I have given my first talk here in French. The presentation was given to a meeting of the CETA (Centre d’Etudes des Techniques Apicoles) du Var on Thursday, March 13, 1997. Some 18 beekeepers were present; it was held in town of Fréjus, just south of Cannes at the business residence of Pierre Barbe. It went as well as can be expected considering my language skills. It was an attempt to distribute some basic information as I know it about Varroa control in the United States. There is of great interest here in this area as one might expect.
The following is an outline of my discussion.
Varroa in the U.S. (further historical analysis)
History and Time Line:
- First detected in Florida and Wisconsin in late 1987.
- Emergency detection and control program begins in 1988–seminars given statewide
- Detected using ether-roll method; most used method–one-step; immediate results.
- First treatment based on emergency label for wood strips soaked in Mavrik®
- Emergency label for Maverik® rescinded; Apistan® receives emergency-use label to be used only under compliance agreement, 1988.
- Florida extension apiculturist (Dr. Tom Sanford) makes video on detection and control using Apistan , 1988, with funding from APHIS (Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service);
- Apistan® gets general-use label, November 1990.
- Miticur® (based on amitraz) withdrawn from market in October 1993.
- Legal action by beekeepers because some bees died; full details not known
- Company (Hoechst-Roussel Agri-Vet Co.) no longer supports labeling product
- Result is that only one treatment has a legal label (Apistan®)
- Many beekeepers in Florida and elsewhere begin to use two (2) treatments per year
- In the fall; very important (winter bees need protection; a switch from Drone to worker bees happens.
- In the Spring; this lowers the mite population at beginning of the active season.
The U.S. labeling process:
- Must be data that material works–accepted by FDA, EPA bureaucracies.
- Must be data that residues are acceptable in food supply by FDA, EPA bureaucracies.
Subsequently, I have been told that efficacy is not as important as residues for these bureaucracies.
- Data is expensive to gather.
- Usually only companies have resources to collect this data.
- Market must be present for profit motive for companies to spend money on research.
- Company becomes legally liable for treatment based on their product–a disincentive.
- A small government program called IR-4 (minor uses) may collect data; slow, costly, often political; must also have a firm interested in distribution.
- The wording on the label is the law
- Must follow words exactly as on the label
- Must have copy of label in possession
Subsequent information concerning the above is quite complex with reference who is liable for what depending on how a product is marketed to the public. The IR-4 program requires state input–registration in states also is costly. Again, the key is determining whether some commercial enterprise can be convinced of the viability of the market.
Concerns of U.S. Beekeepers, Regulators and Consuming Public:
- a. Illegal treatments may persist
- Maverik® (flluvalinate) on wooden sticks and paper towels.
- Tactik® (amitraz) on wooden sticks and paper towels
- Have surfactants and emulsifiers that make these chemical soluble in water and, therefore, also in honey.
- Not as controlled a release as plastic; fluvalinate in plastic is not water soluble.
- Apistan® strips left in all year around
- Enhances mite resistance? Suspected, not definitely known.
- Illegal treatments may lead to:
- Fluvalinate resistant mites
- Contaminated honey
- Apistan® still works; only legal material available.
- May be in use continuously
- Treatments with Maverik® and Tactik® may continue.
- Formic acid being tested; resources scarce; no money to be made; Canadians doing this research; started by Germans and now continuing in the U.S.
- Dangerous to bees and beekeepers
- Not easy to administer doses
- Several treatments necessary–doesn’t get to mites in sealed brood.
- Informal experimentation going on with all kinds of materials
- Oils of essence
- Are they effective–no definitive good information yet on this subject; jury still out on this..
- Question remains about effectiveness on mites in brood cells.
- Can these be labeled? Will any company support such a product in U.S.?
- Is readily available anywhere.
- Profit motive required.
- Oils of essence
Thanks to Dr. H. Shimanuki of USDA-ARS Beltsville Laboratory (now retired) for reviewing the above and providing supplementary information.
Much of what I said appeared to have a familiar ring to those present; many of the above principles also apply to obtain a legal label in France called Authorisation de Mise en Marche (AMM). The one big difference here, of course, is that resistance to fluvalinate treatments is present. It is controversial as to how this occurred. Possible scenarios include stock importations from Italy and/or what are called here “extemporaneous treatments. One curious thing for me is that in Israel, where Mavrik® treatments on plywood have been used for years, no resistance by mites has been noted (this was somewhat solved when I visited Israel in 2008 to find a well-regulated beekeeping industry that had all beekeepers treating on the same schedule, preventing continuous treatment, which occurs when each operator decides on their own if and when to treat).
Another wrinkle is the genetic component of the mites found in certain areas; the possibility exists that a narrow or broad mite gene pool may retard/enhance resistance development. Research at the last meeting of the National Honey Producers Association in Memphis, TN revealed that a much broader base of genetic material has been found in U.S. Varroa (especially Florida).
One coincidence I found here was that Varroa in France was apparently also discovered in both the north and south of the country as it was in the U.S.
After the presentation, we went around the room and each beekeeper recounted his/her treatment for Varroa mites. Most striking was the fact that no two were the same. It appears that resistance to fluvalinate has led to literally every beekeeper deciding what treatments to use and when (a prescription for acclerating resistance).
A discussion followed on pollen production. I was surprised to learn only one trap design was shown at the meeting. Only one beekeeper present had heard of the Ontario Agricultural College Pollen Trap. I have undertaken to provide beekeepers here with the one published as modified by Dr. Elbert Jaycox when he was at the University of Illinois. There was little talk about using pollen as either substitute or supplement for feeding bees, something I have long been interested in. In my trip to Ets Thomas Fils in late March I did find technology available for collecting and preserving pollen.
Again, French beekeepers appear to be in the forefront in publicizing their products to the consuming public. The professional syndicate (association) of beekeepers of the Départment (Province) of Var has developed a page concerning honey and bee products for the regional agricultural Council de Var in the publication titled: “Produits des terroirs du Var” (products from the lands of Var) passed out at the Fréjus meeting. Besides hive products, this slick publication discusses the wine, cut flowers, olives, chestnuts and their products, black truffles, goat cheeses, and vegetables produced locally. It lists the special kinds of honeys I have mentioned previously in these chronicles (see letter dated February 22, 1997) and other products beekeepers in the region also produce including black nougat Provençal honey candy, honey spiced bread and hydromel (honey wine or mead).