Rio De Janeiro, 1989, The Speedy Bee
The honey bee and the ecosystem was the official theme of the 32nd Apimondia International Congress of Apiculture which met in Rio de Janeiro Oct. 22-28, 1989. Unofficially, however, the theme very much appeared to be a re-evaluation of the African honey bee (AHB) in the Americas. A whole session was devoted to the official technical theme: Beekeeping With Africanized Bees. Visits to apiaries also provided participants with a closeup and personal view of the infamous bee.
At first glance, beekeeping appears to be booming in Brazil. Honey prices are high, and the number of exhibitors at the Congress was impressive. However, fewer Brazilian beekeepers attended the event than were planned for. In addition, participants who wished to talk to beekeepers in the field had trouble locating them.
In general, it can be fairly stated that those who came to Brazil with the belief that the experience would once and for all clear up the enigma of the AHB went away disappointed. Perhaps the best analogy would be a consideration of Rio de Janeiro itself. At the superficial tourist level, the place is all it’s cracked up to be. The romantic, eminently-photographable dream landscape complete with white sand beaches backed by verdant hills is unforgettable. It is inexpensive in comparison to many vacation destinations and in general the people are extremely nice to foreigners.
However, at a deeper level, there is grinding poverty in Rio, some-times located cheek by jowl with posh high rise apartments. And Brazilian triple-digit inflation at that time was debilitating and destabilizing. As a consequence, crime was very high; there were ripoffs of one kind or another reported each day. Finally, the water washing famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches was often polluted by untreated effluent piped directly into the Atlantic Ocean.
How then does one characterize the city? As heaven or hell? The answer lies somewhere in between and depends very much on one’s point of view. The same dichotomy exists in trying to describe the AHB. Is it the “killer bee,” the general public now sees in its mind’s eye, this reputation abetted by sensationalized press releases, movies and television programs? Or is it an incredibly productive insect in the American tropics. It is both, and it seems, and everything in between.
The equipment for sale to bee-keepers and universally recommended by extension services graphically showed that beekeeping in Brazil is not the same activity as in areas where the AHB is not resident. One only had to glance at the large smokers, gloves and heavy canvass or rip-stop nylon bee suits on display at the Congress to get an idea of the general level of defensiveness of Brazilian honey bees.
Apicultural congresses are organized according to Standing Commissions. At each event one or several sessions of scientific and practical papers are devoted to certain subjects assigned to each Commission. The Standing Commissions at the time were: Beekeeping in Developing Countries, Beekeeping Economy, Apitherapy, Beekeeping Technology and Equipment, Melliferous Flora and Pollination, Bee Pathology, and Bee Biology.
During the two years between congresses, executive officers and other involved in standing com-mission business meet to discuss various issues. In the 987-1989 biennium, some 17 visits were made overseas and 400 reports were provided to the seven commissions, according to Apimondia’s annual report. In addition, the president of Apimondia became a member of the Inter-
national Bee Research Association (IBRA) and the editorial policy of the major information organ, Apiacta, was overhauled. All this activity, of course, plus putting on the Congress costs money. Apimondia ran a deficit of US$14,000 over the last two years. A new budget for US$117,000 was approved in Rio. It is of concern to many that the United States is not a dues-paying member of this group. In spite of this, the leadership approved several presentations by U.S. citizens. And a large proportion of invited speakers were from the United States, revealing the worldwide reputation of its apicultural scientific and extension community.
There appears to be no resolution concerning the issue of U.S. membership in Apimondia. In the past, both the American Beekeeping Federation and Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS). shared the dues. In the last few years, however, the Apimondia leadership saw fit to raise theM considerably and reject the idea of paying them on a shared basis. However, a new administration under the leadership of the current president, Dr. Raymond Borneck from France, might persuade U.S. beekeeping institutions that the time has come again to support the organization.
Dr. Roger Morse of the Cornell University keynoted the Beekeeping Economy session with an analysis of pollination and beekeeping economics in the United States. Changes occurring over the last decade in U.S. agriculture are enormous, according to Dr. Morse. Presently, only 2 percent of those employed in the food business are involved in production and harvesting. The rest of the 30 percent working in the system are involved in packaging, distribution, advertising and sales.
The transportation system has made the advantages of the older farms being near the markets obsolete, Dr. Morse said. Farms are now preferentially located in areas of good soils, and they are also much larger than in the past. Many of these agricultural changes have also been reflected in beekeeping practices. One of the largest honey packers in the U.S. now routinely fills 280 jars of honey a minute. The firm packs close to half a million pounds a week with very few employees, a volume unheard of in the past.
