Growing the bees to grow the farm

Progress report for OW20-359

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2020: $48,682.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2023
Host Institution Award ID: G354-20-W7901
Grant Recipient: University of Hawaii
Region: Western
State: Arizona
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Ethel Villalobos
University of Hawaii
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Project Information


The proposed project focuses on exploring how to increase the number and the quality of colonies involved in agricultural production in 2 states, Arizona and Hawaii. The managed bees in Arizona form part of the migratory pool of pollinators that services almond growers in California, and the Hawaii bees are involved in local cucurbit production, as well as, providing additional services to the macadamia growers.

The following report is structured based on Objectives, however, there were a number of items that changed since the proposed work (listed above) to when the fieldwork took place. Among them are 1- the historical drought in the west during the field seasons, 2- the growing concern about the actual genetic definition of what is known as the Africanized bee and the terminology that should be used, 3- the inclusion of full genome sequencing instead with a focus on genetics, more than the anticipated disease aspects, and linked directly to the previous point 4-the appearance of natural varroa resistance in the honeybees in Hawaii. Changes were made to accommodate this real and important changes in the project, we informed WSARE of the difficulties due to large climatic events, and of the collaborations in genetics with Dr. Harpur and Dr. Martin. The completion of proposed goals was kept as close as the proposed goals much as possible.


Project Objectives:
  • Objective 1- Improve the health of colonies that will provide pollination services
  • Test the impact of feeding supplements (carbohydrate based, protein based, and phytochemical based supplements) on the overall health of the treated colonies in AZ and HI.
  • Health parameters that we will recorded will be quantifiable measures of viral titers of Deformed Wing Virus, Nosema spores, and Varroa mite numbers, as well as honey production and colony bee population estimates.
  • Objective 2- Incorporate colonies that would be destroyed into the pool of manageable honey bee colonies
  • Determine what is the most suitable timing for effective re-queening with European Honeybees (EHB), converting the swarms of Africanized bees (AHB) into usable colonies for pollination and honey production.
  • AHB are less susceptible to mites, consequently they need less frequent treatments. In our project we will examine when is the most productive time to make the switch to EHB queens to promote colony growth, while balancing the use of the natural mite defense of AHB for as long as possible in the apiary.
  • Objective 3- Examine the variation in mite and disease resistance present in the feral population of AZ honey bees
  • Collect data on the bee genetics, document possible mite resistance, and examine the levels and strains of viral diseases in the wild caught bees in AZ.
  • The findings will help best integrate the existing honey bee genetics, with management strategies. Assessing sources of resistance and variability should be considered as part of the potential management along with the introduction of EHB queens.



Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • John Dalire - Producer
  • Rhea McWilliams - Producer
  • Dennis Takata - Producer
  • Marina Tolentino - Producer


Materials and methods:

Parallel work on supplemental feeding and bee health will be conducted on Oahu (HI) and Tucson (AZ). The Oahu sites include, Waimanalo Research Station from the University of Hawaii, and private farms in Waimanalo, Waianae, and Kunia. The Arizona site includes apiaries in state land designated for ranching.

Objective 1-- Improve the health of colonies that will provide pollination services

To achieve this objective we will gather information about the natural resources available to the colonies throughout the year. Fresh pollen collections from each hive will obtained using pollen traps for every trimester. Pollen will be oven dried and weighed to establish a rate of collection/ amount of time trap was in place. A fraction of the pollen collected will be analyzed for levels of protein and fat. The level of abscisic acid (ABA), an important phytochemical for bee health, will also be examined through gas chromatography. Honey storage levels will be quantified using digital photography of hive frames and analyzed at the lab via computer.

Second-The effect of supplemental feeding (syrup with ABA, and pollen patties) to colonies during dearth periods (mainly winter months) will be examined by comparing brood and honey areas in control and treated colonies, as well as through the collection of adult bee samples for molecular detection of Deformed Wing Virus and microscopic quantification of the intestinal parasite Nosema sp, to test the idea that well fed colonies will have a more robust immune system thus a lower disease level.

