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ABF E-Buzz: February 2014
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ABF E-Buzz — February 2014

In This Issue:







Welcome to ABF E-Buzz

by Tim Tucker, ABF President and ABF E-Buzz Editor 

The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
To join her comrades in the braided hive,
Where, housed beside their mighty honey-comb,
They dream their polity shall long survive.

– Charles Tennyson Turner, from "A Summer Night in the Bee Hive" 

Welcome back!  We have another great issue of ABF E–Buzz here at your fingertips.   

It has been a cold winter, the likes of which we haven't seen in a decade or more. Our bees here in Kansas are way behind where they should be. This cold winter in the Midwest and eastern part of the country has been hard for the bees to build up in. Trees have been delayed in their blooming by almost three weeks in southern Kansas. As you can see in the picture below, our gals are out collecting elm pollen today and it is the 21st of February as I write. Normally, this first pollen comes in within a few days, before or after the first of the month, but we are set for another cold front coming in this week, with below normal temperatures. We are so ready for spring to return this year and bring warmer, more normal temperatures. 

There are also lots of reports coming out of the almond groves in the valley this year. The weather we are having in Kansas is actually, in part, a result of a system sending warmer air up into Alaska and keeping that state above normal, while pushing most of the lows to California, where critical rains are normal for this time of year, with snow in the Northern Mountains. To say the water situation is critical is an understatement.  Some communities are in danger of running out of water altogether, and there is going to be little water for fruit, vegetable and nut production. I heard an estimate that the cost of fruits and vegetables may go up by 10% as a result, but I think that's a low estimate of how much more foods at the grocery store will cost this summer unless something unusual happens very quickly. 

Over two thirds of the state is in the severe drought category, which has affected the situation with bees and rentals for almonds. It had been projected there would be a shortage of bees again, but with some growers not renting bees, the shortage quickly disappeared. Greg Northcutt from Western Farm Press reported on February 19th in his article; "You have to take your hat off to the beekeepers," Wardell adds. "As the demand for bees has increased, they've stepped up to supplying the bees. Beekeepers face a wide range of challenges – from dealing with Varroa mites, nosema fungus and Colony Collapse Disorder to moving their bees across the country. They're doing a marvelous job of producing healthy colonies to support California's agriculture." I also heard an interesting comment that some growers didn't want a good set or pollination because it will further stress their trees, as they won't have the necessary moisture to produce good nuts, and an attempt at producing the pollinated flowers will draw moisture from the leaves and cause quicker defoliation.  That kind of makes sense when you think about it. So, unless growers have wells to draw on, there's going to be a big drop in the availability of these wonderful nuts that I've grown to love. I read something the other day that said eating 12 to 15 almonds was as good as two aspirins in the treatment of headaches. I'll have to remember that the next time I get one! We better start stocking up on those existing almond supplies right now.

We have much in the ABF E-Buzz this month. I've got a report on the Varroa Summit held at the USDA facility in Riverdale, Maryland, last week, and another short report on our visit to the hill this week with Fran Boyd, our legislative support in D.C. There's an update from Sarah Red-Laird on her travels to the United Kingdom with the Kids & Bees program, and a report from Anna Kettlewell on what the Honey Queen and Princess have been up to lately.  There's also a new "Science Buzz" from Dr. Peter Teal, a terrific recipe, and, of course, another riddle for you to solve.  Thanks for stopping by and spending a few moments with us again.   If you have anything you would like to add to the ABF E-Buzz, just drop me an e-mail at tuckerb@hit.net.  Have a great month until we talk again.

Legislative Buzz

The Buzz from the Hill Farm Bill Finally Passes after Five Years of Waiting   

The beekeeping industry was a winner in many respects with the passage of the Farm Bill this month, and we can look forward to a good program for a few years. The honey loan program will continue, as well as the ELAP program for helping those who have been affected by big losses of bees during the past and coming years. We've also got a directive to the Secretary to report on the necessity of a Standard of Identity for Honey, so there is hope that in the next six months, we will have the beginning of a new directive. The industry has met and drafted the base for a SOI that we think will result in a better working program than what has been proposed in the past. A lot of time has been spent on this during the past several years, and it will be good to finally make some progress on this issue. We just have to keep our fingers crossed that the Secretary will agree that it is important to protect the image of honey.

