Alfalfa Leaf Cutting Bee Producer Guide to the National Bee Farm-level Biosecurity Standard
Section 1: Bee Health Management

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1.1 Bee Sources

1.1 Bee Sources

Target Outcomes

Exposure to pests is minimized by introducing bee stocks of known health status. Sources are documented to enable traceability.

Description

Alfalfa leafcutting bees can be sourced in various forms (own bee cells, purchased loose bee cells, purchased bee cells in nest blocks, and purchased incubated bees), which influences biosecurity risk. The level of documentation and knowledge about the health status of bees and the location from which the bees are sourced influence biosecurity risk.

The Risks

Chalcid parasites and chalkbrood, the biggest biosecurity risks to alfalfa leafcutting bees, are mainly spread on/in bee cells, or on nest material.

Sourcing bees for use in a beekeeper's operation without documentation or knowledge of disease, parasite, or insect pest levels within the bees increases the biosecurity risk. Documentation includes sampling and testing records for diseases, parasites and insect pests, and record keeping of management practices that shows where and how bees are produced, which will help enable trace-back and understanding of biosecurity risks.

Sourcing bees from regions with known elevated levels of diseases or parasites increases the potential that those biosecurity risks will be introduced into a beekeepers operation.

In general, bees sourced from within one's own operation represent a lower level of risk than other sources; however, if one's own bees are not accompanied with documentation, and if bees are being produced in a region with elevated levels of diseases and parasites, these bees might represent a significant risk for the introduction and spread of biosecurity risks.

Purchasing loose bee cells generally represents low levels of biosecurity risk, as they can be adequately sampled and tested for biosecurity risks.

Purchasing filled nest blocks or incubated bees represents higher risks, as proper sampling and testing cannot be adequately performed on these bees. Diseases, parasites, and insect pests can also be spread on nest blocks, and thus purchasing filled nest blocks increases the potential for introducing these risks to one's operation.

Regardless of the source, it is critical to have a good plan for how to handle bee cells from various sources.

Recommended Practices

1. Supplier and Stock Selection

  1. Follow the Canadian loose bee cell management system.
  2. When purchasing bees
    1. whenever possible, purchase loose bee cells.
    2. try to avoid purchasing filled nest blocks and incubated or adult bees.
    3. avoid purchasing filled drilled boards.
  3. Purchase bees from suppliers that you know and trust, and from suppliers with established biosecurity control programs.
  4. Select a supplier that can provide test results from the Canadian Cocoon Testing Centre (CCTC). If purchased bee cells are not accompanied by a test from the CCTC , then it is recommended that a sample be drawn and sent to the CCTC for testing when the bee cells are received.
  5. Investigate unfamiliar suppliers before purchasing:
    1. Visit their operations, observe (or interview by phone), and ask questions about their disease history, management practices, and record keeping.
  6. f.When uncertain, speak to an alfalfa leafcutting bee specialist about supplier and stock selection.

2. Establishing Lots

  1. Ideally, beekeepers establish lots. A good lot system allows the producer to identity disease parasites and insect levels, and to develop a plan for treating problem lots over the coming production season.
  2. Establishing lots may not be required for producers with smaller focused operations where
    1. no bees are purchased from external sources.
    2. bees are placed on a limited number of fields.
    3. the beekeeper has a low prevalence of diseases, parasites, and insect pests.
  3. Ideally, lots are created for filled nest blocks and loose bee cells, representing risk profiles that differ as follows:
    1. each purchased source
    2. nest block type and year purchased
    3. field or crop type
    4. pollination client
    5. percent of nest block fill
    6. processing dates
    7. treatments applied
    8. incubation group
  4. Producers may identify a maximum lot size for their own operation.

3. Sampling

  1. Once a lot has been created, sampling and testing help identify disease, parasite, and insect pest problems, enabling the development of treatment and handling procedures. Section 1.5 describes treatment protocols.
  2. Though samples can be drawn from filled nest blocks, conduct more extensive sampling on loose bee cell lots.
  3. Carry out sampling in a manner that is repeatable and consistent within a beekeeper's operation.
  4. Draw a composite sample of loose bee cells for testing. A smaller sample is then drawn from the composite sample and used for testing. A sample can be drawn as processing occurs or after bee cells have been placed in storage/packaging containers. The following are acceptable techniques for drawing a composite sample:
    1. Use an automated in-stream sampler that periodically pulls from the stream of bee cells that are being conditioned, and just before bee cells are placed in packaging or storage containers.
    2. Periodically sample bee cells that are being conditioned by hand, and before bee cells are placed in storage containers. Sample can be drawn directly from storage container either by hand or using a probe. A producer can establish sampling guidelines for how to draw samples from containers. Appendix C provides examples.
  5. Sampling problems may be the result of
    1. too much material in a sample or composite sample. Draw a subsample (e.g. cutting the composite sample) in a manner that ensures the subsample is consistent in quality with the composite sample.
    2. a probe that is too small, which may result in no representative type of sample.
    3. a probe that damages bee cells.

