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January 2003


This is a graph I saw on Jose Villa's laboratory wall in Baton Rouge

My Comments: I'm told that the sample on the right represents the resistant and susceptible strains kept at the Baton Rouge lab.  The scientists need mites for some experiments and thus the lab keeps some bees that always have mites (S), as well as bees that seldom have mites (R).   The other samples -- to the left of the lab sample -- are from seven randomly chosen commercial queen producers in the USA.  Obviously, when it comes to tracheal mite resistance, some are consistently excellent and some are pretty bad. 

If you got queens from producer number two or six, you'd stand a good chance of losing a lot of hives to tracheal mites, but if you bought from number five, you'd seldom have problems, if ever.  Other suppliers range between the extremes.  The majority of suppliers are very good in some samples and very poor in others.   Thus we can see that buyers can't count on consistently resistant bees from most of the suppliers sampled.

See A Survey of Tracheal Mite Resistance Levels in U.S. Commercial Queen Breeder Colonies for details. 

Here is a quote: "The most striking result of this survey was the variability in levels of tracheal mite resistance among colonies of U.S. commercial breeding stock. This breeding population can be expected to yield propagated queens that range widely in quality..."

Jose Villa Responds on BEE-L: I read with great interest the dialogue generated by Allen Dick's posting of a chart that we had on the wall during the AHPA visit to the USDA, ARS Bee lab in Baton Rouge. I want to present a few thoughts to the group that has shown so much interest in the topic. Some of the researchers with experience in tracheal mites (Bob Danka, Lilia de Guzman, Medhat Nasr and myself) believe tracheal mites can be significant problems, they can be easily resolved, but they are also easily forgotten.

First of all, the plot of breeder susceptibility was published in an article in the American Bee Journal, April 2000, by Bob Danka and myself. We really had no a priori idea of what we would find. In order to get queen breeders to agree to participate in the test, we agreed to keep their identities confidential. I agree that to some it might sound counter to what a government agency should do, but USDA-ARS is not in the business of regulation or certification, but rather research and generation of information. We feel that this information should be a warning to all queen producers, and should prompt customers to start asking their suppliers what they do or don't know about the tracheal mite susceptibility of their stocks. The commercial testing service that we have assisted in getting established (Backwoods Apiaries in Shelbyville, TN) is one way that breeders could get that information, but unfortunately few have shown interest. We do not endorse, certify or guarantee the results of this small business, but we have a memorandum of understanding to assist him with information, quality control, etc. This is not an agreement of exclusivity, so any one that shows interest in learning the process, establishing a similar commercial service, etc. will receive equal treatment.

We can say the following about resistant stocks without breaking the confidentiality agreement on the test mentioned above. Recent imports from the Old World (British Buckfast, 1990, Yugoslavian bees, 1989) and far-Eastern Russian (1997 and following years) are consistently very resistant to tracheal mites. 'New World' stocks from programs that have actively selected for tracheal mite resistance in the field or using short tests also have resistance (Ontario Bee Breeders-Mehat Nasr's program, Steve Park). We have no direct experience in the field with queens from Ohio Queen Breeders, or from Sue Cobey's New World Carniolan, or from Marla Spivak's Minnesota Hygienics, but given that they actually look for tracheal mites (and cull colonies) they report low winter levels in their stocks (see their web-pages).

It is also important to remember that tracheal mite resistance is a trait that is not exclusively possessed by any stock, race, bee color, etc. We have seen very dark bees show high susceptibility, and very yellow bees be highly resistant and viceversa. It appears as if the main mechanism of resistance is improved self-grooming by young workers of migrating female mites. Susceptible bees have the behavior, so with some selection it can easily be improved. We have not narrowed it down perfectly, but the trait seems to be governed by one or a few dominant genes. With a very simple genetic model, assuming that homozygous resistant, homozygous susceptible or heterozygote queens mate to varying combinations of haploid resistant or susceptible drones, it is easy to explain how a breeder that has a mixture of genes in his operation could produce colonies that span the range from highly susceptible to highly resistant. What is beautifully simple, or simply beautiful, about this system is that with a little bit of information and selection the bad genes can be culled out fairly quickly.

Given the variability of climates and tracheal mite resistance levels in stocks it is not surprising that beekeeper experience in the field is a real patchwork. As Medhat says, tracheal mites are not as serious in the South. First of all, the hot summers make the levels of infestation drop in most susceptible colonies during that period. Second, even if levels of mites in susceptible colonies increase during southern winters, most colonies survive. What could be really incidious in the South is that colonies could be experiencing a chronic loss of performance year round. Consider Medhat's dramatic findings that infested colonies cannot thermoregulate or use oxygen at the required levels during really low winter temperatures. The same level of oxygen consumption by clusters during cold spells, is also required for individual forager flight, specially when loaded with nectar or pollen. What happens to forager performance in colonies with 10, 20, 40, 80% worker infestation?

