2016 OBA Tech-Transfer Program Research Projects/Programs

2016 Research and Activities

The OBA-Tech Transfer Program has had another very active year attending and presenting at more than 40 meetings and running several projects. The support from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and its Apiary program lead by Provincial Apiarist Paul Kozak is a highly valued relationship and greatly appreciated to allow the OBA TTP to exist. Special acknowledgement needs to be giving to the Ontario’s Local Beekeepers’ Associations for their ongoing support and involvement to provide resources and venues for the TTP to deliver knowledge transfer to Ontario beekeepers.

TTP 2016:

Les Eccles - Lead Specialist
Pat Westlake - OBA TTP Administrator
Melanie Kempers - Technical Specialist
Daniel Thurston - Technical Specialist
Daniel Borges - Internship/Technical Specialist
Kelsey Ducsharm - Summer Student
Maria Kolkman - Summer Student

PROJECT TITLE: Ontario Resistant Honey Bee Selections (ORHBS) Program

The Ontario Resistant Honey Bee Selections (ORHBS) program is a long term program with the objective to incorporate and maintain mite resistant characteristics in Ontario’s honey bee stock; 2016 was the 19th year of testing for hygienic behaviour and monitoring for varroa, tracheal mite and nosema resistance. Bee breeders in Ontario selected colonies with favourable characteristics to be tested for tracheal mite resistance and hygienic behaviour. The tracheal mite resistance test (Tracheal Mite Quick Test) has not been performed since 2006 due lack of tracheal mite infested colonies to perform the tests on Ontario breeder colonies. In order to ensure tracheal mite resistance persists, all breeders are thoroughly monitored to ensure no colonies with tracheal mites exist in a breeding program; no positive tracheal mite colonies have been found in the ORHBS program since the last tracheal mite quick test in 2006. Hygienic behaviour is important for mite and disease resistance within a colony. The liquid nitrogen freeze kill method was used to test for hygienic behaviour. Colonies which ranked in Group 1 (>95% of killed brood removed) and Group 2 (75-95% of killed brood removed) were recommended for use as breeders for the subsequent generation. Testing for hygienic behaviour was conducted on 280 potential breeder colonies for 17 bee breeders in 2016.


PROJECT TITLE: Health Status of Colonies Tested in the Breeding Program

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. Samples from 280 potential breeder colonies from 17 bee breeders have will be analysed for nosema, tracheal mite and varroa testing.


PROJECT TITLE: Progressive Training and Information Program for Beekeepers

1. Introductory Beekeeping Workshops (TTP)

Seven “Introductory Beekeeping” workshops were held in Ancaster, Milton, Port Hope, Simcoe (2), Metcalfe, Niagara College in 2016.

2. IPM and Beekeeping Workshops (TTP)

Four “Beekeeping and Integrated Pest Management (IPM)” workshops were conducted in Ancaster, Milton, Metcalfe, Niagara College in 2016.

3. Introductory Queen Rearing Workshop (TTP)

One “Introductory Queen Rearing” workshop was delivered in Clarington in 2016.

4. Ontario Resistant Honey Bee Selection, Queen Breeding Workshop

One “ORHBS Queen Breeding” workshop was delivered in Guelph in 2016

5. Varroa Mite Monitoring Workshops

One “Varroa Mite Monitoring” workshop at OBA/Quinte Beekeepers’ Association Summer Meeting

All workshops consisted of classroom presentations accompanied by hands-on sessions in the bee yard or classroom, with 442 participants in total.


PROJECT TITLE: Small Hive Beetle Knowledge Transfer, Online Learning, Train the Trainer

Activity 1: The recipient shall increase their capacity to deliver more workshops by increasing the number of trainers to deliver in-person courses. The Recipient will increase the number of trainers by a minimum of 5. The recipient will be hiring and training new instructors to deliver workshops, rather than training existing staff. The new trainers will complete a train-the-trainer session. Upon completion of train-the-trainer session, the new trainers will be able to:

• deliver course materials for the following three beekeeping workshops: Introduction to Beekeeping, Integrated Pest Management and Queen Rearing,

• progress through course material in a timely manner, and

• efficiently deliver one-on-one instruction to workshop participants.

