Dr. Tracy Farone, joins us in this episode. Tracy is a veterinarian, a professor of biology at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania, a board member of the Honey Bee Veterinary Consortium, a beekeeper and a regular contributor to Bee Culture...
Dr. Tracy Farone, joins us in this episode. Tracy is a veterinarian, a professor of biology at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania, a board member of the Honey Bee Veterinary Consortium, a beekeeper and a regular contributor to Bee Culture magazine. Veterinarians, you will hear her say, were brought into the beekeeping world because of the diseases bees face and the potential for antimicrobial resistance.
It’s been a change the industry has had to face. It was not all that long ago, products such as Terramycin™ (oxcytetracycline) was found on farm store shelves and beekeepers were directed to use it in the treatment of American Foulbrood. It was also occasionally suggested to use it as a dusting on the top bars of brood frames to prophylactically prevent AFB. With the rise of antibiotic resistant varieties of diseases, the unprescribed use these medications has been stopped and now available for use on animals and livestock only under the prescription of a veterinarian.
“I understand why beekeepers want to do what they’ve always been doing, but they’re facing more and more bee health problems. It would be good to get veterinarians on board.” she said. “We can contribute here. We can provide so much more than a prescription or VFD to the industry. If we can blend veterinary medical expertise within the beekeeping industry, it’s not just an arranged marriage, but a marriage where we can help each other.”
This is a fascinating discussion and one you will not want to miss.
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Hey everybody. Thanks again for listening. We have a really good episode lined up for you with Honey Bee Veterinarian, Dr. Tracy Farone. More than that in just a second. About now, everyone across the US should have their honey poled. Is it extracted yet? Or are all the super stacked up and just ready to go? Thinking ahead about winter, did you determine how much honey to leave on the colonies?
Over on our other podcast, Honey Bee Obscura, Kim Flottum and Jim Tew have a couple of recent episodes and fall preparations, including how much honey to leave, evaluating the season just passed dealing with wax moths, removing the honey and extracting honey. Depending on just when you are listening to me now, the last two episodes on removing and extracted honey may or may not be yet released.
As we go into fall, I encourage you to check out honeybeeobscura.com. Honeybee veterinarians are new. A prescription requirement for certain antibiotics did not come around till January of 2017, because the USDA classifies honeybees as livestock and because products from the hive enter the human food chain. Any beekeeper who needs to administer antibiotics to their honeybees are required to have a prescription or feed directive from a licensed veterinarian.
Dr. Tracy Farone joins us in this episode. Tracy is a veterinarian and a Professor of Biology at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania, a board member for the honeybee veterinarian consortium, a beekeeper and a regular contributor to Bee Culture Magazine. You probably read her column. Veterinarians that you will hear her say, were brought into the beekeeping world because of the diseases bees face and the potential for antimicrobial resistance.
She has published several articles on bee medicine, including the bee vet column for our key sponsor, Bee Culture, written biosecurity industry guidelines for veterinarians entering bee yards in the US, and developed the Grove City College bee website GCC Bees. Check out the link in our show notes. Tracy's works and publications have also been featured in the Journal of American Veterinarian Medicine Association and Veterinarian Clinics.
On top of all of this, Tracy manages two honeybee yards and a PSU pollinator-friendly garden, with the help of her research students. We are very happy to have her on our podcast in about 60 seconds, but first, a quick word from one of our sponsors.
StrongMicrobials: Hey beekeepers, many times during the year, honeybees encounter a scarcity of floral sources. As good beekeepers, we feed our bees artificial diets, a protein and carbohydrates to keep them going during those stressful times. What is missing though, are key components, the good microbes necessary for a bee to digest the food and convert it into metabolic energy.
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Jeff: Hey, everybody while you're at the strong microbial site, make sure you click on and subscribe to the Hive, the regular newsletter full of interesting beekeeping facts and product updates. Everybody welcome back. Sitting across the virtual beekeeping day podcast table is Tracy Farone. You may know that name from reading Bee Culture Magazine. She is a regular contributor to the magazine. Tracy, welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast.
Dr. Tracy Farone: Thanks, guys. I really appreciate you having me on today.
Kim: It's nice to finally meet you, Tracy. I've been reading your article since you started writing for Jerry and I've enjoyed every one of them.
