AIA and AAPA in Orlando, The Speedy Bee, April 1983
The joint meeting of the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) and the recently organized American Association of Professional Apiculturists (AAPA) in Orlando in January was historic from a number of viewpoints. For starters, the first full-time female state apiarist ever to attend one of AIA’s meetings, Judy Carlson of North Dakota, was present. In addition, the formal organization of the AAPA was the first time the United States has patterned a professional organization after the Canadians’ extremely successful Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA).
Finally, closing of the Laramie, Wyoming Bee Laboratory, which the beekeeping industry had fought hard and long to keep open, was announced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Those presently working at the Laramie facility will be transferred to the Tucson, Arizona, Bee Laboratory. It was emphasized that although the laboratory was closing, the vital work on pesticides currently in progress would continue in Tucson under the new directorship of Marshall Levin.
Marion Ellis, Nebraska’s state apiarist, punctuated the importance of history in his presentation reviewing apiary inspection programs in 1982. We cannot, he said understand where we are going without looking at the past. State inspection programs he said, were developed in response to the threat of losses to American foulbrood. However, the future potentially holds a different focus for inspection services as the threats of the Africanized honey bee and exotic bee mites such as Varroa jacobsoni become realities.
LEADERSHIP NEED SEEN
The inspection service cannot afford to go the way of the dinosaurs, Mr. Ellis concluded, and so must retain its flexibility. One way to do this he said, is to work closely with USDA and other organizations like the newly-formed AAPA to come up with creative solutions catalyzed by new problems. Simply put, he stated the bee industry needs leadership and state apiarists should stand ready to provide this all-important function.
According to Mr. Ellis, apiary inspectors should be ready to provide leadership in their own way by beginning to train personnel not only in detecting brood disease, but also in sampling for exotic bee mites and Africanized bee stock. Specific topics brought up as “food for thought” by Mr. Ellis were: (1) possible certification of apiaries as being free of Africanized genes; (2) possible certification of mite-free apiaries; and (3) possible’ testing and certification of levels of nosema in apiaries.
Floyd Hilbig, Nevada’s state apiarist and AIA treasurer, followed Mr. Ellis with sobering thoughts on the possible future funding of state inspection services. Although the beekeeping industry should recognize the continued importance of, and now more than ever, the needed expansion of bee inspection, he said, it seems the political climate is such that funding for such services is very much up in the air. In the past, the general fund of many states has funded bee inspection, but the prevailing attitude continues to be an emphasis on so-called “user fees.” These will probably never cover all the costs of inspection and they, in themselves, cannot realistically be considered the definitive answer to saving bee inspection services. Nevertheless, they are in vogue and so the beekeeping industry and state inspectors must come to grips with the thorny issue of how to assess beekeepers. Some considerations provided by Mr. Hilbig were charging beekeeper licensing fees and or assessing fees on a per colony or per apiary basis. In the final analysis, he concluded, it will have to be the beekeeper who must decide if the value of bee inspection is indeed worth an increase in user fees.
There is one good way to keep legislators and other decision-makers on the side of beekeepers, according to Gene Killion, Illinois state apiarist. That’s through public relations, more often than not punctuated by a jar of honey here and there. Mr. Killion related his experiences in Illinois with the governor and legislators in which he helped convince them of the need to continue bee inspection services. He helped one official, for example, set up a beehives in his backyard; this created a powerful voice in favor of bee inspection ever after. At the Illinois state fair, beekeepers consistently called in top government officials to award prizes in the honey exhibit. During legislative day, they also made sure that each legislator had a sample of quality honey in his/her basket to take home. All of these and many creative ideas should be tried by beekeepers and others, Mr. Killion concluded, for it’s quite surprising how far a small amount of honey and good public relations will go toward benefiting the beekeeping industry.
Jim Bach, Washington’s state apiarist, followed Mr. Killion’s presentation with an update on the survey recently initiated by the Washington State Beekeepers Association. Mr. Bach emphasized that the questionnaire now being sent to selected persons in the industry is only a pre-survey. From the response garnered, a final questionnaire will be compiled and then widely published for maximum response. So far, Mr. Bach said, the limited results of the pre-survey indicated: ( 1 ) most persons affiliated with the beekeeping industry considered it to be afflicted with severe “attitude problems”; (2) the industry lacked knowledge about itself; and (3) in particular beekeepers suffered from generally poor, fragmented leadership. He urged all in attendance to take the survey seriously and cooperate as much as possible in getting the word out to the beekeeping community.
