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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Okay, so there's a microbial environment in and around the hive. Those who are paying attention already know that it's important and some of the "why".

It seems like the next set of questions is, "How?" How do we put that sort of information to practical use?

In one thread, three years ago...
http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?214577-Microbial-ecology-of-the-bee-and-hive

And what does one do w/ this information? And how? Knowledge is a wonderful thing, but how does one apply it?
And...
is there any info on how to see if you have this "balance"?? or determine if you don't???
But there's not a lot of practical answers so far, except for the general "treatment-free" approach and maybe the idea of spreading around "good" microbes by sharing comb, and doing splits and nucs from healthy hives.

Yesterday, at our Natural Beekeeping Symposium, Laurie R. Herboldsheimer gave a great introduction to this topic — "The Importance of the Microbial Environment in the Beehive." The Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild should have the video up sometime soon. (I'll post the link.)

Here are some practical questions:

  1. How does it work to share comb between hives? Within an apiary? from apiary to apiary? What criteria for sharing (or not sharing)?
  2. What factors affect the biome in the hive? and the microbiome in the bees' guts, etc.? — especially the factors that beekeepers can affect?
    • Humidity?
    • Acidity?
    • Temperature?
    • Time of year?
    • The plants the bees are in contact with?
    • Other insects in the hive (and arachnids, etc.), as microbial hosts etc.
    • What else?
  3. And what factors particular to beekeeping affect the biome, and microbiome?
    • Smoke?
    • Ventilation?
    • Intrusion and manipulation of frames, etc.?
    • Treatments, feeding, etc.?
    • Some of the ones above, which beekeepers can affect.
  4. How do specific pesticides, fungicides, and other treatments used outside the hive affect the biome? What can beekeepers do to buffer these effects?
  5. Viruses - good, bad, and ugly

One recent citation, posted a couple of months ago:
Microbial Ecology of the Hive and Pollination Landscape: Bacterial Associates from Floral Nectar, the Alimentary Tract and Stored Food of Honey Bees (Apis mellifera)
And here's a video, posted recently at the end of the thread quoted above.
I know there's already a lot of scientific research, and a lot to be learned by analogy from other insects and even from studies of humans and human health. But it seems like it's time for a conversation about practical steps that beekeepers can take, using this sort of information. There are some looney ideas in the mix (like feeding the bees yogurt:pinch:), and at this stage I assume there's room for those ideas too. It shows people are looking for practical steps. Is BeeSource a good place for that conversation? (I thought of posting this in the Treatment-Free forum, but realized some of the questions relate to treatments and dealing with side- and after-effects, etc.)
 

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First, I think it's important not to disrupt the microbes in a healthy hive.

Second, as you already mentioned, I think you can often set a hive on the right track by giving it a frame of brood and pollen from a healthy hive. Think of it as the "germ theory of health". You want to share germs from those that are healthy.

Any other actions pretty much require more knowledge than we currently have. We don't know for sure what beneficial organisms to innoculate them with, but we can be reasonably sure that a healthy hive has at least some of them.
 

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Watched the scientific activities by the Swedish scientists for years. They came out with this product and I start using it from next Spring on. Will report if anyone is interested. To me it does make sense to inoculate the hive with bee microbes just to give them a start. Just like starting off a sourdough or honey mead. Inoculate it and it runs by itself.

http://symbeeotic.apicellae.se/
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
At the symposium yesterday, Ramona told us something I didn't quite get, that antimicrobial treatments common in the industry have completely eradicated certain strains of bacteria in most parts of the world, but not in Switzerland and New Zealand. Ah, here's a link:

After Decades of Antibiotic Treatment of Honeybee Colonies, Tetracycline-resistant Bacteria Often Found in US Bees

And that even Dee Lusby's bees, which haven't been exposed to treatment for 25+ years, are no different. So it seems like one area to explore is intercontinental inoculations...
 

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Sorry I wasn't more clear. What I was discussing was honeybee gut bacteria showing resistance to antibiotics, not eradication of the bacteria.

Dee Lusby's bees are dramatically different from bees in the US that have been routinely treated with antibiotics. Her bee's gut bacteria more closely resemble gut bacteria from bees in parts of the world that have never been treated with antibiotics.

Although Dee's bees have not been treated in over 25 years, their gut microbes still show
more antibiotic resistance than bees from places that have never been treated.

Here is a link to a more detailed analysis from the study done by the Moran Lab.


http://beeuntoothers.com/index.php/...tibiotic-resistant-gut-microbes-in-honey-bees


Am at airport with my fussy tablet waiting for delayed flight back to Boston...we had a great time at the Philly meeting!

Ramona
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
What I was discussing was honeybee gut bacteria showing resistance to antibiotics, not eradication of the bacteria.
Bacteria were eradicated that had no resistance, which is evidence of extensive long-term impact of chemical treatments on the microbial environment.
 

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Thanks, that was worth sharing. As a guy who studied symbiosis of this sort several decades ago, I'm surprised that this has not been done more completely by now.
 

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>Bacteria were eradicated that had no resistance, which is evidence of extensive long-term impact of chemical treatments on the microbial environment.

