Evaluation of the declining honey bee health and education of participating beekeepers

Final Report for FNC08-726

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2008: $17,810.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


I live on an old Hoosier Homestead farm of 43 acres. I presently have 19 honey bee hives. I sell honey out of the back door and at a health food store. I have been keeping honey bees for about 40 years. I’m past president of the Indiana Beekeepers’ Association (IBA – state organization) and presently a Director. I’m a long time member of the other state organization (ISBA) as well.

Two other beekeepers and I have been assisting new beekeepers for the last 6 years with a process we call “B.I.G.” (Bee Inspection Group). We have shared our experiences and knowledge with these beekeepers, as we try to “Promote Better Beekeeping throughout Indiana”.

Our project was to evaluate the declining honey bee health and to better educate the participating beekeepers.

We assessed the health of honey bees in central Indiana and identified some of the factors associated with weak and susceptible hives. Beekeepers who participated (volunteered) received on-site instruction in effective hive management techniques. They received a new hive tool and a copy of “First Lessons in Beekeeping” by Keith Delaplane. Samples were taken with a modified Dirt Devil from each hive and analyzed under our purchased microscope (Omano OM35L) for the disease nosema. We visited 54 different apiaries the first year and 19 the second year.

Roy Ballard, Purdue extension educator for Hancock County, was the person who suggested for us to apply for the SARE grant. Many thanks go to Roy!!

Gladys Andino, Purdue University Bee Lab, assisted in checking the DNA of several samples for us to help determine if the nosema was Nosema Apis or Nosema Ceranae.

The 2008/2009 winter loss with the 54 smaller beekeepers we checked was 45.0 %. The 2008/2009 winter loss with the 3 big commercial beekeepers was 35.2 %. We found in 2009, 57 hives with measurable nosema spore counts. Most of them were traced back to purchased nucs. These nucs were built up from bees purchased in California and brought back to Indiana. Based on these learnings, we went in 2010 to the bee yard were the nucs were being made up and checked them before they were sold to beekeepers at the Spring Clinic. We found nosema spores in all of them. We were able to advise all the purchasers to treat with Fumagilin-B for the nosema disease. We later checked many of these nucs and found no nosema spores on any that had been treated. We feel that the overall health is still not as good as it was in the 1980’s.

The education part of our project is invaluable to new beekeepers, but very hard to measure. The hands-on approach with the beekeeper in their own hives is very rewarding. One can read numerous books and articles, but the hands-on experience is very important. The beekeepers of Indiana are impressed that the USDA and the North Central SARE organizations do care about the declining honey bee health. We would definitely recommend their grant process to any farmer rancher with a deserving project.

The 120 nucs that were made up in 2010 all have a better chance of surviving the winter of 2010/2011 because the buyers were advised that their nucs had the nosema spores. Treatments could be made. Those nucs cost $90.00 / pc.

A 42 slide Power Point Presentation was given at the November 7, 2009, Indiana Beekeepers’ Association’s (IBA) Fall Meeting at Turkey Run State Park. Over 100 beekeepers were in attendance. That presentation was given again at the IBA’s Indiana Bee School VIII on February 27, 2010 at the Southport Presbyterian Church. There were over 500 beekeepers in attendance. A summary was also given in the IBA’s newsletter.


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.