Randy Oliver – Honeybee Nutrition (Part 2)

Honeybee Nutrition

by Randy Oliver

Part 2


Probiotics are a really hot topic in both humans and livestock. We’re finding out that of the DNA in our body is not human, it’s bacterial living inside our guts. And that much of our Immune Response or Digestion, our Mental Abilities are all based upon what bacteria we have living in our guts that we have acquired from our Mothers or from other human beings. The what they, it’s called “The Fecal Oral Root”, which most of us kind of go, Awh Hah. And it’s a new term heard recently, it’s called “Farcical”.
My son’s right. Love that term, man; I don’t want to be downwind from your farcical, okay. The Fecal Oral Transmission Root is vigorously happening, as we speak in this room, okay. So, we all share microbes, okay. And when they get into your gut, or this is from the bee’s gut, they can form Bio Films in certain areas, in the Ilium and in the rectum. Very few Bio Films in either the stomach or the crop.

Microbes Should Match

And then, so now we have Probiotics being sold. The point is, you can just take any old bacteria and make it a Probiotic, because it’s not gonna ever establish in the bee’s gut. So, if you’re gonna get one, you want to, oh, take a look at the label and read which bacteria are in there, and then compare that to the bacteria that actually live in honey bees. And what you’ll find is a lot of Probiotics, there’s no match what-so-ever.

Is There A Difference In The Field?

So, I had a question, and this is well, if certain microbes in the community structure of microbes in the bee’s gut is indeed associated with better colony performance? You would see that in Honey Production.
There’s easiest metric of Colony Performance is simply weight gain, okay. A healthy colony puts on a lot of weight. A colony that’s not healthy does not put on weight. So, I had a – and this is here’s our Community Structure.

Alimentary Tract and Corbicula Pollen

So, this is the Community Structure of bacteria in pollen incoming into the hive, this is the Community Structure of the Bacteria inside the bee’s gut. You notice that they’re very different Community Structures. So, I was curious about this Community Structure that was inside the bee’s gut.

Question: Are The Differences In Honey Production Due To Different Gut Endosymbiont Groups? So, we had a poor Production Year a couple of years ago. This tells you how long it takes to do Pre-Reviewed Research.
Which is why I just published my quick and dirty science in the Bee Journal, thanks to Joe. So, I will often finish an experiment, and send off the article within weeks to Joe. This experiment here, which I decided to go with actual publication in The Journal took about three [3] years to get. It just came out a few days ago. I don’t have the patience for that. And beekeepers, I feel the beekeepers would rather see quick and dirty results right away, than waiting three [3] years to find out what happened, so what I did, I went out to several different yards of twenty-four [24] hives at the end of the Honey Flow. And a few of the hives made a ton of honey. And a few of the hives made no honey. This is why having large populations. So, I went to the two [2] strongest hives, not strongest. Most productive hives, those that made the most honey, and the two [2] least productive. But up to the least productive, I didn’t choose weak colonies, I chose colonies that are busting the bees, but didn’t make any honey. You’ll with me on this?

My hypothesis I’m gonna test is, if certain Bacterial Community Structure was associated with better Productivity, there would be a correlation in the high Production hives, as opposed to the low Production hives.

I Used Aseptic Methods To Take Gut Samples From Returning Pollen Foragers. All my research is funded by Beekeeper Donations; people just send me money, and say, Randy keep doing research, so. That’s I don’t write any grants or anything like that. If I don’t get money coming in, I don’t do as much research. If I get a lot coming in, I do a lot of research.

I wrote to a researcher, Dr. Irene Newton [SP] who had just published on, before I met Kirk. On the gut bacteria, and I said. Hey, would you be willing? Or do you have a [Inaudible] and be willing to, if I paid you, to do all these analysis? And she said, Yeah, several thousand dollars. You did it, so I took beekeepers donations, and paid them to do the research. She sent me a bunch of vials of preservative, and I went out to those colonies and took the bees, all of the same age. I collected on incoming foragers carrying pollen loads. And she had already done research saying, that the Gut Community and the Pollen Foragers reflects pretty much the Gut Community, with the bee colonies. We knew that was a legitimate bees to collect. But by collecting all bees that were incoming pollen foragers, I standardized the collection of bees. And then each one, I very carefully would grab the stinger, the base of the stinger with a pair of sterile forceps, pull the gut contents out, and put a bunch of gut contents for each colony into the Preservative. Froze them and shipped them off to her for analysis. She put a Grad student on it.