Unfortunately, congress was in recess for the week, but we got to meet their staffers and get acquainted with some great people. George Hansen and I ran through both houses of Congress and the Department of Agriculture to meet with staffers and distribute a little honey to sweeten up some of the work being done in D.C. on our behalf. We had the opportunity to meet with staffers in the offices of Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota and Frank Lucas, chairman of the house committee on agriculture.  
There's no doubt that the Farm Bill is being considered the bill of the past several years. The bill itself weighs in at over a thousand pages, so the scope of things covered in it is indeed huge. We were big winners in that there really wasn't anything cut from the funding from our programs at the Bee Labs, and we hope to have some news coming soon about some additional funding for help coming from the USDA. The only thing that we had asked for that was taken out at the last minute was the request to initiate a task force on honey bee health issues, which would have taken new money that just isn't likely to be found anywhere in Washington these days. 

George and I talked with Lisa Bertleson with the Department of Agriculture last week about a new initiative that will provide money for assistance in planting pastures and farm areas with helpful seed mixes that will benefit honey bees as well as other pollinators. Right now, the program's provisions affects five states, including North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska. If successful, we may be able to continue the program into the future and expand to other states. I'm hoping that farmers utilize the program and most of the funds so that there might be an impetus to expand the program in future years. Anything that helps expand the natural habitat back to what we had a few decades ago is a good thing for our bees.

You can read all the details about the big news from the USDA. USDA Spending $3M to Feed Honey Bees in Midwest: The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday it will spend millions of dollars to help farmers and ranchers improve pastures in five Midwestern states to provide food for the nation's struggling honey bees. Read more.

Bee Informed:

Varroa Summit USDA, Riverdale, MD

By Tim Tucker, ABF President and ABF E-Buzz Editor 

The Varroa Summit took place February 18-19, 2014. Bret Adee, George Hansen and I, along with many other stakeholders, were all involved in the proceedings. Many of the presentations took place during the first afternoon, with ten different presentations on a variety of issues including Varroa biology and effects on colony survival, breeding resistant bees, mite control options and resistance management, and interactions of varroa with pathogens and nutrition. Jeff Pettis and Mary Purcell headed up the meeting and kept the program on schedule. The afternoon meeting kicked off with opening session by Jeff Pettis, Ann Bartuska, Deputy Undersecretary of USDA and Jim Jones, who is the Administrator of the EPA. All of them reiterated the need for developing strategies for better varroa controls and focused on issues of bee health, including shrinking habitat, monoculture agricultural practices, virus vectored by varroa, pesticides in the environment and beeswax and the immunosuppression effects of varroa. 

The second day was devoted to four different task force meetings.  Everyone was assigned a color which determined the task force you were assigned to. I was assigned to the group dealing with the interaction of varroa with pathogens and nutrition. Mary Purcell and Judy Chen were the moderators of the group, and it was interesting to learn from many of the researchers and scientists what their opinions were about which specific areas of research that should be explored relating to our bees' ability to fend off the infections that are caused by the mite, and resulting immune system compromise due to constant exposure to virus or pathogens. We narrowed it down to six important issues, and discussed what to focus on for short and long term goals and how to better communicate the information. The research topics selected included better understanding of the genomics of varroa and the pathways for infection, the social or colony control of infection and how nutrition relates to immune system pathways that are affected by both varroa and pathogens. There was also discussion about a line of bees that are surviving with varroa (or perhaps the varroa are surviving with the bees) in Sweden on the island of Gautland, where bees are living in an area free from new introduction of varroa mites. They have named these bees "Bond Bees" since they are survivors and seem to be fighting off the mites successfully.  However, they do have an interesting trait in that they seem to lack vitality, which keeps them from raising good amounts of excess honey. I'm thinking that we are seeing some of these Bond Bees here in Kansas.  

There will be a good assessment of the overall meeting when all of the information has been exchanged from the different task force sessions to determine whether or not there is any means for progressing with some of the ideas presented.  So it will be some time before the success of the meeting will be determined. Whether funding will be appropriated for some of the research projects remains to be seen, and of course there would have to be a time for the design of models for research projects. But it is a start, and all programs that end up with some degree of success begin with a single step. I hope to keep you up to date on the progression of the events of the Varroa Summit as well as any USDA plans for the implementation of any research projects.