Tracy: Thanks, Kim. Good to have a fan.
Jeff: Besides mom and dad. [laughs] No, you do a good job I really enjoy the articles and I'm really glad you're on as well.
Kim: I've been in the beekeeping world for 40 years and to have to deal with the veterinarian as a beekeeper, is so far out of my realm of experience that I'm still getting used to even listening about it, let alone having to do it. One of your articles talked about why haven't we had vets in beekeeping together long before this? That made a lot of sense to me. Suddenly, are we better than other animal keepers and are we smarter?
The way bees are going lately, it's pretty obvious we're not. I wanted to bring that up first and if people can go back and find that article, but to get started, how did you get into bees? What's your background here?
Tracy: Yes. I never thought I would be doing this. You never really know what you're going to do when you grow up. This all happened for me, it sparked my interest in 2017, when you mentioned that beekeepers and veterinarians got thrown together in the infinite wisdom of our government without the mandate that said that no longer there's antibiotics across the board, you can't buy them or track or supply and that type of thing.
That's really what brought beekeeping into a veterinary realm and it certainly caused some unique issues. It was a good idea in that what our government was trying to do, was prevent antibiotic resistance, which is one of the top health issues. They will actually rank it, if you look into public health will actually rank antibiotic resistance beyond even COVID as being a public health issue across the world.
That's my interest. My research interest has always been in public health. When this came out to try to combat antibiotic resistance, because beekeepers were using antibiotics as well as many other farmers and herdsmen of different agricultural animals, to make sure that we weren't distributing antibiotics in a way that could increase antibiotic resistance. When I read about this and I read about this back in 2016, which seems like a whole lifetime ago at this point, I read of this article about it and honestly, I laughed.
I thought I was like, "Bees? This is insane, what are veterinarians going to do about bees?" I read about it and the more I read about it, the more it actually made sense to me. It was like, "Well, okay, these are animals, they're agricultural animals. They get diseases, bacteria, viruses, parasitic diseases. You can examine them, you can do run diagnostic tests on them and you could treat them with medications." Stuff that I already knew about even though I didn't know anything about bees, but I knew about all of those processes, all our other animals.
It became less weird to me and a little bit more interesting and it also created this public health problem, related problem, really between the industries. Beekeepers were like, "We've been doing this forever all by ourselves, what the heck do we need veterinarians for?" Veterinarians were like, "Huh, bees are weird. That's interesting, but we don't know anything about bees. What are we going to do with this?"
I decided-- What I'm doing now is I'm an academic. I'm an old farm girl that now has grown up to be a College Professor, which again, never thought I was going to do that coming out of school. I'm an academic now, so I have the benefit that I could do a sabbatical to study a problem. After I read about-- and I just immersed myself in bee information and doing research on honeybees in the industry in 2017, the year the mandate came out officially and then 2018 I applied for a sabbatical.
That's a year-long process in academia to get approved and organized. In 2019, I went on a sabbatical. I found that my college actually had already had relationships with veterinary schools and universities in France that already had bee vet-type programs, because in France veterinarians have been working with bees for decades. They were much more advanced than the United States in that way. In many parts of Europe, it wasn't weird for veterinarians to be involved in bee health.
We already had this relationship. The college I work with, we already had a relationship with France. I also previously went out to the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana and took students out there. I had some contacts out there and it turns out that there's a lot of beekeepers out in that area, big beekeepers, commercial beekeepers with 10,000 or so hives. I happened to know some people that knew some people out there that were putting their honeybees out in the clover in the summertime in Montana.
I just started to make these connections and I posed the sabbatical to study this problem. What I did is I went on sabbatical in 2019, it was approved. Now, again, I am reading everything I possibly can from 2016 to 2019 on honeybees and the industry and honeybee health and taking educational classes. There were starting to be some continuing education classes for veterinarians on honeybees at that time, after 2017, so I took several courses specifically for veterinarians.
I went to France and I studied over there with veterinarians that were already bee vets. Then I went around-- I'm from Pennsylvania and I hung out with dozens of different beekeepers. I would just call them up and say, "Hey, I want to learn about bees." I shadowed everything from a backyard beekeeper with one hive to commercial beekeepers. I also went out West to Montana and hung around with some guys that had 10,000 hive operations and just immersed myself in the field.