A major innovation in U.S. beekeeping is the Dakota Gunness uncapper. An outfit in Florida managing about 30,000 colonies of bees with one of these and five extractors and can extract 55,000 kilograms (25,000 lbs.) of honey in 10 hours.
The United States has now worked itself into the position of being dependent on commercial pollination of honey bees, according to Dr. Morse. Of the 3.2 mil-lion colonies owned by beekeepers, two million pollinating units are now rented each year. This is four times the number rented a decade ago. Some 95 percent of these rentals occur on 14 crops, mostly fruits and vegetables, which are being consumed at a much greater rate than in the past by an increasingly health-conscious population.
The major pollinated crop is almonds; this involves an estimated 650,000 colonies each year and the number is on the rise. Other crops in order of importance are apples, melons, alfalfa seed, plums and prunes, blueberries, cherries, pears, sunflowers and a crop that was unknown twenty years ago, the kiwi fruit.
Dr. Morse described two outfits, which are at the cutting edge of commercial pollination in United States. One in Florida began modestly a decade ago by moving some 500 colonies of bees north from Ft. Myers. The enterprise now moves 7,500 hives to pollinate northeastern blueberries and cranberries. Trucks equipped with nets and spare gas tanks rarely stop, making the 1,800-mile move in 30 hours. Bees are wetted or iced down if they become too hot during the move. Another operation cited by Dr. Morse as innovating with the times is using refrigerated trucks, equipped with two refrigeration units which can be monitored outside the cab. This way, one unit can defrost while the other takes on the work of keeping colonies between 42 to 52 degrees F. During, the move, the bees are totally con-fined in the truck and clustered.
Commercial pollinators, Dr. Morse said, have paired their equipment throughout the operation. The base is a bottom board which holds four colonies (a pallet). The hives are full-depth brood chambers clipped onto the bottom boards. A zinc queen excluder, supers of either standard or shallow depth and a simple flat wooden top round out the equipment. Pallets of hives are moved by forklift. Other pieces of equipment are not necessary, Dr. Morse said, and the less the better to streamline operations.
In conclusion, Dr. Morse said, commercial pollinators have learned to take advantage of the rapid growth of transportation in the United States. They are classic examples of how to survive in a changing world. What the commercial beekeeper of the future must continue to do is learn to be alert and adjust to trends as new innovations are developed.
Spinning off of Dr. Morse’s presentation was a paper by D. Bazzuro of Uruguay. The author has developed a computer spreadsheet program on Lotus 1-2-3 Spanish Version 2.0 which incorporates 8 variables in determining rate of return on investments. The variables are number of colonies, wages, production per colony, rate of exchange, fuel costs, equipment cost, interest expenses and return on honey sales. A major feature of the program is that it can be tailored to fit any operation. The micro-computer is certainly one of the most important inventions associated with the electronic age and falls right into Dr. Morse’s categories as an instrument of great change, which beekeepers should take ad-vantage of.
AHB CONTROL IN MEXICO
The status of the Cooperative Program now in place in Mexico to control the Africanized (AHB) was given by J.F. “Karpati. The joint U.S.-Mexico agreement was signed in 1987. The goals are to reduce the populations in strategic regulated areas by setting out trap hives and providing education to beekeepers about re-queening. At the same time, the population of European bees was to be increased.
This would help genetically change the AHB in the target areas. Specifics of the program include 54,000 bait hives which are run by “brigades” that urge beekeepers to mark queens, use drone foundation, transfer colonies to modern hives, and employ queen excluders. In addition, a public information campaign was launched. Problems with the program involve insufficient time and funds. In spite of these limitations, according to Mr. Karpati, the bees have slowed their movement and will not reach the U.S. until the summer of 1990.
Mr. C. Pridols of Brazil provided insight into a beekeeper’s view of the history of the AHB in Brazil. Changes were noticed in bee behavior in 1957; major problems were excessive swarming and stinging. This led to beekeepers using a good deal of protective clothing and large smokers. According to Mr. Pridols, the smaller bees were the most aggressive. There was decline in beekeeper numbers, public opinion rose up against beekeepers and ecologists blamed the bees for out-competing native stingless bees. In the 1970s, new techniques in beekeeping helped to increase the number of beekeepers. Now there is renewed momentum and beekeepers are actively gathering swarms as resources. Varroa jacobsoni mites are not considered a problem in Brazil, said Mr. Pridols. The biggest concern continues to be controlling swarming. A list of miscellaneous problems associated with the AHB include wild drones which “pollute” gentle European stock, bees that rob heavily, and assorted stinging incidents, which may take place in number of settings. The key to develop Brazilian beekeeping, according to Mr. Pridols, is to get thebees under control of humans. To do this, he said, the current number of beekeepers (80,000) is not enough. He suggested son 420,000 more responsible be keepers were needed! To be a responsible beekeeper Mr. Pridols concluded, one should take educational courses, use protective equipment, and be a good neighbor.
