A sustainable distribution and evaluation program for selected honey bee stocks in the Pacific Northwest

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2007: $172,938.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Walter Sheppard
Department of Entomology, Washington State University


  • Animals: bees


  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, networking
  • Farm Business Management: cooperatives, risk management
  • Pest Management: chemical control, field monitoring/scouting, prevention

    Proposal abstract:

    The honey bee is a fundamental contributor to the agricultural and economic environment in many western states. The introduction of a parasitic mite to the U.S. in 1987 caused widespread colony losses and poses a major threat to the beekeeping. Some mite populations have become resistant to the commonly used and effective treatment chemicals, resulting in heavy bee losses, inadequate numbers of pollinating colonies and dramatic cost increases for commercial pollination. We propose to continue a selective bee breeding program that began at WSU in 2001, expand the distribution of mite-tolerant stocks and increase awareness of sustainable IPM methodology within the PNW beekeeping community to address several SARE goals. These include: reduced use of toxic materials in bee hives, improved genetic diversity in honey bees and distribution of honey bee stocks that are more profitable and sustainable within the PNW region. Our objectives are to 1) provide local evaluation of WSU honey bee stock performance by beekeepers in Oregon, Idaho and Washington; 2) provide direct access for PNW beekeepers to selected honey bee stocks through collaborative apiaries, and 3) to train beekeepers in principles and methods of IPM, including incorporation of economic threshold-based treatment regimes and alternative treatment options. We will establish beekeeper-maintained collaborative research apiaries in major regions of the Pacific Northwest, each stocked annually with queens from our selected lines. These apiaries will provide a means for regional evaluation of selected stocks by local beekeepers and provide beekeeper access to the stocks for queen rearing. Participating beekeepers will provide evaluation feedback in the form of a standardized questionnaire. This information will be included in the selection regime for production of the next generation of queens at WSU. Related projects are predominantly located in the eastern half of the U.S. and thus are less apt to meet the specific environmental and climatic conditions of the PNW. Additional originality of our proposed project comes from the direct participation of the beekeeping community in the progress of the WSU bee breeding program. The main outreach component will be direct interaction with beekeepers through annual short courses and field days. Educational products will include publications in the State Association Newsletters, web-based disseminations and presentations at regional and national annual meetings of beekeeping associations and extension publications. Short-term and medium-range outcomes include increased use of mite and disease resistant honey bee stocks, the reduced use of mite control pesticides by beekeepers and increased incorporation of IPM principles in PNW beekeeping operations. The measurable impacts will be most immediately evident in reduced pesticide use in beekeeping. In WA state alone, approximately 200,000 -250,000 colonies are used for tree fruit pollination. Incorporation of IPM to reduce treatments from twice to a single treatment per year would save $1.5 to $1.9 M per year. The distribution of mite-tolerant stocks will be measured by assessing the overall number of queens that are produced by beekeepers from collaborative apiaries. The beekeepers of Washington, Idaho and Oregon will be involved directly in the project through contributions of labor and expertise in construction of bee equipment, by maintenance of apiaries and by providing assessment of genetic stocks throughout the duration of the project. The increased availability of mite-tolerant bees will be directly measurable through the total numbers of queens that are produced by PNW beekeepers from the WSU-supplied stocks. Evaluation of whether the use of these stocks and IPM practices reduces in-hive pesticide use over the course of the project will be possible through targeted questionnaires at short courses, field days, workshops and through State Beekeeping Association surveys.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. 1. Develop local evaluation protocols for honey bee stock performance by beekeepers in Oregon, Idaho and Washington for use in selective scoring criteria. 2. Provide beekeeper access to selected honey bee germplasm by establishing collaborative apiaries. These apiaries will be supplied annually with the diversity of all maternal genetic lines under selection at WSU and will be used to train beekeepers in queen production. The propagation of daughter queens from WSU stocks by beekeepers will serve to distribute additional genetic variation into PNW bee populations. 3. Train beekeepers in principles and methods of IPM related to mite population monitoring, economic threshold-based treatment regimes and alternative treatment options. The implementation of IPM principles by beekeepers will assist in reducing pesticide use.
    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.