A Few Highlights From the 2018 AHPA Bee Conference

by Jorge

I was thinking back to the meeting in San Diego and the moments that caused some type of reaction in my mind. One of them related to a couple of new studies suggesting that mite loads in September are the strongest predictor of overwintering success going into the next spring. Basically the odds of survival for a hive with low mite loads in September were about 80% vs. 40% if they remained above critical threshold in that month. It has been nearly twenty years since I reached essentially that conclusion due to observation in our operation, but I suppose it is valuable to see that type of data appear in other settings rather than isolated in our own system. Anyway, that seemed to be an area where scientific modeling was rather slow to identify a fairly obvious pattern in commercial beekeeping since varroa became endemic in North American bee populations.

I enjoyed hearing Gus Rouse talk about building Kona Queen Hawaii, Inc over the past few decades in Hawaii (before selling out some months ago). Here he is with a rather significant stack of queen shipping boxes--they literally produce hundreds of thousands of queens per year:

It was one of the first queen rearing outfits I remember knowing by name when I was around ten years old. Today, people just think of Hawaii as a perfect weather oasis that would obviously be great for raising queens. Gus talked about struggles to get the business going in challenging landscapes and the trouble he had with German black bees in the drone pool before they basically annihilated those genes with their own drone production. He was very thankful for a scientist coming out to teach him about instrumental insemination when it became crucial to increase the precision and quality of their queen production system. It was an adventure in practical science with a whole lot of labor to make it work--he said he appreciated growing up in a farm family because "who would work eight hours a day for somebody else when you can work sixteen hours a day for yourself?" I hope retirement goes well :)

Lastly, I especially enjoyed an industry discussion of seed coatings (this is how most neonics get called into action and why dust drift during the planting season is so scary for nearby bee yards). I am always amazed how compelling the scientists on each side of the equation sound when either justifying or critiquing the use of chemical applications in commercial agriculture. There is a lot of brainpower backing a continuum of positions on these topics. Ironically, the speaker from Pioneer/Dupont grew up with our bees on her family's farm when she was a girl. Keri Carstens now holds a PhD in toxicology from Iowa State. I'd encourage others to invite her to speak, though I don't know if she plans to make a habit of these presentations among the bee community. Here is a public video where she talks about the seed coatings of interest in recent years. The video embed is misbehaving, so click here if it doesn't autoplay when clicked below: