The mysterious disappearance of bees, called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), is a growing threat to Honey Bees, the mainstay of pollination services in agriculture. The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC), a tri-national coalition dedicated to promoting the health of all pollinators partners with different organizations to perform research for improving the health of honey bees and reversing the threats they face. The Honey Bee Health Improvement Project focuses on ways to help Honey Bees and beekeepers. In the absence of Colony Collapse Disorder, this task force will seek out and secure funding for innovative and important work to understand and promote genetic stock improvements, understand and promote best management practices for commercial beekeeping, and promote forage opportunities for colonies on public and private land.
We are now accepting proposals for the 2017 grant cycle. Click here to download the RFP.
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Effects of Phytochemicals on longevity and pathogen resistance in honeybees
Changing perspectives: How pollinator community context influences honey bee virus prevalence
Testing the effects of nicotine, a natural plant metabolite found in nectar, on honey bee nosemosis
Focused virological analysis of the Arnot Forest survivor bee population for evidence of protective Deformed Wing Virus genotypes
Development of novel Nosema infection assays for diagnostics
Investigating a new way to combat viruses with RNA-targeting biotechnology in Apis mellifera
Do bees self-medicate? An examination of the impacts of xenobiotics on anti-viral defenses in honeybees
Do viruses manipulate honey bee behavior in ways that increase their transmission?
Assessing the impact of pesticides on honey bee health using a network of controlled, experimental hives
Investigating the effects of fumagillin and other common in-hive xenobiotics on immune function in honey bees
Sublethal effects of neonicotinoids (imidacloprid) on embryogenesis, hygienic behavior and grooming of worker honey bees
Elucidating the effects of real world pesticide load and diet variety on honey bee health
Exposure of honey bees to neonicotinoids in corn guttation fluid
The effect of nutritional stress on the foraging and recruitment activity of honey bee workers
How Do Drought Stress Related Alterations to Floral Traits and Reward Profiles in Canola Influence Honeybee Foraging and Colony Health?
Assessing the role of environmental conditions on efficacy rates of entomopathogenic nematodes for controlling small hive beetles in honey bee hives - a citizen science approach
The effects of pollen diversity on bumble bee health in an agricultural environment
Impacts of nectar compounds on honey bee gut microbes and disease
Identification of IAPV targets in honey bee (Apis mellifera)
Crop pollinator diversity and abundance in relation to floral resources and forest cover in the landscape
Activating honey bee immunity against Nosema disease: a pilot experiment
Sustainable approaches to improving honey bee disease: a pilot experiment
Behavioral responses of honey bees, Apis mellifera, to neonicotinoid insecticides
Plant-pollinator interactions across a disturbance gradient
Stimulating propolis collection to benefit honey bee health and immunity
The goals of this research are to explore ways for beekeepers to encourage honey bee colonies to deposit a propolis envelope within standard beekeeping equipment, and to quantify the benefit of this natural propolis envelope to colony health and immune system functioning, particularly in early spring in northern climates. If a heavy propolis envelope is a vital component to a healthy bee colony, we can modify the equipment currently used for beekeepers and beekeeping practices nationwide. Such modifications will encourage the bees' natural construction of a necessary antimicrobial protective envelope in the nest cavity. A long-term outcome of this research is to promote honey bee health, which will directly support local, regional and national beekeepers by having stronger colonies to produce more honey.
Honey hydrogen peroxide: diet effects and use as a colony stress indicator
It has been known for a half---century that honey bees add hydrogen peroxide (H202) to honey and that H202 has a strong antibacterial effect arising from the oxygen free radicals that it produces. While this mechanism in its role as a preservative food stores is well understood, it is also known that all organisms are to some degree susceptible to oxygen free radical damage. In this project we built from previously collected pilot data to explore the potential that honey H202 production may comprise a generalized colony defense mechanism, beyond its role as a honey preservative. Our project had two specific aims: 1) Investigate the effects of supplemental sugar feeding on honey H202, with a particular emphasis on supporting H202 production 2) Investigate the potential for using honey H202 as an early---warning indicator of colony stress.
