Using new frames and foundation as a way to control disease in Honeybee Hives

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2011: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Craig Cella
Craig A. Cella


  • Animals: bees


  • Pest Management: physical control, prevention, sanitation

    Proposal summary:

    Beekeepers' biggest problem in one half to two thirds of the operations I inspected for Pa. Dept of Agriculture as a honey bee inspector in ’08 and ’09 was that they were not profitable. Colony Collapse Disorder infections seems to be mostly confined to the larger migratory operations. One of the interesting observations is that an operation is either productive or non-productive, there is no middle of the road – you either have a problem or you don’t.

    I can identify two of the viruses in the field but that leaves at least twenty others which can be in the colony adding to the problem. It is almost impossible to get samples tested for virus infection by any lab because of their own work load. In July of 2009 one of P.S.U. field technicians and I collected 76 samples of bees from one of my out yards located at Kylertown, Pa. Of the seventy six samples collected only four did not contain virus and most of them had three different viruses, those being Black Queen cell virus, Deformed Wing virus and Sac brood virus. There is no cure for these and they know if a colony dies in Oct from a virus problem the virus is still in the honey and pollen stored within the cells next April, also that it is still viable. This means if you install a new package or swarm on equipment that had bees perish the previous season from a virus you will simply infect the new ones and they will die in time. It also seems to build up in an operation over a period of time.

    Last year I received a S.A.R.E. grant to study Gamma Irradiation as a way to help control disease in the hives. I counted the empty cells in a brood comb as a way to measure the amount of infection in each hive. The treatment group had only one half as many empty cells (infection) as the control group had.

    In this study, I would like to vary slightly from last year’s project and use all new frames and foundation in the brood box because it is cost prohibitive for a smaller operator to do Gamma Irradiation. I am going back to simple disease control for crops - don’t use the same ground year after year – rotate and break the life cycle of the problem. The easiest way for a beekeeper to do this is very simple: If a colony dies out destroy the brood comb and wash out the wooden ware with a Clorox solution. Install new frames and foundation, ($15.00 for 10 frames) and install your new bees or swarm on these.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    I am involving other beekeepers around PA who will accept a minimum of 10 packages and have equipment for them. I will supply the frames and foundation (one year life expectancy). All hives must be protected by a bear fence if it is in bear country. They must follow our printed directions for installing package bees and feed 1 gallon per week for 1 month with fumagilin-B in the first feeding. They must be willing to open up their bee yard with the new hives to the public at least 1 day this summer. The yards can not contain any other hives than the packages – this is very important, and they must allow me to visit in Aug. one day to inspect.

    They must also report honey production by Sept. 30, 2011. I will also count empty cells again this year and I want to see some of their old hives and count open cells in them also because they will serve as a control group. To do this I mark out 400 cells on a typical sealed brood frame and then count the empty cells and transform that number into a percentage. I will also establish several locations from Danville to Clarion, a distance of 160 miles along Rt. 80 so other beekeepers and clubs can come and see the results of isolation and new equipment. No beekeeper should have to drive more than one or two hours to see the results of this project. Having several beekeepers spread out from border to border area exposes the bees to many different micro environments and project a more accurate picture. We have many Amish beekeepers in Pa. and I want to involve some because they have a wonderful communication system to spread their results.

    The beekeeper agreement with the project is as follows:

    I am applying for an S.A.R.E. honeybee research grant that will involve 160 – 3 lb. packages and eight beekeepers. Each beekeeper will be given 100 frames and 100 sheets of foundation along with 10 -3 lb. packages of bees with a queen. We will mail the frames and foundation to you however you must make arrangements for the bees. There will be no cost to you for the equipment or bees. You can use your old supers, bottoms and covers but they must be washed with a Clorox wash – 1 cup per 1 gallon of water to kill any pathogens. The hives must be placed in a separate yard from any other hives and have bear protection if you are in bear country. They must be installed according to our directions and fed Fumagilin – B in the first feeding. You must allow other beekeepers to look at your hives one day in Aug. or Sept. You must allow me to inspect them in Aug. and allow me to inspect one of your other yards. You must tell me how many frames of honey your bees made (surplus) after Sept. 30.

    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.