The major thing that’s happening now in Washington, D.C., particularly with respect to USDA, according to Dr. Hachiro Shimanuki of the Bioenvironmental Bee Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., is that the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is reorganizing. With respect to this, he continued, Dr. Marshall Levin is being transferred from Fresno, California to take up directorship of the Tucson, Arizona Bee Laboratory and Dr. Paul Schwartz is no longer involved in beekeeping functions. A new leader in entomology had been appointed, Dr. Robert Jackson, who will now be involved in apicultural affairs.
MORE BASIC RESEARCH
Perhaps altered more significantly, however, will be the future emphasis of apicultural research in ARS. The philosophy has become more one of basic research, focusing on high-risk kinds of studies that the beekeeping industry is not capable of doing. What this means, according to Dr. Shimanuki, is that “brush fire research,” often done by bee labs in the past, will no longer have priority. Instead, this new research philosophy will mean much more basic long-range study, which often may not be in response to beekeeping industry problems. In order to address the various kinds of issues that ARS should address under this new philosophy, the agency is currently conducting a survey of ongoing projects at all bee laboratories to see if they’ might be done either by universities or the beekeeping industry itself.
One note of optimism, Dr. Shimanuki said, is the USDA’s cooperative agreement with the University of Minnesota to fund a one-half time federal extension apiculturist position. Basil Furgala will be responsible for maintaining these duties under the agreement, and he is currently working on a survey of present extension efforts across the nation.
NO MITES FOUND
The survey of mites found on honey bees in the United States is about complete, Dr. Shimanuki said, and no exotic bee mites have been found. Some 4,357 samples, or about 50% of those requested, were returned. It took two persons full time to examine well over one quarter of a million individual bees during the course of the survey. Whether this effort will be continued, Dr. Shimanuki said, is not yet clear; funding for continuance is a big question that still must be resolved. Once the survey is completed, each state apiarist who participated in the survey will receive a report. Based on this report, he/she will be able to certify bees in his/her state as being mite free. The bee mites Varroa jacobsoni and Acarapis woodi are still not in the United States, according to Dr. Shimanuki, but Varroa has recently been reported in both Italy and France. At the present time, Acarapis is still south of the Texas border in Mexico. Another issue still in the fire concerns the chemical, ethylene dibromide (EDB). It’s still undergoing scrutiny by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), he said, and continues to be used by the beekeeping industry, but its final status remains in doubt until so-called “data gaps” can be answered to EPA’ satisfaction.
Finally, Dr. Shimanuki concluded, a new technology for controlling bee disease is on the horizon. It is a high-velocity electron beam, which is effective against the causative organism of American foulbrood. The beam, however, will only penetrate some two inches into honey and so frames in all probability will have to be extracted prior to treatment. The treatment is effective in controlling bacteria in pollen as well. Best of all, it is quite safe and does not call for in dangerous chemical use. In spite of its apparent utility against bet disease, many more tests are re quired, according to Dr. Shimanuki, before the technique can be field tested on a large scale.
NOSEMA: AN ELUSIVE DISEASE
The first day of the Apiary Inspector’s meeting concluded with a panel discussion on nosema disease (Nosema apis). University of Florida data from indicated that in all instances colonies treated with fumagillin increased markedly in productivity. Harry Fulton, Mississippi state apiarist, continued the discussion by relating his experiences with complaints from Europe that queens were arriving with high levels of the disease. This provoked a discussion on the potential of nosema-free certification.
It was recognized, however, that nosema disease is complicated and probably always present in some bees at all times. As such, the concept of “nosema-free” bees was simply not realistic. There was also discussion on testing for the disease; some states do while others don’t. No concensus on nosema certification was reached. The opinion of most inspectors present was that many beekeepers are not treating for nosema simply because it “costs too much,” although there is more-than-adequate evidence that feeding fumagillin is indeed good beekeeping practice.
AFRICANIZED HONEY BEE WORKSHOP
The final day of the Apiary Inspector’s meeting was taken up with in depth discussions on what to do about Africanized honey bees and exotic parasitic bee mites, should they be introduced into the United States. Alan Bolten of the University of Florida began with a comprehensive discussion of the Africanized honey bee. It’s a mistake, according to Mr. Bolten, to map with hard and fast lines the limit of distribution of the bee. That’s because it should be looked at as a set of genetic characters rather than the way many scientists and beekeepers tend to view it — as a discrete entity.