Activity 2:

The recipient shall increase capacity through the development of three unique on-line courses aimed at transferring current beekeeping knowledge. The recipient will develop the following three on-line courses:

1. Introduction to Beekeeping – Topics include basic honey bee biology, beekeeping equipment, working in the bee colony, seasonal beekeeper responsibilities, harvesting and extracting honey and preparing bee colonies for winter. Each participant will receive a copy of the Ontario Beekeeping Manual.

2. Integrated Pest Management for Beekeeping – Topics include pest and disease biology and identification, monitoring for pests and diseases, record keeping, treatments and integrated pest management. Each participant will receive a copy of the Integrated Pest Management for Beekeeping in Ontario Manual.

3. Introductory Queen Rearing – Topics include queen biology, methods of rearing queens, preparing a cell builder colony, grafting techniques and care of cells and queens. Each participant will receive a copy of the Ontario Queen Rearing Manual.

The recipient will develop these on-line courses to:

• Contain interactive course materials, such as videos, diagrams and slideshow presentations, and include an online evaluation that participants can complete following the completion of course materials. The evaluation will allow participants to provide feedback on course materials and the value of knowledge gained.

Activity 3:

The Recipient shall deliver a minimum of 3 outreach sessions addressing control and awareness of SHB and the newly launched SHB management strategy.

The Recipient will deliver a minimum of 3 outreach sessions to regional beekeeping associations across Ontario. At these outreach sessions, the Recipient will:

• increase the awareness of beekeepers regarding the impact of SHB;

• educate beekeepers on how to prevent or control SHB in their operations using appropriate BMPs and mitigation strategies;

• inform beekeepers of current industry actions taken to address SHB in Ontario;

• promote the launch of the SHB management strategy; and

• administer a follow-up survey to attendees of the outreach sessions. The survey will determine the value and success of the information delivered in the sessions.



Honey bees are a crucial part of Canadian agriculture, contributing at least $4.6 billion/y: they produce between eighty and ninety thousand tonnes of honey each year and their pollination activities directly support the production of many fruits, nuts and vegetable crops. But the health of honey bees has been declining over the past decade, with Canadian beekeepers losing more than a quarter of their colonies each winter since 2006-07. We often replace these colonies by purchasing bees and queens from offshore but we cannot rely on these sources because of the risk of importing new diseases or invasive strains of honey bees (such as the Africanized ‘killer’ bee). The high colony losses, coupled with the possible loss of access to replacement sources, pose a serious threat to the productivity of major Canadian agri-food industries and jeopardize our food security. Left unchecked, the production and accessibility of fruits, nuts and vegetables will decline. Our team of researchers will improve the health of Canadian honey bees by developing new genomic and proteomic tools that will enable beekeepers to rapidly and cost-effectively breed healthy, disease-resistant, productive bee colonies that are better able to survive our harsh Canadian winters. The availability of high-quality, locally bred honey bees should reduce Canada’s dependence on imported queens. In parallel, we will increase the safety of bee importations by developing an accurate and cost effective assay to detect bees with Africanized genetics. Our research team will work with a large number of beekeepers, industry technology-transfer teams, diagnostic labs and government regulators to ensure that our ‘omic tools are implemented and accessible to the beekeeping industry by the end of the project. Our innovative efforts will help guard the safety and sustainability of the beekeeping industry, ensuring our food security and supporting more than $4 billion in value to the Canadian economy.

Our project is funded in part through Large-Scale Applied Research Project (LSARP) from Genome Canada. Other funding partners include Genome British Colombia, Genome Alberta, Genome Quebec, the University of British Columbia, York University, the BC Ministry of Agriculture, and the BC Honey Producers Association.

