Integrated Pest Management

Thursday 8 October 2020

As our beekeeping season comes to a close, feeding and pest management are priorities.  Beekeepers are obliged to have a toolbox of strategies for controlling pest and disease and to understand the principles of Integrated Pest Management.  This week we discuss some of the basics of IPM.

The ‘King of Heather Honey’ is coming to Nova Scotia.  The Nova Scotia Beekeepers Association is hosting Mr. Murray McGregor for a virtual workshop as part of their Fall Technical Session.  See below for details on how NSBA members can attend this event.

Integrated Pest Management

Managing honey bee pests and diseases is one of the biggest challenges for beekeepers.  In Canada, we are lucky to have access to an excellent guide, published by our Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists, Honey Bee Diseases and Pests.  A copy should be on the bookshelf of all Canadian beekeepers, whether just starting or well along in your beekeeping career.  This short volume contains well written, easy to follow sections covering all current diseases and pests.  In this book, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) underpins all the treatment options.  As an important part of progressive beekeeping, IPM is worth discussing.

Principles of IPM

One of the main principles of IPM is the “economic threshold.”  This relates to the infestation level at which the monetary values of both the treatment and the pest damage are equal.  The economic threshold for Varroa in our region is two mites per one hundred bees sampled in August.  At this level of infestation, the damage to the colony will equal the cost of treatment.  The economic injury level is the infestation level at which the damage caused by the pest exceeds the cost of the treatment.  The point for action (i.e. treatment for the pest) is when pest numbers exceed the economic threshold, moving into the economic injury level.  This concept is outlined in the figure.

Figure 1. The Economic Injury Level (EIL) is the pest abundance (or level of damage) at which the dollar cost of crop yield loss to the pest begins to exceed the dollar cost of controlling the pest. The Economic Threshold (ET) is the pest abundance (or damage level) at which the EIL is likely to be equalled or exceeded if left unmanaged. The ET is almost always lower than the EIL, and is considered to be the point at which action against the pest is economically justified. The ET is sometimes called an Action Threshold (AT). Figure credit (with permission): E. Zaborski & M. Barbercheck .

Five key components of IPM

1. Implementing Cultural Controls

This involves management practices which limit exposure to and impact of pests and disease.  Examples of this component would be following good biosecurity practices, maintaining strong colonies, keeping stock which shows disease, and pest resistance.

2. Implementing Physical Controls

This component relates to such practices as using drone comb for Varroa control, storing unused equipment securely to avoid wax moth infestation, screens to exclude shrews during winter.

3. Implementing Biological Controls

This is a greater challenge for beekeepers as there are no biological controls approved for the management of honey bee diseases and pests.  There may be some in the pipeline such as entomopathogenic nematodes for the control of Small Hive Beetle, or parasitic wasps to manage wax moth.

4. Monitoring

One of the main pillars of IPM and necessary for determining the economic threshold or action threshold.  An excellent example is monitoring mite levels to make an informed decision on treatment.

5. Implementing Chemical Controls

Chemical pesticides are an important part of IPM but applied in consideration of their environmental impact, prolonging the efficacy of individual treatments and general moderate use.  Always follow the directions as provided by the manufacturer.

Key points for consideration

IPM defines specific management options as required for individual beekeeping operations.

IPM will reduce dependency on chemical treatments, therefore extending the efficacy of individual miticides or antibiotics.

IPM increases treatment efficiency, therefore reducing operating costs.

Learn more about IPM in "Honey Bee Diseases and Pests" which can be purchase by visiting the website of the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists

Members of the Nova Scotia Beekeepers Association have the opportunity to attend a virtual Fall Technical Session.  See details below on how to arrange your place!

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