Apimondia in Africa:  On Becoming a Better Beekeeper”

Bee Culture (Jan thru Sep 2002), Vol. 130




Dr. M.T. Sanford






The editor’s charge: “Should you accept this assignment Dr. Sanford, I would like your articles from Apimonda in Africa to show readers how to become a better beekeeper.”  The theme song from “Mission Impossible” began playing in my brain <http://www.soundingrocket.com/mi/index.shtml#music>.  Then I remembered the other admonition of the television series,  Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to…..  This recording will self-destruct in five seconds” <http://www.soundingrocket.com/mi/taped_message.html>.  Like the erstwhile Mr. Jim Phelps (the hero of the original series for the uninitiated), I couldn’t pass up the challenge.  I knew it would be a big one from the start.  The African Apimondia World Apiculture Congress would be my fifth.  Others I’d attended were in Acapulco, Mexico (1981), Budapest, Hungary (1983), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1989) and Vancouver, Canada (1999).  Although I had been the recipient of a lot of information from each and they enriched my knowledge of the craft in many ways, I wasn’t sure what specifically I had brought back that would make me, or anyone asking me questions, a better beekeeper.  This concern is not new; it has been one I’ve had to wrestle with throughout my career.  This time it followed me all the way to the Republic of South Africa and will be continuously with me as I write this series of columns.  Thus, I found myself awakened in a sweat one night afraid being found out and subjected to the final admonition on the the Mission Impossible tape: “ As always, should you or any of your IM Force be caught or killed, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.”


In the final analysis, I have come to recognize that I really never know what bit of knowledge will make anyone a better beekeeper.  I do know, however, that I have sat through innumerable honey bee conferences all over the world and that about 90 percent of what I’ve heard has not been immediately useful and a lot of it was pure drivel.  On the other hand, I have gleaned a lot from the remaining 10 percent.  The major problem, however, is that in order to realize that latter amount, one must literally sit through the whole event.  It is my objective, therefore, that these articles will provide the readership with the best of the ten-percent of what I came away with from first Apimondia to be held on the Dark Continent.  In the bargain, the readership will not have to endure sitting through the actual presentations.  But in order for me to have met my objective, the readership will have to be the judge.  So it is my fervent hope that some form of acknowledgement that I have accomplished my objective will be communicated to the secretary (editor), keeping the Mission Impossible demons at bay.


What is Apimondia?


Part and parcel of the conundrum I expressed above has to do with Apimondia itself <http://www.beekeeping.com/apimondia/index_us.htm>.  Somewhat like the United Nations, it is a confederation made up of member beekeeping associations.  Every two years the Association holds a congress in a member nation.  The goals of each vary, but generally the theme for those attending is to get an understanding of the host country’s beekeeping challenges and to hear about current honey bee research and beekeeping experiences in that country, as well as from around the world.  Apimondia has traditionally had a European focus and met more times in that part of the world.  The President and General Secretary are European as are most of the chairpersons of the standing committees.  The latter number seven and include apitherapy, bee biology, bee pathology, beekeeping economy, beekeeping for rural development, beekeeping technology and equipment, and pollination and bee flora. 


Member countries in Apimondia number fifty one at present.  Most dues are paid by governments of the member countries, though there may be exceptions I am not aware of.  Like its relationship with the United Nations, where the United States has been chronically behind in its dues payment and often not supportive of key issues, this country has a tenuous connection with Apimondia.  At the moment, the U.S. being one of the largest and richest nations of the world with arguably one of the most recognizable beekeeping industries and honey bee research establishments is not a member.  In the past, the Eastern Apicultural Society and the American Beekeeping Federation shared in paying Apimondia dues, but no longer.  Many in these organizations have not been convinced that membership has contributed to the success of their members.  Nevertheless, Apimondia has unfailingly welcomed and encouraged attendance of both U.S. researchers and beekeepers at its meetings.  Tellingly, Canada, which hosted the last event dropped its membership after the Vancouver congress, which most agreed was the most comprehensive and best organized ever held. 


South African Beekeeping


As customary, South African beekeeping took center stage at the International Congress Centre (ICC) in Durban, KZN (KwaZulu-Natal) province October 28 through November, 1 2001.  According to Adriaan Du Toit, writing in the South African Bee Journal’s special Apimondia issue ( Vol. 71, No. 3, Septmber 2001), there are more than 3,000 beekeepers in South Africa, with only a third belonging to organized associations.  Some 75,000 colonies are managed in the country.  Colonies produce on the average around 23 Kgs (2.2 lbs = 1Kg) in the year 2000.  The total honey crop approaches 1,400,000 tons.  South Africa exports from forty to sixty thousand pounds of honey each year, although this has dropped dramatically in the last two years (6,000 in the year 2,000!).  The country traditionally imports from five hundred to seven hundred thousand pounds of honey; this also dropped significantly in the year 2000 to 2,800 pounds.  Domestic consumption is stable at 1,700 to 2,000 tons.  South African beekeeping generates some 10,000 direct jobs each year and has an indirect multiplier of 3.2  It is a significant industry and the Apimondia event was the largest international agricultural exposition in the country this year.


As in the Americas, Europeans have been the driving force behind modern apiculture in South Africa.  Most of the rest of continent has an aboriginal bee hunting tradition.  Unlike the Americas, however, the Europeans rely on the honey bees that are native to the Dark Continent and have generally left the European honey bees in their native land.  The first apicultural census in the country in 1911 revealed a colony average honey yield just a little over six pounds.  Yield languished at just over twice that amount until the 1960s ended.  Since then, yield per colony has tripled, correlating to 1) results of the first beekeeping congress held in 1968, 2) beekeepers traveling outside the country to learn new management techniques (especially Apimondia in Australia in 1977) and 3) establishment of the Ministry Apicultural Advisory Committee.  The 1970s were the “golden years” of South African beekeeping with averages of over 66 pounds per colony. 


A dramatic shift in modern South African beekeeping came in the 1980s, when it changed focus from honey production to commercial pollination.  More than 40 crops are dependent on managed pollination.  Hybrid sunflower seed alone uses some 20,000 colonies, while 18,000 are employed in apple and pear pollination in the Cape of Good Hope region.  Honey bee pollination contributes to about 2.5 billion SA Rand (about $250,000) to the economy, whereas bee products are only responsible for $61,000 of GDP.  Beyond the first world incarnation, South Africa also has a third-world apicultural industry allied to that found elsewhere in the subsahara, which has a great deal of potential.


Two huge beekeeping challenges have appeared in South Africa in the 1990s.  The first was recognition of the so-called cape bee problem,” and right on the heels introduction of the Varroa mite (Varroa destructor).  Though not on the Apimondia agenda, those attending the conference could not ignore the significant human challenges that also exist in the country.  These include the transformation of society through the abolishment of Apartheid <http://www-cs-students.stanford.edu/~cale/cs201/apartheid.hist.html> and the effect of the HIV/AIDs epidemic, which is ravaging most of the continent. 


