News for SC Beekeepers: June 2009

Local News

South Carolina Beekeepers to Meet at Clemson University - The summer meeting of the South Carolina Beekeepers will be held at Clemson University, Clemson, SC on 16-18 July 2009.  Registration will begin on Thursday, 16 July at 12:00 noon in the Poole Agricultural Center Lobby. (See program for registration details) The meeting will begin at 1:00 in the Poole Agricultural Center Auditorium with session 1 of a 1-day intermediate level beekeeping short course. The course is designed for individuals with beekeeping experience, but everyone is welcome. The short course will break for dinner at 5:00 and session 2 of the short course will begin at 6:30 and end at 8:30 PM.  

On Friday morning, we will begin with a general session at 8:00 and workshops will be held in the afternoon. We have several out-of-state speakers on the program including Steve Sheppard from Washington State University, Jamie Ellis from the University of Florida, Amanda Ellis from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Gordon Wardell from Tucson, Arizona, Ann Harmon from Flint Hill, Virginia, and Virginia Webb from Clarkesville, Georgia. In addition, we have several speakers from South Carolina who will speak at the meeting. For more details, you will find a meeting program in this newsletter.

A barbecue pork/baked chicken dinner is planned for Friday evening at Jimmy Howard’s home in Pendleton.  Scheduled activities are the annual horseshoe pitching tourney and a smoker lighting contest.  Dinner will be served for $7.00/plate. On Saturday morning, we will have another general session beginning at 8:00 that will include many interesting topics and the meeting will end at noon.

We will have a honey show and competition at our summer meeting this year. Bring along a container of your best honey. Please do not place a label on your honey containers. Honey classes will be pint and quart extracted. There will be light and dark classes, so do not be concerned if your honey is dark. A “black jar class” will be included again. This class will be judged on taste only. Small black jars will be provided at the show, so bring a sample of your best tasting honey and take this ribbon home. We are also adding an additional class in the competition, 1 lb. block of beeswax.  Honey and beeswax entries should be turned in for the competition from 7:30 - 10:30 on Friday morning. Thanks to June Ponder a member of the Oconee Beekeepers for overseeing this event. And a big thanks to Steve Genta and Clyde McCall for judging the contest entries.  Ribbons will be awarded for each category and a best of show ribbon will be included.

On-campus housing will be available in the Lightsey Bridge I student apartments for a cost of $18/individual/night. You do not need to make a reservation. Come by our meeting registration desks to process and pay for a room. The dorm will be an apartment arrangement with four beekeepers sharing an apartment. Each beekeeper will have a separate bedroom with one twin bed and all will share a bathroom. Bring your own bed linens and towels or you may pay $15 for a linen packet fee. Bed pillows are not provided so don’t forget to bring a pillow. Meals (breakfast 7-9:30, lunch 11-1:30, dinner 4:30-6:30) are available on campus at the Harcombe Food Court (15 minute walk from the dorm). There is also a food court (open 11AM – 6PM) in the Hendrix Student Center (10 minute walk from the dorm) which is about a 5 minute walk from our meeting site.  This is the same building where you can buy the delicious ice cream and famous Clemson blue cheese.

Accommodations are available off campus in the Clemson area as follows: Clemson Sleep Inn, $69.99, (864) 653-6000, includes contl bkfst; Clemson Days Inn, $62.99, (864) 653-4411, includes contl. bkfst. Mention that you are attending the South Carolina Beekeepers Convention to get the University rate. You will need to make your reservation by 1 July to get this rate. After that date, rooms may not be available.  

Our designated parking lot for this meeting is the large parking lot directly behind the Poole Agricultural Center. You will notice that this parking lot has green marked parking spaces which are normally reserved for employees only. Please do not park in other campus parking lots that have green marked parking spaces or you will get a ticket. However, you can park in any commuter parking lot that can be identified by having orange marked spaces. You will need to pick up a hang tag for your vehicle at our registration desk immediately upon your arrival at our registration desk and place it on your vehicle.    

Let’s continue to make the South Carolina Beekeepers summer meeting a great success; invite some beekeeping friends to come along for an educational vacation.  If you have questions about the meeting, please contact Mike Hood, ph. (864) 656-0346, email

2009 SPRING MEETING: our 2009 joint spring meeting with the North Carolina State Beekeepers in Rock Hill was a great success with 530 beekeepers registered which marks this meeting as the largest attended beekeepers meeting ever held in South Carolina. Many thanks to the York County Beekeepers for locally hosting this meeting along with assistance from the Lancaster County Beekeepers. Also, thanks to Rachel Rowe, Department of Entomology, Soils, and Plant Sciences for her support in processing meeting registration packets.    

