December 2023

Global Leadership & Beekeeping in Kenya with EDU Africa 

Washington State University is setting up a collaborative program with beekeepers in Masai Mara, Kenya! During late October, Dr. Steve Sheppard and the Director of the WSU Entomology Department Dr. Laura Lavine, visited the communities and cracked open some hives. They met many interesting beekeepers and learned about their challenges – like keeping baboons and honey badgers out of their hives. Through this future study abroad program for WSU students, people can experience Africanized beekeeping in log hives, Kenyan top bar hives, and Langstroth hives in East Africa.

European Foul Brood Investigation through USDA Multi-State Specialty Crop Research Initiative Grant

Oregon State University recently received a $4.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This four-year project will involve the partnership between Oregon State University, Washington State University, University of California Davis, and Mississippi State University. Researchers will work together to follow migratory honey bee hives as they are transported to pollinate almonds and blueberries across Washington, Oregon, California, and Mississippi. The purpose is to investigate the factors contributing to high incidences of European Foul Brood (EFB) disease, by performing genetic testing to determine bacterial strain virulence, monitoring colony nutrition through pollen collection, and documenting climatic factors like temperature and humidity. After examination of outcomes in this multidisciplinary collaborative effort, researchers will focus on the development and communication of mitigation strategies for EFB to share with beekeepers. 

Entomological Society of America Conference 2023  

At the annual Entomological Society of America (ESA) conference in Maryland, master’s student Igbagbolere Adeoluwa presented his interesting research findings about efficacy, toxicity and residue of a novel stabilized oxalic acid formulation for varroa control. Unlike many other miticides, oxalic acid (OA) has maintained its efficacy and can be applied in vapor or liquid form to control mites. However, each method requires repeated treatments while brood is present, which may be inconsistent and labor-intensive. In addition, OA is limited in warm areas with a lengthy brood-rearing season because these mites are protected in capped brood during these seasons, highlighting the need for an improved formulation to delay/extend its release. To provide an efficient Varroa control strategy for US beekeepers in the United States (US), his research investigated the potential effects of a stabilized OA product (VarroxSan). Label information indicates this product slows down the release of OA for about 42 to 56 days in the colony; this extended-release ensures mites are eliminated once they emerge from brood cells and reduces the need for multiple reapplication treatments. This product was tested for efficacy, toxicity, and significant residue in four treatments in infested colonies over two seasons (40 hives/ fall; 60 hives/summer).  Results were compared to the industry standard dose of Apivar treatment, to formic acid, and to a no-treatment control. Follow-up hive inspections, egg emergence, mite counts, and honey and wax samples were investigated during the treatments. He found that VarroxSan performed as well as Apivar and formic acid, with the added advantage of being compatible with honey supers and not temperature dependent. This study provides reliable data for the use of this product as a long-lasting, labor-saving, alternative, and valuable IPM tool. 

Image of student presenting at conference
Igbagbolere giving his presentation in Maryland

Ph.D. candidate, Riley Reed, presented a poster about the potential improvement of varroa infestations by storing hives indoors during spring time. The WSU Bee program tested the use of spring indoor storage as a method of forcing a break in brood production to improve control of Varroa destructor. Immediately following almond pollination, 72 colonies were placed in a cold storage facility and 39 hives were left outside. After 18 days, the colonies were removed from cold storage and transferred to another outdoor location near the 39 colonies. At that time the stored colonies had an average of 4.78 mites per 100 bees. At the same time, the colonies left outdoors had significantly lower infestations at 2.98 mites per 100 bees. All colonies were treated for varroa mites at that time. Approximately 1 month later, the opposite was true. The colonies previously placed in cold storage had an average of 1.83 mites per 100 bees, significantly fewer than the 3.85 mites per 100 bees found in the colonies that were not placed in storage. The colonies placed in cold storage started out with 1 frame of bees less than the outdoor colonies on average, but by the end of the study there was no longer a significant difference between groups. These results demonstrate the strong potential of spring cold storage of honey bee colonies as a valuable tool in the fight against varroa mites. 

Swarm the Hill

On November 9th 2023, WSU Entomology was proud to participate in the first ESA Swarm the Hill event in Washington DC. The Swarm the Hill event involved presenting information about food security, urban food systems, forensic entomology, and entomological collections to congressional offices of Senators Young and Braun, and Representative Baird. The goal was to advocate for research priorities in entomological research, as identified by the ESA.

Pictured left to right: Riley Reed, Stephen Onayemi, Laura Lavine, Dowen Jocson

Congratulations and Farewell 

Adam Ware and Daniel Reynolds graduated with their Master of Science in Entomology degrees this November. Adam spent several years working as a commercial beekeeper before joining the graduate program at WSU. Adam’s research investigated rearing Apis mellifera pomonella as a potential new strain of genetics to add to the U.S. gene pool since it is known for its cold-hardiness and strong ability to pollinate apples. Dan began his career at WSU as the Pullman Bee Program Manager in 2020, then transitioned to being a master’s student, under advisement of Dr. Steve Sheppard. During his master’s, he assessed the effects of various nutritional inputs on honey bee longevity and melanization response, including two fungal extracts associated with increased bee longevity and immune function.

Congratulations to them both, they will be missed! 

Looking for more updates on beekeeper happenings in Washington? Check out the Washington State Beekeepers Association newsletters!

Author: Bri Price, Honey Bee Program Extension Coordinator