2017 August Smoke in the Air affects OWA Queen availability

August 2017 – Since most in the rest of Washington State are living with hot dry weather this summer, it may be difficult to imagine the unprecedented conditions we are experiencing here in the microclimate of our apiary.

Persistent smoke from wild fires just across the Straights of Juan de Fuca in British Columbia has pushed a continuous cool/foggy marine layer directly over our isolated mating yards preventing adequate mating conditions here on the North Olympic Peninsula.

In 20 years we have never had to suspend orders due to lack of production, and we deeply regret having to do so now. We could not have predicted these unseasonably adverse weather conditions….check back here later in the season.

I think My Hive is Queenless

No eggs, no larvae does not necessarily mean you are queenless.  Here is a simple method to help you know for sure… Shake the bees off of a frame of uncapped brood (eggs and young larvae) from a queen-right colony, being careful not to transfer the queen from that hive. Mark that frame with a magic marker.  Remove a frame from the center of the brood chamber of the suspect colony and replace it with your marked frame.

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A Word About our Drones

 OWA maintains isolated mating yards in a very remote area of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. Our drone colonies are selected for hygienic behavior, disease, and mite resistance. They are fed high quality pollen supplements, and are provided with additional drone combs to insure abundant populations.

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Testimonials

What our customers have to say …

Queen Introduction Checklist

OWA QUEENS HAVE DIFFERENT PHEREMONES REQUIRING SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS
We take great care in packaging and shipping our queens, making every effort to assure that they arrive in good condition, but WE DO NOT GUARANTEE SUCCESSFUL INTRODUCTION.

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A Brief History

In 1997, when feral colonies were thought to be near extinction due to varroa mites, we began capturing wild honeybee swarms from very remote wilderness locations on the North Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.

Reliable oral history of the area confirmed that these isolated bees had managed to survive for over 40 years without human intervention.  Believing they may have developed some natural resistance to varroa destructor, we began our Survivor Bee Breeding Program by:
  • continuing to capture wild swarms
  • including USDA Primorsky Russian and SMR/VSH breeder queens since 2000
  • utilizing instrumental insemination procedures
  • diligently protecting our isolated mating yards
  • routinely conducting laboratory testing
  • improving nutrition by supplying quality protein and herbal food supplements.
  • applying a rigorous sterilization routine
  • and remaining firmly committed to a chemical-free accelerated natural selection process
The early years of our success against varroa, met a devastating blow in the winter of 2007/2008 when a series of environmental stressors converged with the arrival of nosema ceranae in our apiary. Withholding chemicals to pursue accelerated natural selection in conditions of extreme exposure to this new fungus, with its possible associated viruses, was a high risk choice for us to make.
But armed with the knowledge that our bees had been thriving in Northwest Washington’s fungus-rich environment within the world’s largest temperate rainforest, we decided to gamble on the prospect that our bees could develop a tolerance to this new microsporidian as well.
Four disheartening years of 90% losses, followed that decision.
But, in January of 2012, when we came across a newly published report out of Denmark, which concluded:
…After decades of selective breeding for Nosema tolerance in the Danish strain, it appears these bees are tolerant to N. ceranae infections.
…our hopes were renewed.
So when spring arrived in 2012, and only 10% of our colonies had failed, we have been newly encouraged that achieving our goal of nosema tolerance is possible.
Those long years of heavy winter losses have resulted in hardy unmedicated bees that are now maintaining healthy populations in spite of USDA Beltsville laboratory results confirming the presence of staggering n. ceranae spore loads…over 50 million spores per bee!
Since recovering from those losses we have begun to identify another significant trait in our surviving colonies: they have naturally adapted themselves to become extreme pollen hoarders.  Because the importance of good nutrition cannot be overstated in the maintenance of healthy colonies, we see this adaptation as integral to the successful survivability of our stock.
By carefully selecting our breeder queens from this core group of survivors, we are confident that the regionally unique feral hybrid queen lines we are offering demonstrate genetics capable of withstanding many of the lethal pathogens that threaten honeybees everywhere.

Nosema Tolerance

Today’s microsporidian:  nosema is frequently misunderstood, even by experienced beekeepers. The confusion appears to stem from failure to recognize the difference between the 2 types of nosema, and the fact that they manifest themselves within the hive in entirely different ways.

