PI(s): Fell, Richard D (Project Leader)

Investigators: Tignor, Keith R (Investigator)

Abstract: Virginia beekeepers have suffered serious colony losses due to the introduction of parasitic mites. The Apiculture Program is designed to improve the pest management practices utilized by beekeepers through the development of research and extension programs. The program will also involve the development of queen breeding programs within the state, and the initiation of programs to improve and promote the use of honey bees for pollination. In addition the program will involve the development of an Africanized Honey Bee Response Plan in collaboration with VDACS.

Description:Honey bees play a crucial role in Virginia's agriculture and contribute to the production and quality of crops grown in the state. However, the number of managed hives in Virginia has decreased by more than 50% after the introduction of paracitic mites in the mid and late 1980's. The major problem for Virginia beekeepers is the occurrence of Varroa mites in bee hives as these mites are a major contributing factor to annual colony losses which exceed 30%. In addition beekeepers have had significant problems with maintaining queens in their colonies, and in obtaining new queens for the replacement of failing ones. The Apiculture Program is designed to help beekeepers improve the management of their colonies through the development of research and extension prorgrams. The research programs will concentrate on the development of best management practices for honey bee diseases and pests, and will involve the establishment of regional apiary sites for the evaluation of management techniques. Extension programs will concentrate on the development of training programs for Extension agents and on the development of a Master Beekeeper Program. The queen breeding program will involve feasibility studies on queen production, protocols for verifying quality, and the development of production and marketing incentives. The other major area of concern is crop pollination and the lack of colonies for pollination rental. A pollination program will be developed to encourage the use of hives by growers and will include the development of both educational programs for growers and beekeepers, as well as incentive programs to encourage beekeeper support.