Latest Academic Bee Studies


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Latest Academic Bee Studies

A pan-European epidemiological study reveals honey bee colony survival depends on beekeeper education and disease control

Antoine Jacques, Marion Laurent, EPILOBEE Consortium, Magali Ribière-Chabert, Mathilde Saussac, Stéphanie Bougeard, Giles E. Budge, Pascal Hendrikx, Marie-Pierre Chauzat.

PLOS     Published: March 9, 2017


Reports of honey bee population decline has spurred many national efforts to understand the extent of the problem and to identify causative or associated factors. However, our collective understanding of the factors has been hampered by a lack of joined up trans-national effort. Moreover, the impacts of beekeeper knowledge and beekeeping management practices have often been overlooked, despite honey bees being a managed pollinator. Here, we established a standardised active monitoring network for 5 798 apiaries over two consecutive years to quantify honey bee colony mortality across 17 European countries. Our data demonstrate that overwinter losses ranged between 2% and 32%, and that high summer losses were likely to follow high winter losses. Multivariate Poisson regression models revealed that hobbyist beekeepers with small apiaries and little experience in beekeeping had double the winter mortality rate when compared to professional beekeepers. Furthermore, honey bees kept by professional beekeepers never showed signs of disease, unlike apiaries from hobbyist beekeepers that had symptoms of bacterial infection and heavy Varroa infestation. Our data highlight beekeeper background and apicultural practices as major drivers of honey bee colony losses. The benefits of conducting trans-national monitoring schemes and improving beekeeper training are discussed.

Copyright: © 2017 Jacques et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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Using DNA metabarcoding to investigate honey bee foraging reveals limited flower use despite high floral availability

Natasha de Vere, Laura E. Jones, Tegan Gilmore, Jake Moscrop, Abigail Lowe, Dan Smith, Matthew J. Hegarty, Simon Creer & Col R. Ford
Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 42838 (2017)Published online:


Understanding which flowers honey bees (Apis mellifera) use for forage can help us to provide suitable plants for healthy honey bee colonies. Accordingly, honey DNA metabarcoding provides a valuable tool for investigating pollen and nectar collection. We investigated early season (April and May) floral choice by honey bees provided with a very high diversity of flowering plants within the National Botanic Garden of Wales. There was a close correspondence between the phenology of flowering and the detection of plants within the honey. Within the study area there were 437 genera of plants in flower during April and May, but only 11% of these were used. Thirty-nine plant taxa were recorded from three hives but only ten at greater than 1%. All three colonies used the same core set of native or near-native plants, typically found in hedgerows and woodlands. The major plants were supplemented with a range of horticultural species, with more variation in plant choice between the honey bee colonies. We conclude that during the spring, honey bees need access to native hedgerows and woodlands to provide major plants for foraging. Gardens provide supplementary flowers that may increase the nutritional diversity of the honey bee diet.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Open access article at

PLOS is a Public Library of Science, a non-profit publisher, innovator and advocacy organization.

Long-term trends in the honeybee ‘whooping signal’ revealed by automated detection

Michael Ramsey, Martin Bencsik ,  Michael I. Newton

Published: February 8, 2017


It is known that honeybees use vibrational communication pathways to transfer information. One honeybee signal that has been previously investigated is the short vibrational pulse named the ‘stop signal’, because its inhibitory effect is generally the most accepted interpretation. The present study demonstrates long term (over 9 months) automated in-situ non-invasive monitoring of a honeybee vibrational pulse with the same characteristics of what has previously been described as a stop signal using ultra-sensitive accelerometers embedded in the honeycomb located at the heart of honeybee colonies. We show that the signal is very common and highly repeatable, occurring mainly at night with a distinct decrease in instances towards midday, and that it can be elicited en masse from bees following the gentle shaking or knocking of their hive with distinct evidence of habituation. The results of our study suggest that this vibrational pulse is generated under many different circumstances, thereby unifying previous publication’s conflicting definitions, and we demonstrate that this pulse can be generated in response to a surprise stimulus. This work suggests that, using an artificial stimulus and monitoring the changes in the features of this signal could provide a sensitive tool to assess colony status.

Open access to paper:



Published on 14 Feb 2017

A vibrational pulse produced by honeybees, long thought to be a signal to other bees to stop what they are doing, might actually be an expression of surprise. Read more:










Identification of potential biomarker genes for selecting varroa tolerant honey bees (Apis mellifera) and biochemical characterization of a differentially expressed carboxylesterase genein response to mite infestation.

By Jin Wang 2016

A Thesis Submitted to the College of Graduate Studies and Research in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in the Department of Food and Bioproduct Sciences University of Saskatchewan Saskatoon.

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PLOS is a Public Library of Science, a non-profit publisher, innovator and advocacy organization. 

