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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: What's in that Package? An Evaluation of Quality of Package Honey Bee Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera:Apidae) shipments in the U.S.

Authors
item Strange, James
item Cicciarelli, Richard - CORNELL UNIVERSITY
item Calderone, Nicholas - CORNELL UNIVERSITY

Submitted to: Journal of Economic Entomology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 7, 2008
Publication Date: June 20, 2008
Citation: Strange, J.P., Cicciarelli, R.P., Calderone, N.W. 2008. What's in that Package? An Evaluation of Quality of Package Honey Bee Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera:Apidae) shipments in the U.S.. Journal of Economic Entomology. 101(3): 668-673

Interpretive Summary: Beekeepers buy package honey bees to replace dead colonies or to increase the number of colonies they manage. Package bees, typically three pounds of worker bees and a mated queen, are produced in warm regions of the United States in spring of the year and shipped throughout the country. While the package bee industry is effective in replacing winter losses, a package is also effective for transporting diseases, parasites and undesirable stock. We evaluated six honey bee stocks from four producers in the spring of 2006 for several parameters related to package quality. We estimated levels of the parasitic mite Varroa destructor, the prevalence of the parasitic tracheal mite Acarapis woodii, the percentage of drone (male) honey bees in packages (since males do not produce honey), and presence of a parasite, Nosema apis, in the bee shipments. We found significant differences in the number of mites per 100 bees (ranged from 0.4 to 5.4), the percent of drones (0.04 % to 5.1 %), and the number of Nosema infected packages (0.0% to 75.0 % infection) from different producers. None of the packages contained detectable levels of tracheal mites. In light of the significant differences among producers, beekeepers should be aware of the potential for pest and disease infestations and high levels of drones in purchased packages.

Technical Abstract: Beekeepers purchase package honey bees (Apis mellifera) to replace deceased colonies or to increase the number of colonies being managed. Typically, a package consists of a large quantity of workers and a mated queen. Packages are generally produced in warm climate regions of the United States in spring of the year and shipped throughout the U.S. to replace colonies which have perished during the winter. While the package bee industry is effective in replacing winter losses impacting northern beekeepers, a package is also an effective means of transporting diseases, parasites and undesirable stock from the package producer to the beekeeper. We evaluated six honey bee stocks from four producers purchased in the spring of 2006 for several parameters related to package quality. We estimated levels of the parasitic mite Varroa destructor and the percentage of drone (male) honey bees received in packages. Additionally, we estimated the prevalence of the parasitic tracheal mite Acarapis woodii and a microsporidian parasite, Nosema spp., in the shipped bees. We found significant differences in both the mean mite per bee ratios (0.004 to 0.054) and the average proportion of drones (0.04 % to 5.1 %) in packages from different producers. We found significant differences in the number of Nosema infected packages (0.0% to 75.0 %) among the six lines. None of the packages contained detectable levels of Acarapis woodii. Considering the variability among purchased packages, beekeepers should be aware of the potential for pest and disease infestations and high drone levels in purchased packages.

Last Modified: 7/28/2014
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