4. Testing

  1. The following are acceptable methods for testing bee cell samples drawn from lots of filled nest blocks and loose bee cells:
    1. Send samples to the CCTC for testing:
      1. Testing at the CCTC is the recommended practice for all loose bee cell lots. The test helps identify problems early and allows producers to develop a treatment protocol to minimize their risk.
      2. The following CCTC tests are particularly relevant to biosecurity:
        1. parasites
        2. predators/stored product pests
        3. chalkbrood
      3. The importance of testing at CCTC is increased if high levels of disease, parasite, or insect pests, as defined by each individual beekeeper, are suspected.
    2. Cut open and visually inspect bee cells for dead larvae, and signs of chalkbrood, chalcid parasites, or stored product pests.

      This method may be

      1. preferred by producers with few sources of bee cells, and where there is a low prevalence of diseases, parasites, and insect pests.
      2. useful if testing samples drawn from filled nest blocks are used as an early indication of disease, parasite, and insect pest concerns.
      3. used to help determine where to store nest blocks, or how to treat nest blocks in fall storage for stored product pests, or for processing, treating, and incubating in the winter and spring.
      4. supplemented with CCTC test if high levels of disease or parasites are found, to more accurately identify the magnitude of the problem.
  2. Beekeepers and staff are updated and trained to recognize risks that are both common and uncommon to the operation, potentially posing a biosecurity risk. (Refer to section 2.9).
  3. Beekeepers are aware of current developments and alerts, and follow emergency protocols that are recommended by industry organizations, industry experts, and/or the provincial apiarist.
  4. The supplier is notified of any inconsistencies between the CCTC tests provided and any new tests undertaken by the producer who receives bees.

5. Regulations and Compliance for Importing Bees

  1. Federal
    1. Importing alfalfa leafcutting bees is not permitted under federal regulation at this time, but beekeepers should be familiar with, and follow, current federal import regulations and protocols administered by the CFIA .
  2. Provincial
    1. Beekeepers are familiar with, and follow, current provincial import and transport regulations as defined by the applicable bee acts. Note, there are no interprovincial transport regulations for alfalfa leafcutting bees.

Record Keeping

Record keeping should be done in a manner that allows producers to identify biosecurity risks, track the risks forward and backward, and manage or maintain bees with different risk profiles separately if required. Appendix E provides examples of record-keeping templates. The following is an example of information to maintain on alfalfa leafcutting bee sources:

  • lot number or name;
  • test results from the lot;
  • lot quantity (quantity of bees, quantity of nest blocks);
  • additional details may include
    • nest block type, year purchased, percentage of fill.
    • field, crop type, client from past year.
    • field placement for current year (crop type, shelters, location, number of bees placed).
    • treatment applied to bees or equipment.
    • extraction date.
    • storage location.
    • nest construction details.
    • traying details.
    • incubation details.
  • If bees are purchased, keep the following records:
    • name of seller or broker; and
    • weight, live count, gallons.

1.2 Prevention: Minimizing Susceptibility to Pests

Target Outcomes

Factors are managed to reduce the bees' susceptibility to pests. A response is implemented when threshold levels are reached.

Description

The term pest refers to pathogens, parasites, and insect pests.

Alfalfa leafcutting bees may be compromised by factors that can effectively be managed within the beekeeping operation. These factors increase a bee's susceptibility to pests.

The main causes of increased susceptibility are as follows:

Storage and incubation conditions: Pests proliferate, if bee cells are not stored under specified conditions. Producers need to ensure that the storage conditions for filled nest blocks and loose bee cells limit the spread of these pests, including maintaining cool temperatures, humidity, and air flow. Rodent control in storage will also help to reduce nest block damage, and reduce susceptibility to parasites and insect pests. (Nuisance pest control, including rodents, is discussed in section 2.8.)

Nest construction: Tight nest construction limits access of parasites and insect pests. Limiting access of these risks to nests and to bee larvae reduces both the susceptibility and exposure of bees.

Shelter conditions: Maintaining shelters in good condition can limit damage to nests, which, in turn, limits susceptibility to pests. Moulds can develop when nest blocks get wet and remain damp. Shelters may provide a home for rodents, increasing the possibility of nest damage, increasing susceptibility to parasites and insect pests. Repairing holes in shelter roofs and implementing a rodent control program help reduce this risk. (Section 2.8 discusses nuisance pest control, including rodents.)

Bee drifting: Stocking rates, timing of release, shelter placement, shelter orientation, adequate nest material, and field health: Bees that have access to adequate pollen, nectar, and leaf material are less likely to drift to other shelters, to have other bees drift to their shelters, or, generally, to mix with other bees or bee equipment. Drifting increases both the susceptibility and exposure of bees to pathogens, parasites, and insect pests. Forcing bees to fly further for cell provisions increases the chance of contact with other bees or nest material that may carry pathogens, parasites, or stored product pests. Section 1.3 Prevention: Minimizing Exposure discusses this topic in detail.

Irrigation considerations: Placing shelters relative to irrigation and minimizing exposure to irrigation water may be a consideration, particularly when using pivots. Keeping nests dry and free of mud reduces the susceptibility to moulds and keeps bees from drifting to other shelters and nests.

A susceptibility threshold is a measurable level of a factor at which intervention should be taken.