As a poignant reminder of the latter, there is a memorial park with a large metalic red bow located just a block from the International Congress Centre (ICC) where the congress was held.  A commemorative plaque states: “Gugu Dlamini was a community worker who strived tirelessly to educate people about HIV/AIDS.  She publicly revealed her HIV positive states on radio and television, as part of a campaign of acceptance and disclosure.  Her statement was resented and she was brutally assaulted by a mob, resulting in her death on 14 December 1998.  This park was named on World Aids Day, 1 December 2000 to honour Gugu’s courage in breaking the silence of her affliction.”  The controversy concerning AIDs continues to this date with words by the current President, which many claim reveal his denial about the current situation in the country.  The ICC is a thoroughly modern facility close to the center of the city of Durban.  The registration desk featured a public video display welcoming participants and showing a schedule of events.  It is the same venue that saw the collapse of the International Human Rights Convention a months earlier. 


A continuing reminder of the legacy of apartheid that produced a large “have” and “have-not” society cheek by jowl were abundant reports of criminal activity in the newspaper and also by some of those attending the Apimondia meeting.  One person was reported to be robbed at knife point; another the victim of a beach ripoffs.  Most hotel patrons were cautioned not to venture out alone at night.


Change is seen in South Africa in many other ways.  This was perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the entertainment the organizers arranged.  Called “African Frenzy,” it began with a video production showing the much varied geography and human and wildlife population of the country.  At the conclusion, a group of black dancers burst through the paper screen in traditional garb and began a frenetic Zulu dance.  To the surprise of the audience, one of the warriors was obviously a bare-breasted female.  It was confirmed to me later that this was just one expression of female liberation being explored in the country, as women take on more roles traditionally thought of as male.  The set and dances were also divided into two worlds; traditional Zulu huts in the bush contrasted with typical plank housing of township or urban dwellers.  The dances also showed both sides, ranging from Zulu impe or warrior dances to a rhythmic drumming of hands on rubber boots. 


The Cape Bee Problem


The Cape bee problem was discussed under the Apimondia Bee Biology Standing Commission.  Traditionally, two races of honey bees have co-existed in South Africa, a northern one (Apis mellifera scutellata) and a southern one (Apis mellifera capensis), separated by a fairly wide geographic boundary consisting of large tracts of arid climate, extensions of the Khalahari and Karoo deserts.  Both subspecies are good pollinators and honey producers in their own regions.  Capensis, however, has a trait scientists call thelytoky.  This means that capensis worker bees can lay eggs that also develop into workers, in effect cloning themselves.  These so-called pseudoqueens may be an adaptation to the winds that blow near the Cape of Good Hope, which severely affect the mating ability of virgin cape bee queens.  By contrast, eggs of laying workers in honey bees found everywhere else in the world more often than not result in drones, known as arrhenotoky.  It is important to realize that a small amount of thelytoky is probably present in most races or ecotypes of honey bees.


In the early 1990s, capensis bees were moved as part of migratory beekeeping into scutellata areas.  The result was that worker cape bees began to enter scutellata colonies.  This precipitated in quick order, queen supercedure by scutellata colonies, followed by a decline in population and colony demise.  This phenomena is called “social parasitism,” and has been responsible for tens of thousands of colony losses in scutellata country.  The social organization of scutellata colonies appears to be pheromonally disrupted by capensis workers; they simply self-destruct.  There is no immediate answer to the problem it seems, although research reported at Apimondia is continuing both at universities and through South Africa’s Plant Protection Research Institute <http://www.arc.agric.za/institutes/ppri/pprimain.htm>. 


The capensis problem brings identification of honey bees to the fore.  H.E. Hepburn and S.E. Radloff f the Apiculture Group, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa reported that standard taxonomic convention in honey bee classification, the trinomial Apis mellifera (capensis, scutellata, etc.) cannot adequately accommodate the groups they have found in the country.  Incongruities between morphometric, biological and DNA groups preclude clearly defined boundaries for southern African bees.  A compromise of all characters suggests the following groups: (1) thelytokous A.m.capensis; (2) thelytokous hybrids; (3) thelytokous A.m.scutellata; (4) arrhenotokous A.m.scutellata; and 5) arrhentokous mountain bees. “The only way that ‘A.m.capensis’ can be meaningful is to precisely qualify its point of origin in the Cape Provinces.”  The use of the term “hybrid” is unfortunate, according to Dr. Hepburn, who said in his presentation that it was more informative to call such bees “intermediate” instead 


At first blush, the South Africa situation may not hold much meaning for honey bees elsewhere, but the identification issue can be applied to the present “Africanized” bee situation in the Americas.  The so-called “hybrid zone” in Argentina, which includes both European or African subspecies or mixtures may be the same kind of phenomenon as found between capensis and scutellata.  With reference to the “Africanized” bee in the Americas, Dr. Hepburn said in his judgement they were simply nasty, little bees from Pretoria in most of their tropical range, when queried for his opinion at the meeting.  How the Africanized honey bee  will play out in temperate North America is still in question and is one of the quintessential beekeeping conundrums that must be faced in the future.  It is of more than passing interest that Africanized honey bees in Arizona have in fact been determined to have a higher degree of thelytoky than their European sisters <Di Grandi Hoffman-Erickson, Bee Science >.  This suggests a biological reason for requeening failures sometimes reported by beekeepers trying to introduce European stock into tropical America.


The behavioral basis of social parasitism was discussed by Peter Neumann of Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Institut für Zoologie.  Beyond thelytoky, the social parasitism evoked by capensis pseudoqueens requres a high ovarial and pheromonal development, a long reproductive period (3-5 months) and the capacity to lay up to 200 eggs per day.  The development of pseudoqueens is particularly well expressed in colonies of other honey bee subspecies (i.e. scutellata), so that they are able to develop retinue behavior in host workers and can suppress the rearing of replacement queens.  This social parasitism is expressed as so-called "dwindling colony" syndrome.  The resulting “capensis” calamity for South African beekeepers suggests that these invasive parasitic workers are highly virulent.


A. m. capensis workers require several behavioral traits related to both transmission and virulence according to Dr. Neumann..  Transmission means that these pseudoqueens must actively move to get into nearby colonies, perhaps by drifting.  However, they also are able to find colonies up to a kilometer (.6 miles) away.  Pseudoqueens must somehow avoid guard bees.  In some cases, they may join swarms.  Long range transmission is important as the wild A. m. scutellata host population appears to be highly infested.  The author says the relative proportions of the different pathways actually leading to new infestations remains unclear.


Virulence is also an important part of the equation Dr. Neumann says.  Pseudoqueens appear to avoid the queen in colonies they invade and establish dominance by getting workers to preferentially feed them while developing their pheromonal communication abilities.  Whether workers show specific appeasement tactics or simply rely on a fast-track pheromonal development is not known.  In addition, eggs laid by pseudoqueens must also avoid being “policed,” that is eaten, by other workers, the fate of most worker-laid eggs in colonies with a high degree of arrhenotoky.  To do this, they apparently lay eggs in out-of-the-way locations and also like a regular queen, one to a cell, instead of many to a cell as do most laying workers


Other research reported  in South Africa shows that larvae resulting from capensis eggs are also preferentially fed by host scutellata workers.  Eventually, high numbers of A. m. capensis workers are reared by A. m. scutellata host colonies during later stages of infestation.  This offspring can infest new host colonies via the individual or the colonial pathway, thereby completing the social parasitic life cycle of laying A. m. capensis workers.  Although some of the behavioral traits of laying A. m. capensis workers have been described in detail, the researchers says that the basic frame work for the social parasitic life cycle appears to be still poorly understood.