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack And First Lady Michelle Obama Highlight Healthy Eating

White House Garden to Receive USDA-Developed Honey Bees  

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined First Lady Michelle Obama and a group of 5th graders on the South Lawn of the White House today to talk about healthy eating, the availability of locally grown fruits and vegetables, and bees.

"Growing your own fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to have healthy food," Vilsack said. "Working in a garden is a great way to stay physically active and maintain a healthy body. And, USDA is helping schools make sure that every student in America has a healthy and nutritious lunch to eat at school."

This July, USDA will be providing two types of parasite-resistant honey bees developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists to pollinate the plants in the new White House garden this summer. Both of these bees are rapidly gaining in popularity with bee keepers.

Honey bees enhance any garden, because they increase the yields of plants that require pollination, they produce honey, and they are one of Nature's most fascinating creatures to observe. Unfortunately, parasitic mites cause serious health problems for most varieties of honey bees, and many beekeepers must use pesticides to combat the mites in the hives. But these USDA-developed bees are mite-resistant, offering a more natural, organic alternative for the White House garden.

Honey bees are crucial to American agriculture, adding some $15 billion in value in the nation's crops, particularly specialty crops such as almonds and other nuts, berries, fruits, and vegetables. In California, the almond crop alone uses 1.3 million colonies of bees, approximately one half of all honey bees in the United States, and this need is projected to grow to 1.5 million colonies by 2010.

Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, developed the two types of mite-resistant honey bees. One type is highly resistant to the parasitic mite Varroa destructor, commonly known as the varroa mite. The bees have a trait called "varroa-sensitive hygiene" which prompts the worker bees to detect and remove infested bees from the nest, eliminating the need for chemical help to control the mites.

The second type of mite-resistant honey bees is based on a strain of honey bees from Russia which are naturally resistant not only to varroa mites, but also to tracheal mites, which infest the breathing tubes of the bees. These bees are also highly tolerant of cold weather and require less artificial feeding than typical honey bees.

The Russian bees were brought to the United States by Thomas Rinderer, research leader at ARS' Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Research Unit at Baton Rouge, La., where studies have been under way on the bees since the mid-1990s. Rinderer and other ARS scientists will collaborate with White House staff on installation of the USDA bees in the White House garden.

For the past eight years, breeder queens of the Russian-derived and varroa-sensitive hygienic bees have been released to the beekeeping industry, and both types of bees are gaining rapidly in popularity. In 2008, a breeders' group called the Russian Honeybee Breeders Association, Inc., was formed to supply the Russian-based queens throughout the U.S. beekeeping industry, and demand is outstripping supply.

Both types of mite-resistant USDA bees are good pollinators and easy to keep alive because of their hardiness, thus helping ensure the success of the new White House garden.

SOURCE: USDA News Release WASHINGTON, April 9, 2009

Agriculture: On The Wings Of Angels

By Daniel Weaver, Bee Weaver Apiaries, Inc.,

John McCain has attacked numerous expenditures in the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill, but he has singled out federal funding for bee research. Some news organizations have echoed McCain's complaints about $1.7 million for a "bee factory" in Weslaco, Texas. All this criticism of funding a "bee factory" in Weslaco follows closely on the heels of Senators McCain and McConnell angrily denouncing $150 million for "bee insurance" in the Stimulus Package. Sadly, no money for bee insurance or anything related to bees was ever included in the Stimulus Package. But it wouldn't have been a bad idea.

Our Nation has a vast amount of agricultural productivity riding on the wings of honey bees - over $15 billion each year. Worldwide, the annual value of pollination services exceeds 150 billion euros ($189 billion). Protecting our pollinators, which preserve our environment as well our food supply, is only prudent. In fact, a recent study indicates that the demand for crop pollination may soon exceed the global capacity of pollination supply. $150 million spent today for some protection against the risk that we won't have enough pollinators or food in the future seems a small price to pay. After all, without pollinators and especially bees, our Nation's bounty of delicious food and beautiful landscapes would not exist in such abundance and variety. If we want to ensure that all our citizens have access to healthy, nutritious and affordable food, especially fruits and vegetables, then we should plan for the provision of adequate pollination services to grow that food. Moreover, feeding a surging world population represents a growing challenge and a potential threat to our national security. A shortage of pollinators leading to insufficient food supplies could promote new regional or global conflicts over food.

Unfortunately, the decline of honey bee populations is all too real. The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences recently called for a significant increase in funding for pollinator research generally, noting that the most compelling case for pollinator declines was for honey bees. But the NRC report was published prior to the emergence of a mysterious new syndrome called colony collapse disorder (CCD) that has devastated hundreds of thousands of additional honey bee colonies since 2007, accelerating the decline of honey bee populations. The cause or causes of CCD remain unexplained, though pathogens, environmental toxins and stress imposed by the rigors of modern apiculture are some possible culprits, either singly or in combination.

Last year, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees responded to all these alarm bells by authorizing more than $100 million dollars for pollinator research and protection over the next five years in the Farm Bill. Unfunded studies on the causes and solutions for CCD and other pollinator problems represent research that is ready to move forward immediately, and provide an economic stimulus as expenditures are made on laboratory equipment, reagents and services. The Appropriations Committees made a small start on implementing the Agriculture Committee's recommendation by including $800,000 for CCD research funding in the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill. Perhaps the 2010 Appropriations bills will continue to recognize the threat of pollinator declines and fund additional research to understand and develop solutions for pollinator declines.

Before the current misguided crusade to make bees appear like little pigs with wings gets any more lift, opponents of bee research might reflect upon the value of bees and the vital role they play. One would think that spending money to protect our environment and put nutritious pollinator-dependent fruits and vegetables within reach of everyone would be treated as imminently sensible aims. If not, then maybe opponents of pollinator research will follow their stomachs and examine carefully what they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next few days. In fact, I've got a modest proposal to illustrate the role of pollinators. Let's ask Senator McCain to subsist solely on a diet of non-pollinator dependent food and compare his meager meals to those of Congressman Chet Edwards (D-TX), who'll enjoy the cornucopia made possible by bees and other pollinators. Rep. Edwards is the logical choice to enjoy the pollinated feast - he requested $1.7 million to restore previous levels of funding for bee research at the USDA-ARS Weslaco laboratory. Edwards' plate will be full of vegetables, fruit and many other delicious and nutritious foods while McCain will be eating a bland diet with lots of corn syrup, bread and other starches. I'm betting that within the week Senator McCain will retract his attack on the USDA laboratory in Weslaco and maybe even support increased appropriations for bee research. If not, then hopefully McCain will at least acknowledge that pollinator declines and Federal funding for pollination research are important national issues with implications for all of us.

(Mr. Weaver, a Navasota, Texas-based queen breeder and Past President of American Beekeeping Federation, wrote the following commentary for the opinion page of the Washington Post.)

SOURCE:  American Beekeeping Federation Newsletter. March/April 2009

The Buzz About Colony Collapse Disorder

By Melynda Harrison, Montana State University News

Montana State University graduate student Joanna Gress drove from Polson to Bozeman with 50,000 honeybees in her car at the end of April.

"It's was four hour drive with a lot of bees, but it's what I do for science," laughed the plant sciences doctoral student.

Gress brought the bees to MSU to study the cause of, and develop a management strategy for, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

The main symptom of CCD is a rapidly depopulated beehive. The queen and immature bees (brood) remain, and there are no dead bees in the hive. Often there is still honey. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, some beekeepers began reporting losses of 30 percent to 90 percent of their hives in late 2006 to CCD.

"Overnight, the bees are just gone and you don't know what happened," said Gress.

The bees may have been infected by single-celled, spore-producing parasite called Nosema ceranae.

"Nosema ceranae was first found in Asian honeybees and has now jumped to European honeybees and can be found worldwide," said Gress.

Nosema's spore has a tough resistant wall protecting it from conditions in the host and in the environment. Conditions in the bees' intestines trigger the explosive release of spores and their contents into the cells of the host bee. The Nosema nuclei divide repeatedly inside the infected bee, producing large amoeba-like organisms with multiple nuclei. Some of the organisms mature into spores, completing the lifecycle.

There is an antibiotic that kills the parasite in its active, reproducing state, but no method of killing its spores. The spores are extremely hardy and can survive freezing, dehydration and extreme heat. During the winter when bees are hibernating, their spore-laden feces pile up in the hive. Sick bees often have diarrhea and defecate in the hive, greatly increasing the chances that other bees will be exposed.

"Spring comes along and the bees start cleaning out their combs and they reinfect themselves," Gress said.

This is a problem for beekeepers. As they share combs among hives and use the same equipment to clean multiple hives they can inadvertently spread the spores, infecting other colonies.

According to the USDA, one in three mouthfuls of the American diet directly or indirectly benefits from honeybee pollination. Bee pollination is responsible for $15 billion in added crop value, particularly for specialty crops.