That is what worries me. People like to discount impacts on the microbes and act like everything will get back to normal in a few days or weeks or months, but actually they may never get back to normal.
 

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I have inoculated syrup and milk with probiotic bacteria and fed the fermented 'Beegurt' to my bees.

I've also used honey to ferment syrup and milk. I didn't feed it to my bees though.

So, Kofu, there is a practical way to do this.

However, it's still highly experimental.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I have inoculated syrup and milk with probiotic bacteria and fed the fermented 'Beegurt' to my bees.
...
So, Kofu, there is a practical way to do this. However, it's still highly experimental.
What kind of probiotic bacteria? What's the target, to get it into the 'honey stomach' where it will help make better honey, or ... ?

Learning the keywords. A search for 'probiotics' turns up another thread:
Whatever your means of supplementation, there have been several scientific studies done that have concluded that adding probiotics to pollen supplement or syrup increases fat body weight and improves brood health and longevity
I'm learning all sorts of things here. Didn't quite realize there are commercial products such as Biogen-N, Trilac and Enterolactis Plus. (I skip that part of the catalogs.) Some of what I've seen says bacteria and fungii normally come with the pollen and nectar, so is the main reason for these products that emerging bees fed on high-fructose corn syrup are going to need pro-biotic supplements to help them digest it? Are these products designed for use by bees that have been flooded with antibiotics earlier, so they may not have the bacteria they need to survive, for themselves and to pass along to the youngsters in the colony?

That aspect doesn't seem so highly experimental, with the three citations given. What are you doing that's different from that?

How does this fit into a larger picture of a microbial environment engrained into how a honeybee colony operates?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Watched the scientific activities by the Swedish scientists for years. They came out with this product and I start using it from next Spring on. Will report if anyone is interested. To me it does make sense to inoculate the hive with bee microbes just to give them a start. Just like starting off a sourdough or honey mead. Inoculate it and it runs by itself.

http://symbeeotic.apicellae.se/
Okay, so how is this different from the probiotics fed to emerging bees? What part of the biome in the hive, or the microbiome in the bees, are these microbes for?

This is getting pretty interesting. Maybe "everybody" knows but me, and I appreciate the opportunity to learn.

For me, a backyard beekeeper in a city environment, I'm not sure of the applications. I guess my main interest is in helping the bees to survive mites and other infestations, without much if any treatment, and I'm wondering how microbes fit into that picture.
 

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Kofu:

You're asking a whole bunch of questions at once. Step back a minute and clear your mind.

We know that Honeybees carry symbiotic bacteria, like lactic acid bacteria (LAB), in their honey stomachs that not only help them to maintain their own health, but are also important in fermenting honey and fermenting pollen into beebread.

We also know that organic acids, like lactic acid, have been used to control Varroa.

As an example, I've been able to get syrup and milk to ferment down into the lower pH 3 range. That's well within the effective range for treating Varroa.

There are other reasons to use probiotics in syrup. I wanted to try to improve its nutritional content for instance.

There's a lot we don't know at this point about the benefits of probiotics in beekeeping.

However, the possibilities are worth exploring.

I haven't, as yet, tried to ferment syrup and milk using fresh nectar or beebread.

But, I do know that raw honey, from around the world, does work.

It's like a whole new world waiting to be explored.

What's truly remarkable is that you can do this in your own kitchen.
 

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Keith, what's interesting is that I've also used LAB to ferment soy flour.

I bought some soy flour that was marked down (it was warm to the touch), and I fermented a sample of it in water with some LAB.

There are a lot of possibilities in applying fermentation to issues in beekeeping.
 

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Let me see if I can explain things.

The alimentary canal (mouth through gut and rectum) is a long tube. The environment wrt suitability for each of the core bacterial species varies dynamically...sometimes gradually and sometimes suddenly...as one travels down the canal, or observes different sections of it.
The illium is particularly suited for some specific strains that are novel and highly integrated into the cells of the bee. Last I knew, they had been unable to do a proper genome map of this strain because their diversity varies so much within each bee that they were unable to isolate a monoclonal sample (required to map the genome). These bacteria were not culturable by any of the means they had attempted and remain somewhat a mystery.

Presumably the use of antibiotics introduces levels (and/or concentrations) of 'naturally occurring antibacterial compounds' is many orders of magnitude higher than those produced and used by the existing (and proper) microbiotia of the hive, or really anywhere on the planet...the metabolic cost for nature to produce toxins of the concentration of terramycen powder is demonstrably prohibitive....therefore the cost that a robust complex culture would have to bear in order to be resilient as a whole against such concentrations of 'natural substances like antibiotics' is (and has been for 50 million years) too high a cost to bear against such an impossible level of toxin.

The (even single) antibiotic 'incident' is traumatic to the microflora...you can see that in the data and slides from the Moran study. The percentage of antibiotic resistance levels in bees recently treated, long ago treated, and never treated show antibiotic resistance levels to go down between 'incidents'...this is because such resistance is expensive to maintain in the population, and without exposure, it is largely selected against.

