Tracking Feral Bee Health in Pennsylvania, preliminary results 2017

What a better way to start 2018 than with an update about our exciting and ongoing citizen science project, Tracking Health of feral Bees in PA. It was a busy 2017. We sampled 19 feral colonies coupled with 11 managed colonies in six different cities throughout Pennsylvania. Once winter arrived, the field season wound down, and the bees had gone into hibernation mode, we were able to begin laboratory analyses. This involved comparing the immune systems and viral levels of the feral and managed colonies . We are very excited to share with you preliminary results from our first year of sampling. So far, the data from the laboratory analyses suggest that feral colonies have 2-4 fold higher amounts of deformed wing virus (DWV) than managed colonies. This may seem like bad news. However, our results also suggest that the feral colonies are producing immune genes at a much higher proportion in feral than managed colonies. What does this mean? While we are still working on collecting more data and starting follow up experiments,  these preliminary results suggest that feral colonies in PA are overall exposed to extremely high levels of DWV but that these colonies are defending themselves naturally through their immune systems (figure 1). This is very exciting as the main goal of the project is to identify colonies that have evolved better tolerance to mites, and that could be used for breeding programs in the future.

figure 1: Immune responses in feral and managed honey bee colonies in Pennsylvania

As we enter our second year of this citizen science project, we hope to continue mapping the distribution of  feral bee colonies throughout PA and to characterize levels of disease pressure and immune gene expression in these colonies.

We would like to give a big thank you to everyone who has contributed to this project, especially those who submitted information about the location of feral colonies. We are planning to sample 16 additional feral colonies this coming spring, so we still need your help! If you know of a feral colony location please contact us or fill out our Feral FORM on our webpage.


This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Animal Health Appropriations under Project #PEN04620 and Accession #1011873.



Post by Katy Evans

How to cite this webpage

Hinshaw CR, Evans KC, Rosa CR, Grozinger C, and Lopez-Uribe MM. 2018. Tracking Feral Bee Health in Pennsylvania.


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