38 Dr. Ramesh Sagili – The Elusive Secrets of Honey Bee Nutrition and Managing Varroa Mites


Speaker 1: From the Oregon State University Extension Service, this is Pollination, a podcast that tells the stories of researchers, land managers, and concerned citizens making bold strides to improve the health of pollinators. I'm your host, Dr. Adoni Melopoulos, assistant professor in pollinator health in the Department of Horticulture. There has been overwhelming demand from my following guest, Dr. Hermes Seguili is an associate professor in the Department of Horticulture here at Oregon State University and he heads up our magnificent apiculture program.

Now, the one thing that immediately struck me when I first met Dr. Seguili is how he combines two things exceptionally well. He is a world-class researcher and the work that he does here in Oregon is really regarded around the world, but he also has a really good nose for extension. He goes across the state talking to beekeepers, providing really useful and practical skills for them. And a key component of that is the Oregon Master Beekeeping Program, which we heard about in an earlier episode with Jen Holt, which he initiated in 2010. Dr. Seguili has agreed to come on the show as a semi-regular guest, so we're going to get some really timely updates on what you should be doing with your honeybees going into the future. But today we're going to look at some of the fascinating and interesting research that's going on in the Seguili lab.

Fasten your seatbelts, there's a lot going on there. Practical stuff, stuff you can use, stuff you're going to use in the future. OK, well, I'm really excited to have a cross for me. Dr. Hermes Seguili, welcome to Polynation.

Speaker 2: Yeah, thank you, Anthony.

Speaker 1: It's a pleasure. To start off, I want to talk about the research that you've started on honeybee nutrition. Can you just walk us through what we know about bee nutrition and what are some of the things that we don't know?

Speaker 2: Absolutely, yeah. So honeybee nutrition, probably people are hearing more about bee nutrition for the last maybe, I would say five, six years. It's not that people have not looked at honeybee nutrition, but as I say always, honeybee nutrition is the first line of defense as for any organism. I think if you are well nourished, I think you can take a lot of stresses and that's the same with honeybees as well. But unfortunately, we all know that honeybees have been studied for so long, but you'll be surprised if I say that honeybee nutrition is one of the understudied areas.

We still have barely scratched the surface. So to come back to your question on what we know and what we don't know is basically we know more about macronutrients like the carbohydrate needs like basically your nectar or honey that is in the hive is basically what we understand how much. So we know what quantities you might want in some areas like for example, Oregon, we think maybe about 70 to 80 pounds of honey is okay for overwintering of our bees. So they can sustain themselves on that. But protein again, we know there are various studies that we have seen approximately about 40 pounds is what people have shown that bees can collect and use throughout the year.

So those are some basics we know. So we know that the bees need carbohydrates in form of honey or nectar and then we have pollen, which is the primary source of protein. And we know probably for several plants, what's the crude protein content is. So those are some basic information that we are aware of today. But I think where we have gap in knowledge about bee nutrition is with the micronutrients. Basically looking at vitamins, minerals, and I think lipids also where sterols are very important, which I will talk in a minute.

So those are areas which we don't have an idea. And people talk about crude protein and then amino acids in the pollen. And we still don't know what ratios they are and what is really required for bees. So you'll be surprised some insects like grasshoppers, you have more information on nutrition than in honey bees.

Speaker 1: That is remarkable. You mentioned one element, are these sterols? What are these sterols? How did, why are they important to bees? Yeah.

Speaker 2: So I know we need cholesterol, right? I know we joke. Oh, okay. Same thing. Yeah, same thing. Yeah, because too much cholesterol is bad probably for everybody. But yeah, these are very small quantities you need, but they're very critical, especially for insects. We all know that we have five instars of larvae and honey bees. So there is this molting process.