Comparative analysis of honey bee survival and immune response to co- infections of IAPV and N. ceranae using quantitative mass spectrometry based proteomics
Using proteomic tools, our research was aimed at understanding honey bee immune responses to both fungal and viral pathogens in an effort to develop novel integrated pest management based tools including RNAi based gene silencing treatment systems as an alternative to antibiotics for the control of honey bee pathogens. Specifically, we aimed to evaluate survival and host immune response in honey bees infected with Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) and Nosema ceranae, both singly and in combination. Our overall goals of the project are to:
Symbiont mediated pathogen protection
This project has three ongoing components that are focused on the bacterial gut symbionts (probiotics) interaction with their honey bee host and the fungal pathogens that are known to cause chalkbrood and stonebrood disease. We test for the:
Effects of pesticides on honey bee behavior, physiology and/or colony health
Quantifying routes of exposure of honeybees to neo-nicotinoid seed treatments of corn.
The development of diagnostics or indicators for the presence of stressors that effect honey bee health, particularly those that can be used by beekeepers
Forager Energetic Stress as a Casual Mechanism for the Depopulation of Honeybee ColoniesClick here to learn more
Development of methods to improve genetic stocks of managed honey bee populations
Genetic evaluation of a survivor stock in the northeastern United States: the honey bees of the Arnot Forest
Effects of climate or environmental variables on: a) plants, especially nectar and pollen quantity and quality; and/or b) honey bee physiology and/or colony health
Assessing floral resources availability in the tropical dry forest and agricultural sites of the Pacific Coast of Jalisco, Mexico to promote honey bee colony maintenance and health.
Sublethal Doses of the Pesticide Imidacloprid Alters Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Response Threshold and Optic Flow, Potentially Affecting Colony Health
Much attention on honey bee declines has focused on the sublethal effects the pesticide, imidaclorpid, has on honey bee behavior. How it affects individual foragers and their ability to navigate to communicated food sources or their preferences for nectar is unknown. Using tunnels to provide optic flow, preliminary data suggest that bees treated with sublethal doses of imidacloprid travel shorter distances than control bees to a trained location. We also use the proboscis extension reflex (PER) assay to test an individual’s response threshold. Bees treated with the pesticide have higher response thresholds and respond less often to high concentrations of sucrose than control bees. The navigational inefficiency and increased preference for sweeter sucrose concentrations may contribute to a colony’s decline.
A Survey of Water sources used by honey bees for imidacloprid contamination
Imidacloprid (IMI), a neonicotinoid pesticide, is water soluble and has had sub-lethal effects on honey bees. The intent in this study was to determine the presence of IMI in water sources frequented by honey bees across the state of Maryland. Rural, suburban, and urban sites were chosen for sampling and IMI was found in 9 samples at a range of 7 -131 ppb in a total of 108 samples. Thirteen other samples gave results at the threshold of detection (0.2-.3ppb). Positive samples accounted for 19 % of all samples. Water sampling occurred on Jun 1-2, 2010 and ELISA results were available in Sept 2010 .The decision was made to resample positive samples on Oct 15-18, 2010 and to assay them by GC/MS as a comparison of methodology and time lapse in IMI concentrations. The results of the October samples (analysis completed on Nov 20, 2010) generally showed smaller concentrations, perhaps due to degradation of IMI in the environment or a cleansing by environmental circumstance (rain, snow). Notably, some samples that had shown no detection in June showed positive detection of IMI in October suggesting that concentrations of IMI in water sources may shift as water shifts or as weather, the environment, or human interactions change circumstances. In conclusion, this study showed that imidacloprid is present in 19% of water sources frequented by honey bees and the levels of imidacloprid shift with time presumably due to changes from weather, environment, degradation, and human interaction.
Evaluating effects of pollen quality on honey bee physiology, colony growth and behavior
In the wake of deteriorating honey bee health, bee nutrition has attained greater importance than ever. Loss of habitat and large monocultures have restricted the diet of honey bee. Specific objectives of this proposal were 1) to evaluate and compare the effects of single source pollen consumption versus mixed source pollen consumption on hypopharyngeal gland protein content, bee mass, lipid content, colony growth, immunocompetence and learning behavior in the honey bee and 2) to design a field test to assess the nutritional status of honey bee colonies in the field. Nurse bee hypopharyngeal gland protein content and colony growth in single-source pollen treatments were significantly low compared to multi-source pollen treatments (P < 0.01 and P < 0.05 respectively). Single-source pollen (SSP) treatments had significantly lower phenoloxidase and prophenoloxidase activity when compared to multiple-source pollen (MSP) treatments (P <0.001). BSA visual standard for the four trea tments (no protein, 10% protein, 20% protein and 40% protein) was developed. We plan to compare the protein contents of field samples to this established standard.