The Risks

The intensity and exposure to the factor affect the risks associated with susceptibility. If left unmonitored, these conditions can cause significant economic loss due to larval mortality.

Recommended Practices

1. Storage and Incubation Conditions

In the Storage Facility
  1. Control the temperatures in the facilities:
    1. Control and monitor the temperature in storage facilities in the fall when filled nest blocks are brought in from the field. (This is an important time for both bee development and insect pest control.)
    2. Maintain temperature of 4°C–10°C for the remainder of winter storage.
  2. Be aware that a region with high humidity may require dehumidifying of the facilities to allow for proper dry-down of bee nests or bee cells. Under Canadian prairie winter conditions, high humidity is usually not a significant concern. However, high humidity may lead to growth of foliar moulds, and cause problems with bee cell extraction, damaging bees and reducing the effectiveness of treatments.
  3. Provide air circulation and ventilation, as required, to maintain consistent temperature. (Refer to section 2.6.)
  4. Store and stack nest blocks off the floor, and in a way that allows for good air flow. Air flow ensures that a more even temperature and moisture is found throughout nest blocks, and limits the proliferation of pathogens, parasites, and insect pests.

    Stacking ideas may include

    1. wooden spacers
    2. staggering blocks
    3. nest blocks on their side, leaving space between blocks
  5. Store loose bee cells in containers in a way that limits the potential for heating or moisture buildup, which are conditions that harm bee cells and encourage the development of pathogens, parasites, and insect pests.
  6. Monitor temperature and humidity with thermometers and humidity detectors. (Refer to section 2.7.)
In the Incubation Facility
  1. Construct facilities to allow for air circulation and ventilation (refer to section 2.6).
  2. Monitor temperature and humidity with thermometers and humidity detectors (refer to section 2.7).

2. Nest Construction

  1. Use nest backing material in nest construction to limit nest accessibility to parasites and insect pests.
  2. Remove damaged sections of nest blocks prior to constructing nest blocks (section 1.4).
  3. Strap, or otherwise secure, nest blocks, nest backing material, and boards tightly together to limit access to parasites and insect pests.

3. Shelter Maintenance

  1. Set up shelters and perform maintenance on shelters in advance of placing bees. This includes repairing holes in shelters, and removing debris and weeds from the shelter.
  2. Secure nest blocks to the shelters, and off the ground.

4. Bee Drifting: Refer to section 1.3.

5. Irrigation Issues

  1. Manage irrigation to minimize the impact on bees:
    1. Locate shelters away from paths of wheels, and not directly in line with nozzles.
    2. If possible, avoid irrigating in front of shelters, or install curtains on shelters to limit direct water exposure to bees.
    3. When possible, irrigate when bees are inactive, at night, or on cool days.
    4. Limit the frequency of watering (one bigger watering, as opposed to several smaller ones).
  2. Locate shelters in areas that are not prone to flooding.

Record Keeping

The following records that relate to temperature control, nest construction, shelter maintenance, and irrigation may be used to help improve overall management of alfalfa leaf cutting bees:

  • storage temperature and humidity by date
  • incubation temperature and humidity by date
  • nest construction details
  • shelter maintenance and treatment notes

1.3 Prevention: Minimizing Exposure

Target Outcomes

Direct and indirect contact with infected or infested bees is minimized.

Description

The first line of defence against infection or infestation of healthy bees is to minimize exposure to bee pests. This includes direct contact between bees, direct exposure to pests, as well as indirect contact through contaminated equipment, handling, etc.

Direct contact refers to direct bee-to-bee contact or bee to egg/larva contact, whereby an infected bee passes the pathogen directly to healthy bees, eggs, larvae, or cell provisions. Direct contact can increase when bees have no adequate visual cues, or are in search of available nest tunnels, and travel to new shelters potentially spreading pathogens from one shelter to another. Parasites are capable of parasitizing completed bee cells that contain larvae and/or prepupae, while stored product insect pests may damage bee cells containing larvae and/or prepupae, or lay their eggs in nest material. Managing the nest blocks to limit the exposure of bees to parasites and insect pests reduces this risk.

Indirect contact occurs when an infected or infested host bee leaves behind a pathogen on some surface or in some material such as bee cells, and the pathogen survives long enough to be transferred to another bee. Bee cells that contain pathogens are the biggest source of this indirect contact. Bees may contact emerged bee cells left in shelters or near shelters transferring pathogens, which are subsequently passed on to new bee cells under construction or to eggs, nectar, and pollen in the cells.

Another form of indirect exposure occurs when parasites and insect pests are not controlled during storage and incubation. Parasites and insect pests may be present in bee equipment and, if not controlled through proper storage or treatment protocol, can further damage bee cells.

Risks and recommended practices that address minimizing exposure through indirect contact with bee equipment and other equipment are discussed in section 2, Operations Management.

Intermixing occurs when bees of two beekeepers are placed in the same proximity, or when one bee species mixes with bees of another species (e.g. alfalfa leafcutting bees and honey bees). Feral bees and wild leafcutting bees also represent potential intermixing. Mixing healthy bees with infected or infested bees could potentially spread pathogens, parasites, and insect pests. This can occur when bees of two sources are placed on the same or adjacent fields. For alfalfa leafcutting bees, the risk associated with intermixing is relatively low. When placed in fields, alfalfa leafcutting bees generally travel limited distances and pose little risk to bees on adjacent fields. Beekeepers should be aware of new risks and of the legitimate risk that exists with respect to interspecies movement of pests, and thus prevent undue exposure to bees from other operations and to unmanaged bees.

