FDA Imported Honey Report

The FDA has released a report on an investigation into imported honey and the intentional adulteration of it for economic gains.

The report from the Food and Drug Administration includes information on 107 samples from 25 countries. The FDA collected the samples in import status, which refers to products collected at ports of entry or other locations where they are held prior to being released into domestic commerce.

The agency tested retail and bulk samples in 2022 and 2023. Retail samples consisted of individual jars or other containers. Bulk shipment samples were collected typically from barrels or drums. All of the samples were labeled as being “honey.”

Here is the report: FY22/23 Sample Collection and Analysis of Imported Honey for Economically Motivated Adulteration.

Bees Making Less Honey

Bee Culture Magazine, January 27th, 2024

Why are bees making less honey? Study reveals clues in five decades of data

The study found that climate conditions and soil productivity — the ability of soil to support crops based on its physical, chemical and biological properties — were some of the most important factors in estimating honey yields. Credit: Arwin Neil Baichoo/Unsplash. All Rights Reserved.

By Katie Bohn

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Honey yields in the U.S. have been declining since the 1990s, with honey producers and scientists unsure why, but a new study by Penn State researchers has uncovered clues in the mystery of the missing honey.

Using five decades of data from across the U.S., the researchers analyzed the potential factors and mechanisms that might be affecting the number of flowers growing in different regions — and, by extension, the amount of honey produced by honey bees.

The study, recently published in the journal Environmental Research, found that changes in honey yields over time were connected to herbicide application and land use, such as fewer land conservation programs that support pollinators. Annual weather anomalies also contributed to changes in yields.

The data, pulled from several open-source databases including those operated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service and USDA Farm Service Agency, included such information as average honey yield per honey bee colony, land use, herbicide use, climate, weather anomalies and soil productivity in the continental United States.

Overall, researchers found that climate conditions and soil productivity — the ability of soil to support crops based on its physical, chemical and biological properties — were some of the most important factors in estimating honey yields. States in both warm and cool regions produced higher honey yields when they had productive soils.

The eco-regional soil and climate conditions set the baseline levels of honey production, while changes in land use, herbicide use and weather influenced how much is produced in a given year, the researchers summarized.

Gabriela Quinlan, the lead author on the study and a National Science Foundation (NSF) postdoctoral research fellow in Penn State’s Department of Entomology and Center for Pollinator Research, said she was inspired to conduct the study after attending beekeeper meetings and conferences and repeatedly hearing the same comment: You just can’t make honey like you used to.

According to Quinlan, climate became increasingly tied to honey yields in the data after 1992.

“It’s unclear how climate change will continue to affect honey production, but our findings may help to predict these changes,” Quinlan said. “For example, pollinator resources may decline in the Great Plains as the climate warms and becomes more moderate, while resources may increase in the mid-Atlantic as conditions become hotter.”

Co-author on the paper Christina Grozinger, Publius Vergilius Maro Professor of Entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research, said that while scientists previously knew that many factors influence flowering plant abundance and flower production, prior studies were conducted in only one region of the U.S.

“What’s really unique about this study is that we were able to take advantage of 50 years of data from across the continental U.S.,” she said. “This allowed us to really investigate the role of soil, eco-regional climate conditions, annual weather variation, land use and land management practices on the availability of nectar for honey bees and other pollinators.”

One of the biggest stressors to pollinators is a lack of flowers to provide enough pollen and nectar for food, according to the researchers. Because different regions can support different flowering plants depending on climate and soil characteristics, they said there is growing interest in identifying regions and landscapes with enough flowers to make them bee friendly.

“A lot of factors affect honey production, but a main one is the availability of flowers,” she said. “Honey bees are really good foragers, collecting nectar from a variety of flowering plants and turning that nectar into honey. I was curious that if beekeepers are seeing less honey, does that mean there are fewer floral resources available to pollinators overall? And if so, what environmental factors were causing this change?”

