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Bee Culture

ABRC Proceedings – Short Talks

By April 1, 2022No Comments

Lighting Talks – Session I


Favorable interactions between genetic selection and polyandry
Delaplane KS, Given JK, Menz J, Delaney DA
University of Georgia

A queen’s mating frequency is positively associated with her workers’ genetic diversity and colony’s fitness. Over 90% of a colony’s diversity potential is achieved by its mother’s tenth effective mating (me); however, many females mate at levels of me > 10, a zone we here call hyperpolyandry. We show experimentally that average brood survival was higher in colonies whose queens were instrumentally inseminated with mo (observed mating number = 54 males) compared to colonies whose queens were inseminated with mo= 9 males. We also show that colony levels of Varroa destructor were lower in colonies whose queens were inseminated with drones carrying resistance alleles (Varroa-sensitive hygiene), but only at the highest polyandry level tested (mo=54 vs. 9). These results are consistent with two hypotheses for the evolution of mating levels in excess of the genetic diversity asymptote: hyperpolyandry improves colony fitness by (1) optimizing genotype compositions for common tasks and (2) by capturing rare specialist allele combinations, resisting cliff-edge ecological catastrophes. Our work implies that increasing queen mating number should be an intentional input alongside targeted genetic selection in our efforts to improve queen performance. This work is published in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (2021) 75(126),

Reducing Winter mortality of honey bee colonies (Apis mellifera) by applying treatments against Varroa destructor parasite during Summer
Plamondon L, Giovenazzo P, Dubreuil P, Paillard M

Université LavalUncontrolled varroa mite (Varroa destructor) infestation has been identified as one of the major causes of Winter colony loss and in Canada. Many beekeepers try to follow a varroa integrated pest management strategy that will keep infestation rates below the recommended threshold of 2% during Summer and 3% in Fall. Below these thresholds, colony health is usually sustainable until the following Spring. There are many recommended varroa treatment options in Fall, but unfortunately, there are few treatment options when infestation rates are above the Summer threshold. The goal of this project was to measure the efficacy of a novel Summer varroa treatment by applying oxalic acid/glycerine impregnated shop towels in colonies. We compared one control group and two experimental groups: Group 1: control, no treatment, Group 2: formic acid (MAQS), Group 3: oxalic acid/glycerine impregnated shop towel. Treatments were tested simultaneously in three regions of Quebec Province Canada, during Summer 2021 using a total of 135 colonies. Dependant variables measured were efficacy of treatment, colony performance (brood and bee population, cluster size and weight), Winter mortality, Spring brood and population buildup, varroa infestation level and six virus infection levels linked to Varroa destructor.

Resilin Distribution and Abundance in Apis mellifera Wing Joints across Biological Age Classes
Anderson, A, Keime, N, Fong, C, Fassbinder-Orth C

University of Nebraska-LincolnThe presence of resilin, an elastomeric protein, in insect vein joints provides the flexible, passive deformations that are crucial to honey bee flapping flight, especially in forager worker bees. Resilin is a potential novel and age-dependent indicator of health. In this study, resilin was quantified in different age classes by gene expression and autofluorescence. Gene expression was determined via ddPCR on whole bees. Resilin autofluorescence was measured in 1m-cu, 2m-cu, Cu-V, and Cu2-V joints on the forewing and the Cu-V joint of the hindwing. These joints were analyzed using a fluorescence microscope equipped with an aniline blue filter. Quantitative fluorescence imaging analysis was performed to yield Corrected Total Cell Fluorescence (CTCF). Resilin gene expression varied significantly with age, with resilin activity highest in the pupae, lowest in the nurse bees, and intermediate in the hatchling and forager bees. Autofluorescence of the 1m-cu and the Cu-V joints on the ventral forewing, and the Cu-V joint on the ventral hindwing varied significantly between age classes on the left and right sides of the wing. The results of this study suggest that the resilin expression is age-dependent and may inform us more about the physiology of aging in honey bees.

