How We Grow

2020 July/Aug How We Grow

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A L M O N D O R C H A R D 2 0 2 5 G O A L S PEST MANAGEMENT 7 "Today those bees do nothing but cost the beekeeper money because they are not in pollination, they are not making honey, and there are chemical and feed costs necessary in order to get them treated and sent out to North Dakota for honey production," he said. If the spring experiment is successful, Hopkins hopes to demonstrate that the process can be repeated in the fall, after honey production. Using cold storage at that time of year could help wipe out any mite populations in the colony during honey season while building the colony's bee population and health back up before the overwintering period. "The greatest predictor beekeepers have for colony survival in the winter is Varroa mite levels in September," he added. Landon said that if Hopkins' work continues to show benefits, he will consider renting out extra space in his refrigerated bee storage unit in Oroville as a "health spa" for bees that have completed their pollination work in California and need a rest before moving on to their winter homes. "What I'm looking for are beekeepers who are interested in giving brood a break in August," Landon said. "I think there are plenty of beekeepers here in California who stay here in August, so there is potential to keep the building refrigerated and help them rest their bees." Benefit to almond growers ABC Chief Scientific Officer Josette Lewis said this project is aligned with decades of research ABC has supported to promote bee health. "The reason we're funding this is to ensure a sustainable supply and an affordable cost for bees," Lewis said. "This work is particularly important because it represents the only fundamental shift in beekeeping management that is likely to have a short-term impact on the sustainability of the supply and/or cost to growers. Other research areas for bee health, supported by ABC and other groups, are generally longer-term in potential payoff. This is the biggest shift in Varroa mite management that we have in front of us; this could be our big leap forward in the near term." Lane Parker, an almond grower in Stanislaus County and a member of ABC's Strategic Ag Innovation Committee, agreed that increased cold storage capacity for bees in California has potential to strengthen bee sustainability. "Pollination is a supply-demand-driven business," he said. "If the almond community can invest in increasing their colony count and decreasing their annual expenses in this area, that's going to provide a significant benefit. Cold storage really shows promise; it seems like a bigger step than the small improvements we've been making." Parker is encouraged to see beekeepers investing in cold storage, too: "When people start investing their own money in buildings and pads and cooling systems, they're pretty confident it's working." Those interested in learning more about Hopkins' research as well as the ways in which ABC supports the industry's bee health efforts are welcome to attend an upcoming Almond Board Bee Health and Pollination Workgroup meeting. Check out for meeting information. In Hopkins' research, two 20-foot Triton refrigerated cargo containers are housing the "indoor" treatment group during winter months. The "outdoor" treatment group is shown outside the containers. Cables, wires and controller boxes, also shown, are running sensors inside and outside the colonies to record temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels. Varroa Mite Lifecycle Courtesy of Brandon Hopkins Continued from page 6 Can honey bees' breath kill mites? Hopkins' research is exploring other ways to optimize the indoor bee environment by studying which factors are most important to bee health. For instance, Hopkins and beekeepers want to know whether controlling levels of factors like humidity or certain gases in the indoor environment can improve bee health. Hopkins plans to conduct an experiment this coming winter to determine whether the carbon dioxide bees naturally produce can be used to ward off Varroa mites. (Bees don't have lungs like humans, but like us they breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide). Research suggests that bees can survive higher concentrations of carbon dioxide than can the Varroa mites that prey on them. By allowing carbon dioxide naturally produced by bees to increase in storage to higher levels than is in the outside air, Hopkins hopes he can take out more mites without hurting the bees – further decreasing the need for miticides. "We're excited to test this theory to determine its efficacy in increasing Varroa mite mortality," Hopkins said. CO 2 = Varroa Mite Day 0 Day 8 Day 21

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