The Speedy Bee, March, April, June 1998 (Vols. 3, Nos. 3,4,6)
Fifty Fifth Federation Convention Meets in Rocky Mountain High Colorado Springs
Malcolm T. Sanford
Introduction: Beekeeping in Colorado
Boom and Bust in Honey Prices:
National Honey Board Legislation:
Special Interest Groups:
Varroa Resistance to Apistan®:
Formic Acid For Varroa Control:
Forestry Management Changes in the Southeast:
National Honey Board Presentations: Key Issues Emphasized
Changing Honey Market and Honey Board’s Goal 400:
Africanized Honey Bees:
Varroa Resistant Bee Stock:
American Foulbrood Resistance to Antibiotics:
PennCap-M® Losses in Colorado:
Varroa Resistance to Fluvalinate:
EPA: Changing Regulatory Philosophy
American Bee Research Conference:
Researcher and Beekeeper Needs:
Future of Extension and Research:
Discovery of gold in the summer of 1858 began a rush west to the territory that would be known as the state of Colorado. As discouragement set in, many turned to agriculture, but found a number of their traditional crops could not prosper in the absence of their primary pollinator, Apis mellifera, according to The History of the Honeybee and Beekeeping in Colorado by Tom Theobald, Colorado Beekeepers Association, 401 North Albany, Yuma, CO 80759, 1996. The formidable plains, it seems, were too much for the white man’s fly to cross unaided. The first honey bee colony had to come by ox cart, brought by Issac Mc.Broom in the summer of 1862.
That initial hive died during winter, according to Mr. Theobald, but subsequent ones were imported and honey production flourished. By 1864, the sweet was selling to the miners of Central City for $1 a pound (equivalent to $25 a pound today!). In 1880, only 250 colonies of bees were located in the state, the beekeepers saw good times ahead and organized the Colorado State Bee-Keepers Association, one of the oldest in the nation. Carloads of colonies began arriving by train, however, such that those selling for $25 each in 1870 could be purchased for a mere $3 by 1890.
In spite of lower prices, colony numbers increased to 85,000 by the turn of the century, according to Mr Theobald, a high point that would never be reached again. Colorado honey was in great demand and was shipped east from Loveland, Longmont and Boulder. The Denver Times reported on December 2, 1901 that honey from the irrigated alfalfa fields is, "...superior in quality even to that of ancient Hymettus and rivaling that of the rose fields of Asia Minor."
Besides honey, Colorado honey bees also filled a crucial pollination need. This, Mr. Theobald said, was shown most dramatically in the Arkansas River Valley, where melon production initially failed, but rebounded so that today it is one of world’s centers in growing this fruit. Colorado beekeeping, nevertheless, has slowly declined so that the current colony count is 45,000, half of what it was in 1900. In spite of this it is still possible, Mr. Theobald concluded, to find and savior honey superior to that of ancient Hymettus and rivaling that of the rose fields of Asia Minor."
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The boom and bust history of mining, agriculture and beekeeping in Colorado makes it a fitting state to convene the fifty fifth annual convention of the American Beekeeping Federation. It was only a little over a year ago that honey was selling for a record $.90 cents a pound. The environment was ripe for enthusiasm in the U.S. beekeeping community as its nemesis, the Chinese dragon, appeared to have been tamed. In a difficult and costly law suit, beekeepers put aside their differences and came together to successfully prosecute an anti-dumping case, resulting in limiting the amount of imported sweet from the People’s Republic of China. This, along with shortages in the world supply, quickly doubled the market price as described in the The Speedy Bee March and April 1996 <http://www.ifas.ufl.edu/~mts/apistm/papers/portland.htm#19> That boom, however, proved to be short lived.
Although the Chinese were effectively driven out of the U.S. market, they moved their promotional efforts to Europe. A bumper crop in Argentina, coupled with Chinese competition on the Continent, meant that honey from South America would inevitably end up on U.S. tables. The rest is history. The price plummeted to its current level of $.65 a pound, resulting in a return to the bad-old-days of lower honey prices, with all its concomitant problems.
Although the current marketing environment may not have been conducive to encourage beekeepers to attend the convention, those who undertook the trip made the most of the spectacular setting, Colorado Springs .in the shadow of Pike’s Peak and home to the U.S. Air Force Academy. The action inside the DoubleTree Hotel at the World Arena was no less stimulating with some 450 participants being treated to four days of non-stop programming. This was a true megameeting, for not only were members of the Federation and National Honey Packers and Dealers in attendance, but also those participating in the American Bee Research Conference, sponsored by the American Association of Professional Apiculturists.
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It was on the slopes of Pike’s Peak that Katharine Lee Bates, Professor at Wellesley College, authored her poem America the Beautiful. Several years later, after much deliberation by Ms. Bates, it was set to the music of Materna composed by Samuel A. Ward. In one of the most moving opening ceremonies I have attended, Emily Anderson and Gwendelyn Guthals, American Honey Queen and Princess respectively, read the story of the genesis of that well-known piece. With the presentation of the colors, the attendees were led in the singing of that unforgettable song that comes as close to depicting the American prairie landscape and experience as any other.