Honey bee aging: Exploration of molecular markers of age in the European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)
Fong, C, Keime, N, Anderson, A, Fassbinder-Orth, C
Creighton University

Populations of bees and other pollinators are in decline worldwide, which has major implications for ecosystem health as well as global agriculture. When colonies decline, they often experience dysfunction in their social structure and a decline in the number of older bees, such as foragers. As the foragers die, they often leave the queen and her brood behind with sufficient food stores. There is little research exploring the physiological markers of this shifting age demographic in colonies undergoing rapid decline. In this project we investigated the gene expression of several key aging markers in bees using ddPCR. We investigated the expression of DNA-methyltransferase (DNMT), octopamine (OAR), and juvenile hormone (JH) in pupae, hatchling, nurse, forager, and drone bees. Clear patterns of expression were obtained for each age class. Establishment of standard patterns of aging and social structure markers can provide us with comparative markers for decline and may aid in early diagnoses of colony decline.

Show me the honey (and soybean, too!)
Lin C-H, Passifiume W, Johnson RM
The Ohio State University

As one of the most important commodity crops in the U.S., the expansive acreage of soybeans can potentially produce a substantial honey flow during bloom for beekeepers while pollination by honey bees could improve soybean production. However, evidence for the mutual benefits between soybeans and honey bees has been inconsistent due to the self-fertilizing nature of soybeans, varietal differences in floral attractiveness, and various environmental conditions affecting the growth of soybeans and foraging behaviors of honey bees. To evaluate the benefits to both honey bees and soybeans, we installed honey bee colonies in ten soybean fields in Ohio during soybean bloom. Colonies that were surrounded by more soybeans gained more weight during soybean bloom. Abundant soybean pollen was detected in honey collected from the experimental colonies post-bloom, suggesting soybeans as an important source of nectar. Improved pod development was observed in soybean plants near the honey bee colonies compared to plants that were far away from the bees, although the difference was less prominent in smaller fields. Data on honey origins and soybean production in response to bee pollination could help guide management decisions to maximize benefits to both farmers and beekeepers in regions where soybeans are grown.

Impacts of indoor mass storage of two densities of honey bee queens during Winter on queen survival,
reproductive quality and colony performance
Levesque M, Giovenazzo P, Rousseau A
Laval University

Winter honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colony losses represent a major barrier to the Canadian beekeeping industry and force beekeepers to import queens in early Spring. However, these imports carry several risks, such as the dissemination of pathogens or undesirable genetic strains. A potential way to reduce these imports is the mass storage of queens in bank colonies during the Winter period. In our study, we first assessed the impact of the density of queens in bank colonies on their Winter survival. We also tested the effect of mass Winter storage of queens on their reproductive quality and colony performance. Our results show that storing a higher number of queens negatively impacted their Winter survival. Banking queens also significantly reduced their weight and size, but their sperm viability in their spermatheca remained intact. Stored queens were readily accepted into a colony the following Spring, but egg laying is delayed during the first weeks after introduction compared to queens overwintered individually in their colony. After 12 days in a nucleus colony, the stored queens regained their normal size and weight. This study highlights the potential of mass storage of queens for the Canadian and global beekeeping industry.

Creative Communication in Apiculture Education
Kirby M
Institute of American Indian Arts/Zia Queenbees/Adaptive Bee Breeders Alliance

Information transfer between academics, beekeepers, and the general public requires different communication languages. For scientific communication, we’ve been trained to use language that is concise, clinical, and “cold” – without relaying emotion as if we are outside of our research like detached observers. For artistic expression, we’ve been encouraged to tap into our creativity and to blend our realities into multidimensional interpretations. The past paradigms for these communication approaches are evolving, and so should we as our arena learns to integrate interdisciplinary approaches for better understanding our bees’ needs, their existence and behavior, and how we interact with them in this shared space we call Earth. Science and Art encompass each other – for what are each without the abilities to share experiences that explore relationships? It is time to metamorphosize BEEyond how we’ve been conditioned to communicate as “strict scientists” and explore how multi-sensory communication of our research can benefit diverse audiences and support the next generation of science communication storytellers. Our bees don’t live on stats and graphs alone, and neither should we – especially if we strive for our efforts to not only add to the growing body of work, but to also building better relationships through aesthetic information transfer.