Annelize Lubbe of Agricultural Research Council, Plant Protection Research Institute reported on efforts to identify pseudoqueens.  Color, spermatheca size, ovarial development all point to black workers as capensis with a 98 percent probability.  Unfortunately no single factor can be used to make the determination.  All the black bees tested which had a large spermatheca and high ovariole counts, were shown to be genetically identical, confirming that when workers of the capensis subspecies reproduce parthenogenetically for several generations, autoselection occurs directed towards a homozygous genome – a blacker bee with a bigger spermatheca.  Other studies reported at the meeting confirm this size differential when looking at other characteristics such as wing measurements.  This state of affairs is actually a hopeful sign, however, according to P. Kruger who said that since the capensis pseudoclone does not mix its genes readily with scutellata, it is still possible to find populations of the latter in areas remote from commercial beekeeping.


A take away message from those studying the capensis problem is that it arose from purposeful movement of colonies through migratory beekeeping and this practice perpetuates it.  One way to control the phenomenon, therefore, is simply to stop transhumance in honey bees, a virtual impossibility in the modern agricultural setting.  Given this situation, questions remain concerning how the capensis situation will affect beekeeping in other parts of Africa.  By extension, the rest of the world may also be at risk as well.  Theoretically, it would take only one capensis laying worker introduced into any honey local bee population found on this globe to change it forever.


Varroa in South Africa


Consideration of the Varroa situation in South Africa as well as the rest of the world falls under the Bee Pathology Standing Commission.  Treatment of Varroa was the largest symposium in Durban as might be expected and took two full sessions.  Varroa has long been present in Africa.  This author saw it on European honey bees (Apis mellifera carnica) in Egypt in the early 1990s.  By all accounts most of Africa north of the Sahara has been affected since the 1980s, but it was not reported in the south.  P. Kryger first found the parasite in the Cape region of South Africa in August, 1997.  Since then, it has spread to the border of Kruger National Park, occupied by scutellata bees.  S. J. Martin & P. Kryger discussed the impact of Varroa destructor so far in South Africa.  Originally several factors were thought to be important in limiting its spread.  One is that capensis has the shortest post-capping time of any honey bee ecotype.  This is considered one possible reason that Africanized honey bees in the Americas are more Varroa-mite tolerant.  The shorter this development period, the fewer female mites that are produced, which is why Varroa is hardly ever found in queens (15.5 days) and prefers drones with the longest post-capping time (about 24 days).  This fact and also that scutellata bees in the Americas are reported to be more tolerant in general were seen as hopeful signs that Varroa would not be as problematic in South Africa as reported from other parts of the world.  Experiments reported at Apimondia, however, have shown that neither of these factors appear to affect mite reproduction.  The fact that some colonies have not collapsed with very high mite levels (tens of thousands of mites) provides some residual optimism, but researchers believe there will be large losses once the Varroa population becomes entrenched and begins to spread viruses already present in the country.


Where the Varroa mite has been reported in other parts of the world, there have been catastrophic losses of feral honey bee colonies.  In Europe and the United States beekeepers do not rely on the wild population for the health of their industry.  Instead, package bees and queens are produced to replace Varroa losses.  In Southern Africa, however, the beekeeping industry uses the wild or feral population extensively.  Many South African beekeepers managing Langstroth hives do no nest management at all, simply letting natural swarms populate colonies that are lost either to swarming, absconding or activities of pests and predators.  And in the central part of Africa, there is no beekeeping per sea.  Rather, the human population relies on rustic hives (logs, clay pots) again based strictly on feral honey bees.  Loss of the wild population due to Varroa, therefore, could be cataclysmic for both the first- and third-world beekeeping practiced in central and south Africa.


Taking the above under consideration, M. Alsopp of South Africa’s Plant Protection Research Institute discussed some of the practical aspects of a Varroa management plan in the country.  Left to their own devices African honey bees may be able to accommodate the mite as they appear to have done with other honey bee diseases he said.  It would be expected that large numbers of African colonies would collapse and die as a result of Varroa, both in the wild and managed bee populations, but thereafter, resistance to the mite is expected to develop rapidly in these populations.  Only Varroa-resistant bees would produce swarms and drones allowing natural selection to take its course toward tolerance.  The economic demand for commercial honey bee colonies will, however, dictate that beekeepers treat colonies with Varroacides should honeybee losses become considerable.  This appears to be already happening.


Treatment will artificially sustain the susceptible honey bee population, according to Mr. Alsopp, and will prevent the development and spread of a naturally-selected Varroa resistant population.  Hence, a comprehensive response to the Varroa threat is required, involving Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies, further research, and regional, governmental and legal strategic actions.


Included in this strategy would be:


1. The development of mechanisms or legislation for the regional control and rotation of Varroacides with different modes of action, to guard against the development of resistance in the mite population and to preserve adequate chemical control.


2. The development of guidelines for the use of non-regulated chemical products presently being used  against the Varroa mite.


3. Mechanisms to ensure the responsible use of chemical measures.


4. The development of cultural (non-chemical) control measures against Varroa, to supplement chemical control.


5. The active development of natural resistance to the Varroa mite by wild honey bees by restricting the use of chemical control in certain regions, facilitating the development of tolerance by natural selection.


It will be instructive for the rest of the world to closely follow the Varroa situation in south and central Africa.  This situation not only has great importance for beekeeping however.  The honey bee is a native insect in Africa and therefore its survival and health is important for many wild plant communities that rely on it for pollination and propagation.


Varroa Types Continue to Proliferate


It was first reported at the last Apimondia meeting in Vancouver, Canada, by Dr. Denis Anderson of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) that there are many more kinds of Varroa than first meet the eye.  Three distinct species were initially identified, V. underwoodi, V. rindereri and V. Jacobsoni.  The latter was considered the most virulent and responsible for the worldwide Varroa phenomenon causing widespread destruction of colonies of European honey bees until Dr. Anderson determined that it was not the culprit at all through analysis of DNA.  Instead, another species, he named V. destructor, was the cause.  If that wasn’t complicated enough, Dr. Anderson reported he had isolated 18 genotypes in the species complex. 


At the South African Apimondia meeting, Dr. Anderson reported that over twenty genotypes of newly-named Varroa destructor and newly-defined Varroa jacobsoni now exist.  A critical piece of information to come from this work is that particular strains of Apis cerana carry their own kind of Varroa mite.  It was from the Asian honey bee (Apis cerana) that the mites on the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) were thought to have originated.   Java and Malaysian strains of A. cerana, for example, carry Java and Malaysian genotypes of V. jacobsoni respectively, while Korean and Vietnam strains of A. cerana carry Korean and Vietnam genotypes of V. destructor respectively.  Only two genotypes of V. destructor are responsible for the worldwide destruction of so many European honey bee colonies.  These are the so-called Korean and Japan/Thailand genotypes of V. destructor. 


