Beekeeping, as a business in the Southern region of the U.S., provides both opportunities and challenges to those who are willing to pursue it. In Virginia, pollination by honey bees is invaluable for several regional agricultural crops including apple, cucumber and watermelon (Morse and Calderone, 2000). In addition to the value from pollination services, beekeepers can also profit from managing their apiaries for the production of honey, nucleus colonies, and queen bees. Beekeepers are faced with challenging in-hive pests of the honey bees and their products, particularly the Varroa mite (Varroa destructor). If Varroa mite populations are left unchecked, their subsequent growth and feeding can induce stress in an otherwise healthy colony, leading to colony losses. In addition to overwintering honeybee colony losses, Varroa mites are prolific vectors of viruses; Varroa mites are capable of transmitting 18 known viruses that affect honey bee and colony health. While Varroa mites do not have a direct effect on the health of the colony’s queen, the viruses vectored by Varroa mites have an indirect effect on the success of the honey bee queen.
The long-term solution of addressing the devastating impact of Varroa mites to honey bee colonies is to promote IPM strategies. This includes implementing proper cultural, non-chemical control methods along with proper acaricide treatments promoting a conducive environment for colony production. Honey bee queen production requires that various hives in an apiary are queenless to maintain the workers receptivity to introduced queen cells. Periods without a laying queen result in a break in the brood rearing cycles that can directly impact the rate of buildup of Varroa mite populations. A similar method that can also be used as a culture control tactic is the removal of capped drone brood. If used appropriately in concert with the monitoring of mite infestation levels, and other effective management options, the IPM of mites should align well with the methods commonly found in honey bee queen production. The overall objective of the research presented in this proposal is to address a significant pest threat to colonies of honey bees in an attempt to mitigate the negative impact it can have on honey bee queen production efforts.
Project objectives from proposal:
Queen rearing and production: The farm cooperator will initialize his own methodology of queen rearing. Successful queen production management will lead to queenless periods and brood cycle interruption in numerous hives throughout the apiary. Based on this procedure, researchers will be able to track Varroa mite infestation levels before and after intentional brood cycle interruption.
Varroa mite sampling: Varroa mites will be collected and counted through the sugar shake sampling method.
Toxicology biological assays: A residue biological assay will be used to determine the baseline toxicity of commonly used chemical acaricides.