Bee Educated: ABF's 2013 Series "Conversation with a Beekeeper" Webinars Available Online

Have you missed out on any or all of the great webinars we have hosted over the past year?  Good news!  All of the ABF's "Conversation with a Beekeeper" webinars are archived on the ABF website and you can easily access them at your convenience.  You can catch up on the following sessions: 

  • Dr. Marion Ellis – Diseases of Honey Bee Part Two
  • Dr. Roger Hoopingarner – Beekeeping 101 Series
  • Blake Shook – Expanding from Small Scale to Sideliner
  • Environmental Protection Agency Series

Most sessions are uploaded to the website within the next day or two after the live presentation, so the page is updated at least one a month with new sessions.  Click here to access the sessions. Scroll down to the "Archived Sessions" section and choose the session you would like to listen to.  

You will need to log into your account to access the sessions.  If you don't remember your username or password, contact Jon Magee, ABF membership coordinator.

Don't miss the upcoming 2014 season.  The ABF Education Committee is busy creating great sessions and speakers for the New Year.   

Science Buzz

By Peter Teal, Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, USDA-ARS

I was very interested in Marla Spivak's talk about propolis at the ABF meeting in January. First, what is propolis?  Propolis is composed of resins that foragers collect from plant buds, sap and other sticky plant products. It is used to fill small gaps in hives (see red arrows to right).  Being composed of plant resins, propolis is an excellent water-resistant sealant because, like pine gum and shellac, it is initially fluid and solidifies over time in the presence of air. The big question for me was, "Why would bees use it when bees wax is so much easier to make and use?"  


Marla provided the answer during her talk. Bees use resin as "medicine" because the resins can reduce elevation of the bees' immune response, and reduce chronic elevation of the immune response due to pathogens or other stresses that wear down the bees, just like us. When we are fighting the flu, our immune systems are functioning at high speed and we get tired and, according to my wife, grumpy. Marla and Michael Simone-Finstrom have published several really interesting articles on self-medication by bees using propolis.  The first is "Propolis and bee health: the natural history and significance of resin use by bees," published in Apidologie (2010, volume 42 pages 295-311) and the second is "Increased resin collection after parasite challenge: a case of self-medication," published in PLOS one (March 2012, volume 7). Both are accessible online; just search for the journals and pick the appropriate volume. 

Their results show that colonies increase propolis collection after being infected by chalk brood. Also, they found that when they artificially added propolis to colonies, bees had lower infection levels of chalk brood.  They state that the bees do not eat the propolis but the resins are used in the hive by the bees exposed to the chalk brood spores.  Interestingly, chalk brood affects brood not adults. In fact, the adults carry the disease to larvae. So why would adults increase resin collection?  It is likely that the resins directly reduce chalk brood infection intensity and probably inhibit the growth of the fungus.

Interestingly, there are a large number of studies showing that propolis has significant antimicrobial activity for human pathogens and for a very long time people have used sap from various trees as antibiotics.  For example, turpentine, essentially the low boiling part of pine sap, has long been used to cure "all manner of ailments" (see the FOX FIRE books).  Indeed, I came across an interesting paper in the International Journal of Medical Sciences (published in 2012, volume 9, pages 793-800) entitled, "Synergistic effects of honey and propolis toward drug resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Eschericia coli and Candida albicans isolates in single cultures or cultures containing and all three microbes."  

The authors were looking at common hard-to-kill human germs and, as the title states, the authors found that propolis prevents growth of these germs and the effect is synergized by the addition of honey!  What chemicals are present?  Well, a whole variety of compounds are present in the plant resins but typically the compounds include monoterpenes like pinene (you guessed it - the smell of pine), sesquiterpenes like caryophylene (to me it smells like allspice) and aromatic compounds like cinnamic acid (smells like cinnamon). All of these compounds are volatile so they would permeate the hive if present in large enough amounts and could easily act as antibiotics as they slowly release from propolis stores. In combination with a honey diet, propolis might be even more effective in controlling pathogens in the bee hive.  In short, the bees developed medicines before we did and propolis is a good thing for bee health!