There’s no reason to believe, Mr. Bolten said, that the “objectionable” characters of the Africanized honey bee such as its propensity to abscond or sting will not make their way into the general pool of characters honey bees in the United States presently share in common. Ways to identify the Africanized honey bee are woefully unsatisfactory, particularly when it comes to identifying the insect for control and/or regulatory purposes. At the present time, for example, measurements of bee size are used to determine the difference between Africanized and European bees. The size of individual bees, however, will vary with the size of the cell they are reared in, according to Mr. Bolten, and so size is not necessarily genetically determined. Thus, Africanized bees can also have the larger size frequently only associated with their European cousins. A more rapid reproductive rate by the Africanized honey bee over its European cousin is also not upheld by Mr. Bolten’s experiments, conducted in northern Venezuela. Predictions of comparative biology are simply impossible when populations are studied under differing conditions, he contended. In contrast to other published data, Mr. Bolten’s results suggested no difference in swarming rate between European and Africanized bees, when kept in the same-size hive and in the same apiary. In addition, his data showed no significant difference in development time, maturing rate of queens, egg laying by queens or brood buildup between the two populations he studied in Venezuela. The explanation for the Africanized honey bee’s rapid spread throughout South America is not rapid reproduction, according to Mr. Bolter, but survivability. The Africanizecl honey bee is simply better equipped to take advantage of the unpredictable, sparse and widely spread nectar flows characteristic of the region.
Turning from the biology of the Africanized honey bee, Mr. Bolten proceeded to a discussion of some of the controversy now raging concerning this insect’s effect on beekeepers, honey production and the general public. Most of the statements suggesting the Africanized honey bee is not a problem originate in Brazil, he said, which has had well over twenty years to deal with the bee. Brazil has also increased its production of citrus greatly during the last decade or so. With increases in acreage of a superior nectar crop and better-educated beekevers, you’d expect honey production to go up no matter what bee the Brazilians might be using. Looking at Venezuela since the arrival of the Africanized honey bee, however, one gets a totally different picture, Mr. Bolten concluded. That country’s honey production dropped from over 12 million pounds in 1976 to less than two million pounds in 1981.
PUBLIC RESPONSE FEARED
Finally, Mr. Bolten stated that the real problems of Africanized honey bees in the United States will probably not be with honey production or bee management. Instead they will manifest themselves as public outcry against beekeeping of any kind. Possible problems for regulatory folks, he said, will be the logistics of hive inspection, certification of Africanized gene-free stock and the large number of feral colonies that possibly will serve as disease reservoirs. In terms of pollination, he concluded, it could be that natural pollinating populations will be displaced by the Africanized honey bee and that commercial pollinators using honey bees will have to adapt their management to take into consideration feral populations of Africanized bees.
Tom Rinderer of the USDA Bee Laboratory in Baton Rouge, La., echoed Mr. Bo ‘s discussion with additional specific facts concerning the Africanized honey bee. Dr. Rinderer and a team of scientists are currently setting up a new bee investigation station in Venezuela and his observations and experimental results indicate why honey production has fallen off. One obvious fact is that many beekeepers have been unable to adapt to the new bee management demanded by the Africanized honey bee and so have gone out of business.
Research data, according to Dr. Rinderer, indicated that nectar loads are smaller in Africanized honey bees than in Europeans under good nectar flow conditions, but the Africanized bee gathered more nectar during light or marginal honey flows. Therefore, Africanized honey bees were not as demanding of nectar flow conditions as were Europeans and so performed better on the average per bee under marginal conditions, but didn’t make huge crops when nectar conditions were ideal. In addition, large populations of feral Africanized colonies had a tendency to “dry up” nectar sources.
SMALLER U.S. CROPS SEEN
What this means for the United States in all probability, according to Dr. Hinderer, is that Africanized honey bees under good flow conditions will probably develop more swarms and collect a small honey crop and that in areas of large feral populations of Africanized honey bees, nectar sources are liable to dry up. In addition, stinging incidents will make liability insurance a necessity, bee locations more difficult to find and labor costs increase. The bottom line, says Dr. Rinderer is substantially increased production costs. He also agreed with Mr. Bolten that current identification procedures are not usable for inspection and stock certification.