The Risks

Table 1 describes the associated risks with the most common pathogens, parasites, and insect pests of alfalfa leafcutting bees in Canada. Beekeepers should also be aware of new risks in their area.

Table 1 Common pathogens, parasites, and insect pests
Pathogen, Parasite, or Pest Biology Direct Contact Indirect Contact - Bee Cell Storage and Incubation Indirect Contact - Emerged Bee Cells Indirect Contact - Bee Equipment Indirect Contact - Handling Inter-mixing
Chalcid Parasites (Pteromalus venustus) Female adult chalcid parasites pierce the leafcutting bee cell surface and cocoon, anesthetize the bee prepupae, and lay eggs. The eggs hatch, and young larvae feed on the bee prepupae, completely consuming them. Direct contact does not result in chalcid parasite transmission. High: Parasites can persist in storage and incubation environments, parasitizing bee larvae and prepupae. Under optimum temperature conditions, parasites can rapidly develop into adults, and re-parasitize bee cells. Cooler temperatures can limit parasite development, and traps and chemicals can be used to control adult populations. Very Low Moderate: proper construction and maintenance of bee equipment help to control chalcid parasites. It is unlikely that used equipment which does not contain bee cells will continue to harbour these parasites. Very Low Low to Moderate: Chalcid parasites present in other alfalfa leafcutting beekeepers populations (or feral bees and wild leafcutting bee populations) and when located near your bees, can increase the risk of transmission.
Chalkbrood, (also Foliar Moulds) Fungal spores picked by female alfalfa leafcutting bees are passed to the nests where eggs are laid. Young alfalfa leafcutting bee larvae consume the spores, which germinate in the gut and kill the developing bee larvae. High: Transferred from female alfalfa leafcutting bees to the pollen/nectar provisions on which eggs are laid in the nests. Moderate: Chalkbrood that remains on the surfaces of bee cells can be passed on to emerging bees as they crawl through the leaf material. Treating bee cells and equipment to control chalkbrood spores will limit exposure to bees. High: Chalkbrood spores can survive for long periods of time on bee cells. When left in shelters, or near shelters, bees may have a tendency to revisit trays with emerged cells and pick up chalkbrood spores, passing on to developing bee larvae. Moderate: Chalkbrood spores can live on surfaces for years, and bees will brush over surfaces and pick up the spores. The transfer of spores by adult females leads to increased larval bee mortality. Trays and nest material, in particular, pose the highest risk. Low to Moderate: Spores remain viable on surfaces for years, and can be passed on by handling. The risk is high when handling infected equipment for incubation and nests and equipment that are brought to the field for bee release. The risk is lower with equipment handling in the fall and winter, as there is time to treat cells and equipment for chalkbrood prior to incubation and release, and chalkbrood does not pose an immediate risk to bees if it is on the surface of cells during storage. Low: Chalkbrood present in other alfalfa leafcutting beekeepers populations (and feral and wild leafcutting bees) and when located near your bees, can increase the risk of transmission.
Stored Product Pests While there are differences in the biology of each stored product pest, both adults and larvae of these insect species may be present inside nests, where they will damage bee cells and consume alfalfa leafcutting bee larvae and pollen provisions. Direct contact does not result in stored product pest transmission. Moderate: Stored product pests can persist in storage environments, consuming larvae and pollen provisions within bee cells. Under certain conditions, stored product pest can develop quickly into adults, lay eggs in nest material, and eventually consume bee larvae. Cooler temperatures will limit stored product pest activity; traps and chemicals can be used to control stored product pest populations. Very Low Moderate: Proper construction and maintenance of bee equipment help to control stored product pests. It is possible that used equipment, which does not contain bee cells, will continue to harbour these pests. Very Low Low to Moderate: Stored product pests present in other alfalfa leafcutting beekeepers populations (and feral and wild leafcutting bees) and when located near your bees, can increase the risk of transmission.

Recommended Practices

1. Minimize Exposure During Storage and Incubation

  1. Use preventative treatments and traps to reduce exposure to parasites and insect pests in storage and incubation. (Refer to section 1.5 for treatments.)
  2. Limit the depth of cells placed in trays to 1–1.5 inches, and use screens on trays during treatment and incubation.
  3. Maintain storage temperature of 4°C –10°C to limit growth of parasites and insect pests. If pests are known to exist, maintain temperatures in the lower end of this range.
  4. Limit light to storage areas.
  5. Ensure adequate air flow to help maintain even temperature and humidity throughout storage and incubation.
  6. Stack nests, nest blocks, and bee cell containers in a manner that permits adequate air circulation.
  7. Monitor temperature and humidity to maintain targets values.
  8. Store known diseased, parasitized, and insect pest-infested lots separately from healthy bee cells.
  9. Incubate and treat known diseased, parasitized, and insect pest-infested lots separately from healthy bee cells.