I did it from an academic standpoint and I did it from a-- moving boxes around. That's when my old farm girl thing helped out. Some of these beekeepers were like, "Who's this chick coming in here that wants to help us out with bees?" Soon as they saw I could lift up some bee boxes, they were like, "Hey, you're hired." That's the long story of how I got started into it.
Jeff: That's quite a broad spectrum of beekeeping operations from a backyard beekeeper to the large commercial scale. What was the biggest surprise? When you look at that experience, what was your biggest surprise?
Tracy: Actually, I think my biggest surprise is how weird it wasn't. I initially thought it was going to be strange, bees were going to be strange, but what I found is, with my background, I do have background with some large animals that I grew up with dairy cattle and horses and things, is that a lot of things that veterinarians already know and people that work in agriculture already know, those principles, although there's very specific things with bees, but those principles, same principles can be used.
How we approach a diagnostic case in a treatment protocol and biosecurity and things of that nature, all of those things that we really learned about it and practice with all animals can be applied in some way in honeybees.
Jeff: When you're looking at this, you're not looking necessarily at an individual honeybee, is that correct?
Tracy: Correct. Yes, you have to look at-- I talk and a lot of my talks that educate people because they see one little honeybee is an individual organism. Of course beekeepers know that it's a superorganism. I try to explain that a single honeybee is a cell. It's a cell in a body of a dog or a cat or something. It's a part of a functioning larger animal, if you will. You got to think of the hive as the colony, as your animal, your patient.
Jeff: That's the only way really you could look at it from a treatment perspective and from a diagnosis and treatment.
Tracy: Sure, absolutely. That's how we learn. As veterinarians, a lot of times will put us in categories of small animal or large animal veterinarians, which in fact, in the United States, when you graduate from veterinary school, you are a veterinarian, period. If I want to hang out a shingle and see cows all day long, that's what I can do. If I want to see lizards and snakes, I can hang out the same shingle and be the same veterinarian. Oftentimes we limit our practice, but we are trained in all creatures great and small type of thing, except these bee things. That's changing.
Jeff: Looking back, you looked at the large-scale operations and small-scale operations and you realized there's not a whole lot of difference in them. You're treating the superorganism, is what you're doing.
Tracy: Right. I think actually how we can, as veterinarians and when I'm talking to veterinarians and that's one of the things that I do now a lot, is I do continue an education on bees for veterinarians, which is actually very popular. Veterinarians are really interested in what's going on with bees because it's a new thing. They don't have to sit through the same old lecture that they've heard 1,000 times before. They're really interested in learning about bees I can tell you that across the board.
We do have veterinarians that tend to do more small animals. I tell those people to poll your clients. If you want to reach out to beekeepers, poll your clients because you'd be surprised how many small backyard beekeepers there are. Oftentimes, that's the group where we can really reach out and educate them on honeybee health and things they can do for honeybee health.
I think backyard beekeepers are a little bit more like small animal clients, because they view their hives more like pets, part of the family and every little bee is special and things. Small animal veterinarians, I think, are pretty well equipped to work with backyard beekeepers. Now, large animal guys and gals or veterinarians that are used to working with large industrial farms, commercial farms, big operations of hogs and sheep and cattle and chickens and things, they might work better with your commercial beekeepers.
That it's more of a larger agricultural operation and they know how to deal with herd health. Essentially, when you're working-- you have a 10,000 hive operation, you don't think of it as individual hives, you think of it as individual yards. That's how you manage your poling.
Kim: The reason that veterinarians had to become involved with bees was because of the antibiotic issues that you mentioned. Before this happened, I could go to my local farm supply store and buy a package of terramycin and read the instructions, maybe and then feed it to my bees as many times as I would need to. I'll be honest, I never thought about bees becoming resistant to this and comment here. I've never had to go apply an antibiotic to my bees because I've never had fall brood. Knocking on wood here.
When that came to the surface, it was really new to me only because I haven't had to do it. How new is this to your local small-town veterinarian person who has never looked at and now is required to do something with a beekeeper?
Tracy: Well, it's as new to them as it's new to you as beekeepers. We're trying to get more of the word out. 2017 was the first time most veterinarians even heard of it, if they've heard of it at all and even up to now, to these days. There's veterinarians that are working to get the word out again, provide continuing education for practicing veterinarians that if they would be interested in seeing bees, they could do so.
