eXtension Articles,News,Faqs- bee health

  1. Pollination Security for Fruit and Vegetable Crops in the Northeast

    Researchers work to make crop pollination sustainable in the Northeast

    Editor:Philip Moore, The University of Tennessee
    Last Edited: June 30, 2014

    The pollinator security project was initiated in 2011 to address a gap in knowledge with respect to pollinator communities in northeastern cropland.

    Reports of declining native pollinators, decreased availability of honey bee rental colonies, and general public misunderstanding led to the creation of this working group to produce a sustainable pollination strategy for stakeholders.

    The goal is to contribute to long-term profitability of fruit and vegetable production and the outcome is this webpage along with other farm training and publications to increase knowledge and adoption of practices that protect pollinator communities.

    One component of this project is video segments which highlight aspects of fruit or vegetable production in the Northeast. The first in this series focuses on commercial blueberry production in Maine and comes to you in seven parts.

    Part One: Commercial Blueberry Pollination in Maine's Blueberry Barrens

    Video Segments (titles without links are yet to be released):

    Part 1:  Commercial Blueberry Pollination in Maine's Blueberry Barrens
    Part 2: Lowbush Blueberry in Maine, Native Plants and Native Bees in a Modern System
    Part 3: Pollinator Plantings (The Bee Module) for Maine Lowbush Blueberry

    Part 4: Landscape Ecology in Maine's Blueberry Growing Region
    Part 5: How to Estimate Native Bee Abundance in the Field
    Part 6: Economics of Lowbush Blueberry in Maine
    Part 8: Grower Interviews and Research Topics in Lowbush Blueberry Pollination

    Specific objectives of this project are to : 

    1. Determine the contributions of pollinator communities and identify which site characteristics have the greatest influence on pollinator effectiveness in apple, lowbush blueberry, cranberry, and cucurbit.
    2. Develop hypotheis-driven model based on factors shown to affect pollination deficits.
    Quantify pesticide residues in pollen and relate to crop and management strategies, and estimated risk to the bee community.
    Assess shared parasite load between introduced and native pollinator communities.
    Analyze the economics of pollination services and determine the value of pollination service.
    Heighten our understanding of the grower community to understand why farmers accept innovation and to increase adoption of pollinator conservation measures.
    Facilitate knowledge transfer allowing growers to both assess and improve pollination security.

    This content is produced by a group of researchers from across the northeast:

    Frank Drummond, The University of Maine
    Kimberly Stoner, The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
    Dana Bauer
    Bryan Danforth
    John Burand, The University of Massachusetts

    Brian Eitzer, The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
    Aaron Hoshide
    Cyndy Loftin
    Tom Stevens, The University of Massachusetts
    John Skinner, The University of Tennessee
    Dave Yarborough, The University of Maine
    Tracy Zarrillo, The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
    Sunil Tewari
    Ajanta De
    Kalyn Bickerman, The University of Maine
    Eric Asare
    Shannon Chapin, The University of Maine
    Eric Venturini, The University of Maine
    Sara Bushman
    Sam Hanes, The University of Maine
    Kourtney Collum, The University of Maine

    Michael Wilson, The University of Tennessee



    Funded by the USDA-NIFA Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI)


  2. All Bugs Good and Bad 2014 Webinar Series

    Please join us for this webinar series for information you can use about good and bad insects.  Topics will include how you can help good insects like bee pollinators and how to control insects we think of as bad, like fire ants, termites, and new invasive insects.  Spiders and ticks aren't actually insects, but we will talk about them too. Webinars will be on the first Friday of each month at 2 p.m. Eastern time.  Click on the title for information on how to connect to the webinar.

    2014 Webinar Series:  All Bugs Good and Bad

    FEBRUARY 7, 2014

    If Flowers are Restaurants to Bees, then What Are Bees to Flowers?
    Presented by Dr. John Skinner
    Moderated by Danielle Carroll

    MARCH 7, 2014

    Straight Talk About Termites
    Presented by Dr. Xing Ping Hu
    Moderated by Mallory Kelley

    APRIL 4, 2014

    Get TickSmart: 10 Things to Know, 5 Things to Do
    Presented by Dr. Thomas N. Mather
    Moderated by Shawn Banks

    MAY 2, 2014

    Are Those Itsy Bitsy Spiders Good or Bad?
    Presented by Dr. Nancy Hinkle
    Moderated by Charles Pinkston


    JUNE 6, 2014

    Fire Ant Management
    Presented by Elizabeth "Wizzie" Brown
    Moderated by Gerald "Mike" McQueen


    AUGUST 1, 2014

    Minimize Mosquito Problems
    Presented by Molly Keck
    Moderated by Christopher Becker


    SEPTEMBER 5, 2014

    Kudzu Bug Takes Over the Southeastern U.S and Brown Marmorated Stinkbug -- All Bad
    Presented by Michael Toews and Tracy Leskey
    Moderated by Willie Datcher

    OCTOBER 3, 2014

    Alien Invasions, Zombies Under Foot, and Billions of Decapitated Fire Ants
    Presented by Dr. Sanford Porter
    Moderated by Nelson Wynn

    NOVEMBER 7, 2014

    Where Have All the Honey Bees Gone?  Hope for the Future
    Presented by Dr. John Skinner
    Moderated by Sallie Lee

    Download the flyer for the entire 2014 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series:  JPG  PDF

    The 2014 Webinars are brought to you by the following eXtension Communities of Practice:  Imported Fire Ants, Urban IPM, Bee HealthInvasive Species, Gardens, Lawns and Landscapes, and Disasters and by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

    Looking for 2013 Webinars?  Click here!

  3. Bee Health Contents
  4. Kourtney Collum - The University of Maine

    Kourtney Collum is a Ph.D. student in the Anthropology & Environmental Policy program at the University of Maine, working under the supervision of Dr. Samuel Hanes. As a research assistant on the USDA funded “Pollination Security” project, Kourtney examines the social and political factors that influence the adoption of pollinator conservation.

    Through a comparative study of lowbush blueberry growers in Maine, USA and Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada, Kourtney’s research examines the influence of agricultural policy, governmental and non-governmental agricultural organizations, and social capital on blueberry growers’ pollination management practices.  Through her research Kourtney aims to identify what pollinator conservation practices are currently being used in Maine and PEI, and what the barriers are to blueberry growers adopting diversified pollination management strategies—such as conservation of native bees—in order to secure adequate pollination and enhance environmental stewardship. The goal of her research is to inform future agricultural policy so that it can maximize existing social and political resources to help blueberry growers secure pollination for their crops.

    Prior to entering the PhD program, Kourtney completed a Master of Science degree in Forest Resources at the University of Maine and a Bachelor of Science degree in Anthropology & Environmental Studies at Western Michigan University.

    Contact Information:

    Email: kourtney.collum@maine.edu

  5. Philip Moore -The University of Tennessee

    Philip Moore is the current content manager for the Bee Health community of practice on eXtension.org. Prior to beginning this position he completed a Master of Science degree in Entomology at The University of Tennessee under the supervision of Dr. John Skinner, State Apiculturist  and Professor and a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics at The University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Prior to completing his degrees he studied Web Page Design and Development at Belmont University in Nashville Tennessee. 

    Philip's interest with bees sprouted during his undergraduate program. He was recruited to join the Bees and Beekeeping extension program after a fruitful internship with the U.T. Institute of Agriculture, Organic and Sustainable Crops Farm. He began by learning honey bee colony management, IPM, and honey extraction. Then he initiated the U.T. Apiaries involvement with the burgeoning U.T. Farmers Market. As the market reached more consumers and added diverse vendors, Philip's market repertoire expanded; U.T. Apiaries begun selling Ten Year Aged Honey, Cut Comb Honey, Beeswax Lip Balm, Hand and Body Salve, Gift Baskets and more!

    Philip's academic interests are with the pollination services of bees rather than their honey reward. His Masters thesis was titled Evaluating the Pollination Ecology of Pityopsis ruthii (Asteraceae), which was funded by a fellowship from The Garden Club of America. He is currently employed by the University of Tennessee as an Extension Assistant. 

    Contact Information:

    email: pmoore17@utk.edu

    mobile: 615-423-6175

    office: 865-974-5367

  6. Managed Pollinator CAP Update: RNAi for Treating Honey Bee Diseases
    CAP Update December 2012: RNAi for Treating Honey Bee Diseases


    RNAi for Treating Honey Bee Diseases

    Author: Yanping (Judy) Chen and Jay D. Evans, USDA-ARS Beltsville Bee Research Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705

    Originally Jointly Published: American Bee Journal and Bee Culture, Decemeber 2012


          Many ground-breaking discoveries in science have occurred through serendipity. RNA interference (RNAi), a natural process to turn off gene activity in plants and animals is one of the many serendipitous discoveries that involved a mix of unexpectedness and insight that led to a valuable outcome. Back in the late 1980s, Dr. Rich Jorgenson, a molecular geneticist, and his colleague were trying to create a petunia with intensely purple colored flowers by inserting multiple copies of a purple color-producing gene into petunia plants. Surprisingly, the result turned out to be completely different from their expectation. Instead of achieving darker colored flowers, they got plants with white or patchy blossoms. At the time, no one quite understood why the addition of extra copies of an introduced gene silenced both themselves and the plant’s own purple color producing genes. Later, Drs. Andrew Fire and Craig Mello pieced together the molecular machinery behind color alternations in petunias and identified an efficient mechanism of cells to regulate protein production at the RNA stage, a mechanism famously known as RNAi (Fire et al., 1998). The discovery of RNAi has been viewed as a major breakthrough in cell biology and Drs. Fire and Mello were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2006 for their discovery of RNAi.

    RNAi Mechanism and Application

    A gene is the functional unit of heredity in all living organisms. It consists of a specific section of DNA that holds the genetic information that each organism uses to pass genetic traits onto their offspring. The information held in this gene is converted into a protein that the organism can use in two steps. First, messenger RNA (nearly a mirror image of the gene) is produced after cues received by the organism’s cells. This RNA is then used to direct the production of new proteins, the long stretches of amino acids that build bodies and actions.

          RNAi is one tool used by cells to turn up or down the production of specific proteins. It is used both to weak protein levels of the host itself and to knock down proteins from viruses and other agents that attack the host. As the Nobel prize winners discovered, the RNAi pathway is triggered by the presence of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), an unusual event whereby RNA adheres to an exact mirror of itself. These dsRNA strands are recognized as being odd, and are consequently recognized by the appropriately named protein ‘Dicer’. Dicer binds and cleaves long stretches of dsRNA into short fragments which are called short interfering RNA (siRNA).

    Diced siRNA products are carried through the cell by a protein complex, finding their own matches in the RNA soup and degrading these matches. This degraded mRNA can no longer serve as a template for protein synthesis and therefore a specific gene's activity is silenced (Figure 1).

