Varroa and tracheal mite infestation levels were determined and nosema spore levels analyzed as an indication of the health of the colonies. Monitoring the health of breeder colonies will ensure the quality of the bee stock produced in Ontario. As of late November, samples from 290 potential breeder colonies from eight bee breeders have been submitted for nosema and tracheal mite testing and 188 samples have been submitted from six bee breeders for varroa mite testing. Additional sample delivery is expected.

3. Improving Queen Honey Bee Quality and Honey Bee Breeding Selection (CAAP)

This project deals with breeding in three parts: Honey bee breeders in Ontario are striving to improve their stock and selection methods/criteria. Training and education will be provided to breeders about different breeding program types, methods, and techniques. Professionals will be consulted for advice and ideas to improve bee breeding programs and the quality of queens produced in Ontario. Testing for different viruses will be used to determine if selections can be made in this way to develop a degree of natural bee resistance to viruses. Samples of queen bees, emerging adults, larvae and eggs from the same colonies will be sampled for visors testing. Sister queens to the sampled colonies will be used for further breeding and testing. Queen quality can be maintained through regular screening of Ontario produced queens for their mating quality. A reliable method to determine the number and viability of sperm from the queen’s spermatheca will be adopted and adapted as part of the Ontario Honey Bee Breeding Program.

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

1. Honey Bee Mite Scouting (TTP)

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. Samples of adult bees were collected in ethanol and analyzed for varroa mites, tracheal mites and/or Nosema spores. In the spring, 123 samples from 8 bee yards were analyzed for one beekeeper.

2. Organic Beekeeping Practices (TTP)

The OBA Tech-Transfer Program and the University of Guelph established an organic beekeeping practices project in 2003. A combination of soft chemical treatments, cultural management techniques and effective monitoring techniques are used to maintain a bee yard organically. No synthetic chemicals or antibiotics are used. In the 2011 season, 24 hr sticky boards and frequent visual examinations were used to monitor for mites and diseases. Drone brood removal was conducted on a monthly basis. Organic acids were used to control varroa and tracheal mites.

3. Mite-Away Quick Strip (MAQS™) Summer Efficacy Trial (FIP)

A new formic acid-based treatment for varroa mites, the Mite-Away Quick Strip (MAQS™), has been developed for use in Ontario conditions and is going through the process of treatment registration. This treatment can be used during honey collection. In July, 30 mite-infested bee colonies in two bee yards near Alma, ON were treated (n=15) with MAQS™ or no treatment (control). Honey supers were present on each colony during the trial. Traps to collect dead bees were installed in one yard, on 7 colonies from each treatment group. Varroa mite levels were monitored using alcohol wash samples and 24 hr sticky boards before treatment and on days 7 and 28 after treatment. Daily sticky boards were used to monitor mite drop during the first week of treatment. Before treatment and on days 3, 7 and 28, the colonies were examined for all stages of brood and for queen presence. On day 3 of treatment, brood from colonies in one yard was uncapped and examined for mite mortality. Survival of adult and immature mites was recorded.

4. Mite-Away Quick Strip (MAQS™) Fall Efficacy Trial (FIP)

Thirty varroa mite-infested bee colonies in one bee yard near Guelph, ON were treated (n=10) with MAQS™, Mite-AwayII™ or no treatment (control) at the end of September. After three weeks, all treatments were removed and Bayvarol® was used as a finisher treatment for two weeks. Varroa mite levels were monitored before treatment using alcohol wash samples. The colonies were examined for queen presence and all stages of brood before treatment and on days 3, 7 and 21 of treatment. On day 3 of treatment, brood from colonies in one yard was uncapped and examined for mite mortality. Survival of adult and immature mites was recorded. Mite drop was monitored using weekly sticky boards for the 3 weeks of treatment. Weekly sticky boards were used to monitor mite drop during the 2 weeks of finisher treatment.

5. Small Hive Beetle: Management Strategies and Controls (OMAFRA)

With the identification of small hive beetle infestation in Essex County, Ontario, in the fall of 2010, monitoring and control methods were investigated. Different beetle and larvae control traps were evaluated for practicality and effectiveness. An entrance trap was installed on bee colonies in 3 bee yards in May and monitored weekly until the end of October. Collaborating with a M.Sc. student from Laval University in Quebec, three in-hive traps were installed in the same colonies as the entrance traps in early August and monitored weekly until the end of October. Observations of bee colony strength and beetle/larvae population were made throughout the season. Samples of adult bees were taken to determine colony health.

C. Management Practices to Improve Honey Bee Colony Health:

1. Best Management Practices of Pollination Colonies (CAAP)

Honey bee colonies transported long distances for pollination services often return in poor shape. Colonies from Ontario are transported to New Brunswick for blueberry pollination and some colonies also pollinate cranberries before returning. In 2011, four beekeepers participated in a colony management survey. In late July/early August, 350 bee colonies (belonging to the same four beekeepers) in 16 bee yards, which had returned from blueberry/cranberry pollination, were examined for colony weight and strength. Samples of adult bees were taken for testing for colony health. In mid-November, 305 of the same colonies were evaluated and sampled again.

D. Progressive Training and Information Program for Beekeepers:

1. Introductory Beekeeping Workshops (TTP)

“Introductory Beekeeping” workshops were held in Guelph (May), Frankford (June), Port Hope (June) and Embrun (June). A total of 118 people attended these four workshops in 2011.

2. IPM and Beekeeping Workshops (TTP)

“Beekeeping and Integrated Pest Management (IPM)” workshops were conducted in Guelph (May), Port Hope (June) and Embrun (June). A total of 64 people attended these three workshops in 2011.

3. Introductory Queen Rearing Workshop (TTP)

One “Introductory Queen Rearing” workshop was conducted in Casselman in June. A total of 16 people attended this workshop in 2011. All three workshops consisted of classroom presentations accompanied by hands-on sessions in the bee yard.

4. Advisory and Outreach for Apiculture in Ontario (KTT, in conjunction with U of G)

The OBA is cooperating with the University of Guelph to update the Ontario Beekeeping Manual and the Ontario Queen Rearing Manual, and to use the information in these manuals to develop beekeeping fact sheets and instructional videos. These resources will be geared towards training new beekeepers but will also be useful references for experienced beekeepers. In addition, OBA meetings will be made available to those who are unable to attend via live webinar services. In this manner, people in Ontario who are too far from the meeting location or those who are out-of-province or out-of-country can see and listen to the meeting presentations and participate in asking questions.