Objective 2- Test the timing and effectiveness of re-queening with European Honeybees the swarms of Africanized bees (AHB)

Africanized honeybees are not well suited to large-scale agriculture due in part to their more defensive behaviors, but also because of their tendency to swarm more frequently, which significantly reduces the work force of the colony. However, killing or “pinching” a AHB queen and subsequent replacement with an already inseminated EHB queen provides a way to harness the colony and transform its genetics. Caution and experience is needed to ensure the workers accept their new queen, but once that queen has been accepted, the new generation will be fully European genetically. We will test when is the best season to replace the AHB to ensure maximum acceptance rate of the new queens. Two sources of queens will be used (HI and NM), to examine if acceptance is influenced by the queen origin. 

Objective 3- Collect data on the genetics and possible mite resistance or variable levels of viral diseases in the wild caught bees in AZ.

The wild swarms collected in Arizona provide a great opportunity to understand the dynamics of honey bee populations. The AHB have displaced the feral EHB, as well as other native bees that used rodent burrows, such as the Desert Bumblebee. In the outskirts of Tucson and in the open ranges of the desert surrounding Tucson the bee populations survive under much harsher conditions than in the city, however, there is no data on the genetic admixtures of AHB vs EHB present. With the looming climate changes and the increase disease pressure on pollinators, exploring natural resistance in isolated populations of plants and animals is an important and urgent task.

A recent study by Kevill et al, (2019) revealed that in Eastern California and Southern New Mexico a rare strain of the deadly Deformed Wing Virus (DWV), the so-called Type C, was present. These were the only two sites where this viral strain appeared in significant levels in the whole US. Arizona, although geographically found in between the 2 hot spots reported, was not included in this study. By examining the bees in AZ we could answer whether Type C is linked to either geography, climate and/or the genetic race of the bees. Because we will be monitoring individual colonies for long time we can also document mortality in relation to mite levels, viral titers, strain of DWV. The molecular work will be conducted in HI and DWV detection and strain identification can be determined through extraction of RNA and the use of the already available DWV PCR primers for the 3 master variants (A, B, and C) and viral titers will be examined using qPCR (real time polymerase chain reaction) techniques.

A Linear Mixed Model Effects will help to examine longitudinal evaluations and multiple observations on the same colony. The statistical analysis selected will help us better understand the link between the colony identity, genetics, time of the year, prevalence and virulence of this disease in treated (supplemental feeding) versus control colonies (no supplemental feeding).

Research results and discussion:

The project had different types of producer engagement and consequently produced different types of results. The proof of concept of collecting wild swarms in AZ of Africanized origin and conerting them to bees suitable for agricultural is a type of "production project". The total production was deeply affected by the drought, however, the actual procedure and success of the strategy was proved successful and worth of continuing from a practical sense.

The colonies used in this part of the project originated as swarms caught in pheromone baited swarm boxes in Tucson, AZ.  These colonies were previously eliminated but the owner of the company decided to start an apiary for future commercial use. A subsample of the colonies was tested using PCR (mtDNA) and were confirmed, as expected for wild caught bees in the area, to be Africanized.  

The expected swarm catch per year, based on previous records, was expected to be in the 100 to 150 swarms, however, the absolute catch was much smaller due to drought conditions. Only, about 30 new swarms were added in 2020 and 2021 to the already established colonies, a clear departure in bee population from previous years. In 2021 – 2022 (Winter-Spring 2022) another 20 were added. As of this report, the AZ beekeeper that owns the colonies is negotiating 3 different sale requests for his colonies, confirming that there is both a need and local clientele for the bees reared from wild caught AHB swarms.

As of now, the AZ beekeeper that owns the colonies is negotiating 3 different sale requests for his colonies, confirming that there is both a need and clientele for the bees reared from wild caught AHB swarms. We had 10 individual requests for assistance with supplemental feeding both in HI and AZ.