    Figure 1: Graphical representation of RNAi pathway

          The ability to target and switch off specific genes with high sequence specificity makes RNAi a powerful tool for studying gene function and a promising approach for treating a variety of diseases. Since RNAi can specifically inhibit the function of any chosen target genes, this technique can theoretically treat diseases that are caused by errant gene expression and protein function. In addition, it is known that RNAi has an appetite for RNA viruses along with other pathogens and parasites. In fact, the RNAi system might be maintained in large part as a defense against the many RNA viruses found in plants and animals. In order to reproduce, these viruses pass through a dsRNA stage, and that is when they appear on the Dicer’s radar.

    RNAi Application in Honey Bee Disease Treatment

    Honey bees possess the core components of the RNAi pathway including Dicer and the enzymes and structural proteins that use ‘diced’ RNAs to hunt down and degrade matching RNA (review in Aronstein et al. 2011). As a result, RNAi looks promising as a tool for combating honey bee pathogens and parasites. Beeologics, a company focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of RNAi therapeutics (recently acquired by Monsanto), has developed a product called Remebee, a dsRNA homologous to Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV) that was found to be associated with honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) (Cox-Foster et al. 2007). The injection and feeding of Remembee has proven effective in reducing the abundance of IAPV in bees and promoting bee health under both laboratory (Maori et al., 2009) and large-scale natural beekeeping conditions (Hunter et al., 2010). Additionally, Beeologics scientists, along with USDA collaborators, have shown that RNAi can be directed at reducing the gut parasite, Nosema ceranae (Paldi et al., 2010).

          Recently, with CAP support, we conducted studies to further elucidate the antiviral effect of RNAi on the infection and replication of IAPV in honey bees. We targeted the IRES region of this virus, a key stretch needed to exploit the bees’ own protein-making factory, the ribosome. To generate what we hoped was a more potent trigger for RNAi, we jumped past the dicing step by providing bees with siRNA that was ready to work as a bait for targeting viruses. In our trials, the frames with emerging brood were removed from the colonies identified with IAPV infection by RT-PCR assay and newly emerged bees were collected at the following day. Thirty newly emerged bees were placed into multiple rearing cages (Evans et al. 2009) as part of four groups. A scintillation vial filled with a1:1 sugar syrup: water mix (10 ml) was inverted over the top of the rearing cup to provision caged bees. Varroa mites were collected by sugar roll from a colony that was identified to have IAPV infection. Two groups were challenged with Varroa mites from an IAPV-rich colony, with one of these groups also receiving an siRNA cocktail directed at the IAPV IRES region (Treatment 1) and one receiving no siRNA (Negative control 1). Two groups were kept mite-free, with one of these receiving siRNA (Treatment 2) and one not (Negative Control-2). Each group consisted of four replicates. After setting up the experiment at day 1, the bees were collected at three-day intervals (day 4, day 7, and day 10) individually. We then measured virus levels using standard genetic techniques (Figure 2). The trial was repeated three times.

    Figure 2: Bees contained in vials, separated by treatment and replicate

    The results showed that the feeding of siRNA targeting IAPV could confer antiviral activity in bees (Figure 3). The IAPV infection rates in bees from Treatment-I and Treatment-II, which were fed with siRNA, were significantly lower than the Negative Controls without siRNA. The Negative Control-I group that was challenged by Varroa mite and received no siRNA reached 100% IAPV infection at day 10 post experimental setup. In the Treatment-II group, which was not exposed to Varroa mites, the siRNA treatment resulted in a very low or even undetected viral infectivity at day 10 post treatment.

    Figure 3:Results which indicate RNAi treatment could provide antiviral properties to bees when compared to control groups

    Quantification of the IAPV titer in infected bees showed that bees in Treatment-II that received siRNA treatment and not exposed to Varroa mites had the lowest level of IAPV titer among four experimental groups. As a result, Treatment-II was chosen as a calibrator. The viral concentration of other groups was compared with calibrator and expressed as n-fold change. For bees from the Negative Control-I group challenged by Varroa mites and lacking siRNA treatment, the IAPV titer steadily increased over the whole experiment period and reached a maximum at day 10 post-treatment. The titer of IAPV in bees from Treatment-I was more than five-fold lower than in bees from Negative control-I (Figure 4). This result shows the feasibility of using siRNA to block or impair the translation of viral proteins to reduce virus replication, and reinforces the therapeutic potential of RNAi for treatment of honey bee diseases.

    Figure 4: Results which show the viral concentration of bees over time, control groups had a 5 times greater concentration over RNAi treated groups


    Since its discovery over a decade ago, remarkable progress has been made in unraveling the molecular mechanisms associated with RNAi. Despite great potential for this remarkable process in disease control, many challenges remain, ranging from potential side-effects for the bee hosts to delivery challenges and even counter-counter-attacks by the viral targets. These unsolved problems must be overcome before RNAi is used routinely as a therapeutic agent for diseases. As the pace of new findings and discoveries of applications continues to gain momentum and genomic information of honey bees and critical honey bee pests and pathogens accumulate, we anticipate that RNAi will be an effective and non-toxic therapeutic alternative for the treatment of bee diseases in the future.


    Aronstein, K., Oppert, B., Lorenzen, M. D. 2011. RNAi in Agriculturally-Important Arthropods, in Book “RNA Processing” eds. by Grabowski, P. pp. 157-180. InTech Publishers.

    Cox-Foster, D.L., Conlan, S., Holmes, E., Palacios, G., Evans, J.D., Moran, N.A., Quan, P.L., Briese, T., Hornig, M., Geiser, D.M., Martinson, V., van Engelsdorp, D., Kalkstein, A.L., Drysdale, A., Hui, J., Zhai, J., Cui, L., Hutchison, S.K., Simons, J. F., Egholm, M., Pettis, J. S., Lipkin W. I. 2007. A metagenomic survey of microbes in honey bee colony collapse disorder. Science 318: 283-287.

    Evans, J.D., Chen, Y.P., Pettis, J., Williams, V. 2009. Bee cups: Single-use cages for honey bee experiments. J. Apicul. Res. 48: 300-302.

    Fire, A., Xu, S. Q., Montgomery, M. K., Kostas, S. A., Driver, S. E., Mello, C. C. 1998. Potent and specific genetic interference by double-stranded RNA in Caenorhabditis elegans. Nature 391 (6669): 806–811.

    Hunter, W., Ellis, J., vanEngelsdorp, D., Hayes, J., Westervelt, D., Glick, E., Williams, M., Sela, I., Maori, E., Pettis, J., Cox-Foster, D., Paldi, N. 2010. Large-scale field application of RNAi technology reducing Israeli acute paralysis virus disease in honey bees (Apis mellifera, Hymenoptera: Apidae). PLoS Pathogens 6 (12): e1001160.

    Maori, E., Paldi, N., Shafir, S., Kalev, H., Tsur, E., Glick, E., Sela, I. 2009. IAPV, a bee-affecting virus associated with Colony Collapse Disorder can be silenced by dsRNA ingestion. Insect Molecular Biology . 18 (1): 55–60.

    Paldi, N., Glick, E., Oliva, M., Zilberberg, Y., Aubin, L., Pettis, J. S., Chen, Y. P., Evans, J. D. 2010. Effective gene silencing of a microsporidian parasite associated with honey bee (Apis mellifera) colony declines. Appl Environ Microbiol 76: 5960–5964.

  7. Managed Pollinator CAP Update: Colony collapse disorder (CCD), federal funding and the challenges of bee decline research: A bureaucrat’s perspective


    What's the U.S. Federal Response to CCD?



    Mary F. Purcell-Miramontes, USDA-NIFA, Washington D. C.

    Originally jointly published in American Bee Journal and Bee Culture, April 2013


         Some may think that the life of a National Program Leader is a piece of cake and 9 to 5. Before I came to Washington DC, I thought this was true, but I was quickly proven wrong. I am an entomologist with USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, whose purpose is to provide extramural support to research, extension and educational programs for US agriculture. In the past 7 years, an increasing amount of my time has been spent responding to Colony Collapse Disorder, a seemingly new crisis which threatens the honeybee industry and crop growers who depend on honeybees for pollination services. In this article, I describe my experience as a public servant responding to this calamity, including an overview of USDA funding resources that were tapped to address the problem, and my perception of the challenges in conducting research to understand and mitigate colony losses.

         In February of 2007, I received a phone call from our agency’s congressional affairs liaison; Senator Max Baucus of Montana was asking how much money USDA was spending on a problem that was leading to the collapse of beekeeper’s colonies. Soon after, I picked up a New York Times and saw on the Op Ed page an article by May Berenbaum on a mysterious malady called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD [Berenbaum 2007]). She wrote:

    “In more than 20 states, beekeepers have noticed that their honeybees have mysteriously vanished, leaving behind no clues as to their whereabouts. There are no tell-tale dead bodies either inside colonies or out in front of hives, where bees typically deposit corpses of dead nest mates.”

        CCD is believed to be a condition in which bees incur multiple interacting stresses (e.g., parasitism by Varroa mites, exposure to harmful levels of pesticides, disease infection, poor nutrition, and the ravages of being transported across the US). Worker bees are absent, no dead bees are left in the hive; the brood, food stores and the queen are all that remain, and the hive soon collapses a few days or weeks later (vanEngelsdorp et al., 2009).

         I was intrigued. I knew that since the 1980s honeybees were in serious decline because of the parasitic Varroa mite, an invasive species from Asia. I had also read the National Academy of Sciences study on the Status of Pollinators in North America (National Research Council 2007). But I had never heard about vanishing bees before. Soon after, I began receiving more calls and emails from congressional staffers and the media asking me what I knew about CCD (as if I was the expert), and more importantly what was NIFA doing to address the problem. My other counterparts in USDA were similarly besieged. Kevin Hackett at ARS, Colin Stewart at APHIS and Doug Holy at NRCS were called to briefing after briefing on Capitol Hill.

         A multitude of meetings among and between scientists, apiary inspectors, beekeepers and industry representatives were abuzz in the winter and spring 2007.   I teamed up with Hackett, who oversees bee and pollination programs at ARS, in Beltsville MD to bring together scientists, beekeepers and inspectors that observed the collapsed colonies and other honey bee researchers and apiculturists. The group deliberated for 2 ½ days and provided several recommendations for what research was needed to better understand the problem.

         At the Beltsville Meeting, the scientists hypothesized that there were at least five suspected factors interacting to cause these losses: pests, microbial bee diseases, pesticides, nutrient deficiencies, and other management stresses imposed on bees such as transporting hives across the US to pollinate crops. The USDA undersecretary, Gale Buchanan, advised USDA program leaders to coordinate a national response to CCD. Our first step was to write a National CCD Action Plan to prioritize a federal strategy for research needed to address CCD (www.ars.usda.gov/is/br/ccd/ccd_actionplan.pdf). Five USDA agencies (APHIS, ARS, NASS, NIFA and NRCS) along with EPA and administrators from Purdue and Pennsylvania State University co-authored the action plan. We formed a committee called the “CCD Steering Committee” which was composed of program leaders from the above agencies and universities.