Development of novel Varroa mite control methods from attractant and arrestants isolated from brood host volatiles
One approach for the control of Varroa mite is the identification of semiochemicals (signaling chemicals) that the mite uses to find its hosts. During cell invasion, a female mite detects and moves into the cell of an older bee larva just before capping. Two volatiles named CA and CB characterized from older capping larvae were previously shown to act as excitants and arrestants to female mites in bioassays. We have begun to investigate other brood volatiles to determine if these chemicals affect mite behavior, either individually or as synergists with CA and CB, using an EthoVision behavioral analysis system to analyze mite bioassay responses. One volatile specifically associated with non-host larvae, termed CC, acts as a repellent to mites at high concentrations. The limited responsiveness of mites to these volatiles at lower concentrations suggests that these three compounds could affect mite behavior at contact or near-contact distances. We will continue our efforts to develop CA and other signaling chemicals as flooding agents (to disrupt mite chemical communication) or as trap lures to control mites in the hive environment.
Selection of honey bees for resistance to Nosema ceranae
N. ceranae is a widespread fungal parasite in beekeeping operations throughout North America. We surveyed the possibility of genetic resistance in ten commercial sources from a wide array of geographic and genetic origins. Queens from the ten sources were introduced into colonies kept in an infected apiary that received no treatment. Surviving colonies with original queens were sampled monthly from May 2010 to April 2011. Overall average infections through samplings for one year were moderately high (about 1 million N. ceranae per bee) but did not differ between sources. Infections in colonies from the same source varied greatly at each sampling time. Also, infection in most colonies fluctuated widely through time. A small proportion of the surviving colonies have been identified as having relatively low or high infections. Their workers will be tested in standardized, laboratory cage tests for responses when fed spores of N. ceranae. This research is part of a larger project at our laboratory using different approaches to find genetic resistance to this parasite.
Food and fungi: The combined effects of food supplementation and Varroa mite control on honey bee health
The effects of pesticides on immature honey bee (Apis mellifera) development
Genes over expressed in Varroa resistant honey bee strains: a novel tool to identify and select enhanced Varroa resistant honey bees
Designing a field test to estimate the nutritional status of honey bee colonies in the field and evaluating effects of pollen quality on honey bee physiology and behavior
The benefits of Propolis to the immune system of honey bees: do bees self-medicate?
Sublethal effects of pesticide combinations on honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) larval development and adult associative learning
Health effects of Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) on native pollinators
Effects of miticide and Fumagilin-B® on honey bee survivorship and immune responses
Western honey bees (Apis mellifera) are exposed to a number of parasites. Varroa destructor, Nosema apis, and N. ceranae have particularly detrimental effects on colony productivity and survival. We will measure honey bee immune responses to infection by each of these three species of parasites and the effects of co-infection. We will then compare the results of infection with the effects of miticide and Fumagilin-B® use on honey bee physiology. Quantification of immune trade-offs which occur during infection by multiple parasites and the effects of standard chemical treatments may enable us to determine infection threshold levels for effective use of chemical treatments, thereby reducing the risk of chemical resistance developing in either Varroa or Nosema. We will also determine if immune protein concentrations resulting from parasitic infection are predictive of honey bee survival, potentially leading to a means of assessing mortality risk during preparations for over-wintering honey bee colonies (see below pictures).
Assessment of sublethal effects of Imidacloprid on honey bee and colony health
While the extent and causes of CCD are unknown, many believe that honey bees have reached a tipping point wherein the colony can no longer protect itself from a barrage of problems. The CCD Working Group developed an action plan of research that addresses four categories of factors that impact bee and colony health: 1) new or re-emerging pathogens; 2) bee pests; 3) environmental and nutritional stresses; and 4) pesticides. This project will address the latter category and examine the sublethal effects of pesticides, which is one of the priority areas identified by the HBHI Task Force for funding.
Nutritional effects on intestinal health and longevity of honey bee workers
This research project seeks to identify the effects of diet quality and malnutrition on the health of the honey bee worker intestine, as assessed by the activity of their intestinal stem cells. The intestinal epithelium is crucial to organismal health and it is one of the most exposed tissues in the animal body. Its cells are continuously replaced in a wide variety of organisms (Finch and Kirkwood 2000).