For Quinlan, one of the most exciting findings was the importance of soil productivity, which she said is an under-explored factor in analyzing how suitable different landscapes are for pollinators. While many studies have examined the importance of nutrients in the soil, less work has been done on how soil characteristics like temperature, texture, structure — properties that help determine productivity — affect pollinator resources.

The researchers also found that decreases in soybean land and increases in Conservation Reserve Program land, a national conservation program that has been shown to support pollinators, both resulted in positive effects on honey yields.

Herbicide application rates were also important in predicting honey yields, potentially because removing flowering weeds can reduce nutritional sources available to bees.

“Our findings provide valuable insights that can be applied to improve models and design experiments to enable beekeepers to predict honey yields, growers to understand pollination services, and land managers to support plant–pollinator communities and ecosystem services,” Quinlan said.

To learn more about the land use, floral resources and weather in specific areas, visit the Beescape tool on the Center for Pollinator Research website.

David A.W. Miller, associate professor of wildlife population ecology, was also a co-author on the study.

The NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology Program and the USDA National Institute Food and Agriculture’s Pollinator Health Program and Data Science for Food and Agricultural Systems Programs helped support this research.

We are here to share current happenings in the bee industry. Bee Culture gathers and shares articles published by outside sources. For more information about this specific article, please visit the original publish source: Why are bees making less honey? Study reveals clues in five decades of data | Penn State University (psu.edu)

Honey Bee Health Coalition New Nutrition Guide

Beekeepers now have a valuable resource at their fingertips with the release of the latest comprehensive Honey Bee Nutrition Guide from the Honey Bee Health Coalition. The guide is a review and manual for supplemental feeding in bee hives, giving beekeepers a simple approach to the complex and nuanced world of honey bee nutrition.

Honey bee nutrition varies not only seasonally but also based on the colony’s unique needs and beekeeping practices. From the nutritional demands of larvae to those of the foragers, each stage requires specific attention. This guide serves as a roadmap for beekeepers to meet these diverse needs.

Foragers, the scouts of the bee world, play a crucial role in sourcing floral resources such as pollen and nectar. In the absence of these natural resources, supplemental feeding becomes essential. The Honey Bee Nutrition guide delves into the various considerations beekeepers must account for when deciding on supplemental feeding strategies, including the colony’s brood status, seasonal nutritional needs, and food reserves in the hives.

The guide also reviews the history of supplementing colonies with diets other than pollen, which dates back centuries. It traces this history, highlighting pivotal moments such as Amos Ives Root’s tests with various supplements in 1875 and the foundational research by Mykola H. Haydak and Elton W. Herbert Jr. in the United States. The guide also emphasizes the importance of understanding the limitations of artificial supplements compared to the nutritional richness of natural pollen.

The Honey Bee Nutrition guide also includes a series of interviews with six commercial beekeepers who summarize what works for them when providing supplemental feeding to their honey bee colonies throughout the year, depending on their location and their beekeeping practices. Download the guider here: https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/nutritionguide/

Spending $1 Million Dollars

TBA helped obtain funding during the last Texas legislative session for an Apiculture Extension Entomologist. For many years, the TBA membership has passed resolutions expressing the need for an apiary extension agent for Texas. The continuing resolution was:
Whereas beekeeping has expanded in the state of Texas; and
Whereas Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is an important vehicle for dissemination of good beekeeping practices,
Be it Resolved that TBA will continue to pursue the creation of a Statewide Apiary Extension Agent.

This last session, Representative Mary Gonzales and Senator Charles Perry, after consultation with TAMU, introduced budget riders for funding the position at A&M. Both of these legislators have been strong supporters of TBA and beekeeping in Texas over the years.

The first position will be located in the Overton office, hands-on honey bee research will happen right next to this lovely field!

The job, Assistant Professor, Apiculture Extension Entomologist, was posted earlier this month. If you are interested, you can view the details online.


These Bees Have Been Mummified in Their Cocoons for 3,000 Years

Insects rarely survive in fossilized form, but a strange series of events somehow killed and preserved these brooding bees for millenniums.