Mr. Bill Merritt, outgoing president of the American Beekeeping Federation, set the tone of the conference. The major task of those in attendance, he said,was to provide a clear mandate to the leadership concerning proposed legislation that would widen the mandate of the National Honey Board. This was important, for two reasons. The first was to develop a quality assurance program for U.S. honey, which is under siege from large-scale economic adulteration. The second is to provide much needed funding for applied research projects to help producers weather the storms of parasitic mites, Terramycin ®-resistant American foulbrood. and other problems.
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In the afternoon, a panel took a closer look at this proposed legislation. Mr. Clint Walker began the session by saying that it is imperative that something be done, given the many problems affecting the industry. There is widespread agreement, he concluded, that the National Honey Board has created market share for honey. The fact that the Board is under industry control has been a plus. The model, therefore, could be expanded to help confront new challenges using the industry’s own resources. Another penny a pound would be assessed the packer in addition to that currently assessed the producer. However, in order to be fair, outfits like Sue Bee® <http://www.suebee.com/> that do a lot of promotion on their own,would be able to take back up to half a penny for what is termed "qualified advertising" credit. This, and perhaps other compromises, would be necessary, Mr .Walker concluded, to get this legislation passed, which he said was above all a "political document."
From the packer’s viewpoint, Mr. Brent Barkman discussed why a honey quality assurance program was necessary. He concurred with Mr. Walker that a call to action was necessary. Quality assurance would help both packer and producer he said. The legislation would provide a vehicle to detect adulteration and enforce quality standards.. Volunteer programs will not work, he said, concluding that if this occurred, up to eighty percent of producers and packers would get a free ride on the funds provided by an industry minority.
Mr. Gene Brandi spoke from a producer’s standpoint. Although there have been many negative things affecting the beekeping industry over the last two decades, the one positive note has been the National Honey Board he said The Board is really not asking for more responsibility, Mr. Brandi concluded, which is an indication that the proposed legislation is not a power grab. The quality assurance program will serve to remove much of the current adulterated honey from the marketplace, causing the price for real honey to increase.
The trials and tribulations of trying to get the proposed legislation off the ground in the face of a vocal opposition have been substantial, according to Mr. Troy Fore, the Federation’s Secretary-Treasurer. In addition, there has also been much foot dragging by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Due to time constraints, bills going through Congress must be lumped together, which often means specific issues are not addressed at best or voted down without due consideration at worst. Even with a concentrated effort due to a strong mandate, Mr. Fore concluded, it would be perhaps fifteen months to referendum, July 1999 at the soonest.
The vision of those proposing the quality assurance legislation, according to Mr. Dwight Stoller included:
1. Developing simple field tests to detect adulteration
2. Keeping the image of honey pure
3. Implementing a continuous monitoring system
The elements above would help the beekeeping industry by developing, monitoring and enforcing standards that are scientifically based. These would be implemented through a proactive educational program directed toward all segments of the industry.
Quality is the foundation of food marketing in the 1990s, Mr. Stoller said. It produces psychological benefits that are hard to quantify, but are extremely important. The consumer is driving this market, he concluded, and it is worldwide in nature. This was shown by the recent Apimondia meeting in Lauzanne, Switzerland, where honey quality was emphasized in several venues. Events there showed that the U.S., although considered a world leader in many respects, was very far behind Europeans and others in honey quality control and a large research effort was needed to get back on track.
Complexity at all levels of honey producing and marketing is increasing, Mr. Stoller concluded, which means that any proposed legislation must be flexible enough to be easily changed. The best way to do this, he said, was to draft as broad a law as possible in the beginning. The specific rules developed by those administering the law (the order), therefore, would become the daily yardstick by which the industry would have to live, but could be altered as circumstances warranted.
Binford Weaver closed the panel with an impassioned plea that the legislation is needed because of retracting budgets at traditional research institutions. If the industry does not pitch in, he concluded, who will to help beekeepers confront the numerous problems they face now and in the future?.
A long question and answer session ensued. The major opposition to the legislation appeared to be from those who see that although the packer and producer are putting their penny into the mix, other parts of the industry (commercial queen producers and pollinators) are not. In addition, the Board’s efforts are seen to promote imported honey. This was a major concern by those who said the National Honey Board should not just look at volume, but also at price, and that imported honey was a big factor here. The possibility that if packers are allowed to take back a half cent for promotional activities, so should producers who marketed and promoted U.S. honey, was brought to the floor. Unfortunately, all the panelists agreed that although the idea had merit, no marketing order could be passed to promote local products because it would be against USDA policy. The "Beef It’s What’s for Dinner, " slogan, paid for by a similar marketing order, for example, promotes both U.S. and Argentinian beef. Finally, there were fears that large advertising campaigns by packers supported by the new legislation would undermine smaller, local promotional efforts.
Although there was considerable wrangling about the value of the National Honey Board’s efforts in promoting honey and the resultant effects on prices, there was little discussion of the other activities that help the industry. These include product research, recipe development, video production, contamination crisis management, and sponsorship of events like the Goodwill Games and the upcoming Apimondia meeting in Vancouver, BC Canada in 1999. These considerable contributions have been described in some detail elsewhere <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/threads/nhboard.htm>.
