The November 22, 2016 edition of the Apis Information Resource News has been published. It contains information on the
White House Pollinator Initiative, Manuka honey and Bee Breeding.
Agriculture and beekeeping did not take center stage during the Presidential campaign, but a new administration might be significant here. I published an article in the November 2016 Bee Culture Magazine discussing the White House Pollinator Health Task Force Initiative, which was created via a strategy rolled out June 20, 2014 by Barack Obama to great fanfare. It became a document, authored by the “pollinator health task force,” published May 19, 2015, with an $82-million budget. This specific document, plus several others now in place, make up the initiative noted above.
Digging into the details reveals that the budget and activities projected may not be what some people imagine. Detractors have looked at this as helping only beekeepers and honey bees, one calling it a boondoggle for beekeepers with the public being “stung,” when clearly it is a “pollinator initiative.” My concern was like so many things of this nature, where does the money come from? It turns out there is no “new funding” for this initiative, as I originally thought. Instead it mandates current funds be “directed” toward the goals of the initiative.
Tellingly, the document states: “Task Force agencies are to report annually on all metrics to the Task Force Co-Chairs, who will publicly disseminate the results on an annual basis so that the general public can monitor the progress each agency is making in fulfilling the commitments detailed in this Strategy, including collaboration with public and private stakeholders.”
Recent reports concerning the unintended consequences of the rise in popularity of Manuka honey are concerning. I wrote almost a year ago about this honey, its story published under the title: Manuka, The Biography Of An Extraordinary Honey , thinking a product might be found in Florida with similar qualities, perhaps derived from a plant called Melaleuca.
Melaleuca quinquenervia, like Manuka in New Zealand, is an introduced plant from Australia that has infested south Florida. It is also in the same family (Leptospermidae) and possesses human health qualities as noted on its Wikipedia.com site: “Melaleuca quinquenervia is used in a variety of cosmetic products especially in Australia. The oil is reported in herbalism and natural medicine to work as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent, to help with bladder infections, respiratory troubles and catarrh. The essential oil is an ingredient in a ‘natural’ haemorrhoid treatment. The oil has a very low (level 0) hazard score on the Cosmetic Safety Basebase.”
Both Melaleuca and Manuka are called “tea trees,” and are prodigious honey producers at certain times. Could the honey from M. quinquenervia in Florida also possess Manuka-like potential? We got a sample and the answer is no!
However, my partner in this endeavor, highly trained as a chemist and who doesn’t give up easily, went a step further, suggesting that any honey could acquire Manuka-like properties via addition of the “magic ingredient,” described by Manuka honey pioneer, Peter Molan, and known as Methyglyaxol or MGO.
Further discussion came up with the real possibility of developing a Manuka analog honey. This would require a research effort with perhaps some clinical trials, involving expertise in bacteriology and food science. Interested parties should look at the case for possibly developing this idea further. Give me a holler if you are interested in perhaps continuing this thread and/or might be interested in funding an effort along these lines.
The International Bee Research Association’s Bee World in its latest issue focuses on queen breeding. Editor Kirsten Traynor opens the discussion with an editorial on the subject, saying: “When my husband and I started keeping bees in the United States and mentioned we wanted to breed our own queens, we were told quite adamantly ‘You don’t breed queens. You buy them.’”
I reflected on this situation in my October 26, 2016 issue and got a response from Sue Cobey concerning her New World Carniolan program. I included that program in my discussion of breeding programs on my webpage. We both agree that the biggest issue is the high cost of developing and then maintaining a so-called “bred” queen. She concludes: “The cost of running any breeding program is prohibitive in itself. The unique challenges of honey bees (high mating frequency, high rate of recombination, selecting for behavorial traits , etc.) add to this cost. Hence, the very few serious and effective programs that exist.”
See the full newsletter here.