Honey Bee Health in Maine Wild Blueberry Production
School of Biology and Ecology, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA
Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Augusta, ME 04330, USA
Department of Analytical Chemistry, The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, New Haven, CT 06511, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Alberto Satta and Panagiotis Theodorou
Received: 4 May 2021 / Revised: 29 May 2021 / Accepted: 31 May 2021 / Published: 5 June 2021
Wild blueberry is an important native North American crop that requires insect pollination. Migratory western honey bee colonies constitute the majority of commercial bees brought into Maine for pollination of wild blueberry. Currently, many stressors impact the western honey bee in the US. We designed a two-year monitoring study (2014 and 2015) to assess the potential health of honey bee colonies hired for pollination services in wild blueberry fields. We monitored the colony health of nine hive locations (three hives/location) in 2014 and nine locations (five hives/location) in 2015 during bloom (May–June). Queen health status, colony strength, rate of population increase, and pesticide residues on pollen, wax, and honey bee workers were measured. In addition, each hive was sampled to assess levels of mite parasites, viruses, and Microsporidian and Trypanosome pathogens. Different patterns in colony health were observed over the two years. Factors predicting colony growth rate over both years were Varroa mite infestation and risk due to pollen pesticide residues during bloom. In addition, recently discovered parasites and pathogens were already observed in most of the colonies suggesting that parasites and diseases spread rapidly and become established quickly in commercial honey bee colonies.