2. Emerged Bee Cells and Trays

(Emerged bee cells are the empty shells of leaf material that remain after bees emerge from the cells during or just following incubation.)

  1. Where possible, remove the trays and emerged bee cells from shelters following complete emergence of bees.
  2. Ideally, collect emerged bee cells in a container and remove from the field.
  3. Acceptable disposal methods for emerged bee cells.
    1. Burn
    2. Send to landfill
    3. Compost
    4. Incorporate or bury into a field or garden away from bees.

3. Bee Drifting and Intermixing

  • Take precautions to avoid drifting and intermixing of bees.
  • Manage infected or infested bees in a manner that limits their exposure to healthy bees.
  1. Shelter, Shelter Placement, Shelter Orientation, Stocking Rates
    1. Provide visual cues on shelters and nest material to ease the bees' return to the same shelter.
    2. Place larger shelters with better visual cues in the center, which may help to keep some bees from drifting to the edges. (Generally, bees drift to the outside of fields.)
    3. If bees are to be placed adjacent to bees of another source, work with other beekeepers to create an awareness of the health status and disease and pest management practices.
    4. Where possible, avoid excessive exposure to bees of other species, including honey bees and bumblebees.
    5. Ideally, maximize the distance between fields where bees are kept, and the distance to other known bee populations or feral bees, wild alfalfa leafcutting bees, and other species of bees.
    6. Follow applicable pollination stocking rate recommendations.
    7. If the health status of the neighbours' bees is suspect, or conditions exist that encourage intermixing, increase the shelter distance from the field edge and increase monitoring.
    8. If the health status of many bees is suspect, or if they are known to contain higher levels of pests than thresholds set by an individual beekeeper, then, those bees should be managed as a unique lot throughout production.
  2. Release Timing and Field Health
    1. Time bee release to when fields have adequate bloom to support bee foraging.
    2. Manage field health appropriately to provide bees with a healthy population of leaf material, pollen, and nectar.
    3. If adequate leaf material is unavailable in the field, provide supplemental leaf material near shelters (e.g. planting buckwheat).
  3. Filled Nests Removal

    Inadequate access to nesting tunnels may cause bees to move to other shelters or to overfill nest blocks. This results in additional work for female bees, and may increase the possibility of exposure to pathogens:

    1. Place an adequate number of nests in shelters at the beginning of the season. (There should be 1.5 nest holes for each live female bee placed in the field.)
    2. Monitor nest blocks for fill during the season.
    3. Remove nests from shelter, and transport to fall storage facilities as they become filled, or close to filled, and replace with unfilled nests.
    4. iv.Add additional empty nests to shelters when nest blocks fill up.

4. Drying, Processing, and Conditioning Cells

The operations of drying, extracting, processing, and conditioning bee cells can minimize the biosecurity risks to bees. Properly drying bee cells in nest blocks enables cells to be extracted and conditioned more effectively. These effectively processed cells make effective treatment of pathogens possible, and expose bees that emerge from cells to fewer pathogens.

5. Minimize Exposure During Transport

  1. Close trays for transport, use screens, and, if necessary, cover trays during transport.
  2. If moving bees in season, transport at night or in cooler conditions.
  3. Avoid transporting with bees of another source of unknown quality.
  4. If transporting bees for release, or transporting in season, disinfect trucks after transporting bees with known elevated levels of chalkbrood.

Record Keeping

The following records related to storage, processing, field placement, and transport can be used to help improve overall management of alfalfa leafcutting bees:

  • storage temperature and humidity by date
  • incubation temperature and humidity by date
  • field placement, tray removal, and nest-removal details
  • bee cell processing details
  • nest construction details

1.4 Diagnoses And Monitoring

Target Outcomes

Pests and their signs are accurately diagnosed. Bee operations are monitored to assess the risk of pests.

Description

The term pest refers to pathogens, parasites, and insect pests.

Monitoring is one of the cornerstones of biosecurity. There are three related but different types of monitoring:

  1. Monitoring to trigger an investigation into the cause and to rule out non-infectious/infestation causes before treatment:
    1. unexpected declines in bee productivity, percentage of nest fill; and
    2. visual signs of dead bees.
  2. Monitoring to identify and confirm disease, parasite, or pest presence:
    1. visual signs of diseases:
      1. dead larvae, chalkbrood cadavers.
    2. visual signs of parasites and insect pests:
      1. adult insect pests or parasites
      2. larvae of pests or parasites
      3. bee larvae that have been consumed
    3. CCTC test results for presence of disease, parasites, or pests.
  3. Monitoring to evaluate treatment effectiveness and trigger re-treatment, if necessary.

The Risks

The risks of not monitoring for alfalfa leafcutting bee pests are as follows:

  • persistence and spread throughout a beekeepers operation
  • spread to neighbouring beekeeping operations
  • unnecessary treatment applications

Recommended Practices

For alfalfa leafcutting bees, it is difficult to identify and control problems in the field. While in-field monitoring is recommended, a thorough sampling and testing protocol as described in section 1.1 is the most critical strategy to monitoring the status of pests.

