Bees are Still in Trouble

By Jane Duke)

Restoring Bee Health was the message at the 76th annual convention of the American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) held in Myrtle Beach, SC this January. Neonicotinoids (banned in the EU) were not a prominent topic this year since a California federal judge ruled against beekeepers for failing to establish a causal link between pesticides and beekeeper injury. However, the judge also upheld a ruling that the EPA had violated the Endangered Species Act when they issued 59 neonicotinoid insecticide registrations between 2007 and 2012 for pesticide products containing clothianidin and thiamethoxam. Beekeepers are hopeful that these products will be banned. New research with California almond growers has identified the use of FDA-approved pesticides and fungicides that become deadly when combined and sprayed using specific ‘inert’ fluids that have never been tested or approved by the FDA.

Hive management and control of Varroa mites are always prominent topics and this year the focus was on microscopic level research. Attendees saw a 30-ft. high close-up of how Varroa mites feed on bees, first masticating and digesting the flesh of the bee before sucking up the nutrition. Researchers have now isolated 8 different pathogens carried by Varroa mites on bees. Many presenters referenced analysis from one of the most beneficial tools to combat Varroa, the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP), an online database housing 10 years of field experience logged by beekeepers.

Preliminary results released at the conference reported a nationwide winter colony loss of 30.7% in 2018. On the BIP site, you can see Texas beekeepers experienced a 26.6% loss statewide in 2018; however, only 4.7% of the 35,425 hives reported are ‘exclusive’ to Texas. This means most beekeepers in Texas are migratory and haul their hives outside Texas to pollinate crops. For backyard beekeepers like myself (less than 50 hives), preliminary reports of winter loss are 46.3% nationwide. Also reported were sideliners (51 to 500 hives) with a 38% winter loss nationwide, and commercial beekeepers (greater than 500 hives) with a 26.4% loss.

There is a big effort to encourage beekeepers to treat their bees for Varroa mites, and at you can discover for yourself which management practices are the most successful.

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