Almost every national conference, and veterinarians are required every two years to get 30 credits or 30 hours of continuing education in whatever they choose to do at these conferences. They can choose to get these continuing education in honeybees and honeybee medicines. Just about every major conference now usually has honeybees in the lineup. That's how we're getting it out to practitioners.
We are also reaching out to the vet schools. We now have multiple vet schools, at least four or five that have chapters, student chapters on bee medicine. The students are interested in learning about it. We're providing education or at least there's educational opportunities growing at the veterinary schools, so that's student-level. There are some more courses that are coming out at the vet schools, where if you looked 2017, there would've been zero classes in veterinary school in the United States on beekeeping.
Now, those are starting to crop up in the veteran schools. There's also something-- and I don't know if I can officially talk about this, so I got to be careful exactly how much information I share here, but I am on the board of the Honey Bee Veterinary Consortium. I think you guys have interviewed some members of The Honey Bee Veterinarian Consortium in the past. This group is really trying to get the word out to veterinarians and educate veterinarians about bees, so that we can provide better services for beekeepers.
One of the things that we are working on is a certification process for veterinarians. It will be a voluntary type thing, but it would be organized through mentors where veterinarians could go through a program that would require into hundreds of hours of beekeeping education, as well as hands-on experience, so that once they got this certification, they could at least put that in their credentials and then beekeepers could look for that and at least know that these veterinarians have some, at least, entry-level education on honeybees.
They're not looking in a box for the first time and wondering where the frame is. They actually can have some skills in seeing honeybees. That's something we're trying to provide. It's not going to happen overnight, but it's certainly something that we are working on so that we can better serve the beekeeping community.
Kim: If I understand the new ruling correctly, there needs to be a relationship between the vet and the beekeeper. As a beekeeper, I should probably establish that before I need the veterinarian, correct?
Tracy: That is the sticky point and it's one of those things where a relationship takes two sides. You can be like, "No, I don't want to do this. I used to do this my old way and go to track supply and buy tetracycline. There's a couple things I can say about that. I think it was good that we've been thrown together, meaning veterinarian and beekeepers. I think the fact that we've been thrown together for two diseases and maybe three drugs is ridiculous.
Imagine if you went to your doctor, and your doctor could only diagnose two diseases and give you three drugs and the rest of all your healthcare and health needs, they couldn't even-- that doesn't matter. In reality, that's not it. American foulbrood and European foulbrood, yes, very real problems, but honestly, compared to varroa, not as much as a concern for most beekeepers.
When veterinarians learn about a patient or any doctor learns about a patient, you have to learn about their whole health. You have to know what's normal. This is where the teacher's coming out. I am the professor remember. I teach my students before we talk about anything pathological, you must know what normal is. You must know what normal anatomy is. You must know what normal behavior is. You must know what a normal environment, normal nutrition, all of those things before you can even talk about what can go wrong.
You have to know what normal is before you can recognize abnormal. Then you can start to learn about all of the other diseases. It's not just two bacterial diseases, there's parasitic diseases, there's viral diseases, there's other bacterial diseases besides the foulbrood. There's fungal diseases, there's nutritional diseases, there's management-related diseases, there's biosecurity.
All of those things, I think, is actually what veterinarians can bring to the table because we look at things from a different perspective and we're not going to just want to come in and be like, "Oh yeah, here's a script for you and you can just throw some antibiotics on your bees and hope for the best." Because they don't really work that great anyway for American foulbrood or even European foulbrood, it's the last resort.
When you look at that whole picture, it's ridiculous. What's more important is looking at the overall health of your colonies, which includes a little bit of American foulbrood and European foulbrood and maybe a sprinkle of antibiotics once in a while in rare cases. The whole big picture of your honeybee health is really what's important. That's where I think veterinarians can come alongside beekeepers, just like we do all of our other animal owners and our agricultural industry.
That's where-- and I think beekeepers need help. Bees are in trouble. There's a lot of challenges there facing them and I think there's some veterinarians that think this is really cool and if we can come along and help from a public health perspective and from an industrywide perspective, I think that's where we can really serve our best role.
