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Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 | Author:

Kim Flottum found out for us (thaaaaaank youuu!)


A year ago USDA CSREES (Cooperative State Research Extension Education Service) awarded a $4.1 million grant to a group of university researchers for the express purpose of solving the current honey bee health problems confronting the beekeeping industry. Without actually nailing it down, this was a project to look into the current Colony Collapse Disorder malady and, over four years, find out what was going on. But at the same time the grant was to fund an extensive education program for beekeepers, and to develop as much information as possible so beekeepers could keep their bees healthy, and had a place to go for questions … and answers. Moreover, 25% of the funds were to go to study non-apis pollinators, such as bumble bees, alfalfa leaf-cutting bees and the like. To date, this is the only government money to be distributed to beekeeping researchers to study this problem other than normal budgetary funds to keep the USDA projects up and running.

So what’s happened in a year? I’m glad you asked, because I wanted to know too. So I ventured to the University of Georgia in Athens to visit with Dr. Keith Delaplane, the leader of this large and varied group studying this large and varied problem.


In this first year each of the cooperators in the program have hired the people they need to work with or brought on board the grad students who will do the work or the post-doc who will assist in the project. Probably the biggest accomplishment so far, said Dr. Delaplane, is the establishment of the seven stationary apiaries to monitor honey bee health and the environment. These apiaries, consisting of 30 colonies each, are in Maine, Florida, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Texas, Washington and California. Each is administered by one of the researchers and will be managed using the techniques particular to their respective locations … bees in Minnesota are not managed on the same calendar or with the same methods as those bees in Texas, for instance. But each area does have best management practices that reflect these differences, and those will be followed.

However, one constant is that each colony in each of these apiaries will be sampled once a month for the duration of the study to look at what’s going on inside. Samples of bees, honey and wax will be taken, and measurements of bees and brood will all be taken routinely. The samples will go to a lab at Penn State to look for viruses and nosema disease, to the University of Minnesota to count nosema spores, and to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station to look at the pollen and wax samples for residues of agricultural pesticides. At the same time, USDA scientists will be taking identical samples, and doing identical counts from a series of migratory beekeeping operations. Samples and data will be identical from each apiary and each migratory operation, and at the end the mountain of data will be easily comparable and very useful, said Delaplane.

Because this grant also covers non-apis bees (that is, bees that are not honey bees) identical samples will be taken from managed non-apis bees at each of the apiary sites. Scientists are looking for cross infections or other relationships.

Other non-apis projects include looking at increasing the efficiency and reducing the stress of managed bumblebees when used for pollination. The effects of the neonicitinoid pesticides on non-apis bees are also being studied, and especially the sub-lethal effects and any effects from residues. This should be interesting.

Meanwhile, the Extension and Education part of this has moved right along, and in July the USDA is launching its eXtension.org website. It is to be a one-stop shopping experience for agricultural information. The honey bee health section is housed and administered from the University of Kentucky in Lexington. All of the information that goes on this web page, the bee page included, is well-researched and well-refereed work, with oversight by a large team of honey bee scientists. There will be a Frequently Asked Questions section, an Ask The Expert question, Best Management Guides section and more. All coming from the Bee Health Community group. This effort will be federally supported, but all states will contribute with funds from their individual extension budgets. This will, over time I imagine, erode the personnel in each state’s Extension core. Unfortunate, but at least there won’t be a vacuum left behind.

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009 | Author:

British Govt Attempts National Beekeeper DatabaseNational Bee Database to be set up to monitor colony collapse

By Rosa Prince, Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 10:16PM GMT 09 Mar 2009

Britain’s 20,000 amateur beekeepers have been asked to register their insects on a national database in a bid to halt the dramatic decline of the honey bee…

The register, funded by the Department for the Environment, will be used to monitor health trends and help establish for certain whether the £30 million honey industry is under threat from the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder.