         USDA has been the principal source of Federal funding for research and other programs designed to protect and conserve pollinators. The 2008 Farm Bill directed USDA to devote more resources to conduct research on CCD and to support conservation programs for pollinators. Since the inception of the Cooperative State Research Service in 1981 (now known as the National Institute of Food and Agriculture [NIFA]), extramural grant programs have historically funded hundreds of pollinator health projects primarily to university and federal researchers, educators and extension specialists. Given the level of urgency of the problem, the Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) competitive grant mechanism was used, which supports nationally important problems that require coordination of multiple researchers, extension specialists and educators. Between 2008 and 2012, the NRI and AFRI funded a $4.1 M CAP grant to Keith Delaplane at the University of Georgia and 14 associated researchers and extension specialists at 20 universities and ARS (http://www.beeccdcap.uga.edu/). This grant laid important ground work to understanding factors associated with colony losses. A second AFRI program funded another CAP grant for $5 M to Dennis vanEngelsdorp, now at the University of Maryland, and 10 other institutions, to build the infrastructure for an ongoing national database on honey bee health and to provide beekeepers region-specific data for making management decisions (http://beeinformed.org/about/). Another NIFA grant program, the Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI) was also instrumental in supporting pollinator research.   One of its legislatively mandated focus areas was to “identify and address threats from pests and diseases, including threats to specialty crop pollinators (http://www.nifa.usda.gov/funding/rfas/pdfs/12_scri.pdf). In 2011, SCRI awarded Dr. Anne Averill at the University of Massachusetts $3.3 M to address declines in native bee pollinators in fruit and vegetable crops. In addition, smaller grants to single or smaller groups of investigators (up to $500K) from several programs have provided another important source of funds to researchers, educators and extension (e.g., AFRI Foundational Programs, regional IPM, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, Small Business Innovation Research and Hatch funds).

         In addition, the 2008 farm bill authorized USDA to encourage “the development of habitat for native and managed pollinators” and “the use of conservation practices that encourage native and managed pollinators” during the administration of any conservation program. Several programs administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) were then used to carry out these goals (Vaughn and Skinner 2008).  

         In 2008, $5M from USDA-ARS was allocated to initiate a 5 year “USDA-ARS Areawide Project to Improve Honey Bee Health” led by Jeffrey Pettis (http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/projects/projects.htm?accn_no=412674). The overall goal was to conduct demonstration tests across the US with an emphasis on Varroa-mite resistant bees, improved nutritional supplements, and developing effective controls (Pettis and Delaplane 2010).   In 2009, USDA-APHIS funded a national survey of beekeepers in 34 states to detect exotic pests and diseases of honey bees (http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/honey_bees/downloads/SurveyProjectPlan.pdf ).

         Much of the knowledge about bee declines and CCD was made possible by these sources of USDA funds. However, researchers were confronted with numerous challenges to studying a problem of this magnitude, and quick solutions were not easy to come by. So here was the first challenge: Because the foragers had vanished, researchers were left with sampling and measuring diseases, pesticides and pests from the bees that remained in the hive. Although researchers might argue this point, I wonder if it’s valid to consider the bees that remain as comparable to the disappearing foragers.  A further challenge would be to track foraging bees exposed to either diseases and/or pesticides after leaving the hives and to quantify their return rates. Several researchers are beginning to tackle this problem (e.g., Ciarlo et al., 2011; EAA et al. 2012;   Yang et al., 2008). In the US, some bee kill incidents were believed to result from spray drift of Clothianidin, a neonicitinoid insecticide from cornfields (Krupke et al., 2012). So are pesticides and/or diseases the culprits? Although it may be tempting to say yes, we cannot make firm conclusions yet. Dosages were probably far higher than what a bee would encounter in the field.  More studies are needed using doses that approximate what bees typically consume under field conditions. In addition, these studies tested individual bees, and did not study bees at the colony level, which would better reflect actual conditions.

         Further complicating the story is the possibility that CCD is occurring with diminishing frequency. The CAP-funded longitudinal studies on stationary bee hives were the first to systematically track bee losses in experimental bee hives in seven states (Spivak 2010). They identified and quantified diseases, pesticide and pest levels within these hives. However, in the four years that these hives were followed, CCD was rarely observed (Spivak, personal communication).  Moreover, some beekeeper surveys were indicating that the number of reported cases of CCD by beekeepers was sharply decreasing. For example, in the 2010/2011 winter survey, starvation was cited as the most frequently reported cause of bee losses and CCD was the 7th most reported cause of colony loss on the list (vanEngelsdorp et al. 2012).

         So, was CCD just a transient problem? It’s quite possible. Was the problem gone? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Winter surveys 2012/2013 indicate that honeybee losses have resurged to levels approaching 30%; beekeepers – even large scale operators – are experiencing heavier losses than during last year’s mild winter (Pettis, personal communication).  Although fewer in number, beekeepers that reported losses from CCD incurred more than 60% losses (vanEngelsdorp et al. 2012). 

         Therefore, beekeepers are still confronted with a myriad of challenges to keeping bees (diseases, pesticides, Varroa mite, lack of forage, etc.) and for the most part lack effective ways to manage these problems. Almond growers, whose acreage has doubled in the past decade (835,000 acres in 2011), depend on the services of honeybees supplied by beekeepers who manage them. Still other specialty crop growers are seriously concerned about how to meet the demand for pollination.

        The CCD Steering Committee regrouped and agreed another meeting was needed to review the state of knowledge gathered over the past five years with an emphasis on obtaining recommendations for developing best management practices. A stakeholder workshop was convened in Alexandria VA in late October for 2 ½ days. Research progress in the 4 areas (pests, diseases, nutrition and pesticides) was reviewed. An impressive plethora of information was presented and constructive discussions were held to help USDA and EPA program leaders to determine next steps for a renewed federal strategy. The second part of the workshop focused on developing solutions or Best Management Practices to manage the declines. Breakout sessions were held to identify concrete strategies. It was a good collaborative effort between researchers, beekeepers, apiary inspectors, pesticide company reps, commodity group reps and conservation organizations. Important lines of communication were established. Some solutions will not involve science but will require agreements with land managers for agricultural and recreational use and special interest groups like duck hunters and environmentalists. In addition, hurdles must be crossed to increase communication between beekeepers, farmers and crop advisors. Finding effective strategies to influence growers to change their practices to protect bees were identified as another big challenge. A published report is expected within the next few months and will serve as the basis of a new action plan to prioritize future research on bee health and managing declines.

         The challenges that surround the management of honey bees are certainly vexing to beekeepers because their enterprises (both personal and professional) are at stake. The silver lining to this, however, is that a tremendous groundswell of concern arose from the public about the welfare of honeybees and other pollinators. The average person is more aware than ever that the health of honeybees and the reproduction of plants that depend on them are at risk and wants something to be done. Much progress is being made in providing practical solutions that beekeepers can use.  For example, Bee CAP co-investigator, Marla Spivak, established a “Tech-Transfer Team” in California, the Midwest and the Northeastern US to help honeybee queen breeders to select for “hygienic behavior”, a trait which helps bees defend against Varroa mites, still believed to be the main reason for colony losses (http://www.beeccdcap.uga.edu/documents/CAPArticle14.html).  In addition, the teams identify and assess infection levels of several bee diseases from samples provided by beekeepers.  Other investigators, Judy Chen and Jay Evans, funded both by USDA-ARS and NIFA, found that the Varroa mite spreads the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV), a disease that was strongly correlated with CCD (Di Prisco et al., 2011).  Still, other questions loom large and overall losses are unacceptably high.   Despite the complexities, I am optimistic that with continued investment of funds for research and outreach in the not too distant future (maybe 5 or 10 years) that practical answers to these challenges will be at hand.





    Berenbaum, May R. Losing their buzz, New York Times, March 2, 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/02/opinion/02berenbaum.html

    CCD Steering Committee, USDA-ARS.  CCD Action Plan  2007 http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/br/ccd/ccd_actionplan.pdf

    Di Prisco, G., Pennacchio, F., Emilio, C., Boncristiani, H., Evans, J.D., and Chen, Y.P. (2011) Varroa destructor, an effective vector of Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus in the honey bee Apis mellifera. J. Gen. Virol. 92: 151 – 155. e29268. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029268

    Environment Agency Austria (EAA); Margrit Grimm, M., Sedy, K., SuBenbacher, E. and Riss, A. Existing Scientific evidence of the effects of neonicitinoid pesticides on bees.  European Parliament; Directorate General for Internal Policies,  pp. 1-20; 2012; http://www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/studiesdownload.html?file=79433&languageDocument=EN

    Krupke, C.H.; Hunt, G.J.; Eitzer, B.D.; Andino, G. & Given, K. (2012): Multiple Routes of Pesticide Exposure for Honey Bees Living Near Agricultural Fields. PLoS ONE 7(1):

    Pettis, J.S. and K. S. Delaplane. 2010. Coordinated responses to honey bee decline in the USA. Apidologie Vol. 41 (3) :  256-263, 2010  DOI: 10.1051/apido/2010013

    Spivak, M. 2010.  Honey bee “medical records”:  The stationary apiary monitoring projects.  Amer.Bee.J.149(3):271-274; http://www.beeccdcap.uga.edu/documents/DrummondCAPcolumnDec2012.pdf

    vanEngelsdorp, D., Evans, J. D. ; Saegerman, C. ; Mullin, C. ; Haubruge, E. ; Nguyen, B. K.; Frazier, M.; Cox-Foster, D.; Chen, Y.; Underwood, R.; Tarpy, D. R.; Pettis, J. S. Colony Collapse Disorder:  A descriptive study.  PloS One 4:  pp.  1-17;  e6481.  2009.  DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone 0006481

    vanEngelsdorp, D., D. Caron, J.  Hayes, R. Underwood, M. Henson, K. Rennich, A. Spleen, M. Andree, R. Snyder, K.  Lee, K.  Roccasecca, M.  Wilson, J. Wilkes, E. Lengerich, J. Pettis, A national survey of managed honey bee 2010-11 winter colony losses in the USA: results from the Bee Informed Partnership. Vol 51 (1) 115-124, 2012,  10.3896/IBRA.

    Vaughn, M. and Skinner, M. Using farm bill programs for pollinator conservation.  USDA-NRCS and the Xerces Society.  Tech. Note 78.  Pp 1-16.  2008

    Yang, E. C., Y. C. Chuang, Y. L. Chen1, and L. H. Chang.  Abnormal foraging behavior induced by sublethal dosage of Imidacloprid in the honey bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae). J. Econ. Entomol. 1743-1748, 2008; doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1603/0022-0493-101.6.1743


  8. "BioEnergy - Biomass to Biofuels course", 2014 Spring Semester, University of Vermont

    ~~Want to make a difference in realizing Renewable Alternatives to Fossil Fuels - learn from experts, understand real-life situations firsthand from on-site operations, and tons of hands-on experience working with experts (variable credits) -

     "BioEnergy - Biomass to Biofuels course", 2014 Spring Semester, University of Vermont

    ~~January 16, 2014 to April 30, 2014 (Thursdays & Fridays   9:00AM - 12:00PM;
      no classes during the regular breaks/holidays, plus 2 weeks self-study for the course project; final exam in May) ;
      Location:  UVM campus & throughout Vermont for field trips/hands on  experience

     COURSE WEBSITE: http://go.uvm.edu/fo6ay
      4 Credit through ENSC, NR & TRC (3 & 2 credits only through ENSC) - for registration see links below.