The extreme weather (drought and unexpected cold spells) and uncharactersitc timing of the native plant blooming forced us to change our original goals and modify what we could or should do with nutritional supplements for bees under climatic stress. The result was a deeper understanding and field tesitng of modified dietary supplements for bees. The need to provide intense assistance to the colonies also showed the fragility of the environment in which these bees are kept and the changes that beekeepers need to consider before they embark in beekeeping projects in these areas under the current conditions. 

The summary results will be presented below according to the Objective categories

Objective 1 - Improve the health of colonies that will provide pollination services

Improving the health of colonies via management and supplemental feeding was one of the goals of the project. This objective had to be modified due to extreme drought conditions. To survive weather stresses all colonies needed supplemental food and water. Consequently, we concentrated on collecting data on the nutritional needs of the colonies under these environmental stresses and added aspects of thermal regulation to the report. In the end these extreme conditions provided valuable information on emergency care for managed pollinators during extreme drought and unseasonal cold spells.

The following are elements of our strategy and management modifications we made based on field conditions. Originally we employed a  a liquid diet and a more solid carbohydrate diet depending on environmental conditions. The colonies were fed using internal feeders, which meant they had to be opened to pour the liquid. This procedure was difficult due to the robbing activity that took place between colonies as they detected a sugary liquid in a dearth period. The intensity of aggressive interactions between colonies increased as we progressed through the bee yard feeding the colonies. Over time we decided to only use liquid diet to feed those colonies that were not consuming the sugary supplement, generally they were the smaller colonies, and this change made a real difference in field procedures and successful colony management.

During the second summer we began to use a home-made diet that had variables amounts of sugar and oil, but also protein. The “patty” recipe was provided by Emanuel Miranda, a collaborator from Costa Rica, where AHB are common. We successfully modified the patty over the course of the project to create a summer patty and a winter patty.

Summary findings:

  • Carbohydrates were needed throughout the study period
  • We selected a liquid diet of sugar syrup in 1:1, not corn syrup, for use under extremely high ambient temperatures. Fresh water was provided as well.
  • We used a homemade – relatively solid sugar supplement (a mix with pollen, oil, and amino acids = called here “sugar block”) when temperatures declined beyond normal for the site, particularly useful when they dropped to freezing or below freezing at night.

The quantities presented in the table below correspond to amounts per week per colony of supplemental food

Supplemental Feeding

Tucson, AZ

Winter 2020

Jan - Mar

Spring 2021

Jan - Mar

Summer 2021

Jun - Aug

Fall 2021

Sept - Nov

Winter 2021

Dec- Mar

Spring 2022

Apr- May


1/2 cup

  1 cup

     ½ gal

½ gal

1/2 cup

      1 cup

Pollen Patties

1/6 lb.


  1/3 lb.

 1/3 lb.

1/6 lb.

      1 cup


We are hoping to continue to test this highly economical supplemental feed, however, since the recipe for the "sugar block"  is not ours, but belongs to our beekeeper/researcher Costa Rican collaborator, Emanuel Miranda, we will simply share some of the ingredients but not the proportions and mixing procedures in this report. The supplemental food included: sugar, cooking oil, small amount of corn syrup, pollen, lemongrass, and egg promoter mixture of amino acids. The amount of added water and pollen varies depending on the season and the moisture needed for the bees to easily consume the food. Variations in the proportions will greatly change consistency, and carefully testing proportions to ensure it's not gooey and becomes a "bee trap" was needed. However, the ability to create a drier winter patty that not only feeds the bees but can absorb some of the condensation that it's created in the hive  greatly improved internal micro-climate for the colonies. 

Our Arizona field data shows that due to the present conditions, with severe droughts and cold spells, the lower elevation desert areas near Tucson are not suitable for the traditional stationary beekeeping due to resource scarcity. We observed how several local beekeepers repeatedly lost their bees during the grueling summers and during the cold spells. Unlike what is reported by older beekeepers from the area, the bees now needed supplemental food during most of the year when stationary on the site. This change in resource abundance and increased climatic stresses resulted in large scale beekeeping losses in AZ, and to first time ever emergency declaration by the USDA which allowed beekeepers in the state to present claims due to environmental conditions.