Sorry for the length of this post, but it summarizes some of the thoughts a group of researchers have developed through time. This is not an official document, just my personal opinions on the matter to a group of people that have shown interest in something that I think should not be ignored.

Jose Villa

March 2010

My Comments: Jose sent me this from his 2008 presentation at the ABRC meeting in Sacramento.  Seven years later, not much has changed, except that the range of variation seems to have converged towards being more susceptible and the resistant samples have disappeared!  2002 seems to have been the year that people paid attention to breeding for tracheal mite resistance.  Since then, things have been on the slide.

Villa, J.D. – EVALUATIONS OF RESISTANCE TO TRACHEAL MITES IN U. S. BEES – Honey bees in the United States have been exposed to tracheal mites for more than two decades, but problems still are found when certain factors coincide. To maximize our efficacy in finding infested colonies for research, we sample unselected colonies in the winter in Louisiana and neighboring states. It is common to find between a quarter and a third of colonies from unselected sources with infestations above the economic threshold of 20%, especially in colonies moved from northern states for the winter.

During the last ten years we have evaluated the genetic resistance of colonies from eleven sources using bioassays of newly emerged workers exposed to tracheal mites in infested colonies (Gary & Page, 1987, Exp. Appl. Acarol. 3: 291-305). In 1999, the resistance of colonies from eight commercial sources (n = 6-19 colonies per source) was compared to colonies known to be resistant or susceptible (Danka & Villa 2000, Am. Bee J. 140: 405-407). Using these standard colonies, a resistance index can be used to place each colony on a common scale from 0 to 1 (similar to resistant or susceptible standards, respectively). Five out of eight commercial sources showed mean susceptibilities above 0.4 and a high amount of variability between colonies (Danka & Villa 2000, cited above, results summarized in Figure). In subsequent years, colonies from three of those sources (n = 9-63 per source per year), plus colonies from three additional sources (n = 5-88 per source per year) were evaluated with the same procedures. The levels of resistance in four of the six sources appear to have deteriorated or not improved through time, with their most recent mean resistance indices being higher than 0.5 (Figure). Beekeepers should be aware of the fact that uniformly high resistance to tracheal mites is not found in all commercial sources. Active selection for resistance by breeders and purchasing of resistant breeding material by queen producers is recommended to solve these persistent problems with tracheal mites.

Figure – Mean tracheal mite resistance indices of colonies from 11 sources evaluated through time. Infestations of young workers exposed in highly infested colonies are scaled to infestations of similarly treated workers from standard resistant (R) and susceptible (S) colonies. Colonies from eight commercial sources were evaluated in 1999 and are indicated with solid symbols. Colonies from three of those sources (●, ■ or ▲) plus three additional ones (○, □ or ∆) were tested in subsequent years and mean indices obtained in different years are indicated.

See also A Survey of Tracheal Mite Resistance Levels in U.S. Commercial Queen Breeder Colonies

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Friday 10 January 2003
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Field Trip to USDA-ARS Honeybee Breeding Lab

8:00 a.m. Buses Load for All Day Tour of the Bee Lab

9:00 a.m. A Perspective on the Importance of the Honey Bee to Agriculture: A Need for Sustained Research ARS-Mid South Area- Dr Ed King, Area ARS-Mid South Area

9:30 a.m. An Update on the Status of the ARS Laboratories and Status of the Honey Bee Genome Project- Dr. Kevin Hackett, National Program Staff Scientist for Honeybees

10:00 a.m. The Partnership of LSU and the USDA Honeybee Laboratory in Baton Rouge- Dr. Bill Brown, Director and Vice Chancellor, Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, LSU

10:30 a.m. BREAK

10:45 a.m. Additional Russian Honey Bee Research- Dr. Tom Rinderer

11:45 a.m. Round Table Discussion- Producers and Users of Russian Honey Bees

11:50 a.m. LUNCH AT LAB- Prepared by the Capital Area Beekeepers, Baton Rouge

1:00 p.m. Divide into smaller groups. Participate in “hands on” demonstrations and activities covering the following topics: Russian honeybees, Varroa mites, tracheal mites, SMR bees, pollination issues, bee Genomics, manipulations of honey bees in a building and Louisiana beekeeping shortcuts and gadgets

At eight AM, a line of buses waited to take us to the Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics & Physiology Laboratory for a tour.  The lab is located on the southern edge of Baton Rouge, but buses got lost on the way down to the lab.  We saw a lot of country along the way, but we eventually arrived, still in good time.  The morning was spent listening to talks, then we have a shrimp lunch prepared by the staff of the facility.  After lunch, beekeepers had a chance to see the Russian bees and see the labs where the scientists work to solve industry problems and develop new strains of bees.