     CERTIFICATE OF ACHIEVEMENT: awarded for successfully completing the 4 credit.

     DETAILS: Experts in following areas will provide hands-on instruction in wide range of topics including: LIQUID BIOFUELS (seed-based biodiesel; bioethanol; conversion of waste oil to biodiesel; advanced biofuels including algae-biofuel & microbial biofuel); SOLID BIOFUELS (wood & grass energy, pelletization), BIOGAS & BIO-ELECTRICITY (the farm-based energy); BIOHEAT, BIOMASS CONVERSION TECHNOLOGIES FOR BIOFUEL, BIOFUELS/ENERGY RELATED ENVIRONMENTAL, ECONOMICS, & SOCIAL ISSUES; OTHER wide-range of Biofuels related science & technology topics, background & literature. This course is designed to provide hands on experience in all possible Bio-Renewable Energy areas to prepare the participants of diverse backgrounds for jobs in BioEnergy / Biofuels industry, or higher education in the field, or related entrepreneurial endeavors in bioenergy / biofuels areas.

     CONTACTS: For syllabus related questions contact the Lead Instructor Anju Dahiya at adahiya@uvm.edu  (For registering email (http://learn.uvm.edu/contact/ ) or call 800-639-3210 or 802-656-2085 to make a phone or in-person appointment with a Continuing Education Adviser to discuss your options)

     INSTRUCTORS: UVM FACULTY MEMBERS and EXPERTS from VT-based Biomass/biofuels businesses (see the list at course website)

         All welcome: Degree and non-degree seeking students, budding entrepreneurs, teachers (interested in developing curriculum, or projects at school or college levels), farmers and others.

          biofuels businesses;
          B.HANDS ON FIELD WORK & SERVICE LEARNING PROJECTS involving tours to Farms/Biofuel facilities & related projects.
          C.TALKS by guest-speakers/experts from businesses;
          E.ONLINE CLASSES: supplementary classes/information including video
          clips and discussions.

     Three course listings to register from:
     ENSC: http://learn.uvm.edu/courselistspring/course.php?term=201401&crn=12170
     NR: http://learn.uvm.edu/courselistspring/course.php?term=201401&crn=12075
     TRC: http://learn.uvm.edu/courselistspring/course.php?term=201401&crn=14731

     Credits (note that 3 & 2 credits only through ENSC 285):
          4 credits (Certificate of Achievement) : on-campus lecture w/access to Blackboard materials, hands on in-lab & field trip sessions, service learning project in partnership with a community leader, Certificate of Achievement awarded.
          3 credits: on-campus lecture with access to blackboard materials hands on in-lab & field trip sessions (without  the service learning project).
          2 credits: on-campus lectures with access to blackboard materials, (without in-lab & field trips & service learning project).

  9. "BioEnergy - Biomass to Biofuels course", 2014 Spring Semester, University of Vermont

    ~~Want to make a difference in realizing Renewable Alternatives to Fossil Fuels - learn from experts, understand real-life situations firsthand from on-site operations, and tons of hands-on experience working with experts (variable credits) -

     "BioEnergy - Biomass to Biofuels course", 2014 Spring Semester, University of Vermont

    ~~January 16, 2014 to April 30, 2014 (Thursdays & Fridays   9:00AM - 12:00PM;
      no classes during the regular breaks/holidays, plus 2 weeks self-study for the course project; final exam in May) ;
      Location:  UVM campus & throughout Vermont for field trips/hands on  experience

     COURSE WEBSITE: http://go.uvm.edu/fo6ay
      4 Credit through ENSC, NR & TRC (3 & 2 credits only through ENSC) - for registration see links below.

     CERTIFICATE OF ACHIEVEMENT: awarded for successfully completing the 4 credit.

     DETAILS: Experts in following areas will provide hands-on instruction in wide range of topics including: LIQUID BIOFUELS (seed-based biodiesel; bioethanol; conversion of waste oil to biodiesel; advanced biofuels including algae-biofuel & microbial biofuel); SOLID BIOFUELS (wood & grass energy, pelletization), BIOGAS & BIO-ELECTRICITY (the farm-based energy); BIOHEAT, BIOMASS CONVERSION TECHNOLOGIES FOR BIOFUEL, BIOFUELS/ENERGY RELATED ENVIRONMENTAL, ECONOMICS, & SOCIAL ISSUES; OTHER wide-range of Biofuels related science & technology topics, background & literature. This course is designed to provide hands on experience in all possible Bio-Renewable Energy areas to prepare the participants of diverse backgrounds for jobs in BioEnergy / Biofuels industry, or higher education in the field, or related entrepreneurial endeavors in bioenergy / biofuels areas.

     CONTACTS: For syllabus related questions contact the Lead Instructor Anju Dahiya at adahiya@uvm.edu  (For registering email (http://learn.uvm.edu/contact/ ) or call 800-639-3210 or 802-656-2085 to make a phone or in-person appointment with a Continuing Education Adviser to discuss your options)

     INSTRUCTORS: UVM FACULTY MEMBERS and EXPERTS from VT-based Biomass/biofuels businesses (see the list at course website)

         All welcome: Degree and non-degree seeking students, budding entrepreneurs, teachers (interested in developing curriculum, or projects at school or college levels), farmers and others.

          biofuels businesses;
          B.HANDS ON FIELD WORK & SERVICE LEARNING PROJECTS involving tours to Farms/Biofuel facilities & related projects.
          C.TALKS by guest-speakers/experts from businesses;
          E.ONLINE CLASSES: supplementary classes/information including video
          clips and discussions.

     Three course listings to register from:
     ENSC: http://learn.uvm.edu/courselistspring/course.php?term=201401&crn=12170
     NR: http://learn.uvm.edu/courselistspring/course.php?term=201401&crn=12075
     TRC: http://learn.uvm.edu/courselistspring/course.php?term=201401&crn=14731

     Credits (note that 3 & 2 credits only through ENSC 285):
          4 credits (Certificate of Achievement) : on-campus lecture w/access to Blackboard materials, hands on in-lab & field trip sessions, service learning project in partnership with a community leader, Certificate of Achievement awarded.
          3 credits: on-campus lecture with access to blackboard materials hands on in-lab & field trip sessions (without  the service learning project).
          2 credits: on-campus lectures with access to blackboard materials, (without in-lab & field trips & service learning project).

  10. Frank Drummond - The University of Maine

    Professor of Insect Ecology and Blueberry Insect Pest and Pollination Extension Specialist 

    I am the director of Maine’s efforts at providing sustainable pollination for lowbush blueberry in the Northeast through the Pollination Security Project. Day to day tasks are to advise graduate students that are conducting vital research on this project (9 students) and to be the spokes person for the project, especially involving contact with blueberry growers, honey bee keepers, and Maine state and non-profit agencies. In addition, my personal research focuses on the pollination ecology of lowbush blueberry. This area of research involves bee foraging and floral handling behaviors as well as plant growth and development responses to the environment. My skills as a statistical modeler also allow me to provide the project with predictive modeling capabilities.  

    Contact Information

    Email: frank.drummond@umit.maine.edu

    Tel.: 207 581-2989

  11. Kimberly Stoner- Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station

    Dr. Kimberly Stoner leads the study of pumpkin and winter squash pollination for the Pollination Security Project, counting bees on flowers on 20 fields in Connecticut, and relating those bee counts to pollen deposition on the stigmas of the female flowers. In addition, she collects samples of pollen and nectar for measurement of pesticide residues and samples of bees for molecular analysis to track movement of RNA viruses and various microbes in different species of bees. 

    In her other bee projects, she is completing a project comparing numbers and diversity of bees on different plants grown on diversified vegetable farms – herbs, cut flowers, ornamental  plants, cover crops, wildflowers, and weeds.  She is also doing long-term monitoring of bee diversity in several sites around Connecticut.

    Her background is in vegetable entomology, particularly breeding plants for resistance to insect pests, biological control of insect pests, and other alternatives to insecticides for managing vegetable insects.  She has worked with many organic farmers and organic landscapers, she was a member of the Board of Directors of the Connecticut chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association for 20 years, and she was the lead author on the first organic standards for landscaping in the world.  She is an Associate Scientist in the Entomology Department at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, where she has been since 1987. 

    Contact Information

    Voice: (203) 974-8480
    E-mail: Kimberly.Stoner@ct.gov

  12. Kalyn Bickerman - The University of Maine

    Kalyn Bickerman is a Ph.D. student at the University of Maine under the supervision of Dr. Frank Drummond and works on investigating the health of native bumblebees in Maine's lowbush blueberry fields. Before arriving at UMaine, Kalyn completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME, as well as a Master of Arts degree in Conservation Biology at Columbia University in the City of New York. 

    Although her Master's work focused on the health of loggerhead sea turtles in the Pacific, Kalyn has been able to transfer her knowledge of, and her interest in, pathology and disease ecology to doing her Ph.D. work with Maine's bumblebees. Beyond looking for common parasites and pathogens in the bees, Kalyn also has done some work looking at pesticides and how they affect colony development, along with how well individual bees are able to detoxify themselves when faced with pesticide exposure.

    Lowbush blueberries are one of Maine's most important exports and bumblebees are instrumental in their pollination for successful fruit production. Therefore, it is vital to protect our native pollinators, particularly in a time when our managed pollinator, the honeybee, is facing such grave declines. Although she traveled and has lived in different cities since graduating college, Kalyn (a Maine native) always knew she wanted to return to Maine to begin her professional career. She is very happy that her work not only helps protect the bees, but also the agricultural economy of her home State.

    Contact Information

    mobile: 207-441-1355
  13. Brian Eitzer - Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station

    Dr. Eitzer received a B.S. with a double major in chemistry and environmental science in 1982 from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay.  He went on to receive a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Indiana University in 1989.  Since that time he has been employed by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.  He is an expert in the analysis of organic contaminants in a wide variety of matrixes.  These contaminants can include industrial products such as polychlorinated biphenyls or agricultural chemicals such as pesticides.  The matrixes can include soil, water, air, food products such as fruit and vegetables, and matrices related to honey bees.  He has expertise in the analytical methods used to do these analyses including extraction and cleanup of samples. In addition, his expertise extends to the instrumental methods such as liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry and gas chromatography mass spectrometry used in the analysis of these samples.