According to Dr. Anderson, the Korean genotype has the widest geographical distribution, affecting A. mellifera in the Europe, the UK, Russia, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, North and South America, Canada and New Zealand (and now identified in South Africa).  The Japan/Thailand genotype of V. destructor has a more restricted distribution.  It affects A. mellifera in Japan, Thailand, North and South America and Canada.  In the Americas, this mite was initially found only in Brazil, but has since spread to other parts of South and North America and Canada.  While the detection of this mite in Brazil seemed incongruous at first, it correlates with reports that Varroa first appeared in Brazil following the introduction of European honey bees from Japan in the 1970s. 


The ability of any genotype to effectively reproduce is one possible key to its control, according to Dr. Anderson.  There are many possibilities.  Some genotypes on A. cerana only reproduce in drone brood, however, they may or may not reproduce on A. mellifera drone brood.  Most likely, oogenesis (egg-laying ability) in all these mites is activated by Juvenile Hormone III (JH III).  Recent studies in Java have indicated that the component that Varroa mites need to activate JH III is a host (bee) component and is obtained within a 72-hour period after the mites enter bee brood cells.  This component is likely to be the same or very similar in all Varroa mites, as it has to eventually activate JH III.  It may differ in different bees by being present in specific concentrations, or released in slightly modified time frames.  Finding this component may enable the development of lines of A. mellifera that are totally resistant to the Korea and Japan/Thailand genotypes of V. destructor. 


The above analysis may help explain some of the tolerance that A. mellifera is now showing to V. destructor in different parts of the world, according to Dr. Anderson.  Indeed, breeding programs currently underway, such as those developing SMR honey bees or attempting to use tolerant bees identified from other parts of he world, may actually be exploiting this mechanism, he concluded. 


Varroa and Viruses


The existence of large Varroa parasite populations in colonies of honey bees that appear to be healthy prompts the question of how specifically the mites are affecting their hosts.  There is a parasite component, but it also important to understand that a viral one exists as well.  N. L. Carreck and associates of the Plant & Invertebrate Ecology Division, IACR-Rothamsted, Harpenden, Hertfordshire reported on the correlation of Varroa infestation with various viruses in the United Kingdom.  Investigations in Devon and Hertfordshire from 1992 to 1996 determined that the death of severely infested colonies was associated with slow paralysis virus (SPV); an infection which had never previously been found to be responsible for mortality in nature.  The authors say the occurrence of SPV in dead adult bees and brood seems to be parallel to that of acute paralysis virus or APV in infested colonies on the European mainland, although APV too has rarely been found as a cause of mortality in infested colonies in Britain.  Both viruses normally persist as latent infections in bees, are infective by injection into the haemolymph, are rapidly fatal, and are transmitted to both brood and adult bees by the mite.  The authors found two other viruses in Varroa-infested colonies, cloudy wing virus (CWV) and deformed wing virus (DWV.  A number of additional viruses, filamentous virus (FV), black queen-cell virus (BQCV), bee virus Y (BVY) and bee virus X (BVX), were also detected in dead adult bees from Varroa-infested colonies, but were not considered vectored by mites.


The authors say that DWV has now become the most widespread infection in association with V. destructor in honey bee colonies in Britain.  It was known previously only as an infection of adult bees, but the mite has been found to be responsible for introducing the virus into a life stage of the bee that it would not normally infect.  Unlike APV and SPV, DWV is not rapidly fatal.  Bees infected at the pupal stage continue to develop and emerge, although all contain large amounts of virus and their longevity is significantly reduced.  Large amounts of virus also accumulate in bees infected after emergence but their lives are not similarly shortened.  These provide a persistent reservoir of infection for mites to acquire and transmit, which explains the eventual predominance of this infection.


The presence of viruses linked to mite parasitism puts a more complex face on the Varroa control situation.  Many integrated pest management (IPM) techniques seek to reduce the mite population, however, these would appear to be less effective if viruses rather than mite numbers were found to be the major contributors to honey bee colony loss associated with Varroa.


Unfortunately, viruses are not well understood and research effort on them is minimal.  Thus, there continues to be a large research effort around the world that seeks to reduce mite populations in bee colonies in the hope that losses will as a result also be minimized.  The South African Apimondia symposia featured studies using chemicals such coumaphos, oxalic acid, thymol to control Varroa.  In addition, other techniques were described, including powdered sugar, drone traps, queen confinement, and Dr. Zachary Wang’s Mitezapper <http://www.mitezapper.com>.  The latter has been described in previous articles in this magazine. 


Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Varroa


Perhaps most intriguing was K. Fakhimzadeh’s study using powdered sugar as a control measure.  Evidence in the United States shows that powdered sugar is a reasonable way to show relative mite infestation levels.  This technique developed at the University of Nebraska, however, has not been considered effective as a control in the nest, especially when brood was present, since mites ensconced in brood cells were not vulnerable <http://entomology.unl.edu/beekpg/tidings/btid2000/btdjan00.htm#Article2>.  Dr. Fakhimzadeh’s study showed a mite knock down with powdered sugar of 91% with direct dusting and 62% with air- assisted dusting.  Sugar dusting efficiency in knocking down the Varroa in some cases was similar to that reported for mite kill in studies using chemical applications.  The study also compared the technique to using carbon dioxide (CO2) in conjunction with powdered sugar.  It was shown that CO2 in combination with sugar or alone did not increase the mite fall so the author recommended not using it as part the control of V. destructor.


Mr. Fakhimzadeh’s results reconfim that powdered sugar treatment as described does not have any obvious side effect on the capped brood nor the growth of the bee population.   In addition, no queen loss occurred even if the treatment was applied as frequently as every three days for a period of one month.  It was concluded that sugar dusting alone is a useful tool, which could be included in integrated mite management programs.  Though not reported in his paper Mr. Fakhimzadeh said in his presentation that particle size is important, and small particles of five microns was optimal.  Most icing sugar is a mixture of particle sizes, thus, its present configuration (as found in most stores) is variable and this would presumably affect mite control efficiency.  Again, since mites sealed in brood cells are affected, several applications would be necessary to ensure good control.


Dr. Joerg Schmidt-Bailey, University of Illinois, Urbana Champaigne, IL <http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/staff/schmidt.html> discussed a series of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques based on trapping mites in drone brood.  As he put it, “from humble beginnings to patented devices.”  Originally, worker brood was used to trap mites; later that of drones (taking advantage of the fact that a longer post-capping time produces more mites) was substituted.  Finally, the use of the Mitezapper was described as another advancement.  Dr. Schmidt-Bailey concluded that he expects to see more developments in this arena in the future.  Conspicuous by its absence was an IPM technique that has been getting recent attention in the U.S, the use of the open-meshed floor. 


G. A. Piccirillo & D. De Jong reprsenting the Departamento.de Biologia, Fac. Filosofia Ciências e Letras de Ribeirão Preto - USP, SP Brazil studied the Varroa infestation rate in different types of worker cells in eight africanized honey bee colonies.  New brood combs (NC) built naturally by the africanized honey bees and old brood combs (OC) with relatively smaller cells were placed in the same colony and with egg laying by the same queen.  The results showed that OC cells attracted more Varroa in relation to NC cells, even though the cells had a smaller diameter.  They concluded that though cell size may be important, characteristics inherent to the larvae, to the comb or the food in the OC workers cells might have an important influence in attracting Varroa.  This study provides some more evidence that periodic renovation of brood combs, also considered to be important in reducing microorganism numbers (those causing foulbrood and chalkbrood as examples) in a colony could also reduce Varroa populations in the bargain.


