Bee Culture (January 2004), Vol. 132 (1): 19-21
Malcolm T. Sanford
I have many good memories of
Recently, I found myself again in
Marla showed me a photograph of the beekeeping short course of 1944, including a separate picture of the women in the course.3 Many are not aware of the role women have played in beekeeping over the years, not just as spouses and observers, but active participants. These include both Marla and her colleague, Sue Cobey, who I profiled in this magazine in January of this year.4
The tradition of beekeeping short course education continues in Minnesota with the 2004 short course already being planned for March 19-21.5 Marla teaches it using the principles developed by Basil Furgala during his tenure in Minnesota as graduate student and professor. She can’t say enough about the help that Basil gave her during her orientation when she replaced him at his retirement. After his untimely death, Basil was also remembered by his colleagues on the University senate:
“Basil Furgala, who served as a USDA National
Research Program leader and as National Extension Apiculture Program leader in
As I noted previously, Basil was an expert on nosema
disease. His considerable research on
the subject led to the current chemotherapy practices using fumagillin. His student, Dr. Eric Mussen,
Before Basil, The University of Minnesota had another one of beekeeping’s pioneers on its faculty, Dr. Mykola H. Haydak, a world-renowned authority on beekeeping. He wrote more than 200 papers and a textbook dealing with this subject according to The Ukrainian Weekly, February 8, 1998, No. 6, Vol. LXVI, which detailed contributions of Ukranian-Americans to U.S. Agriculture .7 A search on the electronic bibliography of beekeeping associated with the Beltsville, MD USDA-ARS bee laboratory shows the majority deal with nutritional resources.8 Much of Dr. Haydak’s research is the basis for the pollen supplements/substitutes now in use. He was also a prolific writer for the popular bee journals. In 1961, he wrote an account of the considerable amount of bee research at The University Of Minnesota (1913-1960) in the Minnesota Beekeeper.9
Nutrition no longer dominates
Marla is also blessed with the help of Mr. Gary Reuter, an on-the-ground, practical beekeeper, who routinely keeps her on track from the practical side of bee culture. They team up beautifully not just in the laboratory, but in beekeeper education. This approach is clearly seen in the workshop on beekeeping in northern climates given each March.10 They also teach a queen rearing course each year and have produced a queen-rearing educational suite through the U.S.D.A’s Sustainable Agricultural Network. A “copyrighted, 13-minute-long, VHS-format video demonstrates the Doolittle method of queen rearing. Takes the viewer, step-by-step, through the entire process, from selecting breeder stock to ensuring successful mating. A companion `Successful Queen Rearing Manual' (item MI-6346-SAN), which goes into more detail, is also available. For hobby and commercial beekeepers and professionals who work with apiarists.”11
Marla comes from a background
rooted in studying the infamous Africanized honey bee in the
In accepting the Hambleton award, Marla said honey bees are in crisis and beekeepers are not helping them much. Bees are certified “junkies” and beekeepers have become their “pushers.” A new set of rules is necessary to get the bees off the chemical/pesticide treadmill. Her advice was direct and to the point:
1. Stop right now any preventative feeding of antibiotics.
2. Cull combs to remove AFB spores and pesticide/antibiotic residues.
3. Leave mites in colonies; do not try to eliminate them all; in some cases bees can sustain 10% to 15% infestation with little harm.
4. Pesticides “pamper” bees; let them use their own innate defense mechanisms. Use selective breeding to give bees tools to work with and then leave them on their own. This includes incorporating hygienic behavior, SMR and characteristics of other stocks (Russians).
5. Use IPM now! This means thinking before acting; apply pesticides only as a last resort. Use soft chemicals when possible. Again, leave mites in the colony so the bees have a long-term fighting chance on their own.
She concluded that none of the above will be easy, but beekeepers must quickly learn what other farmers now take for granted. Integrated pest management (IPM) is here to stay and is the best option to save the bees and beekeeping industry in the long run.
Marla also walks the IPM walk by concentrating on breeding bees for resistance or tolerance to diseases and pests. Her tool of preference is “hygienic behavior,” a term coined by Dr. Walter Rothenbuhler for a set of genes that helps honey bees keep a disease-free brood nest. Marla and Dr. Martha Gilliam of the Tucson, AZ USDA-ARS Bee Laboratory,13 wrote a summary of this research several years ago.14 I wrote a summary of this publication in my September 1998 Apis newsletter.15
There is more and more evidence that hygienic behavior also affects Varroa mite loads in colonies. In a recent paper, Marla and Gary reported that honey bees bred for hygienic behavior performed as well if not better than other commercial lines of bees and maintained lower mite loads for up to one year without treatment.16
work and results are now being recognized all over the world, including the
United Kingdom,17 Australia,18 Canada,19 and
elsewhere. With all this attention, the
pressure continues to be enormous to produce and release this stock. This was acknowledged by Marla who said, “After careful thought, I have decided to have Tom and Suki Glenn, of Glenn Apiaries maintain and sell breeder
queens from the hygienic line of bees that I have bred here at the
While visiting with Marla,
she told me that right now there is every indication that this stock is taking
hold and making a difference in midwestern beekeeping
outfits. Time will tell if she is
correct, but my bet is that she’s right on.
If so, this will be another “successful” page added to the already rich
1. American Association of Professional Apiculturists Home Page, accessed November 23, 2003 <http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/aapa/index.cfm>.
Sanford, M.T. 2003. Sue Coby and Her
7. Ukranian Weekley Web Site, accessed November23, 2003 <http://www.ukrweekly.com/Archive/1998/069815.shtml>.
8. USDA-ARS Beekeeping Bibliography on the Web, accessed November 23, 2003 < http://alembic.nal.usda.gov:8088/>.
M. 1961. Bee Research At The
11. Sustainable Agricultural Netowork, USDA Web site, accessed November 23, 2003 <http://www.sare.org/sourcebook/book/MN0328.html>. Also see <http://www.extension.umn.edu/abstracts/nonweb/abstract.html?item=06347> .
12. Amazon.com Web site, accessed November 23, 2003 <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0813372097/qid=1069613939/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/102-7444767-2418542?v=glance&s=books>.
13. USDA Tucson Bee Lab Web page, accessed November 23, 2003 <http://gears.tucson.ars.ag.gov/home/gilliam/>.
14. Spivak, M. and M. Gilliam. 1998. “Hygienic behaviour of honey bees and its
application for control of brood diseases and varroa.
16. Spivak, M. and G. Reuter, “Varroa destructor Infestation in Untreated Honey Bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) Colonies Selected for Hygienic Behavior, Journal of Economic Entomology: Vol. 94, No. 2, pp. 326–331.
17. Dave Cushman’s Web site, accessed November 23, 2003 <http://website.lineone.net/~dave.cushman/hygenequeen.html>.
19. Allen Dick’s Web site, accessed November 23, 2003 <http://www.honeybeeworld.com/misc/hygienic.htm>.
Glenn Apiaries Web site, accessed November 23,