- Animals: bees
- Animal Production: general animal production
Since the late 80’s beekeepers have been struggling to remain a sustainable farming enterprise only to see it become more and more difficult. The normal loss of colonies is in the 35 to 50% range each year. Beekeepers used to think of colony loss as a winter problem but that has all changed in the last decade. I visited a fellow beekeeper in early Sept. 2012 that used to manage 1200 hives and he told me his bees were doing well and looked good. However, after a short two month period (mid Nov.) he had lost 80% of his colonies. In the August issue of Time magazine (cover story) was an article about a large operation (6,000 hives) in N.Y. that could not continue because of losing his colonies.
A study in 2007 -2008 by VanEngelsdrop, Tarpy, Lengerich, and Pettis followed 20, 24, and 18 colonies in three different operations for a total of 62. The colonies were examined and sampled every fifty days for a 10 month period and at the end of the 10 month period 56% (35 out of 62) had died out. One out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat comes about because of honeybee pollination. Large operations are going out of business because it is not sustainable and small operators get disgusted and are tired of pouring good money down a dry hole. We lost twelve thousand dollars in 2009 and continued to operate at a lost until 2012.
We just finished extracting for 2013 and are at less than a 50% yield of an average year. Our average is under 20 lbs. per colony this year. This problem is not limited to our operation, it is spread throughout the industry. Can you imagine a dairy operation losing 50% of its cows each year.
Many studies have been done over the years that have shown Nosema Apis to be a large problem with overwintered colonies as the disease (spores) would increase in the honeybees as the winter would pass into early spring. As new bees would replace the old overwintered bees and new nectar and pollen would be brought into the hive the spore count would drop and the colony’s health would return. A product called Fumagilin – B worked very well to control this problem. However, this all changed in the last decade before the new century. A new form of nosema was found called Nosema Ceranae which appears to have replaced Nosema Apis in most cases. Where the nosema apis would build up in the winter cycle and decline in spring time Nosema Ceranae does not have a pattern and can destroy a colony any time of the year so treatment timing is completely different. The other problem is Fumagilin – B does not seem to be effective against it in several studies so beekeepers are seeking ways to control Nosema Ceranae. Hopefully my study will give the beekeeper a tool to fight this disease.
My project will research the effectiveness of the product “Nozevit” which is made up of all natural plant polyphenols, phylonutrients, complete amino acids, vitamins and minerals, to determine if it makes any difference between the control group and treatment group of one hundred bee hives (plus 10 for start up loss). It will be done under actual field conditions by a practicing beekeeper with over 55 years experience. Data will be collected three times and be shared through the extension service, various bee meetings and the “American Bee Journal” magazine.
Project objectives from proposal:
This study will involve one hundred colonies, fifty in a control group and fifty in a treatment group. Bee yards will be separated from other yards by a distance of several miles or more. Three pounds of package bees with a marked queen will be installed on equipment that was sterilized by gamma irradiation or on new (clean) equipment depending on scheduling of the gamma irradiation with the treatment facilities. The cost is very similar on a small amount of equipment. Samples of bees will be collected from the packages to determine the level of nosema before installation. This will be preformed under a microscope in a laboratory. The packages will all be installed in the same manner and placed in small groups to prevent drifting from one hive to another and fed sugar syrup for 4 weeks or more. After the bees have become established and are raising brood (2 weeks) mite levels will be measured and recorded by the sugar roll method and treated with Mite Away Quick strips.The treatment group will receive Nozevit according to the producers recommendations, that is every four days for a total of 4 times. When the treatment period has ended, the colonies will be moved out into bee yards set up along route Interstate 80 from Danville to Clarion, Pa. A distance of 160 miles. All the colonies are protected from black bears by the Pa. Game Commissions suggested fence system that was developed by myself while working with honey bees at P.S.U. It is important to have several outyard locations to take advantage of the different micro enviroments that can make a great difference in colony production as proven again this past year at P.S.U. They will be treated again starting the first week in August. They will also be treated for Varroa Mites at this time. In Sept. hives will be evaluated for honey production and general health as per the state inspection program. A four hundred block of sealed brood cells will be marked out and empty cells will be counted, this can be an indication of a virus problem. Samples will also be collected and sent into USDA at Beltsville, MD. or another laboratory to be tested for Nosema counts. The outyards will also make it possible for other beekeepers and clubs to come and witness the project within a few hours of the furthest part of the state. We also have several Amish beekeepers in Pa. and I want to involve some because they have a wonderful communications system to spread the results both verbal and a weekly newspaper. If we can get a lab to preform test (work load depending) samples will also be tested for virus.