Preliminary Data

The Initial Analysis, the difference between a Productive and Non-Productive Colonies looks like there may be something there, and some of the. You get into statistics, and what you want to pull out. Some of the statistics looked favorable. But then when they looked at more, we finally just published a few days ago, and we’ve had to change the title that there was, No apparent correlation between those.

Now if you don’t see a correlation out in real life, that makes me less enthusiastic about the hope that I’m gonna be able to feed a Probiotic, and make the bees more productive. So, I’m not saying it can happen. But I’m saying, I’ve lost my enthusiasm for Probiotics, it’s gone down about four [4] notches, when I got the results of this experiment.

There’s what they find is there’s a little bit of hive-to-hive variation, even in the same yard. Season-to-season, based upon the Forage, and Species-to-Species. So if you look at “Apis Surania Islithura [SP], side-by-side, there’s gonna be some slight differences. But the core gut bacteria are pretty much always there. Yeah, so you have a little bit of tweaks on them. But the Core is there. That seems to be pretty much universal.

Apparently, when the Fermentation Process goes bad, the bees, instead of risking getting poisoned by removing it, they just cover it. They just entomb it, and just leave it in the cells. And something very interesting happened, and we know that there’s events, we say, Why did I take a photograph of it? And I’ve kicked myself a hundred times since then. We came from Almond Pollination, we’re Nucing up colonies, and here’s a colony, and on a brood frame there were this perfect arch, one cell wide of Entombed Pollen.
And I’m guessing that was the day they sprayed one of the fungicides in the Almond orchard, and they just entombed that whole arch of pollen that day. But it’s, I’d be very interested in doing more research.
Dennis in [Inaudible] has some on that. He’s found that Chlorothalin [SP] the bravo, the fungicide in that. We could stand a lot more research on Entombed Pollen.

Bee Tonics And “Health Products”

So, my new Probiotic bee tonic coming out, there’s lots of health products coming out. I was gonna start a Formal Trial to Health Products this Fall. I didn’t get to it. I’m planning now, my saved donations, we’re gonna, our plan is, right after Almonds, we’re gonna start a Full Year Long Trial of all the Bee Health Products on the Market. And get some real data on them.

Do Bee “Health Tonics” Actually Do Anything? So I searched the web for tonics and stuff, and, man, you just put the right pictures on there. People just, the money just wants to fly out of your pocket to buy these – these things. And they’re out there. So, the question is, yeah, are they salvation or they just a snake oil?

Here’s the point. When I ran my Pollen Substitute Test, which I’ll show you later. I got the results, and immediately when there’s results saying, that your product looks good. When you advertise your product, those results will be showing on the ad, because now you have actual data to back it up. Any product that makes any kind of “health claim”, if they’re not showing data, that’s because there is no data. So, if you want to, anybody pitching a product to you to make your bees healthier, do what I do.
I say, Oh, yeah, I’d be really interested in seeing the data. I’m so used to asking you that unanswered question. I haven’t had answered, and excuses to hear this again. Why? Oh, yeah, well we gave it to these two [2] beekeepers and they said, “The stuff worked really good”. That’s their data, let’s take it to Market. Okay, that’s the norm in the Bee Industry.

