Research in Progress

2019 Current Research and Activities

Les Eccles, Melanie Kempers, Daniel Thurston, Dan Borges, Kelsey Ducsharm

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. 

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. 

3. Queen Fertility Testing (TTP)

Honey bee queens raised within established breeding programs were analyzed for mating success by determining sperm counts and sperm viability within the spermatheca. Queens were also analyzed for the presence of nosema and any noticeable damage.

B. Management Practices to Improve Honey Bee Colony Health:

1. Mid-Season Treatment Methods to Control Varroa Mites During a Honey Flow

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 supers 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.

2. Grooming Behaviour

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.

3. Isolated Mating Yard
In 2015 TTP established an isolated mating yard in the Muskoka region of Ontario to provide isolated mating for Ontario bee breeders. The yard is stocked with selected and hygienic genetics and flooded with drones. This yard provides breeders the opportunity to mate queens outside of their home territory and diversify genetics. In 2019 TTP will maintain and facilitate the use of the yard in conjunction with several Ontario queen breeders. 
4. VSH Trait
Selecting bees with the Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH) behavioral trait could be a more efficient and sustainable solution for Varroa control. 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. 


C. Progressive Training and Information Program for Beekeepers:

1. Introductory Beekeeping Workshops

2. IPM for Beekeeping Workshops

3. Introductory Queen Rearing Workshop

4. Advanced Queen Breeding Workshop

5. Advanced IPM Workshop

6. Advanced Pollination Workshop

7. Online Introductory Beekeeping Workshop

8. Antimicrobial Management for Beekeeping Training Workshop (for Veterinarians)