So probably all our audience probably knows how insects mold. So for an insect from getting to one instar to the next instar, there are molting hormones involved. One is called egg disone. There is juvenile hormone. So these sterols are precursors of those molting hormones. So if you don't have these sterols, then to be very plain, your insect will not get to the next stage. That means if there is no sterol, your first or one day old larvae will stay as one day old larvae. It will never become a two-day old or a three-day old and then three, four, five, and then become a pupa and then an adult. Those stages will not be there. So it's very critical. So sterols are basically needed because they are precursors of this important molting hormone.

Speaker 1: Okay. So it's kind of like the sterols, which are naturally impollined. Is that where they're getting from?

Speaker 2: So yeah, so we can make our bodies can make sterols for us, but unfortunately for all insects, it has to come from an external source that is the food. Okay. And for our honey bees, it's basically coming from pollen because pollen is the primary source of protein and sterols as well.

Speaker 1: Okay. So the sterol is essentially the precursor for making a message that tells the insect it's time to, is that how it works?

Speaker 2: Yeah. Okay. Yeah. So yeah. It's basically, yeah, it's a precursor. That means if you don't have sterols, then yeah, that will not translate into getting to the molting hormones.

Speaker 1: Oh, it seems like a really important component for a honey bee to, for any bee. I imagine all bees have the same, same issue.

Speaker 2: All insects too. Yeah. It's a very important component. And that's what one of our research program areas focuses on is because there is not much we understand the needs of sterols, especially in honey bees.

Speaker 1: Yeah. Tell us a little bit about your research on sterols.

Speaker 2: Yeah. So if you look at the literature, most of the, as I said, honey bee nutrition is one of the understudied areas. And if you look back, most of the work was done in 1950s and until 1970s.

So, so, so we have some basic understanding. There is something called 24 methylene cholesterol. That's a very specific cholesterol that is available for bees in pollen. But again, we don't know what exactly, what concentration we need in the diet.

Okay. And so when you look at this protein diet, said either beekeepers make themselves or they buy from the store. I, I, and we have tested some of that. And we don't think they are providing the sterols that bees need. So what we are trying to find is again, we have two different areas of research.

As I said, we have basic area where we are looking at the sterol concentrations, how much you need for the development of the bee. And that's one which we are doing right now. We have a lab study that is concluded.

And now we are extending that to the field as well, where we will be looking at. So we think it's about 0.5% concentration that is required for bees, but that information is not there at this point. So, so we have created some artificial diets where we are providing them this different concentrations of sterols starting from 0.1%, 0.25, 0.5, 0.75 and 1. And we're trying to see and look at different parameters to see what's an optimal concentration that bees need in their diet so that we can eventually suggest something to be included in these artificial protein supplements that are there in the market.

Speaker 1: So they could be a lot more effective. You get more.

Speaker 2: So because right now, and this came again, a couple of minutes on this, this is important. So the reason why I was very obsessed about sterols is in the previous nutritional study with one of my master's students, we saw that. So we were testing different pollen types from different crops. And then we had simultaneously, there were some other treatments running with artificial protein, like protein supplements to be specific. So we saw that after three or four weeks, you would see that the ones that getting natural pollen, you would see different stages of larvae. And, and, but when you go back into this protein supplement once, it wasn't that the queen wasn't laying, the queen was still laying, but you don't see any of those stages of larvae. So what we were thinking is maybe the bees were cannibalizing this larvae because they had already, because there are, there is this endogenous sterols as well. So it's not like bees have to directly just feed and get the pollen.

It's not directly coming from the pollen. So the bees have to eat the nurse bees. Probably we all know that nurse bees are the ones that consume the pollen. So they eat the pollen. And then in the process, they store these sterols and that's coming through the brood food.

Speaker 1: Oh, so they have a reservoir inside their bodies. Absolutely. Okay. So they have these endogenous sterols. So the bees can still sustain the brood for maybe two or three weeks until the endogenous sterols are totally depleted. And once that happens, then you don't see any larval stages because they're cannibalizing because now those larvae are not going to the next stage because of those lack of molting hormones that I explained before. Oh, so it's really clear in these artificial diets. They're lacking this.