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The rest of the afternoon was taken up with special interest groups (SIGs) dedicated to package bee and queen breeders, commercial beekeepers, honey producer packers and basic beekeeping. These have been popular parts of the Federation’s programming over the last few years. This reporter attended two. In the producer-packer session, Jerry Probst of the Sioux Honey Association, said that honey was an extremely good model for effectively controlling microbes, but could be compromised by dilution with water or exposure to high temperature. The sweet does not suffer from the food safety concerns, he said, found in apple or orange juice. Nevertheless, honey has been checked in California for E. coli and there is some potential for problems if it is processed incorrectly. A major unknown is how heating honey, which is routinely done in the U.S., may change both the enzymatic contents and sugar constituents. Finally, Mr. Probst concluded that research needs to be done on plastic containers. There a number of kinds of plastics used and some are not a barrier to certain molecules, especially oxygen, that glass and other materials are..
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Ms. Marci Cardetti, Technical Director of the National Honey Board, discussed marketing honey as a value-added ingredient. This has long been the focus of the Board’s efforts and has also been emphasized at its sales seminars. See The Speedy Bee January and February 1996 <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/papers/nhbsem.htm#4>. A toll-free honey hotline exists, Ms. Cardetti, said to assist food manufacturers in incorporating honey into a variety of products including meats, sauces, cereals, beverages and baked goods (800/356-5941). She concluded by saying that honey could face huge challenges from continuous development of new sweeteners in the future.
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The commercial beekeepers special interest group had presentations on the use of Apistan® and formic acid for Varroa mite control. Mr. Oscar Coindreau of Wellmark, Inc. discussed resistance to Apistan® by mites in Europe. It appears to that the material can be used for about ten years before it looses effectiveness <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis97/apmar97.htm#3> This has been the pattern in Italy and France, Mr. Coindreau said The timing may also apply to the situation in Florida, where beekeepers have recently complained about less-than-desirable control <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis97/apoct97.htm#1>. In order to hold off development of resistance, Mr. Coincreau suggested that the material be used appropriately and only when necessary <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis95/apfeb95.htm#FL>. This hot topic was discussed in other convention venues described later in this article.
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Dr. Mark Feldlaufer of the Belstville Bee Laboratory provided insight into research on a gel pack to deliver formic acid for mite control. Significant problems with formic acid presently are that it requires several treatments and it is dangerous to apply both for bees and beekeepers. The gel pack solves these and other problems, according to Dr. Feldlaufer. The application technique is safe, cost effective and the single application easily integrates with other colony management. It also is effective against both Varroa and tracheal mites.
The latter issue is one of importance and the source of some controversy at the Colorado Springs meeting. One point of view is that formic acid should be registered for Varroa control; which is the major reason research was conducted on the material. However, since it also is effective for tracheal mites, another idea is to register the material only for that use. This would make the chemical available for Varroa control, but also leave the possibility of registering another perhaps more effective material for that parasite in the future.
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There was discussion that if formic acid was labeled for Varroa control, this would make registering any other material for the same use more difficult. In a subsequent presentation, Anne Lindsay, Director, Field and External Affairs Division, Office of Pesticide Programs, (Environmental Protection Agency) EPA indicated that she saw no inherent bias in EPA to registering several materials for the same use. However, this could be looked at differently by manufacturers seeking to register materals for use in the beekeeing industry.
Concluding the Commercial Beekeepers special interest group, Bob Rowell, President of the Southeast Georgia Beekeepers Association brought a disturbing piece of news. A new strategy is now being employed in southeastern forests, Mr. Rowell said, that would affect beekeepers, hunters and others. In the next few years, on some four million acres of forest land, pre-emergent herbicide will be used to completely eliminate understory vegetation as pine trees are planted after clear cutting. Although this will reduce competition for nutrients, it will also be responsible for ridding forests of valuable understory plants that are major nectar and wildlife food producers, according to Mr. Rowell. Beyond direct impacts on beekeepers, this will also put great pressure on bear and othe wildlife populations. Interested persons are asked to contact Mr. Rowell, Buffalo Creek Honey Farms, Nahunta, GA ph. 912/462-5068.
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The following day, the National Honey Board sponsored presentations, which, according to its Chairman, John Miller, were meant to show how honey marketing might be adapted for the 21st century. In order to do this, Mr. Miller said, it is imperative to "think outside the box," and link up with other associations with similar interests. Using health messages and making key alliances, such as between cranberry and honey or fruits and pollination, Mr. Miller concluded, are essential to the process.
Dr. Elizabeth Sloan, a consultant to the National Honey Board, discussed key issues that she saw coming into play. These include the demise of cooking and the fact that take-out food is becoming take-home food. Buzzwords like nutrition, fresh, natural, organic and pure will play an increasing role in food marketing. And finally the alternative health area will continue to explode with increasing use of neutraceuticals and pharmafoods.
Honey is ideally placed to take advantage of all these, according to Dr. Sloan. The deemphasis in food preparation, means that honey marketing efforts are more likely to achieve results as part of prepared products, rather than as part of recipes. These include the cereals and what Dr. Sloan called, "indulgence" markets. The latter refers to sweets and snacks purchased by an on-the-go, "workaholic" population. Most adults are working more, according to Dr. Sloan, not less, and the average 10-hour work day means plenty of stressed out folks who want a little, and in many cases a lot, of indulgence. For honey marketing it is good, Dr. Sloan said, that desserts is stressed spelled backwards.