We know that these areas in AZ have been used in the past by migratory beekeepers to overwinter colonies near California. Many of these migratory colonies come with enough honey reserves they have gathered while working on pollination in other regions of the country. We believe, based on our field observations, that if the beekeepers leave enough honey on the colonies, they will not need the supplemental carbohydrates we provided, and the site is still suitable to use as “short-term holding yards” before transporting the bees to almond pollination sites in CA. However, we noticed that several beekeepers attempted to reduce management time and provided large amounts of water and or syrup to their bees, but they did not provide follow up visits and consequently were unable to remedy situations that resulted in bee death during their absence. For example, feeding with an internal feeder using a liquid diet in the winter can result in the food freezing and the bees starving, especially if the equipment has holes and/or colony is too small and can’t keep the edge of the box warm enough. The AZ winter is relatively mild compared to more northern regions, however unusual cold spells and even snowstorms can occur.

This last spring 2023, was a record blooming period, and the colonies grew faster and stronger. The number of swarms caught by our beekeeper collaborator has already surpassed what he collected the previous years in a few months. This welcomed change is still tempered by the knowledge that conditions in AZ , and in the west as a whole are not stable, especially when it comes to rainfall and snow reservoirs on the mountains.

Access to water is needed year-round, however, local beekeepers tend to think it’s more of a summer need, and the distance that bees need to fly to water can cause large physiological stress to forager bees and reduce their longevity. Adding water in large drums is common practice in the summer but without a shade cover the water quickly evaporates and bees are compromised. The open field pollination that was common in the farm areas near Tucson and Phoenix can now be potentially stressful to bees because of the soaring ambient temperatures, lack of resources from native or weedy species when the crop has ended, and reduced water sources. These conditions resulted in some beekeepers lost colonies as the wax inside the colonies melted while in the field.

The supplemental feeding allowed the colonies to continue to produce brood in the fall and winter, thus the colonies were able to pick up and grow faster when spring arrived. This trend has also been noted in Hawaii’s colonies, which are often not fed during the very mild winter in Hawaii, but when provided with supplemental food, they tend to react to incoming natural resources much faster than control colonies (Ph.D. thesis by Zhening Zhang, University of Hawaii at Manoa). A version of this new patty is being tested in Hawaii, where climate change has also affected resource availability and where prolonged rains can reduce foraging time. Some of our Hawaii collaborators are interested in the new diet, some still resist the change and don't want to use supplemental food.

Springtime arrives relatively early in AZ and often there is enough pollen to get a colony in growth mode. However, due to variable winter rains and increasing ambient temperatures in the summer the survival, percent cover, and productivity of some Sonoran Desert plant species is changing ( and the expected resource abundance may not be what it used to be. This can be especially true for annual herbaceous plants, which show a strong response to winter precipitation, but also for some other species that suffer under the higher ambient temperatures in the summer.

Data of colony health based on this project is being currently analyzed. The Varroa mite levels were consistently below the require 3 to 5% that is recommended for treatment. This is not unusual due to the fact that the colonies were Africanized. We will analyze bees collected in 2023 for DWV types.

The data on environmental temperature effects and the management strategies we implemented to alleviate the field conditions is being worked into a document for publication. The AZ crop production fields are devoid of shade, and even the Sonoran Desert landscape has limited large trees that grow tall enough to provide much shade for colonies. Through the use of in-hive temperature and relative humidity sensors we learned a great deal about the bees coping strategies and how to reduce their physiological stress in the field. This data will be prepared as both an extension paper and a scientific journal and will be shared with WSARE upon completion and submission respectively.

Objective 2 – Incorporate colonies that would be destroyed into the pool of manageable honey bee colonies.