Speaker 2: Yeah. That's the reason why that's the reason why I got the stimulation to see that. Let's focus on sterols, even though they are needed in small concentrations, but they look like very critical for the development of these bees.

Speaker 1: Okay. So the one thing you're going to get at is this quantity question. How much do you need to put into, are there other dimensions of the work that you're doing? Yeah.

Speaker 2: So, so that's, that's one part, but you mean in terms of nutrition, what other projects are, this is basically with the sterols. Yeah. But then we have, that's a basic study, but then we have a lot of applied studies that are not going to everything today, but the lack of time. But one is we are looking at, looking at different cropping systems. So what we have done in the last two or three years is we have been collecting this pollen, bee collected pollen using pollen traps from different crops starting from almonds, which is the first crop in bloom in the calendar year. And then we go through blueberries, cherries and all this important or major cropping systems. And we have looked at those pollens. And then also we have been sampling some selected hives. The commercial beekeepers are great.

They have been very supportive of the program. And so we have been tagging some of their hives. And then we follow them longitudinally throughout the year to see if there is a problem in a different cropping system. So suppose, for example, in hybrid carrot in central Oregon, that's a hybrid carrot is not an ideal source of protein or carbohydrates for bees. So so beekeepers have seen this.

It's not nothing rocket science here that they didn't know. They knew it's a stressful crop because of the nutritional elements where both carbohydrates and proteins are not coming in the amounts that the bees need to sustain there. So so we did sampling of bees. Like it's a pretty simple study where we take samples of bees for looking at the hypoferenzial gland protein.

Speaker 1: Oh, these are the glands they have for nursing the brood.

Speaker 2: These are the brood food producing glands on the heads of the bees. And so so that's what happens when a bee eats the pollen, it grows those hypoferenzial glands and produces the food. So these are exocrine glands.

It's there. They're connected to the mouth. They come out and and that's how the brood food comes through those glands. So so we took samples of those bees and then we looked at the hypoferenzial gland protein content as soon as the bees arrive into the cropping system.

And then when they were leaving after a month. So that would be kind of a direct comparison from the same hives. So whatever hives you used for initial sampling, the same hives would be sampled again and then. And we were able to show almost a significant difference in the and decrease in the hypoferenzial gland protein content.

Speaker 1: OK, so these bees have lost a lot of capacity to nurse.

Speaker 2: Yeah. So that's what I mean. And beekeepers have known that mean I know they understand. But this is like more of a proximate mechanism we are showing here. But beekeepers knew those hives don't grow much when they are in in a hybrid carrot cropping system because of nutritional deficiencies. So so we showed this and then the next part of that was that OK. That was a known thing. But again, with more empirical data, we showed that yeah, bees are nutritionally in a stress when they are in hybrid carrot crop system. So so next year we had this experiment which we extended from the same study is we fed two pounds of protein supplement.

Yes. To this to the hives and we compared how much they were if they if the protein content was decreasing or stable. And so again, we showed that two pounds feeding as soon as they arrive in this cropping system is adequate to keep their hypoferenzial gland protein the same as they came initially. It's not really like changing dramatically. But at least the bees were able to sustain the brood area and other parameters that we were looking for.

Speaker 1: That's a real easy fix. So when you go into pollination, just put on these two or four pounds.

Speaker 2: Yeah, it was two pounds, which but again, some beekeepers are using more as well. But again, it's it's a lot of work for us. Be a key, but it's not so easy because you have to make another trip to the cropping system where your bees

Speaker 1: are because they're not like in your backyard. You got to drive across the state.

Speaker 2: Yeah, some people may have to drive maybe three or four hours to get there. So OK. But I think it's worth the trip and the money they have spent. So I think I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from the beekeeper. That once they started feeding at least two pounds, some of them are feeding even three to four pounds as well. But it has made a significant difference in the bee health in terms of nutrition.