Although early reports on proliferative cells in the intestine of insects exist (Snodgrass 1956), these cells have only recently been characterized as bona-fide stem cells in adults through molecular analyses in Drosophila (Micchelli and Perrimon 2006; Ohlstein and Spradling 2006). A certain level of cell proliferation is necessary to maintain a functional intestine, even in the adult insect. Thus, the activity of these cells has been linked to insect growth (Hakim et al. 2007) and they are responsive to toxin exposure (Loeb et al. 2001; Gregorc et al. 2004). Furthermore, their rate of cell proliferation is positively correlated with food quality (Zudaire et al. 2004). Thus, the proliferative activity of intestinal stem cells may be an indicator of malnutrition with direct relevance to bee health.
Diagnostic gene panel for honey bee breeding and disease management
Honey bees face numerous challenges, from nutritional stress to dedicated parasites and pathogens. A long-term goal of bee research is to develop and maintain honey bee lines that are resistant to disease, and that thrive with a minimum of chemical treatment of disease agents. New molecular-genetic tools can aid research on breedable traits, and, ultimately, these tools could be used directly by commercial bee breeders or others in the private sector. Beekeepers also rely on disease indicators and established thresholds while making management decisions. Such decisions could also be helped by genetic indicators for pests and for bee health.
This gene panel would differ from previous entries into disease forensics (e.g., Evans, 2006) by including only the most informative markers, alongside reportable diseases found in bee colonies. In so doing, the panel can be cheaply applied to bee problems, and can also be ‘exported’ to future technologies for bee diagnostics and genetic research.
The benefits of propolis to the immune system of honey bees
We have initiated a comprehensive line of research in my lab on the benefits of propolis collection to the immune system of honey bees. Propolis is a resin secreted by some plants that honey bees collect and deposit in the nest. Propolis has important antimicrobial value to humans, but its value to the bees is not known. Here I am requesting funds to test if colonies selectively bred for high- and low-propolis collection differ in immune-related gene transcript levels. The applied goals of this research are to promote the natural immune defenses of honey bees and to promote the human use of propolis as an antimicrobial value-added product from the beehive.
Enabling genetic selection for resistance to viral pathogens: Developing a rapid and inexpensive cytometric method for screening honey bees for viral resistance
Preliminary evidence suggests that honey bee strains are more resistant to IAPV than honey bee lines from other sources. We propose to use quantitative PCR, flow cytometry and direct monitoring of colony health to rapidly compare changes in blood cells number, pathogen titre and colony level response. We hypothesize that it will be possible to use flow cytometry to distinguish resistant bees from susceptible bees and evaluate the efficacy or extent of immune response to viral infection. If we are correct, then the results of the flow cytometry experiments could be used (in the place of more time consuming and expensive field trials) to quickly assess the presence or absence of viral resistance in aid of breeding programs to develop or propagate virus resistant honey bees. Perhaps more importantly, flow cytometry should reveal whether differential immune responses correlate with virus resistant phenotypes, offering clues to some mechanisms of viral resistance.PODCAST: Click here to hear an recent update of Johnston's HBH Project
Changes in hormonal and protein levels in honey bees that are experiencing migratory transportation
Aside from pesticides, perhaps the strongest stress honey bees experience comes from long distance transportation, commonly used for pollination purposes. For example, bees can transported from Maine to California, across four different time zones. No studies have ever been conducted to determine the physiological or behavioral changes induced by such stress. In this study, I propose to piggyback with Dr. Jeff Pettis’s group to obtain data on physiological changes in honey bees that are experiencing migratory transportation. The objectives of this study is to 1) measure changes in juvenile hormones in bees that are being transported from Florida to California, and 2) determine the protein nutrition of the same bees. Proper control will be obtained from bees which are staying in Florida.
Update from 5/19/08: We are currently measuring the hormone levels in groups of bees in Bakersfield, CA and Boston, GA. We still have to thaw the bees and bleed them for the CA samples. We might do a third trial if we see something interesting.
This program is supported by USDA APHIS who works to protect honey bees, managed bumble bees and other managed pollinators, and native pollinators, by conducting research, surveys of pathogens and diseases, and regulatory oversight of pollinator imports and interregional movements. APHIS is a multi-faceted agency with a broad mission area that includes protecting and promoting U.S. agricultural health, regulating genetically engineered organisms, administering the Animal Welfare Act and carrying out wildlife damage management activities.