Sustainable Varroa Mite Management in Honey Bee Queen Production

Final report for OS18-122

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2018: $14,998.00
Projected End Date: 09/14/2021
Grant Recipient: Virginia Tech
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Principal Investigator:
Dr. James Wilson
Virginia Tech
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Project Information

Abstract:

Beekeeping, as a business in the Southern region of the U.S., provides both opportunities and challenges to those who are willing to pursue it. In Virginia, pollination by honey bees is invaluable for several regional agricultural crops including apple, cucumber and watermelon (Morse and Calderone, 2000). In addition to the value from pollination services, beekeepers can also profit from managing their apiaries for the production of honey, nucleus colonies, and queen bees. Beekeepers are faced with challenging in-hive pests of the honey bees and their products, particularly the Varroa mite (Varroa destructor). If Varroa mite populations are left unchecked, their subsequent growth and feeding can induce stress in an otherwise healthy colony, leading to colony losses. In addition to overwintering honeybee colony losses, Varroa mites are prolific vectors of viruses; Varroa mites are capable of transmitting 18 known viruses that affect honey bee and colony health. While Varroa mites do not have a direct effect on the health of the colony's queen, the viruses vectored by Varroa mites have an indirect effect on the success of the honey bee queen.

The long-term solution of addressing the devastating impact of Varroa mites to honey bee colonies is to promote IPM strategies. This includes implementing proper cultural, non-chemical control methods along with proper acaricide treatments promoting a conducive environment for colony production. Honey bee queen production requires that various hives in an apiary are queenless to maintain the workers receptivity to introduced queen cells. Periods without a laying queen result in a break in the brood rearing cycles that can directly impact the rate of buildup of Varroa mite populations. A similar method that can also be used as a culture control tactic is the removal of capped drone brood. If used appropriately in concert with the monitoring of mite infestation levels, and other effective management options, the IPM of mites should align well with the methods commonly found in honey bee queen production. The overall objective of the research presented in this proposal is to address a significant pest threat to colonies of honey bees in an attempt to mitigate the negative impact it can have on honey bee queen production efforts.

Project Objectives:

Queen rearing and production: The farm cooperator will initialize his own methodology of queen rearing. Successful queen production management will lead to queenless periods and brood cycle interruption in numerous hives throughout the apiary. Based on this procedure, researchers will be able to track Varroa mite infestation levels before and after intentional brood cycle interruption.

Varroa mite sampling: Varroa mites will be collected and counted through the sugar shake sampling method.

Toxicology biological assays: A residue biological assay will be used to determine the baseline toxicity of commonly used chemical acaricides.

Cooperators

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  • Phil Blevins (Educator)

Research

Materials and methods:

The proposed work met a few challenges. Our on-farm collaborator suffered a severe injury that required an extension. That extension then placed our proposed field day in what would turn out to be the early stages of the COVID 19 pandemic. Our resulting second extension was similarly plagued by the pandemic.

In 2018 we were able to present a poster of this effort at the National Entomological Society of America meeting, see attached product. Our on-farm collaborator began to manufacture wooden ware for beekeeping and product demands increased so much that queen rearing was no longer a priority. The management of varroa mite infestations and integrated pest management in beekeeping has remained a challenge in beekeeping. We were able to convert three Extension fact sheets into webpages to further support these efforts in Virginia. The website url’s are below:

 

In the spring of 2021, we were able to work with Washington County Cooperative Extension and the Highlands Beekeepers Association on an in-person Varroa Mite Management workshop, that also included an on-site demonstration hosted by our on-farm collaborator. This effort was the result of a serious reexamination of how we as beekeepers and pest managers look at the problem of Varroa mite. The PI was able to synthesize the most recent literature focusing on the recent revelation of the true feeding habits and damage of the mite in the significant works by Ramsey et al. 2019 and Traynor et al. 2020. A modified version of this presentation can be found at: https://youtu.be/gBye1z1PJbg

 

Cited Material:

Honey Bee Healthy Coalition Home Page: https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/

HBHC Resources: https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/varroa/

Includes:

            Varroa Management Decision Tool

            Varroa Bee Club Program

            Varroa Videos (Demonstrations)

            Varroa Management Guide

            Varroa IPM Spreadsheet

 

HBHC Guide Document: https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/HBHC-Guide_Varroa_Interactive_7thEdition_June2018.pdf

HBHC Hive Management Best Management Practices: https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/hivehealthbmps/