Speaker 1: Yeah, let's take a break. I want to come to another area of research that you're doing that is also really useful that people really I think beekeepers are eager to know.

Get an update on is work that you're doing around Varroa mites. OK, we took a break. And as the guests know, during break, we often have a conversation. And one thing that came up is we know some of these things like sterols are not going to be in artificial feed. And a lot of beekeepers this time of year are trying to stimulate their colonies with artificial feed because there's not natural pollen. What can they do?

Speaker 2: Yeah, so that's an excellent question. So so when there is not natural pollen, what can they do? So you have to feed protein supplements, which either you can make. It's a messy job if you want to make it. But if you want to buy from stores, that's easy. And there are several companies that sell protein supplement. And so what I would recommend is as I talked about sterols in the last segment. So having some natural pollen is always critical. So if you can trap your own pollen, then probably and make your own protein supplement, then I would encourage you to add that pollen to the mix so that the bees will have some access to sterols. But if you're buying from a store, then I would recommend buy something that has about five or 10 percent of pollen mixed in with the protein supplement. That will be really helpful for the bees.

Speaker 1: And I guess the other thing with pollen, it is a it is a stimulant. Did they really are attracted to it?

Speaker 2: Yeah. And there are a lot of phenols. And so so, yeah, so those compounds are they act as stimulants as well. So I think that's another good point of having some natural pollen mixed in the supplement.

Speaker 1: OK, let's shift gears now to the and I like the way you set up the pollen is like if you got the pollen good, you know, the colony's stronger can resist stressors. But a key stressor that they're going to face are Varroa mites. Everybody has Varroa mites. Can you address some of the problems that people you're hearing people are having with Varroa mites and the research that you're doing to try and address some of these problems?

Speaker 2: Yeah, as you rightly said, I think Varroa mites is still the biggest challenge and I still joke or not. I shouldn't be joking. It's a serious matter. I think it has changed the face of beekeeping industry since its arrival around 87, 86, whatever the day it is. So so I still think the the major challenge with or at least my research focuses on is the. So the biggest challenge is the timely control of Varroa mites and especially not having too many options. So so a good control of Varroa mites is still a challenge for probably most of the North American continent and even other countries as well. So so that's one focus area that we are looking at is looking at all this efficacy of different products. I know there are only limited number of Varroa control options for beekeepers. So we have in the last two or three years, we have been focusing on looking at efficiencies of these different products that are available in the market. That's one area. And then we also look for I always suggest that frequent frequent monitoring is is very critical.

And then also you have to follow the Varroa growth pattern or Varroa growth dynamics that is more important. I know some beekeepers sometimes they read books and they think about the calendar treatment, right? So they may have on their calendar is OK on Labor Day or whatever day they want to treat their mites.

So I think some years it works, but I think each year is very different. And when your brood rearing starts, I think that's what the beekeepers have to focus on is. earlier the brood rearing, then you have to be more careful of getting the treatments on time because the treatment time would be early. Suppose if the brood rearing doesn't start until March, then probably your original dates of August, they will work.

I'm giving an example more of Oregon here. But suppose if the brood rearing some years, it starts in January, then because the mites are just looking for reproducing as soon as the brood becomes available to them. So that's the thing. So you have to always look for the Varroa mite population dynamics along with that. So as soon as it becomes available, then you have to treat early. So if you wait too long, and that's a very critical thing, the timing is everything for Varroa mite treatment. Even if you are two or three weeks late, it can do a significant damage to your bees.

Speaker 1: Okay. So this year, I'm new to Oregon as you know, or not totally new, but newish. This has been a warm winter.