Varroa Research in Argentina and Brazil


The largest contingent of displays at Apimondia’s apiculture exposition in South Africa was from Argentina.  I was told over 40 persons registered from that country.  One reason was the extensive lobbying the group did to become the site for the 2005 event.  Unfortunately, their bid was not accepted, going to Ireland instead.  Nevertheless, it is abundantly clear that Argentina is emerging as one the premier world apicultural powerhouses.


It has been clear for some time that tropical Brazil appears to weathering the Varroa mite storm with little if any chemical treatment by beekeepers on Africanized honey bees.  In contrast, there is much interest in controlling the mites in Argentina where many European honey bees exist using a variety of possible solutions.  Several presentations at the South African Apimondia meeting revealed that these two countries are collaborating in this research.  Examples included comparing queens with identical genotypes in both temperate and tropical parts of Argentina.  One paper concluded that climate does play an important role in mite reproduction; most mite reproduction was found in temperate areas.  A comparision between non-hygienic (NH) and hygienic (H) stocks revealed that differences in uncapping and removal between hygienic and non-hygienic colonies were significant.  One hour after killing of the worker brood by pins in the H colonies about 45 % of the brood was completely uncapped but only 4 % in NH colonies.  However, 100% of the brood was totally uncapped and 43% removed by H colonies after only four hours; it took the NH component 24 hours.  Thus, it is possible to discriminate between H and NH colonies in only one hour using observation hives.  Hygienic behavior consisting of both uncapping and removing dead brood (HR) as well as brood infested by Varroa (RR) was also investigated.  Differences were observed in commercial colonies deemed susceptible to mites and feral colonies that were tolerant.  However, the authors concluded that the results do not fully explain mite tolerance by some colonies in South America.


Brazilian beekeepers have for a time now been making assertions that because no treatment for either Varroa or brood diseases was necessary, the honey coming from their country should qualify as “organic.”  Argentina also appears to be climbing on this band wagon in a somewhat different way.  Investigators, thus, are looking at a specific formulation of formic acid in a gel matrix (Beevar).  They conclude the product is a good alternative for Varroa control because it is organic, effective, easy to use and does not affect queens, workers or brood in treated colonies.  A formulation of 4.5 percent oxalic acid (Oxvar) is also under investigation.  Both products are considered effective against mites, however, the latter one is more compromised when brood is present.  Another innovative project involves incorporating organic products into foundation in the hope of producing a comb that is in effect its own treatment device.  Seven treatments were used including several concentrations of formic acid, oxalic acid and thymol.  In general, comb with these products incorporated had fewer mites per cell than normal (control) foundation.


Other Argentine research reported on laboratory studies using essential oils to control Varroa.  According to the authors, about 150 different essential oils have now been tested as an alternative to synthetic acaricides.  These are especially prepared in emulsion and applied using a “Burgeon tower.”  Varroa killing ability is determined at 3, 4 and 5 percent concentrations.  The oils of two specific plants, Heterotheca latifolia and Tagetes minuta reported here showed 63 and 56 percent lethality at 5 percent concentration respecively.  Although the results are encouraging, the authors say that translating laboratory results into effective field trials will still require a good deal of study and effort.


The strong Argentinian presence at the South African Apimondia was apparent to even the most casual visitor.  The country barely failed to win approval to host the 2005 meeting, but no doubt will be a strong candidate for the 2007 event.  There is little doubt that Argentina will continue to be a powerhouse in apiculture for a long time to come in spite of the uncertain economic conditions the country now faces. 


No formal agricultural extension service exists in Argentina as does in the United States.  In fact, a clear disassociation exists between the formal educational sector (university) and small-scale producers.  A recent collaboration, however, between university researchers at La Facultad de Ciencias Veterinarias de la Universidad Nacional del Centro (UNCPBA)and others such as the Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias y Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales de la Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, as well as the ministry of social development has resulted in what is called the Integrated Apicultural Development Project or PROAPI as showcased in South Africa.  This is described as an extension network that is particularly necessary at this time, given the fact that small honey producers are considered an important aspect of the development process in Argentina.  Paralleling to an extent the Cooperative Extension Service model in the U.S., the network formally recognizes the role of universities and places them in the context of doing research as well as training beekeepers. 


Rather like the Master Beekeeper programs in some states, the program has a “train the trainer” approach, where students agree to return to their home base and teach what they’ve learned.  There are two levels.  The second one is composed of two years of university education.  Much of the program is based on electronic communication via ApiNetLA (formerly APINET) on the World Wide Web <http://www.inta.gov.ar/apinet/la/index.htm>.  I reviewed this site in my Bee Culture Digital Age Column in May 2000 <http://bee.airoot.com/beeculture/digital/2000/column21.htm>.  Unfortunately, many of the links published in that article have been modified.  But the home page still directs the user to applicable sections and is a more robust arrangement of its former self, although still clearly under construction.  This is the first integrated knowledge center on apiculture in any Latin American country to my knowledge.  Currently it has links to beekeeping in México and the Dominican Republic, as well as Argentina and Perú, in fact metamorphosing into a Latin American apicultural portal.  As a consequence, the Web site now refers to itself as ApiNetLA.  I reviewed the concept of portals in my Digital Age column <http://bee.airoot.com/beeculture/digital/2000/column19.htm>.


Other aspects of the ApiNetLA site include a discussion of Abejas del Tucumán.  This name is shown as a registered trademark.  According to the site, the honey bees of Tucumán take advantage of exceptional ecological conditions found in Chaqueño park.  The beekeepers in this association are also assisted by several governmental agencies to ensure their products adhere to strict quality control standards.


Research is integral to Argentinian beekeeping and was certainly in evidence at the South African Apimondia meeting, and is also implemented on the ApiNetLA Web site.  Already described in this series of reports on the South African event is that concerning Varroa in Argentina.  However, that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Papers at the meeting discussed topics in almost all of the standing commissions from content of flavinoids in Argentinian propolis (apitherapy)  to mead making (Beekeeping Technology and Equipment).  The honey bee behavioral research focused on defensive and hygienic behavior.  One paper by C. Andere and colleagues contrasted both behaviors in the same population using the standard black ball attractant (defensive behavior) and pin-killed larvae (hygienic behavior).  The results showed that both behaviors could be adequately measured in Argentinian populations, but there seemed to be no association between the two.  Thus, selecting for one appears to be independent from selecting for the other.