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Weather Permitting…

Unlike the favorable conditions found in southern latitudes, Pacific Northwest weather has its own set of unique queen-breeding restrictions: Cool, wet, coastal airflow causes unstable maritime conditions that persist well into late spring. The result is both good news and bad news…

The Bad news is: the challenge of producing predictably well-mated queens early in the season prevents us from offering spring queens.
The Good news is: by waiting for the weather to stabilize, and holding our queens until they are on capped brood prior to shipping, you can be confident of the highest possible success when introducing our chemical free, disease and pathogen resistant stock.
Because of its restricted availability, incorporating OWA stock requires a paradigm shift from the standard beekeeping model of acquiring spring packages, to a managerial plan that includes summer splits and fall re-queening.

WE OFFER BREEDER QUEENS…

GRAFTED FROM STOCK THAT MEET THESE REQUIREMENTS:
       Hygienic Behavior: Minimum of 95% removal of freeze-killed brood in 24 hours
This trait will reduce or eliminate Chalkbrood; AFB; and varroa mite levels w/o the use of chemical treatments
Varroa Mite Resistance as:
VSH trait is determined by Alcohol Wash Assay during spring brood build-up and fall peak mite infestation.
Grooming Behavior is determined by Alcohol Wash Assay during the winter broodless period
Nosema Tolerance:  Demonstrate vigor with high exposure: UNTREATED.
Our selection process is verified by in-house microscopic testing and USDA Laboratory reports.
Gentleness:
Swarming Behavior:
Not prone to swarm
Heavy pollen collectors
Excellent Honey producers;
Longevity:
Untreated  survivability

 

 

OWA BREEDER QUEEN SELECTION CRITERIA:
We graft from untreated colonies whose queens have been overwintered for a minimum of one season, and have passed our strict standards for these following traits:
Hygienic Behavior: Minimum of 95% removal of freeze-killed brood in 24 hours
This trait will reduce or eliminate Chalkbrood; AFB; and varroa mite levels w/o the use of chemical treatments
Varroa Mite Resistance:
VSH trait is determined by Alcohol Wash Assay during spring brood build-up and fall peak mite infestation.
Grooming Behavior is determined by Alcohol Wash Assay during the winter broodless period
Demonstrate vigor with high exposure: UNTREATED.
Our selection process is verified by in-house microscopic testing and USDA Laboratory reports.
Excellent Honey producers;
Heavy pollen collectors
Swarming Behavior:
Not prone to swarm
Longevity 

VSH Definition

Varroa sensitive hygiene (VSH) is a behavioral trait of honey bees (Apis mellifera) in which bees detect and remove bee pupae that are infested by the parasitic mite Varroa destructor. V. destructor is considered to be the most dangerous pest problem for honey bees worldwide. VSH activity results in significant resistance to the mites.

Development
Bees with the trait were initially bred by the USDA Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Laboratory in Baton Rouge, LA from colonies in which mite populations grew only slowly.[1]
The factor causing slow mite population growth was found to be heritable.[2] The rate of mite population growth was found to be correlated with the reproductive rates of mites,[1] resulting in naming the factor “suppressed mite reproduction” (SMR).[3] It was subsequently discovered that the factor is founded on hygienic activity of adult bees,[4][5] so SMR was renamed VSH.[6]
VSH activity results in (1) an abnormally low proportion of mites that produce offspring within the population that remains in capped brood and (2) reduction of the brood infestation rate by greater than 70%. The specifics of how hygienic bees detect mite infested brood currently are unknown.
Cross-breeding
Bees bred to have high levels of VSH tend to keep mite populations below thresholds recommended for treatment with pesticides.[7] Queens from such VSH breeding sources can be allowed to mate freely with non-VSH drones, and the resulting hybrid colonies from these outcrosses will retain lower and variable but generally still useful resistance to V. destructor while retaining desirable beekeeping traits such as honey production.[8]
VSH outcrossed to commercial Italian bees recently have been shown to perform well in migratory crop pollination.
VSH thus is a trait that can be used by breeders to mix with any type of desirable honey bee and is expanding resistance to V. destructor among diverse bee strains. VSH breeding material has been available through commercial sources since 2001.
References
  1. Harbo, J., and R. Hoopingarner. 1997. Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in the United States that express resistance to Varroa jacobsoni (Mesostigmata: Varroidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 90: 893-898.
  2. Harbo, J., and J. Harris. 1999. Heritability in honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) of characteristics associated with resistance to Varroa jacobsoni (Mesostigmata: Varroidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 92: 261-265.
  3. Harbo, J., and J. Harris. 2002. Suppressing Mite Reproduction: SMR an Update. Bee Culture 130: 46-48.
  4. Harbo, J., and J. Harris. 2005. Suppressed mite reproduction explained by the behavior of adult bees. Journal of Apicultural Research 44: 21-23.
  5. Ibrahim, A. G. Reuter and M. Spivak. 2006. Field trials of honey bee colonies bred for mechanisms of resistance against Varroa destructor. Apidologie 38: 67-76.
  6. Harris, J. 2007. 2007. Bees with Varroa Sensitive Hygiene preferentially remove mite infested pupae aged < five days post capping. Journal of Apicultural Research 46: 134-139.
  7. Ward, K., R. Danka and R. Ward. 2008. Comparative performance of two mite-resistant stocks of honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in Alabama Beekeeping Operations. Journal of Economic Entomology 101: 654-659.
  8. Harbo, J., and J. Harris. 2001. Resistance to Varroa destructor (Mesostigmata: Varroidae) when mite-resistant queen honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) were free-mated with unselected drones. Journal of Economic Entomology 94: 1319-1323.

