The April 29, 2017 edition of the Apis Information Resource News has been published. It contains information on the honey bee microbiome, a discussion of wannabe beekeepers and the Bee Audacious event, and advice on sowing native versus non-native plants, among other topics.
There’s more information coming out on the honey bee’s microbiota or microbiome: “Antibiotics could potentially disrupt the health-promoting microbes that make up the microbiomes in humans and other animals. But pinning down exactly how microbiomes and antibiotics affect human health is complicated by the sheer number of microbes involved.
“Evolutionary biologist Nancy Moran’s answer to this challenge: the honeybee. Seeking microbiome insights, Moran and colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin report that antibiotics can dramatically alter a honeybee’s gut microbial community and result in higher mortality. Their work appeared in a recent issue of PLOS Biology.
“’We’ve been developing the honeybee gut microbiota as a model that has many similarities to humans, and mammals in general, but is simpler,’ Moran says. Like humans, honeybees get their microbial residents through social contact. And both honeybee and human microbes are specialized to their hosts. But the honeybee microbial community has only eight core bacterial species. ‘For humans, the number of core bacterial species is in the hundreds,’ says Moran.
“Honeybees and humans are also both regularly exposed to antibiotics. For half a century, beekeepers in the United States have used these drugs to prevent bacterial infections in honeybee larvae. Although these treatments may help protect honeybees, past work by Moran and others has also suggested antibiotics could contribute to declining hive health.
“The team’s next step is to figure out exactly how the honeybee gut microbial community offers protection against pathogens. ‘Is it a single member of the microbiota?’ Moran asks. ‘Does the microbiota interact with the immune system and that leads to the protection? Or does the microbiota interact with the pathogen directly? Or is it both?’ With the honeybee system, she says, testing these questions is possible.”
A topic on the Bee-L network has garnered lots of discussion. The subject line reads “Cautions for Wannabes,” and deals with the human impact on honey bee society and the “ethics” of beekeeping. Should “wannabe” beekeepers and those training them think more carefully about the impact of those who express a desire to begin beekeeping? Are all parties fully aware of what this can mean for honey bees themselves? This appears to be consequence of the honey bee’s inexorable path to becoming a “domestic animal,” given how the insects are more and more challenged by human-contributed maladies and being managed using a homocentric model. Rusty Burlew at honeybeesuite.com attempts to put the activity into some perspective and posts that letting mites but mites is not an option within this context.
As mentioned in a previous newsletter, and also on the honeybeesuite.com posts mentioned above, Dr. Tom Seeley’s concept of “Darwinian beekeeping”is becoming more recognized. He publicized it further at the December 2016 event known as Bee Audacity in California. This program is a unique approach to looking at the future fate of the honey bee, based on Dr. Mark Winston’s Manifesto published in June, 2015 and taken up by organizer Bonnie Bee Company. An 84-page final report has just been released and a conference wrap up video is now available (1 hour 42 minutes).
Much of the discussion at the conference seems to be related to information presented in my report concerning the White House pollinator initiative, published in Bee Culture magazine. The Pollinator Stewardship Council is also hard at work on this, attending the Bee Audacious event and organizing a visit to the EPA, one of the leading organizations named in the White House initiative on March 31, 2017. Currently, the big question is how the new administration is going to react in terms of the initiative, which was promulgated by the last one with much fanfare.
The results of Bee Audacious have been published in numerous ways. A special treatment can be found on the Bees for Development website.
Danielle Downey at Project apis M takes a look at a topic that needs a more-nuanced analysis, sowing native vs non-native plants to assist pollinators. The following points are emphasized.
Not all Introduced plants are all bad. If you were to remove all introduced species from a pollinator planting, you would also remove the most important plants for honey bees (sweet clover and many other introduced clovers).
2. Not all introduced plants are good for all landscapes. Introduced plants like sweet clover can become invasive in areas with moderate to generous rainfall (about 32” of annual rainfall or more). That’s why species like sweet clover are not included in our Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund NextGen Habitat Project seed mixtures for East of the Dakotas and Nebraska.
3. There is a “Natives First” movement out there. There are states where there is a strong movement to use only native species in their conservation/pollinator plantings. This effort can usually be traced back to conservation programs that used introduced species in their past program seed mixes, like Fescue, smooth brome, etc., which were generally detrimental to wildlife and pollinators.
4. Introduced and native can live and work well together. When Conservation/pollinator program seed mixtures are designed properly, there is a role for both native and introduced species to perform well in mixtures.
5. Introduced plants can fill important roles. The use of the correct combination and rate of introduced species alongside native species can provide important benefits.
She concludes: “The bottom line is that this is a complex topic without a simple answer or response. We need to be thoughtful and careful about how this message is relayed to the public that is enthusiastically wanting to help the bees and butterflies! I hope these five points will help inform habitat enthusiasts as they encounter these debates.”
See the full post here.