February 2024

Getting ready for the 2024 beekeeping season!

Members of the bee team have been buzzy at work preparing for the new season. Scraping, cleaning, and storing existing equipment, then putting together many new frames and foundations!

honey bee boxes with new frames
othello bee facility warehouse

Registration OPEN: Diagnostic Microscopy Workshop 

The WSU Honey Bees + Pollinators program invites you to register and attend a seminar and/or hands-on training about microscopy! Learn more about stereo and compound microscopes, Nosema, and tracheal mites. Then, practice dissecting honey bees for these parasites, using your own bees or bees provided for you! This workshop will be held in two locations: WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center (May 18th), and WSU Mt. Vernon Northwest Research and Extension Center (May 19th). The events begin at 10:30 AM. The hands-on training for both locations has limited capacity.  Please visit this page for more information and to register at the location closest to you. 

American Bee Research Conference (ABRC) 2024 

A handful of researchers at the WSU Honey Bees + Pollinators Program attended ABRC in New Orleans, Louisiana in January! Postdoctoral associates Dr. Ryan Kuesel and Dr. Ge Zhang presented about the stressors commercial honey bees face, particularly stress from frequent changes of floral resources and pesticide exposure. In recent years, they WSU partnered with several commercial beekeeping operations and tracked over 240 hives in Californian almonds and Washingtonian blueberries, cherries, and apples, then other seed crops such as carrot, canola, or onion. The ultimate goal of this research is to understand which crops and landscapes carry more pesticide exposure risk and starvation risk to honey bees, so beekeeper operations can manage their hives accordingly. The analysis of the results from these studies is still underway. 

Ph.D. candidate, Riley Reed presented about the viability of ozone fumigation as a potential method for sterilizing honey bee comb in commercial beekeeping operations. Since ozone is a powerful oxidizing agent, it has potential to control pests and pathogens such as wax moths, chalkbrood, and foulbroods or degrade some pesticide residues. Moving forward, this is an area of research that the WSU Honey Bees + Pollinators program is pursuing. With this research, we hope to establish and fine-tune a new method for controlling a wide range of pests and pathogens, as well as increase the lifespan of honey bee frames. 

Registration OPEN: Queen Rearing Workshop in Othello 

In January, we distributed a survey to assess interest and collect feedback for desired content at this workshop. We received many responses and are excited to hear what beekeepers are interested in learning. This workshop aims to teach beekeepers how to set up cell builders, graft queen cells, and much more! Please visit this page for more information and to register.

advertisement for queen rearing workshop

Field Work has Begun for Collaborative Investigation of European Foul Brood! 

WSU Honey Bees + Pollinators Program recently joined a large, multidisciplinary collaboration with Oregon State University, Mississippi State University, University of California Davis, commercial beekeepers, and farmers to study European foulbrood disease in 2024-2028. The project’s lead, Dr. Ramesh Sagili (OSU) recently received a $4.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. EFB is caused by a bacterium, Melissococcus plutonius, that has become a persistent problem for beekeepers. Many commercial beekeepers have reported high rates of EFB in their colonies after blueberry pollination, and they’ve become increasingly hesitant to send their bees to pollinate blueberries. Through this partnership, researchers will follow over 1,500 honey bee colonies through Californian almonds, blueberries, and other crops in each participating state. The purpose of this four-year project is to investigate the factors contributing to high incidences of EFB, 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 during the first two years, researchers will focus on the development and communication of EFB mitigation strategies to share with beekeepers. In February, our researchers traveled to the vast acreage of California almonds to begin this project! 

group of beekeepers at the almond orchards in california
group of beekeepers at the almond orchards in california

beekeepers looking into hive

More Tools to Fight Varroa 

The WSU Honey Bees + Pollinators Program is looking forward to two new Varroa control options becoming available to beekeepers in the near future.  

