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40 ILL effects


exhibit ill effects after pollinating blueberries. “In general, there’s an


increase in the proportion of colonies that had some visual symptoms of disease,” Guarna told the BCHPA. “The question is, is this really in blueberries, or is this happening everywhere?”


Based on the experience of a single beekeeper that participated in the study, a correlation seems to exist with pollination of blueberries. “Most of the colonies that


were not in blueberries didn’t have many frames with disease; in contrast, the ones in blueberries had more,” she says.


Researchers will continue to analyze the data set, however, working to confirm potential pathogens (a lengthy process) and analyzing honey and pollen samples for possible contaminants. Guarna would like to pursue a larger study that explores how different colony management strategies might


nfrom page 39


play a role. She suspects nutrition may be a factor. “We’re exploring options of


how to do the chemical analysis.” Researchers received a list of chemicals and compounds used by all participating blueberry growers and every beekeeper, and analyzing these will be part of work during the project’s second year.


Researchers will also discuss their findings with other researchers, including US researchers who are also studying connections between bee health and blueberries.


While some media


coverage has put beekeepers at odds with blueberry growers, BCHPA president Kerry Clark said nothing could be further form the truth. BC Blueberry Council members have pledged $12,500 towards the project over two years, as well as opened their farms to investigators. “We aren’t looking for


villains. We’re just looking for solutions,” says Clark.


COUNTRY LIFE IN BC • FEBRUARY 2019


Mystery bee disease studied Outbreak more prevalent in southern BC


by PETER MITHAM A disease similar to American and


European strains of foul brood (AFB and EFB) is a


conundrum for beekeepers in BC and at the National Bee Diagnostic Centre in Beaverlodge, Alberta. “We’re seeing examples in different locations of the province, predominantly the southern portion of the province,” long- time provincial apiculturist Paul van Westendorp told the BC Honey Producers Association annual conference in October. “It looked like AFB, and it looked a little bit like EFB, but we couldn’t figure out what it was.” It’s not known if it’s happening elsewhere


in Canada. Within BC, it appears to be more common in the Pemberton area, as well as on Vancouver Island and in the West Kootenays.


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The disease is characterized by dry material in the brood frames, larvae dried up in the bottom, often white. The colonies tend to be weak throughout the season but show a mild response to antibiotics, suggesting a microbe rather than a virus is the cause.


But scientists just don’t know. Van Westendorp collected samples of


dead larvae and prepared them for testing. “The bacteriology lab came back that


there was almost universal presence [of] Providencia spp.,” he told honey producers. But the bacteria is usually found in the gut of adult bees, so how it entered the larvae is a mystery. The samples collected in 2017 show no correlation with blueberries but work continues. Marta Guarna told BCHPA members that work in Beaverlodge aims to improve diagnostics for foul brood and like diseases. They’re a persistent group of diseases typically managed with antibiotics.


However, detecting it early before it spreads has been difficult. The work in Beaverlodge, led by Patricia


Wolf Veiga, seeks better diagnostics for the range of foul brood diseases, and tools that could help determine the likelihood the disease will develop. A library of local strains will be developed to assist the work. The three-year project gathered 150 samples from BC and Alberta in its first year, of which 80% were confirmed to have foul brood. The second year will identify and evaluate the infectious nature of the strains, while the third year will focus on developing diagnostic tools. BCHPA has pledged $15,000 over three


years to support the work, with funds earmarked specifically for sample analysis. Any residual funds may be put to other uses and accounted for accordingly.


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