2018 OBA Tech-Transfer Program Research Projects/Programs

2018 Research and Activities

The OBA-Tech Transfer Program has had another very active year. The support from the OBA, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and its Apiary program, led by Provincial Apiarist Paul Kozak, are highly valued relationships and greatly appreciated to allow the OBA TTP to exist. Special acknowledgement needs to be giving to Ontario’s Local Beekeepers Associations for their ongoing support and involvement to provide resources and venues for TTP to deliver knowledge transfer to Ontario beekeepers.  
TTP 2018:
Les Eccles – Contract Lead Specialist
Pat Westlake – Contract OBA TTP Administrator
Melanie Kempers – Contract Technical Specialist
Daniel Thurston – Contract Technical Specialist
Daniel Borges – Contract Technical Specialist
Kelsey Ducsharm – Technical Specialist

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 pest and disease resistant characteristics in Ontario’s honey bee stock.  Hygienic behaviour is important for brood disease resistance within a colony. Each year, breeders select colonies to be tested for hygienic behaviour for breeding purposes. 
23 honey bee breeders participated in hygienic testing in 2018. The liquid nitrogen freeze kill method was used to screen 327 colonies. Colonies which ranked in Group 1 (>95% of killed brood cells removed) and Group 2 (>75-≤95% of killed brood cells removed) can be used as breeders to produce the next generation of honey bee stock.
You can read more about the ORHBS program and the benefits of hygienic testing here
PROJECT TITLE: Health Status of Colonies Tested in the Breeding Program
At the time of hygienic behaviour testing, forager bees were collected from each potential breeder colony.  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 224 potential breeder colonies from 23 bee breeders have will be analysed for nosema and tracheal mite levels. 301 samples were examined for the presence of Varroa mites.
PROJECT TITLE: Progressive Training and Information Program for Beekeepers
29 Tech-Transfer Program Workshops were delivered in 2018:
1.  Introductory Beekeeping Workshops (TTP)
  • 6 hands-on workshops held in Guelph, Port Hope, Alvinston, Metcalfe, St. Catherines
  • 8 online workshops offered between May - December
2.  IPM and Beekeeping Workshops (TTP)
  • 5 hands-on workshops held in Port Hope, Guelph, Alvinston, Metcalfe, Parry Sound
  • 3 online workshops offered between October - December
3.  Introductory Queen Rearing Workshop (TTP) 
  • 2 hands-on workshops held in St. Catherines and Parry Sound
4.  Advanced Integrated Pest Management (TTP)
  • 3 hands-on workshops held in Kanata, Guelph, Toronto