Survivor Bees Of The Olympic Peninsula

Stock Selection Criteria

We graft from untreated colonies whose queens have been overwintered for a minimum of one season, and have passed our strict standards for these following traits:
 
Hygienic Behavior

Minimum of 95% removal of freeze-killed brood in 24 hours

This trait will reduce or eliminate Chalkbrood; AFB; and varroa mite levels w/o the use of chemical treatments

Varroa Mite Resistance

VSH trait is determined by Alcohol Wash Assay during spring brood build-up and fall peak mite infestation.

Grooming Behavior is determined by Alcohol Wash Assay during the winter broodless period

Nosema Tolerance

Demonstrate vigor with high exposure: UNTREATED.

Our selection process is verified by in-house microscopic testing and USDA Laboratory reports.

Hoarding Behavior

Excellent Honey producers

Heavy pollen collectors

Gentleness

No need for gloves

Swarming Behavior

Not prone to swarm

High Degree of Longevity & Solid Brood Patterns

Russian Bee Linked To N. Ceranae Tolerance

http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/publications.htm?seq_no_115=268796

Research Project: Breeding, Genetics, Stock Improvement and Management of Russian Honey Bees for Mite and Small Hive Beetle Control and Pollination
Location: Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Research
Title: Patriline variation of Nosema ceranae levels in Russian and Italian honey bees
Authors
BOURGEOIS, LANIE

RINDERER, THOMAS

Sylvester, H
HOLLOWAY, BETH

Submitted to: Cold Spring Harbor Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract
Publication Acceptance Date: April 8, 2011
Publication Date: May 8, 2011
Citation: Bourgeois, A.L., Rinderer, T.E., Sylvester, H.A., Holloway, B.A. 2011. Patriline variation of Nosema ceranae levels in Russian and Italian honey bees. Cold Spring Harbor Meeting. 17.
Technical Abstract: The microsporidian Nosema ceranae has invaded managed honey bee colonies throughout the world. While the presence of N. ceranae is common, infection levels are highly variable, even among bees within a single colony. The underlying mechanisms driving this variation are not well-understood. The high degree of individual variation within a colony suggests some degree of genetic resistance to N. ceranae infections may exist among managed honey bee colonies. One likely source for this variation stems from the polygamous nature of honey bee queens, producing multiple patrilines within each colony. We investigated the relationship between infection levels of N. ceranae and patriline membership by sampling individual bees from colonies from both Russian and Italian stocks. A total of 720 bees were collected from 5 Russian and 5 Italian colonies. Individual bees were tested for N. ceranae infection levels using qPCR, and were genotyped to determine patriline membership. Levels of N. ceranae varied significantly at the stock level (Russian: 3.68 x 106 ± 1.88 x 106 nosema/bee and Italian: 9.14 x 106 ± 4.62 x 106 nosema/bee; P = 0.008) and at the colony level for both Russian (P = 0.002) and Italian (P = 0.003) bees. Patriline-based variance was evident among only the Russian bees (P = 0.024). There was substantial variation in N. ceranae levels among Italian bees, ranging from 0 to 2.12 x 109 nosema/bee, however this variation was not associated with patriline membership (P = 0.742). The variance in N. ceranae infection among Russian honey bee patrilines demonstrates a genetic basis for resistance to N. ceranae infection which conforms to predictions of models that relate patriline variance and abundance to disease resistance in honey bees. This difference between Russian and Italian honey bees may derive from Italian honey bees having only a short history of exposure to N. ceranae while Russian honey bees may have had 150 years of exposure.
Last Modified: 02/05/2012

Pollen Hoarding – Well Fed Honey Bees Fight off Harmful Effects of Parasite

Bee researcher Ramesh Sagili inspects a European honey bee in a carrot seed field near Madras, Ore. Photo by Lynn Ketchum
 CORVALLIS, Ore. –Well-nourished honey bees are better at fighting off a serious microscopic parasite that weakens their immune systems and threatens the health of their colonies, according to a new study from Oregon State University.

