- Animals: bees
- Animal Production: animal protection and health, parasite control
- Crop Production: beekeeping, pollination, pollinator health
Problem and justification: Honeybees are in serious decline across the globe, while at the same time, interest in beekeeping as a profession and hobby have skyrocketed. NH has no bee inspector, nor University apiculture experts or laboratory diagnosticians trained in honeybee pests and disease. It does have a robust volunteer-led State Honey Bee Association. The swell of new beekeepers is stretching the capacity of volunteers, and stressing the limited beekeeping infrastructure. Concern is mounting that new beekeepers are becoming a source of disease and pests, as education is not reaching the wide breadth of beekeepers throughout the state.
A NH Beekeepers Association survey indicated a 60% overwinter colony loss for 2016/17. Many responding to the survey do not know why their colonies died, further illustrating the need for education. Lastly, the NH beekeeping industry relies on imported queens, not regionally adapted ones able to live and thrive in our climate or resist our bee pests. Development of northern raised queens could resolve some issues associated with bee loss while creating a new agricultural industry.
A needs assessment survey of 18 highly respected beekeepers identified priority needs for improving beekeeping practices in New Hampshire. Further, a 13-member advisory committee comprised of veteran NH beekeepers, a certified master beekeeper, members of state regulatory agencies, and UNH Cooperative Extension Educators met and provided input into this project. Finally, the 32-member NH Beekeepers State Association has excitedly expressed interest in participating in the project and recruiting participants throughout the state.
Solution and Approach: We propose a three-tiered solution based on the feedback of our needs assessments described above. One, establishing a disease and pest diagnostic network for the major honeybee pests and diseases in NH. We will train 10 UNH Cooperative Extension staff or advanced level beekeepers in all 10 NH counties in basic, effective diagnostic techniques. Each county will be equipped with microscopes and resources to diagnose major pests and diseases. We will further provide training on honeybee diagnostics, including using microscopy to diagnose pests such as Nosema, allowing for timely diagnosis of honeybee pests. Enhancing skills in nosema diagnosis will be our primary goal, as diagnosis of the Varroa mite is far better understood and widely used.
Two, developing an effective beekeeping educational network that addresses the diverse skill levels of NH producers. We will build the skills of 24 experienced beekeepers to be able to incorporate effective adult learning practices into their educational programs. We will teach them how to deliver individual interactive curriculum that will build the capacity of their program participants’ bee keeping skills. A sub group of these 24 beekeepers will work to develop a framework for a statewide curriculum for the beekeeping schools, including accompanying resources. This will allow all beekeeping educators to use a common curriculum or modify one to meet their participants’ needs and skill levels.
Three, developing a network of queen breeders to raise and sell queens that have favorable traits and temperament, including suitability to a northern climate and existing pest and disease problems. At an in-person training event we will demonstrate the practical aspects of breeding queens, and allow for discussion and training on identifying and selecting for desirable traits. This will include a robust discussion of trait selection for honeybee survivability and sustainability.
Performance targets from proposal:
Performance target 1: A newly developed NH Bee Diagnostic Network, consisting of 10-trained individuals, working in each of NH’s 10 Counties, will provide basic diagnostic services to 40 beekeepers. Additionally they will provide education on nosema and mite management to 100 beekeepers who manage 200 bee colonies.
Performance target 2: Twenty-four beekeeping educators will implement new curriculum and gain new skills in effective adult education methods to successfully facilitate effective learning episodes that make the learning stick. This will benefit 150 beekeepers, who manage 300 honeybee colonies on 600 acres.
Performance target 3: Five members of a newly formed NH queen-breeding network will raise and sell queens, specifically bred for targeted traits, to 40 NH beekeepers.