Dr. Orley Taylor of the University of Kansas was then given the floor to discuss research data he’s collected fn Africanized bees. His studies indicate that islands of European drones exist within a sea of Africanized ones and that as european queens fly further from their own apiary, the chances of finding European drones are less. Both European crones and queens fly earlier than their African cousins, further potentially isolating both populations. The inevitable consequence is that most European queens outcross and finally a population results of almost pure African stock.
Dr. Taylor would call the bees “African,” rather than “Africanized” because the hybridization, he said, is only one way — toward Africanization. He also discussed recent study by Dr. Warwick Kerr in Brazil that showed lines of saturation of Africanized bees and of permanent colonization. According to this data, Dr. Taylor predicted that permanent colonization of Africanized bees should occur in southeast Georgia, all of Florida, and the southern parts of Texas, Louisiana, Arizona and California. He disagreed somewhat with the concepts of Mr. Bolten and there was discussion as to whether in fact certain genetic characters would, in fact, make their way into this country’s European bee gene pool.
Following discussions about the Africanized honey bee, a set of position papers concerning introduction of either the Africanized honey bee or exotic bee mites such as Varroa jacobsoni or Acarapis woodi were presented by members of a panel moderated by Dr. Shimanuki. Phil Lima presented the position of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). According to Mr. Lima, it is ready to impose a quarantine in the case of the Africanized honey bee and will attempt to medicate an incipient infestation. In addition, APHIS will take a role in regulating and stockpiling chemicals which might be used to control the bee. APHIS, however, will not idemnify beekeepers for bees destroyed in attempts to control the Africanized bee. APHIS at present has no specific plans on quarantine, but it does have a plan of action which will be set forth in a meeting of bee industry leaders later this year. In addition, APHIS is formulating possible plans to stop the natural spread of the bee from Central America and Mexico into the United States. The position of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), according to J.B. Grant, is to urge USDA to monitor movement of and expand research on Africanized honey bees at the Baton Rouge Bee Laboratory. The 1982 agricultural appropriations act, for example, said Dr. Grant, calls for $513,000 in expanded funding, but a potential freeze on these funds is possible at any moment. Discussion followed that often the full amount appropriated never reaches the agency to be funded so that even if the money is available the face value is illusionary.
Dr. Grant also suggested the Africanized honey bee situation is similar to that of African swine fever and definite potential exists for the same efforts to be expended on the bee. Additionally, Dr. Grant said, that if the Africanized honey bee is considered a plant pest, the Interstate Plant Pest Control Compact can be invoked. In any case, concluded Dr. Grant, funding will probably not be a problem when the bee arrives because there won’t be a whole lot of choice if the problems fit the “worst case” situations many have projected.
The position of the American Association of Professional Apiculturists (AAPA) was then discussed by Dr. Furgala. Later the resolutions of AAPA on Africanized honey bees, bee mites and needed educational programs to deal with these problems were formally presented to the Apiary Inspectors to be considered in their resolutions. Briefly, AAPA’s resolutions suggested broad guidelines for monitoring movement of both Africanized honey bees and bee mites in Central America and for establishing quarantines should incipient infestations be discovered. In addition, AAPA suggested that at least one full-time extension apiculturist and one full-time research apiculturist per state were warranted based on the potential threats both the Africanized bee and mites posed to the beekeeping industry.
CANADA PLANS READY
The position of the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA) was then read by Manitoba Provincial Apiarist Don Dixon. It was more geared toward bee mites than the Africanized honey bee, but most provisions could apply to both with little modification. Briefly, CAPA will continue to review Canada’s bee regulations, now permitting only importation from the United States and New Zealand; will ensure each province has the capacity to act, by reviewing and tightening up appropriate legislation; will conduct an in-depth literature review on the mite; will establish lines of communication and authority so it will be known well in advance who’s to do what and when; will establish contingency plans should the mite be discovered to (a) confirm identification, (b) quarantine the site and establish an isolation area based on location, (c) prohibit movement of bees and equipment in and out of the area, and (d) destroy all bees in the area. If mites are found in the United States, Canada’s response will depend on that of the United States, for Canada is dependent on the United States to the tune of 200,000 packages each year which collectively represent some 50 percent of Canadian honey production. Finally, Dr. Dixon concluded, CAPA will continue to actively publicize the danger of importing bees illegally into Canada and will encourage the establishment of a contingency fund to send a delegation to the United States, if mites should be introduced.