HBHC Foulbrood Guide: https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/foulbrood/

Bee Informed Partnership: https://research.beeinformed.org/

MiteCheck Survey: https://research.beeinformed.org/mitecheck/

Journal of Integrated Pest Management Open access article: Download Link

Biology and Management of Varroa destructor (Mesostigmata: Varroidae) in Apis mellifera (Hymenoptera: Apidae) Colonies 

Morgan A Roth, James M Wilson, Keith R Tignor, Aaron D Gross

Journal of Integrated Pest Management, Volume 11, Issue 1, 2020, 1, https://doi.org/10.1093/jipm/pmz036

Varroa destructor feeds primarily on honey bee fat body tissue and not hemolymph

Samuel D. Ramsey, Ronald Ochoa, Gary Bauchan, Connor Gulbronson, Joseph D. Mowery, Allen Cohen, David Lim, Judith Joklik, Joseph M. Cicero, James D. Ellis, David Hawthorne, Dennis vanEngelsdorp

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jan 2019, 116 (5) 1792-1801; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1818371116 : https://www.pnas.org/content/116/5/1792

Varroa destructor: A Complex Parasite, Crippling Honey Bees Worldwide Kirsten S. Traynor, Fanny Mondet, Joachim R. de Miranda, Maeva Techer, Vienna Kowallik, Melissa A.Y. Oddie, Panuwan Chantawannakul, Alison McAfee

Trends in Parasitology, Volume 36, Issue 7, 2020, Pages 592-606, ISSN 1471-4922, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pt.2020.04.004.

(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S147149222030101X)

Research results and discussion:

Our on-farm collaborator began to manufacture wooden ware for beekeeping and product demands increased so much that queen rearing was no longer a priority. The management of varroa mite infestations and integrated pest management in beekeeping has remained a challenge in beekeeping. We were able to convert three Extension fact sheets into webpages to further support these efforts in Virginia. The website url’s are below:

 

In the spring of 2021, we were able to work with Washington County Cooperative Extension and the Highlands Beekeepers Association on an in-person Varroa Mite Management workshop, that also included an on-site demonstration hosted by our on-farm collaborator. This effort was the result of a serious reexamination of how we as beekeepers and pest managers look at the problem of Varroa mite. The PI was able to synthesize the most recent literature focusing on the recent revelation of the true feeding habits and damage of the mite in the significant works by Ramsey et al. 2019 and Traynor et al. 2020. A modified version of this presentation can be found at: https://youtu.be/gBye1z1PJbg

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

40 Farmers
Education/outreach description:

In the spring of 2021, we were able to work with Washington County Cooperative Extension and the Highlands Beekeepers Association on an in-person Varroa Mite Management workshop, that also included an on-site demonstration hosted by our on-farm collaborator. This effort was the result of a serious reexamination of how we as beekeepers and pest managers look at the problem of Varroa mite. The PI was able to synthesize the most recent literature focusing on the recent revelation of the true feeding habits and damage of the mite in the significant works by Ramsey et al. 2019 and Traynor et al. 2020. A modified version of this presentation can be found at: https://youtu.be/gBye1z1PJbg

Learning Outcomes

40 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

The proposed work met a few challenges. Our on-farm collaborator suffered a severe injury that required an extension. That extension then placed our proposed field day in what would turn out to be the early stages of the COVID 19 pandemic. Our resulting second extension was similarly plagued by the pandemic.

 

In 2018 we were able to present a poster of this effort at the National Entomological Society of America meeting, see attached product. Our on-farm collaborator began to manufacture wooden ware for beekeeping and product demands increased so much that queen rearing was no longer a priority. The management of varroa mite infestations and integrated pest management in beekeeping has remained a challenge in beekeeping. We were able to convert three Extension fact sheets into webpages to further support these efforts in Virginia. The website url’s are below:

 

 

 

In the spring of 2021, we were able to work with Washington County Cooperative Extension and the Highlands Beekeepers Association on an in-person Varroa Mite Management workshop, that also included an on-site demonstration hosted by our on-farm collaborator. This effort was the result of a serious reexamination of how we as beekeepers and pest managers look at the problem of Varroa mite. The PI was able to synthesize the most recent literature focusing on the recent revelation of the true feeding habits and damage of the mite in the significant works by Ramsey et al. 2019 and Traynor et al. 2020. A modified version of this presentation can be found at: https://youtu.be/gBye1z1PJbg

Information Products

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.