Speaker 2: Yeah, I think so. Yeah. So again, I know I've already talked to some beekeepers and I have looked at some of our hives too. And they know that is already brood available. So again, it might change because again, you don't know how February or March is going to be. But if this trend continues, then probably, yeah, there will be significant brood available for these mites soon, and then they will explode. So then the mite treatments have to be coming on earlier than later. So I think again, monitoring each region is different. So and the valley is different very thing from the Eastern Oregon or some other places in California or Washington. So I think each area, the beekeepers have to monitor that.

So that's what I say. I know it's not easy, but with Varroa mite, such a killer. So we have to be very careful and monitor and see that our treatments go on time. And so that's another part which we have been looking at as well is what's the right time. So we have been sampling bees and looking at this phenology as well for the last three years or four years now, longitudinally monitoring mite levels throughout the year in Oregon as well.

Speaker 1: Well, and I just remind listeners, we did have two shows in the past one with Ellen Toppensoffer and one with Dewey Karen on Varroa mite monitoring. And I'm going to link in the show notes. The Honey Bee Lap has a really nice video available on monitoring for Varroa mite. So well, just in case you're new to the bees, watch those videos. But just tell us a little bit, I know you're interested in doing some work on the sampling. Can you tell us a little bit about kind of what are some of the questions around monitoring for Varroa mites and what we don't know?

Speaker 2: Do you mean like sampling techniques? Yeah, yeah. So yeah, I think they can find you an Oregon State Honey Bee Lab has a website where they can go and look for mite monitoring techniques. There is alcohol wash, which I prefer because you can get a better estimate. There is sugar dusting where if you don't want to kill your bees, then you can use sugar dusting protocol as well to monitor mites. And there is the sticky board monitoring of mites, which is relatively easier than these two where you're inserting a sticky board with the cooking oil spray or maybe vaseline or some sort of sticky substance that your bees are not stuck to it, but the mites will. And so those are some ways to monitor for mites.

Again, there are so many videos around which they can look for and see which one. But again, if viruses are another thing I wanted to mention as well, not many labs are there in the United States at this point that can do virus diagnostics for beekeepers. So we got some money from the legislature three or two years ago. And so we have started doing or taking samples in for virus diagnostics for now. So if the beekeepers are interested in finding virus levels in their bees at this point, I think we'll be able to help with diagnosing those at least four different viruses of honey bees.

Speaker 1: Tell us a little bit about how if somebody's interested and when should they send a sample in? Like I imagine you don't just send a sample in randomly.

Speaker 2: So yeah, I mean, of course in the winter probably there is no point going into the hive and disturbing. But I think if they're interested maybe in spring or summer and then even fall when the varroa mite levels are high, I think that's the time when we see a lot of viruses associated with this because viruses, the varroa mites are the carriers of these viruses, most of these. So then again, there is a protocol for sampling, I think we'll post that soon on our website.

Okay, great. But it has to be shipped overnight because these are and probably in dry ice because it's not like your regular varroa mite sample because they can be taken in alcohol. But here in this case, because it degrades pretty fast. So we have to have them shipped overnight and also they have to be in dry ice or something like that so that we can do a better job of finding those viruses.

Speaker 1: Okay, so a little bit trickier getting the samples to spring and summer are kind of the dates for submitting these. And if somebody's kind of, I guess, why would somebody be worried about viruses or should they just do it periodically?

Speaker 2: Yeah, so again, viruses are one area which again, I said honeybee nutrition is an understudied area. Viruses are another area which we still don't understand. I know, I mean, the results that we might give probably will provide them prison's absence.

I don't think they can really dig in, but we will need another three or four years really. This is not just for beekeepers. I think we wanted to learn about the phenology of these viruses and what does those numbers mean? If I say your virus titers are this much and does that make sense to beekeeper? That's not at this point.

It's not easy. At least they can use that information currently for looking at, okay, this time of the year, this virus is there, like example, deforming virus or catch me will be virus. So that might be helpful information, but I think what just are not our lab, but many other labs in the country that are trying to understand the dynamics of these viruses, what do they really do? Does this virus titer mean something to me?

