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Did you know that the TBA has a YouTube Channel?? If not, you probably missed our latest post. and if you missed that, you might have also missed the video of Dr. Delaplane from last years summer clinic. That’s right, if you missed out on attending Summer Clinic last year, you can still watch several of the presentations posted on our YouTube Channel for free! Click the link to listen to Dr. Delaplane present on honey bees in Out of Africa or Out of Asia?

Honey bee colony loss in the U.S. linked to mites, extreme weather, and pesticides

Gail McCormick

30 January 2023

About one-third of the food eaten by Americans comes from crops pollinated by honey bees, yet the insect is dying off at alarming rates. In one year alone, between April of 2019 and April of 2020, one study reported a 43% colony loss in honey bees across the United States.

A new study led by Penn State researchers provides preliminary insight on the potential effects of several variables, including some linked to climate change, on honey bees. Their findings show that honey bee colony loss in the U.S. over the last five years is primarily related to the presence of parasitic mites, extreme weather events, nearby pesticides, as well as challenges with overwintering. The study took advantage of novel statistical methods and is the first to concurrently consider a variety of potential honey bee stressors at a national scale. The study, published online in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests several areas of concern to prioritize in beekeeping practices.

“Honey bees are vital pollinators for more than 100 species of crops in the United States, and the widespread loss of honey bee colonies is increasingly concerning,” said Luca Insolia, first author of the study, a visiting graduate student in the Department of Statistics at Penn State at the time of the research, and currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. “Some previous studies have explored several potential stressors related to colony loss in a detailed way but are limited to narrow, regional areas. The one study that we know of at the national level in the United States explored only a single potential stressor. For this study, we integrated many large datasets at different spatial and temporal resolutions and used new, sophisticated statistical methods to assess several potential stressors associated with colony collapse across the U.S.”

The research team, composed of statisticians, geographers, and entomologists, gathered publicly available data about honey bee colonies, land use, weather, and other potential stressors from the years 2015 to 2021. Because these data came from a variety of sources, they varied in resolution over both space and time. The weather data, for example, contained daily data points for areas only few square miles in size, but data on honey bee colonies was at the state level for a several-month period.

“In order to analyze the data all together, we had to come up with a technique to match the resolution of the various data sources,” said Martina Calovi, corresponding author of the study, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management at Penn State at the time of the research, and currently an associate professor of geography at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. “We could have just taken an average of all the weather measurements we had within a state, but that boils all the information we have into one number and loses a lot of information, especially about any extreme values. In addition to averaging weather data, we used an ‘upscaling’ technique to summarize the data in several different ways, which allowed us to retain more information, including about the frequency of extreme temperature and precipitation events.”

The researchers used the resulting integrated resolution-matched dataset—which they have made available for use by other researchers—alongside sophisticated statistical modeling techniques that they developed to assess the large number of potential stressors at the same time.

The research team found that several stressors impacted honey bee colony loss at the national level, including the presence of nearby pesticides, frequent extreme weather events, and weather instability. Colony loss was also related to the presence of parasitic mites, Varroa destructor, which reproduce in honey bee colonies, weaken the bees, and potentially expose them to viruses. The researchers also found that losses typically occurred between January and March, likely related to challenges with overwintering, but that some states do not follow this pattern.

“Our results largely reinforce what regional studies have observed and confirm that regional patterns around these stressors are actually more widespread,” said Insolia, a beekeeper himself. “These results also inform actions that beekeepers could take to help circumvent these stressors and protect their colonies, including treatments for the Varroa mite‚ especially in areas of weather instability. Beekeepers could also consider strategies to move their colonies to areas with high food availability or away from nearby pesticides or to provide supplementary food during certain seasons or months with frequent extreme weather events.”

The researchers note that having data about beekeeping practices and colony loss at a finer resolution would allow validation of their results and a more nuanced look at honey bee stressors.

“It would be incredibly beneficial to explore beekeeping practices at a finer scale than the state level,” said Calovi. “In many cases, beekeeping associations and other organizations collect this data, but it is not made available to researchers. We hope our study will help motivate more detailed data collection as well as efforts to share that data—including from smaller organizations such as regional beekeeper associations.”