This was also emphasized by Mr. C. Milton who has over 14 years experience working with the safety aspects of beekeeping in Brazil. He gave a number of tips on how to promote security in the bee yard. The major ones in include setting hives on separate stands at least 50 yards from other hives and 100 yards from human habitation, wearing protective equipment and judiciously using smoke. More offbeat advice included use of safety belts while capturing swarms from trees, avoiding electrical hazards in the apiary, and ensuring that work boots are sufficient for foot protection.
As if to belie the safety aspect of beekeeping emphasized by previous speakers, a paper on bee beards followed by Mr. J. Romanik of the United States. According to Mr. Romanik, bee beards are an excellent tool for educating the general public about basic bee gentleness. He showed many slides of himself and others covered with masses of bees. Although providing information on the benefits of bee beards, Mr. Romanik did not talk about the potential problems associated with them, nor how to manipulate the bees (feed them, use young bees) before using to minimize stinging potential.
INVITATION TO YUGOSLAVIA
Several papers dealt with be keeping in various countries. Special interest were those of Yugoslavia (site of the 1991 congress) and Finland. D. Sulmanovic provided basic inform tion on the history of beekeeping in Yugoslavia. Of most signifcance is that the country is home of the Carniolan bee (Apis mellifera carnica), has a bee jourrnal over 108 years old, and is home to some famous beekeepers including Anton Jansa, Petar Pavel Glava and Bogdan Penjic. Mr. Sulimanovic ended by inviting those in attendance to attend the next congress in Split, Yugoslavia.
Editor’s note: This congress was canceled due to instability during the Bosnian and Croatian conflicts at the time
BEEKEEPING IN FINLAND
Finland’s beekeeping situation was described as completely differer than most because of its geographic location. The active season is only four months (May-August). Many colonies are moved around to pollinate the rape crop. The original bees were German blacks (A.m. mellifera) from Sweden and Estonia. However, Italian bees (A.m. ligustica) are preferred and varieties have been selected which overwinter well in the high latitudes. A big question remains as to why neither honey bee tracheal mite nor varroa has been introduced. The long winters and low density honey bee population are considered the best guesses at present.
Three sessions at the Congress emphasized bee pathology. Although Varroa is not generally considered a “problem” in Brazil, there was considerable mention of the parasite. Colonies of Africanized honey bees are generally infested with the mite and it does take a toll on colonies, but the level of damage is estimated somewhere below 10%. In a comparative study of italianized and AHBs in three climatic regions of Brazil: temperate, subtropical and tropical, from March 1986 until February 1988, infestation rate was higher in the European-Italianized stock than in AHB colonies. Climate was seen as important in infestation rates, which were higher in the temperate (southern Brazil) and lesser in the tropics. Mites had significantly higher reproduction rates in hybrid Italianized bees than in AHB stock. Other Brazilian studies revealed that a prime mechanism of dispersing Varroa is by swarming and that if necessary, the mite can be treated effectively with several chemicals, particularly Perizin®, now used in Europe.
Further information was later provided in a major address by Dr. D. Deiong of Brazil on Varroa in Topical climates. Although climate seems to be partially responsible for variability other questions remain such as why populations stabilize at five to eight mites per bees, sometimes falling as low as two to three. Dr. De Jong suggested that mites are somehow tracking biological such as the yearly shift from summer to winter bees. Experiments have also shown hat there is a greater number of Varroa in stronger colonies than in those that have lower population evels. Thus, it follows that colony dynamics must influence the Varroa population. It was his parting statement, however, that perhaps gave the most interesting twist to the enigma of Varroa in Brazil. Why, is it that, if the reason for Varroa resistance lies strictly in the genetics of AHB populations, are European bees infested with Varroa on Fernando de Noronha Island not dying? There has never been introduction of the AHB on the island, which is 300 miles off the Brazilian coast.
As in other congresses, there were a number of papers dealing with chemical treatment of Varroa. Studies were reported on Apitol®, Perizin®, malathion, coumaphos, fluvalinate and formic acid. Several papers described use of Apitol® to control mites; fed in either a sugar solution or candy, it was effective in Germany and not found harmful to bees. One paper discussed addition of citric acid which stimulated the bees to eat the medication. A success rate of over 80% was consistently reported when colonies were fed Apitol® in sugar solution or in a candy. In addition, mite population reduction is considered adequate with one feeding and bee mortality was minor. A Greek study measuring effects of Apitol® on the bee population was also unable to find any deleterious effects on bees. Apitol® was recently (1988) registered in Yugoslavia. Trials reported by D. Sulimanovic in that country showed that the material must be applied when there is no brood, and that a single application was effective. In spite of its effectiveness, Apitol® (active ingredient cymiazol hydrochloride) is not registered fol use worldwide.