Should I be doing it? There's not much they can do with viruses these days, like as with humans with any virus. But again, if we understand that, then probably there are ways maybe at least you can reduce your mite populations because most of these viruses are connected to viruses. Somehow, if you know that in July, the virus titers are high for deforming, maybe it's related to your varroa mites. Maybe you can do something to control varroa mites if not viruses. So we're trying to understand that if someone has this much percentage of varroa mites in July, does this correlate with the viruses?

How what's the titers look like? So that's kind of correlations. We are trying to generate this data for them. I mean, not just for the beekeepers that they send samples, but we will be doing some real design studies as well, where we will be correlating.

Oh, great. Varroa mite populations in a hive with the virus titers at that point so that we can get more information on how these correlations are working and what do they mean?

Speaker 1: This is exciting. So we've got you've got research testing different products, looking at different sampling methods and also now with this new capacity from the legislature, being able to look at the viruses that the mites are vectoring around and getting a better understanding for beekeepers on how to manage them. Is there you've got other projects going on with Varroa as well?

Speaker 2: So there is one we did last year is the mite migration study, which is again, everyone understand that mite migration is a problem.

Speaker 1: Oh, yeah, people talk about mite bombs.

Speaker 2: So, so, so that yeah, so basically what happens is if you have 10 hives in your apiary and maybe not all are infested in the same level, maybe some have 3% mites, some have 10% mites and so once the weak hive which had 10% or 15% is in decline or totally dead, then there is this robbing behavior or drifting behavior. So some bees that are still surviving in that hive might drift into another healthy colony or the mites or so because mites can't fly, right? So they have to be dispersed base basically by the bees. So when a bee has a mite, if it gets into a colony where there are not many mites, then you are infecting that colony or infesting that colony.

Speaker 1: So then all they start off with one having a lot and then they all have a lot.

Speaker 2: Yeah, so okay. So that's basically what mite drifting happens and so we wanted to quantify this especially in a more commercial setup like in a pollination area where there is high density of bees and just in a square kilometer or 10 square kilometers or something like that. So, so this was a perfect location again, same example of hybrid carrot seed production in Central Oregon where they bring in about 15,000 colonies and just 5,000 acres of carrot seed production. So we had this low density areas and high density areas of hives and we again did this monitoring of mites or sampling of bees for mites and looked at this low density and high density areas to see how the mite populations change within that month.

Speaker 1: Oh, you would expect that if you're a low density area there wouldn't be a lot of migration. So okay, so what did you find?

Speaker 2: So we're basically quantifying the migration of mites and that was very interesting and we want to repeat that this year and of course if you remember you helped us with that study as well.

Speaker 1: It's a lot of fun. Yeah, sampling in 100 degrees is fun in that just for sure, right? So I think this year we are increasing our sample size and design will change a little bit but again, so finding from last year as you asked, so there was only a marginal increase, not significant in the low density areas between those hives but in the high density areas the mite populations almost doubled. Really?

Speaker 2: Yeah, so that was a real eye opener. Again, nothing rocket science here.

Speaker 1: And they weren't there for many weeks?

Speaker 2: Yeah, it's within just four weeks. That's remarkable. Yeah, in four weeks we saw the bees that add only probably just for an example here, if they had 2% mite infestation it was about 4% when they were leaving in the high density areas.

Speaker 1: Okay, so these things are real, like there is this drift effect?

Speaker 2: Yeah, so again you may ask why how does this help? So that's what we are planning to see is again, this is just an empirical data we are providing demonstrating that yeah, the migration could be serious, mite migration and we have to deal with it. So again, there is not much we can do in some cropping systems but at least I would suggest for the hobby beekeepers and that's what again I suggest for mite control options when people ask are there any tips. So if you have 10 colonies in your apiary and as I said before the mite numbers may be very much very able within different colonies. So I would suggest treat all the colonies when they do at the same time.