START DATE: December 2014

END DATE: December 2018

FUNDING SOURCE: Genome Canada, Partnerships Agreement with York University


PROJECT TITLE: Culture, antimicrobial susceptibility and molecular typing of Paenibacillus larvae, a causative agent of American foulbrood (AFB)

The intent of this project is to learn more about P. larvae isolates present within Ontario honeybee populations. We are proposing to:

1. Culture a variety of samples (honey, brood) for P. larvae from clinically healthy colonies and from AFB affected colonies. In total 200 samples from clinically healthy colonies from 8 beekeepers representing different regions within Ontario will be collected in the spring of 2016. Samples from AFB affected colonies across Ontario will be collected throughout the season (summer 2016) as they become available (expecting to collect around 100 samples during that time with multiple samples being collected from the same yard).

2. Use MALDI-TOF MS for identification of P. larvae.

3. Perform antimicrobial susceptibility testing of all P. larvae isolates using tetracycline, erythromycin and clindamycin disks. These drugs will be used as representatives of the antimicrobial groups of drugs that are approved (oxytetracycline and tylosin) or are under consideration for approval (lincomycin) for prevention of AFB.

4. Perform molecular characterization of P. larvae isolates using ERIC method to determine which P. larvae ERIC types are present in Ontario.

5. Establish MALDI-TOF typing of P. larvae isolates which can be used as a part of routine diagnostic procedure for these isolates since it has been shown that different ERIC types can be detected by MALDI-TOF typing method and ERIC types in P. larvae.

Upon completion of this project we should have a better understanding of the P. larvae population present within Ontario honey bees. Any resistance and genetic diversity of P. larvae isolates, if present, will be determined. A standardized culture method, MALDI-TOF identification method, and susceptibility testing method will be available for AFB diagnostic purposes. Furthermore, P. larvae MALDI-TOF typing will be offered as a part of routine diagnostic procedure since the detection of ERIC II isolates may influence changes in management of AFB in Ontario. A beekeeper could send in a sample before clinical signs are found and determine their risk for clinical AFB before treating or taking other management steps. This will help with new changes coming forward that will restrict prophylactic antibiotic use in livestock, including honey bees. In addition, the detection of ERIC II isolates may more effectively target surveillance for AFB through the Apiary Inspection Program in the future and further refine sampling protocol for incidents of AFB in the field.


Project Title: Efficacy and effects on bee health and behaviour of prebiotics and probiotics for the control of the emergent parasitic fungus Nosema ceranae

Honey bee populations have been declining at an unprecedented rate. In the winter of 2013-2014, for example, more than 50% colony loss was reported in Ontario. Contributing to these alarming losses is Nosema ceranae, an emerging fungal pathogen of honey bees. Our group demonstrated that levels of N. ceranae in colonies in Ontario can exceed more than three times those of N. apis, which until recently was the cause of nosemosis in Ontario. We particullarly found high N. ceranae infection levels in colonies used for pollination services compared to fixed apiaries. N. ceranae seems to have displaced N. apis in Ontario, likely, as shown by several studies, because it is more virulent and harmful to colonies than N. apis. Thus, it is critical to control this parasite. However, chemical control of N. ceranae is limited to a single antibiotic, fumagillin, which poses risks of pathogen resistance and honey contamination. Safer, alternative treatments are greatly needed. Using a large number of field colonies, we propose to test certain prebiotics and probiotics that our preliminary work has shown to be effective at reducing N. ceranae infections. We will also assess the value of these natural compounds in enhancing overall honey bee health.


PROJECT TITLE: Implementation of “Bee Yard Manager” Traceability and Labour Productivity Software

A mobile software application will be developed which will allow beekeepers to record their management of individual hives, pallets, or yards; track symptoms and treatments of pest and disease issues within their apiaries; access an online beekeeping manual while in the field; and communicate directly with TTP technicians regarding any concerns. The App will be promoted at industry meetings and in industry publications to educate beekeepers as to its capabilities and value.

Activity #1 – Traceability and Labour Productivity Software

1) Pilot “Bee Yard Manager” beekeeping management software

The Pilot will be implemented in 5 stages:

1) Presentation of Bee Yard Manager program at OBA and local beekeepers Association meetings.