“The exoskeleton of bees (and insects in general) is made of chitin, a cellulose-like biopolymer that quickly is decomposed after the animal dies,” Mr. Neto de Carvalho wrote in an email.

What bees typically leave are trace fossils or ichnofossils — imprints frozen in time of bodies, abandoned or active nests, or old burrows.

The cocoons that the team discovered were lined and sealed with a silk-like thread produced by the mother bee. This thread was a waterproof, organic polymer — a mixture of material and structural engineering — that had fostered the preservation of the bees inside. Mr. Neto de Carvalho said that this “organic mortar” had protected the cells from the environment, shielding the delicate chitin from bacterial activity and decomposition.

Using X-ray microcomputed tomography, scientists could look inside the brood cells and see the bees’ long antennae, indicating that they were male.Credit…Federico Bernardini/ICTP

The eyes and head of a bee extracted from the sediment.Credit…Andrea Baucon


“The exoskeleton of bees (and insects in general) is made of chitin, a cellulose-like biopolymer that quickly is decomposed after the animal dies,” Mr. Neto de Carvalho wrote in an email.

What bees typically leave are trace fossils or ichnofossils — imprints frozen in time of bodies, abandoned or active nests, or old burrows.

The cocoons that the team discovered were lined and sealed with a silk-like thread produced by the mother bee. This thread was a waterproof, organic polymer — a mixture of material and structural engineering — that had fostered the preservation of the bees inside. Mr. Neto de Carvalho said that this “organic mortar” had protected the cells from the environment, shielding the delicate chitin from bacterial activity and decomposition.

Sealed in their cocoons, the bees mummified, preserving their body shape and distinctive features. The team used X-ray microcomputed tomography — a type of CT scanning that captures detailed images of small things like insects — to examine the mummified bees without destroying the protective cocoons.

“I think what makes this study so cool is that you do have the bee in there and you can see that it’s in the tribe Eucerini, which are the long-horned bees,” said Bryan Danforth, an entomologist at Cornell University who was not involved in the study. “If you look at the CT image, you can see the long antennae, so you know it’s a male.”

Usually, determining what created a fossilized brood cell is tricky. “There are other animals that burrow into the soil that might create a thing that looks like a bee nest,” Dr. Danforth said.

The discovery, he added, is “the first ichnofossil that actually contains the bee inside of it.”

As for what killed the bees, the researchers considered flooding or a prolonged drought that might have limited food supplies. But the pollen stored inside the cells told the team that the bees had plenty of food (meaning they didn’t die by starvation).

Read the rest of the article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/20/science/mummified-bees-cocoons.html

Researchers deconstruct bee stinger to help develop tiny medical devices

17 Aug 2023

The anatomy of bee stingers could help lead to advancements in the emerging field of micro medical devices.

New research deconstructing the anatomy of a honeybee stinger could help pave the way for a future generation of miniaturised medical devices used for drug delivery in humans.

Recently published in the journal iScience, the high-resolution 3D deconstructions produced by UNSW Canberra researchers reveal the unique properties of the bee’s powerful defence mechanism, including the numerous barbs responsible for why the stinger is able to work its way deeper into the skin while pumping venom after stinging.

According to lead researcher, Associate Professor Sridhar Ravi, the autonomous delivery mechanism of the bee stinger has numerous characteristics that could help researchers develop small-scale and minimally intrusive medical devices in the future.

“We have never before produced images with this level of detail, and they have given us tremendous new insights into the functions of the bee stinger,” A/Prof. Ravi said. “Because of these clearer and more precise images, we have uncovered potential opportunities in medical micro drilling, micro-pumps and much more targeted drug delivery.”

A/Prof. Ravi said there is also the possibility of developing improved ‘anchoring’ methods that will allow medical devices or adhesive patches to hold onto the skin without the need for chemical adhesives which can cause irritation or be unviable on moist surfaces, like the inside of the body.