The research team also found a strong relationship between colony loss and a broad category of beekeeping practices noted on a USDA survey as ‘”other,’” which contained everything from hives being destroyed to food scarcity to queen failure. They noted that collecting this data in more detail and breaking up this catch-all type variable would improve their ability to connect particular stressors to colony collapse.

“A changing climate and high-profile extreme weather events like Hurricane Ian—which threatened about 15% of the nation’s bees that were in its path as well as their food sources—are important reminders that we urgently need to better understand the stressors that are driving honey bee colony collapse and to develop strategies to mitigate them,” said Francesca Chiaromonte, professor of statistics and the holder of the Lloyd and Dorothy Foehr Huck Chair in Statistics for the Life Sciences at Penn State and a senior member of the research team. “Our results highlight the role of parasitic mites, pesticide exposure, extreme weather events, and overwintering in bee colony collapse. We hope that they will help inform improved beekeeping practices and direct future data collection efforts that allow us to understand the problem at finer and finer resolutions.”

In addition to Insolia, Calovi, and Chiaromonte, the research team includes Roberto Molinari, Lindsay Visiting Assistant Professor of Statistics at Penn State at the time of the research and currently an assistant professor of statistics at Auburn University; Stephanie Rogers, assistant professor of geosciences at Auburn University; and Geoffrey Williams, associate professor of entomology and plant pathology at Auburn University.

The study authors were supported in part by the Scuola Normale Superiore in Italy, the Sant’Anna School in Italy, and the Penn State Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

Metabolic Pathway in Honey Bees Discovered with Strong Connections to Winter Colony Losses

Contact: Kim Kaplan

January 19, 2023

Agricultural Research Service scientists and their Chinese colleagues have identified a specific metabolic pathway that controls how honey bees apportion their body’s resources such as energy and immune response in reaction to stresses such as winter’s cold temperatures, according to recently published research.

This cellular pathway has the strongest connection yet found to the large overwintering colony losses that have been plaguing honey bees and causing so much concern among beekeepers, and farmers, especially almond producers, during the last 15 years, said entomologist Yanping “Judy” Chen, who led the study. She is with the ARS Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland.

The “signaling” pathway governs the increased and decreased synthesis of the protein SIRT1, one of a family of proteins that help regulate cellular lifespan, metabolism and metabolic health, and resistance to stress.

“In honey bees merely exposed to a cold challenge of 28 degrees C (82.4 degrees F) for five days, we saw almost three-fold lower levels of SIRT1 and significantly higher levels of colony mortality compared to bees maintained at 34-35 degrees C (93.2-95 degrees F), which is the optimal core temperature of a honey bee cluster inside a bee hive in winter,” Chen said.

The researchers also found that bees under cold stress were associated with an increased risk of disease infections, which in turn led to an increased likelihood of colony losses.

For example, when honey bee colonies were inoculated with the intracellular microsporidia parasite Nosema ceranae, and kept at 34 degrees C, they had a survival rate of 41.18 percent while the mortality rate of the colonies exposed to the cold stress of 28 degrees C for 5 days was 100 percent.

“So that showed it is primarily cold stress that the SIRT1 signaling pathway is responding to rather than pathogens,” Chen said. “Our study suggests that the increased energy overwintering bees use to maintain hive temperature reduces the energy available for immune functions, which would leave overwintering bees more susceptible to disease infections; all leading to higher winter colony losses.”

Chen points out this research also offers a promising avenue for new therapeutic strategies to mitigate overwintering and annual colony losses. One way could be by raising the production of the SIRT1 protein by treating honey bees with SRT1720, a specific SIRT1 gene activator being experimentally used as an anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer treatment.

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in U.S. agricultural research results in $20 of economic impact.

Using Api-Bioxal to treat Varroa Destructor

There was general talk about using Api-Bioxal in an extended application for the treatment of varroa mites at the ABF Conference last month.

Here is what we have found out about this action so far:

  • Three states have an approved 2ee Registration for this use, Vermont, New York and Delaware. Numerous other states are working on it, but, like Texas, many are hesitant to proceed on their own initiative without EPA approval.
  • EPA is in the process of responding to the 2ee exemptions. We understand that they expected to release  a letter soon laying out their position.
  • According to BetterBee, who now has the right to Api-Bioxal, it’s hard for the
    manufacturer to know which way to go until EPA speaks but they are in the process of discussing several options.