John Harbo examining
 varroa with visitors

Jeff Harris discussing IPM Beekeepers looking
at Russian bees

The Russian hives we examined were quite tranquil and, in spite of repeated handling by the beekeepers, no one was stung.  Brood patterns were excellent.   Populations were small by northern standards and we were told that these bees tend to maintain low populations until they are stimulated by pollen coming in.  Apparently they winter well, and consume very little honey over winter.

We had a chance to hear about the Russian bees from the breeders and co-operators who have had these bees for several years now.  All reports are that they are economical, productive and should reduce or eliminate the need to treat for tracheal or varroa mites, depending on geographical region and other factors.

More Pictures from the lab

Thumbnails (fast)      Full size (slow)

Today..Sunny. Wind light. High minus 5.  Tonight..Clear. Wind light. Low minus 17. . Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 4.

Saturday 11 January 2003
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8:30 a.m. Discussion on Crop Insurance – Mr. Jason Schickendanz, Agrilogic, Inc., College Station, TX

9:00 a.m. National Apitherapy Society- Mr. Jim Higgins.

10:00 a.m. BREAK

10:30 a.m. Lazy Beekeeping- Mr. Don Smoot, Power, Montana

11:00 a.m. Pollination - Brett Adee, Bakersfield, California

11:30 a.m. The Future of Sioux Honey Association - Mr. Jerry Probst, President/CEO, Sioux Honey association, Sioux City, Iowa

12:00 p.m. LUNCH

1:30 p.m. Speaker to be announced

2:00 p.m. Annual General Business Meeting

3:00 p.m. BREAK

4:00 p.m. 2003 Board of Directors Meeting

6:30 p.m. Banquet

A jazz band on the street

A jazz band on the street

There wasn't much of interest to me on the program today and I decided to see the area before we fly out.  Joe agreed.  We checked out and

 caught the shuttle to the airport where we picked up a car.

Route 110 took us back south into Baton Rouge where we turned west towards Port Allen to take a look at the Mississippi from the bridge.  The river had looked small from the air coming into Baton Rouge, but from closer up it proved to be more what I had expected.

The west end of Interstate 10 is the Santa Monica freeway.  From there, I10 runs east through the southern US.  Last year at this time, Joe and I were driving along I10 through California and Arizona between Los Angeles and Phoenix.  This year, we found ourselves on I10 again, but this time headed east to New Orleans.

In New Orleans, we found the French Quarter and spent the afternoon walking around exploring.  The weather was chilly, but we enjoyed the unique charm of the area.  I've always meant to see the Mardi Gras in New Orleans and now if I return, I have a bit better idea what the place is like.

We drove back to Baton Rouge to be close to the airport for our morning flight and checked into a Motel 6.  It's nice to cut the expenses a bit.  The motel, the car and the gas add up to less per day than one night at the Richmond Suites -- and the internet connection here is twice as fast, plus much more reliable than the phone lines at the Best Western.

Saturday..Sunny. Wind light. High plus 1.

Sunday 12 January 2003
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We got up, had breakfast at McDonalds, returned the car and caught our plane to DFW.  At DFW, we connected for Kansas City.  After sitting on the pad for two hours awaiting de-icing and a re-de-icing, we flew to Kansas City in an MD-80 and arrived at 5:30. 

The first de-icing had left a large area on the wing untouched, so I mentioned it to the flight attendant and they did the job over.  I don 't know how much ice is okay, but I don't want to find out either.  Anyhow, we finally got our shuttle to downtown, 22 miles away, and found the the Brandis were passengers in the same van.

Today..Occasional snow developing this morning. Wind increasing to southeast 20 km/h. High minus 15. Tonight..Occasional snow. Total accumulation 2 to 5 cm. Wind light. Low minus 17. Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 4.

Monday 13 January 2003
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The program got underway this morning.  We were impressed to find how well attended the AFB convention is this year.  I reckon that the attendance is about 150 to 200% of the AHPA number. This was in spite of the fact that the hotel is very expensive, and in the heart of town.  This convention program repeats a lot of what we heard at Baton Rouge, so we have the option of sitting in, or skipping sessions.

We met lots of old friends and many who had come here from Baton Rouge as well.  The exhibitors and the scientists form a large part of this latter group, but quite a few beekeepers attend both meetings.

9:30 a.m.          ABF Opening Ceremonies.

10:00 a.m.         President's Address - Pat Heitkam

10:30 a.m.         Legislative Report - - David Ellingson - Fran Boyd, Meyers & Associates, Washington, D.C.

