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Neighbors Growing Together | Mar 19, 2018

Iowa beekeepers association hosting free seminar Jan. 20

Jan 09, 2018

GRIMES — The Central Iowa Beekeepers Association is having its annual winter seminar from 1-5 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Grimes Community Center in Grimes.

Everyone is invited to attend the free seminar. No reservations are needed. The facility has adequate seating to accommodate a large crowd and there will be snacks and drink during the break.

In the event of severe weather, CIBA will notify Des Moines area radio and TV stations of cancellation.

The three speakers are from Iowa State University: Amy Toth, Alex Walton and Randall Cass.


The hive mind

Amy Toth received her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois working with Gene Robinson, then studied as a USDA postdoctoral fellow at Pennsylvania State University with Christina Grozinger. Toth joined the faculty at ISU in 2010, where she currently an associate professor in two departments: Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology and Entomology. Her lab has two main lines of research, one focused on behavioral genomics of paper wasps, and another on how nutrition relates to honey bee behavior and health. She has taught courses on animal behavior, genetics, evolution, and bee biology. She served as president of the North American Section of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects, and was recently named Outstanding New Investigator by the Animal Behavior Society. She manages an active research laboratory sustained by continuous federal funding, and has traveled widely throughout the U.S. and abroad for lectures and invited talks.

Toth’s talk is titled “Infiltrating the hive mind: How parasites and pathogens manipulate honey bee behavior.” Honey bees use a wide variety of complex social behaviors within the hive, with close knit interactions between individuals. The same features that make honey bees fascinating as “super-organisms” also make them prime targets for pathogens, like numerous well-known viral and bacterial diseases. From the perspective of a pathogen, a honey bee hive is a bonanza of food, with thousands of potential hosts in a tightly packed area. But a “smart” pathogen doesn’t kill its host outright; it builds up slowly, keeping its host alive while using the host’s body and mind to reproduce and spread itself. Toth has been studying the ways in which viruses might “infiltrate” bee hives, asking whether they can adaptively manipulate bee behavior to increase their own transmission. Studies suggest Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus uses a three part strategy of manipulation. First, IAPV makes bees more social within a hive — increasing rates of food sharing between hive mates, which could allow the virus to spread within a hive. Second, IAPV makes bees more likely to exit the hive as foragers, which could increase the potential for spreading of the virus to other hives through forager contact at flowers or drifting to other hives. Third, bees infected with IAPV are more likely to be accepted by guard bees from a foreign hive, increasing the chance that these “Typhoid Mary” bees spread IAPV into other hives. There results suggest viruses do more than make bees sick — they may also insidiously alter honey bees’ social behavior in ways that increase their own transmission within and between hives.


Bees’ personalities

Alex Walton is a Post Doc graduate student in the Toth Lab, which is part of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program at ISU. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona, where he studied division of labor in ants and bumble bees. He spent a year working for the USDA-ARS at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center. His research interests include communication and organization in complex systems, and the evolution of eusocial insect societies.

Walton’s talk is titled “Your bees have personality! Individual behavioral differences within the honey bee work force.” Honey bee colonies are among the most efficient and productive societies to ever exist. This is in no small part due to their division of labor: some bees perform some jobs, and other bees perform others. What tasks a bee does is most strongly associated with how old she is; however, age is not the whole story. Investigation has been conducted on behavioral differences of individuals of the same age, and how persistent they are in different potential contexts, and even as they age. It has been found that such unique differences, often called “personalities” do exist among honey bee workers in a colony. The causes of these personalities might be in part due to the nutrition workers receive both as larvae and as adults, and other in-hive environmental factors. Personality differences might be an important, and under-studied, contributor to the highly sophisticated division of labor of the honey bee society.


Practical lessons

Randall Cass is an Extension entomologist at ISU. His area of expertise is honey bees, native bees and pollinators. Cass has a M.S. in International Agricultural Development from the University of California Davis.

Cass’s talk is titled “Practical Lessons from a Beekeeping Cooperative in rural El Salvador.” Cass has worked with a group of new beekeepers from February 2015 to March 2016 who were interested in improving their honey production and forming a cooperative in El Salvador. He will discuss the challenges the cooperative faced and the solutions they devised to boost production with very little investment. Many of the lessons learned should apply in Iowa.

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