Objective 2 focused on the management strategies that are to be followed to re-queen Africanized bees with European bees. This issue has been reported problematic in southern states where the EHB mixed frequently with feral bees and the character of a colony changes.

There are online recommendations on how to re-queen that range from naïve to unrealistic and could mislead novice beekeepers.  Here we provide a summary of common problems and potential solutions based on our experience.

  • Re-queening Africanized Honeybee Colonies

Difficulties of re-queening AHB bees are usually linked to 3 main issues:

  1. The colony is very large and has become highly defensive

A large colony, whether is AHB or EHB is likely to be more defensive and can be difficult to manipulate. Contrary to what the literature says, we have data that shows that AHB colonies that have access to resources and are provided sufficient hive space do not swarm that often, become very large and can respond with great defensive strength. The larger the colony the more difficult will be to find the queen and/or split the colony in two.

  1. The worker bees reject the new queen

Queen rejection can happen in both European and Africanized colonies, although it seems to be more common in AHB that are being re-queened with European stock. Patience and time seem to be critical in positive results when re-queening AHB. Unlike EHB where a beekeeper can remove a queen and in the same day add a caged queen for the bees, AHB need to be given about 7 days of being queenless and the beekeeper needs to be careful to remove over the first 3 or 4 days any queen cell that the worker bees have created. Once that is done, a caged queen can be inserted. It is preferable that initially the candy is blocked at first, so that the workers can only interact with the queen from outside, and by the next day the candy can be exposed so the bees can release the queen. The total procedure from queen removal to new queen inserted takes about 10 days. However, the results from our field trials using queens from 2 sources, Hawaii and New Mexico, were over 90 % acceptance and some our EHB queens lived for over a year in their new colonies

          3. The worker bees replace the new queen within a month or two

This type of event can happen with both EHB and AHB and is hard to predict when it will happen. Introducing a marked queen helps detect the event, but also working the colonies often enough to detect a break in the laying is good indicator of a change. In our study, about 15 % of the queens were replaced in the first 2 months, however, the daughters of those queens showed strong EHB tendencies even though they were open mated with large numbers of AHB drones in the apiaries. Marking the original queen also helps to detect to track the “personality” changes that take place when a queen superseder occurs.

We have now produced 2 documents that relate to this objective: the first is a handout illustrating the diversity of nesting sites that are used by Africanized bees in AZ and promoting the use of swarms traps in combination with artificial bee pheromones to lure the bees into these boxes, the second handout outlines guidelines for re-queening aggressive colonies. The AHB can pose serious problems due to its defensive behaviors, we tested re-queening with 2 sets of HI queens and I set of NM queens. The handout is based on those field experiences which had large success rate.

Our re-queening success, that is the number of European queens accepted by a hive full of Africanized honeybee workers was influenced by the number of days that spanned between removing the original queen (and the emergency queen cells that the workers created), and the introduction of the new caged queen. When the wait was only 5 days only 50% of the queens were accepted. When the wait was 7 days, 80% of introduced queens were accepted by the worker bees. The idea that an Africanized honeybee colony needs to be "hopelessly queen less" before they accept a foreign queen seems to be true.  

In our handout we also indicated that the placement site for a new caged queen differs from the regular placement for European queens. When we attempted to introduce the queen directly to the brood area the cage was immediately swarmed and the workers were aggressive towards the new queen. When the queen cage was attached to an "outer frame" fewer bees approached the queen and their response not aggressive. Although the nurse bees which could provide the best food for the queen are in concentrated near the brood, the defensive reaction was too strong. Queens placed in the periphery were fed and survived the introduction.


Photo illustrates the suggested placement of queen cage
Recommended placement of queen cage when re-queening AHB colonies

Re-queening can only be partially assessed based on the immediate acceptance of the introduced queen. It is important to understand how willing the worker bees are to keep that queen or if they use her eggs to quickly replace her with a queen mated locally, which in this case means a queen with local genetics, and most likely Africanized. Re-queening in early fall in AZ normally meant that colonies would be large, the new queen would not need to go out and mate, since she is already fertilized. Unfortunately, when we tested this we experienced much colder drier winters and suboptimal spring conditions. Consequently, the long term survival assessment of the queens was influenced by those factors. However, when the mortality among the colonies with local stock and the new queens is compared, there was not a statistical difference. Basically it was a hard period for all colonies.