TBA is on the list to receive more information as it becomes available.

Honey imported into the US found to be adulterated

By Vikki Davies

January 30, 2023

The FDA says that 10 per cent of imported honey samples that it recently assessed were found to be adulterated with undeclared added sweeteners.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released data from a sampling assignment carried out in 2021 and 2022 to test imported honey for economically motivated adulteration (EMA).

EMA occurs, for example, when someone intentionally leaves out, takes out, or substitutes a valuable ingredient or part of a food or when a substance is added to a food to make it appear better or of greater value.

The sampling was designed to identify products that contained less expensive undeclared added sweeteners, such as syrups from cane and corn. The agency collected and tested 144 samples of imported honey from bulk and retail shipments from 32 countries. The FDA found 14 samples (10%) to be violative. The agency refused entry of violative shipments into the US and placed the associated company and product on an import alert.

A spokesman for the FDA said in a statement: “The FDA routinely assesses imported honey products to ensure accurate product labelling and otherwise help keep consumers from being deceived.

“The agency will continue to test honey for EMA under the agency’s import sampling and risk-based import entry screening program.

“Violative samples are subject to agency action, such as recall and import refusal, consistent with the agency’s mission to ensure that food is safe, wholesome and properly labelled. When appropriate, the agency may consider pursuing criminal investigations.

“The FDA also collaborates with international counterparts to detect and combat EMA related to imported products, including honey.”

DNA Research Finds Low Genetic Diversity Among U.S. Honey Bees

Contact: Autumn Canaday
Email: Autumn Canaday
February 15, 2023

U.S. agriculture owes many thanks to the honey bee (Apis mellifera L.), as it plays the crucial role of pollinator within the nation’s food supply. Some of the nation’s food industries rely solely on the honey bee, and it’s estimated that the economic value of its pollination role is worth well over $17 billion each year. With this fact in mind, ARS researchers recently studied the U.S. honey bee’s genetic diversity to ensure that this crucial pollinator insect has sufficient diversity to overcome the growing number of stressors such as parasites, diseases, malnutrition, and climate change.
What they found is alarming: the U.S. honey bee population has low genetic diversity, and this could have a negative impact on future crop pollination and beekeeping sustainability in the country.

The research, recently highlighted in Frontiers, was accomplished by analyzing the genetic diversity of the U.S. honey bee populations through a molecular approach, using two mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) markers (DNA specifically from a mother). Researchers studied approximately 1,063 bees from hobbyist, and commercial beekeepers in 45 U.S. states, the District of Columbia (D.C.), and two US territories (Guam and Puerto Rico). The data showed that the nation’s managed honey bee populations rely intensively on a single honey bee evolutionary lineage. In fact, 94 percent of U.S. honey bees belonged to the North Mediterranean C lineage. Data reflected that the remainder of genetic diversity belongs to the West Mediterranean M lineage (3%) and the African A lineage (3%).

“It’s important that we have a realistic and accurate estimation of the honey bee’s genetic diversity because this indicates the insect’s ability to respond to disease, adaptation to environment, and productivity,” said ARS Research Entomologist Mohamed Alburaki. “Without this pollinator insect, we will witness a drastic decrease in the quantity and quality of our agricultural products such as almonds, apples, melons, cranberries, pumpkins, broccoli and many other fruits and vegetables that we’re used to purchasing. We can’t wait until a domino effect slowly takes place and affects our food supply.”

93.79 percent of U.S. honey bees belonged to the North Mediterranean C lineage. The percentage of this lineage is displayed for each state

The lack of genetic diversity creates a vulnerability for U.S. honey bees to survive in shifting climates that are now wetter or drier than usual. There is also concern that a honey bee’s inability to fight off disease or parasitic infection could negatively impact beekeeping sustainability. The challenge of U.S. honey bees’ weakened immunity has become an economic burden to bee producers and beekeepers. In the past, U.S. beekeepers suffered less honey bee colony losses and treated against varroa mite (a ferocious honey bee parasite) once per year. In 2023, colony losses and winter mortality are at a high peak and varroa mite requires multiple treatments per year to keep it under control.