2) Adoption of Bee Yard Manager program by trial based users.

3) Receive feedback on Bee Yard Manager program from trial based users

4) Update Bee Yard Manager program to address feedback received from trial based users

5) Completed Bee Yard Manager program ready for distribution to beekeepers on a subscription basis


2) Develop “Bee Yard Manager” App from currently web based format

An effective technological management tool does not exist to assist beekeepers in the tracking of colony management. The Bee Yard Manager software provides an essential tool that is missing for the Ontario beekeeping industry, and can be adopted by a wide range of beekeeping management systems. This will allow for the tracking of colony management and health conditions. Issues facing honey bee health and the tools available to manage and implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program have grown to an overwhelming amount of material. This software will allow beekeepers to identify symptoms of pests and diseases while in the field and immediately access information on appropriate treatments, thereby reducing colony mortality rates. The software will also track proper timing of treatment applications to ensure efficacy. Tracking treatment schedules also improves food safety by eliminating the contamination of hive products such as honey and beeswax with antibiotics or other pesticides. Bee Yard Manager will be an important tool for beekeepers to advance their on farm biosecurity.


PROJECT TITLE: Advanced Integrated Pest Management, Queen Breeding and Expansion of Pollination Services Workshops

Increased information on issues facing honey bee health and the tools available to manage and implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program have grown to an overwhelming amount of material to be covered in the existing resources available for beekeepers to receive practical training. Although there are workshops and training available to beginning beekeepers, an advanced level of training for beekeepers does not exist to take advantage of the information and tools available to them. Training specific for beekeepers intending to provide pollination is not available, which has limited the expansion of colony numbers and beekeepers capable to managing them in order to supply the demanded for pollination services by the horticulture sector.

Activity #1 – Advanced Integrated Pest Management Workshop, Manual

- The advanced IPM course will cover more in-depth monitoring and quantification of pest and disease diagnosis. One cost associated with this objective is the purchase of microscopes for the sole use for training beekeepers in workshops on advanced diagnosis and quantification of honey bee pest and diseases. The workshops will also provide extensive concepts on understanding pest and disease development in colonies over a long period of time and in relation to external influences such as seasonal climate variations.

Activity #2 – Honey Bee Breeding and Formal Breeding Program Workshop, Manual

- The workshop on Bee Breeding and Formal Breeding Program will provide training and extension material to existing and new honey bee breeders to ensure consistency and compatibility in breeding programs using information developed from the recent CAAP 0157 project.

Activity #3 – Commercial Pollination Workshop, Manual

- Workshops will provide instruction and extension material to new and practicing pollination beekeepers. This will integrate information and recommendations developed from the recent CAAP 0157, CAAP 0238 and AMI 079 projects.

The funds provided for this project will be used to develop materials and workshops using results from developed research, information, resources, and the technical expertise from the OBA TTP and beekeeping industry.

Innovative courses for beekeepers are needed to provide training and information that has been developed over the last decade to address honey bee health, honey bee breeding and pollination services. Currently available workshops only cover the basic concepts of Integrated Pest Management and raising honey bee livestock, a currently there are no courses offered to train beekeepers to provide pollination services. Through recent projects funded by the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program, significant advancements have been made in order to improve IPM programs, bee breeding and best management practices for pollination services. The funding for this proposed project will provide the resource necessary to develop workshops, manuals and DVDs to train and sustain the information gathered from the outcomes of these projects. It will also provide a vehicle for future advancements in IPM, Bee Breeding and Pollination to be transferred to the beekeeping industry.