    Pesticides are thought to be a co-factor in many of the problems facing pollinators.  In addition to acute effects such as a bee kill caused by a misapplication of pesticides they can also potentially cause longer term non-lethal effects.  Therefore, in our studies of pollination security it is important to determine the pesticide exposure of the pollinators.  This is done by taking samples of various matrixes such as the nectar and pollen from a plant, or bees themselves and analyzing those matrixes for pesticides.  Pesticides are extracted from these matrixes by acetonitrile, the extracts are then treated to remove some interfering compounds and then the extracts are analyzed using liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry.  Using these techniques we can detect and quantify a large number of different pesticides that may potentially be present in the sample.  Dr. Eitzer’s role within the pollination security project is to conduct these analyses on the samples submitted by the other collaborators and report back to them the pesticide content of the samples they submitted.

    Contact Information

    Voice: (203)-974-8453
    E-mail: Brian.Eitzer@ct.gov

  14. David Yarborough - The University of Maine

    David E. Yarborough is the wild blueberry specialist with Cooperative Extension and professor of horticulture in the School of Food and Agriculture at the University of Maine, where he has worked for the past 34 years. He attended the University of Maine where he received a B.S. degree in wildlife management in 1975 and an M.S. degree in resource utilization 1978.  He received his Ph.D. degree in Plant and Soil Science in 1991 from the University of Massachusetts. 

    His research subject dealt with weed-crop competition and shifts in species distributions in Maine's wild blueberry fields with the use of herbicides.  He now does research on developing chemical and cultural strategies for controlling weeds, and works with wild blueberry growers in Maine and Canada to educate them on best management practices that will enable them to increase their efficiency of production and their profitability, so that this industry may continue to remain competitive in the world marketplace.  He has published well over 200 research and Extension publications dealing with wild blueberries and with weeds.  He was recognized by the IR-4 program when he received the Meritorious Service Award in 2006 and 30 year service award from the University of Maine in 2009.

    Contact Information

    Phone: 207-581-2923
    Toll-Free: 800-897-0757 x 1
    E-mail Davidy@Maine.edu
    Website www.wildblueberries.maine.edu

  15. Tom Stevens - The University of Massachusetts

    Tom Stevens is a natural resource economist. He has a PhD degree from Cornell University and is currently a Professor of Resource Economics at Umass-Amherst. Tom’s work on this project focuses on using contingent valuation methods to estimate the extra amount consumers would be willing to pay, if any, for blueberries, cranberries and other crops that are pollinated by native as opposed to commercial pollination.

    Contact Information:

    E-mail: tstevens@resecon.umass.edu

  16. Tracy Zarrillo - Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station

    I have worked at The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station since 1992, and over the course of my career have provided assistance on a variety of projects, including insect pest management on organic farms and apple orchards in Connecticut.  Recent projects focus on pumpkin/squash pollination and wild bee diversity on farms, and also surveying the state for exotic and invasive insect pests.

    My interest in pollination and documenting wild bee diversity began about five years ago while working on a project that looked at beneficial insects visiting ornamental flowers.  I was amazed to see so many different types of bees!  At that point, I began to work with various bee experts around the country to learn bee taxonomy.  I have taken a Northeastern Bee Identification Workshop given by Dr. John Ascher; a Dialictus (sub-genera in the genus Lasioglossum aka sweat-bee) workshop given by Dr. Jason Gibbs; Native Bee Identification, Ecology, Research and Monitoring Course given by Sam Droege and Dr. Jason Gibbs; and the Pollinator Short Course given by Xerces Society.  I have also spent many hours being personally mentored by Sam Droege of the USGS down at his lab in Maryland.  This has enabled me to be able to do species-level identifications for our northeastern fauna, which is critical to ecological studies. 

    The bee species that visit pumpkin and squash in Connecticut are very limited in scope, and so my taxonomic role in this project is very easy.  However, I also assist with pollen and nectar collection from pumpkin and squash flowers on farms, as well as stigma (female flower parts) processing back at our lab.  The stigmas are processed with a base to remove the pollen that bees have deposited in a given morning.  This will help us know how many pollen grains the bees are transferring from the male flowers to the female flowers. 

    Presently, I am attending Southern Connecticut State University pursuing a Master’s Degree in Biology.  My thesis project is a two year faunal survey of the bee communities found at a coastal preserve in Guilford, Connecticut. 

    Contact Information:


  17. John Burand - The University of Massachusetts

    John Burand is an Insect Pathologist in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst working on microbes, particularly viruses that cause diseases in bees. Before joining the faculty at U-Mass Dr. Burand was a research and postdoctoral associate at the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University and in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University. He received his Ph.D. degree at Washington State University working on insect viruses in the Department of Bacteriology and Public Health and received his M.S. degree from Miami University in the Department of Microbiology.

    John’s research interests are in the area of molecular basis for pathogenesis of viruses in insects as well as factors influencing the host range of viruses. He is currently examining the epizootiology of viruses of honey bees including their transmission and replication in other bee species including bumble bees.

    Contact Information

    Phone: 413-545-3629
    Email: jburand@microbio.umass.edu

  18. Eric Venturini - The University of Maine

    Eric Venturini has a diverse background in resource management, research, and agriculture. His experience includes over two years of work on organic farms and over 200 days at-sea helping to manage long-line and trawl fisheries in Pacific. He is now studying at the University of Maine and expects to receive his Masters of Science in May, 2014.

    Eric’s role on the Pollination Security Team is to study the influence that bee pasture has on native bee communities in Maine’s lowbush blueberry fields. He is very involved in outreach, regularly speaking to any and all interested groups. If you are interested in bee pasture wildflower mixes, native bee habitat enhancement, farming and gardening using bee friendly practices, or sustainable crop pollination Eric would be excited to hear from you.

    If you can’t find Eric studying bees in a blueberry field, he is probably gardening, fishing, hunting, hiking, walking his redbone coonhound, or chopping wood in the backyard.

    Contact Information:


  19. Shannon Chapin - The University of Maine

    Shannon Chapin is currently a graduate research assistant working towards a Master of Science in Ecology and Environmental Science at the University of Maine, under Drs. Cynthia Loftin and Frank Drummond. Shannon’s research focuses on using spatial modeling tools to assess the effects of landscape characteristics on Maine’s native bees.

    She received a BS in Geography, with minors in Wildlife and Fisheries Science, and Climatology from The Pennsylvania State University, and a graduate certificate in Geospatial Sciences from Humboldt State University. Prior to graduate school, Shannon worked for 5 years as a field ecologist and GIS specialist for various federal agencies located across the country.

    Shannon’s career goals are to continue to combine her interests, education, and work experiences in the fields of Geospatial Sciences and Ecology. Post graduate school, Shannon hopes to contribute to the federal, state or local government, or a non-profit agency with a focus on conservation planning, wildlife monitoring, analyzing agricultural resource issues, and/or automation and optimization of ecological data collection and processing.

    Contact Information:

    email: shannonjchapin@gmail.com

  20. Anatomy of the Honey Bee
    Discover the intricacies of honey bee anatomy


    Like all insects, the honey bee is made up of three major segments: head, thorax, and abdomen.

    As a member of the insect class (Insecta), honey bees share with other insects the following characteristics. Honey bees are segmented in nearly all their body parts: three segments of thorax, six visible segments of abdomen (the other three are modified into the sting, legs and antenna are also segmented. Honey bees have an exoskeleton, which is rigid and covered with layers of wax, but have no internal bones like vertebrates do. The main component of exoskeleton is chitin which is a polymer of glucose and can support a lot of weight with very little material. The wax layers protect bees from desiccation (losing water). The advantage of chitin-containing exoskeleton also prevents bees from growing continually, instead, they must shed their skins periodically during larval stages, and stay the same size during the adult stage. Bees also have an open circulatory system, meaning that they do not have veins or arteries, but rather all their internal organ are bathed in a liquid called ‘hemolymph’ (a mix of blood and lymphatic fluid). Bees breathe through a complex structure of network of tracheas and air sacs. Oxygen is vacuumed into the body through openings on each segment (spiracles) by the expansion of the air sacs, then the spiracles are closed and air sacs are compressed to force the air into smaller tracheas, which become smaller and smaller until individual tubules reach individual cells. In the following I will discuss the important structures on and inside the honey bee body.

    • Table of Contents
    1. Head Segment of the Honey Bee
    2. Thorax of the Honey Bee
    3. Abdomen of the Honey Bee
    4. Historical Anatomical Literature of Honey Bee Anatomy
      1. Illustrations from Anatomy of the Honey Bee by R.E. Snodgrass
      2. Illustrations from Morphology of the Honey Bee Larva by J.A. Nelson

    Page text and photos authored and Copyrighted to Zachary Huang, Dept. Entomology, Michigan State University.

  21. 2014 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series Begins Feb. 7


    The eXtension All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar series is set to begin Feb. 7. Dr. Kathy Flanders, an entomologist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, says the series is a continuation of the Don’t Bug Me Webinar series with an emphasis on good and bad insects that affect people every day.

    “This webinar series will feature insects that affect homeowners and gardeners,” says Flanders. “These insects fall into two categories and we hope to provide information that is beneficial when treating your gardens or crops and pest-proofing your home, yard, family and pets.”

    Webinars will be held the first Friday of each month at 2 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The first webinar in the 2014 series will highlight pollinators, which are good bugs. “If Flowers are Restaurants to Bees, then What Are Bees to Flowers?” will be Friday, Feb. 7 at 2 p.m.

    Honeybee on flower. Photo courtesy of Jerry A. Payne, bugwood.org.

    Dani Carroll, a region Extension home grounds agent, will be moderating the Feb. 7 webinar. She says it is imperative to know the importance of the role pollinators play in the world around us.

    “Bees and other pollinators are essential in production of more than two-thirds of the world’s food crop species,” Carroll says. “The necessity extends beyond things we grow in our back yard, like squash and apples. Alfalfa is instrumental in the meat and dairy industries and its growth depends on pollination.”

    Upcoming webinar topics include pollinators, termites, ticks, spiders and fire ants.

    Flanders says The All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar series is designed to provide useful tips for those interested in solid, research-based information.

    More information can be found at All Bugs Good and Bad 2014 Webinar Series including how to connect to the webinars.  On Feb. 7, participants can use this link to connect to the webinar. Webinars will be archived and can be found on the All Bugs Good and Bad 2014 Webinar Series page.

    All Bugs Good and Bad webinars are an extension of the seven webinars in The Don’t Bug Me Webinar Series, which spanned most of 2013, and included five webinars discussing fire ants, tramp ants, bed bugs and insects that invade homes.  Links to view these archived webinars can be found here.