As a doctoral student, Gress rotated through three researcher's laboratories to gain a variety of experiences. In one rotation she participated in fungal pathogenesist Robert Cramer's ongoing research. Gress tested different compounds beekeepers could use to kill the Nosema ceranae spores and found that a 10 percent bleach solution worked the best. Beekeepers can use it to clean their hives and equipment.

"The great thing is that it is cheap and readily available," said Gress.

Another compound with potential against Nosema ceranae spores is formic acid. Since some beekeepers already use it to kill other bee pests, "it would be a two for one solution," Gress said.

"I don't know if you can totally get rid of it," said Gress. "But, I think we can reduce it so that it's not interfering with honey production."

The bees Gress picked up in Polson will be used for another CCD project. The three colonies will be kept on the MSU campus at the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station. Gress will siphon bees off the healthy hives to infect with two species of parasite in her lab: Nosema ceranae and Nosema apis.

Nosema ceranae has replaced a related species of parasite--Nosema apis--that caused bee dysentery, but less death. This new species creates more spores, has a higher infection rate and a higher kill rate than Nosema apis.

Gress aims to determine whether Nosema ceranae is the cause of CCD in the United States.

"We are not sure what causes CCD in the U.S., but it is probably multi-factored," said Gress. "It's like a perfect storm of high levels of infection by the varroa mite (a parasite that feeds on bee blood and transmits bee viruses), poor nutrition due to pollinating crops with low nutritional value, and pesticide use, but Nosema ceranae is probably the main factor."

Using microarray analysis, Gress will look at the gene expression of infected bees to see what genes are different between the bees infected with the two different Nosema species versus uninfected bees. She hopes to determine if the bees' immune systems respond differently to the two parasites.

Gress hopes the analysis will lead to clues that explain why Nosema ceranae is more virulent than Nosema apis. It may be that the parasite puts an increased stress on the bees, or it may be that it is more lethal because the bees cannot muster a strong immune response to it.

"If the latter is the case then maybe we want to try and breed for greater resistance to Nosema ceranae," said Gress. "It's an important question to figure out in order to help beekeepers come up with a management strategy."

It was a lecture by entomologist (and now Gress' advisor) Kevin Wanner that drew her to bee research. She became more interested after speaking with Cramer, who is working on Nosema ceranae.

"Joanna rotated through our laboratory to gain some experience working with honeybees and Nosema ceranae," Cramer recalled. "Joanna is very enthusiastic about honeybees and she has the drive and passion to make this a successful endeavor."

"I've always thought CCD was interesting and this is a new field at MSU," Gress said. "We have done some bee research here, but not a lot, so it is exciting to spearhead this project."

Gress purchased two jars of sting stopper and admitted to being a little nervous about driving a car full of bees, but she felt it was worth it to move on the next step of her research.

"I like big-picture projects that have a real world application," said Gress. "I'm going into this really excited."

SOURCE: APITRACK Links from Montana State University News, May 07, 2009, Robert Cramer at (406) 994-7467 or

Helping Bees Get A Grip

By Kelli Whitlock Burton

To take a drink of nectar, a bumblebee has to keep its balance on wobbly flower petals. The bees get some help from plants, according to a new study. Cone-shaped cells, found on 80% of flowering plants, offer firm footing and may have evolved to increase the odds of pollination.

Scientists have debated the function of these cells, known as conical epidermal cells, since the 1970s. Some thought they made flowers more attractive to bees by enhancing their color or by increasing the plant's temperature a degree or two, which might boost nectar production. But plant molecular biologist Beverley Glover of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom had a different theory: that the cells provided traction.

"In the wild, a flower isn't just a stationary dinner plate," says Glover. Cells that allow bees to latch on as a flower is waving in the wind make pollination more likely and would be an evolutionary plus, she says.

To rule out color and odor as functions of the cells, Glover and colleagues created white, odorless epoxy casts of snapdragon petals. The surfaces of the casts were either flat or lined with cone-shaped bumps simulating conical epidermal cells. Small tubes on the petals held sucrose.

When the casts were horizontal, the bees were equally attracted to flat and bumpy petals. However, when the casts were placed at an angle or vertically, the bees were far more likely to choose the petals with a rough surface, the researchers report online today in Current Biology. Analysis of high-speed video showed that when bees landed on the bumpy petal casts, they latched onto the surface with all legs, stopped beating their wings, and dined with ease. However, bees attempting to feed on smooth petals slipped around, their middle legs scrambling on the petal surface while their wings beat furiously.