Yeast Can Make Bees Sick

One [1] of the things is that Yeast, this is a picture, I had a beekeeper, a Commercial Beekeeper in California Spring say. Randy, my whole crop is crashing. There’s thousands of hives, I’m, they’ve got Nosema really bad, the tops of all the hives are covered with dysentery. And again repeated the myth of that Nosema and dysentery are related, they’re not. Okay, dysentery is entirely separate from Nosema, okay. If you have a hive with Nosema, and they get dysentery, and it gets in the hive, it will spread the Nosema. But the Nosema doesn’t cause the dysentery. Anyway, he said, all my hives have Nosema so bad now, I just spent forty thousand [$40,000] for Fumagilin. I said, Man, why don’t you send me some samples? So he sent me some bee samples, I look at them in the scope. I said, well, none of those samples had Nosema in them. And he sent me some more samples. So, he sent me another five [5] or seven [7] samples, and none of those samples, one [1] of all of the samples had a little bit of Nosema. The rest were completely clean of Nosema. I said, I don’t think your problem was Nosema, I hate to tell you, you just wasted your forty thousand dollars [$40,000] on Fumagilin. But I saw something I hadn’t ever seen before. And I didn’t know what it was at the time. But now that I’ve fermented that beebread and recognized yeast cells, his bees had a bad yeast infection, right across the board, and that was causing the dysentery. So, before you spend a lot of money on vitellogenin to try to cure dysentery, first [1st] spend a few dollars on a microscope, and see whether or not there is actually a Nosema in your bees guts. Generally when I see dysentery, I see either yeast or amoeba inside the guts. It’s not; it has no relationship with Nosema.

Bee Gut Bacteria Are Specific

Okay, so here’s another product, I won’t put the name on here. And if you’ll look here on the bacteria in here, they also have Dried Saccharomyces [SP] Cerevisioe [SP]. Anybody recognize that one? Yeast. So, yes, and I have spoken with this, the sales person for this quite a bit, and waiting for any data. And this is one of those, yeah, we have a couple of beekeepers trying this stuff, and they said that it worked well. So, this is on the market right now. I will be mostly likely testing one [1] this Spring.
But there again, very poor match between these bacteria and what are in there. And I’m not saying it couldn’t work. Sometimes you get an Immune Boost by having a Non-Symbiotic Bacteria being introduced to your diet. So, there could be something happening, but for it could be, I’d like to see some data.

Be Careful With Probiotics!

Here’s some data. This is just published; it just came out, [Inaudible] research from Europe. They used two [2], yeah, they used two [2] different, a Probiotic and Prebiotic. A Prebiotic is a food product and ones that are in the Probiotic. And fed it to bees.

And when you look at the Survival of the Bees in cages, the ones that were just fed sugar syrup live longer than those fed the Probiotic. This was, a [Inaudible] ran a common animal and human Probiotic.
Not one that you normally find in the bees. So, it made the bees live a shorter life. And it was, he also fed it to see what it would do with Nosema. And what it does it made the Nosema Counts go sky high.

Number of Nosema [SP]. Spores X 10” Per One Honeybee. So if you really want to hurt your bees, this would be a really good Probiotic to feed them.

Landscape Issues

Then you have landscape issues. This is a hard Presentation to put together, because there’s all these different things. So, I hoping it, I like this morning I rearranged the whole thing, shifted everything around in different order.

Okay, on really good forage, good nectar and a good mix Pollen coming in bees thrive. Any fool can be a fantastic beekeeper when there’s good resources coming in it’s really hard to kill a colony.

Certain crops like the Bascuss, this a Prune Orchid in California, and to make the “before bloom”, this grower makes it more attractive to the beekeepers, by planting it with mustard. So, the beekeepers will not ask for a pollination feed. Yeah, if I can get bees on here, man, I’ll move in for free. So, it’s cheaper for him to plant mustard than it is to pay a pollination feed. Extra Nutrition on the Grassicus.

Some crop like Dandelion are lacking amino acids, and they do not bounce like other flower that has a bouncing amino acid, at the same time. The bees will go downhill. You cannot rear brood to maturity on dandelion pollen alone in the lab. They will die. Okay, so dandelion pollen, yes. Everybody goes, yeah, dandelion pollen is great. Only if it’s mixed with other flower protein pollen at the same time.

What’s important is a yard is not how much honey you make in that yard. During the Honey Flow, what’s important is what happens the rest of the year. This is just typical California Forage for most of the Summer in the foot hills is what it looks like. It’s pretty grim for the bees.