Graph shows the survival and associated causes of AHB colonies re-queened with NM queens
Survival over time of colonies led by NM queens




In summary, Objective 2 in our study confirms that wild swarms in AZ will be of Africanized origin but it also shows that it is possible to take wild swarms from areas where AHB are dominant in the feral population and use them for agricultural and or honey production. However, the total number of swarms under these conditions was severely reduced during our study, this in combination with the extreme climatic events, made if difficult to grow the numbers of colonies as had been expected.





Objective 3 – Collect data on the genetics and possible mite resistance or variable levels of viral diseases in the wild caught bees in AZ

Genetic Origin: The colonies collected as swarms in AZ all tested as AHB using mtDNA, so their queens had Africanized genes in them. To further understand the genetic admixture of European Honeybees and Africanized honeybees we began a collaboration with Dr. Brock Harpur from the University of Purdue. We completed a full genome analysis of 25 colonies from AZ and added some from NM. The results suggest that the AZ colonies have a large proportion of Africanized alleles (A), and the rest is a balanced mix of C and M lineages. The NM bees have a much lower degree of Africanization (below10%, except for one colony).

In the graph below each column represents a worker bee, most of the samples submitted originated from feral swarms collected in Tucson and hived by our team. Two colonies in the Arizona group were originally feral swarms and subsequently re-queened with queens imported from Kona, Hawaii. The worker bees from those samples represent the new brood produced by the HI queen, which over time has replaced the previously Africanized worker bees in those colonies.

Figure that illustrates the % ancestry of bees from feral colonies in AZ, feral colonies from AZ requested with NM bee queens, and feral AZ colonies requested with HI queen bees.
Genetic ancestry of feral AZ colonies (control) AZ feral colonies requested with HI queens and NM queens.

The samples labeled as “New Mexico” originated from queens from NM that were used to requeen the feral AZ colonies that we hived. The queens were obtained with the help of one of the project collaborators. In those samples only 1 worker from NM showed signs of having a significant proportion of African lineage ancestry, suggesting there is some introgression in that population as well.

Figure illustrates the % Ancestry results from worker bees collected of a previously Africanized bee colony requeened with NM queens
% Ancestry workers from NM queen bee

In addition to the lineages and admixture, we correlated our field aggression scores for each colony to SNPs for defensiveness. The preliminary results show that colonies we ranked in the field as very defensive seem to correspond to those a % SNPs higher than 60%. This type of correspondence between field collected observations and molecular results is rare, and in this case our data will greatly contribute to the modern definition of what constitutes Africanization and how to characterize and regulate AHB in the US. We are working on a collaborative publication based on these results.

Mite Resistance: AHB exhibit great resistance to mite infestation and generally can survive without treatment. This is in contrast to their European counterparts that suffer greatly with the Varroa mite and the associated viruses. We have begun to examine behavioral mechanisms of mite resistance that appear to be present in the managed bee populations on Oahu, HI. We will continue to examine this interesting phenomenon and are planning to expand our work to compare and contrast the behaviors exhibited by the AHB in AZ.


Participation Summary
5 Producers participating in research

Research Outcomes

3 New working collaborations

Education and Outreach

8 Consultations
1 Online trainings
5 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

50 Farmers participated
20 Ag professionals participated
Education and outreach methods and analyses:

The proposed project is ongoing, and objectives are being reached despite the severe drought and heat waves experienced in the area. The state of Arizona has been under a severe drought since 2020 and the bees entered the winter of 2020-2021 with a deficit of natural forage and much reduced winter rains. As a result of the low precipitation, the Spring and Summer of 2021 did not produce the typical blooming, rather, the area entered a category USDA D4 drought = exceptional. I will include in this report the effects of the large-scale climatic event and the modifications that were made to the project as a result of the unforeseeable conditions.