Monitoring Principles:

  1. Sampling methods are thorough enough to represent the entire beekeeper's operation.
  2. Samples should be sent to CCTC for testing, although visually inspecting cells is also appropriate, and can provide a quicker diagnosis of potential problems.
  3. 3.Samples are identified by lot.
  4. There is awareness of, and participation in, voluntary inspection programs.
  5. Records are maintained on observations, dates, and data.
  6. There is recognition of early visual signs that may indicate a problem. Further investigation into the cause is triggered to avoid unnecessary treatments.
  7. Monitoring of storage conditions or other factors that may impact biosecurity takes place.
  8. Beekeepers and staff are trained and updated to recognize common and exotic diseases, parasites, and insect pests, as well as their signs.
  9. Treatment efficacy is assessed, and ineffective treatments are modified before future use.
  10. There is regular attention paid to area outbreaks and alerts.

Table 2 describes identification and monitoring methods for the main diseases, parasites, and pests affecting alfalfa leafcutting bees.

Table 2 Identification and Monitoring Methods for the Main Diseases, Parasites, and Pests Affecting Alfalfa Leafcutting Bees
Pest Identification/ Monitoring
Chalkbrood Inspections of bee cells will identify chalkbrood-infected larvae by cutting open and inspecting bee cells for chalkbrood cadavers. However, it is recommended to send bee cell samples to CCTC for identification. Identifying chalkbrood in the field is difficult, as there are no signs on adult bees for identification purposes.
Foliar Moulds Inspections of bee cells will identify foliar moulds in infected larvae by cutting open and inspecting bee cells for dead larvae. However, it is preferred to send bee cell samples to CCTC for identification. Identifying foliar moulds in the field is difficult, as there are no signs on adult bees for identification purposes.
Chalcid Parasites (Pteromalus venustus)

Inspecting bee cells will identify chalcid parasite-infected larvae by cutting open and inspecting bee cells for the presence of chalcid parasite larvae (multiple larvae in a cocoon). It is preferred to send bee cell samples to CCTC for identification.

Monitor storage facilities, incubation rooms, and shelters for the presence of adult chalcid parasites (although they will be difficult to spot in the field) by visually looking for adult chalcid parasites, and by setting up and monitoring traps. Acceptable traps include black light water traps, fly strips, and sticky boards. To identify these parasites in the field is difficult, as adult bees show few visible signs.

Stored Product Pests

Inspections of bee cells will identify damage caused by stored product pests. Damage is normally found as consumed bee cells (larvae, pollen). Bee cell samples should also be sent to CCTC for identification.

Monitor storage facilities and shelters for the presence of adult-stored product pests (although they will be difficult to spot in the field) by visually looking for adult insect pests, and by setting up and monitoring traps. Acceptable traps include black light water traps, fly strips, sticky boards, and the checkered flower beetle night trap. Identifying these pests in the field is difficult, as there are few signs on adult bees for identification purposes.

CCTC = Canadian Cocoon Testing Centre

Threshold Guidelines

Once results are obtained, consult your own treatment thresholds to decide on actions. While there are no standard thresholds developed for alfalfa leafcutting bee pests and parasites, the following are some examples of how threshold levels may be set.

  • If chalkbrood/foliar moulds are found, treat
    • bee cells (> 0%).
    • nest material and trays (> 0%).
    • shelters, storage facilities, incubation rooms, and processing equipment (> 0%).
  • If chalcid parasites are found, carry out the following:
    • Use recommended pesticide in storage and incubation facilities (> 0%).
    • Use traps in storage and incubation facilities (> 0%).
    • Implement environmental control in storage facilities (> 0%).
  • If stored product pests are found, the following should take place:
    • Use pesticide and/or traps in storage facilities (> 0%).
    • Implement environmental control in storage (> 0%).

Record Keeping

Effective management systems include record keeping on the following:

  • sampling and testing records, including test results; and
  • parasite and insect pest observations.

1.5 Standard Response

Target Outcomes

A standard response plan is in place to address treatment thresholds, options, and rotation plans, notification procedures, record keeping, and follow-up actions.

Description

Key Terms

A response is an intervention - such as proper disposal, cultural methods, and treatments – to prevent, eliminate, or reduce levels of infections and infestations in alfalfa leafcutting bees.

A standard response refers to interventions that address pests that are commonly encountered in the operation or the general area. A standard response trigger means that the pest has been confirmed or that the level of infection or infestation has been determined to reach a treatment threshold.

An elevated response is addressed in the following section. An elevated response is triggered when a high risk, exotic or unfamiliar disease, parasite, or pest is suspected or where its presence is confirmed.

A response plan is in place that includes procedures for isolation, equipment culling, cultural and pesticide treatments, communication, and notification.

Standard response planning entails

  • keeping up to date with recommended management practices.
  • understanding environmental influences that could reduce treatment effectiveness.
  • understanding and following product labels.
  • knowing the timing and scope of treatments.
  • rotating and alternating treatments.
  • coordinating treatments with sanitation and disinfection procedures to avoid re-exposure.
  • keeping records of treatments and results.

Response planning requires training for beekeepers and their employees on the procedures that are necessary to implement the plan and on when and how to contact the alfalfa leafcutting bee specialist.