Jeff: That's a great message and let's pick that back up in just a few seconds, but first, a quick word from one of our sponsors.
Betterbee: Now that the honey harvest is over, it's time to think about winter. It's important to make sure your bees have enough stores to get them through to spring. Visit betterbee.com/syrup, to learn how to make your own two-to-one sugar syrup for fall feeding and to shop for a high-top or in-high feeder to make sure all your bees get fed. Remember to stop feeding sugar syrup once your daily temperatures consistently dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Visit betterbee.com to learn all about fall feeding. Better Bee, your partners in better beekeeping.
Kim: Tracy, that brings up another question for me is if I am working with a local association or even a state association, but certainly a local association, is there some way that we can approach the local vet? We've got a couple of them here in my town and I could approach either or both of them and say, "Come to the meeting. Get to know how we do, what we do." I'm going to guess that a lot of associations haven't approached it this way yet. None that I've heard of anyway. Does that sound right?
Tracy: That's a great idea. Actually, that's happened with me personally. Certainly, all the local groups in Western Pennsylvania have called me in and I've talked to them just the other night, I went in and did a TikTok. I talked about ticks with beekeepers.
Jeff: [laughs] I thought you were doing an app. I said, wait what?
Tracy: [laughs] I was trying to get away from ticks to bees, but there's actually-- beekeepers are outside people. We talked about tick-borne diseases all night long. It's forming these relationships, and Kim, I think you hit the nail in the head when you said local. I don't know how it is everywhere in every state, but in Pennsylvania, there's local beekeepers all over the place. Every couple counties, there's a local beekeeping club.
What I'll also tell you is there's probably a local veterinary medical association that probably almost mirrors the beekeeping clubs. We've been trying to get people talking back and forth between those associations. Certainly myself, I've gone from the Northern Pennsylvania beekeepers down to the, Beaver County and central western-- just different places and I just talked to them. They've reached out to me and that's been great.
Again, it's a two-way street and I think you can reach out to your local veterinarians. Some of them are going to say, "Huh? Bees? That's crazy." If that's the first thing that happens to you, I wouldn't be deterred by it, but there's going to be others that are like, "Hey, that's cool. Could I come to your meeting?" The thing is, you don't have to have every veterinarian in your county or in your town to see bees. You just really need one in your area. Those are how those relationships, I think, can get started and how we'll move forward.
Kim: One of the things that came to mind is the veterinarian's going to have to do a house call. I'm not going to bring my bees to his office in all probability. [laughs] There's going to be an element of location and ease of travel and all those things that you're going to have to take into consideration if you're going start working with your local vets.
Tracy: Yes, and some veterinarians are set up to do house calls and some aren't. I would look for practices that are set up to do house calls or farm calls, or a mixed animal practice. Or I would look for practices that have a veterinarian as a beekeeper already, which that's not an unusual-- not every veterinarian's a beekeeper, but there's a few. Certainly in my area there are.
Kim: One of the things, and I went back and read some of your recent articles in Bee Culture. One of the things that really intrigued me was in one of your articles, you spelled out how you examine a colony. It's surgery, I think, you called it. I think it'd be valuable if you can go through that because especially for beginners, but for people who've been doing this for 40 years, you tend to get habits that aren't as good as they could be. You brought up one that I have a bad habit with. See if you can go through that, just step by step, not too much detail.
Tracy: Sure. I think that's just my perspective, is that you have to use a system. There's just a handful of things-- we can make beekeeping really complicated and talk about all kinds of things, but really there's a few basic things that you'd need to be able to do to be a successful beekeeper. One of them is knowing how to do a good hive inspection and actually doing them.
[chuckles] If you just let them go for six months, you're not going to know what's going on. You have to do regular hive inspections and seasonally appropriate hive inspections. Then yes, you open up a hive and every time you open up a hive, you have to consider that you're opening up the organism, when you open up a body, you don't just stand there and let it open, you go to work. You don't have to rush, but you do need to understand that when you're opening them up you're messing with their thermoregulation. You're messing with their hive organization, and that is a stressor.
You don't want to stay too long, but you also don't want to rush so much that you cause more damage than it's worth. When you go in, you're looking for certain things. You have a plan in mind before you go in. If I'm doing surgery on a dog and I want to remove a foreign body, I'm going to look in their stomach not their liver. If you're looking for queen status, you're going to want to look at the brood and you're going to be want to look for eggs. You're going to want to maybe look for the queen.