11:15 a.m.         Introduction of 2002 American Honey Queen Colleen Henson and the 2003 Honey Queen Contestants - Presented by Patty Sundberg, Chairman, American Honey Queen Program, Sunshine Apiary, Columbus, Mont.

11:30 a.m.         Research Report - Danny Weaver, chairman, ABF Research & Technical Committee, Bee Weaver Apiaries, Navasota, Texas

11:45 a.m.         'Crop Insurance for Beekeepers' - Jason Schickedanz, Policy Analyst, AgriLogic, College Station, Texas

12:00 noon         LUNCH BREAK

12:00 noon         Trade Show Opens


  • - Commercial Beekeepers

  • - Package Bee & Queen Breeders

  • - Honey Packing

  • - Hobbyist/Sideliner Beekeepers

3:00 p.m. BREAK... in the Trade Show

5:30-6:00 p.m. Orientation for New ABF Members and First Time Convention Attendees.

7:00 p.m.           Welcome to Kansas City Reception and Honey Queen Quiz Bowl.

Tuesday 14 January 2003
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Another day of programs.  Again I was getting into repeats, so spent some time catching up on correspondence.  In the evening we went to the Arabia Steamboat Museum.  The tour was very good and supper okay, but we paid $54 for a short bus ride, a supper on plastic plates worth $12 or so, and museum admission posted as $9.75.  I don't know what the rest was for.  Maybe funding for the ABF?

Jack Hamilton snapped this picture of Joe Meijer and me at the supper on the Arabia tour and emailed it to me.  Joe and I were asked twice on this trip if we are twins.  We're 13 years apart in age.

I also made a post or two to BEE-L

I'm here in Kansas City. Curiously enough it turns out to be in Missouri. Anyhow, I thought I'd pass on a few items of the many that I picked up over the past week, here and in Baton Rouge.

  • * The Russian bees are the Real Thing. All the co-operators agree, and are going over to 100% Russian as fast as they can. These bees require no treatments for either mite and are as productive as the domestic controls. They winter on less feed and in smaller clusters than most domestic US bees. The only downside apparent is that for early pollination, more work -- or more hives -- may be required.

The word is to be sure to get Russian stock only from suppliers that have had Russians for more than one year and who have brought in new Russian breeders for several years to ensure a high degree of Russian genetics, and a mix of Russian blood. Of course controlled mating in reasonable isolation goes without saying.

  • * The SHB found in Australia turns out to be a different variety than the one in the US. This is significant in that Canadian authorities, after an initial closure of package and queen imports from Aus in response to the original SHB disclosure, reopened Canada to Australian stock after assurances that any exports would be from locations 14 miles or more from known SHB apiaries.

Does Canada know that this is a new pest, or did Canada make an decision based on the assumption that the Aus beetle is no different from the one in the US, and which was found briefly in Manitoba before control measures were taken? Will added precautions be in order? Will the Canada border be closed again to Australian imports? Should it be?

There's more, but I'm out of time.

Oh, yes, I did meet Bob Harrison in the flesh.


8:30 a.m.           ABF Auxiliary -Annual Meeting and Breakfast

8:30 a.m.           ABF General Session Resumes Draw Door Prizes/Announcements.

8:35 a.m.           'Bears, Bees and Barcodes' (set to music) - George Hansen, Foothills Honey, Colton, Ore.

9:15 a.m.           Reporting from the Beltsville Bee Lab, USDA-ARS:

  • - Dr. Mark Feldlaufer - 'Residues - The Other ÔR' Word'

  • - Dr. Jeff Pettis - 'Pesticides and Queens' and 'Update on Small Hive Beetles'

  • - Dr. Jay Evans - 'Bee Genes and Bee Health'

  • - Dr. Anita Collins - 'Preserving Bees for the Future'

10:15 a.m.         BREAK. in the Trade Show

10:40 a.m.         Drawing Door Prizes Announcements

10:45 a.m.         Reporting from the Tucson Bee Lab, USDA-ARS:

  • Dr. Gordon Wardell,

  • Dr. Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman,

  • Fabiana Ahumada - 'Pumping Them Up: A Liquid Protein Diet for Honey Bees'

  • Dr. Diana Sammataro - 'Strip Tease: Testing New Mite Strips'

  • Dr. Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman and Dr. Judy Hooper - 'Our Two Scents: European and African Pheromones'

12 noon             LUNCH BREAK

1:30 p.m.           ABF Silent Auction Opens.

1:30 p.m.           Draw Door Prizes  Announcements

1:35 p.m.           'Canadian Report' - Tim Wendell, Roblin, Manitoba

2:00 p.m.           Panel: 'Alternative Mite Control Methods' -- Moderator: Tim Wendell - Bob Stevens, Betterbee, Greenwich, N.Y. - Bill Ruzicka, MiteGone Enterprises, Kelowna, B.C.