An analysis of why this is so and the problemsencountered by the manufacturer toregister materials of this nature was provided by W.I. Schmidt of Switzerland. At the present time in the U.S., the manufacturer of Apitol® is not actively pursuing registration.
A variety of German studies were presented on biology and control of Varroa, many co-authored by Dr. F. Ritter of the Federal Republic of Germany. One revealed that a significant proportion of first eggs aid in cells were male, while the second and third were predominantly female. Shortest development time was 6.0 days for males and 6.2 days or females. In a single cycle for the Carniolan bee (Apis mellifera carnica), a cell sealed for 12 days night produce up to three fertile daughters. Another revealed that re-infestation rates were higher where there was more resident bee copulation. The study conclusion: re-infestation can only be reduced by treating all of the colonies in an area at the same time. Besides its parasitic activity, Varroa was implicated in disrupting the honey bee colony either through physical damage to larvae or viral transmission.
An Italian paper showed that larval fai bodies broke up prematurely due in part to varroa feeding. Varroa, according to B. Ball of Britain, is also responsible for prevalence of honey bee viruses causing mortality in colonies around the world. Where the mite is not present, acute paralysis virus (APV) is not common. In addition, recent high incidence of Egypt bee virus (EBV) have been associated with Varroa. The Egypt virus is associated with high mortality of adult bees and wing and body deformity of newly emerged individuals, something previously ascribed only to mite reeding activity.
VARROA PREFER DRONES
There continues to be interest in studying Varroa’s preference for drone brood. R. Fuchs from the Federal Republic of Germany studied this predilection. It makes biological sense for mites to reproduce in drone cells, he said, because the longer development time of the drone brood makes almost double the number of female mite offspring possible. He worked out a computer model to show when it would be advantageous for the mites to reproduce in worker cells. A poster paper by C. Michele of Italy showed one way to use the mite’s preference for drone cells as a biomechanical control of Varroa populations. The technique involves providing drone foundation early in the season, which is drawn into comb, and populated by drone brood. Drone brood is then periodically removed before it emerges, eliminating a good deal of the potential mite population in the bargain.
Another focus on Varroa was detection, addressed by Dr. H. Shimanuki of the United States. The statistical basis for sampling as a major problem in varroa detection. Several variables must be considered: 1. effective mite kill for each method; the number of colonies examined and the statistical confidence required. Dr. Shimanuki discussed several methods of detection, including examination of drone and worker brood and hive debris, as well as whole colony sampling using tobacco smoke, Apistan® strips, amitraz bum-strip fumigation, and sampling a colony using the ether roll technique. He concluded that the best detection was a combination of methods which reveal mites on both brood and adults.
Breeding strains of bees resistant to Varroa was discussed by Dr. J. Kulincevic of Yugoslavia. He received funding from USDA and is in collaboration with the Baton Rouge Bee Laboratory. Stock from this selection program is now being considered for introduction into the United States. The research showed some positive results of breeding two lines of bees (resistant and nonresistant) through three generations. According to Dr. Kulincevic, honey bees are rich in additive resistance, and heritability can be greatly increased in the search for genetic long-range solutions to Varroa control.
OTHER DISEASES IMPORTANT
Although Varroa was discounted as a big problem in Brazil, other diseases have been catalogued, and are considered important. A five-year survey in central and southeastern Brazil found European foulbrood (EFB) and a condition similar to sacbrood, but no virus has been isolated. The latter is responsible for large losses, and found within a month of an outbreak, but some populations quickly return to normal. There were cases of tracheal mite infestation and nosema disease reported in the area, but these were not widespread A final note indicated that varroa always present in colonies, but again, never above 10%. A paper from Denmark described a series of experiments with the causative organism of America] foulbrood (AFB), Paenibacillus larvae
Colonies’ wer purposefully exposed to spores of P. larvae for three apicultural seasons, according to H. Hansen. There was great variability in provoking clinical symptoms by feeding either 50 grams of honey containing some 58,000,000 spores of B. larvae or 800 grams of honey containing 46,400 spores. Several control colonies were infested some 40 days after innoculation of experimental colonies, indicating that robbing quickly spreads spores. Several colonies weakened and died being fed spores, however, two showed resistance and even a reduced number of spores. Some colonies’ clinical symptoms disappeared spontaneously. in a few colonies 6,000 spores per gram of honey elicited symptoms, while in others there were none even when 3,000,000 spores per gram of honey were found.