    The webinars are sponsored by eXtension and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  They are coordinated by the Imported Fire Ant eXtension Community of Practice, Urban IPM, Bee Health, Invasive Species, Gardens, Lawns and Landscapes, & Disasters

  22. Varroa Sensitive Hygiene and Mite Reproduction

    The USDA-ARS Baton Rouge Bee Lab has bred bees that hygienically remove mite-infested pupae from capped worker brood. This ability is called varroa sensitive hygiene, and bees expressing high levels of this behavior are called VSH bees. To select for the VSH trait in your bees, also see Selecting for Varroa Sensitive Hygiene

    Figure 1. Hygienic removal of a mite infested worker pupa by adult worker honey bees is an important mechanism of resistance to varroa mites. The removal involves several bees, and results in death of the mite offspring. The mother mite usually survives.

    VSH is an important mechanism of resistance to varroa mites. The best resistance is found in pure VSH bees. However, hybrid VSH bees (e.g. VSH queens open mated to non-resistant drones) also have significant resistance to varroa mites.

    VSH is very similar or the same as hygienic behavior that honey bees use to combat American foulbrood, chalkbrood, and the eggs and larvae of wax moths and small hive beetles. All colonies probably have individuals that perform VSH, and we do not yet understand how our selective breeding has resulted in colonies with greatly improved performance. Hygiene is performed by nest cleaning bees aged 15-18 days old. Removal of a mite-infested pupae begins when an uncapper smells the infested brood and chews a pinhole through the cell cap. Subsequently, removers enlarge the hole and either eat the infested pupa or pull it from the brood cell (Fig. 1).

    VSH bees do not respond to all mite-infested pupae with equal intensity (Fig. 2). They are more likely to remove mite-infested pupae that are not pigmented or only lightly pigmented (stages 2–4) than prepupae (stage 1) or more darkly pigmented pupae (stages 5-8). Additionally, they are much less hygienic towards mite-infested drone brood than worker brood. Reasons for these trends are unclear.

    Fig. 2. Some factors that influence the degree of varroa sensitive hygiene in colonies of bees include age and genetics of worker bees, age and type of brood, and infestation level of mites in capped brood. .

    Removal of mite-infested brood is probably triggered by unusual odors that penetrate the cell cap to the outside where hygienic bees patrol the comb surface. We have observed that VSH bees respond vigorously to highly infested brood (e.g. 15–25 mites per 100 capped cells) that is transferred into the colony (Fig. 3). They uncap and remove many mite-infested pupae quickly. They respond with much less intensity to brood with low infestation rates (1–5 mites per 100 capped cells), probably because the chemical signals that trigger removal are less concentrated and harder to detect.

    Figure 3. Comparison of mite-infested brood that had been exposed to VSH bees or controls for 24 hours. Uncapped pupae appear as white dots in this photo.

    More characteristics of VSH bees

    Figure 4. Pie charts showing the proportion of mites that are reproductive in VSH and control colonies.

    Figure 5. Cell caps from normal (upper right) and recapped (lower two) brood cells. The three cell caps have been removed and flipped ov

    Another characteristic of VSH bees is a reduced fertility of mites, when compared to non-VSH bees. In a colony, mite fertility is reduced several weeks after introduction of VSH queens into non-selected colonies. This led to the original name of the trait, Suppressed Mite Reproduction (SMR). This name describes the trait (or traits) selected in the experimental population of bees. The name of the trait was later replaced by Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH). This is due to the finding that the primary mechanism of the trait is the removal of infested pupae from capped brood cells.

    The VSH bees shown in Fig. 4 have about 30% reproductive mites (a normal family capable of producing a mature daughter). About 55% are infertile or non-laying mites (blue slice), and there are mites that die without producing offspring (red slice). There are also mites that produce a family, but their daughters do not mature before the bee emerges (yellow slice). These are fertile because they laid some eggs, but they are also considered non-reproductive because they will not produce even 1 mature daughter.

    Sometimes, uncapped cells are recapped. VSH bees will exhibit this recapping more then non-hygienic bees , as seen in the following data (Villa et al 2010)

    • Recapped cells (%)
      • VSH: 38 ± 0.3 a
      • Hybrid: 19 ± 0.8 ab
      • Control: 17 ± 0.3 b

    It is possible that uncapping and recapping interferes with mite reproduction. Caps from normal and recapped brood cells can look alike when viewed from outside (as when you look at a brood comb, see Fig. 5). However, when the caps are gently removed and flipped over the silk lining of the cap becomes visible. In normally capped cells (upper right Fig. 5) the silk lines the entire inner surface of the cap. The recapped cells on the bottom row (Fig. 5) show granular wax without a silk lining where holes that were used by hygienic bees to inspect cells are repaired by nest bees. The holes can vary in diameter from pinholes to the size of the entire cap.



    Jeff Harris presents: Varroa sensitive hygiene and mite reproduction. Jeff Harris and Bob Danka: USDA-ARS, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. American Bee Research Conference. Orlando, Fl. January 15th, 2010.

    Chronology of References with Open Access Links

    • 2010. Hygienic responses to Varroa destructor by commercial and feral honey bees from the Big Island of Hawaii before exposure to mites. Danka, R. G., Harris, Jeffrey W., and Villa, J. D. 2010. Science of bee culture. Mar., v. 2, no. 1, p. 11-14. http://hdl.handle.net/10113/43776
    • 2010. Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) with the Trait of Varroa Sensitive Hygiene Remove Brood with All Reproductive Stages of Varroa Mites (Mesostigmata: Varroidae). Harris, J. W., Danka, R. G., and Villa, Jose D. 2010. Annals of the Entomological Society of America. Mar., v. 103, issue 2, p. 146-152. http://hdl.handle.net/10113/39368
    • 2010. Breeding for resistance to Varroa destructor in North America. Rinderer, T. E., Harris, J. W., Hunt, G. J., and de Guzman, L. I. 2010. Apidologie. May-June, v. 41, no. 3, p. 409-424. http://hdl.handle.net/10113/43844
    • 2009. Responses to Varroa by honey bees with different levels of Varroa Sensitive Hygiene. Harbo, J. R. and Harris, J. W. 2009. Journal of apicultural research. v. 48, no. 3, p. 156-161. http://hdl.handle.net/10113/32516
    • 2009. Simplified methods of evaluating colonies for levels of Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH). Villa, J. D., Danka, R. G., and Harris, J. W. 2009. Journal of apicultural research. v. 48, no. 3, p. 162-167. http://hdl.handle.net/10113/32517
    • 2008. Effect of Brood Type on Varroa-Sensitive Hygiene by Worker Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Harris, J. W. 2008. Annals of the Entomological Society of America. Nov., v. 101, issue 6, p. 1137-1144. http://hdl.handle.net/10113/21494
    • 2008. Comparative Performance of Two Mite-Resistant Stocks of Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in Alabama Beekeeping Operations. Ward, K., Danka, R., and Ward, R. 2008. Journal of economic entomology. June, v. 101, no. 3, p. 654-659. http://hdl.handle.net/10113/17348
    • 2007. Bees with Varroa Sensitive Hygiene preferentially remove mite infested pupae aged less than or equal to five days post capping. Harris, J.W. 2007. Journal of apicultural research. v. 46, no. 3, p. 134-139. http://hdl.handle.net/10113/8497
    • 2006. Ibrahim, A. and Spivak, M. The relationship between hygienic behavior and suppression of mite reproduction as honey bee mechanisms of resistance to Varroa destructor. 2006. Apidologie. 37: 31-40. http://www.extension.umn.edu/honeybees/components/pubs.htm Direct link: http://www.extension.umn.edu/honeybees/components/pdfs/Apidologie_37_2006.pdf
    • 2005. Suppressed mite reproduction explained by the behaviour of adult bees. Harbo, J.R. and Harris, J.W. 2005. Journal of apicultural research. v. 44, no. 1, p. 21-23. http://hdl.handle.net/10113/38194
    • 2001. Resistance to Varroa destructor (Mesostigmata: Varroidae) when mite-resistant queen honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) were free-mated with unselected drones. Harbo, J.R. and Harris, J.W. 2001. Journal of economic entomology. Dec. v. 94 (6), p. 1319-1323. http://hdl.handle.net/10113/22462
    • 2000. Changes in reproduction of Varroa destructor after honey bee queens were exchanged between resistant and susceptible colonies. Harris, J. W. and Harbo, J. R. 2000. Apidologie 31. 689-699. apidologie.org
    • 1999. Selecting honey bees for resistance to Varroa jacobsoni. Harbo, J. R. and Harris, J. W. 1999. Apidologie 30. 183-196.apidologie.org
  23. Michael Wilson

    Michael Wilson supports USDA programs in bee health including the NIFA project “The Bee Informed Partnership” (beeinformed.org) and the USDA-SCRI, “Pollination Security in the Northeast”. These projects involve website design,  database and applications programming, video production, and developing educational content in the subject of bees. Michael has been a beekeeper since 1999 and keeps a few apiaries in East Tennessee on his own. He applies his computing and beekeeping experience to bee research, education, and Extension through John Skinner’s Extension program “Bees and Beekeeping” at The University of Tennessee

    Contact Information

    Michael Wilson, M.S.
    The University of Tennessee
    Please use Ask an Expert web-form at http://bees.tennessee.edu/

  24. Managing Small Hive Beetles

    What you can do to prevent or limit their damage

    Author: Jon Zawislak, Department of Entolomogy and Plant Pathology, Mississippi State University

    Update: To view and print a PDF of Small Hive Beetle Management in Mississippi by Audrey Sheridan, Harry Fulton, and Jon Zawislak,  Click Here

    The small hive beetle Aethina tumida (SHB) is an invasive pest of bee hives, originally from sub-Saharan Africa.  These beetles inhabit almost all honey bee colonies in their native range, but they do little damage there and are rarely considered a serious hive pest. 

    It is unknown how this pest found its way into the U.S., but was first discovered to be damaging honey bee colonies in Florida in the late 1990s.  It has since spread to more than 30 states, being particularly prevalent in the southeast.  The beetles have likely been transported with package bees and by migratory beekeepers, but the adult beetles are strong fliers and are capable of traveling several miles at a time on their own. 

    In the United States these beetles are usually considered to be a secondary or opportunistic pest, only causing excessive damage after bee colonies have already become stressed or weakened by other factors.  Infestations of beetles can put significant stress on bee colonies, which can be compounded by the stress of varroa mites and other conditions.  If large populations of beetles are allowed to build up, even strong colonies can be overwhelmed in a short time. 

    Honey bee colonies appear able to contend with fairly large populations of adult beetles with little effect.  However, high beetle populations are able to lay enormous numbers of eggs.  These eggs develop quickly and result in rapid destruction of unprotected combs in a short time.  There is no established threshold number for small hive beetles, as their ability to devastate a bee colony is related to many factors of colony strength and overall health.  By maintaining strong bee colonies, and keeping adult beetle populations low, beekeepers can suppress the beetles’ reproductive potential.

    Fig. 1.  SHB adults are often observed in the hive with their head and antennae tucked down beneath the thorax.  They are oblong in shape, around 6 mm long, and with variable coloration that ranges from tan to reddish-brown, dark brown or black.