“Previous studies have shown that a bee stinger is very good at piercing skin with minimal force, but it is very hard to remove once it is embedded,” A/Prof. Ravi said. “This is a really useful property for medical devices that need to be very precisely inserted without damaging surrounding tissues.”

The 3D deconstructions have also led to the UNSW Canberra research team developing prototype devices that simulate a bee stinger’s unique piercing and pumping actions.

“A bee’s stinger must be able to firstly pierce skin without buckling, and it must safely detach and coordinate the muscular contractions that generate stinging,” said Dr Fiorella Ramirez Esquivel, the project’s other primary researcher. “This means both working itself deeper into tissue and pumping venom quickly and efficiently.”

Dr Ramirez Esquivel said because a bee stinger is so small – just approximately 2mm in length – the research team had to use a combination of techniques to observe the stinger and decode how it works.

“[The 3D de-constructions] have been fantastic because they allowed us to 3D print the whole stinger and blow it up to a scale where we can move all the parts around to figure out how they work together,” Dr Ramirez Esquivel said. “High-speed filming the stinger in action was also a significant challenge, but it has been instrumental in understanding how it functions.”

Dr Ramirez Esquivel said that understanding the evolution of the bee’s stinger is a great example of how we can make progress by learning more about other animal and plant species.

“Bee stingers are incredibly complex structures with numerous moving components that also happen to be incredibly effective and efficient at what they do,” Dr Ramirez Esquivel said. “The more we look into it, the more we find amazing intricacies related to how it does its job.”

The researchers say they are excited by the potential of different bio-inspired designs in medicine.

“As advanced manufacturing makes strides in what it is possible for us to make, natural materials like the insect cuticle will become more and more relevant to the design of soft robots and microdevices,” Dr Ramirez Esquivel said.


Researchers Discover That Bees Can Make Decisions Better and Faster Than We Do

By Macquarie University September 4, 2023

A new study reveals how we could design robots to think like bees.

Honey bees excel in weighing effort against reward and risk, quickly determining which flowers can provide sustenance for their colony. A study recently published in the journal eLife illustrates how eons of evolution have fine-tuned honey bees to make swift judgments while minimizing danger.

This research sheds light on the workings of insect minds, the evolution of human cognition, and offers insights for improved robot design.

The paper presents a model of decision-making in bees and outlines the paths in their brains that enable fast decision-making. The study was led by Professor Andrew Barron from Macquarie University in Sydney, and Dr. HaDi MaBouDi, Neville Dearden, and Professor James Marshall from the University of Sheffield.

“Decision-making is at the core of cognition,” says Professor Barron. “It’s the result of an evaluation of possible outcomes, and animal lives are full of decisions. A honey bee has a brain smaller than a sesame seed. And yet she can make decisions faster and more accurately than we can. A robot programmed to do a bee’s job would need the backup of a supercomputer.

“Today’s autonomous robots largely work with the support of remote computing,” Professor Barron continues. “Drones are relatively brainless, they have to be in wireless communication with a data center. This technology path will never allow a drone to truly explore Mars solo – NASA’s amazing rovers on Mars have traveled about 75 kilometers in years of exploration.”

Bees need to work quickly and efficiently, finding nectar and returning it to the hive while avoiding predators. They need to make decisions. Which flower will have nectar? While they’re flying, they’re only prone to aerial attack. When they land to feed, they’re vulnerable to spiders and other predators, some of which use camouflage to look like flowers.

“We trained 20 bees to recognize five different colored ‘flower disks’. Blue flowers always had sugar syrup,” says Dr. MaBouDi. “Green flowers always had quinine [tonic water] with a bitter taste for bees. Other colors sometimes had glucose.”

“Then we introduced each bee to a ‘garden’ where the ‘flowers’ just had distilled water. We filmed each bee then watched more than 40 hours of video, tracking the path of the bees and timing how long it took them to make a decision.

