Winter is coming: Improving overwintering survival of honey bee colonies in Pennsylvania
In this project, I aim to increase overwintering success of honey bee colonies by co-opting the social regulation of their transition to overwintering phenotype. For this purpose first, I will examine effects of pheromones on the timing of winter bee production and size of winter bee population through fall and winter of 2016, and then I will compare health, performance and overwintering success of manipulated and non-manipulated colonies. Finally, using the results from the first (i.e. 2016 – 2017) winter in this study, I will develop a pheromone treatment program and partner with beekeepers to test this treatment program in real life conditions in the second (i.e. 2017 – 2018) winter. Findings will be disseminated beekeepers and commercial bee breeders.
Objective 1. Test the effects of two honey bee pheromones, forager pheromone and brood pheromone, on timing of winter bee production in fall and size of overwintering population in honey bee colonies.
Objective 2. Determine the effect of different pheromonal treatments in fall on colony health (colony weight, colony size, storage levels, virus and parasite loads) and overwintering survival.
Objective 3. Using the results from Objectives 1 and 2, develop a pheromone treatment program to improve overwintering success in honey bees, and partner with beekeepers to test this treatment program in real life conditions.
Objective 4. Disseminate the results from Objectives 1 and 2, and the treatment program developed in Objective 3 to beekeepers and commercial bee breeders.
At this time, none of the objectives have been accomplished since the project does not begin until April, 2016, when we will install the package bees to initiate the experimental colonies to be used for pheromone testing in the first winter of this study. However, we have contacted a package bee producer and made the necessary arrangements for the purchase of the honey bees.
As the timetable in the project proposal shows, this study is yet to be initiated. By the next annual report at the end of 2016 I expect to have fully accomplished Objective 1 and partially Objective 2 (since the survival component of Objective 2 cannot be assessed before the spring of 2017).
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
With this project, I aim to provide beekeepers a novel method to support the colony’s natural efforts to prepare for winter, and thereby improve overwintering success. Overwintering losses threat sustainability of beekeeping operations and reducing winter loss will bring a positive change to the dynamics of the pollination services market; and due to increased supply, cost of pollination services to the farmers will be reduced while beekeepers will remain profitable, possibly more than at present.
1A Chemical Ecology Lab
State College, PA 16802
Office Phone: 8148652214