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New Mexico Beekeepers Association 2013 Summer Meeting

Originally posted on Top-Bar-Beehives.com:

A month ago when I began to arrange the Following the Honey Trail interviews I had no idea that my schedule would land me in Albuquerque at the same time as the New Mexico Beekeepers Association 2013 Summer Meeting.  In an email correspondence with Jessie Brown, she told me about the June meeting and as luck had it, it aligned perfectly with my plans.  Without knowing what to expect, I headed to downtown ABQ on Saturday to listen to a few presentations and to meet some more NM beekeepers, a great opportunity that couldn’t be missed.

Les Crowder New Mexico Beekeepers AssociationAfter checking in and paying my membership dues for the rest of the year (I’m now a member of the NM Beekeepers Association!), I found a seat and set up my recording equipment.  After a short welcome from Les Crowder, a few people including Les and Kate Whealen from Santa Fe participated in a 30 minute Question and Answer session, discussing various questions brought up by the crowd.  Throughout the session, issues related to pesticides, hive management practices, supplemental feeding and more were discussed.

Following the Q&A, Dr. James Nieh gave his first presentation on honeybee communication.  As explained by James on the UC San Diego Nieh Lab webpage,What happens if conditions change and the communicated food source becomes depleted, contested, or dangerous? The honey bee stop signal provides negative feedback that counteracts the positive feedback of honey bee waggle dances. Using field studies and mathematical models, we are studying this signal in detail and exploring conditions under which negative feedback signals may evolve.”   As a product of countless hours of research, James’ work showed us how hoenybee communication can evolve within the superorganism, whether is affected by various threats (i.e. a spider on a flower) or is excited by flowers with strong nectar.  Although I will be posting the presentation to my YouTube channel so you all can see, I also encourage everyone to check out Dr. James Nieh’s webpage to fully understand the complexity of this topic.

After a short lunch, Paul McCarty gave the next presentation, which was focused on feral honeybees of Southern New Mexico.  As a beekeeper and hive removal expert, Paul has been able to learn a great deal about the feral bees found throughout the bioregion he lives in.  While he has encountered a few “Africanized” honeybee colonies, he encouraged us to learn what “Brazilian” traits look like and to always re-Queen the hive if it is “hot” or suspected to be “Africanized.”  Due to funding cuts, the program that used to genetically test honeybees for Afrcinaization is no longer available to Paul although he believes that many traits that make cause folks to think bees are Africanized may actually have resulted from the prior importation of other varieties of honeybees (Apis).  Because of this reality, that not all undesirable traits may be linked to African/Brazilian bees, the role of beekeepers become ever more important.  Since beekeepers are on the front-line, monitoring and working with both feral and managed bees, we can be aware of the changes occurring in our localities.  When bees seem irritable, aggressive, and runny, knowledgeable beekeepers can begin to work to change these aspects through re-Queening.  Connected to this idea, and as posted before, Queen rearing has become ever more important and needs to be given much more attention and concentration.  Whether we are working to calm bees down so we can more easily work with them or we’re trying to breed zone hardy colonies, it all comes down to having a healthy and reliable Queen that can spread the traits we want to see.  More on this issue will be posted on my blog and I will also be uploading Paul’s presentation to YouTube so everyone can view.

DrJamesNiehPresentationAfter Paul’s talk,  Dr. Nieh presented on the negative effects of neonicitinoid poisons and his current research related to Nosema, a microsporidian that affects honeybees. Through his research, it has been shown that neonics increase a bees threshold for acceptable nectar sweetness, an effect that can hugely altered the health of the colony.  When this happens, nectar foragers no longer will visit less-sweet nectar sources, choosing now to only visit those that fall above the threshold.  With this, many flowers become ignored by bees, which could lead to pollination issues as well as a decrease in the amount of honey stored throughout the season.  While the long-term impacts of this are yet to be seen, it is clear that neonic’s are extremely harmful to honeybees, as well as all other pollinators and animals (including humans), as shown through James’ research and many others.

Connected to neonicitinoids, James’ research is also showing that pesticides reduce the immunity of honeybees.  Looking at Nosema (both ceranae and apis), a bees exposure to pesticides can increase the impacts of the microsporidian, which is present to some level within most hives.  With a weakened immunity, the bees health begins to decline making them ever more susceptible to Nosema, mites and other things that, if left unchecked, could kill a colony.  Like his other presentation, James describes his findings in depth on his website.   Please check out his work and work with other beekeepers to disseminate this important information to the broader community you live in.  I will also be uploading this video later this summer so please check back!

After about 5 hours of presentations, I said my goodbyes and headed out to get some website writing done.  Tomorrow, I will be headed back into Colorado and will be visiting with three top bar beekeepers on Monday!