_but_ the incident itself hasn't just magically removed genes, it has almost certainly removed whole lines variation within the strains. It has selected (probably several times in the history of any bees that are kept in the US recently or not), for only the individual strains that could resist the unprecedented levels of toxin survive.

The result, after 'recovery' is a drastic thinning of the variation, and most certainly the niche specific subtle variation in genetic diversity...the continuum of gross and subtle traits that follow the continuum of niche through the alimentary canal.

Ever go to a restaurant that was unexpectedly understaffed and the managers were trying to serve the tables and cook the food?

This thinning of the diversity of the gene pool of gut microbes by selecting for antibiotic resistance is a trauma to the system. The data shows that even after 26+ years, the impact (and no doubt damage) to the heritable complex microbial ecosystem of the hive is still measurable.

It would be like selecting (eugenicly speaking) 'the next generation of humans' solely on the individuals ability to win weight lifting competitions.

deknow
 

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My wife's (Ramona) obsession with the microbial component of the hive led to, I believe the first modern public presentation to beekeepers (the Nebraska state conference at the invitation of Michael Bush, the program director at the time). This presentation was given in November of 2008, and she cites and/or quotes from most of the literature available at that time...the first time that I'm aware that anyone has done this.

I think I do have video of this, and someday might get that up, but you could download the mp3 from our site as a 'cell cast'. 1.5 hours.
deknow

http://beeuntoothers.com/index.php/beekeeping/audiovideo/98-2008-microbe-talk
 

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Somewhere around 99% of the gut microbiota is in eight distinct groups (three of them named after Gilliaiam, Von Frisch, and Snodgrass). The other 1% is likely also significant and important, but this is obviously where the bulk of the research will focus.
When we are talking about diversity, we are talking about within these 8 groups.

deknow
 

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...and anyone interested to see what the mainstream beekeeping world's reaction to these concepts could try looking at the discussions on Bee-L in November of 2008.

edit: In fact, it was so bad that Michael Palmer (who was also speaking and whom I'd never met before) came up to me, and the first words out of his mouth were, "I think it's terrible what they are doing to you over on Bee-L".

That was a great conference...Dee, Michaels' Bush and Palmer, Ramona, me....we had a 'microbe party' in our (deserted) hotel...everyone bring something made by microbes...beer, wine, cheese, bread, salami...

Ramona and I bought 2 bottles of wine to make sure there was something to start with, about 50 people showed up, we collected donations for pizzas and watched "Queen of Trees" on PBS (get ahold of this video from the Nature series).

In the end, the pizza and the tip were covered exactly (to the dollar) by what people had just given with their own judgement. The wine we bought had been drank, but there were 2 unopened bottles remaining in the morning, and we didn't want to check bags. We brought them to the liquor store next door where we had purchased our bottles (and these had come from there as well, it was the next building over from the hotel), explained our situation, and they took them back with no hassle.

Even Steven....a perfect ecosystem :)

deknow
 

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It seems like the next set of questions is, "How?" How do we put that sort of information to practical use?
I think the most important thing is to stop selecting (even occasionally) for microbes that can resist antibiotics, or those that can repopulate the fastest after an organic acid or thymol treatment. Even intermittent exposures are well beyond what we can expect a well balanced and robust ecosystem to withstand and bounce back from...it just isn't evolved to maintain genes after such a trauma.
Yesterday, at our Natural Beekeeping Symposium, Laurie R. Herboldsheimer gave a great introduction to this topic — "The Importance of the Microbial Environment in the Beehive." The Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild should have the video up sometime soon. (I'll post the link.)

Here are some practical questions:

How does it work to share comb between hives? Within an apiary? from apiary to apiary? What criteria for sharing (or not sharing)?
I can't give you a prescription, but Dee Lusby (who's bees are in the Moran study) brings comb in to extract while replacing them with combs from the previous days extraction from a different yard. All comb is deep, and there is no distinction between brood and honey frames. No treatments, no artificial feeds, very clean environment, and very different results in antibiotic resistance than the bees about 30-40 miles away at the Tucson Bee Lab that haven't seen antibiotics in 2+ years.
That is one working model that I can cite that is no doubt spreading things between yards.

What factors affect the biome in the hive? and the microbiome in the bees' guts, etc.? — especially the factors that beekeepers can affect?
There is no question. The easyist thing for the beekeeper to affect...the low hanging fruit is also the thing that is having the most negative impact on the microbitota (by negative, I mean hard selection for a metabolically expensive trait that otherwise is of no use). It is what the beekeeper is putting in the hive. Fluvalinate and Coumaphos are consistently found in the highest rates and concentrations of any synthetic pesticides...even on trapped pollen because the bees collecting them are contaminated....by the beekeeper.

Essential oils are devistating to microbial cultures...that what they designed for.

Organic acids are used for sterilization...and when formic acid is removed from the hive, the concentration of the acid in the air inside the hive _goes up_...from the bees themselves releasing the acid they had been sequestering in their tiny lungs and bodies.
 

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dean, to what degree has the level of understanding regarding microbial ecology in the hive been advanced since 2008, and is mainstream beekeeping paying more attention than it was then?
 
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