Bee-based environmental biomonitoring of pesticides, pollutants, and pathogens
Cunningham MM, Tran L, McKee CG, Ortega-Polo R, Newman T, Lansing L, Griffiths JS, Bilodeau GJ, Rott M, Guarna MM
University of Victoria/Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Monitoring the environment for pollution, pesticides, and pathogens is crucial for protecting human, agriculture, and overall ecosystem health. The European honey bee, Apis mellifera, is a globally managed pollinator that can serve as a continuous biomonitoring species. During foraging, honey bees are exposed to pesticides and pathogens and carry them to their hives where they can be detected and quantified. Although individual bees are vulnerable to many contaminants, the honey bee colony is more resilient and accumulates stressors without collapsing. This allows for long term monitoring and the potential to create spatio-temporal gradients of environmental contamination. We will discuss demonstrated and proposed uses of honey bees and their hive materials (honey, bee wax, and stored pollen) for environmental biomonitoring of pesticides and plant pathogens. We will also present the use of gene expression, microbiome profiling, and other high-throughput methodologies to increase detection sensitivity. Bee-based monitoring could also be expanded to study emerging threats such as antimicrobial resistance. This presentation highlights the versatility and potential utility of honey bees as biomonitors of ecosystem health.

Mating success of queens fed different pollen source during development
Mahmutoglu E
Nigde Omer Halisdemir University

We know how important nutrition is for honey bee queen development and how important queen quality is for a healthy hive. In this study, we investigated if diet during development affected honey bee queen development success and eventual mating success. We reared queens under identical conditions in the laboratory with two different diets. Queen development was followed until day 10, and then queen cells were introduced into mating nucleus colonies in the field. Furthermore we continued with the healthy queen cells by introducing new queenless colonies to measure the acceptance in the colony. We measured the acceptance rate and then returned to record mating success 16 days after introduction. While our results were not significant, the natural pollen fed group had a higher success rate over the pollen-sub group.

The impacts of smoke and heat during the Oregon wildfires on honey bees
Chakrabarti P, Metz BN, Yang L, Tarpy DR, Sagili RR
Mississippi State University

Recent wildfires and the resulting smoke in the west coast including Oregon have impacted thousands of managed honey bee colonies and potentially hundreds of feral honey bee colonies in the wild. The effects of smoke and fire on honey bees are not well understood. During the period of smoke, beekeepers noticed significantly reduced foraging in their colonies. The ash (particulate matter) resulting from wildfires/forest fires may impact olfaction, respiration and physiology of honey bees. Further, the colonies that were in close proximity to these fires may have encountered significantly higher temperatures. Past studies have shown that stressors like heat-shock can reduce stored sperm viability and result in queen failure in honey bee colonies. The present study investigates both the impacts of smoke and the wildfire heat on workers and queens across impacted honey bee colonies.

Working with Project Apis m.: Funding Research and Practical Solutions for Beekeepers
Shreve P, Downey D, Kunkel G
Project Apis m.

Project Apis m. (PAm) is a nonprofit organization linked closely to commercial beekeepers, growers, and research scientists in the USA and Canada. PAm funded studies encompass the range of honey bee health issues, and this year we expect to pass nine million dollars in funded research. We are always on the lookout for projects that focus on practical solutions, resulting in better yields and lower losses for beekeepers and growers, looking to translate the science into practices, tools and resources for healthier bees. Learn more about what research PAm funds, the process, and how to apply for this funding opportunity.

The Ontario Varroa Dashboard: from regulatory inspections to citizen science and healthy apiaries
Sobkowich K, Berke O, Bernardo TM, Pearl DL, Kozak P

Beekeeping agencies are routinely collecting data with more potential than being realized. Dashboards have become a commonly used communication tool that brings data to life, offering users the ability to explore patterns and trends. In Ontario, we have developed an online interactive dashboard centered around regular varroa mite inspection data. Producing dashboards such as these allows for data otherwise limited to static figures and spreadsheets to be liberated into interactive visuals, able to be accessed by all members of the beekeeping community at any time. Maps, time trend plots, and summary tables, are all able to be filtered, and sorted by region and/or time, permitting intuitive data exploration and giving beekeepers the tools to recognize the status of varroa mite prevalence in their area. The current dashboard serves as a proof-of-concept, with the goal to utilize citizen science data collection methods to help detect outbreaks earlier and improve the success of targeted intervention strategies. In addition to varroa mite data, general information regarding how and when to sample and treat for varroa makes this dashboard a comprehensive tool for Ontario apiarists, ministry officials and researchers and could become the central hub for monitoring the varroa status in the province and beyond.
Lighting Talks – Session II

Manipulating ventilation during indoor Winter storage to suppress varroa and improve honey bee health
Currie, RW, Rempel, Z
Dept. of Entomology, Univ. of Manitoba

