April 19, 2021

Dr. Samuel Ramsey - Varroa & Tropilaelaps Updates and More! (S3, E47)

Dr. Samuel Ramsey - Varroa & Tropilaelaps Updates and More!  (S3, E47)

Dr. Sam Ramsey is back with us again, looking at all sorts of questions than bother beekeepers, and working with smart kids and science! Sammy hasn’t not let any grass grow under his feet since he was forced to return home from his research in...

Dr. Samuel RamseyDr. Sam Ramsey is back with us again, looking at all sorts of questions than bother beekeepers, and working with smart kids and science!

Sammy hasn’t not let any grass grow under his feet since he was forced to return home from his research in Thailand studying Tropilaelaps mites (Tropilaelaps clareae and T. mercedesae) so we are ready if and when they arrive in the US. It turns out there is a very clever way to identify which species of Tropi-mite, as they call them in Thailand, is infesting a hive. Believe it or not, they actually “melt” the DNA of the creature and can ID them from what’s left. That’s a big step in the right direction for these nasties.

While in Thailand, he also observed the Giant Asian Hornet, the “murder hornet” we now have poking into in Pacific Northwest. He worked with local beekeepers looking for nests, watching them destroy honey bee colonies and then harvesting the larvae of a destroyed hornet nest for a delicacy food. He also found out why some bees spread water buffalo dung on their hives to keep the hornets away. This is really a mind blower.

Sammy’s work on varroa and fat bodies didn’t slow down one bit this year. They’ve uncovered that the female mite harvests certain proteins from the fat body and then funnels them directly into the developing egg without first digesting the protein rich meal. These whole, complete proteins are needed by the embryo to complete development. Now, how can that process be interrupted? That’s the million-dollar question. Just imagine if the discovery leads to a control which doesn’t involve putting poison into the hive…

When Sammy was here last, he talked about forming his Ramsey Research Foundation, to replace the original “GoFundMe” site. Through the Foundation you can help support the work he’s involved in - heading back to Thailand in the fall, working more with Giant Hornets, and finding out how to quit putting poison in our beehives. Check out the Foundation, and see if you, or better your beekeeping group, can help make this a better world for us, our bees, and beekeepers everywhere.

Links and websites mentioned in this podcast:

Honey Bee Obscura


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Podcast music: Young Presidents, "Be Strong"; Musicalman, "Epilogue". Original guitar background instrumental by Jeff Ott

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Dr. Samuel Ramsey

USDA Researcher

Samuel Ramsey's enduring interest in insect biology started 23 years ago and shows no signs of waning. Having earned his doctorate from Dr. Dennis vanEngelsdorp's lab at the University of Maryland; Dr. Ramsey maintains a focus on how insect research can benefit the public through the development of IPM strategies and STEM-based outreach initiatives. His award-winning research on Varroa biology has changed the standing paradigm on how this parasite ultimately kills honey bees leading to opportunities to share his work nationally and internationally. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Entomology from Cornell University in 2011 focusing his research on predator/parasite behavior.

His current work, aptly named the Fight the Mite Initiative, was funded largely by the beekeeping community. It focuses on the poorly understood Tropilaelaps mite which is rapidly establishing itself as the next threat to apiculture globally. Prior to the pandemic he was based in Thailand documenting the behavior, lifecycle, and vulnerabilities of this parasite, ensuring that in the event of its arrival in the US, we'll have the knowledge and resources to respond effectively.

Research funding is possible through Dr. Ramsey's Foundation at: https://www.ramseyresearchfoundation.org