Biological method: A method of controlling a pest with another organism; for example through predation, parasitism, or with a pathogen.

Chemical method: A method of controlling a pest, using chemical-based control products.

Contaminated: The presence of a pathogen, living parasite, or insect pest on a surface or in debris that may be transmitted directly or indirectly to a living host organism (e.g. bee or brood).

Mechanical method: A non-chemical method for managing pests (e.g. barriers or traps).

Physical method: A non-chemical method for managing pests (e.g. heating).

Fumigant: A control that works in the vapour (gas) stage (e.g. paraformaldehyde).

Trap: A device used to attract an insect pest.

Synthetic pesticide: A pesticide that is made synthetically (e.g. dichlorvos resin strips, paraformaldehyde).

The Risks

The risks associated with not having a standard response plan that follows recommended treatment procedures and product label directions are:

  • reduced treatment efficacy or outright treatment failure.
  • the more rapid spread of the disease, parasite, or insect pest, both within the operation and to other beekeepers' operations.
  • greater likelihood of re-infection or re-infestation.

Recommended Practices

It is not the intent of this Producer Guide to detail treatment recommendations.

The primary recommended standard response practice is to obtain and follow treatment recommendations from alfalfa leafcutting bee specialists, provincial industry associations, or provincial apiculture departments. This includes being aware of new product registrations, changes to product use procedures and treatment thresholds, as well as new cultural practices. Some associations publish recommendations in the form of fact sheets or bulletins that are updated as required. If a province does not publish recommendations, contact an alfalfa leafcutting bee specialist for advice.

1. Principles of Treating with Chemicals

  1. Be aware of, and follow, treatment thresholds for a beekeeper's own operation.
  2. Read all labels before applying any disease or pest control products to bees:
    1. Use chemicals and other treatments at the recommended rate or dose.
    2. Use products only if registered for that use.
    3. Pay attention to temperature and/or humidity constraints regarding treatments.
    4. Dispose of treatments (e.g. pesticide strips) according to label directions.
    5. Avoid using products after their expiry date.
    6. Take all the appropriate safety measures (equipment, clothing) as recommended by the label directions when mixing/applying treatments.
  3. Be thorough and consistent. Treat all bees in the same manner.
  4. Apply at the right time, particularly for treatment in the incubation room to avoid harm to bees.
  5. Use chemical treatments, in conjunction with cultural and sanitation/disinfection methods, when feasible.

2. Technique for Control of Specific Pests

Table 3 describes control techniques for Chalkbrood, Foliar moulds, Chalcid parasites, and stored product pests.

Table 3 Control techniques
Chalkbrood and Foliar Moulds Chalcid Parasites Stored Product Pests
  • The best cultural defences against disease are to limit susceptibility factors and to avoid exposure to biosecurity risks.
  • Cultural techniques for disease control are also discussed in Sections 1.1–1.3, 2.3, 2.4, and 2.6. Techniques involve identification, disinfection, and/or culling equipment.
  • Routine inspection of nest blocks and nest material, and regular replacement of damaged nest blocks are effective in reducing pests.
  • Disinfection of bee cells, bee equipment, trays, shelters, processing equipment, and facilities can effectively control pathogens. Appendix D details the disinfection techniques.

Cultural techniques may not eliminate the need for chemical treatments altogether, but may reduce the parasite levels below the treatment threshold:

  1. Use new or well-maintained nest blocks.
  2. Cull damaged nest blocks.
  3. Tightly secure nest blocks to nest backing material and boards with strapping.
  4. Ensure temperature is between 4°C –10°C in bee cell storage. If chalcid parasite levels are high, cooler temperatures within this range will help to control parasite development.
  5. Use black lights and water traps.
  6. Watch for second generation emergence later in the incubation cycle, and squash or vacuum adults.

If treating with dichlorvos resin strips

  1. ensure adequate air circulation in storage facilities and incubation rooms.
  2. b.stack nest blocks and trays, and use screened trays to allow for adequate air circulation.
  3. c.ensure timely removal of pesticide during incubation, as bees exposed to dichlorvos resin strips may die.
  4. d.keep bee cells in trays to depths of 1–1.5 inches

Cultural techniques may not eliminate the need for chemical treatments altogether, but may reduce the pest count below the treatment threshold:

  1. Use new or well-maintained nest blocks.
  2. Cull damaged nest blocks.
  3. Tightly secure nest blocks to nest backing material and back board with strapping.
  4. Ensure temperature is between 4°C–10°C in bee cell storage. If stored product pests levels are high, cooler temperatures within this range will help to control pest development.
  5. Use black lights and water traps .
  6. Use fly traps, sticky boards, and other mechanical methods to control adult stored product pests

If treating with pesticides

  1. ensure adequate air circulation in storage facilities and incubation rooms.
  2. stack nest blocks and trays to allow for adequate air circulation.

Record Keeping

Effective management systems include record keeping on the following:

  • Treatment records for bees, bee equipment, buildings, and other equipment.

1.6 Elevated Response

Target Outcomes

An elevated response plan is in place, and the conditions under which it will be implemented are understood.