Another awesome honey market is kids, according to Dr. Sloan. Not only are they the basis for the cereals and sweets market, but they are also prime for the new healthfoods of the next century because many in the general population are overweight, and have high cholesterol and/or well as high blood pressure. The supermarket shopper is increasingly concerned, therefore, about nutrition. Many are using vitamin and mineral supplements and more of these are being included in food products. Examples of the latter include vitamins incorporated into chips and snacks.
The nutrition industry is booming and seeing good growth in natural foods, dietary supplements, herbs and botanicals and personal care, which should continue into the next century, according to Dr. Sloan. The consumer will be increasingly responsible for and in control of their own nutrition and health. There is now a shift in place to what is called "positive eating," the "better-for-you foods." All of this should be good for honey in the value-added marketplace. Products here include honey as a nutraceutical and antioxidant <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis97/apoct97.htm#3>. For a more detailed analysis of honey as a value-added product, see The Speedy Bee, January and February 1996 <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/papers/nhbsem.htm#4>.
The other area discussed by Dr. Sloan is that of strategic partnering between honey and pharmaceuticals. There is a lot to recommend the sweet if one examines the literature she said. This includes honey’s bactericidal components, wound (skin ulcers and pressure sores) and burn dressing capabilities and use in peptic ulcer treatment and oral rehydration for children suffering from diarrhea. Beyond this, there could also be significant possibilities in other bee products like pollen and propolis <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis97/apnov97.htm#3> Dr. Sloan concluded.
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Ms. Mary Humann followed with a presentation on the changing honey market as seen through her eyes as the National Honey Board’s Marketing Director. The Board is currently running on assessments from 3300 beekeepers and 267 importers, according to Ms. Humann. The total market is 320 to 340 million pounds and consists of three segments. The bulk market represents about 39% of honey sold and is the fastest growing area. Foodservice is 17 percent and the retail market is the largest at 44 percent. The high prices over the last couple of years have caused sales to drop, Ms. Humann said, and honey is selling at an average of $2.39 per pound retail.
The National Honey Board’s goal is to grow the honey market in the U.S. to 400 million pounds by the year 2002 according to Ms. Humann. It plans to do this by taking advantage of key areas. These include:
1. Do-it-yourself health
2. Resurgence of folk remedies
3. Good-for-you foods
Emphasizing these key areas means a shift from the Boards’ traditional recipe and food-preparation approach. Instead, the Board will commission white papers on honey’s health and healing benefits and direct educational efforts toward potential manufacturers of nutraceuticals and consumers who will use the sweet as a health aid. This includes advertising honey as good for burns, sore throats, as well as an energy and nutritional source. Another area of emphasis, according to Ms. Humann, is to explore strategic partnerships as mentioned by Chairman Miller and Dr. Sloan with other areas of agriculture and manufacturing. The Board, therefore, seeks to position itself as the honey information resource in these areas, Ms. Humann concluded. Thus, it will be in a position to monitor trends, initiate communications and evaluate systems that are the best prospects to help the honey market reach the 4 million pound level by 2002 <http://www.nhb.org/>.
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Africanized honey bee management was addressed by Dr. Bill Wilson of the Weslaco Bee Laboratory. There are considerable challenges in managing these defensive insects, but most beekeepers in areas where such bees predominate are coping with the challenges. It is best, however, to always review your insurance policies if you keep bees, Dr. Wilson said. An example he described the $1.7 million judgement recently awarded to the family of a man who died of bee stings in Texas. The deciding issue in the case, according to Dr. Wilson, appeared to come down to whether or not the person who was killed had been asked if he was allergic to bee stings before he was transported to the bee yard. This was not done and thus, the beekeeper was deemed liable for the death. This precedent, Dr. Wilson said, appears to have encouraged more aggressive and in some cases frivolous law suits in the region, especially where Africanized honey bees are being kept.
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Dr. Bob Danka of the Baton Rouge bee laboratory discussed the efforts to find bee stock resistance to mites. This was also reported in more detail at the American Bee Research Conference (ABRC), which met concurrently with the Federation. A mechanism has been found by Drs. Danka and Jose Villa, which appears to be responsible for the variability seen in how honey bees are effected by tracheal mites. It seems that some populations are better at removing the mites when they are in their most vulnerable stage outside the tracheal (breathing) system of the bee. Striking video footage showed that the middle pair of legs was most responsible for grooming mites off as they emerged from the tracheae and attempted to transfer to other bees. Experiments that restrict these legs from grooming led to more highly infested bees. Fortunately, the specific grooming behavior is heritable; its identification, therefore, represents a significant breakthrough in the possibility of breeding tracheal-mite-resistant bees. This also provides a mechanism for resistance seen in some breeding programs, such as that developed by Dr. Medhat Nasr in Ontario, Canada also reported at the ABRC.
The search for Varroa resistant stock is also continuing at the Baton Rouge laboratory, Dr. Danka said. An area of investigation that includes screening survivor queens of untreated colonies across the U.S. has not been productive. About one hundred queens have been imported from Western Russia to Grand Terre Island off the Louisiana coast however. These appear to be the result of hives that have survived without treatment over several seasons; they average about 7 percent Varroa-infested brood. After initial quarantine, these queens will be evaluated on the U.S. mainland.