2:30 p.m.           'U.S. Honey Promotion by Producer-Packers' - - Sharon Gibbons, Gibbons Bee Farm, Ballwin, Mo.- Clint Walker, Walker Honey Co., Rogers, Texas
- Steve Conlon, ThistleDew Farm, Proctor, W.Va.

3:00 p.m.           BREAK In the Trade Show

3:30 p.m.           Draw Door Prizes Announcements

3:35 p.m.           Panel of Survivors: 'Beekeeper Fires: Can They Be Profitable?'- Moderator: Pat Heitkam - David Ellingson- David Hackenberg, Hackenberg Apiaries, Lewisburg, Pa.

4:00 p.m.          ABF Silent Auction Closes

4:15 p.m.           Forum: 'National Honey Board: Where It Is; Where It's Going' - Moderator: Clint Walker, ABF Past President, Walker Apiaries, Rogers, Texas

5:00 p.m.           Recess General Session

6:30 p.m.           Depart for Steamship Arabia Museum  and Kansas City Barbecue Dinner Optional Event

Today..Cloudy with flurries developing this afternoon. Wind light. High minus 12. Tonight..Flurries this evening. Clearing overnight. Wind light. Temperature rising to minus 5. Saturday..A mix of sun and cloud. Low minus 9. High zero. Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 4.

Wednesday 15 January 2003
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8:30 a.m.           ABF General Session Resumes Draw Door Prizes/Announcements.

8:35 a.m.           "Second Generation and Still Ticking" - David Ellingson, Ellingson's, Inc., Ortonville, Minn.

8:45 a.m.            Optional Event: Group Departs for Tour to Independence

9:00 a.m.           Reporting from the Weslaco Bee Lab, USDA-ARS:

  • - Dr. Patti Elzen - 'Better Science/Better Value - Cooperative Research Between Labs'

  • - Bob Cox - 'Sampling Bees and Honey to Detect ABF'

  • - Frank Eischen - 'Does Coumaphos Affect Bees?'

10:00 a.m.         BREAK. In the Trade Show

10:30 a.m.         Draw Door Prizes  Announcements

10:35 a.m.         'Using Inert Dust to Reduce Varroa Populations' - Dr. Marion Ellis, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebr.

11:00 a.m.         'Honey and the National Honey Board: Worth Every Penny' - Gene Brandi, NHB Chair; Bruce Boynton, NHB CEO; Julia Pirnack, NHB Director of Industry Services; and Bruce Wolk, NHB Director of Marketing

12:00 p.m.         LUNCH BREAK

1:30 p.m.           ABF General Session Resumes Door Prizes/Announcements

1:35 p.m.           Reporting from the Baton Rouge Bee Lab - Dr. Tom Rinderer, Laboratory Director

  •  'A Review of Activities at Baton Rouge'

  •  'What's Up with the Russian Honey Bees?'

2:30 p.m.           "The Honey Bee Genome Project" -  - Danny Weaver, chairman, ABF Research & Technical Committee, Bee Weaver Apiaries, Navasota, Texas - Dr. Kevin Hackett, National Program Staff, USDA-ARS, Beltsville, Md.- Dr. Gene Robinson, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana

3:00 p.m.           'Nothing Less than a Revolution - Radical Change or Just Full Circle?' - Dr. Marla Spivak, University of Minnesota, St. Paul

3:30 p.m.           General Session Recesses

3:30 p.m.           BREAK.In the Trade Show

4:00 p.m.           American Honey Show Auction at the Honey Show Display

7:00 p.m.           YOU'RE INVITED - to an evening of Live Music, Food, Fellowship, Fun, and Fund Raising

We had sessions all day, and a reception in the evening Sioux Honey had donated some free honey beer and we enjoyed it to excess,  I've cut back in drinking, but I'm afraid events like this with free drinks test my resolve.

Today..Mainly cloudy with a few flurries this morning. Clearing this afternoon. Wind light. High minus 4. Tonight..Clear. Wind light. Low minus 10. Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 4.

Thursday 16 January 2003
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We had decided to check out, rent a car and look around today.  The hotel was very high-priced and the surroundings -- the whole complex was full of high-priced shops full of things I'll never need and eateries with overpriced and oddball food -- a bit uncomfortable for country guys like us. When we got up and looked out the window, we saw three inches of snow, but decided to go anyhow.  When we went out, we discovered that the temperatures were chilly and there was a nasty breeze to make things worse.  Up until now the weather had been mild and there had been no snow.  At any rate, we checked out and caught the shuttle to the airport, then rented a car. 