The conclusion was that spore introduction alone cannot account for clinical symptoms. The bees’ inherent resistance is importance, as are other variables such as environmental factors.
PESTICIDES GET SCRUTINY
A comparative study in Brazil showed that methyl parathion, trichlorion, perrnethrin, and deltamethrin were toxic to honey bees in that order. Several Italian studies showed various toxicity of bees to a number of pesticides, and one from the U.S. revealed that for one pesticide, esfenvalerate, no repellency was found in spite of high honey bee mortality.
A German study revealed the effect of sublethal doses of pesticides on bee colonies. W. Drescher reported on experiments using 0.05, 0.1, 02, and 0.4 parts per million (ppm) dimethoate and other chemicals. Measurements included brood production, hypopharyngeal gland development, and colony respiration (carbon dioxide production). At 0.2 ppm dimethoate, brood suffered from lack of care, while at the 0.4 ppm level, egg laying decreased greatly and sealed brood was not present at all.
With exposure to dimethoate, there was also reduction in hypopharyngeal gland development and respiration activity, resulting in bees producing little alarm pheromone. Weakened colonies were easily robbed out. The basic significance of the research, according Dr. Drescher, is that sublethal dosages of pesticides cannot be ignored. And although crop pesticides are usually implicated, he said, it might also be instructive to determine what sublethal doses of chemicals used to control mites are also doing to bee colonies.
In keeping with the theme of bees and the ecosystem, there was discussion of environmental monitoring systems. Finally, a Yugoslavian study suggested using monooxigenase enzyme activity as an early, sublethal, objective measurement to monitor effects of pollutants. The resultant enzyme activity could then be used to measure potential pollution in larger ecosystems. There was also a paper on radioactivity residue subsequent to the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Soviet Union. H. Horn of the Federal Republic of Germany reported that after analyzing 2000 honey samples, there continues to be a high level of Cesium-137 isotope in the environment. Honey samples taken before the accident show practically none of the isotope. Honeydew is high in Cesium as is heather ,honey, indicating certain honeys are more affected than others. Levels will continue to be monitored; Cesium-137 is good for this because it has a long half life–about 30 years.
The keynote address for the final session of the Bee Pathology standing commission was on chalkbrood, given by Dr. M. Gilliam of the United States: Her paper was divided into two sections: (1) an overview of the disease, and (2) research on controlling the fungus. About 15 species of chalkbrood fungus (genus Ascosphaera) have been identified in conjunction with about 50 species of bees. Some of these are damaging to honey bee colonies, others are not.
Chalkbrood was almost unknown to U.S. beekeepers until the second half of the 20th century. In 1968, it was first reported in California and in the next 12 years spread throughout the United States. It is a problem in some places but only in certain years. Chalkbrood is also a concern in Europe, as well as in other species of bees. Both the Lealcutter bee (Megachile) and the orchard bee (Osmia) can be affected by the same fungus (Ascosphaera apis) as honey bees. However, other fungi play a larger role in the disease in those species. Chalkbrood is brought on by stress in all species and appears to be more virulent when bees have a common entrance or otherwise come in contact with each other. Stress, generally associated with human management of bees, is almost always implicated when honey bees show symptoms of chalkbrood. And the list of potential stresses is long: antibiotic use, injured brood, excessive manipulation, malnutrition, poor ventilation, high temperatures, cool climates, presence of other diseases and infestations including varroa and lack of water.
Honey bee eggs and pupae, according to Dr. Gilliam, will not support chalkbrood fungal growth; older larvae are more susceptible. Infection occurs by eating spores and by penetration of the cuticle: a relatively high level of carbon dioxide enhances growth. Ascosphaera lacks certain invasive enzymes and probably kills the larvae by competition for nutrients. Spores may last for 38 years and are spread through contaminated queens, workers, brood, pollen, tools. Major vectors of the disease are infected bee bread (stored pollen) and guts of bees that have eaten infected bee bread.
Dr. Gilliam said two views exist concerning chalkbrood in the United States, One is that it has always been present and perhaps in the past was confused with “stonebrood,” which affects both adults and brood. It also may have been inoculated by wild bees. It is known that the fungus will establish itself on flowers; eucalyptus a prime example. The other view is that chalkbrood was recently introduced. Most likely this was in contaminated, imported pollen. Chalkbrood infested larvae are easily collected in pollen traps. Mummies reminiscent of pieces of chalk, can be found in both sealed and unsealed cells; they may be pure white or in the sporulating stages, gray to black in color.