Indoor wintering or storage of honey bees is commonly practiced in Canada and becoming more common in the U.S. Indoor-wintered colonies have better survival or lower population loss than outdoor wintered colonies when under stress from pathogens or parasites using standard ventilation requirements. Restricting ventilation, increases ambient CO2, and Humidity and decreases O2 in the cluster resulting in greater mortality of varroa mites in both cage studies (Kozak and Currie, J.Econ.Ent. 2011) and full size colonies (Bahreini and Currie J.Econ.Ent. 2015). In this study we compared colonies under standard ventilation (n=21) to those held under restricted ventilation (n=21) during indoor Winter storage in Canada. Colonies were monitored daily to assess C02, O2, temperature, humidity, varroa mite drop and colony size, weight, mite level, viruses were assessed before and after Winter storage. The results showed that restricting ventilation significantly increased colony CO2 levels, increased daily mite mortality rates and marginally suppressed some viruses relative to standard ventilation. Colony survival was not improved by restricting ventilation however, when under high mite loads, colonies that did survive were larger and the proportion of colonies that survived that were considered economically viable was significantly greater than those held under standard ventilation.

Honey bee swimming behavior: ecological significance and effect of pesticides
Huang ZY, Zhang J, Yin L, Saleem SM
Entomology, Michigan State University

Honey bees have recently been shown to have a unique swimming behavior (PNAS, upon dropped onto a water surface. What is not known is whether this swimming behavior is simply a “panic response” or is it adaptive behavior. We dropped honey bee workers to the center of a water bowl (diameter: 21.6 cm) and let the bees swim toward the edge. One piece of paper with a black area was presented to one direction of the bowl. We found a much higher percentage of bees swam toward the black area than expected if they swam randomly (Rayleigh test, P<0.01). We also found that bees that were fed a sublethal level of pesticide failed to show a preference to the dark area (Rayleigh test, P=0.36). We therefore conclude that honey bees, when dropped to a water surface, are behaving in an adaptive fashion: that they swim to a darker area, which presumably represents the closest bank of a small pool of water. Further, this adaptive behavior is changed when bees were pre-fed with a pesticide.

The remarkable size variability in U.S. Varroa destructor population
Christmon K, vanEngelsdorp D
University of Maryland, Department of Entomology

Varroa destructor, an ectoparasitic mite of the European honey bee (Apis mellifera), and the viruses they transmit, are the most important factors driving high rates of honey bee losses in the United States. In response to concern over the discovery of mites whose size (but not genetics), suggested they were V. jacobsoni, we conducted a survey of the varroa mite populations across the U.S. a total sample size of 9,065 collected in 2012-2013 and 2016-2018. We found that only 33% in 2012-13 and 79% in 2016-17 of mites collected in the surveyed years fell within the 95% confidence interval (CI) bounds of published V. destructor size. We also found a shift in mite size over time from the years of 2012-13 to 2016-18. We explore several hypotheses to explain this shift, including shrinkage from long term storage, season of collection, colony disease state, and miticidal resistance. Understanding the reason for size change may hold important clues for mite management in managed honey bee populations.

Incidence of European foulbrood in honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies following blueberry pollination in Michigan and the effect of protein supplementation on disease occurrence
Kyle B1, Fowler P2, Graham K3, Milbrath M3
1Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph; 2Comparative Medicine and Integrative Biology, Michigan State University; 3Department of Entomology, Michigan State University
European foulbrood (EFB) is a serious bacterial disease of honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies with significant economic consequences for beekeepers. Beekeepers report a high prevalence of EFB within colonies contracted for blueberry pollination. It has been previously proposed that the elevated incidence of EFB seen immediately following blueberry bloom is due to poor nutritional quality of blueberry pollen. One possible mitigation strategy is to supplement colonies with commercially-available protein patties. During this prospective cohort study, 14 blueberry fields in Michigan were selected in 2018 and 2019 with nine colonies from each site enrolled in the study. Colonies were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups – protein supplementation, pollen trapping with protein supplementation, and control. Colonies were evaluated for EFB and colony strength parameters at the start of the study period (beginning of bloom), at the end-of-bloom, and two weeks post-bloom. Incidence of EFB was calculated and compared between treatment groups. Regression modeling was used to determine if protein supplementation was protective against the development of EFB. Trapped pollen from each field will be analyzed for species data and for macro- and micro-nutritional quality to evaluate the role that poor nutrition may play in the incidence of EFB.