    Fig. 2.  SHB larvae will grow to about 1/2" in length.  They possess 3 pairs of well-developed legs, and have rows of short spines projecting from their bodies.


    Adult SHB are 5-7 mm (1/4”) in length, oblong or oval in shape, tan to reddish brown, dark brown or black in color, and covered in fine hairs, but their size and appearance can be highly variable within a population.  The adults are usually observed in the hive with their heads tucked down beneath the thorax, so that antennae and legs are often not apparent (Fig. 1).  The larvae are elongated, cream-colored to slightly golden grubs, growing to 10-12 mm (1/2”).  They may be mistaken for young larvae of the greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella).  The two types of larvae can be differentiated by their appearance.  Beetle larvae (Fig. 2) have three pairs of well-developed legs near the anterior end, while wax moth larvae have three pairs of legs near the anterior and four pairs of less-developed prolegs toward the posterior.  SHB larvae also have numerous dorsal spines, which wax moth larvae are lacking.  Both pests can be found simultaneously in the same hive, however.

    Honey bees are not able to efficiently remove adult beetles from the hive, and their hard shells resist stinging.  Rather, the bees are observed to pursue adult beetles across the combs.  Beetles will seek cracks and crevices in which to escape from the bees, who in turn will imprison the beetles in these cracks, preventing them from escaping.  The beetles have developed the ability to stimulate the mouth parts of worker bees with their antennae, similar to drones begging for food, and are able to trick their guards into feeding them.  This behavior allows the beetles to survive in confinement for extended periods. Opening hives for inspections may free the beetles from their confinement. 

    Sometimes the SHB population becomes too large for the worker bees to protect against, and the beetle population can increase rapidly.  This may happen due to weakening colony health or declining bee population, or due to beekeeper action.  When swarming occurs, the number of bees available to patrol the interior of the hive is reduced, which may allow the beetle population to surge.  When colonies are split, or nucs are created, the number of bees in the new colonies may be insufficient to protect against the beetle population.  Mating nucs used in queen rearing may be particularly susceptible to SHB.  Over-supering hives provides the beetles with excessive space in which to move and hide and provides additional oviposition sites, while increasing the area that the worker bees must patrol. 

    The use of grease patties for tracheal mite control, or the addition of protein supplement patties for spring build-up, may increase SHB infestations.  Both adult and larval beetles are attracted to these patties as a food source.  If patties are found to be infested with larvae, they should be removed immediately, and disposed of by wrapping them in several layers of plastic bags to prevent SHB from escaping.

    The adult female beetles will lay egg masses in cracks and crevices around the hive, or directly on pollen and brood combs.  Beetles may puncture the capping or wall of a brood cell and deposit eggs inside of it.  A single female beetle can produce over 1000 eggs in her lifetime.  Beetle eggs are similar in shape to those of honey bees, but approximately 2/3 the size.  Eggs generally hatch in 2-4 days, and the larvae immediately begin to feed on pollen, honey, and bee brood.  In 7-10 days, beetles complete their larval development and will exit the hive to pupate in the soil.  The majority of larvae remain within about 180 cm (6’) of the hive they exit, but can crawl much longer distances if needed.  Larvae will burrow up to 10 cm (4”) into the soil, where they remain 3-6 weeks to complete pupation.  Within 1-2 days of emerging from the soil, adult beetles will seek out a host bee colony, which they locate by odors (Fig. 3).

    The adults are strong fliers, and can disperse to other beehives easily.  Beetles are also thought to travel with honey bee swarms.  Individual beetles can live up to 6 months or more, and several overlapping generations of beetles can mature within in a colony in a single season.  Beetle reproduction ceases during the winter, when adult beetles are able to overwinter within the bee cluster.

    Fig. 3.  Life Cycle of the Small Hive Beetle.


    Economic damage from SHB occurs when the bee population is insufficient to protect the honey combs from the scavenging beetle larvae.  When adult beetles first invade a colony, they may go unnoticed until their populations increase through reproduction or immigration.  Both adult and larval beetles will prey upon honey bee eggs and brood.

    When large numbers of beetle eggs hatch in weak colonies, the combs of honey can become “wormy” and take on a glistening, slimy appearance (Fig. 4).  Unlike wax moths, these beetle larvae do not necessarily damage the combs themselves, and do not produce extensive webbing.  Ruined honey can be washed from the combs, which may then be frozen for 24 hours to kill any beetles or eggs on them, and placed back onto a strong hive to be cleaned and repaired by the bees. 

    When large numbers of adult beetles defecate in the honey, they introduce yeasts, causing the honey to ferment and run out of the cells.  In this case, the queen bee may cease laying, and the entire colony may abscond. Weak colonies are particularly vulnerable to attack, but even strong colonies can be overwhelmed by large populations of beetles.  Nucleus colonies used for queen production or colony splits can be especially vulnerable to beetle attacks.

    Beetles can create sudden problems if bee escapes are used prior to harvesting, and supers of honey are left virtually undefended by bees.  If honey is removed from the hive, but not immediately extracted, beetles can invade the honey house and quickly ruin a large portion of a honey harvest.  Wet cappings from recently extracted honey are also extremely attractive and vulnerable to beetle infestation.  Honey contaminated by small hive beetles will be rejected by bees, is entirely unfit for human consumption, and should never be bottled or mixed with other honey for packing.

    Fig. 4.   Honeycombs infested with SHB larvae take on a glistening or "slimey" appearance.  Honey contaminated by beetle larvae is unfit for consumption by either bees or humans.


    Beetles are easily detected by visual inspection of colonies.  When a hive is opened, adult beetles may be observed running across the underside of the outer cover, on either side of the inner cover, and on the top bars of frames.  Also, beetles may be seen running across the surfaces of combs (Fig. 5).  To detect beetles in the top hive body, open the hive and place the outer cover on the ground in a sunny spot, and place the top hive body into the cover (Fig. 6).  Conduct normal colony inspection activities on the rest of the hive.  If present in the top super, adult beetles will retreat from the sunlight, and after about 10 minutes you may lift the hive body and look for beetles in the cover.  Beetles in the lower hive body will similarly retreat to the bottom board as the colony is disturbed.

    Strips of corrugated cardboard, with the paper removed from one side, or pieces of corrugated plastic (obtained as scraps from a sign shop) can be placed on the bottom board at the rear of the hive.  Adult beetles, fleeing from bees, may seek shelter in the small spaces of the corrugations, and can be easily seen.  Bees may chew up and remove cardboard strips left in a hive for extended periods.

    Varroa sticky boards are usually ineffective in detecting small hive beetles.  Adult beetles prefer dark conditions, and will migrate toward the tops of hives that have screen bottoms, and may be more easily detected by placing corrugated strips on the top bars of the upper super or above the inner cover

    Small hive beetle larvae are often found clustered together in corners of a hive or on frames.  This behavior also differentiates them from wax moth larvae, which are found scattered throughout a hive.  Older beetle larvae orient toward light sources, and in the honey house, a single fluorescent light near the floor may attract beetle larvae, which exit the hives when seeking a place to pupate.  These larvae can be swept up and drowned in soapy water.

    Surfaces of combs that appear slimy, or fermented honey bubbling from the combs, are positive signs of beetle activity.  Fermented honey has an odor described as decaying oranges.

    If you suspect the presence of hive beetles, you may contact your state apiary inspector to arrange a visit, or you may bring a specimen in alcohol to your local Cooperative Extension office for positive identification.

    Fig. 5.  Adult beetles may be seen running across the combs, often pursued by honey bees.

    Fig. 6.  To detect SHB in the top super of a hive, place it on the hive lid in a sunny spot for abotu 10 minutes.  The bright light will drive the beetles down to the bottom.  If present, adult beetles should be visible on the lid when the super is lifted.


    Prevention is the most effective tactic of small hive beetle control.  Chemical controls are available, but are of limited use.  Good beekeeping management practices in the bee yard and in the honey house are sufficient to contain hive beetle problems in most cases.  A combination of cultural and mechanical controls will usually help to maintain beetle infestations within a manageable range. 

    Keep bee colonies healthy and strong.  Reduce stresses from diseases, mite parasitism, and other factors.  Maintain and propagate bee stocks with hygienic traits that are better able to detect and remove pests and diseased brood.  Eliminate, requeen, or strengthen weak colonies.

    Use caution when combining colonies or exchanging combs and hive bodies, because beetles and their eggs can be introduced into other colonies, which can be overwhelmed.  Making splits from heavily infested hives can cause a serious outbreak if insufficient numbers of bees remain to protect the hive.  Avoid over-supering hives, which increases the area that the bees must patrol.

    Maintain a clean apiary and honey house to reduce attraction to beetles.  Avoid tossing burr comb onto the ground around hives, which may attract pests.  Adult beetles tend to prefer shady locations.  If possible, place hives where they receive direct sunlight at least part of the day.  Keep hives and frames in good condition.  Warped, cracked and rotten hive bodies provide beetles with many places to hide, and make them more difficult to detect by bees or beekeepers.  When debris is left to accumulate on a bottom board, beetle larvae can complete pupation inside the hive.  Regular cleaning or use of screen bottom boards can prevent this build-up of debris.

    Honey that is removed from a colony should be extracted within 1-2 days.  Wax cappings are an attractive food for beetles, and should be processed quickly or stored in sealed containers.  Honey supers can be removed from weak colonies to lessen the territory of combs that the bees must patrol.  If not ready for extraction, these supers can be placed on strong colonies, in a manner similar to protecting them from wax moth infestations.  However, if small hive beetles or their eggs are present on the combs, the addition of these beetles can be sufficient to cause the strong colony to collapse.  Honey supers can be frozen at -12°C (10°F) for 24 hours to kill all stages of beetles before transferring supers to a strong colony.  Store empty supers under conditions of good air circulation and less than 50% humidity.

    Pollen traps should not be left on heavily infested hives for extended periods.  The unprotected pollen can serve as a substantial protein source for beetles, as well as a protected breeding site.

    Utilize mechanical traps in the hive to reduce the number of adult beetles that can produce eggs, while also reducing the need for pesticides.

    Mechanical Traps for eliminating Small Hive Beetles

    Numerous mechanical trap designs are available for use in the hive to control the adult SHB population.  Most traps kill beetles by drowning them in vegetable oil or mineral oil.  The traps have small openings that allow beetles to enter, but restrict the larger honey bees.  Some traps utilize a fermenting bait to attract the beetles into the trap, but beetles will enter non-baited traps to escape from the bees.  By maintaining a manageable adult beetle population in the hive, beekeepers can often prevent a major infestation of beetle larvae, which cause the the most destruction.

    The West Trap is placed on the bottom board, and requires a wooden shim to maintain proper space beneath the frames. It contains a shallow pool of oil, and is covered by a slatted screen that excludes bees. Adult beetles enter the trap from above, to escape from bees, and fall into the oil and drown.  Hives must be kept extremely level for these traps to be effective. These traps preclude the use of screen bottom boards for ventilation. 

