A Minnesota beekeeper asks if there are guarantees that the bees one purchases in packages are free of Nosema disease and tracheal mites. The answer is no. There are no visible ways to detect either condition. The pathogen causing Nosema and the mite involved in tracheal mite infestation are both microscopic. To be seen, bees must be dissected and the affected organs viewed under a microscope. At times, tracheal mite infestations lead to “k-wing” bees having unhooked wings and bees crawling along the ground. However, these conditions are not conclusive evidence of tracheal mites. The bees that one receives in a package may carry Nosema disease or tracheal mites, and it is possible that the person supplying the bees may not be aware of the condition. The recently identified strain of Nosema disease, Nosema ceranae, is being studied by scientists of the Managed Pollinator CAP, or Coordinated Agricultural Project. A CAP project for queen breeders, http://www.extension.org/pages/58424/laying-groundwork-for-a-sustainable-market-of-genetically-improved-queens:-the-bee-team, has been started in California. It is designed to help queen producers improve genetic diversity and select for bees that can defend themselves from parasitic mites and diseases. If this program works well, the team plans to establish similar programs in the Southeast and other queen breeding areas. The CAP project also gives an extensive report on the nature of Nosema ceranae at http://www.extension.org/pages/31234/nosema-microsporidia:-friend-foe-and-intriguing-creatures. The work of the Managed Pollinator CAP program is designed to provide feedback to queen producers to allow them to adjust their methods of controlling Nosema disease. The researchers are finding that Nosema infections increase the effect of viral infections in honey bees. The current method of detecting Nosema is by counting spores in the mid-gut of foragers.
Honey bees are working buckwheat vine today. The tough vine which covers small trees and invades row crops is a heavy producer of nectar in the summer. Buckwheat vine is also known as “ladies’ eardrops” because of the shape of the seed pods produced after the flowers are pollinated by bees.--Richard