"Beating their wings costs bees a lot of energy," says Nickolas Waser, an emeritus evolutionary ecologist at the University of California, Riverside. "Animals want to gather as much energy as possible as quickly as possible, so it makes sense that bees would prefer a surface that allowed them to conserve energy while they ate."

SOURCE: ScienceNOW Daily News, 14 May 2009

Survey Reports Latest Honey Bee Losses

By Kim Kaplan, ARS News Services

WASHINGTON  Honey bee colony losses nationwide were approximately 29 percent from all causes from September 2008 to April 2009, according to a survey conducted by the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This is less than the overall losses of about 36 percent from 2007 to 2008, and about 32 percent from 2006 to 2007, that have been reported in similar surveys.

"While the drop in losses is encouraging, losses of this magnitude are economically unsustainable for commercial beekeeping," said Jeff Pettis, research leader of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency. The survey was conducted by Pettis; Dennis vanEngelsdorp, president of AIA; and Jerry Hayes, AIA past president.

About 26 percent of apiaries surveyed reported that some of their colonies died of colony collapse disorder (CCD), down from 36 percent of apiaries in 2007 2008. CCD is characterized by the sudden, complete absence of honey bees in a colony. The cause of CCD is still unknown.

As this was an interview based survey, it is not possible to differentiate between verifiable cases of CCD and colonies lost as the result of other causes that share the "absence of dead bees" as a symptom.

However, among beekeepers that reported any colonies collapsing without the presence of dead bees, each lost an average of 32 percent of their colonies in 2008 2009, while apiaries that did not lose any bees with symptoms of CCD each lost an average of 26 percent of their colonies.

To strengthen the beekeeping industry, ARS recently began a five year areawide research program to improve honey bee health, survivorship and pollination. Honey bee pollination is critical to agriculture, adding more than $15 billion to the value of American crops each year.

The survey checked on about 20 percent of the country's 2.3 million colonies.

A complete analysis of the survey data will be published later this year. An abstract of the data is available on line at:

SOURCE:, 19 May 2009

Dennis F. “Bill” Gentry

Dennis F. “Bill” Gentry, 83, of Gray Court (Laurens County), SC, passed from this life Sunday, February 15, 2009, at the Laurens County Hospital. He was born December 23, 1925 in Hot Springs, NC. He had been engaged in farming for many years operating the Gentry Farms, where he raised strawberries and blueberries. He was also a beekeeper and was past president of the Piedmont Beekeepers Association. He owned and operated Gentry Hardware in Gray Court.  He had been a member of Dials United Methodist Church for 65 years.


Upcoming Beekeeper Meetings

South Carolina Beekeepers Summer Meeting
Clemson University, SC
July 16-18, 2009

Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS)
Ellicottville, New York
August 3-7, 2009

Summer Salads

Beans and Greens with Honey Tomato Vinaigrette


1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans, rinsed & drained
1 roma tomato, chopped
¼ cup chopped onion
1½ cups thinly sliced spinach leaves
1 cup spicy vegetable juice cocktail
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1½  teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt


In small bowl, combine vegetable juice cocktail, balsamic vinegar, honey, olive oil, chili powder, ground cumin and salt; remove ½ cup dressing and reserve. Place remaining mix in airtight container and reserve for other uses.

In large bowl, combine beans, tomato and onion; mix well. Add ½ cup reserved dressing; toss to coat. Add spinach; toss to coat.

Chicken Salad Santa Ana


6 oz. chicken breast, sliced into 2-1/2 x 1/2-inch strips
½ cup Honey of a Dressing, divided
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
½ cup thinly sliced sweet red peppers
½ cup thinly sliced onion
½ cup thinly sliced mushrooms
4 quarts packed spinach leave
¼  cup sliced radishes


Marinate chicken in 1/4 cup dressing at least 2 hours or overnight, refrigerated. Drain and reserve marinade. Heat oil in non-stick pan and stir-fry chicken until juices run clear. Add pepper, onion, mushrooms, and reserved marinade; stir-fry one minute. Add spinach leaves and toss in pan until barely wilted. Add radishes and toss to mix. Serve with remaining dressing.

Honey of a Dressing


1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup honey
½ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
½ teaspoon salt
¼  teaspoon ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Combine vinegar and honey; mix well. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Comments or Questions, Contact:

Mike Hood,  Extension Apiculturist, 864-656-0346,

Clemson University, Dept. of Entomology, Soils, & Plant Sciences
Attn: "News for SC Beekeepers", Editor
Box 340110, 116 Long Hall, Clemson, SC 29634-0110
Phone: 864-656-3111, Fax: 864-656-0274

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