Controlling chalkbrood in honey bees remains a problem, according to Dr. Gilliam. The inoculum load (number of spores) is important, but highly variable. Not all colonies will break down with symptoms when exposed to the same number of spores. No chemical is currently registered for control in the United States, but many are used worldwide, some illegally. The classic ways to control chalkbrood have been: (1) chemical use, (2) bee management techniques and (3) bee stock selection (genetics).
There are several problems with chemical treatment, Dr. Gilliam said. Studies are usually flawed because randomly selected colonies will show different degrees of housecleaning behavior, considered extremely important in ridding colonies of infested larvae. In addition, chemicals may not kill the fungus, but only stimulate the bees to clean house better. Chemical use can also contaminate bees and equipment.
Beekeepers should concentrate on management to produce a chalkbrood free environment Dr. Gilliam concluded. Comb renovation, routine re-queening (providing a break in the brood cycle) and selecting bees for housecleaning behavior are the best strategies. A good many natural antagonistic microorganisms exist in honey bee colonies, which might be used in controlling chalkbrood, including Aspergillus), penicillin and other
FOCUS ON AFRICANIZED BEES
Without doubt the session on Africanized honey bees in The Bee Biology standing, commission was the best attended at the Rio congress. L. Goncalves provided a detailed history of beekeeping in the country, which has gone through several stages of development. The first was keeping stingless bees, the native bees of Brazil. Beekeeping with honey bees began in Brazil when German black bees were imported by hobbyists, primarily church personnel, in the 1800’s, Italian bees were later introduced and beekeeping was concentrated in south and southeastern Brazil. The high price of honey in the 1950’s caused the government to request Dr. Warwick Kerr to bring in stock from Africa. This was primarily Apis mellifera adansonii, later changed to the present name, Apis mellifera scutellata.
The period from 1956 to 1970 was marked by great upheaval in Brazilian beekeeping. Many operators went out of business and stinging incidents were numerous. There was no organization, no information and no techniques worked out on how to deal with the bee. However, in 1967 at the Apimondia congress in Maryland, USA, Brazilian beekeeping became better organized. It is of great significance to Brazilian beekeeping that the country has had a presence at all Apimondia congresses ever since. Three years later (1970), the first Brazilian beekeeping congress was held. About 150 persons attended; the focus was how to control the bee’s aggressiveness.
Ever since that first congress, beekeeping has continually grown. Topics such as the rise of natural products and re-evaluation of the AHB as a superior producer to its European cousin have replaced the focus on defensiveness (stinging).
The fifth congress was attended by 1200 persons; at that time in 1980, Varroa was the theme. Some 2500 persons attended the seventh congress in Bahia in 1986. By then, Brazilian honey production had risen to 30,000 tons, ranking the country as a top world producer. Production increased to 36,000 tons in 1988.
There is presently a great enthusiasm for natural products by the Brazilian public, Dr. Goncalves said, and a high price for local honey. Brazil is not an exporter of honey because domestic demand is too high. However, there continue to he problems. A major one is theft of whole apiaries. There is no registration of beekeepers in Brazil and bee pests including EFB, Varroa in the south and tracheal mites, which are relatively new, are producing problems.
AFB FOUND IN BRAZIL
Finally, Dr. Gonsalves dropped a bombshell; American foulbrood (AFB) had been reported on the Argentine border. This announcement produced a storm of controversy. AFB has so far not been found in Brazil. Beekeepers have not used chemical treatments in the past even for Varroa. The fear by many is that beekeepers might quickly jump on the antibiotic band wagon, in the process hurting the organic reputation their product now enjoys in the country.
Dr. Goncalves gave bee research a justified pat on the back for getting Brazilian beekeeping out of its doldrums. Some 30 institutions of higher learning have programs, students and courses relating to honey bees at the present time. This scientific activity has resulted in more than 200 theses and dissertations being published and countless papers in national and international scientific journals. The technology now exists to manage the AHB in Brazil, and this is being exported to the rest of South and Central America, which has recently been invaded.
Advances in the Brazilian beekeeping industry have been numerous including development of a wax-foundation industry. Use of instrumental insemination and processing bees through diagnostic laboratories is on the rise.
In conclusion, Dr. Goncalves said, the work of researchers, technical personnel, and beekeepers has enabled Brazil to benefit from an event, which initially appeared to be without a solution.
ALARM PHEROMONE IN AHB
A Brazilian paper by A. Stort followed aggressiveness of bees, in Brazil. It was reported that six times as much 2-heptanone (the alarm pheromone produced by the mandibular gland) was found it Africanized bees when compared to Europeans, amounting to as much as 38 micrograms per bee. However, this alone will not account for increased defensiveness of the bee. There are a great many other intrinsic and extrinsic variables. When correlated with the defensiveness of South African bees a spectrum was found. This, it was concluded, presents a good opportunity fo beekeepers to select less defensive bees, something already being a accomplished successfully in Brazil.