The finding, published recently in the Journal of Insect Physiology, suggests that giving honey bees access to a greater quantity and variety of pollen—their only source of protein—could make them more resilient against parasites and other pests, and help to stem worrisome declines in bee populations.

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Peninsula Daily News: 3 Generations Of Beekeepers

PENINSULA DAILY NEWS     

July 7, 2010
Three generations of beekeepers
Brandon Harvey, right, hands off a frame of bees and honey to his grandfather, Dan, while pulling honey off one hive on state Highway 112 on
Saturday.
Brandon’s father, Shane, is in the background.
Dan Harvey estimated they pulled off about 120 pounds of honey during this one trip.
The Harveys are shown working bees bare-handed but they are properly
equipped and experienced beekeepers.
photo credit: Donna Barr for the Peninsula Daily News

OWA Russian Honeybee History

History of OWA Russian Honeybees

The Olympic Wilderness Apiary has been evaluating and including USDA Primorsky Russian honey bee genetics into our breeder selection program since they first became available in 2000.   We began by incorporating early releases from Bernard Apiaries, and have progressively included the best available stock from Charlie Harper; Glenn Apiaries; Bob Brachmann; Carl Webb; Steve Coy and Austin Smith.
Russian honeybees are known for their tracheal and varroa mite resistance. Our hardy Russian hybrids also have a history of exposure and adaptation to nosema ceranae. They  maintain conservative winter clusters and require early and aggressive swarm-control management during their characteristic explosive spring-buildup when nectar and pollen become available.
More about the characteristic mechanisms of Russian honeybee resistance can be viewed here>

Next Up , The Survivors Part Two Of Two

NEXT UP, THE SURVIVORS

Part two of two parts.  by M.E.A. McNeil

(Excerpted from American Bee Journal ~ April 2009 pp 355 – 356)
In 1997, Dan and Judy Harvey heard that most feral bees were wiped out by varroa
mites, and they went looking for survivors. Their Olympic Wilderness Apiary10 is located
in the temperate rain forest of the Northwestern Olympic Peninsula in WashingtonState.
They put out the word to loggers, and soon were collecting swarms. “We just assumed
they had some resistance,” he said. “We didn’t know what we were doing.” It was a steep
learning curve for them, finding out how to evaluate the bees and rear queens. They
came up with a combination of tests, which they still find effective: Erikson’s screen
wash test 11for mites, liquid nitrogen 12 for hygienic behavior and professional lab tests
 for disease. They found a lot of variability and bred from the healthiest bees. In 2000
they began adding USDA genetics, first Russian and later VHS/SMR bees, as well as
semen for tracheal mite resistance from Baton Rouge. The initial aggressiveness of the
 Russian stock was bred down. With no chemicals in the production colonies and an
overall IPM philosophy (antibiotic and organic mite control in mating nucs), handmade
chemical-free cappings wax foundation, and good grooming behavior in the bees
(evidenced by microscope observed bite marks on dead mites), Harvey said the program
worked out well. But in the spring of 2008, a freak weather pattern collided with the arrival
of the microsporidians Nosema ceranae, resulting in the loss of 90% of the carefully bred
colonies. Cold, wet weather persisted for a year, from one summer to the next, causing
pollen shortages and leaving nutritionally distressed bees going into winter and susceptible
to infection. Tests found very high levels of N.ceranae in his apiaries, but none in some feral
populations in the area. Harvey speculated that because microsporidians are common in
 he naturally damp Northwest environment, the feral bees may defend themselves well from
them – after all, he observes, they deal with bears.  J
He remarked that the fungus chalkbrood can be inhibited by probiotic yeasts and molds,
as well as by hygienic behavior. Down but not out, Harvey is breeding the nosema-free feral
 bees with the survivors of the environmental pressures of last year. He thinks that the
advantages must go both ways; the genetics help the surrounding feral bees as well.
Working with bees in trees has led Harvey to conclude that standard hive systems hold
too much moisture. He leaves a 3/8” opening across the back and front of his hive tops.
Observing how high in the tree cavity the nest is naturally built, far from potentially
infectious hive debris, he is experimenting with an added empty 6 5/8sterilized box on the
bottom board. In the spirit of natural selection surfers, the Harvey’s have stayed afloat through
the latest crisis, “greatly encouraged to find ourselves once again in a unique situation.”
Footnotes
10 http://www.wildernessbees.com
11 Erickson, Eric, American Bee Journal,
August 2000
12 http://www.beeculture.com/storycms/
index.cfm?cat=Story&recordID=290
(Excerpted from American Bee Journal ~ April 2009 pp 355 – 356)

In Defense Of “Defensiveness”

Our wild survivor stock is incorporated into all of the queen lines that we offer.