“If the bees were confident that a flower would have food, then they quickly decided to land on it taking an average of 0.6 seconds),” says Dr. MaBouDi. “If they were confident that a flower would not have food, they made a decision just as quickly.”

If they were unsure, then they took much more time – on average 1.4 seconds – and the time reflected the probability that a flower had food.

The team then built a computer model from first principles aiming to replicate the bees’ decision-making process. They found the structure of their computer model looked very similar to the physical layout of a bee brain.

“Our study has demonstrated complex autonomous decision-making with minimal neural circuitry,” says Professor Marshall. “Now we know how bees make such smart decisions, we are studying how they are so fast at gathering and sampling information. We think bees are using their flight movements to enhance their visual system to make them better at detecting the best flowers.”

AI researchers can learn much from insects and other ‘simple’ animals. Millions of years of evolution have led to incredibly efficient brains with very low power requirements. The future of AI in the industry will be inspired by biology, says Professor Marshall, who co-founded Opteran, a company that reverse-engineers insect brain algorithms to enable machines to move autonomously, like nature.

Reference: “How honey bees make fast and accurate decisions” by HaDi MaBouDi, James AR Marshall, Neville Dearden and Andrew B Barron, 27 June 2023, eLife.
DOI: 10.7554/eLife.86176


Patrolling honey bees expose spread of antimicrobial resistance

by Macquarie University

Bees could become biomonitors, checking their neighborhoods to determine how far antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has spread, according to research by Macquarie University scientists.

At least 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which estimates that 10 million people will die due to AMR by 2050. But we have few tools to keep track of its spread in the environment.

The study, published in Environmental Science and Technology, recruited honey bees, which can be a “crowdsourced” environmental proxy as they interact with contaminants in soil, dust, air, water and pollen while they forage.

“Bees interact with human environments, so they are a really good indicator of pollution that may present of risk of harm to humans,” says first author Kara Fry, an Adjunct Research Fellow at Macquarie University’s School of Natural Sciences and also Senior Research and Development Officer at the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA).

“Bees only live for about four weeks, so whatever you’re seeing in a bee is something that is in the environment right now.”

Fry and lead author Professor Mark Taylor, who is the EPA Victoria Chief Environmental Scientist, examined 18 hives from citizen-scientist beekeepers who had hives across Greater Sydney in a mixture of land-use types.

She sampled eight bees from each hive to see what was in their digestive tracts.

Specifically, she was looking for genetic elements called Class 1 integrons, key drivers of resistance to antibiotics. She also looked for toxic metals such as lead.

“As humans have released their own bacteria into the environment, Class 1 integrons have spread into other natural systems. You can now find them on every continent, even Antarctica. You can find them in really diverse spaces,” Fry says.

The study found that more than 80% of the bees sampled across all hives were positive for one or more antimicrobial resistance targets, surprising the researchers by showing that AMR is prevalent irrespective of the land-use context.

Fry and her team expected to find more integrons in more densely populated areas. Instead, they found them distributed over an extremely wide area but with higher concentrations around waterbodies such as dams and lakes.

“We suspect the presence of local waterbodies that collect run-off is a critical source of AMR contamination,” Fry says. “Everything from the catchment drains down, then it stays in that system.

“As anticipated, our study data showed that residential and industrial areas were impacted very heavily with environmental lead, with greater concentrations in more densely populated areas. By contrast, AMR was much more pervasive across the whole urban environment.”

While being able to monitor pollutants and determine where their concentrations are highest could provide an invaluable tool to understand where to implement clean-ups, the discovery of how widespread AMR is also provides a wake-up call for people to alter their behavior.

“The main drivers of AMR are the misuse and overuse of antimicrobial products. The message from this research reinforces the need to use antibiotics when needed and as directed, and to dispose of them appropriately by returning unused medicines to your pharmacy,” Fry says.

“In addition, we should also take a look at the products we are using in our homes and avoid those with added antimicrobial agents.”

The researchers are now investigating the use of bees to detect other environmental contaminants as well as exploring whether certain bird species could be used in biomonitoring.