Not leaving too early. Because you don't know, you may think it has only 2% just leave it alone but maybe in the next four weeks it might change and then the other might go down but maybe this might be a culprit for spreading of mites. So I think it's a good idea to at least treat all your colonies at the same time.

Speaker 1: Man and if I was a commercial beekeeper and I was just finishing pollination I'd sample those because I might need a treatment on.

Speaker 2: Yeah, so yeah sampling is critical as well as we talked before. Again, I'm not suggesting just randomly go and treat colonies but you have to monitor for the growth and based on that you should apply your treatments.

Speaker 1: Okay, well I can see you are a busy guy.

Speaker 2: Yeah, I think the beekeeper is busy right now.

Speaker 1: Well let's take a break. I got some questions I want to ask you that we ask all our guests. Okay. All right, we're back and I'm hope we were just talking we're hoping to get Dr. Segele on the show periodically as the season comes along to give you some advice on beekeeping in the Pacific Northwest. So we may probably won't do this again but now this is your first time on the show we want to know more about some of the things that you were important to you learning, important tools and the first thing question we ask all our guests is there a book out there that was really influential to you or that you really want people to know about like it's a really good book about bees.

Speaker 2: Yeah, the funny thing is people might think oh this is a big guy he might be reading books every day right so I wish I had more time to read books but yeah we follow the literature what's going on with the current research but yeah I think the last book I read probably was the Honey Bee Democracy by Tom Seely.

Oh yeah yeah. Yeah it's a nice book and I would recommend I know he talks about a little bit biology in the introduction maybe first two or three chapters but it's a nice book I think he explains maybe in a more layman terminology especially I think he focuses on that book is basically how in the last 50 years or 60 years of research on how bees decide to home or basically choose a nest site so that's basically that's the title Honey Bee Democracy is it's a very democratic process and and it's very intricate probably I mean it's a very complex it's not so easy I mean if if you read the book I think he has designed so many clever experiments and he also uses some other work from the past 40-50 years it's not that was all done in two or three years as you know honey bees are fascinating organisms with such a complex biology and so it took that many years I guess for them to really figure out how bees use this democratic process or a consensus building process and choosing a nest site location and eventually get there and and again there are several other things that are very neatly described in this book so I think that was a book I would recommend for the audience if they have time.

Speaker 1: He's a great writer and I think I haven't read the book and other people have recommended it but I do remember him talking about that little island that he has where he would

Speaker 2: yeah he in New York yeah I think yeah I think he was lucky I think he was at the right place to do this kind of research and I think it's exciting and yeah I think you met him recently as well when he came a couple of years ago here to give a talk at Oregon State Beekeepers Association yeah.

Speaker 1: You know I want to remember when he came here what he said so for those of you who are not in Oregon we have a really amazing master beekeeping program and well we had Jen Holt talking about that on a previous episode but I remember at the Oregon State Beekeepers Association meaning there's a journey level and him he was there and like he's he left the room because the journey level beekeeper is just so smart and so clever he said I've never been asked such great questions at a bee meeting before.

Speaker 2: Yeah no I think yeah he got some tough questions yeah but that's a neat book if someone wants to read it yeah I know you lot learn it's not like beekeeping book but I think for those who are curious to learn more about the democratic process that bees use I think yeah it's and I think you'll appreciate all those clever experiments how they design these things and and it's written not in a complex language using too many jargons but it's it's very informal description of the work as well so I would say that's a nice book to read.

Speaker 1: Okay that's great the next question we have for you is your go-to tool a tool that you really love to use when you're working with bees.