STINGLESS HONEY BEES
Over defensiveness has led Brazilian researchers toward developing a true stingless honey bee. A mutation has been found called “split sting,” which is responsible for causing the sting to become inoperative. Two papers at the Congress addressed controlling the mutation through thermal shock or using cobalt 60 radiation. However, Brazilian beekeepers are not using these bees because the AHB defensiveness is considered an asset to protect apiaries from being stolen and/or vandalized.
Besides defensiveness, the AHB is known for its swarming and absconding. A paper presented by N. Diniz showed the results of an 18- month study conducted in Sao Paulo state. Some 80 bait hives were set out and monitored at two-week intervals. Light colored bait hives were preferred by swarms from March to May and from August to October. The latter was the best time, and swarms usually had large populations of drones present. It was also noted that most swarms had a very low Varroa infestation rate. The absconding peak was between December and February, usually worst right after rainy periods. Absconding populations were low and rarely contained drones.
Part of the studyu, according to Ms. Diniz, was to design effective control measures for feral bees in urban areas. Swarm extermination and capture data by the fire association of the suburban town Ribeirao Preto in San Paolo state were used to model swarm occupation and dispersal. A control measure, which has met with access, was to put bait hives round towns or factories at two-three -meter heights. These then can be disposed of at leisure by authorities when occupied by swarms.
One problem observed in Brazil s that queen mating success in certain areas is very low. A paper by A. Soares and others indicated that weight of queens is correlated with both length of life and mating success. In the majority of cases, AHB queens appear to weigh more than Italianized ones and are, therefore, more successful in being mated and heading colonies. Another paper by Simokomaki and De Jong showed that flight frequencies were significantly different between Europeans and AHB, and had an average of 4.49 flights, whereas Europeans had only 1.8 during the same period. These results appear to provide a clue for the great success of AHB in Brazil. Another study reported that although AHBs flew for a longer time per flight than Europeans, the difference could not be verified as statistically valid.
Brazilian studies reported at the Congress used either morphometries (physical rneasurments) or enzymatic analysis to distinguish between the AHB and its European cousin. Two papers dealt with the. latter technique. A. Soares and others compared the hexokinase (HK) enzyme system in both bees. Because the frequency of HK gene was highest near Rio Claro, Brazil and decreased with distance from this spot in both Brazilian and Central American bees, it is suggested that the degree of Africanization has been reduced as Africanizcd swarms advanced either southward or northward.
J. Lobo and M. Antonio del Lama also reported on their analysis of genetic polymorphisms found in AHB populations. They concluded there was a predominance of AHB (60 to 90%) in most areas, as well as drastic changes in gene frequencies both in areas where AHB populations have stabilized (Uruguay) or expanding (Central America).
Enzymatic biochemical markers also were studied in a paper jointly authored by Italian and Brazilian scientists. There were enough differences between populations to allow investigators to obtain reliable estimates of the relative contributions of the German dark bee to the present population of AHB. Another paper of the biochemical technique showed wide differences in Varroa populations between Brazil and Germany.
Dr. R. Moritz from Germany discussed in some detail the identification method using deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) to identify honey bees. It is possible to obtain information from two kinds of DNA: (1) that found in celluar energy packages (mitochondria) located in the cytoplasm of the cell, originating strictly from the queen and (2) that from the nucleus, contributed to by both drone and queen. According to Dr. Moritz, the nuclear DNA genetic model is characterized by fitness or survival being determined by the genome (genetic material of the bee taken as a whole) and a polyandrous (multiple drone) mating system in bees. It, thus, can be used to effectively identify honey bees. His conclusions were that in contrast to nuclear DNA, that from mitochondria cannot be used to identify bees, but can be used to estimate the impact of swarming on the Africanization process.
Meliponini, THE NATIVE STINGLESS BEE
Although the honey bee was the focus of most attention in the Bee Biology Commission section, there was also a session dealing with the native stingless bees (Meliponini) of Brazil. Dr,. H. Velthuis spoke about the importance of this kind of beekeeping. Stingless bee honey is different from that produced by honey bees and is in great demand locally. In addition, the pollination activities of stingless bees are extremely important to the indigenous plants in Brazil. The display area also revealed the importance of these bees. Various hives and other technology, including tiny wax foundation, developed to carry on stingless bee culture were on sale.
BEEKEEPING IN DEVELOPING AREAS
This was the smallest session at the Congress, consisting of only six papers and four posters. The keynote address by G. Paltrineiri, who directs FAO’s apicultural projects, revealed that there is great interest world wide in using beekeeping in development schemes. An Italian-U.S.A. paper discussed efforts to bring honey produced in Guyana up to international standards and a joint Cuba-Sweden project emphasizing efforts in bee genetics, honey plant identification and producing and marketing bee products was described.