Meanwhile Dr. John Harbo from the Baton Rouge laboratory is working on determining the best basis for Varroa resistance. In conjunction with Dr. Roger Hoopingarner, now retired from Michigan State University, Dr. Harbo has devised a protocol to screen numbers of colonies. A report given at the ABRC indicates that so far the most important characteristic is how successful mites are at reproducing inside infested colonies. Variability in this trait has been found in other geographic areas as well <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis97/apmay97.htm#2>.
A most intriguing area of research at Baton Rouge is that involved in looking at the Varroa mite itself. According to Dr. Danka, there appear to be different varieties of this parasite based on geographic areas. These have been detected using DNA techniques <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis90/apfeb90.htm#1>. Two varieties have been indentified, Japanese (less virulent) and Russian (more virulent). This may help to explain the differences in susceptibility of bees to Varroa that have been reported across the world <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis97/apmay97.htm#2>. This knowledge brings to mind an intriguing possibility, Dr. Danka concluded. Perhaps instead of working on developing a bee more resistant to Varroa, maybe a better strategy would be to change the mites themselves, substituting a less virulent strain for one that is more damaging.
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Dr. Hachiro Shimanuki of the Beltsville Bee Laboratory discussed the situation concerning resistant American foulbrood. Over the last forty years, the material called Terramycin® (oxytetracycline) has worked admirably, according to Dr. Shimanuki. However, in most cases of continual use of one product against diseases or pests, there is a logical progression in resistance or tolerance he said.
A case study in this phenomenon appears to exist. Full blown resistance by American foulbrood has recently been reported in Argentina <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/papers/fifth.htm#5>. This is of continuing concern in the United States because more and more honey from this South American is being imported as reported earlier in this article.
According to Dr. Shimanuki, studies in 1994 showed some differences had developed in laboratory assays between post-oxytetracycline and pre-oxytetracycline strains of American foulbrood’s causative organism, Paenibacillus larvae, but they were not considered significant. In 1996, however, this has now become an increasing trend in some areas of the United States. One reason this might be occuring is because beekeepers have taken to using extender patties for Terramycin® delivery instead of dust, resulting in more variable treatments <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis97/apsep97.htm#3>.
With reference to alternative treatments, Dr. Shimanuki said there are products that have been identified as possible candidates, including linoleic acid, lauric acid and tylosine lactate. Although these have been shown to be effective, the usual hurdles to get them registered exist. Tests to determine the correct dosage and labeling are expensive and require an economic interest by sellers and formulators. Unfortunately, there appears to be little interest in developing such a product because the beekeeping market is so small. One advantage for Terramycin®, Dr. Shimanuki concluded, is that the product is used in many livestock situations, and thus the cost of registration can be recovered more easily because of this large potential market.
According to Dr. Shimanuki, no registration effort can expect to be successful unless there is a need for the product. In order to get a better understanding of the extent to which a need might be developing, he urged beekeepers using Terramycin® who have colonies that break down with American foulbrood to send samples to the Belstville Laboratory for analysis.
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The pesticide PennCap-M® appears to be associated with continuing bee loss, according to Tom Theobald, Vice President of the Colorado Beekeepers Association. Originally the material was thought to be a benefit to beekeeping because the toxic active material, methy parathion, was slowly released in very local areas from small plastic sacs. However, it has become a time bomb in a bee hive. This is because the capsules can be collected and stored by bees in the comb and subsequently eaten by newly emerged individuals, perpetuating loss over several generations.
This insidious killing of bees has also led to problems of identifying losses due to the material’s application in Colorado. Although the label says it should not be applied when and where bees are flying, this has not been enforced, according to Mr. Theobald. However, beekeepers in Colorado have had difficulty getting the Department of Agriculture’s ear on the subject. Thus, Mr. Theobald quoted the current Commissioner who said: "We cannot make administrative decisions based on unsubstantiated perceptions that may not result in halting the decline in the bee population."
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The folks putting on the American Beekeeping Federation convention are continually searching for ways to vary and improve the program. These include the special interest groups (SIGs), which cater to specific groups, educational workshops on special topics and what is called the "Bees and Kids Explo." The latter was pioneered at the Austin, Texas meeting, described in The Speedy Bee, January and February 1995 <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/papers/austin.htm#9>. In colorado the original coordinator from Austin, Kim Lehman, was brought in to choreograph the event. Again, it was wildly successful and probably will be continued into the future.
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This year also marked another innovation, a special symposium on queens. There seemed to be a lot more problems with queens in apiaries in 1997, particularly on the east coast. These were reported to Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture. His investigation into the matter resulted in the symposium. Dr. Eric Mussen, Extension Beekeeping Specialist in Apiculture at the University of California, Davis, CA. attempted to define the "problem." He asked three questions:
1. Are the problems new?
2. Are the problems worse than usual?
3. Is there a verifiable special problem?
The answers to these, according to Dr. Mussen, appears to be no. There are historical records of high queen losses; a fifty percent turnover in California commercial bees is common. Dr. Mussen also quoted as high as 55 percent loss in two months reported byWashington State Bee Inspector Jim Bach. After gathering some facts on the reported losses, Dr. Mussen said he found little evidence of new problems. Most of the complaints ceentered around traditional causes associated with requeening and retaining replacement queens, including handling during processing and shipping, and subsequent introducing into recipient colonies.