Pollinator Enemies: The Plow And Herbicides

Here’s our enemies. And I don’t care if you’re an Organic farmer, a Bio-Dynamic farmer, or anything else.
When you put the plow to soil, you eliminate one hundred percent [100%] of species and one hundred percent [100%] of habitat. And you replace it with a Mono-Culture. And any organism that might try to consume the Mono-Culture that you’re putting on there is called a “Pest”, and you try to poison it then.
That’s how we Shift the Environment. So, it’s not just being Organic, or chemical, or whatever, it’s the actual physical, the Plow. The second [2nd] that is taking place is with the abdomen around that ready, we have much more effective weed control that we used to have. And now all that weedy forage of mostly Introduced European Weeds, which the European Honey Bee evolved with, which is doing really well, now those weeds are gone.

Efficiency In Farming

Those of you, I don’t live here in the Mid West. When I came out here, and started looking, and I’ve gone all over looking. I look at the soils that used to be Prairie Soils with dozens of species and deep rooted plants growing, and a whole variety of bloom. And I look at these soils, with the carbon just being extracted from these soils, and essentially you turn this back to a Sterile Medium. We are destroying our soils across much of the country. This is no longer Wildlife Habitat and bees are [Inaudible]. Okay, it makes much harder for bees and other wildlife.

There’s just no weeds left any more. So, we’ve reached this point of efficiency of farming that there’s no room for anything else. The bees just get the little bit of leftovers in the margins.

Only A Small Fraction Of Cultivated Land Is Bee Friendly

Now when the Mono Cultures are planted, a really good blog by Steve Savage [SP], oh, I can’t think of what it’s called. You look up Steve Savage, he’s a Plant Breeder that writes a really good blog of what’s happening out in the Environment.

This is the “Breakdown” of Crop Growing in The U.S. in Agriculture

Corn does essentially nothing for bees. Soybeans have, usually the pollen is locked up. You have very little pollen from soybeans, the bees do. You make it a Short Honey Flow, if you’re lucky. But almost a wash for bees. Wheat, nothing for the bees. Hay, which used to be good for bees, before they started cutting it for dairy hay, and they start cutting it the moment you get a bloom on there. So, that’s why I got out of going to Alphafa [SP], cause it was no longer much good for me. Cotton kind of a dangerous place. Steve can talk more about how good cotton, because what they spray the cotton with. Sorghum – Silage Corn, nothing for the bees. Out of this whole picture you’ve got a little tiny slice that gives anything at all to Pollinators. That’s how we’ve changed the Agricultural Landscape for Pollen. There is no longer Pollinator friendly.

Green But Poor Forage

I took this picture in Ohio here, this State, a couple of years ago. I stopped the car, and I go, Oh, my God, there are four [4] land types right here. There is corn, there is the soybeans, there is, well, five [5] types. There is Asphalt, there is Mowed Grass. I got to tell you, in Ohio, I had no idea what a passion for lawn mowing was, until I came to Ohio. I don’t know if it’s genetically wired here, or what?
I have never seen people as enthusiastic about mowing, as I see here in Ohio, it is insane. I mean, it’s like there’s not a blade of grass in the whole damn State that is, somebody is out there mowing all the time. Which means there’s no, there’s nothing for the bees. And then you have these little patches of wood life. The only, of this landscape, the first [1st] four [4] are corn, beans mowed and asphalt do nothing for bees. This is, they’ve got to fly and find more patches. It’s pretty slim pickings.

Abundance And Diversity of Pollen Over The Summer, North Dakota Locations

This is a recent thesis published by Dr. Ret, now Dr. Matt Smart, who Judy Woo and Matt Smart got married. Matt worked with the USD Laundry Service. And look at Zack [Inaudible] operations, and look bees placed in six [6] different locations over two [2] years. So these, all these dates, for those that can’t see, this is from June twenty-first [21st] to September. And this shows on the Pollen Income the species are the families of the Pollen coming in. So, each of these covers the family of pollens coming in. And the amount of pollen is the dotted line right here. And you can see in areas where the there’s only one [1] kind of pollen coming in, not much, the bees did pretty lousy. Where there was a lot of pollen coming in, over a bunch of different species, the bees did really well. Independent of pesticides, independent of Varillo levels, independent of Nosema, the number one [1] indicator of Colony Health and Survivor was the amount and type of pollen coming in.