Maybe eggs are good enough. Some of the commercial beekeepers when you have 10,000 hives to inspect they just pop a top. They see white wax. They're like, "Hey, probably good." It depends on your situation and what you're looking on what your purpose is for going in and what sign you're looking for to give you the information and then get in, get out.
Kim: That makes perfect sense. You also talked about nutrition and evaluating the nutritional status. You called it medical management, which was a good way to look at it because I look at it as either or. Either I have it or I don't and you look at it as probably do, but at what level? That made a lot of sense to me reading it out loud. It made a lot of sense. Jeff, I don't know if you've read all of Tracy's articles, but there was a couple of them there that talked about immunity and running into that problem and then dealing with a vaccine.
I know that the vaccine issue is still under development and there's not a lot you can say, but there's some things I think you can say because that article was very informative even up to that point.
Tracy: They're trying to work on a vaccine and I think it's a very interesting concept because the more we learn about these, the more we learn about their immunity and how they can pass on immunity. We don't categorize these as having the same type of humoral immunity that we have like antibodies. Most people have heard of people producing antibodies. If you produce antibodies then you have enough of them, then if you get exposed to that same thing you wouldn't necessarily become sick again or as sick. Bees don't have the ability to produce antibodies per se.
We do believe they have the ability for the clean to ingest and be exposed to particles of a certain pathogen and then be able to incorporate them through a series of proteins and vitiligine, which you guys may have heard of. Beekeepers oftentimes are familiar, but essentially through these proteins into her ovaries and she can actually pass on exposure to this particular pathogen through her ovaries and then potentially produce offspring that would have some level of immunity. I find that fascinating.
That's a newer science and I sure hope that what they're doing with vaccines that that can actually be put out into practical use because if they then create a vaccine and it's not little shots that were given to these individual bees. We're then feeding clean particles essentially of kill pathogen that she can then be exposed to and then pass on this exposure and then therefore immunity to certain things.
They're trying it with Americans foulbrood, but it could potentially be application with a lot of other diseases as well. They're really in early stages of clinical trials. I sure hope it works out. If we could finally have a solution for American foulbrood and that some of these other diseases that really are not readily treatable even with antibiotics, antibiotics in American foulbrood really isn't recommended in most circles.
Burning as you guys know is typically the recommended and no one wants to set their hives on fire. It would be great if we could have a solution for these things. I'm hopeful. I don't I don't know that I can say much more about where it's at, but that's what I know.
Kim: Well, in reading the article, you spelled out the process very nicely. You feed a colony this compound in the early early spring, and it eventually gets into the royal jelly. The queen eats it, she passes through her system, she passes it on into eggs and then into the larva. Then you've got a high full of bees have been exposed to this very quickly. I hope it works because it sounded very good to have happen.
Tracy: I think it could give beekeepers-- there are still a lot of commercial beekeepers that are putting tetracycline and other antibiotics on their honeybees as standard practice, preventative practice. I feel for these guys and gals because they're afraid, because the spores are in the ground. This is an endemic disease. It's in the dirt. They're afraid that if they take them off that antibiotic that they're going to get a resurgence of the American foulbrood and lose all their hives and I get that.
Certainly, veterinarians would get that from a herd health management, but if we could have something that could give beekeepers the confidence to take them off the antibiotic-- I can't just say, "Hey guys, take them off the antibiotics, things will be okay, I hope." I don't want to be the veterinarian that says that and then they have an outbreak of American foulbrood. It would be nice to be able to give these commercial operators an alternative and be able to wean our bees off of antibiotics.
Kim: Yes when bees are putting food on your table, you can't guess.
Jeff: This has been really exciting because I think it opens up another avenue and resource for beekeepers to help with their bees. As the veterinarians get up to speed on working with bees and there are some that really enjoy it such as those in the consortium and as you've demonstrated, the beekeepers benefit and it's going to be wonderful in the future, as well as the vaccines and treatment modalities come about for beekeeping, so we can get rid of some of these pesky things that are costing us. I'm looking forward to it. It's good. Thank you.
