December 2023

Global Leadership & Beekeeping in Kenya with EDU Africa 

Washington State University has set up a collaborative program with beekeepers in Maasai 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.

WSU students who enroll for this opportunity to study abroad will experience the beauty of the Maasai Mara in Kenya and the exciting world of beekeeping, which impacts nearly every aspect of the global food system. To thrive in this program, students will need to be curious and eager to learn, want to make an impact in the world with humility by appreciating what each person and community brings to the collective effort, and be willing to get their hands dirty as they work on beekeeping projects in the savannah wilderness. 

Activities include:

  • Limuru Marketplace Challenge
  • Brackenhurst Indigenous Forest Walk
  • Walk with Maasai herders and visit Manyatta, small traditional villages
  • Basic lessons in the Maa and Kiswahili languages
  • Community engagement with Kijabe Environment Volunteers (KENVO)

To learn more, click here.

Dr. Steve Sheppard with group of beekeepers in Kenya

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, VarroxSan. Oxalic acid remains effective in vapor or liquid form but requires repeated treatments during brood presence, posing labor-intensive challenges. VarroxSan, with its extended-release feature lasting 42 to 56 days, aims to address this issue by eliminating mites upon emergence from brood cells, reducing the need for frequent reapplications. The study conducted four treatments on infested colonies over two seasons, comparing VarroxSan with industry standards like Apivar and formic acid, as well as a no-treatment control. Results show VarroxSan performs comparably to Apivar and formic acid, with added benefits of compatibility with honey supers and temperature independence, presenting a promising, long-lasting, and labor-saving alternative for beekeepers as an Integrated Pest Management 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
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