Once behind the wheel, we drove SW towards Wichita, but then turned north at Ottawa.  Passing through the town, we came across an ophthalmologist's office, and since I had been having trouble with a bloodshot, irritated eye, I went in.  He was away, so I went to the emergency at the hospital nearby and got the eye examined.  The doctor prescribed drops, which turned out to cost $69 US!

We had a great Chinese buffet in town for $7, then drove north.  We did a huge loop to see the country and returned to the airport to check into a Motel 6.  The plan was to be near the car return and to have some time to spend on the 'net getting caught up.  It turned out, however, that Motel 6 was blocking the ArcZip access number and I was without 'net access.  We made do, watching the movie channel and reading.

8:30 a.m.-12 noon    ABF EDUCATIONAL WORKSHOPS

10:00-10:30 a.m. BREAK. in the Trade Show

12:00-1:30 p.m. LUNCH BREAK

1:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.  Beginning Beekeeper Short Course - Leaders: - Dr. Marion Ellis, University of Nebraska, Lincoln - Dr. Marla Spivak, University of Minnesota, St. Paul. - Gary Reuter, University of Minnesota, St. Paul

1:30-5:00 p.m.    ABF Business Meeting Century A

6:00 p.m.           Social Hour and Auction

7:00 p.m.           ABF Annual Banquet and Honey Queen Coronation

Today..Sunny. Wind light. High plus 3. Tonight..Mainly clear. Wind northwest 20 km/h. Low minus 6.  Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 4.

Friday 17 January 2003
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Joe and I left our hotel at noon and returned the car.  We were almost two hours early at the airport, but that was just as well, since things went pretty slowly there, due to all the added security and the resulting line-ups.

We flew out to DFW at 2:30 and then changed planes there.  I'm getting tired of Dallas already.  This hub and spoke system may work for the airline, but what kind of sense does it make to fly from Kansas city south towards Dallas for 1-1/2 hours, then fly right back north to Canada?  I keep forgetting to tell my travel agent that I only want direct flights.  Next time I'll study the plan a bit better.  Out of 11 days, we spent 3 of them flying, and walking around airports.

We got into Calgary at 9:10 -- twenty minutes late (does American ever lift off on schedule?  It did not on 7 out of the eight legs we flew on the trip) -- and Ellen met us there. 

I used to enjoy flying, but now everything is slow and tedious and there are no meals on flights anymore, so it is necessary to plan ahead and guess what to take along to eat.

We drove home and I turned on the computer to download the inevitable 180 messages awaiting.  Of course, 160 were SPA and were deleted without even being downloaded.  I don't like Spamcop, Spam Assassin or similar services, since they lose good messages along with the bad, but I think I'll resort to something like that soon.  I'm probably losing good email by not seeing it in the huge list of emails to delete.

The eye drops seemed to work.  My eye was okay all day and the redness disappeared almost completely.

Friday..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind northwest 20. High plus 2.

Saturday 18 January 2003
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I am home today.  (Scale reads 243)

Oene came to get Joe and we had a visit.  I then got down to writing again and here are a few articles written for BEE-L

Link of the Day

jose villa wrote:

>>>I read with great interest the dialogue generated by Allen Dick's posting of a chart that we had on the wall during the AHPA visit to  the USDA, ARS Bee lab in Baton Rouge. I want to present a few thoughts to the group that has shown so much interest in the topic.<<<

I've heard it said that the future is already here, but it's not evenly distributed. That very insightful observation applies very much to our industry. Whether the future will be the happy one we see illustrated in the current results of the years of work with the Russian Primorsky stock, SMR and other selected stock, or the disaster that is currently unfolding in Florida with Monster Mites, is up to beekeepers. Things can go either way.

I'd like to thank Jose and all the people at the Baton Rouge lab for their hospitality on our recent visit, and for clarifying my impressions in his post here on BEE-L. I think many of us are not completely aware of, or too easily forget, the great work that a large network of talented people are doing to assess and respond to the challenges that face the bee industry in North America and throughout the world. Opportunities like the one we had at Baton Rouge during the AHPA meeting help bring this home to those of us who are trying to understand where the future lies.

Unfortunately many beekeepers are busy with their own problems, and are simply unaware what is happening across the continent. As such, many are part of the problem when they could easily become part of a solution. Many have been and will be taken unaware because they are oblivious to the dangers and just as unaware of available solutions.

Good information is out there, but beekeepers are often too busy to investigate, and often many who try are confounded by contradictory claims and by confusing reports. It is often hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. To add to the confusion, proponents of bogus or half solutions are often very strident and general in their claims, while those who have real solutions are often quiet, cautious and quite specific about what they can offer.