Speaker 2: Yeah I mean I know there are so many things that without those we can't work right from your hive tool to smoker but yeah I think I would suggest this thing in the last four or five years I've tried to use this tool so I think maybe some of the audience probably will appreciate that as well so this is a frame holder so you can it's a side mounting frame holder probably everyone has seen those and you can buy from a bee store so and again again why I like that is because I have done and probably Anthony you have done the same thing the disaster like putting a frame on the side I mean lying it on the side of the hive and then accidentally tripping on it or I've done it or hitting it and the bees are all over the place and so it's a mess you can create so sometimes I think it's pretty handy if you have this frame holder the frame that you don't want at least for giving you more space to work with you can put that frame one single frame on this frame holder and just easily maneuver through the other frames I think that's pretty handy.

Speaker 1: Great suggestion we'll put it again we'll put a link to this on the show notes so you can actually see what Dr. Skealy is talking about. Last question is do you have a favorite pollinator?

Speaker 2: And probably the obvious answer you're thinking is honey bee but I'll surprise you it's not honey bee yeah it's not yeah it's not I like bumblebees actually and mostly the the ones that are popular here the wasnis and skea the bombas wasnis and skea which is the yellow faced bumblebee and the little one the melanopigals this is a scandal but again I'm not I'm not discounting the honey bees I think the reason why is because I think the the degree of I mean these are elegant I mean the bumblebees are elegant I think that's why I like them but again they are no match for the the degree of sociality that honey bees demonstrate so I think honey bees are still superior for superior in terms of their sociality so so yeah I think that's how I can justify I guess that honey bees are still the most complex insects or pollinators when compared to bumblebees but bumblebees are very efficient pollinators when you look at per bee basis so and and I think just the elegance I would say is the one why I cited bumblebees as one of the favorite pollinators.

Speaker 1: Oh that's wonderful that's a great answer yeah well we're looking forward to having you back on the show thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us absolutely it was a pleasure Anthony. Thanks so much for listening show notes with information discussed in each episode can be found at pollinationpodcast.oregonstate.edu we'd also love to hear from you and there's several ways to connect for one you can visit our website to post an episode specific comment suggest a future guest or topic or ask a question that could be featured in a future episode you can also email us at [email protected] finally you can tweet questions or comments or join our facebook or instagram communities just look us up at osu pollinator health if you like the show consider letting iTunes know by leaving us a review or rating it makes us more visible which helps others discover pollination see you next week

Dr. Ramesh Sagili is an Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University. He obtained his PhD in Entomology from Texas A&M University in 2007, specializing in honey bee research. His primary research focus at OSU is honey bee health, nutrition and pollination. His appointment also includes extension and hence he also works closely with the stakeholders. He initiated the creation of Oregon Master Beekeeper Program in 2010 and chaired the Governor’s Task Force on Pollinator Health in 2014. He has strived to establish a vibrant and dynamic honey bee research and extension program at OSU to cater the needs of beekeepers and producers. He has authored several important research and extension publications. In 2017 he received the Entomological Society of America’s Pacific Branch Research Award and also the Eastern Apicultural Society’s Outstanding Research Award.

Listen in as we talk about honey bee nutrition, what beekeepers need to know about nutrition supplements and sterols, and what Ramesh has learned about controlling varroa mites.

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“There is a lot we don’t understand about the role of sterols in the honey bee diet”. – Dr. Ramesh Sagili

Show Notes:

  • How much is currently known about honey bee nutrition
  • The importance of the sterols in the honey bee’s growth
  • What Ramesh’s research on sterols and honey bees has shown about larval growth
  • The role that protein supplement can play in the health of your hive
  • How bees can get their necessary nutrients and sterols with artificial feed
  • What kinds of problems varroa mites present, and Ramesh’s research into mitigating their effects
  • Some of the questions surrounding varroa mites, and what we know about them
  • What “mite drifting” is, and how population density plays into it

“We had low density areas and high density areas of hive and we watched how Varroa mite infestations changed over time. This allowed us to quantify the migration of mites among apiaries. [Preliminary findings were] that mite levels almost doubled in the high density areas. It was a real eye-opener”. – Dr. Ramesh Sagili

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