Although we do select for gentleness, the highest priority in our selection process is for disease and mite resistance.
 It is our operating philosophy that generations of selection for gentleness and honey production, may have been done at great cost to the true nature of the honeybee.
While our wild bees may appear at times to be more defensive than other commercially produced stock, they are entirely manageable, and demonstrate unparalleled hardiness and a unique ability to withstand many of the different pathogens affecting honeybees today.
When working with our bees, we recommend that you follow these simple precautions:
  • Place your colonies in a sunny location a minimum of 50 yards from frequent human and livestock traffic.
  • Use proper safety measures when working your colonies:
  • At a minimum, use head net.  It may be necessary to also use a bee suit, gloves, and smoke.
  • Work your bees on sunny days when the field bees are out foraging whenever possible.

Danish Report Verifies Nosema Tolerance Possible

J Invertebr Pathol. 2012 Mar;109(3):297-302. Epub 2012 Jan 20.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22285444

 Survival and immune response of drones of a Nosemosis tolerant honey bee strain towards N. ceranae infections.
Source
Institut für Biology/Zoologie, Molekulare Ökologie, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, 06099 Halle, Germany. qiang.huang@zoologie.uni-halle.de
Abstract
Honey bee colonies (Apis mellifera) have been selected for low level of Nosema in Denmark over decades and Nosema is now rarely found in bee colonies from these breeding lines. We compared the immune response of a selected and an unselected honey bee lineage, taking advantage of the haploid males to study its potential impact on the tolerance toward Nosema ceranae, a novel introduced microsporidian pathogen. After artificial infections of the N. ceranae spores, the lineage selected for Nosema tolerance showed a higher N. ceranae spore load, a lower mortality and an up-regulated immune response. The differences in the response of the innate immune system between the selected and unselected lineage were strongest at day six post infection. In particular genes of the Toll pathway were up-regulated in the selected strain, probably is the main immune pathway involved in N. ceranae infection response. After decades of selective breeding for Nosema tolerance in the Danish strain, it appears these bees are tolerant to N. ceranae infections.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
PMID:
22285444
[PubMed – in process]

Bees Do It

Will the Olympic Peninsula’s hardy honeybees save the world from colony collapse?

The last time we checked with Seattle mayor-turned-beekeeper Wes Uhlman, his two hives on Queen Anne Hill were doing fine. It was three years ago, and all across farm country a mysterious syndrome called colony collapse disorder was making bees abandon their doomed hives, threatening an agricultural catastrophe. But CCD hadn’t slammed Uhlman or his fellow local backyard beekeepers as severely as others. That made him suspect that Big Ag pesticides—not a big factor on Queen Anne—were the cause.

That was then. Now bees are suffering even here. This spring, one of Uhlman’s two hives was kaput and the other ailing.

Salvation could come from the Olympic Peninsula. There, at the Olympic Wilderness Apiary—just west of the town of Joyce—Dan and Judy Harvey produce queen bees for other keepers. For years the Harveys have employed herbal supplements, good nutrition, and selective breeding, minus conventional chemical treatments, to produce bees resistant to varroa mites, a parasite widely blamed for colony collapse. But in 2007 a fungus called Nosema ceranae started ravaging the Harveys’ hives. They lost 80 to 90 percent of their bees in 2008, and the same again in 2009.

But they noticed that wild colonies in the deep woods were faring better. These colonies—descended from bees that loggers and farmers ordered from Sears Roebuck in the 1920s and ’30s—had evolved to thrive in the soggy, fungus-ridden Olympic climate. The Harveys collected wild queens and bred them with their own varroa-resistant lines. Even when fungal infestations appeared, they skipped standard antibiotics; instead they drenched the little buzzers in oak bark extract and essential oils and fed them lavishly through the winter. Bingo. “This year we only lost about 20 percent,” says Dan.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now studying the Olympic bees at its Baton Rouge bee lab. It suspects varroa mites and Nosema fungus may act together to cause colony collapse. If the Harveys have indeed developed a Nosema-tolerant stock, it could be a lifesaver for hives worldwide. In the bee world, good breeding, clean living, and healthy eating still count for something. —ERIC SCIGLIANO

26 / SEATTLEMET.COM / JULY 2010