Kim: Tracy you had one other observation that I've found fascinating is, you were posed with a question by somebody you were lecturing or talking to about are there chemicals that I'm using to treat Varroa going to also treat for small hive beetle because they're toxic as heck.
Tracy: I'm going to give you two answers of this, I guess. I can't say that if you're putting a certain chemical that's labeled for Varroa in your hives, if it's going to kill hive beetles because it's not labeled for that. The label is the law, period. That is the official answer on that in all all drugs. Label is the law. You also have to understand that Varroa are mites. They're arachnids, they're like ticks. Hive beetles are insects, bugs.
There is a little bit different type of physiology and those arachnids versus insects. While any chemical could have an effect on a hive beetle, if it hasn't been studied, I can't say that it's going to do anything in particular. I can talk to you about biosecurity though and what I think about hive beetles as being more effective.
Kim: Well, the point that you made was that treating your hive for Varroa made your hive healthier than if you didn't head and treated it, and a healthy hive has a better chance of controlling small hive beetles than a hive that's not that healthy. That was the point that I was looking [crosstalk] really nicely.
Tracy: Thanks for reminding me. Yes, and that is the whole really the crux of it. If you have healthy animals, they are much more likely to deal with all of these pests. We're all exposed and that's a universal rule for whether you're a human, or you're a dog, or you're a cow. The healthier that you are, free of parasites, good nutrition, good shelter, good thermo-- the ability to thermoregulate properly. That's going to let you have a strong animal, strong hive that's going to be able to withstand some of these things, a variety of things that gets thrown at them .
Kim: That's the point that I read and you're exactly right. Keep your bees healthy and you're going to have fewer problems. Pretty much across the board. What have we missed Tracy, that we should be talking about?
Tracy: I think I would leave you with four things. Beekeepers talk and it's fun. We can talk about different hive styles and bottom boards and feeders and whatever. Everybody has their things that they like to do and sometimes that depends what you want and where you're at and needs. What I've found is you can boil it down to four big things. You want healthy bees, you can boil it down to four things. Three of them we've already covered.
One is know what's going on in your hives, know how to do a hive inspection. Know when and seasonally, when you're supposed to do it. If you don't get better at it, get some help, find a mentor, that type of thing and be confident about it. Two is good nutrition. Got to make sure that your bees have adequate forage. There's there's certainly some-- Penn State, I know has done some nutritional studies to look at forage in your areas. You can check it out, Pennsylvania anyway.
There's other organizations that have looked at that. Beekeepers certainly move their bees around and pursuing commercial beekeepers like migratory beekeepers and finding better nutrition. Certainly, we supplement nutrition. I can tell you that I leave some honey on my bees. I say this with some reserve in that I know commercial beekeepers, that's your job, you're taking off as much, honey as you can and then you're feeding back sugar water, but if you're a backyard beekeeper, leave them a box.
In Pennsylvania, they need 60 pounds to 80 pounds to survive the winter. If you only put 40 pounds on them and they die over the winter and you wonder why, there's your answer. They starved. You got to leave enough-- and honey is the best food. I mean, that's what they make nutritionally for them. If you can leave honey on your bees, leave some. I know that's not possible for every organization and situation, but good nutrition.
Varroa is the third thing you have to control for varroa, you have to know what's going on in your hives. Your hives have varroa if you're pretty much on earth, even if you're in Australia now, looks like they're getting it too, but yes, you have to have a treatment plan for varroa, period. The fourth thing is biosecurity. Biosecurity is one thing that veterinarians are actually really well educated in.
What that is, is what comes into your apiary and what goes out. Anything that you bring into your apiary can bring infectious disease with it. If you monitor and really regulate what's coming into your yard, or know what's coming into your yard, you're going to have a lot less likelihood of bringing disease into your yard. I've written down actually guidelines on biosecurity for beekeepers and veterinarians coming into bee yards. I think those are on the website for a consortium, but those are something that I'm willing to share or whatever.
I think I've written articles about it too, but that's something that I try to educate beekeepers about. If you bring new hives in and you didn't have hive beetles before and now you do well, there you go. That's how things happen. Yes, they can fly, I know it can spread, but oftentimes, if you bring them right to your front door that's the easiest way to get them into your apiary.
Kim: Yes, and keep your hive tool clean. Always good advice
Jeff: Or not.