Another paper by C. Andere and colleagues compared both a laboratory and field method for determining defensive behavior.  The former used oxygen consumption and the latter a combination of alarm pheromone (isopentyl acetate) and an agitated  five centimeter in diameter dark leather ball.  Bees from both the Africanized population (Tucuman Province-subtropical) and European population (Tandil Province-temperate) were compared.  They differed from each other morphometrically (the standard way to separate ecotypes or races, but not always reliable as noted in part one for the “Capensis:” problem).  But the study showed it was not possible to use defensive behavior to distinguish the two types because of extreme variability shown on a daily basis.  In general though, subtropical bees were “souped” up (used more oxygen) and faster to sting.  The results indicated it was possible to use either field or laboratory methods in breeding programs to select for defensive behavior


A companion paper by M. Palacio and E. Bedascarrasbure discussed a four-year study comparing hygienic behavior, the ability of honey bees to uncap and remove diseased/parasitized larvae.  Investigators showed that this could be improved to about 80 percent in stocks from a general background level of about 66 percent using open mating.  Thus, instrumental insemination was not important unless a degree of control greater than 80 percent was desired.  These traits are the result of recessive genes and thus a degree of inbreeding is needed for greater expression in a bee population .  The improvement in the study was considered enough to warrant selection programs using pin-killed brood.  The investigation reconfirmed that a general increase in hygienic behavior correlated with a decrease in the incidence of brood diseases.


Both defensive and hygienic behavior are now considered the two most important traits selected for in a coordinated Argentinean honey bee improvement program, which was reported on at the South African Apimondia.  This began in 1995 under PROAPI (see discussion above).  According to the authors of a paper reporting on this development,, among whom is E. Bedascarrasbure, director of PROAPI, and several academics, including Dr. M. Del Hoyo, honey bee projects generally produce genetic information (heritability), developed at universities or specialized laboratories, but usually are not designed to select and distribute stock.  The Argentinean stock improvement program  (MeGA) attempts to do both.  It has several components, including colony evaluation in the field, a program center, which contains the data bases used to make genetic decisions (1135 colonies from eleven regional centers have been evaluated) and even a portable instrumental insemination laboratory that can be taken to the apiary and used on site.  The MeGA program is prominently featured on the ApiNetLA Web site described above.  In addition, there is a general discussion of selection principles.  Included are descriptions of how sex alleles play into honey bee breeding and the basics of instrumental insemination.  To my knowledge, this is one of the few integrated breeding programs in modern beekeeping.  It might serve as a model for others and certainly deserves further study.


Africanized Honey Bees


This author was surprised at the lack of information on Africanized bees from much of Latin America, with only Venezuela, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina contributing at the South African Apimondia meeting.  This is in great contrast to former congresses where often research on this bee was a major topic.  Perhaps this means that the situation is indeed now maturing in most of the area invaded by the bees over the last forty years.  There was also little contribution from North America, the last frontier of the Africanized honey bee.


The Africanized honey bee problem in the Americas, of course, began in South Africa, when the celebrated geneticist Dr. W. Kerr introduced Apis mellifera scutellata from that country into Brazil.  Four decades later the difficulties and successes of this controversial insect have come home to roost in the world’s first-ever Apimondia conference in its homeland.  The most complicated situation appears to have developed in Argentina.  According to E. Bedascarrasbure and B. Marina, several local ecotypes or races have developed out of a combination of both Africanized and European honey bees.  The situation is further complicated by a large introduction of  European queens (mostly Apis mellifera ligustica) from Buenos Aires province into the northeast and northwest where Africanized honey bees that migrated from Brazil are prevalent.  Further study, the authors say, indicates that morphometrically Africanized honey bees are different in much of Argentina than in Brazil.  This could explain the fact that many bees in Argentina and Urguay despite increased defensive behavior, are susceptible to Varroa, which does not appear to be the case in Brazil.  In spite of problems associated with Africanized honey bees, the authors state that colony honey production is now highest in provinces (Entre Ríos and Tucumán) where the Africanized honey bee predominates.  In addition, in studies of sunflower pollination, it has been shown that Africanized honey bees collect more hybrid sunflower pollen than their European cousins.


An update on the Africanized honey bee situation in Venezuela was provided by A.  Manrique and  G. Piccirillo.  This country, perhaps more than any other, was hit hard by these insects.  Honey bee olony numbers dropped from 94,000 in 1975 to 25,000 in the year 2000.  Honey production declined from 600 metric tons per year to a low of 75 in 1981, and recovering to 480 tons in 1992.  Unfortunately, Varroa took a further toll on beekeepers at that time, but the industry is again rebounding.  From 1996 to 1999 production increased by some 28 percent, topping out at 410 metric tons.  Domestic consumption of honey remains low and hobby beekeeping has literally disappeared.  There remain many challenges to beekeeping in Venezuela, but as knowledge about the behavior of the bees increases, the authors believe there is an optimistic future in the country for this activity.


A comprehensive review of the impact of the Africanized honey bee in Venezuela was provided by R. Thimann.  He compiled a bibliography of published documents from various sources, including newspaper reports and proceedings from meetings and congresses held during the twenty-five year history of the bee’s invasion.  Unfortunately, the author concludes that there have not been many substantive changes implemented since 1987, when the newspaper La Nación published a list of constraints that have kept the Venezuelan Beekeeping Industry from developing to its full potential.  These included suggestions made as far back as 1976 such as aggressively training beekeepers in managing the new bee, providing credit when needed, developing projects in actively promoting and selling honey, creating a bee breeding center and mounting a public health program based on averting potential bee attacks.


R. Thiman and A. Manrique described observations when comparing queens from Venezuela and Brazil.  The latter were instrumentally inseminated and developed from an organized selection program.  Brazilian-selected queens produced more honey than did locally selected stock in Venezuela proper.  The authors conclude that a breeding program in Venezuela might substantially increase productivity of beekeepers in that country.


As has been a theme over several years, investigators from Brazil continue to state that Africanized honey bees in their country have been a blessing in disguise.  This is especially true with reference to their disease resistance.  K. Gramacho reported that tolerance to Varroa continues in Brazil and no chemical treatments are applied.  Nevertheless, disease problems do arise.  There appears to be greater incidences of nosema and European foul brood in the country’s northeast, presumably due to “inefficient mangement” and/or excessively damp conditions.   An outbreak of Chalkbrood has been reported in the south, but has cleared up and may have been caused by susceptible bees.  Several viruses have also been detected, including APV (Acute Paralisis Virus), BQCV (Black Queen Cell Virus), FV (FilamentousVirus) and QWV (Cloudy Wing Virus). 


The most concerning situation in Brazil is that surrounding American foulbrood, which is reported in nearby Argentina.  According to Ms. Gramacho, “Considering the almost generalized distribution of AFB in all the continents, the Brazilian beekeeping and especially, that of Rio Grande do Sul (South of Brazil), enjoys a singular situation due the fact that it is a frontier ‘Foulbrood Area’, we can say: danger area.”   To keep this disease at bay Brazilians have relied on both legislative and genetic controls.  The former will hopefully keep the disease out of the country altogether.  The latter, however, is regarded as an ace in the hole, and given that Africanized bees are more tolerant to almost every beekeeping malady due to hygienic and other behaviors. Brazilian scientists and beekeepers, therefore, are now fully endorsing breeding programs that select for hygienic behavior.