In a brainstorming session, participants attending the symposium were able to develop a long list of possible problems that could have resulted in the reported observations. Generally they related to climate, malnutrition, unhealthy environments and diseases and pests. Specific ones concerning queen acceptance and retention were those that caused stress during production, including queen handling, lack of drones and queen banking <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis97/apsep97.htm#2>. Producers pointed out, however, that the condition of recipient colonies was also extremely important. If old queens were not removed adequately (two in a colony may be more common than supposed), introduction techniques were substandard and/or recipient colonies were under a lot of stress (disease, mites), the chances of them retaining introduced queens was minimal.
It is impossible to give justice to the full symposium here. It took half a day and a subsequent evening, and included much give and take between producers and users. Several persons remarked that this was one of the best and most interesting sessions to them at this or any meeting in recent years.
In a presentation on biological considerations of the issues, Dr. Marla Spivak quoted the late Dr. C.L. Farrar, "Poorly reared queens of productive stock will be inferior to well reared queens of less productive stock." She also said that nosema control was most important in mating nuclei. One reason is that sperm will migrate faster into the queen’s spermatheca the less stress there is on a nucleus. This means that there should be no nosema, tracheal or Varroa mites, a tall order in these times. Finally, Dr. Spivak concluded that drone production must be more emphasized, especially now that Varroa preference for males and the lack of feral colonies appears to be narrowing the potential genetic base <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis97/apoct9.htm#4>. She closed with an exhortation to producers to always rear more drones that they think necessary.
A comment from Dr. Roger Hoopingarner, now retired from Michigan State University, got some attention. Many of the symptoms of the problems being described, he said, were reminiscent of those found by investigators looking at the effects of sublethal doses of fluvalinate on colonies. Long-term exposure to fluvalinate has been associated with a reduction in honey yield <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis92/apapr92.htm#4>.
The fact that this pesticide was bioaccumulating in the wax, Dr. Hoopingarner said, means that there continues to be more and more of the material in the bee’s environment <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis96/apaug96.htm#1>.
Dr. Jeff Pettis of the USDA Beltsville Bee Laboratory discussed supersedure biology. He said that a problem with current-day queen production is that producers are constantly asked to get the product out earlier. This can result in shortcuts and stress. Acceleration of expectations may also bleed over into the bee yard, according to Danny Weaver of Navasota, TX, who asked users not to "over manage" colonies by pushing them too hard. This was supplemented by Pat Heitkam of Orland, CA who said more observations, more management and more movement could equal more perceived problems. More easy-going beekeepers, he concluded, let the bees solve some of the problems themselves. The fact that there may be a lot more colony movement going on than in the past came from David Hackenberg, who calculated his bees were moved 17 to 21 times for pollination last season!
Another thread of conversation during the symposium had to do with innovations in queen production. There is little information about what effects there might be from using plastic cups and cages (different sizes) or battery boxes. In particular queen cages were described as smaller and, therefore, not able to hold the quantity of candy more traditional ones could. Finally, there was the great unknown called the U.S. Postal Service, which also is continually changing its guidelines and procedures, sometimes without informing either producer or customer. A presentation by USPS officials in Colorado indicated that as much as a 200 percent increase in charges may be applied to shipments in the coming season.
Most participants at the symposium agreed that there is a lack of basic information on a great many of the issues associated with modern queen rearing, shipping and introduction. Thus, as Dr. Mussen concluded, although the problems do not appear to be new, many of the methods employed by queen producer and user alike are. Meanwhile scientific research in these areas languishes as funds are directed to more pressing issues such as mite control
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And mite control was certainly on the minds of those in Colorado. Dr. Bill Wilson of the Weslaco Bee Laboratory discussed the possible appearance of fluvalinate-resistant Varroa mites; the same scenario as described by Mr. Coindrea described earlier in this article. He said it looks as if resistance has appeared in Florida and some places in the midwest, but closer investigation needs to be done.
The situation was complicated and "no-win,"Dr. Wilson said, if resistance is indeed found. The big question he asked is how will we know when we have resistance? A subsequent presentation by Dr. Jeff Pettis of the Beltsville Bee Laboratory at the American Bee Research Conference discussed developments underway in designing an adequate test. Meanwhile, Dr. Wilson said, the Weslaco Laboratory will be working on the situation in the field in Florida as well as doing laboratory assays on mite toxicology. He presented data showing that control using Apistan® was indeed less than desirable in Florida tests. However, one anomaly is that older strips, issued under another label (Section 18) still appeared to provide adequate control, even though they are presumably identical to those of more recent manufacture.
The problem is also complicated by the fact that Apistan® has been the yard stick for Varroa mite control for many years with a knockdown rate of 98 percent. This, however, is now in jeopardy and a new standard needs to be developed. Alternative Varroa control materials are in the works, Dr. Wilson said. These include formic acid (described by Dr. Feldlaufer earlier in his article) and both amitraz- and coumaphos-based formulations.
