Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pesticide Exposure

Beekeepers gather to share experiences with others who tend to bees, and they attend educational programs to learn from experts in the field of honey bee health. The Arkansas Beekeepers Association will meet in October for its Annual Conference in the beautiful Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas. The beekeepers will meet fellow beekeepers and honey bee experts and listen to presentations from researchers exploring bee health matters. Among the experts who will be present is Dr. Yu Cheng Zhu of the USDA Agricultural Research Service laboratory in Stoneville, Mississippi. Peace Bee Farm produced bees for Dr. Zhu to use in a study of the effects of exposure to agricultural pesticides on foraging honey bees. To simulate bees’ being sprayed by an aerosol application of various pesticide products, Dr. Zhu, shown here in his Stoneville laboratory, places bees in a chamber and sprays them with controlled concentrations of pesticides. The bees die within a few days, and researchers analyze proteins in the bees’ bodies. They examine enzymes the honey bees use to detoxify the chemical agents. Some pesticides kill the bees quickly; some kill more slowly; some combinations of chemical agents are toxic; and some pesticide break-down products are highly toxic. Dr. Zhu will present “What you should know about pesticides: Which one is toxic and which one is safe to your honey bees?” at the Arkansas Beekeepers Association’s conference. See arbeekeepers.org for program details.

To produce bees of known age, I gathered frames of capped brood from Peace Bee Farm hives. These frames hold pupae, the third stage of developing brood. I held the capped brood in a hive set up as an incubator. This is an arrangement similar to a queen-right queen cell finisher used in queen rearing. The queen is confined in the lowest brood chamber below a queen excluder. The frames of gathered capped brood are placed above the queen excluder. Hive temperature and humidity maintain the larvae in brood nest conditions until needed for the testing.

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