    The Hood Trap attaches to a standard bee hive frame. It has a compartment filled with apple cider vinegar as an attractant, and compartments filled with mineral oil, which drown the beetles as they enter.  A potential drawback of this design is the empty space around the trap, which bees will often fill with drone comb, increasing a problem with varroa if left unattended. This area of drone comb, however, can be regularly removed and disposed of when about 50% of the drone cells are capped, which can effectively trap and remove a portion of reproducing varroa mites before they can emerge.

    The Freeman Beetle Trap is similar to the West Trap in function. It replaces the bottom board with a 3 mm (1/8”) screen mesh, as used for varroa control. An oil-filled tray is inserted into a compartment below the screen. Adult beetles enter the trap to escape from bees, and fall into the oil and drown.  Wandering beetle larvae may also fall into the trap as they attempt to exit the hive to pupate.  These traps can passively eliminate some varroa mites as well. Hives must be kept level for these traps to work.

    A variety of beetle traps, such as AJ’s Beetle Eater and Beetle Jail Jr., consist of shallow oil-filled troughs with slotted lids. These traps are suspended between frames of brood or honey. Adult beetles enter the traps to hide from bees, and are drowned in the oil.  These types of traps are inexpensive and easy to use, but may need to be emptied and refilled regularly.  Over time the bees may tend to propolize over some of the openings.  Some manufacturers suggests placing a small sheet of vinyl across the top of the trap to prevent propolizing, but this may provide the beetles with sufficient cover without entering the trap.  Similar in design and function, Cutt’s Beetle Blasters are disposable, and can be discarded when full of beetles.

    Beetlejail traps are designed to prevent hive beetles from invading a bee hive, by trapping them as they seek to enter, and drowning them in oil.

    Sonny-Mel traps are homemade, consisting of a small plastic sandwich box, with 3mm (1/8”) holes.  The bottom of the trap contains a shallow layer or layer of mineral oil, and a smaller container (usually a small plastic jar lid or bottle cap) of liquid bait.  To make a bait, combine 1 cup water, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup sugar, and the peel of 1 ripe banana (chopped in small pieces); allow to ferment for 1-2 days.  These traps are placed on the top bars of the upper super, and require the addition of a wooden frame to provide space for the trap.

    This summary is provided as a convenience for the reader. The mention of any brand name or commercial product does not constitute or imply any endorsement, nor discrimination against similar products not mentioned.

    Soil Treatment

    The pupal stage is a vulnerable time in the beetle life cycle.  Slightly moist, loose, sandy soil is optimal for their development.  Locating colonies on hard clay or rocky soil, rather than light sandy soil, can reduce the number of beetle larvae that successfully pupate.  If numerous larvae are discovered in the hive, the soil around the colony can be treated with a permethrin drench to prevent the larvae from pupating, killing them in the soil.    Use with caution, as permethrin is highly toxic to bees!

    Prepare the site by removing fresh water sources and feeding stations.  Mow vegetation around the hives to be treated, to allow the solution to directly contact the soil.  Mix 5 ml (1 teaspoon) GardStar® 40% EC into 1 gallon of water (enough to treat 6 hives).  To avoid contaminating the bee hive surface with pesticide drift, do not use a sprayer.  Apply the solution using a sprinkler can.  Thoroughly drench the area in front of the hive (and beneath it, if screen bottom boards are used), wetting an area 18-24 inches around the hive, ensuring that wandering beetle larvae will contact treated soil.

    Application should be made late in the evening when few bees are flying.  Do not contact any surface of the bee hive or landing board with insecticide.  USDA testing indicates that permethrin binds to the soil and remains active for 30-90 days, depending on soil type, pH, and moisture content.  Reapply as needed. 

    Permethrin is corrosive and can cause irreversible eye damage.  Avoid contact with eyes, and wear proper eye protection during application.  Read and follow all label instructions for the legal and appropriate use of any pesticide.

    Studies have indicated that soil-dwelling entomopathogenic nematodes have potential to provide some control of pupating SHB.  Some species of these nematodes are commercially available from biological suppliers for use in the soil under and around bee hives.  It is not yet evident whether these nematodes are effective in all soil types, or if they can persist through drought or overwintering conditions in all areas, however, they may be useful as part of an overall integrated pest management plan.

    Because of insufficient scientific evidence on the efficacy of this control method, specific recommendations for the use of nematodes cannot be made at this time.

    Chemical Treatment in the Hive

    The chemical coumaphos (sold as Checkmite+ for varroa control) is the only pesticide registered for in-hive treatment of small hive beetles.  Consult your local Cooperative Extension office or Department of Agriculture for specific recommendations in your state.

    • Use 1 strip of Checkmite+ per hive.
    • Treatments should not be applied while surplus honey is being collected.
    • Do not place honey supers on a hive until 14 days after Checkmite+ strip has been removed, or treat hives after honey has been harvested.
    • Prepare a 4x4” piece of corrugated cardboard by removing the paper surface from one side, and cover the smooth side with duct tape or shipping tape to prevent the bees from tearing up or removing it.
    • Cut a single strip of Checkmite+ in half and staple both pieces to the corrugated side of the cardboard.
    • Chemical resistant gloves must be worn while handling strips – do not use leather bee gloves when handling this product!
    • Insert the cardboard square, strip side down, onto the center of the bottom board, or above the inner cover if screen bottom board is used.
    • Beetles will seek shelter in the corrugations and contact the strip.  Bees should not be able contact the pesticide.
    • Leave treatment strips in place for a minimum of 42 days, but no more than 45 days.
    • Dispose of strips according to label directions. 
    • Do not treat the same colony with coumaphos more than 2 times in one year. 

    These instructions are a presented as a general guideline.  Users are responsible for reading and following all label instructions for the legal and appropriate use of any pesticide. 


    Selected References

    • Cabanillas, H. E. & P. J. Elzen.  2006.  Infectivity of entomopathogenic nematodes (Steinernematidae and Heterorhabditidae) against the small hive beetle Aethina tumida (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae).  Journal of Apicultural Research 45: 49-50.
    • Ellis, J.D., C.W.W. Pirk, H.R. Hepburn, G. Kastberger & P.J. Elzen.  2002.  Small hive beetles survive in honeybee prisons by behavioral mimicry.  Naturwissenschaften 89: 326-328.
    • Ellis, J.D., S. Spiewok, K.S. Delaplane, S. Buchholz, P. Neumann, & W.L. Tedders.  2010.  Susceptibility of Aethina tumida (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae) larvae and pupae to entomopathogenic nematodes.  Journal of Economic Entomology 103: 1-9.
    • Hood, W.M.  2004.  The small hive beetle, Aethina tumida: a review.  Bee World 85: 51-59.
    • Sanford, M.T.  2003.  Small Hive Beetle.  University of Florida IFAS Extension publication ENY-133. 
    • Skinner, J.A.  2002.  The Small Hive Beetle: a New Pest of Honey Bees.  University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service publication SP 594.
    • Torto, B., R.T. Arbogast, D. Van Engelsdorp, S.D. Willms, D. Purcell, D. Boucias, J.H. Tumlinson & P.E. Teal.  2007.  Trapping of Aethina tumida Murray (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae) from Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera: Apidae) colonies with an in-hive baited trap.  Environmental Entomology 36:1018-1024.


    Image Credits

    • Fig 1.   (left) Division of Plant Industry Archive, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, bugwood.org; (right) Natasha Wright, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, bugwood.org.
    • Fig 2.   James D. Ellis, University of Florida, bugwood.org.
    • Fig 3.   Jon Zawislak, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, www.uaex.edu.
    • Fig 4.   James D. Ellis, University of Florida, bugwood.org.
    • Fig 5.   James D. Ellis, University of Florida, bugwood.org.
    • Fig 6.   Chris Bryan.

    Download a printable
    fact sheet  from the
    University of Arkansas
    Division of Agriculture



  25. How can farmers, gardeners and applicators reduce risks of honey bee injury from pesticide applications?

    Do not treat fields in bloom. Be especially careful when treating crops, such as alfalfa, sunflowers and canola, which are highly attractive to bees. Insecticide labels carry warning statements about application during bloom. Always read and follow the label. Examine fields and field margins before spraying to determine if bees are foraging on flowering weeds. Milkweed, smartweed and dandelion are examples of common weeds that are highly attractive to honey bees. Where feasible, eliminate blooming weeds by mowing or tillage prior to insecticide application. While bright and colorful flowers are highly attractive to bees, some plants with inconspicuous blossoms such as dock, lambsquarter and ragweed also are visited. When examining areas for blooming plants, consider all blooming plants. It is also important to be aware that many plants only offer pollen and nectar for a few hours each day. Fields should be scouted for bees at the same time of day as the anticipated insecticide application. Choose short residual products and low hazard formulations. If insecticides must be applied during the flowering period to save a crop, select the least hazardous option. Avoid spray drift. Give careful attention to the position of blooming crops and weeds relative to wind speed and direction. Changing spray nozzles or reducing pressure can increase droplet size and reduce spray drift. Apply insecticides when bees are not foraging. Some insecticides can be applied in late evening or early morning (i.e. from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.) with relative safety. In the case of corn, bees collect pollen from tassels in the early morning and are not present in the afternoon or evening. Short residual materials applied from late afternoon until midnight do not pose a bee hazard in corn fields if blooming weeds are not present. Adjust spray programs in relation to weather conditions. Reconsider the timing of insecticide application if unusually low temperatures are expected that night. Cool temperatures can delay the degradation process and cause residues to remain toxic to bees the following day. Stop applications when temperatures rise and bees re-enter the field in early morning. Contact local beekeepers and obtain locations of bee yards. Many state law requires that apiaries be clearly identified with the name, address and phone number of the beekeeper. Identification may appear on one or more colonies, or a separate sign may be posted in the apiary. Some state departments of agriculture maintain a list of apiary locations and can help identify the owner. If colonies are present in an area that will be sprayed with a bee-toxic insecticide, contact beekeepers in time for them to protect or move the colonies. Many pesticide applications pose minimal risk to bees, and beekeepers may choose to accept some risk rather than move colonies. Notify beekeepers as far in advance as possible. Read the pesticide label. Carefully follow listed precautions with regard to bee safety. Maintain bee forage areas. Intensive agriculture often increases bee dependence on cultivated crops for forage. Encouraging bee forage plants in wild or uncultivated areas will reduce bee dependence on crop plants that may require pesticide treatments. Plants recommended for uncultivated areas include sweet clover, white Dutch clover, alfalfa, purple vetch, birdsfoot trefoil, and partridge pea. Most trees and shrubs are beneficial to bees. The most attractive include linden, black locust, honey locust, Russian olive, wild plums, elderberries, red maples, willows, and honeysuckle. Soil conservation, natural resource and game managers usually are eager to help establish plantings that benefit bees. These areas also conserve soil and provide valuable habitat for plant and wildlife conservation programs. - Marion Ellis, University of Nebraska