Frank Robinson, secretary of the American Beekeeping Federation, then provided a position statement from that organization. Although the full membership was not polled, Professor Robinson did bring back the thoughts of many industry people about contingency plans should either mites or Africanized honey bees be found in the United States. Most persons he said would endorse a quarantine, but only with an indemnity provision. He also said that the time was ripe to “disassociate” our bees from the “bad” bees which get all the adverse press and to discourage careless publication about the beekeeping industry’s problems. Finally, Mr. Robinson suggested that an information flow model is a badly-needed first step in making contingency plans so that everything is confirmed down the line before being released to press people or others in the industry.
The rest of the day was devoted to a “straw vote” based on a Questionnaire sent out by I. Barton Smith, Maryland’s state apiarist. Most of those polled agreed that incipient infestations of both Africanized honey bees and bee mites should be destroyed. However, there was a lot of discussion and not much concensus on details of quarantine. Most agreed, however, that the exercise was worthwhile and that the information better prepared those in attendance to go home and present to their colleagues, bosses and beekeepers a better picture of the options that might be taken by the beekeeping industry, USDA and APHIS, who ultimately must make the hard decisions if and when either of these pests finds its way in-to the United States.
The final day of the AIA meeting was taken up with the business meeting and reading and voting on resolutions. All in all the hosts of this year’s AIA meeting, Florida Chief Apiarist Jim Herndon and his capable staff, should be given a hearty round of applause for their substantial efforts in making it a memorable as well as historical event. This reporter will not soon forget the barbeque consisting of steamed white corn on the cob (at the end of January!) and choice of chicken or ribs. Nor will the entertainment of the evening, a “wailing” Pat Powers on his harmonica, be put aside lightly. It will be a tough act to follow I’m sure when the inspectors get together next year in Tucson, Ariz. But if you get a chance to join the doings in the desert, don’t pass it up.
Post Script: The great majority of the plans discussed above were never implemented. The tracheal mite, Acarapis woodi, first apppeared in south Texas and was quickly found in the Florida panhandle (1984), with significant but localized losses. No large-scale eradication efforts were launched. Fairly quickly beekeepers learned to treat the mites and resistant honey bees appeared to emerge quickly so that at present these mites are no longer considered a major beekeeping distraction.
Varroa jacobsoni, now called Varroa destructor, was found in both Florida and Wisconsin at approximately the same time (1987). There was simply no time to mount any eradication or even localized control measures as the mite quickly became omnipresent across the U.S. It still is a major distraction for beekeepers and responsible for many colony deaths, and considered by many the principal cause of a rather new condition called “colony collapse disorder” or CCD.
Most recent information on the Africanized honey bee in the U.S. is that many of the above predictions were too extreme. When it was detected on the Texas border (1990), no wide-spread actions were taken by authorities. Dr. Taylor’s research continued looking at patterns in Northern Mexico. The problems associated with these bees have precipitated some behavioral changes in the bee population, but in general beekeepers and the public have not been extensively affected as originally thought. Beekeepers have learned to recognize the behavioral differences between European and Africanized honey bees (principally defensive behavior) and have aggressively culled those populations, which might cause problems.
The range of the Africanized honey bee has expanded from south Texas westward to southern California. Major feral populations exist in southern Arizona and New Mexico. It is confined to south Florida in the eastern United States, thought to be a separate population, perhaps the result of numerous swarms arriving aboard ships from latin american countries. Beekeepers have learned to distinguish between European and Africanized populations and ruthlessly have eliminated colonies with “questionable” defensive behavior. They have taken to heart on south Texas beekeeper who urges that everyone simply “say no to keeping Africanized honey bees.”
With the appearance of the the mites, Canada closed its border to the U.S., which effectively killed the lucrative package honey bee trade that previously existed. This has also hardened with arrival of the Africanized honey bee. The border is not expected to be open again in the near future as it was before the arrival of mites.
A new variant of Nosema was detected in 2006. Nosema ceranae has now replaced its Nosema apis cousin almost entirely. It has a different etiology and is still not completely understood by scientists and beekeepers alike.
Bee inspection continues to be a patchwork of efforts based on individual state funding and efforts. Perhaps the most comprehensive is that found in Florida at the present time.