“As a honey bee researcher, what worries me the most is that 77 percent of our honey bee populations are represented by only two haplotypes, or maternal DNA, while over hundreds of haplotypes exist in the native range of this species in the Old World, or the honey bees’ native land of evolution,” Alburaki said. “Many of these haplotypes have evolved over millions of years in their native lands, and have developed astonishing adaptation traits that we should consider incorporating in our US honey bee stocks before it is too late.”

These complex factors are driving Alburaki and his ARS research team to develop a solution that’s sustainable for the entire nation. The research team is currently evaluating the paternal diversity of the previously analyzed populations to acquire a full and accurate picture of the overall genetic diversity of the U.S. honeybee populations. Researchers are also interested in the possibility of diversifying breeding stations with honey bee queens from various genetic backgrounds.

Alburaki’s research also identified and named 14 novel haplotypes in the three evolutionary lineages. These haplotypes have never been reported before and can provide new insights into the U.S. honey bee’s evolution since its importation to North America in the 1600s. There is hope that the researchers can use this information to locate and enhance the numbers of these rare and novel US haplotypes, which could speed the process of reaching a healthier diversity within the nation’s honey bee population.

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in U.S. agricultural research results in $20 of economic impact.

2023 Legislative Session

The Texas Beekeepers Association Legislative Committee has been working hard to follow bills as they are introduced. We will continue to monitor and update this site as new information unfolds. If you see other relevant bills that should receive our attention, please let us know. Please look for the 2023 Legislative Session Updates under the Resources tab under Issues, look for the Legislative Updates box at the bottom, or follow this link. This page will be updated soon with more details on each of the bill we are currently tracking.

Bee-related bills currently following:

  • HB 590 – Relating to the labeling and sale of Texas honey.
  • HB 1750 – Relating to the applicability of certain city requirements to agricultural operations. (Right to Farm – Burns)
  • HB 2271Relating to the protection of aquaculture operations. (Right to Farm – Aquaculture – Kacal)
  • HB 2308Relating to nuisance actions and other actions against agricultural operations. (Right to Farm – Ashby)
  • HB 2329Relating to honey production operations and the harvesting and packaging of honey and honeycomb. (Clean up bill DSHS – Bailes)
  • SB 829Relating to cottage food production operations. (Cottage Food –Kolkhorst)

Customer Appreciation BBQ and THBEA Raffle

Please join Mann Lake for their first annual Customer Appreciation BBQ. The event will be Saturday March 4, from 8 – 4 at their store at 1600 Commerce Street in Marshall Texas.
There will be plenty of give-aways, including Nucs, and Packages, Queen Bees, Pollen Patties, and Gift Certificates. Of course there will be special in-store sales and Door Buster prices, as well as door prizes and a raffle. Best of all, a special auction item from which the Texas Honey Bee Education Association will receive 100% of the proceeds!!

Parasitic Mites’ Biting Rate

Parasitic Mites’ Biting Rate May Drive Transmission Of Deformed Wing Virus In Honey Bees

By Eurasia Review

Varroa destructor is an ectoparasitic mite that can cause European honey bee colonies to collapse by spreading Deformed wing virus as they feed. A study published in PLOS Pathogens by Zachary Lamas and colleagues at the USDA-ARS and the University of Maryland suggests a relatively small number of mites can contribute to a large number of infected bees.

Arthropod disease vectors transmit pathogens while feeding on susceptible hosts. However, little is known about how the feeding dynamics of Varroa spread viruses in adult honey bees. In order to better understand Varroa mite parasitism on honey bees, researchers conducted a series of experiments. First, they used fluorescent microspheres to test if Varroa were feeding on adult bees each time they entered a known feeding position. They next determined whether microspheres could be transferred from a Varroa to an adult bee via Varroa feeding by allowing Varroa to feed on bee pupae which had been injected with fluorescent microspheres. In the third experiment, researchers observed mites switching from adult bee host to host. The researchers then observed how a single mite could spread pathogens by feeding on multiple bees and calculated the relative risk of Varroa parasitism on adult workers.

Mites with high virus levels and which switched the most frequently contributed to the highest mortality in adult honey bees. Varroa are promiscuous feeders and switch hosts at a high rate. Mites switching hosts at the highest frequency were responsible for nearly three times as many parasitized hosts as their lower switching counterparts. Future studies are needed to better understand the mechanisms driving mites to switch hosts.

