Summary of ATTTA 2023 Summer Projects

Thursday 7 December 2023

The Atlantic Tech Transfer Team for Apiculture has been busy this past year, and now that 2023 is coming to an end it is time to reflect on this year’s projects. This year we largely focused on three projects which aimed to support the Atlantic Canada beekeeping and pollination industry. Read this week’s blog for a brief summary of our major projects, and to learn what our team aims to continue in 2024.

Summary of ATTTA 2023 Summer Projects

Efficacy Testing of Amitraz for Varroa destructor Treatment

Since 2017, ATTTA has tested the efficacy of Apivar® against Varroa mites in the Maritimes through field-based studies. Although testing the efficacy of miticide products is important, it is also crucial to test the efficacy of active ingredients through lab-based studies. Lab experiments offer controlled environments where specific variables can be manipulated, and more detailed investigations into the efficacy of active ingredients like Amitraz can be carried out. This past summer, ATTTA tested the efficacy of Amitraz against populations of mites in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to obtain baseline data.

Varroa mites were collected from 5 different beekeepers, and the efficacy of Amitraz against these mites was assessed using six different concentrations of the active ingredient. The goal was to establish the lethal concentration (or the LC50) that results in a 50% mortality rate among the mite population within a 24-hour period.

The results of our study demonstrated that mite mortality is dependent on the concentration of Amitraz, and that with increasing concentration mortality increases. ATTTA demonstrated that this lab-based study is an effective way to measure the efficacy of Amitraz. However, due to the limited number of mites collected this summer, it would be premature to make a conclusion about the resistance ratio of mite populations in Atlantic Canada to Amitraz.

ATTTA plans to continue this study to assess how the efficacy of Amitraz changes year to year, and the goal is to test a larger number of mites from more Maritime beekeepers.

Bumble Bee Collection, Captive Breeding and Overwintering

The team worked to gain more experience and knowledge of bumble bees as a reflection of ATTTA’s broader mandate to support the increasing use of non-Apis pollinators. Some small steps have been taken to learn about how bumble bees can be managed and overwintered.

ATTTA collected bumble bee queens around blueberry fields in Nova Scotia, which provided information about what species are already foraging on wild lowbush blueberries. Four different species of bumble bees were found around Nova Scotia blueberry fields. This included the common eastern bumble bee, tricolored bumble bee, two-spotted bumble bee and the cuckoo bee. The collected bees were then brought back from the fields and were managed by ATTTA. 

Bombus ternarius (ATTTA©2023)

Additionally, the team artificially mated bumble bee queens that we collected from quad boxes by placing them in a box with drones from a different colony. A total of 30 Bombus impatiens queens were artificially mated. Following that, queens were put into diapause by being placed in a low temperature environment.

This project allowed the team to gain a deeper insight into these important pollinators and allow us to better support producers relying on insect pollination.

Assessing Wild Lowbush Blueberry Bloom

ATTTA has a continued goal of supporting the wild blueberry pollination industry. This year ATTTA had two projects that focused on assessing wild lowbush blueberry bloom.

The first project involved assessing wild blueberry bloom during the months of May and June. Fieldwork was started before any blueberry flowers were open, and data was collected for closed flowers, open flowers, and pedal dropped flowers, until all flowers were dropped. The aim of this project is the creation of a predictive bloom model, based on plant phenology, for the timing of pollination units. This work is being done to improve the growing degree day model developed by Dr. Scott White and his team in 2012. This year ATTTA started some preliminary data collection to design methodology for this ongoing project.

ATTTA seasonal apiculturist John MacDonald counting blueberry flowers (2023)

The second project involved assessments, including bud count, of a number of sprout year fields as a potential predictor of the subsequent year’s bloom. The goal of the project is to assess how early in the year can floral versus leaf buds be distinguished, and how early can accurate bud count be achieved. This will help to identify the need for pollination units during the following crop year. 


Both of these projects are intended to work towards predictive models which will ensure efficient and optimal pollination of wild blueberries. 

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