Jeff: One last question on the biosecurity. Do you take the biosecurity by yard or by colony, by hive?
Dr. Farone: Well, if you only have one colony, then that's your yard. That gets into the individual and we look at individual health versus herd health or colony, the yard health is your herd of bees. I tend to look at biosecurity more from whatever's in that yard, because everybody that's in that yard is in the same pasture, is in the same forge areas, in the same field, is in the same pen, however, you want to look at it.
This is the agricultural vet coming out in me. That's how I would look at it, but you also have to think about it could change a little bit. If you have a backyard beekeeper that only has one or so hives, then that becomes it.
Jeff: Yes, always worry about your fellow beekeeper comes in and brings their own tools and they wearing the same old smock and coat and yes, that always makes me nervous as well.
Dr. Farone: Yes, and that's good actually for you to be nervous. I think it's okay because you don't want to be too sloppy, but you can be as sloppy as you want in your own yard, but you don't want to bring things into your yard that's new.
Jeff: Yes, you don't want to bring other people slop into your yard.
Dr. Farone: I don't know how to say that nicely, but keep your own dirty hive pol in there if dedicated in that yard.
Jeff: We're all beekeepers, we all talk the same language. Well, Tracy, it's been wonderful having you on the podcast this afternoon. For folks who want to hear more from you, they can go to the October event for Bee Culture, you'll be in Medina, Ohio and participating in that, so it'd be a great opportunity to ask questions directly of Tracy and review every month in Bee Culture. Thanks again for joining us.
Dr. Farone: Thanks, guys. I appreciate talking with you.
Kim: Yes, it'll be good to meet you in person, Tracy. I look forward to the October event. Thank you for today.
Dr. Farone: You're welcome,
Jeff: Kim, it's great to have Tracy on. I love her columns in Bee Culture. As I said, having veterinarians involved in beekeeping can only be helpful for beekeepers.
Kim: It still seems weird to be considering working with a vet in a bee yard, but all the things that came out today make perfect sense and those of us who have been around way longer than maybe we should have are going to have to get used to it, because it's the future and it should be.
Jeff: We talked about the reason why it's here in the terramycin. Well, I remember going into the feed store and just picking up a pack of TM25. It was a yellow and white package and I was picking up. I remember in the books at the time or magazine articles at the time said, "Well, you could prophylactically use it and sprinkled across the top bars of your brood chamber to knock down any chance of American foulbrood." I was just like, "We are our own worst enemies." We really created that problem.
Kim: Too often we are, yes. It's good that they did that. It's going to take a while to get used to it.
Jeff: Yes, and I didn't want to bring it up with Tracy on and I shouldn't have done it here behind her back, but wait till beekeepers get the farm call charges. $75 just to show up? What the heck, I mean, that's probably cheap. I used to have horses, and farm call charges are expensive, so that's something else to consider.
Kim: Maybe next time.
Jeff: Well that about wraps it up for this episode. Before we go, I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars on Apple Podcast, wherever you download and stream the show. Your vote helps other beekeepers find us quicker. Even better, write a review and let other beekeepers looking for a new podcast know what you like. You can get there directly from our website by clicking on reviews, along the top of any webpage.
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Professor of Biology/veterinarian
Dr. Tracy Farone, DVM is a Professor of Biology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. She has worked in various areas of private practice, academia, and/or research for over 23 years.
Since late 2016, Dr. Farone has been researching beekeeping and bee medicine. In 2019, she was granted a sabbatical to allow specific time to pursue apicultural studies and develop a teaching and research apiary at her college. Dr. Farone has worked in the field with dozens of back yard, sideline, commercial beekeepers, and bee researchers, both in the US and in Europe.
Dr. Farone gives bee lectures for universities, veterinary associations, and various bee clubs around the country. She has published several articles on bee medicine, including a monthly “Bee Vet” series for Bee Culture, written biosecurity industry guidelines for veterinarians entering bee yards in the US, and developed an educational website, https://www.gccbeeproject.com/ . Dr. Farone’s work and publications have also been featured in the JAVMA and Veterinary Clinics. She is consulting nationally and internationally with industry stakeholders, and manages two honey bee yards and a PSU pollinator friendly garden with the help of her research students.