Swarm Traps and Africanized Bees


A major tool in managing Africanized honey bees has been the swarm trap, baited with Nassanov (orientation) pheromone (smells like citrus and geraniums).  In the only presentation on these insects from the U.S., Dr. J. Schmidt of the Tucson Bee Research Laboratory presented a historical analysis of the development of the trap.  He reported that Steve Thoenes, a beekeeper and bee researcher who helped develop the concept, realized in the 1990s that the time was right to develop a preventive control system.  So in 1994 he established BeeMaster, Inc., a company that specialized in deploying perimeter swarm traps around sensitive areas in urban areas of southern Arizona. The company was immediately successful, Dr. Schmidt said, and it deployed thousands of traps around local enterprises, captured several thousand swarms per year, and expanded to include the large metropolitan areas of Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Southern California. The traps were so successful in luring bee swarms to enter traps instead of natural or man made cavities, that BeeMaster, Inc. virtually never had to remove swarms not in a trap from a protected area. Not a single stinging event from a colony not in a trap has occurred in an area protected by swarm traps. One stinging event did occur in California from bees emanating from a trap that, through negligence, had been allowed to remain in place so long that it actually fell to the ground. This failure illustrates how human factors are crucial to any control operation and equipment alone can never be totally successful.   Thus, Dr. Schmidt concluded, knowledge from pheromones and its application has benefited beekeeping, and by extension the general public. 


These bee traps are a tried and true example of the research that governmental (ARS) research laboratories can provide to the beekeeping industry.  The concept based on this trapping technology has gone on to become a suitable idea for franchising.  Dr. Steven Thoenes, owner and founder of BeeMaster, Inc., is now offering qualified investors the unique opportunity to build a successful honey bee protection and removal business of their own. Only a limited number of these agreements are available. They include a training program on bee removal techniques using swarm-trap technology and a guaranteed supply of specialized materials and products.  Information is available electronically (http://www.beetraps.com) on the franchising opportunity along with a list of current clients and materials provided. 


Small Hive Beetle:


Besides the Africanized honey bee, another exotic insect introduced from South Africa to the Americas is the small hive beetle (Aethina tumida). Several papers dealt with the biology and control of this pest, some of the first studies to have occurred in South African since Dr. Lundie’s landmark paper in the 1940s. P. Elzen and colleagues reported that western honey bees (from the state of Florida) were not observed to be as aggressive in attacking small hive beetle adults as were African bees (Apis mellifera capensis from Gramstown).  Significantly African bees also attacked stationary pins, which were used as controls in the experiment.  The authors concluded: “Such comparative lack of aggression of Western honey bees and demonstrated higher aggression of African honey bees may explain the economic status of the small hive beetle in its native and introduced ranges.”


According to the authors, beekeepers in the U.S. report that they rarely see managed honey bees aggressively defending the colony against beetle attack, whereas beekeepers in South Africa commonly observe managed Cape honey bees attacking and isolating small hive beetles when they occur in bee colonies. They underscore, however, that the small hive beetle can cause economic damage in South Africa to honey frames removed from colonies and stored for later extraction, particularly if any brood is present in frames.  Thus, they conclude that behavior of the adult bees within the hive play a significant role in protecting brood and colony products, which is not the case when frames are removed from the colony and thus without protection.


Besides aggression, another study by J. Ellis and colleagues provided evidence in African bees of other behaviors affecting small hive beetle.  They say that African honey bees are unique because they actually construct prisons of wax and propolis (plant resins) in their hives and then kraal (the African term for “corral”) the beetles into them. The entrances of these “beetle prisons” are assiduously guarded by worker bees, preventing them from gaining access to the contents of the honey bee nest, which would allow them to reproduce. Despite lack of access to food in the combs, imprisoned beetles may survive for two months or so; but this is not due to stored metabolic reserves because beetles entirely deprived of food die within a week.  Thus, the honeybees themselves become suspect of a kind of "beetle husbandry."  The authors fed cape honey bees a red dye to see if this was in fact occurring.  The dye was found in the beetles, providing good evidence that the beetles were fed during confinement.


A study by J. Ellis and associates compared diets of small hive beetle (SHB). “ SHB offspring were found on honey/pollen, pollen, bee brood, fresh kaai apples, rotten kaai apples, and honey alone, but not on wax, or in control treatments (no food at all). The highest reproductive success was found on pollen-fed adults and larvae, suggesting that SHB reproduction in hives of recently absconded colonies might be very successful in nature. The diet of honeybee brood also yielded high reproductive success for SHB.   They conclude: “Our data further suggests that SHB are capable of reproducing on fruits alone, indicating 1) that SHB are facultative parasites and 2) that one potential pathway of SHB to the US might have been commercial transport of fruits from southern Africa to ports in the U.S.  The fact that some beetle reproduction can take place on fruits alone is surprising and disconcerting and certainly worth more study..


M. Hood provided a comprehensive history of small hive beetle in the United States.  It is not known the exact entry point of this insect, but the southeast is a prime candidate.  DNA study shows two haplotypes of beetle, one mostly in South Carolina, the other prevalent in Georgia, Florida and North Carolina.  Both types were found in the same apiaries in both Florida and Georgia and they appear to be very similar.  There are, however, twelve haplotypes in Africa so that further introduction of beetles from Africa can be pinpointed with better accuracy.


The beetle has now spread to many states and is continuing to become a normal part of the U. S. beekeeping scene.  Fortunately, according to Dr. Hood, there are controls in place including both GardstarÒ (40 percent permethrin soil treatment) and CheckMite+ (10% coumaphos plastic strip for inside colonies).  Other approaches are needed, however, as part of an integrated pest management effort that will serve beekeepers well in the future.  This currently involves research in the use of hygienic stock and/or pheromone-baited traps.


So far, the small hive beetle has only been found outside its African homeland in North America.  Over time, given the history of other introduced pests on honey bees, this insect will probably show up in other countries in the Americas.  Thus, there was extreme interest at the South African Apimondia event surrounding a film that was produced on this insect pest and shown at the event.  There was considerable controversy generated as the production appeared to overemphasize the sensationalistic aspects of the beetle’s invasion into North America, in one place characterizing it the most important world beekeeping pest.


Pot Pourri of Bee Biology:


As might be expected the Standing Commission for Bee Biology had the majority of papers at the South African Apimondia congress.  This included major sessions on both the cape bee problem and Africanized honey bees described in earlier reports.  In addition, there was a wide range of papers on other topics.


Z. Stanimirovic and colleagues presented results of a study examining the variability of hygienic behavior in two eco-geographically different populations of Apis mellifera carnica in Serbia, Yugoslavia.  Some may remember that the first bees imported into the U.S. that were considered to be Varroa tolerant were Carniolans from Yugoslavia, now Serbia, and called by many “Yugo” bees.  They did not do well according to most reports, and efforts were soon diverted to “Russian” bees, which are now being studied extensively.  These Serbian investigators, nevertheless, saw great variability in populations of both yellow bees from Machva and grey bees from Rudnikand, some being considered “superhygienic” .   Thus, they concluded, “The superhygienic potent honey bee colonies (regardless queen age) at nine-investigated localities in Machva region and at ten-investigated localities in Rudnik region could be used as breeding colonies for rearing of quality queens.”


