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ABF E-Buzz: April 2011
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ABF E-Buzz — April 2011

In This Issue:

Welcome Back to E-Buzz

by Tim Tucker, ABF Membership and Marketing Committee Member and ABF E-Buzz Editor

Welcome back! I hope that you have been surviving the recent storms that have been crossing the country lately. With so many tornadoes and high winds, I am sure that bee yards were affected somewhere. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who suffered loss of life and so many homes and businesses in North Carolina, Kansas and Arkansas.

I had a great opportunity to work with Doug Ruby and Dan Whitney this past month in South Texas making splits and becoming acquainted with their operation near Jasper, Texas. Fortunately, the weather was nice during our trip and couldn't have been better for making splits and moving bees.

We met at 6:30 a.m. and headed for a well-maintained hay meadow to begin our work. It was beautiful indeed, with so many species blooming at once. Azalea, Rhododendrons, Black Locust, Blackberries, Redbud, Dogwood and Wisteria hanging from the trees everywhere there made for many great pictures. With six of us working it didn't take but a few hours to get all of our nucs made up and head out for our mating yard, which was about 120 miles further north in Texas just south of I-20 near Henderson. The morning was still cool enough to make the trip without stressing the bees too much and we were all set out and unloaded by the middle of the day. It is nice when things go well and mother nature cooperates.

It has been very dry in that area of East Texas, though, and when we brought the bees back this past week there were many that were very short in stores. It took some quick feeding to get them back in shape. We are dry here, as well, and many of our bees are still requiring feed. So, if yours are the same, refer back to the March issue of ABF E-Buzz for information on feeding.

The crew making splits in South Texas

Our colonies are now approaching population levels that require good stores for maintenance of the hive's health and continuing buildup. We made some mistakes and learned a great deal, which is what it's all about. Next year we will do better and hopefullly will make different mistakes.

I am learning much about queen rearing this year, even though I have been doing it for years and have even done a couple of talks on queen rearing for our state and local associations.  Dan raises thousands of queens each year and I was able to pick up some good tips from him, even though our visit was short. I have also recently picked up some good queen rearing tips from Edwin Holcomb, who lives in Tennessee. We have been gathering information for the following article on Edwin and his wife, Elaine, who are our Beekeepers of the Month for this issue of ABF E-Buzz. I was pleased to find out that they have been raising and selling queens for many years with great success. So, we hope that you enjoy the article about their beekeeping business.

Peter Teal is back with another great "Science Buzz" article about our foe, the Varroa mite, that you won't want to miss. And, we have a recipe for banana bread cake and muffins that will make snack time a delight! Also in this issue are some great news items that we hope you will find informative and helpful in your beekeeping experience.

If you have any articles of interest for upcoming issues, we would be happy to include them, whether it's information about meetings, book reports, people in the news or recipes. Just send me an e-mail at tuckerb@hit.net and we will get your addition into the next issue or two.

Science Buzz

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

Peter Teal

I was just finishing "Science Buzz" yesterday when I received a news release from the USDA-Agriculture Research Service that put my report on hold for a month. The press release was produced by Dennis O'Brien from the USDA-ARS information staff and it and many more interesting science news items can be accessed in the notes of interest site on the USDA-ARS Web site (http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/noi/).  I have copied the press release below.

"Unraveling the Genome of a Mite Pest that Threatens Honey Bees"

By Dennis O'Brien
April 11, 2011

ARS scientists have completed a genomic survey of a tiny, brown mite, Varroa destructor, which attacks honey bees. This achievement gives scientists new tools in their search for ways to control the mite and sets the stage for a complete genome project.

The survey of V. destructor was published in Biomed Central (BMC) Genomics by ARS scientists Scott Cornman, Jay Evans, Yanping (Judy) Chen, and Jeff Pettis, all of the ARS Bee Lab in Beltsville, Md.; Lanie Bourgeois from the ARS Honey Bee Breeding and Genetics Lab in Baton Rouge, La., and other collaborators working together as part of Varroa Genome Sequencing Consortium.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA commitment to agricultural sustainability.

A number of pests and pathogens target honey bees, but V. destructor causes more economic damage than any other parasite. While this mite has been around for decades, many scientists believe that it may be a contributing factor in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the mysterious syndrome decimating bee colonies around the world.