Description

An elevated response is triggered when a high-risk exotic or unfamiliar disease, parasite, or insect pest is suspected or where its presence is confirmed. At present, no such risks have been reported for alfalfa leafcutting bees, but awareness of practices to follow in the event of a serious unknown problem may mitigate the impact on a beekeeping operation and on the industry.

An elevated response plan is triggered by

  • alerts that an exotic pest has entered the country, or has been found in a province or a local area are issued by the federal or provincial governments, or producer associations.
  • informal communication about unusual or elevated area outbreaks. These reports could come from neighbouring producers, producers that place bees for custom pollination near where your bees are placed, from farmers where your bees are placed, or companies that contract custom pollination services.
  • presence of disease, parasites, or insect pests in a beekeeping operation is confirmed by an alfalfa leafcutting bee specialist, provincial association, or a provincial apiarist.
  • some change in bee populations, activity, etc. is observed that cannot be readily explained or has not been seen before.
  • signs of disease, or the presence of parasites or insect pests that have not been encountered before are observed.
  • a less-than-expected efficacy after treating for a pest. This could signal that the pest has been misdiagnosed or that an application technique, or the conditions under which the treatment was applied, were not optimal.

Key Terms

Quarantine: A specific order applied to a particular premises, bees, or equipment by a recognized authority to prevent further spread or to detect a risk or concern. Note: no quarantine scenario exists for alfalfa leafcutting bees, but a new risk could lead industry to develop quarantine orders.

Quarantine area: An area specified by a recognized authority, or designated person, in which there are additional efforts by industry and/or government to prevent further spread or to detect the risk of concern.

Recognized authority: A recognized authority might include a provincial government department, such as the Apiculture department, or a county or municipal government.

The declared quarantine area and individual quarantine order specify the applicable boundaries, the reason for issuance, and the actions required, permitted, and prohibited. They remain in effect until lifted by the issuing authority.

The Risks

The risks associated with not having an elevated response plan that follows notification requirements, communication with other beekeepers, recommended treatment procedures, and product label directions are

  • potentially significant economic loss, if you are not prepared to take appropriate action on short notice or if there is no treatment available.
  • a possible quarantine order placed on fields, facilities, or areas that remains in effect for an extended period.
  • possible disruptions to bee and supplies purchase or sale, and bee transportation associated with quarantine areas.

Recommended Practices

An elevated response plan:

1. Communication and Notification

The plan includes communication with each of the following:

  1. staff;
  2. provincial industry association, alfalfa leafcutting bee specialist, provincial apiarist, where applicable;
  3. suppliers or customers of bees, or equipment that could transmit the risk;
  4. between beekeepers where there is a possibility of spreading the disease, parasite, or insect pest; and
  5. farmers who have your bees placed on their fields or custom pollination contractors.

The plan includes:

  1. an accessible up-to-date directory of contact names, email addresses, and telephone numbers
  2. the primary trigger to communicate with government is regulatory for notifiable risks. (Note: there are no notifiable risks at present, but this remains a possibility for future risks.)

2. Bee Management Protocol

  1. If a risk is suspected but not yet confirmed
    1. contact a provincial industry association, alfalfa leafcutting bee specialist, and provincial apiarist, where applicable.
    2. suspend bee and equipment movements, if any scheduled.
    3. restrict access to facilities or fields where suspected risks are located.
    4. suspend bee and equipment sales (if applicable).
    5. look through records for potential lots that may be from the same source or treated in a similar fashion to suspect bees.
    6. increase monitoring and inspection frequency and sampling.
    7. set traps, if applicable.
    8. require beekeepers and staff who enter or leave areas where the risk has been isolated to remove protective clothing and footwear, and replace with a spare set of clothing and footwear.
    9. ix.take extra precautions to disinfect, for example, vehicles, forklifts, nets, facilities, bee equipment, personal protection equipment after handling infested or infected bees, bee cells, and bee equipment.
  2. If a risk is confirmed, include these additional procedures:
    1. Implement recommended actions, including destruction, disposal, or treatments as soon as possible.
    2. Extend treatments to all bees and bee cells in an operation, depending on the risk.
    3. Increase cultural procedures, as needed.

3. Quarantine Protocols

  1. Follow all requirements of the quarantine order or declared area such as
    1. restrictions on movement;
    2. prior requirement for official approval before movement of bees, bee cells, and equipment occur;
    3. specific destruction and disposal protocol; and
    4. record keeping.

4. Visitor Protocol

  1. Maintain a visitor log that includes the following:
    1. name
    2. organization
    3. contact information
    4. location
    5. visitor's previous location and destination
    6. purpose of visit
    7. date and time of visit
  2. Require that visitors who enter or leave the premises (as applicable) inspect or remove protective clothing and clean footwear, and provide a spare set of clothing and footwear.

5. Signage

  1. Meet any signage requirements to identify quarantine boundaries.
  2. Install reminder signs for staff and visitors regarding the extra precautions to take at identified entry and exit points.
  3. Ensure suspect or confirmed shelters, fields, or buildings are marked as such.

Record Keeping

As part of an elevated response plan, beekeepers should develop a contact list for use if significant problems were to occur.

To implement an elevated response plan requires that beekeepers maintain records such as a visitor log.

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