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 Aug 2016
Danielle's Discourse
     Keeping bees in Hawaii makes good sense.  No winter means no break in the brood cycle.  There are abundant and diverse nectar and pollen sources year-round.  For this reason, Hawaii is ranked first in the nation for pounds of honey per hive, and many queen bees are produced there (about 80% of Canada's queen supply and 25% of mainland USA supply).  Varroa didn't arrive in Hawaii until 2007, when the familiar mite-y disaster began again.  Not long afterward some efforts began there with Varroa resistant bees, importing semen from USDA-ARS Baton Rouge Bee lab.  Ever since, there has been a concerted effort to evaluate and improve this stock in Hawaii.  The effort draws on the USDA lab and several of the researchers who worked on breeding VSH bees there (Danka, Harbo, Harris).  Also there is David Thomas, a passionate beekeeper in Hawaii who houses the project and built facilities specifically to incubate this research.  A European bee breeder, BartJan Fernhout, is using the same techniques to find the VSH trait in known European breeder stocks.  So far, they have identified VSH Buckfast and Carniolans.  In Hawaii, there are over 500 colonies in the study, with 90 breeders and 150 instrumentally inseminated queens at any given time to evaluate for their traits.  There are also several thousand production colonies with F1 queens.  It's slow going, but each round brings us closer to a better bee!  Watch for PAm blog updates about this research project.  

Instrumental inseminations in the Hawaii lab, mating nucs in a Hawaiian apiary, and partners in this project and a nice breeder colony!

Danielle Downey
Executive Director 

Billy's Blog
     Seeds for Bees is a program that is changing how California grows almonds.  Sure, the 3,000 acres of bee forage cover crops that we planted last year was only on a small fraction of the total almond acres.  But the size of our program, however large or small, isn't what makes me passionate about Seeds for Bees.  It's the positive feedback from growers and beekeepers that keeps me excited.  But with any agricultural practice there are pros and cons.  In this month's blog I will focus on three possible issues and how to prevent them.
     First, the mustard mix can harbor lygus bug Lygus Hesperus and false chinch Nysius raphanus.  False chinch only poses a slight risk to first year trees. The University of California IPM website states, "In rare situations, aggregations of false chinch bugs can result in plant and tree decline, and there have been reports of these bugs killing young almond, pistachio, pomegranate, and citrus trees. This level of damage typically is reported only from the lower San Joaquin Valley."  There has never been tree death reported to us as a result of our cover crops, but it's worth mentioning.  PAm is here to help you, not give you another headache. Prevent false chinch damage by planting PAm Clover Mix in young orchards.  Young trees need nitrogen, and clover can deliver it by fixing 75-125 pounds of nitrogen per acre.  Lygus does not pose a risk to almond trees, young or old.  However, lygus can damage pistachio trees. To prevent damage to nearby trees, mow the mustard mix down when almond bloom ends.  The timing should work out to where lygus will not be an issue for the neighbor's pistachios.  A sweep net sample is a great way to monitor pests in row crops, cover crops, or weeds. Setting aside a few minutes to monitor every week is all it takes to stay informed.  Instructions on how to take a sweep net sample can be found in the links below. 
     Second, if left to reach their mature size (May-June) our mustard mix will leave organic matter on top of the soil.  Clover is a lighter plant with less cellulose and disintegrates much easier.  There are two ways to prevent organic matter build up issues come harvest time.  One, don't let the stand reach maturity (mow before full size). Or two, disc/rototill into soil if the mustard is still growing in May/June.
     The third issue I wanted to touch on deals with the Vetch we offer.  Vetch works great for certain growers.  The most successful plantings are achieved by using a drill for planting instead of broadcasting.  I recommend using a drill for all three of the Seeds for Bees options whenever available.  However, I am specifically discouraging anyone from broadcasting vetch in particular.  When a drill is used, the seed stays exactly where it gets planted, right behind the tractor.  Then, later when the tractor is mowing, discing, or rolling down the cover crop, all the plants are dealt with.  
     A broadcaster throws the seed in all directions.  It scatters seed not just in the places accessible to equipment, but also in hard to reach places like in between trees.   V etch has vine-like growing habits so once established under the trees it can become a nuisance.                      
Photo Courtesy of UC IPM 
Photo by Jack Kelly Clark

Read more about  Lygus &   False Chinch from the IPM website.  