Theories about the cause of the decline in the bee population, which has seen nearly one in three hives collapse, include climate change and an infestation by the Varroa mite. READ REST at the Telegraph…

My Questions:

  1. Would beekeepers in the u.S.A ever voluntarily join a national database managed by the U.S. Federal Government?
  2. What does £4.3 million really buy??
  3. Does registering with a government database include creating a GIS from this database? Who owns the data? Since it should be public data, will the database be available in real-time on the Internet for other researchers to use?
  4. Making the data publicly available opens the research potential, but at what costs to the beekeeper’s privacy? How much data are they “invited” to submit to the database?
  5. Don’t privacy concerns about “a beek’s girls” and business interests get trumped by the dire consequences of failing to understand what’s happening worldwide?
  6. Will joining such a database subject the beekeeper to new regulation, oversight and intrusion by (presumably inept) government controllers?

The UK will provide lessons to the North Americans who still can’t get a dime from their government to do real research on the bees. I’m talking federal money for thousands of GPS tagged hives like the rest of the modern world uses to track anything. Basic logic says we need to know where (commercial) hives are going to analyze the data about what they were exposed to, for how long, with which other bees, from where (Australia?), etc. We need data for a GIS, and it can’t be chicken scratched on plastic bags with sharpies, only (dead bees). In the U.S., it seems that the privatized mind thinks that research money should only come from private interests, like Haagan Daaz or the Almond Industry, or the military. Does this opinion come from a jaded viewpoint that federal funding means loss of control and more potential suffocating regulation, a lack of trust in government?

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009 | Author:

SavethehivesIt’s been almost a year since I began my CCD Mapping website, which has yet to launch… Nice to get motivated by another fantastic mapping project, the Feral Bee Project, “a site focused on creating a national database of feral honey bee populations.” Ronnie Bouchon built the site himself from the ground up using Google’s API and Google spreadsheets. Hat’s off to this committed human being! Some people in my beekeeping club actually thought it was a bad idea to map feral colonies, out of some fear that people would go mess with them now that they knew where there were. Overprotective bee lovers?

The possibilities of using the Feral Bee Project’s data to build heat maps and do other analysis excites me to get my participatory CCD mapping site off the ground. As Ronnie has done, I am ever-evaluating the mapping technologies and Google’s tools are tempting. I like the benefits of his site design: no “user log-in” or “registration” to thwart the average nature-not-computer lover, no submission approval process (not yet warranted, he reports), and a nice interface for finding your place on the map. But I’ve always been partial to hosting all of my project data on my own sites, instead of relying on Google spreadsheets hosted who knows where. It is fantastic to have all the data in an accessible spreadsheet, however, instead of buried in some SQL database, IMO.

The sensitivity about mapping colony collapse disorder events makes such an open methodology difficult to gain acceptance, I’ve assumed. Perhaps that assumption is wrong. Now that we have something of a definitive list of symptoms and patterns being published this month about how to recognize CCD, perhaps a community-generated dataset won’t be filled with speculative points that may dilute the value and accuracy of the data collected. What do you think? I’ll invite Ronnie Bouchon to comment. His site, Savethehives.com lists another project in the works and it would be great to get an update on how that is going.
Savethehives Map

“With all the media coverage and public awareness of Colony Collapse Disorder, there is still not a single database of reported cases of CCD. The CCD Map would be provide a web-based approach for collecting and presenting reported cases of CCD in a way that could help researchers and government agencies understand this national crisis. This national database of information will be centrally maintained and available to research programs and universities.”

- Savethehives.com

Ronnie, any news about the CCD mapping project? What have been your biggest hurdles and what do your collaborators in the beekeeping world say about creating a CCD map? Comment here for us. ;)

Saturday, February 07th, 2009 | Author:

www.mymapsplus.com/kml/colonycollapsedisordernews.kml

This snapshot of Colony Collapse Disorder news stories comes from 2007. It’s been the only Colony Collapse Disorder news .kml file on the Net for a long time. Why is that?… It’s become stale, some of the original website source links are broken, but the the summaries exist and it’s interesting none the less. David Grogan was a student at Tufts University when he manually created this map using RSS and google. I’m working on an updated version that automagically updates the map with new stories from google news, similar to how www.healthmap.org works.

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