New Diagnostic Network Helps N.H. Beekeepers Understand Honey Bee Health

NH Honey Bee Diagnostic Network can analyze bees for Nosema infections
Two beekeepers prepare their bee samples for analysis of nosema

Beekeepers in New Hampshire have a new resource to help better understand the health of their honey bees. The NH Honey Bee Diagnostic Network (NHHBDN) is a group of dedicated volunteers who have been trained how to analyze honey bees for infections of Nosema, a disease that can contribute to colony losses.

Nosema is a disease that affects the overall health of honey bees by attacking their digestive system. Since the disease lives as microscopic spores in the bee’s gut, where it attacks healthy cells, microscopes are necessary to diagnose this disease properly. Granite State beekeepers can submit samples of their honey bees to NHHBDN for analysis. The diagnostic network’s trained volunteers will look for the presence of Nosema and provide recommends when appropriate. The network also helps N.H. beekeepers and others develop a better picture of Nosema’s presence throughout the state.

“There are so many factors that can negatively affect honey bees, and New Hampshire has seen very high hive loss rates over the past couple years,” says Matt Coughlan, a New Hampshire Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program Assistant for UNH Cooperative Extension. “This new network provides an important tool for beekeepers to understand what's happening in their hives beyond what they can visually observe.”

NHHBDN offers Nosema screenings at no cost. The diagnostic network’s website, www.nh-honeybee-health.com, includes information on how to collect and submit samples. 

The NH Honey Bee Diagnostic Network also aims to connect new and established beekeepers with clubs and organizations in their counties and across the state. The network’s website includes information on local beekeeping clubs, “bee schools” for beginners and other resources.

“Connecting with a local club is the best way to learn and expand your resources. It's more important than ever to manage our bees consistently throughout a region to reduce passing infections from one hive to others nearby,” Coughlan says.

The NH Honey Bee Diagnostic Network is a collaboration between UNH Cooperative Extension and the New Hampshire Beekeepers Association and is made possible by a 2017 Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Professional Development Program grant. SARE offers competitive grants to projects that explore and address key issues affecting the sustainability and future economic viability of agriculture. Northeast SARE is a regional program of the nationwide SARE effort; SARE is part of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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Anna Boudreau
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