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

2009 Annual 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:

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


We had beekeepers volunteer for our assessment and education process. We were hoping for a minimum of forty beekeepers to sign up and we had over fifty sign up. We attended a workshop at Purdue University with the Indiana State Chemist, Purdue Bee Specialist and Hancock County extension agent and discussed diseases, proposed method of inspection and the outreach at the end of the program. We later attended a training session on the use of the microscope to examine for Nosema spores.

We have examined 54 different apiaries to date. First we take our sample of approximately 30 bees from each hive using our homemade modified Dirt Devil. We mark each hive and label each jar accordingly. Next we examine the beekeepers hives with them; looking especially at the presence of a queen. Are there all levels of brood present (eggs, larvae, sealed brood, good brood pattern, etc.)? Is she a strong queen? Should she be replaced? Has she been superseded recently? Are there varroa mites present? Are there any other diseases evident? Is there enough honey stored in the hive to survive the upcoming winter? We answer any questions that they might have. We document our findings on a formal inspection sheet; noting whether specific hives have any level of nosema spores; if so what the level is and send them a copy of their sheet. They are assigned a number that they only know to protect their privacy. We give them a copy of “First Lessons in Beekeeping” by Keith Delaplane and a new hive tool. We take the samples home with us and they are examined under our microscope for Nosema spores.

Monies have been spent on equipment such as the microscope, mileage, wages for hours spent examining hives and on lab time spent examining for the nosema spores.

The beekeepers we have visited had 286 hives going into the winter of 2008 and lost 125 (44.6 % loss) of them due to the weakness of the queen/hive or lack of honey stores. We only had one hive noted that had the symptoms of the Colony Collapse Disease, where there are no bees left in the hive. However, they have increased their hives up to 357 (a 24.8% increase) by doing splits or purchasing nucs. We purchased the Omano OM36L Compound Microscope and have checked 225 hives so far for the nosema spores. We have not been able to differentiate between the nosema apis and nosema ceranea spores under the microscope as we had hoped, but are working with Purdue University bee lab to improve our process. They have analyzed DNA studies on different samples which we have sent them. Most of the infected hives which we sent had both apis and ceranea spores.

Because we have specific information (hive by hive) on 54 beekeepers we will be able to see how many and which of their hives survive the winter. We plan to examine again those hives which had nosema spores this year to see the condition of the hives and spore level, if any after the winter. We are working on a formal presentation now of our progress thus far. We plan to offer this service again next year and continue to tabulate the results.

Most importantly, we have shared the information with each individual beekeeper (normally 1-4 people) in their own bee yards as we together checked their hives. They gained beneficial information with the “hands-on” approach and they all have been very appreciative of our time and effort spent and especially with the SARE grant program.

We plan to share our formal presentation with beekeepers (100+) at the Indiana Beekeepers’ Association’s fall conference this November and again at the Indiana Bee School VIII in February, 2010 (over 500 people attended last year).