The screening of new active ingredients against Varroa destructor
Padé R, Marsky U

Véto-pharma is a French company dedicated to honey bee health, and mainly focused on varroa mite control. Here, we would like to give you a quick overview on an R&D project that we have been working on for several years now: the screening of new molecules as active ingredients against varroa mites. We’re looking for both synthetic and organic compounds to enable beekeepers to develop a solid strategy of integrated pest management. We called this project “Varroa 2.0”. So far, we have been screening more than 40 molecules. We would like to present you some preliminary results for three of them.

Secret Sounds of Bees: Analysis of Honey Bee Vibroacoustics using Hidden Markov Models
Orth A, Fassbinder-Orth, C

Vibroacoustics are sounds and vibrations that are emitted by bees in response to stimuli and may be essential to understand more about honey bee behavior and health. In this study, I developed a Hidden Markov Model within Matlab using a Hidden Markov Model Toolkit for Matlab (MatlabHTK). Nine health states were included in the model, and five minute vibroacoustic signals were recorded at least weekly from 25 hives in Iowa from August-November, 2021. The signals were analyzed using this Hidden Markov Model to predict their colony health. The model was 100% accurate in identifying the signals from the training repository and 92% accurate when the entire collection of 258 audio files from 25 hives was assessed. This model will provide beekeepers with a non-invasive analysis of their colonies’ health that identifies vital situations like exposure to volatile chemicals, robbing of a dwindling hive, active honey flows, etc. This model can be used to reduce colony loss rates when combined with mitigation strategies from beekeepers.

Developing tools to study the honey bee (Apis mellifera) gut microbiome response to environmental stressors
O’Brien J1,2, Ortega Polo R1, Guarna MM3,5, Ho J3,4, Chen G1,4, Lansing L1, Wu L3,5, Cunningham M3,5, Gregoris AS3, Newman T3,5, Tran L3
1Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge, AB, Canada; 2Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada; 3Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Beaverlodge, AB, Canada; 4University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada; 5University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada

The honey bee (Apis mellifera) gut microbiome has a relative low taxonomic complexity, with a core microbial composition of five to eight members: (Bifidobacterium asteroides, Gilliamella apicola, Snodgrassella alvi, Lactobacillus Firm-4 and Firm-5, Frischella perrara, Bartonella apis). These species and phylotypes are the most abundant and are reportedly constant across different honey bee living conditions. However, recent studies have shown that there can be changes to microbiota species diversity and relative abundance when the honey bee gut microbiome is subjected to stressors. As part of a large multidisciplinary project, BeeCSI (, we are exploring how proximity to different crops and exposure to pesticides and pathogens affects the honey bee gut microbiome. We will report our efforts to develop a bioinformatics workflow for analysis of microbiome metagenomics sequencing data, which includes data quality assessment, taxonomic profiling and downstream statistical analyses, as well as our initial results comparing the gut microbiome of bees exposed to different treatments. The nutrition, health, immunity, and productivity of honey bee colonies are greatly impacted by the composition of their gut microbiome. Therefore, our ultimate goal is to identify microbiome profile signatures in order to be able to diagnose factors affecting bee health. a portal for increasing the accessibility of bee microbiome data
Vishwakarma S1, Mesina L1, Lam K1, Ryabov M1, Lansing L1, Chen G1, Guarna MM2, Ortega Polo R1
1Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge Research and Development Centre; 2Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Beaverlodge Research Farm

The bee gut microbiome is the community of microorganisms living within the bee digestive system, and it directly impacts bee health and immunity. Recent advances in sequencing technologies has enabled the generation of rich bee microbiome datasets from diverse regions and research areas. There is an urgent need to increase the accessibility of these bee microbiome datasets so that information can be applied in scientific research and can be translated for stakeholder use. Our team is advancing the development of the BeeBiome Data Portal, which was initiated by the international Bee Microbiome Consortium. The portal will maximize the value of the complex and diverse bee microbiome datasets by enabling analysis and dissemination of information on the microorganisms and viruses associated with bees. Our main goal is to provide a comprehensive catalog of all currently available sequence datasets of bee-associated microbes and viruses, enrich it with literature data, and serve as an entry point to facilitate access to information on the diversity of bee-associated microbes and viruses and their impact on bee health. Our aim is to help catalyze bee microbiome research by promoting metadata standardization, sharing and analyses through the increased accessibility to bee microbiome data.
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