PROJECT TITLE: Effect of Sublethal doses of Neonicotinoids on Honey Bees in Ontario

The information generated from this initial short project (expected to be continued with additional projects in 2014-2015) will provide the beekeeping industry with information on potential toxicity of neonicotinoid pesticides to honey bees under Ontario conditions. The magnitude of the impact (if any) will be quantified and information will be generated to determine how the overall health and reproductive parameters of honey bees is affected and how natural defenses in the bees (immune and detoxification systems) respond to sublethal doses of these pesticides, likely to be found under field conditions. All this information will be useful to design further experiments, policies and strategies aimed at better protecting the bees against poisoning, and to allow for co-existence between crops requiring these types of pesticides and healthy honey bee colonies.

Project Objectives

1. To estimate sublethal dose levels of oral and contact exposure to imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam for Ontario honey bees.

2. To assess the effect of sublethal doses of imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam via oral and contact exposure on the lifespan of Ontario honey bees.

3. To assess the impact of sublethal doses of imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam via oral and contact exposure on the general health of Ontario honey bees using biomarkers.

4. To assess the effect of sublethal doses of clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam via oral and contact exposure on queen and drone sperm counts and viability.

5. To transfer knowledge of information obtained from this project through presentations and publications to Ontario’s agri-food industry and partners. To collaborate and share information from this project with the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency to provide them with additional elements to aid in the re-evaluation of the neonicotinoid class of insecticides.

Honey bees are the most beneficial insects to human societies. They not only produce honey and other hive products, but they are also the most valuable pollinators of agricultural crops; their pollinating activity accounts for one third of the food produced (McGregor 1976). Thus, maintaining their populations and good health is of vital importance for agriculture and for the adequate pollination of wild plant species.

An unprecedented number of honey bee mortality cases in hives located near cornfields were reported in the spring and early summer of 2012 and 2013 in Ontario and other provinces of Canada. There is preliminary evidence from Health Canada indicating that these unusual cases of bee mortality might have been due to exposure to systemic neonicotinoid pesticides used by growers while planting corn seeds. These cases apparently occurred by acute exposure to the pesticides, but little is known about the potential effects that sublethal exposure to these pesticides might have on honey bee health and reproduction. Therefore it is not clear what course of action, if any, has to be taken. It is critical for the beekeeping industry to determine if these pesticides are harmful to bees at sublethal doses at which they would be expected to be exposed under field conditions in Ontario. The results of this study will allow beekeepers and crop growers to make informed decisions as to how to better protect bees from potential negative effects of these pesticides.


PROJECT TITLE: Ontario Bee Breeders' Association - Ontario Resistant Honey Bee Selections (ORHBS) Isolated Honey Bee Mating Yard Development and Grooming Behaviour Monitoring

Honey bees are under constant pressure by pests and diseases which cause reduced honey yields, pollination and mortality of honey bee colonies. One of the most important roles beekeepers play in supporting honey bees, is the production of honey bees resistant to detrimental pests and diseases.

Although Ontario has bee breeders with advanced resistance to pests and diseases, there is a need for more beekeepers to begin breeding to increase the genetic diversity for breeding in the province, and produce enough honey bees for the rest of the beekeeping industry that is focused on honey production and pollination services.

Activity 1: The project is intended to continue an isolated mating honey bee breeding apiary near Huntsville, Ontario to provide a source of genetics to Ontario bee breeders. Maintained genetics in the location will emphasize natural resistance and longevity to improve the honey bee’s ability to fight pest and diseases.

Activity 2: The project will monitor the presence of a parasitic honey bee pest, varroa mite, in honey bee breeding colonies. Selection of natural grooming characteristics in colonies will be selected for based on monitoring results.

The OBA Tech Transfer Program will work closely with the Ontario Bee Breeders' Association (OBBA) to maintain and provide the proposed isolated bee breeding apiary for use by the Ontario honey bee breeders. Local Ontario honey bee stock that has been selected through the Ontario Resistant Honey Bee Selections (ORHBS) program will be established in the isolated bee breeding apiary. The OBA TTP will facilitate the ability for honey bee breeders to bring stock they wish to cross with the established resistant honey bees in the isolated breeding yard. The funds from SLUSH would be used to aid the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association Tech Transfer Program (OBA TTP) to maintain and provide this service to Ontario honey bee breeders.