The mites weaken the honey bee, spread viruses and cause infestations that can decimate a hive within a few months, robbing the beekeeper of honey and profits from pollinating services. Honey bees contribute an estimated $14.6 billion to our economy, pollinating almonds, apples, blueberries, cantaloupe and a number of other crops, so that any threat to them is a threat to U.S. agriculture.
The pernicious mite uses chemical signals produced by developing bees to "sniff out" and gain access to bee larvae just before the larva is sealed up in the hive's protective honey comb. They gouge holes in developing bees and feed on the bloodlike hemolymph, a parasitic relationship that continues after the bees emerge as adults.
The Varroa Genome Sequencing Consortium, made up of 40 scientists from around the world, is expected to have the genome of V. destructor sequenced in the next year or so, according to Evans, who is leading the effort to fully decode the mite genome.

But in the meantime, scientists will be able to search among the 200,000 "chunks of DNA" published in the genomic survey for those associated with olfactory proteins that give the mite its ability to sniff out both bee larvae and the proteins that play a role in production of hormones critical to its survival. Genes for these proteins could then be silenced. The survey also turned up microbes that live on the mites and could possibly be used as biocontrols, according to Evans.

This is of great interest to many of us in research because it is going to allow us to identify Varroa mite specific targets for development of new management tools. For example, we may discover new hormones that we can use to stop mite reproduction or ways to inhibit mites from being able to detect brood or to develop highly specific molecular pesticides that target only Varroa mites.  In fact, several labs are already using some of the information generated from the above study to do just that and "Molecular Pesticides" will be the subject of next month's "Science Buzz."

As I asked last month, please send me an e-mail about research that you are interested in, and if you are conducting research and would like your newly published work to be featured, please send a copy of the paper or preprint. Prior to sending the interpretive summary to the newsletter, I will send it to you for editing. My e-mail is peter.teal@ars.usda.gov.  Please give me your input.

Bee Connected: ABF Introduces Facebook Fan Page

by Amanda Hammerli, CMP, ABF Membership Coordinator

Extra, extra...read all about it!  You can now find the ABF on Facebook!  We are happy to announce the release of the official ABF Facebook fan page. 

If you are a member of Facebook, you can be a fan of the ABF Facebook page.  All you have to do is click here to view our page and click the "Like" button to become a fan, or simply search for "American Beekeeping Federation" to access the page. Everyone is welcome and once we reach 100 members the ABF will send a goodie package to one of our lucky fans.  Please spread the word and keep checking in for ABF updates, fun facts, recipes and photos of our ABF members doing what they do best!

Beekeepers of the Month: Edwin and Elaine Holcomb

by Tim Tucker, ABF Membership and Marketing Committee Member and ABF E-Buzz Editor

Edwin Holcomb

For those of you who have attended ABF annual conferences during the past 10 years, you need no introduction to these two wonderful people. I hope, however, that you will find some new things that you don't know about them here in the coming few minutes.

Edwin and Elaine Holcomb, of Shelbyville, Tennessee, have been helping out with the annual meetings for over 10 years and were always around to jump in and lend a hand when things needed to be done. This beekeeping couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary a little over a year ago and Edwin says he is beginning to slow down a little bit, but it doesn't sound like they are ready to retire from serving the industry and keeping bees.   

During their 50 years together they have raised four daughters and trained many in the art of the bees. Ed told me that his daughters all worked with the bees growing up and a couple of them were great at raising queens. Their family now includes eight grandchildren as well, so there's lots of potential for future beekeepers in this family.  

During the early years, Ed worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority in the area of agricultural economics and land management. His work involved some travel during the fist 10 years or so, but most of the time he was able to be home to work with his bees. He told me that when he was arriving home, he was unbuttoning his shirt approaching the house and in 10 minutes after arrival was in his bee suit working bees. His love for the craft was initiated as a young boy when his family kept bees to supply some honey for the table. During his working years, with the help of Elaine and his daughters, they would raise as many as a thousand queens for sale and produce honey for sale to neighbors and friends. Elaine helped with the bees as well, until she broke her hip two years ago, which makes it difficult to do the lifting and moving around on outside terrain. Elaine has been active in the ABF Ladies Auxiliary for many years and has served them as its president as well. She is also very active in her local chapter of the Eastern Star and was off to a meeting the day I spent researching this article with Ed, so I don't think she's slowing down too much.