Varroa destructor Mites Can Nimbly Climb from Flowers onto Foraging Honey Bees

David T. Peck ,  Michael L. Smith, Thomas D. Seeley

Published: December 12, 2016


Varroa destructor, the introduced parasite of European honey bees associated with massive colony deaths, spreads readily through populations of honey bee colonies, both managed colonies living crowded together in apiaries and wild colonies living widely dispersed in natural settings. Mites are hypothesized to spread between most managed colonies via phoretically riding forager bees when they engage in robbing colonies or they drift between hives. However, widely spaced wild colonies show Varroa infestation despite limited opportunities for robbing and little or no drifting of bees between colonies. Both wild and managed colonies may also exchange mites via another mechanism that has received remarkably little attention or study: floral transmission. The present study tested the ability of mites to infest foragers at feeders or flowers. We show that Varroa destructor mites are highly capable of phoretically infesting foraging honey bees, detail the mechanisms and maneuvers by which they do so, and describe mite behaviors post-infestation.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology 41(6) · September 2012

Distribution, spread, and impact of the invasive hornet Vespa velutina in South Korea

Moon Bo Choi, Stephen J. Martin (Department of Animal & Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK), Jong Wook Lee (Department of Life Sciences, Yeungnam University, Republic of Korea)


Hornets (Vespa spp) are top insect predators that can control pests, but their venomous stings and defensive be-havior cause numerous human deaths throughout Asia. Hornets usually inhabit rural areas which reduces poten-tial conflict with humans. In 2003, the invasive hornet, Vespa velutina, arrived in southern Korea (Yeongdo region) and became established. It is currently spreading northwards at a rate of 10–20 km per year. Despite originating in tropical/subtropical areas of Indo-China, its nesting biology and life cycle in South Korea are similar to those found throughout its native range, with mature colonies containing 1000–1200 adults. In 7 years, V. velutina has become the most abundant hornet species in Southern Korea by displacing native Vespa species such as V. simillima, which has a similar nesting biology. We also found a significant positive correlation between the abundance of V. velutina and the degree of urbanization, indicating that this invasive species was well adapted to urban environments. This was supported by our finding that 41% of emergency call-outs (119 Rescue Services) to deal with social wasps/hornet problems were due to V. velutina, which was twice as high as the num-ber of calls about the next most abundant species. The rapid spread of V. velutina across southern Korea indicates that this species will continue to spread north-westward in the Korean peninsula and will become a major prob-lem as more people and beekeepers come into contact with this aggressive invasive hornet.


Proceedings of the Royal  Society Biology Sciences

Elevated virulence of an emerging viral genotype as a driver of honeybee loss

Dino P. McMahon, Myrsini E. Natsopoulou, Vincent Doublet, Matthias Fürst, Silvio Weging, Mark J. F. Brown, Andreas Gogol-Döring, Robert J. Paxton

Europe PMC Funders Group
Author Manuscript Nature

Author manuscript; available in PMC 2014 August 20.
Published in final edited form as: Nature . 2014 February 20; 506(7488): 364–366. doi:10.1038/nature12977.

Disease associations between honeybees and bumblebees as a threat to wild pollinators

Author Contributions: The study was jointly conceived by R.J.P., J.O. and M.J.F.B.. Experiments were designed by M.A.F. and M.J.F.B.; M.A.F prepared the manuscript; M.J.F.B., D.P.M., R.J.P. and J.O. edited the manuscript. M.A.F. carried out the experimental work, molecular work and analyses apart from the phylogenetic analysis carried out by D.P.M..

Author Information:  Viral RNA sequences have been deposited in GeneBank under accession numbers KF929216 – KF929290. The authors declare no competing financial interests. Readers are welcome to comment on the online version of the paper. Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to M.A.F ( or

Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) pose a risk to human welfare, both directly and indirectly, by affecting managed livestock and wildlife that provide valuable resources and ecosystem services, such as the pollination of crops. Honey bees (Apis mellifera), the prevailing managed insect crop pollinator, suffer from a range of emerging and exotic high impact pathogens, and population maintenance requires active management by beekeepers to control them. Wild pollinators such as bumble bees (Bombus spp.) are in global decline, one cause of which may be pathogen spillover from managed pollinators like honey bees, or commercial colonies of bumble bees. In our study, a combination of infection experiments with landscape scale field data indicates that honey bee EIDs are indeed widespread infectious agents within the pollinator assemblage. The prevalence of deformed wing virus (DWV) and the exotic Nosema ceranae is linked between honey bees and bumble bees, with honey bees having higher DWV prevalence, and sympatric bumble bees and honey bees sharing DWV strains; Apis is therefore the likely source of at least one major EID in wild pollinators. Lessons learned from vertebrates, highlight the need for increased pathogen control in managed bee species to maintain wild pollinators, as declines in native pollinators may be caused by interspecies pathogen transmission originating from managed pollinators.

This article is open access and pdf link for the paper used under the Creative Commons Attribution v4.0 International License.


How Honey Bee Colonies Survive in the Wild: Testing the Importance of Small Nests and Frequent Swarming.

J. Carter Loftus, Michael L. Smith, Thomas D. Seeley* (2016)
Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States of America

PLoS ONE 11(3): e0150362. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0150362

The ectoparasitic mite,Varroa destructor, and the viruses that it transmits, kill the coloniesof European honey bees (Apis mellifera) kept by beekeepers unless the bees are treated with miticides. Nevertheless, there exist populations of wild colonies of European honey bees that are persisting without being treated with miticides. We hypothesized that the persistence of these wild colonies is due in part to their habits of nesting in small cavities and swarming frequently. We tested this hypothesis by establishing two groups of colonies living either in small hives (42 L) without swarm-control treatments or in large hives (up to 168 L) with swarm-control treatments. We followed the colonies for two years and compared the two groups with respect to swarming frequency, Varroa infesttion rate, disease incidence, and colony survival. Colonies in small hives swarmed more often, had lower Varroa infestation rates, had less disease, and had higher survival compared to colonies in large hives. These results indicate that the smaller nest cavities and more frequent swarming of wild colonies contribute to their persistence without mite treatments.

This article is open access: