The bee season is already going strong in the western and southern parts of the U.S., with almond and other crop pollination already at full speed, along with thousands and thousands of honey bee queens being produced for beekeepers in all parts of the U.S. and even the world, and package bees being, well, packaged and sent all over too. Honey crops are already being made in some parts of the southeast, especially Florida (Tupelo, Ulee's golden crop is being made right now) and in the delta areas of the south... especially Mississippi.
For those of us in the central and northern areas of the country, the earliest blossoms have come and gone... the willows and maples are good examples, but the dandelions are in their first flush and that means it's finally beekeeping season.
The Apiary Inspectors Of America took their annual spring survey just a bit ago to determine winter colony loss , and it is expected to be higher than last year, and maybe even higher than the worst year's results of 35%. (The results are to be released... sometime. I wonder if Vegas takes bets on the number every year... that might be something to check into.) Colony Collapse Disorder showed its ugly head this past winter for sure. It's just time to wait and see how much damage it did... again.
And the USDA's Honey Bee Health project gets going again full speed, now that colonies are back on the road and getting clobbered with all manner of things not normal for a honey bee hive to have to live through.
Did you know that the USDA maintains four permanent labs charged with studying the honey bee? There's one near DC in Beltsville, Maryland. Another in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and one in Weslaco, Texas, which is at the southern-most tip of southern Texas. The other one is in Tucson, Arizona. Each of these labs conducts research more or less specialized to the skills of the scientists at each lab. There are, of course, some skills that overlap each lab, but some of the scientists are quite specialized, while others are kind of generalists. It all works out.
When Congress decided to fund colony collapse disorder research, they certainly included this in-house set of specialists, and charged them with an AreaWide Project to Improve Honey Bee Health. Specifically, they set these goals:
To accomplish these goals, the Baton Rouge lab is focusing on bee stock improvement and evaluations and improving early spring buildup using genetic selection and colony size. They are looking closely at two USDA developed honeybee stocks... the Russian honey bees, and the Varroa sensitive hygiene trait (VSH) bees. The scientists at Beltsville are improving queen longevity, improving Nosema controls, investigating the antibiotic Tylosin, improving non-chemical Varroa limiters such as plastic drone comb and screen bottom boards, and identifying and mitigating stressors associated with migratory beekeeping.
The Tucson lab is looking at both carbohydrate and protein nutrient supplements focusing on a relatively new product called Megabee, and the miticidal properties of a naturally occurring hive product called 2-heptanone. Meanwhile, the Weslaco lab is working on improved management techniques for varroa including the miticide Hivastan, along with new controls for Nosema, stock improvements with Africanized bees, and mitigating stress associated with migratory beekeeping.
Tying all this together is an ongoing study of several migratory operations and at the same time, another group of researchers is studying a number of operations that are non-migratory.
The research on pesticides we reported on last time came from research at the University project mentioned earlier, and below. But both are summarized at the web site below.
This is the second year of this multi-year study, and results are already being made known. You can find out just about anything you want about this project, or the sister University project we talked about earlier at www.extension.org/Bee_Health_Community_Page.
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