5. Queen Breeding

  • 2 hands-on workshops held in Kanata and Collingwood   
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: 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 particularly 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.
START DATE: December 2016
END DATE: December 2019
FUNDING SOURCE: OMAFRA Emergency Management
 Project Title: Measuring the Impact of Using Low-Cost Infrared Thermal Imaging Technology as a  Honey Bee Colony and Queen Banking Overwintering Monitoring and Risk Management Tool 
Three types of infrared cameras were used to monitor honey bee colonies over the wintering period.  Assessments of the practicality of using infrared/thermal camera technology in regards to honey bee  overwintering and mortality monitoring were documented to provide recommendations to beekeepers.  The cameras were also used as tool to make early diagnosis of colony mortality, assess effectiveness of  winter wraps, observe queen bank systems, assess indoor overwintering assessment, and assess colony  strength to increase the efficiency of a beekeeper’s work plan.  
START DATE: January 2018  
END DATE: March 2018  
Project Title: Breeding program for varroa mite (V. destructor) resistance in Ontario honeybee  populations 
Honeybees are the most valuable pollinators; their pollinating activities account for one third of our food. Thus, maintaining their populations and health is of vital importance for agriculture. However, in  the past seven winters, more than 30% of Ontario colonies have perished each year. The losses in  colonies, honey yields and agricultural crops exceed $50 million a year in Ontario. Scientists agree that  the mite Varroa destructor and one of the viruses it transmits, Deformed Wing Virus (DWV), are  critical factors causing winter colony mortality. Winter hardy, mite and virus tolerant stock that is  locally produced is an essential part component of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, and  the most sustainable method of control of these losses. This project responds to this urgent need. Bees  will be bred for reduced mite population growth in beekeepers’ operations during two seasons and the  selected population will be evaluated for colony survival, health, mite levels, DWV levels and genes  associated with resistance.  
START DATE: 2018  
END DATE: 2021  
Project Title: Development of natural products as novel miticides and anti-virulence agents for the  treatment of Varroa mites and American foulbrood in honeybees  
The long-term goal is to characterize the extracts of essential oils to (i) develop inhibitors  (antivirulence compounds) against key bacterial toxins produced by P. larvae for the prevention and  treatment of AFB and (ii) to develop miticides effective at controlling V. destructor infestations in  honeybees. This will be manifested in the development of a formulation consisting of inhibitory and  miticidal compounds extracted and purified from essential oils. This will be achieved with novel  methods in molecular modelling, structural biology, and computational chemistry – framed into  structure-based drug discovery approaches – combined with experimental validation for AFB-infected  and V. destructor-infested larvae.  
START DATE: 2018  
END DATE: 2021  
Project Title: Breeding program for varroa mite (V. destructor) resistance in Ontario honeybee  populations 
Varroa destructor is a parasite which attacks the honeybee and its repercussions are felt right across the  country. Current treatments involve several complications and finding an alternative is therefore  imperative. To address this problem, selecting bees with the Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH)  behavioral trait would be a more efficient and sustainable solution. This behavior allows the colony to  keep the varroa population under control, by limiting the reproductive success of the mites. Therefore,  the objective of this study is to determine the ideal percentage of expression of this VSH behavioral  trait that is to be maintained in the bee colonies, so that they will be able to combat varroosis  effectively, without adversely affecting the other selection criteria usually applied by beekeepers.  Selected colonies will be distributed to Canadian queen breeders and beekeepers.  
START DATE: 2018  
END DATE: 2021  
Project Title: Mid-Season Treatment Methods to Control Varroa Mites During a Honey Flow  
Honeybee colony health has been under increased pressure from pests, diseases and pesticide exposure  over the last 20 years. The main pest culprit that affects honey bee health and is responsible for a large  portion of the annual 30% colony winter mortality are the varroa mites (V. Destructor) (Guzman-Nova  et al, 2010). Low varroa mite levels in crucial in maintaining healthy honeybee colonies that must  
overwinter in Ontario’s beekeeping climate and to reduce winter colony mortality. Beekeepers  implement Integrated Pest Management Programs (IPM) in order to apply multiple management tools  to control varroa mites which include in-hive acaricides. A major gap in IPM strategies to combat  varroa are tested and approved in-hive treatments that can be applied during mid-season honey flows,  that would allow beekeepers to keep varroa mite levels below damaging thresholds and improve the  health of honeybees that need to survive the winter months. This project will address this gap by  implementing field trials for 3 different mid-season treatments that could be used during honey  production.  
The objective of this project is to test varroa mite treatments that would be applied during mid-season  (honey production); in order to reduce varroa mite levels before varroa loads can pass damaging  thresholds before fall treatment opportunities. Along with controlling varroa mites, these treatments should not contaminate honey suppers that are on colonies during the treatment application. The  products to be tested are: oxalic acid drizzle method (Skinner et al, 2007), oxalic acid glycerine  method (Maggi et al, 2016), formic acid “flash” method (Skinner et al, 2007). These are known and  tested treatment applications during spring and fall, but have not been tested or recommended for use  during mid-season for efficacy and risk of honey contamination in Ontario. 
START DATE: 2018  
END DATE: 2021