 Objective 1- The testing feeding supplements The extreme drought and heat scorched the natural forage of the desert site, consequently we provide survival food for the colonies but were unable to compare diet versus no supplement, since that would have meant death for the colonies with no-supplement.

There were 3 types of diets provided, sugar syrup as a source of carbohydrates, commercial bought pollen patties, and our own formula of home-made pollen patty. The success or preference of the colonies on the supplements was noted, but most importantly, was the discovery of the subtle changes in food preference during different parts of the year and how water availability affected the bees’ preferences of some formulas. This finding led to a whole new segment of the project which I will explain later in the report.

Objective 2- Incorporate colonies into the manageable pool of honeybees

To achieve this objective, we knew we had to overcome the well-recognized difficulties of requeening an Africanized colony with a queen of European origin. We have so far achieved this with 3 different batches of queens, one set from New Mexico and 2 from Hawaii.

The process of requeening AHB requires more time and planning than the re-queening of EHB colonies. The wild bees from AZ, which are heavily Africanized required about a week without a queen before a new queen could be added to the hive, compared to hours for an European colony. This more gradual introduction and repeated checks of the AHB colony to destroy multiple queen cells is absolutely necessary. 

With our technique the acceptance of the new queens was surprisingly high; we had a 93% acceptance rate with the New Mexico queens (n=25 queens), and 72% with the Hawaii queens (n=21 queens). The difference between these 2 groups could be due to several reasons: A-we drove to NM to bring the queens directly to Arizona, the Hawaii queens were shipped, B-the time of the year in which the splits were created, and the queens introduced. The NM queens were introduced earlier in 2020 when the drought had not impacted the colonies as much.

The obvious next step, introducing the colonies to farms in 2021 was not possible as ranchers, growers, and beekeepers were struggling to keep their crops and animals alive through the record heat and drought. We lost some of the splits with new queens not due to rejection but simply because the climate was very harsh on small colonies independent of queen origin. However, we are working towards the possible inclusion of the bees in raspberry production in California. 

Objective 3 – Collect genetic data on the colonies.

During this study, we have been recording if the colonies need Varroa mite treatment and examined the genetic background of a portion of the colonies. Most recently, we began an additional collaboration with Dr. Brock Harpur, from Purdue University, to examine in depth the genetic origins of the feral bees in AZ. We are awaiting results of a full genomic analysis on 50 colonies which would provide important and novel information on the feral bees in the Southwest. Dr. Harpur is an expert in honeybee genetics and his lab works towards incorporating new molecular technologies to assist beekeepers and the agricultural industry make informed decisions. 

Additional research avenues:

The extreme climatic conditions were hard to ignore, but rather than just surviving the challenge, we decided to dig further into the situation and how heat and extremely low relative humidity affect the bees and their ability to keep brood at a constant temperature and maintain humidity inside the nest. We utilized internal and external sensors and obtain a uniquely detailed data on the physiological challenges the colonies experience and how water foraging may impact the dynamics, growth and survival of the colonies. This data will be analyzed and submitted to a peer-reviewed journal by the end of the year. A producer friendly version will also be made averrable as an extension handout and video (see educational activities)

Educational Activities

We have given online talks to California, Arizona, and Hawaii beekeeper organizations, in addition we have participated in 2 workshops on Invasive Species in Hawaii, where the Africanized bees is not present. The workshops from the Hawaii Invasive Species Council includes members of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture from 5 islands, which allow us to reach a broad audience of professionals. 

We have assisted local beekeepers in Tucson Arizona with management advice, and help applying for USDA recovery funds approved due to drought. 

We are currently developing an educational video based on the challenges for beekeepers and their bees under the drought conditions experienced these past 2 years. Filming is complete, a voice over track exists, and we are editing the video. 



10 Farmers intend/plan to change their practice(s)
5 Farmers changed or adopted a practice

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.