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Author: Bee Health Collective Staff

A New Way Of Sharing Resources: Meet The Online Pollinator Tool, “Beescape”

Olivia Schaefer

Created by a team of researchers and web designers at Penn State University, “Beescape” is an online tool that helps improve pollinator forage and landscape in a particular region. It’s simple to use; launch the web program and enter your location to see a quality rating of your local flora and fauna, as well as the differing land uses in your area and quick data about the climate. In addition, users of “iNaturalist” can add in photos of plants and pollinators alike, and the exact location where they were found. Plus, you can explore past and present weather trends to better understand their impact on pollinator health and forage.

Beescape designers continue to improve the program, hinting that new tools will be available for use in the future. The program is the first step of many to improving overall pollinator health, for both honeybees and native species. Programs like this also suggest there is a brighter, more cohesive future in which beekeepers and conservationists join forces and share resources beneficial to both groups. Check out this unique opportunity at the link below!

Killing Two Birds With One Varroa Mite Treatment?

Varroa mites have long posed a serious threat to beekeepers and their colonies. It is essential that effective treatment plans are put in place against the parasites and their many consequences, such as deformed wing virus. Recently, a study performed by the Pollinator Health in Southern Crop Ecosystems Research Unit in Stoneville, Mississippi, also mitigates another impact the mites have on bees: making them more susceptible to negative impacts of insecticides they encounter while foraging.

This research underscores that treatments for Varroa mites may actually have additional benefits besides battling the mites themselves.

In the study, the miticide amitraz (Apivar), was shown to have not only effectively treated varroa mites, but also improved the overall vitality of the hives by preserving bee immunity to other viruses and insecticides. Varroa mites reduce important immune proteins and detoxification enzymes in bees that are used to fight off foreign substances, so limiting this ability of the parasite is essential in ensuring a successful hive.

Read more about this study here:

by: Olivia Schaefer

New Recordings from the ABF January Conference are available now!

Olivia Schaefer

If you missed out on the January American Beekeeping Federation conference, don’t worry! Many of the talks were recorded and are now available to view on Project Apis m.’s youtube page. Below are some of the main talks with information about the speaker and topic.

General Session Day 1:

Dr. Diana Cox-Foster of USDA-ARS Pollinating Insect Research Unit in Logan, UT, gave a talk entitled “Ensuring Healthy Pollinators for Crop Production: Defining Forage Needs of Bees Through Examination of Interactions of Bee Species and Pollen Use.

Dr. Scott McArt of Dyce Lab for Honey Bee Studies, Cornell University, gave a talk entitled “Disease Transmission and Spillover in Plant-Pollinator Networks.

General Session Day 2:

Dr. Diana Cox-Foster of USDA-ARS Pollinating Insect Research Unit in Logan, UT, gave a talk entitled “Bee Health: Untangling the Impacts of Agrochemicals and Pathogens.”

Dr. Garrett Slater of USDA-ARS Baton Rouge Bee Lab, gave a talk entitled “What Causes ‘Dud’ Drones?

Dr. Samuel Ramsey of Colorado University, Boulder, gave a talk entitled “Pollinator Pandemic.”

General Session Day 3:

Danielle Downey of Project Apis m. gave a talk entitled “Project Apis m. Research and Programs Update.”

Dr. Jay Evans of USDA-ARS Beltsville Bee Research Lab, gave a talk entitled “Understanding and Managing Honey Bee Diseases.”

Megan MaHoney of MaHoney Queens and Bees, gave a talk entitled “Commercial Beekeeping as a Platform for Selection.”

Randy Oliver of Scientific Beekeeping, gave a talk entitled “Scientific Beekeeping: Beekeeper Funded, Applied Research.”

Reduce Your Pesticide Use

Following Integrated Pest Management principles will help you use other measures, and pesticide use is a last resort. If you do choose to use pesticides (herbicides, insecticides or fungicides) in your garden or lawn, be sure to read labels carefully and follow the instructions. Buying organic food can also help reduce your pesticide impact and often local organic produce is produced on small farms with better sustainability practices that benefit bees.

Re-Think Your Lawn

In 2005, a NASA study estimated that nearly 2% of all land in the US is constituted by lawns. That equals about 40 Million acres of the iconic lush, green grass that is sought after by many homeowners, golf courses, and businesses.  These lawns not only create “food deserts” for pollinators, they also use an estimated 7 Billion gallons of water per day.  With growing issues like a lack of pollinator and insect habitat, increased chemical use, and water and drought concerns, re-framing the idea of an “ideal” lawn could have significant positive environmental impacts, including supporting pollinators.  

Does your yard support pollinators? Planting flowers is a great step, but even mowing your lawn less frequently can provide more habitat for bees – and you don’t have to break a sweat to do it. Replacing grass with clover is another way to re-think your yard that benefits pollinators and also improves soil health. In Minnesota you can even apply for a grant to help you transform your yard into a pollinator haven!

Plant Flowers

Just like humans, bees need good nutrition to stay healthy and strong. As urbanization and agriculture expand and take up more space on the landscape, there is less habitat left for pollinators. While some initiatives are addressing this on a large scale, many hands make light work and planting pollinator friendly flowers – in your garden, yard, or even a window box or pot, makes a difference! Pollinator Partnership and the U.S. Forest Service offer regional planting guides, so you can discover what to plant in your area to make the biggest impact.