VarroxSan, a new stabilized oxalic acid formulation, was recently approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. VarroxSan has high efficacy, low bee toxicity, and minimal residues, according to recent research conducted in the Hopkins lab. Its formulation is released at a slower rate (~56-day active period) than the oxalic acid formulation currently available, reducing the need for multiple reapplications and ensuring that the mites still developing inside brood cells at time of application are eliminated once they emerge. VarroxSan has a different mode of action than Amitraz, a commonly used acaricide to which Varroa have exhibited resistance development.  

We are also getting closer to being able to promote entomopathogenic fungi for Varroa control. Large-scale research in Dr. Saumik Basu’s lab recently confirmed that WSU’s special strain of Metarhizium is a more effective cause of death to Varroa than other stressors, and found that honey bee deaths decline when Metarhizium is present. This strain has been selected for traits that make the fungi more virulent towards Varroa and more heat resistant to sustain in honey bee hives. A company has signed an agreement to begin commercially producing Metarhizium, which is an exciting step for it becoming available as a new tool in your IPM toolkit!  

Citizen Scientist Experiment 

We are seeking volunteers this year! We are looking for beekeepers with Journeyman or Master level education to test Metarhizium in their own hives as part of a state-wide citizen scientist experiment in August to October 2024. Execution of this depends on approval of pending experimental use permits. In the meantime, contact briana.price@wsu.edu for more information and how to sign up. 

Creation of a Washington Anaphylaxis Recognition and Response Training

Our Honey Bee Program Extension Coordinator, Bri Price, designed and implemented Anaphylaxis Recognition and Response training with the help of Dr. Jeff Ward, a family medicine resident with WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. The training is a pre-recorded seminar by Dr. Jeff Ward, highlighting different types of allergic reactions, causes of anaphylaxis, how to recognize anaphylactic shock, proper responses to anaphylaxis with and without an auto-injector present, different types of epinephrine autoinjectors, proper delivery of epinephrine, and more!  

This training was designed to be used in the Washington State Beekeepers Association (WASBA) educational curriculum to better prepare beekeepers for these life-threatening emergencies. A knowledge assessment is distributed after the training, and once it is completed with a passing grade, WASBA grants a certificate of completion. This is now accessible on the WASBA website under Education/Continuing Education.

Title slide snapshot of anaphylaxis recognition and response training

WSU College of Vet Medicine Becomes a Student Chapter with the Honey Bee Vet Consortium 

Since the well-timed, imperative treatments for some honey bee diseases such as foulbroods and Nosema must be done under a veterinarian’s feed directive (VFD), WSU Bee + Pollinators Program, Dr. Ryan Kuesel, has given several educational seminars to prepare Washington veterinarians to be capable and more willing to work alongside beekeepers and improve hive health. With hard work from Kate Bouchard and others in the WSU College of Vet Medicine, Washington State University has officially become a student chapter for the Honey Bee Vet Consortium (HBVC). The HBVC is a platform for beekeepers to “Find a Bee Vet” in their region from a listing of certified vets willing to work with honey bees. With being a part of this entity, WSU is recognized as a domestic and international honey bee veterinary medicine club with accreditation by the American Veterinary Medical Association. This is an exciting step in establishing a network of veterinarians that are knowledgeable and equipped to prescribe antibiotics or medical treatments to sick honey bee colonies in Washington. 

WSU College of Veterinary Medicine honey bee veterinary consortium logo

The WSU HBVC began their VETMED honey bee lecture series on February 28th with Dr. Kuesel’s lecture “The Ins and Outs of Apis mellifera“, which covered honey bee anatomy, development, and temporal polyethism (age-based division of labor). 

Title slide of presentation Dr. Ryan Kuesel gave to veterinarians

Congratulations to Dr. Brandon Hopkins!

Dr. Brandon Hopkins is the 2024 recipient of the Washington State University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Award! This award honors a faculty member whose scholarly contributions and associated outreach efforts have measurably and significantly improved lives through engagement with industry or other elements of the private sector.

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

Categories: Blog