I'm particularly pleased that the people on the front lines of study, those in the USDA labs and their counterparts in Canada, are so approachable and willing to participate in one on one discussions with beekeepers. They attend the conventions and even local meetings and talk face to face with beekeepers, they visit beeyards when invited to see what is happening on the ground, and they publish in the magazines that beekeepers (should) read.

Our best hope to ensure a prosperous future in beekeeeping is to attend these meetings, read the beekeeping magazines, and to get together in forums like this to compare ideas and experience. We will certainly never all agree, nor should we, but as long as we can maintain dialogue, we can draw on a vast fund of experience from many regions and methods of operation. We are very fortunate on BEE-L to have a finger on the pulse of the industry and a diversity of thought.

>>> First of all, the plot of breeder susceptibility was published in an article in the American Bee Journal, April 2000, by Bob Danka and myself. <<<

I've often thought that I just happened on a great new revelation, only to see that it has been published a year or two back. Oh, well. Better later than never. Sometimes things just don't stick the first time, and (kick me) I think my subscription had lapsed at that particular time.

It goes to show: BEE-L is a great source of ideas, but the ideas that are presented sketchily here on BEE-L are usually more fully fleshed out in Bee Culture, The American Bee Journal and other magazines, and often at some time in the past. These publications do our industry a great service, and I think we all should promote them to newcomers, and maybe we should make a point of reading them more thoroughly ourselves. I know I will.

And it goes to show that our research people are really identifying and solving the problems, and publishing. The difficulty is in getting the solutions into the real world. As they say, that's where the rubber hits the road, and that is the challenge for the next two years. Will we see the solutions that have been developed for us get into common use, or will we see this opportunity slip away and again hear of massive (and unnecessary) bee losses?

The answer lies in whether we can work together and agree on how to accomplish the task, and whether we can overcome the political divisions and inertia. The knowledge, and methods are at hand.

Time will tell.


At the ABF meeting, Laurence Cutts and Tom Rinderer mentioned 'Monster Mites'.

Apparently, the varroa in Florida are now tolerant to fluvalinate, coumaphos and Amitraz.

Some in the US have been pinning their hopes on Amitraz. Larry says that Amitraz might buy one more year, but mites that have experienced fluvalinate and coumaphos quickly adapt to Amitraz.

It looks as if the race is run and chemicals have had their day. Thankfully, the use of chemicals has bought enough time to develop bee stock that seems to need very little assistance in surviving in the presence of tracheal and varroa mites. It is time for beekeepers to adopt that stock ASAP and to be sure to monitor levels.

I attended a talk in Jeff Harris's lab and the assumption was that most beekeepers do not monitor mites. I was shocked, but Jeff was right, it seems most people in the room did not know what a sticky board looked like or how to use it. His demo of the sugar shake was so quick and elegant that it is hard to imagine that anyone leaving the room would not adopt one or or the other -- preferably both -- methods immediately.

The day of just adding strips and trusting fate are long over. The only beekeepers left standing in a few years will either be in very isolated areas, or using mite-tolerant stock and testing regularly for mite levels.


>>> Since the quarantine imposed in New South Wales was lifted in November 2002, this would mean that other countries would be well within their rights to assume that all of Australia was "infected". The fact that it is impossible for all of New South Wales, let alone the entire continent, to be infected at this time would be "irrelevant". <<<

That is true, but the question remains, exactly what areas *are* infected, or may be infected? How can we know? Who can we trust? What distance ensures reasonable safety from the pest? What is reasonable risk?

> I think that everyone needs to cut the Australians some slack on this.

That is true, and I think Canada is cutting Australia a lot of slack, after all AFAIK, Canada has an open border to Australian queens and packages at present. It is a matter of trust though, and if there is not or has not been full disclosure, that trust may be misplaced.

Having said that, I understand that US and Canadian people are over in Aus, assessing the situation and, besides, some time will pass before any imports will take place, so there is time for change in policy. March is the earliest I expect that packages and queens will be coming this way.

It is entirely possible that this entire matter is of no import, but what concerns me is that the first we heard of this is from a chance comment from someone who just happened to be in Australia, and just happened to see a sample of the beetle, and just happened to see the difference.

Without full disclosure and public knowledge of the facts, how can the industry be expected to give intelligent input to a decision that may have significant impact on beekeepers. Perhaps we can trust this to the Powers That Be, but maybe not. IMO, the more people thinking about this, the better. Our CFIA recently allowed SHB infested comb into Canada. AFAIK this was without the knowledge of the bee industry as a whole, and the news took our national and provincial bee organizations by surprise.

Although efforts were made subsequently to eliminate and contain the pest outbreak, we will not know the extent of the damage from this error in communication and judgment for some time. That episode does really make one wonder about our watchdogs, though. CFIA defends our borders against easy import of superior, mite and disease resistant bee stock from the USA at great cost to many in our industry and economy, and at the same time has casually allowed a serious pest into Canada to satisfy a small business that makes only a minor contribution to our industry and economy. What to think? Can they be trusted on this Australian situation?