Bee Updated: Latest and Greatest News from the National Honey Board 

Funding for Eight New Research Projects

The National Honey Board has approved funding for eight new research projects focusing on honey bee health.  The Board's Research Committee, with input from an independent panel of experts, selected the projects from 25 proposals received from researchers around the world. The total dollar commitment for the eight projects is $235,646. In addition, the Board's 2014 budget includes $50,500 for ongoing bee research projects from prior years.  
The eight new projects approved for funding in 2014 include:
1. "Are virus levels reduced in honey bees from propolis-stimulated hives?," Dr. Kim Mogen, University of Wisconsin – River Falls.
2. "Drought stressed sunflowers: Impacts on pollen nutritional value and concentrations of seed treated pesticides," Dr. Dennis vanEngelsdorp, University of Maryland.
3. "Probiotic use of Acetobacteriacea Alpha 2.2 for improving honey bee colony health," Dr. Vanessa Corby-Harris and Dr. Kirk E. Anderson, USDA Carl Hayden Bee Research Center.
4. "Evaluating potential of predatory mite (Stratiolaelaps scimitus) as a biological control agent for Varroa mites and testing Amitraz (Apivar) efficacy and mite resistance," Dr. Ramesh Sagili and Ashrafun Nessa, Oregon State University.
5. "A proteomic approach to evaluate effects of fumagillin and discover new target genes for treatment of Nosema ceranae in honey bees," Dr. Leellen Solter, University of Illinois.
6. "Characterizing the contribution of supplemental feeding to honey bee (Apis mellifera) colony strength, Nosema virulence, and detoxification gene activity," Dr. Daniel Schmehl, University of Florida.
7. "Community-based evaluation of a novel resistance mechanism of bees against Varroa," Dr. Greg Hunt, Purdue University.
8. "Field exposure and toxicity of neonicotinoid insecticides to honey bees via flowering field margins: The importance of continual pesticide exposure in bee forage," Dr. Jonathan Lundgren and Dr. Christina Mogren, USDA-ARS, Brookings, SD. Scott Fausti, South Dakota State University.
Honey-bee research projects funded by the National Honey Board are listed on the Board's website at www.honey.com.  Visitors can click on the "Honey Industry" tab and then go to "Honey and Bee Research" for further information on ongoing and completed projects.  The call for proposals for 2015 funding is expected to be posted on the Board's website by the end of August, with proposals due by mid-November.
The National Honey Board is an industry-funded agriculture promotion group that works to educate consumers about the benefits and uses for honey and honey products through research, marketing and promotional programs.  

Honey Queen Buzz: 2014 American Honey Queen and Princess on the Move!

by Anna Kettlewell, American Honey Queen Program Chair

The polar vortex hasn't kept the Honey Queen program down! Queen Susannah and Princess Elena have been hard at work in their second month as our representatives.

February allowed the Queen and Princess to ease into their roles with some local promotions.  Queen Susannah participated in the Florida State Fair, working alongside the Florida State Beekeepers Association promoting honey.  The Florida State Fair is traditionally the program's first fair appearance of the year, and we were thrilled to continue this tradition.  Consider inviting the Queen or Princess to your early fairs, festivals and markets. Our Queens love to travel south in the winter!

Queen Susannah at the
Florida State Fair

Princess Elena made a stop at the Western Pennsylvania Beekeeping Seminar near Pittsburgh in mid-February.  At this event, she promoted the ABF and importance of being a member of a national beekeeping organization to the 300 attendees.  Be sure that you have an ABF display at your local and state beekeeping meetings, and consider having the Queen or Princess to help staff this type of a table at your event! 

Since late winter and early spring are great educational periods for our industry, the Queens also attended the University of Minnesota's "Beekeeping in Northern Climates" short course in the Twin Cities.  This provided the Queens an opportunity to promote ABF membership and learn more about different beekeeping techniques and tricks.  I thank Dr. Marla Spivak and Gary Reuter for again providing this opportunity for our Queen and Princess.  The American Honey Queen Program would love to work with a program in the Southern United States to provide the Queens with more information on beekeeping in southern climates.  If you have such an opportunity, please contact me!

We are scheduling promotions around the Queen and Princess's school schedules over the next few months, and we'd love to start discussing your spring and early summer promotions now! Please contact me at 414.545.5514 or honeyqueen99@hotmail.com.  Happy promoting! 

Bee a Kid: Bee Girl Goes Across the World and Back Again for Education

by Sarah Red-Laird, Bee Girl

The flight miles of honey bees gathering nectar total approximately two trips around the world to make one pound of honey.  I only went half way around the world twice, and oh, boy, what an adventure!  On the flight over, I gazed out the window midway over northern Canada and saw the dancing green aurora borealis.  "I wonder if bees can see the Northern Lights?," I asked myself.  Of course, they are only visible at night…but I still had to wonder if they can feel the crackle of electricity that people report sometimes feeling, and hearing as well? 

Bee Girl with IBRA in
Cardiff, Wales

This transatlantic journey that I made was to provide the keynote address at the launch of the International Bee Research Association's BEEWORLD Project.  The BEEWORLD project aims to encourage teachers, schools and communities to have a greater understanding of bees and their importance to people and the planet.  The program looks at the problems facing bees locally and globally, and searches for solutions.  Pollination and sustainability are the core aspects of this new program, which is designed to bring individuals of all ages and cultures together through their fascination with bees. 