Beehives on reclaimed land

Both have been active in the past in their state association, but especially the Eastern Apicultural Society and Heartland Apicultural Society as well.   Lately, the couple have been working with Eastern Kentucky State University with a program to help with the reclamation of mined land. Ed suggested that I talk to Tammy Horn, who is heading up the program, and she was very helpful in providing the facts on the effort to establish bee and pollinator habitat on mined land in Kentucky and develop a model for other states or areas with surface mined areas that are being returned to their natural state of wilderness.  This program is named Coal Country Beeworks and was initially funded with a donation from Ed and Elaine to begin turning the wheels.   

The goal is to establish pollinator friendly habitat on surface-mined sites in the area and the bees will do their work to continue the seed set of native flowering plants and trees to maintain the native ecosystem. Currently, they have 70 hives that Tammy manages on five sites that are also used as teaching sites for beekeeping classes, which are held to instruct new beekeepers in the area who are just beginning the craft of keeping bees. Tammy is also transitioning to the production of queens with some of the hives in an attempt to raise as many as 100 queens a month for supplying local beekeepers with new healthy queen bees.

Coal Country Beekworks works with Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky Extension Service to educate beginning beekeepers and has offered a winter bee school since 2008. This program of applied pollination management helps the environment and also gives people the tools they need to become beekeepers if they desire. If they want to learn how to raise honey or queens or other products of the hive, the instruction is varied and hopefully complete to assist them, whatever their individual goals are as beekeepers. Tammy explained that the program would not have gotten off its feet without the initial funds and continued support of the Holcombs. Their contribution has been invaluable and will help the bee business survive into the future in the area. They have also worked closely with the coal industry and recently with Alltech, which is a leader in nutrition. This is the first time Alltech has worked with insects.  Their involvement in the project has included funding and their goal is developing nutritional supplements that will benefit the health of the honey bee.  Alltech has worked to improve animal health by using naturally occurring yeast and organic minerals to make nutrients more available from the same amount of feed while reducing environmental damage.

Tammy is the author of Bees in America, which was published by the University Press of Kentucky in 2005. In 2006, she served as the NEH Chair of Appalacian Studies at Berea College. Her research that year resulted in the program today, which focuses on the relationship between coal mine reclamation efforts and the use of honey bees to maintain seed set.  You can read more about Tammy at http://www.tammyhorn.com/about.html, which details her life and achievements.   

There's a book to be written here about Edwin and Elaine and their contribution to our industry and all who enjoy the great outdoors. Tammy said her plans for a third book will be along these lines and she is hoping to start when her second book is published this year. The title will be Beeconomy, so look for it to come out soon.

And next year during the ABF annual conference in Las Vegas, be sure to find Ed and Elaine as well and thank them for their efforts to all of us beekeepers and non-beekeepers!

Example of Products of the Hive
Example of Landscapes and Bees

Moments in Beekeeping: ABF Announces Photo Contest

There are four categories for entries in the photo contest:

  • Bees at Work — This will involve a great picture of a honey bee on a flower in the process of gathering nectar or pollen. It would also entail pictures of bees in the hive performing functions such as cooling, transfer of nectar or attending the queen. It could also be great frames of colorful pollen or brood.
  • Kids and Bees — This will include children working bees or in the classroom demonstrating any educational activities involving the honey bee. Costumes and recreations of bee hives are great subjects.
  • Products of the Hive — This category will show off great displays of honey, pollen or beeswax. It could be food made with honey or demonstrations of the different color of varietals. It could involve vehicles used to deliver honey or honey gift baskets. Show how you use and market the wonderful products of the hive.
  • Landscapes and Bees — Show us your favorite yard of bees and how beautiful the surrounding landscape is at your apiary sites.

Rules for photo contest are as follows:

  • Photo will be limited to 2 MB or under in size and will be displayed in a 1500 x 1200 pixel format.
  • Entrants will submit a release form for each photo stating the originality of the photo and possession of submission.
    Release forms will be sent via e-mail upon photo submission.
  • Photos and release forms must be submitted to the ABF via e-mail by June 1, 2011, for final judging. Please send photo to Robin Dahlen, ABF executive director, at robindahlen@abfnet.org.

The winner of each category will be awarded the following items courtesy of EKOBeekeeping.com (total value of $55): One 50ml bottle of Nozevit Plus; One 100ml bottle of OPIMA (essential oil, plant polyphenols, vitamins, minerals and amino acids food supplement); and One European Beekeepers Veil.

One grand prize winner will receive a Master Beekeepers Suit from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm.


