Beekeeping News and Notes

American Foul Brood Vaccine?

In December 2018, the first-ever vaccine for honey bee diseases! What if you could buy a queen who had received a "vaccination" to American Foul Brood -- or maybe another microbial disease -- and she could pass that trait to an entire colony? In 2015, Dr. Dalial Freitak was part of a team of scientists who proved that bees could achieve and pass on immunity, even though they do not possess antibodies, the building blocks upon which vertebrate vaccinations are based.

Dr. Freitak has now formed "PrimeBEE" to begin the years-long process of bringing a vaccine to market, so you won't be able to buy immunity for your bees very soon. Even further down the road? The possibility of vaccines against Varroa-vectored viruses.

Want to Winter Bees? Colony Size Drives Survival More Than Local Adaptation in US

A Penn State research team led by Dr. Mehmet Ali Döke has found that relying on locally adapted stocks has less influence on overwintering success than bringing a populous colony into the cold. For colonies in which the combined weight of adult bees, brood, and food stores exceeded 30 kilograms, overwinter survival rates were about 94 percent.

"Our results suggest that 1) honey bees may use similar strategies to cope with environmental conditions in both southern and northern regions, 2) colonies must reach a population size threshold to survive adverse conditions (an example of the Allee effect), and 3) landscape nutrition is a key component to colony survival."

Could Royal Jelly Point to a Cure for Alzheimer's?

[from The Guardian] In December 2018, researchers at Stanford University found that the main active component in royal jelly, a protein called royalactin, activates a network of genes that bolsters the ability of stem cells to renew themselves. It means that, with royalactin, an organism can produce more stem cells to build and repair itself.

The scientists wondered whether a protein similar to the honeybees’ royalactin may be active in humans. After searching scientific databases, they found one that bore a similar structure, which they have named the regina protein. The protein is active in the earliest stages of human embryo development, when it is thought to build up the embryo’s supply of stem cells.

Like many other types of honey bee research, the study revealed how structures and behaviors used by humanity's only insect partner are mirrored across a wide range of species and settings, from neuroscience to human fertility to Internet server provisioning.

Varroa Destructor in Paradise: Mite Vectored Viruses Found in Hawaiian Non-Apis Species

Entomologists believe that Varroa mites did not reach Hawaii's honey bee populations until 2007-8, but mite vectored viruses have made up for lost time. It appears that a few, especially virulent strains of Deformed Wing Virus have been favored in the process, spilling into the western yellowjacket population, a honeybee predator and honey raider.. Erin E. Wilson Rankin, an assistant professor of entomology and lead investigator of the study published Jan. 9 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. "We do not know what the effects of these strains will be. What we know is that the effects of the varroa mite have cascaded through entire communities in Hawaii and probably around the world."
Around the world, Varroa vectored viruses have been found in bumblebees and other non-managed species: the western Yellowjacket had not previously been seen to carry pathogens. Kevin J. Loope, the research paper's first author, says "These findings suggest we should look more broadly and in greater detail to figure out how moving domesticated bees for agriculture may influence wild populations of insects."

Let There Be(e) Fungus Among Us

Dr. Steve Sheppard at Washington State University has found another promising tool that may promote honey bee health. A mushroom extract fed to honey bees greatly reduces virus levels, according to a new paper from Washington State University scientists, the USDA and colleagues at Fungi Perfecti, a business based in Olympia, Washington.

“Our greatest hope is that these extracts have such an impact on viruses that they may help varroa mites become an annoyance for bees, rather than causing huge devastation,” said Steve Sheppard, a WSU entomology professor and one of the paper’s authors. “We’re excited to see where this research leads us. Time is running out for bee populations and the safety and security of the world’s food supply hinges on our ability to find means to improve pollinator health.”