According to the authors, “Our work shows that viral spread is driven by Varroa actively switching from one adult bee to another as they feed. Relatively few of the most active Varroa parasitize the majority of bees. The ability to parasitize and infect multiple adult bees provides the best explanation to date for the maintenance and subsequent host-to-host spread of viruses among the long-lived worker bees common in these crowded and vulnerable colony populations”.

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:

Safety tests of insecticides inadequate for bees

by Queen Mary, University of London (
January 18, 2023

Queen Mary researchers have revealed unexpected variation in bee neural receptors, challenging current safety assessments of insecticides, which work by targeting these receptors.

Because bees use different versions of this receptor in different tissues and across species, it may be impossible to accurately predict the impacts of insecticide exposure on bees.

Farmers use insecticides to protect plant crops from being eaten by pests. Unfortunately, although many commonly used insecticides were initially thought to be safe, they can also harm wild bees and other beneficial pollinators.

A new study by researchers from Queen Mary University of London, published in Molecular Ecology, uncovers the molecular mechanism that explains why measuring and evaluating the effects of the insecticides is so difficult using the current assessment practices.

The most commonly used insecticides, which include neonicotinoids and their potential replacements, target a neural receptor that is present in all animals. The idea that bees might have different versions of this receptor had not yet been considered in insecticide safety evaluations. Also, it was unclear to what extend bees use these receptors outside the brain.

The researchers used high-resolution molecular techniques to understand how the bodies of bumble bees and honey bees build the neural receptor targeted by insecticides. The researchers found that in different tissues, the receptor is made using different components.

There were also major differences between bees of different ages and between species. The effects on an insecticide depend on how the receptor is built. Thus, the diverse manners through which the receptors are built can explain why the insecticides have extremely diverse effects.

Discovering this much variation in how the neural receptors are assembled was surprising.

Queen Mary researcher Alicja Witwicka, lead author of the study, said, “We already knew that the insecticides can harm beneficial pollinators by affecting their behavior, their memory, their dexterity, their immunity, and their ability to reproduce. We now also know why insecticide can harm pollinators in so many different ways.”

Call for action
The study’s findings have serious implications for the safety assessments that are conducted before insecticides are sprayed onto crops to check if it could unintentionally harm pollinating insects. These assessments typically examine one or few measures of toxicity in one or few species and attempt to extrapolate those findings into general risks for the hundreds of other pollinator species that could be exposed.

Yannick Wurm, Professor in Evolutionary Genomics & Bioinformatics at Queen Mary, said, “Previous work showed that receptor composition affects susceptibility to the insecticides. We now found that receptor composition varies between tissues and between species. It is thus impossible to justify simple extrapolation of insecticide toxicity measures from one species or situation to another. Because the molecules for insecticide susceptibility vary so much within individuals and between species, policymakers should reconsider how the safety of insecticides is assessed.”

Matt Shardlow, CEO of the Buglife charity, who was not involved in the study, said, “Despite the huge negative impact on wild pollinators caused by neonicotinoid pesticides, the lessons have not been learnt and the pesticide approval processes have not been improved. This research underlines the importance of testing the impacts of pesticides on a range of bee species and life stages, before chemicals that can cause huge damage to nature are released into the environment.”

What are the targeted receptors?
Insecticides typically aim to kill one or few pest species. But in fact, the most widely used modern insecticides target a neural receptor that is essential in all animals for the transmission of signals between neurons. These neural receptors are called nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. The new research revealed that neurons in every body part of a bee uses these receptors. This shows that all parts of a bee could be affected by insecticide exposure.

The new research also revealed unexpected variation in how the receptors are built. Each receptor is made up of five sections or subunits, and bee’s genetic blueprints include instructions for 10-15 versions of subunit. The researchers revealed that the receptors in different body parts are built using different combinations of subunits. The combination of subunits that make up a receptor fundamentally changes how it is affected by an insecticide.

The large diversity of receptors used mean that insecticide safety would need to be tested on each version of receptor. This is likely to be infeasible.

“Our work demonstrates that high-resolution molecular approaches can help us to better understand how the bodies of pollinators work, and ultimately their health,” added Alicia Witwicka.

More information: Alicja Witwicka et al, Expression of subunits of an insecticide target receptor varies across tissues, life stages, castes, and species of social bees, Molecular Ecology (2022). DOI: 10.1111/mec.16811