Billy Synk
Director of Pollination Programs

The Word From Wardell

"Summer's lease hath all too short a date." - William Shakespeare

     Every year at this time I say the same thing.  "Where did the summer go?"  Almond bloom is just six short months away.  Although beekeepers are getting their honey crops off right now, they also have one eye looking down the road toward almond pollination.  Most beekeepers I speak to are cautiously optimistic about the bees after this summer.  PAm board member John Miller reports that BIP teams found mite levels to be lower than in 2015.  This is definitely a good sign and one that seems to be repeating around the country when I speak to beekeepers.            Though most commercial beekeepers are treating for mites three and four times a year, the control measures seem to be working adequately.  We still desperately need more commercially sound control measures for Varroa mites, as relying largely on one method is certainly a scary proposition.  A new, effective method couldn't happen too soon.
    While queen losses continue to be a problem, beekeepers I spoke with are not reporting as big a problem with queens this year as they experienced last year.  Queen acceptance during requeening seemed to be improved this year as well.   
     Most regions around the country are reporting moderate honey yields--not great yields, but not disastrous results either.  Beekeepers in the Dakotas report dry conditions in the western part of the states, resulting in spotty production; and the eastern sides of the Dakotas had a little more moisture and are reporting better yields.  Though, unfortunately, slumping honey prices aren't helping.  
     Bloom wise, it was a pretty good year across the South.  Chinese tallow and titi produced well into late spring giving the bees a strong buildup following almond pollination.  Later, in Florida, the palmetto, cabbage palm and melaleuca all produced strongly providing nice buildup for the bees and even producing a modest surplus.  The Brazilian Pepper is just starting to bloom denoting the beginning of the late summer splits.  Most beekeepers indicate they have recovered from any losses they encountered last year and are optimistic about this coming year's almond pollination. 
     This time of year both beekeepers and almond growers try to look forward in time to prognosticate what bee supplies will be like during almond bloom.   While it is far too early to be certain, indications are that beekeepers have made up previous losses, the bees are looking strong, mite levels are lower than the previous year and the mite treatments that are going on now still seem to be effective.  For now--a critical time of year--we keep our fingers crossed, monitor the bees' nutrition and continue to monitor Varroa mites.  

Dr. Gordon Wardell
Chairman, Project Apis m.

PAm Seed Mixes Featured 
     California Almonds newsletter recently featured almond grower Jeff McPhee and his use of PAm's seed mixes to plant bee forage in his orchard.  Jeff is a great example of a grower that has been using PAm's seed mixes for a while with good results!   

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The BIP Box

MiteCheck: for the health of your colony

     The dog days of summer have, technically, just passed and late August is traditionally the time when beekeepers are stripping off any remaining honey supers and treating their colonies for varroa mites. August is also the beginning of the winter management cycle as beekeepers try to get their colonies as well fed and healthy before winter bees are bred. This is the month we also begin to see the precipitous increase in varroa mite population, which, if left unchecked, can devastate a colony by late fall.
     Our team at the Bee Informed Partnership and the University of Maryland are thrilled to collaborate with the University of Minnesota and Michigan State University to promote a simple and non-destructive way to monitor for mites in your colonies.      Mitecheck is an online monitoring platform that allows you to enter your mite levels and view levels in your region. This tool enables you to see potential mite infestation problems from nearby yards that could create health issues for your colonies if robbing or drifting occurs. Limiting the varroa viral complex to your colonies is critical this time of year and maintaining yards with low mite levels will significantly increase the chances of winter survival.
     By entering your data at, you add to our growing database of the seasonal and geographical spread of varroa mites and it permits you to determine how at risk your colonies are. This citizen science project is growing and over 20 states are currently monitoring and reporting as part of this exciting project.

BIP data hot off the press:
     Averages for Nosema and Varroa loads across all tech teams thus far in August are at 0.16 million spores/bee and 2.1 mites/100 bees respectively.

MiteCheck heat map from the online site. Note how many regions are already reporting mites in excess of recommended thresholds (<3 mites/100 bees).

MiteCheck kit in handy bucket containing everything you need for monitoring your colonies: powdered sugar, scoop, jar with mesh lid, instructions, water bottle, tub

Kits can be made or purchased from Mann Lake and the UMN bookstore.

See the BIP report on our   website .
 Bee Husbandry
*Inspect and Monitor for Varroa - check often. This is time of year to get serious about Varroa. 

*Inspect and monitor for Nosema - check often.

*Be aware that Nosema in the presence of high Varroa mite levels can compromise colony health.

*Depending on location honey flow is ending. Take out fully capped frames for extraction.  Make sure you leave enough for fall/winter feeding. 

*Nutrition in the form of natural forage can be limited in late summer.
Robbing may start to be an issue. Watch for it and reduce hive entrances if needed.  Make sure they have proper ventilation too.

*When floral resources are inadequate, feed bees sugar syrup and pollen substitutes to improve colony survival and performance.

*Project Apis m. has videos on Varroa, Nosema and Nutrition - check them out!

Project Apis m. | |
6775 Chardonnay Rd
Paso Robles, CA 93446

Project Apis m. is a 501 (c) (5) non-profit organization.