When To Feed

This is data from Tom Seeley, who for several years. And what it shows here is, over the course of the year, any bar going up is when the colonies gained weight that week. Any bar going down is when the colonies lost weight that week. So, when to feed would be those weeks when the bars are going down.
Okay, when they’re going up, there’s no reason to feed. So what I would suggest is for your area, you make a chart like this. This is for my area that I made.

Pollen Availability – Sierra Foothills

You look at when pollen, and just go out to your hives. Okay, and see when pollen is coming into in abundance. And when pollen is going down, and plot that to your Colony Population, and it will tell you when it’s worthwhile to feed. So, this would be local for your own neighborhood.

And they put Pollen Sap on half [1/2] the hives, and then fed that Sap Pollen to the other ones. And they said, Wow, we didn’t see any benefit to doing this. And I said, I can’t believe that. So, I looked at their raw data, and what they showed was the number of square inches of the Mat Trap, which was like five [5] pounds a week from those hives. About fifty percent [50%] of the pollen that comes in gets trapped. So that means that bees are bring ten [10] pounds of pollen a week. Even if you trap half [1/2] of it away, that’s not a pollen deficient colony to a California beekeeper. And then they said, how many square inches of pollen? How many square centimeters of pollen they found in the cone, in the pollen deficient ones. And I calculated it out, it made a two [2] inch band of beebread around every brood colony. This is not what I call Pollen Deficient. A California beekeeper would die for that much pollen deficiency in the late Summer. So, beekeeping is different where I live.

Field Signs Of Adequate Nutrition

When I go to Bee Researching Funding Meetings, I keep getting these beekeepers, Commercial beekeepers that have read about vitellogenin and how important it is in Colony Health. And if you want to see how healthy colonies, you just take the bees and grind them up, and measure them out the amount of vitellogenin. And say, Oh, man, they’re loaded with vitellogenin. You better give them some protein, they will be healthier. They say, Wow, we need a test. Man, we need like one of those pregnancy test kits. So, you know, we can crush the bees in a Ziploc bag, and stick the thing in there, and come out, and see whether you have a pink line or a blue line, or whatever. And I said, What are you guys talking about? Let’s go out and pull a frame out of your hive. You don’t need any fancy test, there’s a few ways of telling. Number one [1], if you’ve got lots of pollen coming in, and it’s mixed colors. If it’s all coming in the same color, it may be deficient. If there’s mixed colors, the bees are probably okay. If they’re wearing Drone Brood, that the first [1st] thing the bees sacrifice. If they are protein deficient, they eat the drone brood and they’ll stop rearing drone brood. If they’re wearing drone brood, there’s no nutritional deficiency there, Nutritional Abundance.

Band Of Pollen

If you’ve got the banded beebread and it’s different colors, that’s generally a good indicator. Honey = Critical Interface – Brood. But the main thing to do is to look back at this interface right here. And look at the amount of “jelly” they’re feeding to the larvae. A really well fed colony will just float every larvae in a big pool of “jelly”. The moment they start going into Protein Deficiency, they’ll start cutting back on that “jelly”. So, here’s some Larvae with plenty of “jelly”. Here’s larvae just tiny dab of “jelly” underneath each one. Enough to keep them alive, but no excess “jelly” at all. That’s your littness [SP] paper right there. It’s real easy to see. It’s not black or white. It’s a gray dation, you can look at how much they’re cutting back.

Here’s larvae swimming in “jelly”. Look, I mean, look at how that “jelly” is. This colony, and we go out to our yards, the first [1st] person out of the truck fires a smoker. While we’re untying the roof, they go to a hive, and they pull out a frame out of the Brood Nest, and we’re waiting to say. It’s looking wet and it’s getting a little dry. That’s what we want to hear. That tells us whether that colony, that yard needs to be fed protein or – or not.

Here’s Dry Brood just sitting, pretty much dry in the bottom of the cells.

Wet Brood Equals Good Nutrition. Wet Brood lots of white “jelly”. Dry Brood very little “jelly” around the larvae. Everybody clear on this?