As a Canadian, I do not want my country to take chances on bringing a new pest to our continent that *might* be no real problem here, but could migrate south to be a pest to our good neighbours in the USA.

I agree we have to be fair minded and even handed in these deliberations, but we also have to be careful who we trust, and make sure that all the cards are on the table. I hate surprises.


Jose Villa wrote:

>>> ...The commercial testing service that we have assisted in getting established (Backwoods Apiaries in Shelbyville, TN) is one way that breeders could get that information, but unfortunately few have shown  interest. We do not endorse, certify or guarantee the results of  this small business, but we have a memorandum of understanding to  assist him with information, quality control, etc. This is not an agreement of exclusivity, so any one that shows interest in learning  the process, establishing a similar commercial service, etc. will receive equal treatment. <<<

At risk of stating the obvious, and further risk of making this a hobby horse, the work has been done and it is now up to us -- those who buy queens from US producers (Hawaii is a US state) -- to ensure that our suppliers use this service, or one that is comparable.

It is an economic fact that suppliers have no incentive to make any improvements in stock beyond what their customers demand. Granted, many suppliers are professionals and as such strive for high standards, but if we consumers vaue the work that has been done to help ensure we receive the best, then we need to press our suppliers to *prove* that they are making the effort. Asking for reasonable assurances shouldn't annoy those who have our best interests at heart.

Is it unreasonable to ask our suppliers to give us written assurances that they are monitoring and managing tracheal tolerance in their stock? I submit that it is not unreasonable at all. At the ABF convention, we were told how the large chains buying honey now demand documentation from the packers showing that aerobic bacteria levels are lower than a specific minimum along with other technical information to protect them, and to protect the end user. Smart packers comply quickly and enthusiastically, and then use their compliance as a tool to secure their relationships with suppliers and customers -- and to beat out competition.

Large buyers can insist on standards because of their vast purchasing clout, but maybe we underestimate our power as consumers, and the influence that industry chatter can have. I think it is time that we ask queen producers to provide buyers with at least some sort of spec sheets, guaranteeing that their stock meets reasonable established benchmarks.

This is not a new concept in many industries and I am sure that the best producers are prepared, and would be glad to do so today if asked. I am also sure that, in time, the rest will follow. Some may be unable to do so or refuse, but they will lose customers, and that seems fair enough to me; after all, unscrupulous or inattentive queen suppliers ruin their customers slowly over time.

Maybe it is a little early to expect much, but in a year or two, if we start now, with a gentle pressure coming from all sides, we may see some producers realising that they can exploit these tests as a marketing tool to differentiate their product from those of producers who have not gone to the expense and trouble of getting with the program.

I thought I'd try the idea out, so when I saw my supplier, I asked him straight out. He seemed pleased to be asked, and happily assured me that he has been proactive and began to use this TM testing service some time back. Of course he also indicated that there are some problems with getting everything up and running right since it is fairly new and imperfect. He also has been working on HYG testing, and that too has some quirks and limitations. That verbal assurance is enough for me at this point, although I expect to raise the bar a bit over time, and I also want to see this in writing, maybe with some numbers.

Maybe those queen producers who make this effort for their customers can then expect to ask a slightly higher price for their queens or expect to be preferred suppliers. Maybe they can get a marketing advantage out of it.

I sure think they will.


I spoke to Gus about these matter previously.  Here's the transcript. (click and scroll down a bit)

I'm no longer moderating BEE-L.  I retired from that job at Christmas last year.  Now I can write more freely, but as always, I have problems getting my articles approved, so I tend to write here on this site where I know they will be available to all.

I spent the day at my desk, catching up on things.

 of the Day

Today..Mainly cloudy. 30 percent chance of showers. Wind northwest 20 km/h. High 4.  Tonight..Partly cloudy. Wind northwest 20. Low minus 1.  Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 4.

Sunday 19 January 2003
Last year on this date     Year 2001 on this date  Year 2000 on this date  Write me

It's warmer here than it was in Kansas when we left.  The temps are around zero C (melting).  Rain is possible this afternoon.

Ellen and I drove to Red Deer to do some shopping and to visit with Jean and Chris.  I picked up a video card for the XP machine since it came with integrated video and I thought it would pick up the performance a bit..  We drove home in blowing snow.

Today..Becoming cloudy this morning with 30 percent chance of afternoon showers. Wind west 20 km/h. High 5. Tonight..Mainly cloudy with 30 percent chance of evening showers. Wind northwest 20. Low minus 9.  Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 3.

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