If you manage or farm land, and want it to support pollinators, these programs offer free seed mixes and technical guidance:

Seeds for Bees

Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund


Pesticides are chemicals that are used to control unwanted pests. From mosquito and tick repellants to weed killers for lawns, to agricultural chemicals, pesticides are powerful tools that can be beneficial. Their usage can also have unintended consequences.

Bees encounter pesticides most often from agricultural use, in-hive products like miticides, community mosquito control, landscaping programs, and homeowner lawn and garden use. Beekeepers rely on pesticides to treat Varroa mites and farmers and gardeners rely on pesticides to treat unwanted insects, fungus, and weeds. While insecticides like neonicotinoids are the most widely known pesticides to impact bees and pollinators, other pesticides such as herbicides can have indirect effects by reducing blooming plants that bees need to survive. Even some fungicides may have unintentional effects on honey bee nutrition or may increase toxicity when mixed with other chemicals.

Beeswax inside of a colony can easily become contaminated with (and often hangs on to) the various pesticides bees encounter. This chart from the Bee Informed Partnership, shows the proportion of pesticides, by target, in wax samples taken from honey bee colonies across the United States. Varroacides make up a large chunk because beekeepers apply these in colonies to control Varroa. Bees tend to encounter insecticides and fungicides while foraging in cropping systems. Fungicides are often used in almond production and blueberries, which many colonies visit for pollination. Samples to produce this data were collected through the National Honey Bee Disease Survey (USDA, HNBDS) in association with Apiary Inspectors of America and University of Maryland.

When considering pesticide effects on pollinators, scientists and beekeepers must be aware of the lethal effects as well as sub-lethal effects. Sublethal effects can be less obvious, and include sensory impairment, reduced immune functions, reduced ability to forage, and other damaging but not immediately deadly effects.

Pesticides are part of current agricultural practices, but many groups are working on mitigating risk to honey bees and other non-target insects through the development of communication tools, best management practices, and the use of integrated pest management (IPM).There are many resources that can be used to learn more about the use of pesticides in the United States, for example, the following tool from the United States Geological Survey, which estimates pesticide use in the United States. Another excellent resource is the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR).

Poor Nutrition

Just like humans, honey bees are better able to stay healthy if properly nourished., and tThe best source of nutrition is from natural sources – in the case of bees, that means a diversity of blooming plants.

Good nutrition helps mitigate other health stressors including Varroa, pesticides, and pathogens, and access to plenty of flowers is essential to honey production. Honey bees and native pollinators are literally “losing ground” as agricultural land use expands. Corn and Soybeans are the two monoculture crops that use the most land in the USA. These crops do not depend on bees for pollination and tend to be farmed in large areas of land that are heavily treated with agricultural chemicals. 

The above chart, sourced from USDA data, illustrates the growth in corn and soy crops since 1986 along with an overall decline in acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The Conservation Reserve Program is a land conservation program administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). In exchange for a yearly rental payment, farmers enrolled in the program agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality. This acreage is traditionally a mainstay for bees’ summer range and honey production Learn More Here

The Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund, which has been studied alongside CRP, is a highly effective option for putting pollinator forage on less commercially productive ground. 

When forage isn’t abundant, beekeepers can give bees a boost by using various protein and sugar supplements. Supplemental protein is used when pollen is not readily available to support brood production. This works for a little while but eventually, a natural pollen source is needed for the colony to remain healthy.

Supplemental sugar, usually in syrup form, is given to bees if they need additional energy stores for spring growth or to prepare for winter. Feeding bees is a part of beekeeping, but there is no replacement for natural, diverse blooming plants.

These commercial beekeepers are using tanks of sugar syrup carried on trucks to feed bee colonies upon arrival in California for almond pollination..


Bees encounter viral, bacterial, and fungal pathogens that can have serious impacts on colony health and survival. Some of these pathogens are highly contagious on their own, and others can also be spread by the Varroa mite.

Beekeepers maintain constant vigilance and routines to combat pathogens, including administering preventative varroacides and other treatments as needed.

Some infections are more worrisome than others. The spore-forming bacteria that causes American foulbrood (AFB) is so persistent that destroying the colony completely is recommended to prevent the spread of this disease.


Because of diseases like AFB, each state has an apiary inspection program to help beekeepers deal with pathogens, and prevent the spread of disease. This is also why many beekeepers manage bees within a colony that has removable frames. Getting an up-close look and sample of the honey bee brood is essential to monitoring colony health.  

You can find your State Apiarist Here


Nosema disease is widespread, and caused by a single-celled parasite that infects the gut-lining of the bee, causing dysentery and other colony health impacts. 

As problematic as bacterial and fungal infections are for honey bees, viruses are incredibly wide-spread, due to the prevalence of the Varroa mite.

Deformed Wing Virus (DWV)

(Chart Image here-2021 Prevalence of DWV-A)This chart from the Bee Informed Partnership shows the Prevalence of Deformed wing virus (DWV). DWV is closely linked to Vvarroa mite infection. On average DWV is found in roughly 80% of bee colonies sampled across the United States. Bees with twisted, deformed wings are a sure sign of DWV infection (and Varroa mite infestation). The bees, unable to fly, can be seen crawling in front of the colony. Explore the Bee Informed Partnership database here.