Bee Involved: Virus Mapping Project and Virus Screening Your Assistance is Needed

BVS, Inc., has been providing screening services to beekeepers since 2008. Located in Florence, Montana (just south of Missoula), BVS, Inc., is using the IVDS technology that was licensed by the Army's Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center. This technology makes rapid and inexpensive virus detection available to the public through the BVS, Inc., license from the Army. BVS has several projects that have demonstrated the utility and capability of IVDS funded through Project Apis m, the Almond Board of California, Montana, Idaho and California State Associations and several individuals and other groups.

Dave Wick, CEO of BVS, Inc., and a member of the American Beekeeping Federation, is seeking participants to help create a national bee virus map that would include the distribution, diversity, frequency and intensity of honey bee viruses. The data would show trends and relationships of bee viral loads to other factors and it could also serve as a tool for management. The request is for as many small-scale (hobbyist) beekeepers as willing to send in at least one (1) sample for the year and if possible three (3) samples for the year (as early as possible, midsummer and early fall).

This is a "neighborhood sampling" project, so BVS, Inc., can accept aggregate samples from one to 10 beekeepers making up one screening sample. This can be a one-time sample set or it can be done several times over the season or year to provide a health screening, as well as the viral intensity change over time. If an individual beekeeper would like to follow the health of their bees, BVS, Inc., could do this as well by just processing their specific sample of bees. BVS, Inc., will take as many samples from as many beekeepers as willing to participate. This helps the statistical numbers in the mapping project — the more samples the better.

Click here (PDF file) for additional details regarding the mapping project and virus screening, submission requirements and cost for samples. Click here to view a sample virus detection report (PDF file). Learn more about BVS, Inc., at http://www.bvs-inc.us/.

Bee Pure: National Honey Board Works on Honey Purity Test

In early April, the National Honey Board (NHB) announced that it has contracted with two different laboratories to develop a test that could help to differentiate pure honey from honey pretenders.
"The National Honey Board believes honey pretenders have a negative impact on the honey industry," said Buddy Ashurst, NHB Chairman. "The industry can't compete with low-priced products misrepresented as honey. We need to improve on current tests or develop new tests."
After conducting an extensive survey of food testing laboratories in 2010, the Board recently committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to this effort by contracting with the two laboratories.  The goal is to have a simple, cost-effective test that can widely be used by the honey industry, honey users and consumers to advance the image and marketability of honey. The projects are intended to develop new procedures or improve upon current established testing procedures that could better the sensitivity, simplify, or lower the cost of currently accepted tests.

The Board is hopeful that these projects will be successful and provide the honey industry and honey users with additional, lower-cost methods to ensure honey purity.

Buzzmakers: Latest and Greatest Beekeeping Industry News

  • A new study is the first to demonstrate sub-lethal effects on worker honey bees from pesticide residue exposure from contaminated brood comb. Sub-lethal effects, including delayed larval development and adult emergence or shortened adult longevity, can have indirect effects on the colony, such as premature shifts in hive roles and foraging activity. In addition, longer development time for bees may provide a reproductive advantage for parasitic mites. Read the entire report at http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0014720.
  • California honey bee populations are at their highest in seven years. In California, bees contribute tens of billions of dollars of value to the economy, including the indirect value of honey bee pollination (meat, dairy products, vegetables, hay, etc.). Honey bees are responsible for nearly half of California's agricultural production (cash receipts for farm marketing), which is currently valued above $32.0 billion. Learn more at http://www.care2.com/greenliving/honey-bees-recovering-in-california.html#ixzz1JxXoigY1.
  • Appalachian State University computer science majors John Sarris and Jeremy Mikkola are helping Dr. Jay Fenwick, professor of computer science, develop an Android mobile phone application that will help beekeepers keep track of maintenance of their beehives.  The students are working with the developers of Hive Tracks, a free Web application for beekeeping records, to develop their mobile phone application. Read more at http://www.news.appstate.edu/2011/04/14/mobile-app-beekeepers/.
  • Marla Spivak was recently recognized in the May 2011 Reader's Digest "Best of America" issue as the Best Bee Breeder for her work with hygienic bees.
  • Dr. Alan Bowman, a researcher and senior lecturer at the University of Aberdeen who is pioneering a way of saving the endangered honey bee, has been named by Esquire magazine as one of the world's most influential men, alongside Prince Charles. Read more at http://www.metro.co.uk/news/861203-honey-bee-researcher-makes-worlds-most-influential-list#ixzz1KFoFRJ4N.
  • The National Honey Board recently announced its fourth year of support for Minor League Baseball. As the official natural energy booster of seven teams, the National Honey Board will expand its honey messaging through a strong in-park promotion and broadcast media presence. Each ballpark will host between innings honey games and trivia activities for fans, directly engaging them in the honey messaging efforts. Visit http://www.honey.com/nhb/baseball for a complete list of participating teams and specific discount information.
  • Burt's Bees recently launched an online initiative to help benefit the Pollinator Partnership. For every "virtual bloom" sent now through June 3, 2011, Burt's Bees will make a $1 contribution up to $25,000 to the Pollinator Partnership. Visit Burt's Bees Facebook page, specifically the Lips Go Bloom tab, and pick a virtual bloom, inspired by one of the New Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balms, to send to a friend.