In closing, Dr. Wilson eloquently urged both beekeepers and manufacturers of control materials to work together. Beekeepers must remember that the manufacturer is doing the apicultural industry a favor in supporting legal products, he said. This means they should cooperate with and support efforts to keep registered pesticides on the market. Use of illegal treatments undercuts those trying to register pesticides and provides an economic disincentive. Threats to demand refunds or sue if products don’t perform up to expectations are also counter productive, he concluded. They send a negative message to those that are planning to market control measures in the future, and might even result in current materials being withdrawn from the market, the fate of the amitrazs-based Miticur® a few years back <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis93/apoct93.htm#1>.
The manufacturers, by contrast, should not blame beekeepers when their products don’t hold up, Dr. Wilson said. This is especially true in the current situation surrounding fluvalinate-resistant mites. Resistance is not necessarily the result of unregistered formulations of fluvalinate as some have implied. It will occur in any situation where the same material (registered or not registered) is used year after year and there is no alternative.
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Problems in registering alternative materials for Varroa control are similar to those for American foulbrood control as described elsewhere in this article. Ms. Anne Lindsay, Director, Field and External Affairs Division, Office of Pesticide Programs, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), outlined some of the current developments in regulatory philosophy concerning this issue. Labels cannot be written to fit all comers, Ms. Lindsay said. And they must be developed using quality information based on specific incidents. The PennCap-M® situation, described elsewhere in this article, is a case in point.
EPA will be reviewing all tolerances so far established, Mr. Lindsay said, beginning with the most problematic ones first. These include carbamates and organophosphates. The latter is of particular concern and many established tolerances may be lifted. For this reason, Ms. Lindsay appeared to shut the door prematurely on one of the most promising alternative materials for Varroa control, coumaphos. This material has been effective in Europe and elsewhere and results of its success were reported both by Dr. Wilson and Dr. Marion Ellis (quoted elsewhere in this article).
Because there are many concerns with reference to registration of minor use pesticides, Ms. Lindsay, said EPA is proposing some new incentives to help the process. One is to try to lump registrations of both minor use and major use materials together into one package. In addition, EPA will establish a minor use omnbudsman, a specific person within the agency who can be contacted and will be a liaison with the IR4 Program. The latter undertakes to develop the scientific information needed to register a chemical, when a need is observed, but industry will not put venture capital into that area. Finally, seed money of half a million dollars will be appropriated for scientific study in special needs areas. Ms. Lindsay’s appearance appeared to be represent a breakthrough in relationships between beekeepers and the EPA. She is the only high-level official to have appeared on the program in the last few years.
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Although not an innovation of the Federation program, an addition to the convention, which provided depth and diversity to the event was the American Bee Research Conference (ABRC). Sponsored by the American Association of Professional Apiculturists, the ABRC has become an important way for scientists to exchange information among themselves, and at the same time, share their results with the beekeeping community. The proceedings are published in American Bee Journal each year. Last year the ABRC was held in conjunction with the American Honey Producers Association meeting in Memphis, TN.
Increasingly mites have taken the spotlight at the ABRC as they have in most beekeeping venues. The following summaries are offered for a few of the papers presented:
Dr. Marion Ellis from the University of Nebraska reported on work using coumaphos in controlling Varroa. This material has been used with good success in Germany, formulated as Perezin®. It is effective and insoluble in water, but quite toxic and in the class of pesticides called organophosphates. The latter works against its potential of being registered as stated elsewhere in this article.
Dr. Keith Delaplane from the University of Georgia reported on his research in timing Varroa control. Determining when to apply treatments is crucial in mite control and varies with beekeeping region, Dr. Delaplane said. For his area in the Georgia Piedmont, this generally comes down to a treatment in February and one in August. The August one is tricky because it is early and may conflict with a late honey flow. Beekeepers might have to sacrifice a late crop to save their bees in this area he concluded. His results indicate that with a correlation of .61, the ether roll technique seems to be better at estimating the number of mites than previously thought.
Dr. Frank Eischen from the Weslaco Bee Laboratory discussed the results of his continuing research on smoking bees. Creosote bush, citrus (grapefruit leaves) and Melaleuca leaves appear to be promising candidates for this kind of techology. Dr. Eischen concluded that even smoke from these plants, however, can harm bees if used incorrectly and employing them should be undertaken carefully <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis97/apaug97.htm#3>.
Dr. Marla Spivak reported on her research concerning hygienic behavior. This trait helps bees ward off many diseases from American foulbrood to chalkbrood. She concluded that it also will help bees infested with Varroa. This happens in highly infested colonies, which actively remove heavily parasitized pupae. This process interupts the mite life cycle, reducing population buildup in those colonies.
Dr. Medhat Nasr reported on research done in Ontario, Canada that has produced strains of bees that are somewhat resistance to tracheal mites. Experience in this program, Dr. Nasr concluded, shows that genetic selection can work, but requires research and development to perfect the technology and transfer to the field (beekeepers), and significant investment in time and money As reported elsewhere in this article, Drs. Danka and Villa at the Baton Rouge Laboratory appear to have discovered a biological mechanism for this resistance.
Although the majority of ABRC presentations were applied in nature, other more esoteric research was reported. Titles included: "Confirming the Effects of Genetic Loci that Contribute to the Stinging Behavior of Africanized Bees," "Odor Discrimination by Hygienic Bees Using Proboscis Extension Conditioning," "The Effect of Feeding a Specific Pollen on that Pollen’s Collection by Honey Bees," and "Regulation of Onset of Foraging in Honey Bees: A Worker Primer Pheromone in the Mandibular Glands."