K. Gramacho and L. Gonçalves presented information suggesting a new hypothesis for the origin of hygienic behavior based on sequences they observed, including puncturing the capping, removing the capping and removing the cell contents.  Instead of two recessive genes (u=uncapping and r=removing) as proposed by Dr. Walter Rothenbuhler in his landmark studies on this behavior, the authors believe there are three (u1, u2 and r).  Thus, they conclude, “In order to uncap the cell, the bee should have both u1 and u2 genes as homozygous (u1/u1, u2/u2).  Only one u1 or u2 gene as homozygous would determine the puncturing (u1/u1, u2/+ or u1/+,u2/u2) and the three genes as homozygous would be responsible for the uncapping and removal (u1/u1, u2/u2, r/r). The authors conjecture that such a new hypothesis needs to be more rigorously confirmed before being adopted.


A. Langowska and associates of the Agricultural University of Poznañ in Poland investigated the effect of drone presence on colony nutrition. They carried out experiments to find out the effect of the presence of drones the quality of  worker bees, including survival ability, size of pharyngeal glands and fat body, and the content of total protein and crude fat in the body of worker bees.  They conclude: “The comparatively small consumption of food by worker bees kept with drones indicates that in the presence of male bees, the organism of workers works more effectively, i.e. it utilizes in a better way the components contained in food. It must be stressed that next to the high survival rate in the worker bees consuming carbohydrate food, there occurred also a better development of the pharyngeal glands where protein is particularly necessary. The presence of drones had also a positive effect on the content of total protein and crude

fat in the bodies of worker bees consuming sugar candy.”  This study may change the minds of some beekeepers concerning the value of drones in a colony; their removal may not be as benign as once thought.


M. Lodesani and colleagues at the  Istituto Nazionale di Apicoltura, Bologna, Italy investigated the effects of natural mating (NM) versus instrumental insemination (IIS) on two-year-old queens.  The relationship between queen weight and ovariole number and between residual sperms and ovariole number was found to be significant only in IIS queens.  The authors conclude, “The latter correlation could be due to greater uniformity of IIS queens ovaries and to a probable relationship between spermatheca dimension and ovary development, because in IIS queens the quantity of sperm contained in the spermatheca depends on its dimensions considering that the injected amount was constant (8 ml).  The ovarioles were counted in both groups and though there was no difference in their number, they appeared more uniform with a more uniform reproductive activity in IIS queens. This ‘mature’ stabilisation of the ovary is associated with an increase in the ratio between ovary weight and total queen weight and is reached earlier in IIS than in NM queens, showing that IIS queens are subject to premature ageing.”


The results, according to the authors, highlight the absence of influence of the instrumental insemination method and the subsequent anaesthesia, on weight increase.   There also appears to be few differences in the other categories studied suggesting no inherent liability found in instrumentally inseminated queens.  The authors believe these studies will lead in the future to an in vivo assessment of queen bees.


Other studies included in the bee biology commission are those reported by G. Sabatini and M. Lodesani on continued used of honey bees as environmental monitors in Italy <http://www.lacarlina.com/locandina/locandina.htm>.  This three-year research project is a first for Italy, although the country has been a leader in this kind of monitoring.  The project also includes other areas of apiculture (honey and honey bee conservation biology).


Another by V. Garnery and associates has to do with characterizing a rather large population of the Egyptian honey bee (Apis mellifera lamarckii).  “The purpose of this study was to evaluate microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA variability in a population of A. m. lamarckii from Assiut governorate. This research derives from a larger project to select and breed native honey bees suitable for commercial beekeeping in Egypt.  There is some evidence that these original honey bees of Egypt might be more tolerant than the A. m. carnica in general use by beekeepers around the country.


Alternative Views of Honey Bee Biology :


Apimondia has always been somewhat of a conundrum I think not only for scientists, but also for beekeepers that attend.  This is due to the juxtaposition of both the practical and theoretical.  It tends, therefore, to bring out what some might call “fringe elements.”  I recall one presentation by a participant in Hungary whose scientific hypothesis was that wearing bee beards was something that every beekeeper should do to promote the craft.  It was punctuated with many slides (the speaker went way over his time) showing the act of putting on the bees and taking them off.  At that time I wondered why the organizers put him on and how they determined this topic was something of importance to world beekeeping.  I have subsequently learned that one of the charms of these congresses is that they do bring out a great diversity of opinion.


Thus, at the South African congress, two papers by S. De León of Uruguay were presented on how biologists should revamp their study of genetics, calling it instead something he has derived from the Greek language, “arjetics.”  He concludes, “…on the investigation made by differents scientists the author draws biological conclusions that lead to think that bees are sexless and each one has an own and distinguishable origin. Then he makes a distinction between fertility and fecundity which clarifies the application of the terminology,” 


In a companion paper, Mr. De León discusses drones, concluding that “the author presents a different vision to the classical appreciation which defined the drones. While literature maintained that bees belong to a genetical species, they said that the drones is a haploid bee. After several consideration the drone is defined as a disjunction of the diploid organism. And therefore is not the son of his mother as used to be said, but a derivative and for this reasons is not generated, which is not comparable to a genetical queen impeded to produce organisms whit one half of the mother’s cells.” 


More understandable perhaps was the presentation by Dr. Zbigniew Lipiński of Poland.  In his paper, “Adaptation and Stress – Main  Cause of Nest Abandonment by Honeybee Swarms,”  he says in part, “According to Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), the leading naturalist of ancient times, the reason for swarming was an excess of queens in a honey bee colony ‘a plurality of chiefs brings a fission of a swarm into two parts’. This concept probably originated from observations that the natural swarming of bees is always preceded by the rearing of new queens. In spite of the fact that this first hypothesis of natural swarming has never been fully scientifically proven, it still remains a basic theoretical foundation in discussions of the nature of swarming in honey bees. A literal interpretation of this hypothesis (in spite of its correctness to some degree) seems to be one of the major reasons for the lack of clear progress in understanding of, not only the nature (essence and mechanism) of swarming, but also all other forms of nest abandonment by honeybees. The current situation is such, that no single theory adequately explains all aspects of this subject.” 


Dr. Lipiński has written a book on this subject entitled  The Essence and Mechanism of Nest Abandonment by Honeybee Swarms.  It was entered in the competition of beekeeping resources in Apimondia and won a prize.  In his abstract, Dr. Lipiński says, “A better understanding of these processes can open new possibilities for control of all forms of nest abandonment by honeybees.”  


There is a difference between these approaches.  Dr. Lipińskis’ is richly referenced and represents a good review of published literature.  That by Mr. León, however, contains no references.  Indeed, the author claims to have come up with the term arjetics and first published on it in the Argentine beekeeping journal, Espacio Apícola <http://www.apicultura.com.ar/apis_40.htm#arjetica>.  That article is the only reference to this term I could find on the World Wide Web.  Nevertheless, both presentations beg the question: on what basis was it determined that both these papers should be accepted for the South African congress?


Tracheal Mites:


Drs. S . Sumner and W. Mangum of  Mary Washington College, USA discussed their mathematical model, developed based on worker bee grooming behavior. The model is age-structured and based on bees less than one-week-old that form the susceptible group.  The authors state that without autogrooming bees, the model predicts the number of infected bees will rise.  However, with autogrooming bees and all other parameters remaining the same, the model shows the number of infected bees will approach zero over time. With such models, they conclude, the number of autogrooming can be varied to show how many bees might be necessary to protect the colony from an increase in the number of infected bees.