Mellifemus Flora and Pollination
Presentations during the session for this standing commission revealed that the AHB is in fact an efficient pollinator. Evidence was presented that the bees pollinated sweet peppers, soybeans, sunflowers, honeydew melon and citrus. Another major topic of the session was pollen analysis and the spectrum of pollen found in various honeys. It is significant that pollen analysis studies are not well represented by U.S. investigators. This appears to be a historical accident, perhaps driven by beekeeper requests or scientists’ interests that place management techniques ahead of other areas considered for study. Most of the information on pollen analysis comes from European research, which has a rich tradition in the area. The Congress revealed that much of China’s research emphasis is also along these lines.
Again this standing commission is not well represented by U.S. research, although reports by C. Mraz and colleagues at the Congress explored stimulation of the neurohormonal system by bee venom. There were several reports on the possibility of using apitherapy in certain illnesses: chronic bronchitis (USSR); sexual dysfunction (China); throat diseases (Romania); lens opacity (Romania); gynecological diseases (Romania); hyperlipemia and diabetes (China); periodontal disease (Romania), and veterinary medicine (China).
Papers of special interest in this area included a Brazilian group which reported on the ability of both Apis and Meliponid honey to kill bacteria. A Chinese group discovered that Rhesus monkeys could digest and absorb nutrients (vitamin C and potassium) from unbroken-walled rape pollen and another cadre of scientists showed that bee-collected pollen serves as an adequate supplement for cancer patients in chemi- and radio-therapy, providing them with trace elements and nucleic acids.
In keeping with a great interest in Brazil, Europe, and China, the display area at the Rio Congress was full of natural products, including candies, shampoos, conditioners, and skin creams. One of the most prevalent products was propolis, sold either in large chunks or as a tincture in alcohol. An Israeli paper during the apitherapy session discussed the inhibitory effects of propolis on nine different strains of bacteria. Both watery and alcoholic extracts were tested; only those in alcohol were effective. Out of 37 isolated strains of bacteria, two found resistant to antibiotics were remarkably sensitive to propolis.
Reporting on five years work with propolis, a Japanese paper discussed the various properties of three main Brazilian propolis types: red, green, and clear. The paper also reports evidence that propolis collected by AHB is different than that collected by Europeanized bees.
Beekeeping Technology The Congress in Rio came to an end with the Beekeeping Technology and Equipment standing commission session. A Brazilian paper showed that AHB produced more honey when queen excluders were used. Several presentations dealt with purifying and milling propolis.
Two of the most interesting papers described advances in instrumental insemination technique. K. Burmeister of the Federal Republic of Germany FRG) reported on a new apparatus that takes the place of the conventional dorsal hook. It is a flat piece of metal with a hole of 0.2 mm. The queen’s sting is placed in the hole. When the string is manipulated, the string chamber opens, providing easy access for insemination. M. Kuhnert, also of the FRG, related her results using homogenized semen in a breeding program now underway in Western Australia and use of tweezers to manipulate the sting apparatus.
In his concluding remarks, one of the Congress’ principal organizers, Dr. L. Goncalves, said that although the goal of 2000 Brazilians attending the meeting was not achieved, there was excellent foreign support at the Congress. Approximately 1500 persons attended from all over the world. In summary, he said, 597 papers were presented along with 97 posters, and there were a total of 47 displays at the Expo (32 Brazilian; 15 foreign). Each host country usually puts on some kind of show that typifies 1 the culture as part of a congress proceedings. In Rio, this could only mean one thing, a Brazilian ; samba dance show. The last night of the Congress was topped off with this event. The gyrations and costumes defy description. The show’s tone was extremely informal and concluded with an invitation for the audience to come up and dance as well. The sight of participants hipsinging to the carioca music somehow seemed a fitting end to the Congress. It also emphasized the emotional tone of the closing ceremony held earlier in the day, set by Dr. Eva Crane. As she accepted a gold medal for her efforts to promote communication within the apicultural community, she said she had never experienced such an atmosphere of love and friendship as at this Congress in Rio do Janeiro.
At the 32nd congress held in 1989 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, under the presidency of Prof. Helmuth Wiese, the problem of the Africanised Bee was tackled in depth. During the scientific programme, consisting of 13 plenary sessions, 195 oral reports and 157 posters were presented. The General Assembly suggested abolishing all Working Groups. The congress attracted 1,608 participants from 62 countries. There were 38 exhibitors in ApiExpo ‘89.