Two deadly parasitic mites have drastically changed the beekeeping industry. These mites annually kill 50-70% of bee colonies, if not controlled. The use of miticides is problematic due to resistance development and the potential for residues in hive products. This is a pro-active project intended to keep pace with emerging residue issues in the bee industry.
Contamination of honey from mite treatment is a major concern. A recent problem involves the ban on antibiotic contaminated Chinese honey. In addition, coumaphos residues have been found in beeswax in the US. Honey in contact with coumaphos treated wax was found to extract the insecticide from the wax.
This project involves the use of organic beekeeping practices to manage honey bee colonies. Forty colonies will be established with mite resistant queens from tested Ontario bee stock. Cultural management techniques such as screened bottom boards, interruption of brood rearing and drone brood removal, will be evaluated. Treatments that will be applied to the colonies, formic acid and oxalic acid, are organic. No antibiotics or pesticides will be used. Parasitic mites and diseases will be thoroughly monitored. Bees will be dissected to determine tracheal mite infestation. Varroa mite levels will be monitored using a sticky board, an ether roll, a sugar dusting, an alcohol wash and by uncapping drone brood. Visual examination for American foulbrood (AFB) will take place on a regular basis, followed by microscopic confirmation.
Expected Impact of Project Outcomes on Food Safety in Ontario: There is value in this work for conventional beekeepers, who will benefit from disease monitoring information and can work towards a decreased dependency on chemicals.
Results will lead to recommendations for organic management and disease monitoring methods, both of which will help to prevent contamination in hive products. The prevention of contamination issues in the bee industry will increase the marketability of our hive products. Reduction in miticide use will also decrease chemical contaminants in the environment. Healthy honey bee colonies, that are not dependant on miticides, will increase the number of colonies available for the pollination of Ontario's crops.
<P> For more information, please visit the <a href="http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/research/foodsafety/index.html" target="_blank">Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) Food Safety Research Program</a>.