ABF Welcomes New Members — March 2011

  • Heather Achilles, New Hampshire
  • Christoper Armstrong, Connecticut
  • Barbara Beregszazi, Wisconsin
  • James Burzynski, Wisconsin
  • Karri Burzynski, Wisconsin
  • Rafeal Catalan, Region of Valencia
  • Jessica Cox, Tennessee
  • Gregory Fariss, North Carolina
  • Marcie Forsberg, Minnesota
  • Ryan Giminiani, New York
  • Hunter Graham, Texas
  • Larry Gross, Michigan
  • Howard and Miki Hohnsen, Illinois
  • Mark Jusko, Illinois
  • Ann Kerwin, Michigan
  • Kamron Koehnen, California
  • Bob Lemons, Florida
  • Tom Luppino, Illinois
  • Dan Parizek, Illinois
  • Linda Pierson, Michigan
  • Scottie Rush, West Virginia
  • Linda Schmidt, Georgia
  • Kelly Stallins, Florida
  • Ronda Staton, Kansas
  • Linda Tillman, Georgia
  • Oliver Washington, Michigan
  • Jan Zientek, New Jersey

Recipe of the Month: Banana Bread Cake

Recipe from Tim Tucker, ABF Membership and Marketing Committee Member and ABF E-Buzz Editor


  • 2 3/4 cup flour
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 stick butter or margarine
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts if desired


  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Generously grease bottom of loaf pan 9 x 5 x 3 inches.
  • In a large bowl, mash bananas and add oil, vanilla, honey, eggs and melted stick of butter or margarine.
  • In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly.
  • Add banana mixture to dry ingredients, mixing well.
  • Place in baking pan and bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean (50 to 60 minutes).
  • Cool for 30 minutes on a wire wrack, removing bread from pan.
  • While cooling, mix frosting from 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, milk.
  • After cooling, cut bread in half. Cover first layer with frosting and add second half frosting the top half as well. When frosted, add a bit of orange zest or candy sprinkles to top of cake for decoration.

Note: I almost always have more than three bananas to use, so I usually make a double or triple batch of this recipe and have enough to do a few small loaves of bread and a pan of muffins that can be wrapped and frozen for later use. Our customers at the farmer's market really love the small loaves of bread.

Bee-friend the Honey Bee: Support the ABF "Friends of the Bee" Fund

Looking for the perfect way to honor a friend or family member while helping to protect and preserve one of nature's finest?  Why not make a donation in his or her name to the Friends of the Bee fund?

The honey bee today faces it's largest challenge in its long history — its continued survival. Factors fighting against the honey bee include:

  • Parasitic varroa mites that not only affect colony numbers, but vector over a dozen viruses that affect honey bee health.
  • Continued loss of habitat due to urban expansion and the even larger problem of monocultural practices of modern agriculture.
  • Challenging weather extremes that can affect honey bee health due to drought and floral degradation.
  • Increased use of pesticides affecting all beneficial insects.

With your generous donation you can help protect the honey bee habitat, aid in the fight against Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), encourage government-sponsored research, assist in the battle against adulterated honey in the marketplace and help ensure the continued role of the honey bee in pollinating 1/3 of our food supply.

Support the world's most beneficial insect and become a friend of the bee with your donation of $25, $50 or $100. Donate today and receive a stylish Friends of the Bee bumper sticker…and help us tip the balance back in favor of the honey bee.  Click here to download the donation form or contact the ABF at 404.760.2875 for assistance.