2020 OBA Tech-Transfer Program Research Projects/Programs

2020 Research and Activities

The OBA-Tech Transfer Program has had another very active year. The support ongoing support from the OBA and beekeeping industry in Ontario is appreciated and crucial to the longevity of this program. 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 2020:
Melanie Kempers – Special Projects Administrator
Daniel Borges – Research technician
Kelsey Ducsharm – Research technician
Glenys Robinson - Research technician
Stephanie Otto - Research technician

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. 
27 honey bee breeders participated in hygienic testing in 2020. The liquid nitrogen freeze kill method was used to screen 387 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 255 potential breeder colonies from 27 bee breeders have will be analysed for nosema and tracheal mite levels. 377 samples were examined for the presence of Varroa mites.
PROJECT TITLE: Progressive Training and Information Program for Beekeepers
All hands-on workshops in 2020 were cancelled due to COVID-19. Only online workshops were permitted to run.
1.  Introductory Beekeeping Workshops (TTP
  • 12 online workshops offered between January - December
2.  IPM and Beekeeping Workshops (TTP)
  • 12 online workshops offered between January - December
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: 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: 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  


 PROJECT TITLE: BeeCSI: ‘omic tools for assessing bee health

The BeeCSI project is a collaboration with Dr. Amro Zayed from York University and Dr. Leonard Foster from UBC, as well as a number of other researchers across the country. This project aims to use genomic tools to develop a new health assessment and diagnosis platform powered by stressor-specific markers. Working with beekeepers, industry technology-transfer teams, and diagnostic labs, in consultation with federal and provincial regulatory entities to ensure that the tools are implemented and accessible to the beekeeping industry by the end of the project.The Ontario tech team led two different parts of the project for the Ontario portion. One part was identifying markers associated with colony stress from different crop systems. Colonies used for pollination of or located in close proximity to high and lowbush blueberry, cranberry, apple, canola, soybean, and corn were sampled throughout the season to examine colony health parameters, and identify markers associated with stress. The corn portion of the project was done in Ontario. For this study, 40 TTP colonies were sampled in one yard in Guelph, before being divided up and moved to 10 different yards – 5 yards near corn (less than 500 m), and 5 yards far from corn (farther than 5 km). These colonies were then sampled and assessed two more times throughout the season.In addition to the crop system part of the project, TTP also led a pilot project aimed at examining the feasibility of beekeepers using BeeCSI diagnostic testing. The pilot project was only done in Ontario, and involved 20 beekeepers and a total of 50 colonies. These beekeepers and colonies were divided up among beekeepers who perform pollination services, commercial honey producers, and hobbyist or small-scale beekeepers. The colonies were sampled and assessed three times throughout the season, similar to the corn experiment, and samples will also be analysed for stress markers. In addition, participating beekeepers filled out detailed questionnaires, and will take part in focus group interviews to discuss their thoughts on the value of the diagnostic testing to their operation and management practices. The BeeCSI study will involve repeating the pilot project sampling in 2021, in order to continue to involve and engage the beekeeping industry that will hopefully benefit from this type of diagnostic testing. 
START DATE: 2020  
END DATE: 2022