My part in the program is to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to BEEWORLD.  I bring to this position my passion for "Conservation Through Education," which was also the title of my keynote address.  I will be working with representatives with similar passions from Wales, Australia, England, Germany, Guatemala and Jordan.  Our first goal is to identify and link schools through the BEEWORLD website, where there will soon be an interactive blog for student content and communications.  I am also encouraging any bee and beekeeping educators in the states to take advantage of the "education pack," available for free download from the website.  It's a great resource and a true labor of love from IBRA Director of Operations Julian Rees. 

The launch event was a lovely affair.  It was attended by about 120 teachers, students, researchers, beekeepers, film makers and government officials.  I saw hide, nor hair, of Benedict Cumberbatch – who I requested be on the guest list.  Ah well, next time.  Anyhoo…the launch was emceed by Phil Williams, global conservation superstar, and featured a witty presentation by four students from Roath Park Primary, an informative habitat and wetlands talk by Ellie Meloy from Swansea Universit, and also a personal video message to us all from Santo Tomas school in Guatemala.  Following my talk was the unveiling of the BEEWORLD website and education pack, along with a heartfelt expression of gratitude from Julian to all those involved with this new project.  Hats off to Mr. Rees for taking the IBRA, known for research, into the sector of outreach and education.                 

On my way home our 747 chased the sunset for nine hours, all the way to the West Coast.  As we flew over the Hudson Bay, I was shocked to see although we are in mid-winter, much of the Bay (traditionally an ice field December to June) has melted…or never froze in the first place.  The southern states seemed to have trades places with the Arctic Circle!  With the floods in Wales, the drought in California, the frozen South and the melting North, I can see that there is one constant: the bees need all the help they can get.  Here is where I offer my idea again, "Conservation Through Education."  We need to inspire out next generation of beekeepers, teachers and policy makers to take action on habitat management and honey bee health.  I offer the rationale from Senegalese poet and conservationist, Baba Diom: "In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we have been taught."

Bee Thinking

Last month's riddle stumped our membership. Below is the answer: 

Riddle: The man who invented it doesn't want it. The man who bought it doesn't need it. The man who needs it doesn't know it. What is it?

Answer: A Coffin

So, here's another riddle for you to wrestle with. Think you know the answer? The first to e-mail Tim Tucker at tuckerb@hit.net will lay claim to another fun ABF prize.

When my first is a task to a young girl of spirit, And my second confines her to finish the piece, How hard is her fate! But how great is her merit If by taking my whole she effects her release!

Buzzmakers: Latest and Greatest Beekeeping Industry News

  • When beekeeper Dave Pangrac discovered that the thousands of honey bees from all five of his hives had disappeared in November, he experienced a mystery plaguing beekeepers and affecting $15 billion worth of crops in the nation. Learn more.
  • April Lance is behind the wheel of her father's old Ford pickup, talking honey bees as the truck bounces through the Alexander Valley en route to White Oak vineyard and winery for a "hive dive." Read more.
  • Britain’s wild bumblebees are being wiped out by diseases passed on by honey bees, a study suggests. The deadly “spillover” of pathogens from one species to another could be a driving forces in the global decline of the vital plant pollinators. Learn more.
  • Diseases that afflict domestic bees are also contagious to bumblebees and other wild fertilizers, British scientists say. Some 90 percent of domestic and wild bees have died in the US for the last 10 years. Read more.
  • Honeybee disease in wild bumblebees may impact crop pollination. A report by Royal Holloway University says that the disease is spreading fast. This was a disease that was confined to honey bee, but now it is spreading among wild bumblebees, too. Learn more.

ABF Welcomes New Members — January 2014

The ABF welcomed so many new members in the month of January 2014 (64, to be exact), that we couldn't fit all of their names into this space in this issue of ABF E-Buzz! Please click here to view the full list.

Recipe of the Month: Honey-Baked Bananas

Source: 2014 American Honey Queen Susannah Austin


  • 2 medium firm bananas, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 tsp. HONEY
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. flaked coconut, toasted
  • 1/4 c. chopped pecans, toasted
  • Whipped topping
  • Place the bananas in a greased 1-quart baking dish.
  • Combin the butter, HONEY, and lemon juice; drizzle over bananas.
  • Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until heated through. 
  • Sprinkle each serving with coconut and pecans; top with a dollup of whipped topping. 


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