2008 OBA Tech-Transfer Program Research Projects/Programs

2008 Overview

Alison Skinner, Janet Tam, Melanie Kempers & Jessica Morris

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

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

Hygienic behavior is important for mite and disease resistance within a colony. Colonies which ranked in Group 1 (>75% of killed brood cells removed) and Group 2 (50-75% of killed brood cells removed) were recommended for use as breeders for the subsequent generation. During the months of August and September, the liquid nitrogen freeze kill method was used to test hygienic behavior on 368 potential breeder colonies for 13 bee breeders.

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

Bee breeders collect honey bee samples from the potential breeder colonies, store them in ethanol and submit them for testing. Varroa and tracheal mite infestation levels are 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 mid-November, samples from 162 potential breeder colonies from 7 bee breeders have been submitted. Additional sample delivery is expected in December.

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

Mated queens were received from participating bee breeders for evaluation. The queens and their attendants were evaluated for the presence of varroa mites, tracheal mites and nosema spore levels. The queens were also examined for physical damage and the mating success of the queens was assessed through an estimation of the number of sperm in the spermatheca. In August and September, 21 queens from five breeders were submitted.

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

1. Cost of Production Study (OMAFRA Special Fund)

The collection of information and data related to the management of a honey bee operation will assist in determining the typical cost of production in Ontario. Beekeepers were surveyed for their typical yearly operating costs and prices from suppliers were collected to assist in determining what an average honey bee operation would cost to manage.

2. Mid-Season “Flash” Formic Acid Treatment Trial (OMAFRA Special Fund)

In August, 16 varroa mite infested bee colonies in a yard in Guelph were treated with Mite-AwayII™ (n=4), Mite-AwayII™ with one shallow honey super (n=4), 2 MiteWipes (n=4) and no treatment (n=4) for 3 days. A 24 hr sticky board count was used to determine pre-treatment varroa levels, sticky boards were placed under each colony to monitor varroa drop during the treatment period and another set of 24 hr sticky boards were used to determine post-treatment varroa levels. Post treatment colony strength and queen status was recorded. Two sections of honey comb from control colonies and 6 sections of honey comb from colonies that received Mite-AwayII™ with one shallow honey super were collected for formic acid residue analysis.

3. 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 nosema disease. In the spring, 201 samples from 29 yards for 4 beekeepers were collected and analyzed. In the fall, 631 samples from 59 yards for 4 beekeepers were collected and analyzed.

4. Nosema Treatment Trial/Provincial Nosema Survey (OMAFRA Special Fund)

Nosema apis and Nosema ceranae have become a major concern in the beekeeping industry. Effective treatment of Fumagilin-B is necessary to control the proliferation of nosema within a colony/operation. To determine the efficacy of the administration of Fumagilin-B, adult worker honey bees were collected and analyzed for nosema spore levels from colonies fed with hive top feeders as well as colonies from barrel fed yards. From March to July, 948 samples were collected from 67 honey bee operations in 23 counties across Ontario.

5. Alternative Fumagilin-B Applications (TTP)

As a result of the nosema treatment trial, a trial involving alternative Fumagilin-B treatment applications was developed. Ongoing testing of different application methods for Fumagilin-B, including the use of 2 litre Ziploc baggies, 1 litre Ziploc baggies, a one-time topical application and a two-time topical application are being evaluated. The use of 4 yards in 2008 provided some preliminary insight into the alternative methods for the treatment of nosema. Continued sampling and spore level detection will occur in the spring of 2009.

6. Organic Beekeeping Practices (AAC)

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 techniques are used to maintain a bee yard organically. No synthetic chemicals or antibiotics are used. In the 2008 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.

7. Resistance Testing (TTP)

The Pettis test was used to determine the presence of varroa mites resistant to conventional miticides such as Apistan® (fluvalinate) and CheckMite+™ (coumaphos). In September, resistance testing was conducted in 2 bee yards in Lambton county.

8. Queen Promotion Trial (OMAFRA Special Fund)

The comparison of three popular methods for increasing the number of colonies in a beekeeping operation was conducted. Walk away splits (n=10), queen cell introduction (n=10) and mated queen introduction (n=10) were utilized to create splits within a yard. Queen acceptance, supercedure occurrence, labour requirements as well as colony characteristics such as honey production, fall varroa mite levels and swarming tendencies were analyzed.

9. Timing of Treatment Application Trial (OMAFRA Special Fund)

In the fall of 2007, 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. A spring check was conducted in April of 2008 to assess colony mortality, colony strength, nosema spore levels and varroa mite levels.

10. Monitoring Regimes for Honey Bee Colony Health in Response to High Winter Losses in Ontario (AAC)

High colony mortality was experienced by beekeepers in certain areas of Ontario for the past two winters. As a result, a survey of colony health and beekeeping practices was conducted around the province in 2007 and 487 samples of honey bees were collected and analyzed 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). To ascertain further information regarding honey bee mortality, samples of adult honey bees were collected, placed on ice dry and selectively sent away for virus analysis. A total of 143 samples were collected from 34 yards for 21 beekeepers in 15 counties. Of those 143 samples, 42 were assessed for virus identification.

C. Maintaining Food Safety in the Honey Bee Industry:

1. Environmental Contaminants (AAC)

Research involving potential environmental sources of honey contamination is being conducted. 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. In 2008, honey comb samples were collected from yards belonging to beekeepers who had experienced a recall for sulfonamides. Fourteen honey comb samples were submitted to the lab for analysis.

D. Progressive Training and Information Program for Beekeepers:

1. Introductory beekeeping, IPM and Queen Rearing Workshops (TTP) Two “Introductory Beekeeping” workshops were held in Guelph (May) and Frankford (June). One “Beekeeping and IPM” workshop was conducted in Guelph (May) and another workshop, “Introductory Queen Rearing” was conducted once, in Guelph (May). The workshops consisted of classroom presentations accompanied by hands-on sessions in the bee yard. A total of 91 people attended these 4 workshops in 2008.