In 2010, 621 Maine beekeepers registered 6,975 hives. The registration numbers reflect an increase of approximately 150 hobby beekeepers since 2008. There are more than 1,000 beekeepers with 8,000+ hives estimated in Maine. The estimate is based upon the number of beekeepers who attend beekeeping workshops, the number of individuals enrolled in beekeeping short courses and the current membership of the various beekeeping associations throughout Maine.
Approximately 52,000 hives managed by 36 commercial beekeepers entered Maine for blueberry and apple pollination. When Maine’s non-migratory and sideline operations are included, about 53,600 hives were used for crop pollination. The number of hives rented in 2010 for crop pollination was approximately 14,000 less than 2009. Blueberry market conditions and weather influenced demand. Hives were also rented to cranberry, small fruit and vegetable growers and were also situated on canola and buckwheat acreage for honey production vs. pollination income.
In 2010, 14,176 hives were issued Maine health certificates for interstate movement to MA, RI, MI, FL, GA, SD, and NC for crop pollination, honey production and wintering purposes. The majority of migratory hives leave Maine after blueberry bloom for crop pollination (cucumber, cranberry) in other states or for honey production in NY and the Midwest.
Throughout the year 4,137 colonies were surveyed at random and 1,416 opened, sampled and inspected for disease and parasites. Fewer hives have been inspected, sampled and analyzed annually since 2008 due to the lack of a part-time summer apiary inspector and the additional time spent with novice beekeepers during the year. American foulbrood (Paenibacillus larvae) was found in 29 (2.05%) of inspected hives. European foulbrood (Melissococcus pluton) was found in 13 hives (0.91%) and Sacbrood virus was detected in 35 colonies (2.47%). The frequency of sacbrood de- tected in 2010 was the highest since 1986 (2.5%) and 2001 (2.23%). Sacbrood virus is usually found in 1% or less of inspected bee- hives. Chalkbrood disease (Ascosphaera apis) is widespread and many colonies were found with mild to acute infections. South African small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) infestations were common in migratory beekeeping operations, package bees and nucs shipped to Maine from the south. Over-wintered populations of the South African small hive beetle (SHB) have been documented in the 10 southern counties of Maine. The mild winter of 2009 – 2010 may have favored SHB winter survival.
Like 2009, very few samples were processed for tracheal mite, due to the lack of a summer apiary inspector. In addition, commer- cial beekeeping operations weren’t surveyed for Africanized honey bees. In 2010, 41 hives were sampled from 10 beekeeping operations (commercial, sideline and hobby) and microscopically examined for honey bee tracheal mite (Acarapis woodi). Eleven samples were positive with infestations ranging from 3 – 86%. The highest levels of infestation were from hives that wintered in Aroostook County.
In 2010, 291 hives managed by hobby, sideline and commercial beekeepers were sampled from the brood area and examined microscopically for Nosema. 234 hives (80.41%) were positive for Nosema with infections ranging from 50,000 spores/bee to 16,000,000 spores/bee. Nosema was detected in 84.4% of commercial colonies vs. 66.6% of sideline/hobby colonies. In addi- tion, the spore load (spores/bee) of commercial operations was greater than that of the sideline/hobby hives. 55.5% of commercial hives had spore loads greater than 1,000,000 spores/bee vs. 13.6% of non-commercial hives (>1M s/b).
2010 was notable for the mild winter, early spring and dry summer. Blueberry bloom was the earliest in memory and the crop was adversely affected in certain areas due to three consecutive nights with frost in early May. The summer was warm and dry in contrast to 2009 and populous hives produced an above-average late spring/ summer honey crop. Unfortunately, the summer drought conditions caused a failure of the late summer/fall honey crop from plants such as goldenrod, bamboo and aster in most of Maine, except Aroostook County.
The mild winter, early spring and ample early honey flow contributed to elevated Varroa populations. Varroa reinfestation of treated colonies (from feral hives and/ or untreated collapsing apiaries) during late winter/early spring and again during the fall was common in 2010. Many wintered hives reached treatment thresholds about one month earlier than normal. The exces- sive mite loads, associated viral complex and poor nectar production during late summer/ fall resulted in colony losses due to robbery, Varroa collapse, and CCD-like symptoms during the fall. In mid/late October (with the onset of cool nighttime temperatures), several beekeepers reported collapse of hives that were populous and had consumed and stored sugar syrup fed for wintering purposes. The bee populations diminished very fast and many hives had few or no bees remaining. The colony collapse occurred at the apiary level. Unlike previous accounts of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the collapsing and dead hives within apiaries were being robbed of stored honey and sugar syrup on warm days when bees were able to fly.
2010 was the first year that CCD-like symptoms were documented in Maine since the fall of 1994 when apiaries collapsed in a similar fashion. Samples of honey bees and brood sent to the USDA in 1994 result- ed in the detection of several bee viruses. It is probable that the collapse of hives during the fall of 2010 was due to the excessive Varroa infestations and associated viral/ pathogen complex. A common question from beekeepers concerns restocking bee equipment after colony collapse. At present, there are no consistent recommendations regarding the stability and virulence of virus particles within dead hives upon restocking with bees.
There was an increase in bee, wasp and hornet inquiries from the public in 2010. The majority of calls concerned the removal of wasps, hornets and bumble bees from buildings and properties. The state apiarist responded to honey bee nuisance requests from the State Police, Maine Turnpike Authority, Town Code Enforcement Officers and homeowners.
The most common requests for assistance pertained to: bees in swimming pools, swarms, bees in chimneys and wall voids, clusters of bees left at truck stops, clusters of bees on fuel pumps and clusters of bees at rest areas. A few individuals with allergies to bees called the department about regulations pertaining to the location of their neighbor’s bees.
During 2010 the state apiarist presented 30 lectures, workshops and field sessions to various bee associations, farm organizations and the general public. There is an increased awareness about bees and farming practices among the general public and an interest in bee culture.