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The ABRC, therefore, offered a valuable look into both applied and more basic bee research for beekeepers attending the Colorado meeting. In retrospect it was quite fitting to also have a panel discussion about what researchers and beekeepers expect (or need) from each other. This lively session showed that there is need on both sides of this issue for greater communication and understanding.
Drs. Eric Mussen and Keith Delaplane shared their views on the pressures that researchers face. These boil down to two major issues. Researchers get little credit at their institutions for publishing in lay journals. Money runs the research establishment; big grants are funded by national institutions in basic research. Those trying to do applied research face extremely limited budgets and little support from colleagues.
Jim Doan of Hamlin, New York in his opening statement said that research does not help commercial beekeepers. In addition, he concluded that information on pollination is not up to date and was necessary in these times when many beekeepers were going out of business. Gary Lamb of Ridgland, Wisconsin relayed his experiences in generating funds for research. Once some were raised and a committee was established to administer them, he said, this promoted hands-on communication, emphasized problem solving, and resulted in information published in a readible, understandible format.
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This led to discussion about beekeeping extension. Although the job of extension apiculturists was to translate research into usable material, the effort in this arena is not adequate. One reason was that apicultural extension is in decline across the nation and there appear to be few plans in place to encourage an increase in these efforts.
Dr. Ray Nabors, University of Missouri, Carruhersville presented data on this area during the ABRC. In summary, he reported that current extension programs are of good quality, but insufficient in quantity. There is, for example, on the average much less than one beekeeping specialist for each state. As the mean age is 50, retirements will be inevitable from the current specialist ranks, perhaps resulting in a further decline in current resources dedicated to this activity <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis98/apjan98.htm#2>.
In a final give-and-take session from the audience, it became apparent that mutual respect between researchers and beekeepers was lacking. At the root of this was lack of communication, which many thought could be addressed by each side taking the time to consider the other side’s viewpoint. Patience it was decided was also a virtue that needed to be cultivated. Putting a man on the moon was given as an example of a goal that not happen overnight and took a huge research effort.
In conclusion, participants acknowledged that the only way beekeepers could really monitor research directly would be if they put up the funds and a way to monitor competition from researchers and evaluating results was established. This led back to the panels consideration of Bill Merritt’s presidential address, reported elsewhere in this article, asking for a clear mandate by the Federation membership to proceed with modifying the National Honey Board’s mission to include bee research.. If this occurs, the beekeeping industry will have taken a ncessart first step in narrowing the gap between beekeepers and bee researchers.
Beyond the formal presentations, no Federation meeting would be complete without the other activities associated with the convention. A winner in the honey contest was proclaimed, a new honey queen and princess were crowned and an auction raised money to fund travel and other needs of these honey ambassadors. Dr. Tom Sanford from the University of Florida was given the American Association of Professional Apiculturist Excellence in Extension Award by his colleagues, and Troy Fore, Jr. received the Gamber Golden Honey Bear Award for his contributions to the beekeeping industry. Finally, the site for next year’s convention was declared to be music city, Nashville, TN.
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Although it has a definite national focus, due it great measure to a world honey market, apicultural activities in the U.S. are taking on a more international flavor. The Colorado convention display area, for example, had two exhibits from México, and one each from the United Kingdom (England) and Australia.
From south of the border, the folks publishing Apitec were on hand, celebrating the first anniversary of their bilingual Spanish/English beekeeping journal. This magazine is read worldwide with subscriptions in 70 countries. Six issues are published a year and the subscription price is $25 US. For information on subscribing, write or call José R. Pedrón González, Cerro Tres Marías #354, Col. Campestre Churubusco, C.P. 04200, México, D.F., e-mail: email@example.com.
In addition, delegations from Mexico and Canada were on site to promote events in their respective countries:
The Twelfth American Beekeeping Seminar and the Sixth Ibero-American Apicultural Congress will convene together August 17 through 21 in Mérida, Yucatán, México. Expertise from more than a dozen countries in Latin America and the Caribbean will be showcased at this event. The Sixth Ibero-Latin American Apicultural Congress Congress is a sequel to the Fifth held in Mercedes, Uruguay in 1996 <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/papers/fifth.htm>. For further information, contact the organizing committee at Union Nacional de Apicultores, Av. Melcchor Ocampo, No. 405, Col. Anzures CP 11590, México, DF, tel/fax (5) 5-45-17-51, or send electronic mail to Mr. Pedrón at the magazine Apitec described elsewhere in this article (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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"Beekeeping in the New Millenium" is the official theme of the first Apimondia meeting in the Americas since 1981; the last held in the U.S. was in 1967 and in Canada, 1924. The thirty-sixth World Apicultural Congress will convene in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, September 13 through 18, at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre. Plans are underway to host an extraordinary event that will feature commercial exhibits from around the world with 5,000 persons in attendance. Although over a year away, beekeepers from the Americas should begin to save their funds to attend this event. More information will be forthcoming from the Canadians as they continue planning what can only be billed as the American apicultural event of the Century. For information, contact the Organizing Commitee #645-357 Water St., Vancouver BC Canada v6B 5C6 <http://www.apimondia99.ca>.
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