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Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor – April 2024

- April 1, 2024 - (excerpt)

Plastic Beehives
Plastic beehives, particularly polystyrene beehives, are, and should be, anathema. Polystyrene, especially expanded polystyrene, is subject to fragmentation into breakdown products that include microparticles and nanoparticles that, in turn, absorb microorganisms and toxins thus increasing their impact when ingested.
Scientific Reports (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-64464-9), “Potential toxicity of polystyrene microplastic particles”: “Direct contact with microplastic particles may have possible adverse effect in cellular level. Primary polystyrene (PS) particles were the focus of this study, and we investigated the potential impacts of these microplastics on human health at the cellular level. We determined that PS particles were potential immune stimulants that induced cytokine and chemokine production in a size-dependent and concentration-dependent manner.”
My state, and others, forbids burning of plastics.
Rules of Tennessee department of environment and conservation bureau of environment division of air pollution control chapter 1200-3-4 open burning (https://publications.tnsosfiles.com/rules/1200/1200-03/1200-03-04.pdf: “The open burning of tires and other rubber products, vinyl shingles and siding, other plastics, asphalt shingles and other asphalt roofing materials, and/or asbestos containing materials is expressly prohibited.”
My state, and others, requires burning of hives with AFB, etc. Tennessee Code Annotated, Tennessee Apiary Act of 1995, 44-15-117 (https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/agriculture/documents/apiary/
: “Disposition of confiscated bees and beehives. All bees and beehives confiscated by the state apiarist as allowed by this chapter shall be destroyed by burning if the state apiarist determines that the confiscated property is infested with a regulated disease or pest to such an extent that it presents a significant and unacceptable threat to bees in the surrounding area.”
To repeat, plastic beehives, particularly polystyrene beehives, are, and should be, anathema.

Dan Geer
— beekeeper, biostatistician, farmer Cornersville, Tennessee


 Understanding New Research on Probiotics for Beekeepers
A new research article was recently published about SuperDFM-HoneyBee probiotics (Anderson, K.E., Allen, N.O., Copeland, D.C. et al. A longitudinal field study of commercial honey bees shows that non-native probiotics do not rescue antibiotic treatment, and are generally not beneficial. Sci Rep 14, 1954 (2024)). The title of the article suggests that the SuperDFM-HoneyBee probiotic is generally not beneficial. A person has the right to his opinion. However, the data in this article paint a different picture — and critical data appear to have been deliberately excluded.
In the first part of the study, 61 or more honey bee colonies (there are inconsistencies in the exact number of colonies and exclusion of some colonies for unknown reasons) were split into three groups. Colonies received either SuperDFM-HoneyBee (probiotic A), ProDFM (probiotic B), or powdered sugar (control, C), once a month for five months (July, August, September, October, and November 2020). ProDFM is a SuperDFM imitation made by Mann Lake Ltd.
In the second part of the study, in December 2020, the three groups were further divided. Some hives were given antibiotics (tylosin or oxytetracycline), followed once by probiotics. Hundreds of bees were then sampled for microbiome analysis.
Antibiotics were administered on December 7 and December 14. Bees were sampled and analyzed on December 2, December 17, December 26, and January 9. Thus, testing has focused on outcomes after antibiotic use and recovery. There is a missed opportunity to analyze the effects of probiotics before using the antibiotics.
Why, if the study was focused on the effects of probiotic treatment, were the colonies not sampled until December 2? As a result, no health, pathogen, or microbiome data were collected before or during the five-month probiotic supplementation. It is a pity that this long period (almost six months) was overlooked. This leaves so many questions unanswered. What was the colony strength before and after probiotics? What were the pathogen levels in July, August and September? The missing information could be valuable in truly answering the question of the effectiveness of probiotics. This is a serious flaw in the study and casts doubt on its conclusions.
The article focuses heavily on the second part of the study — the antibiotic treatment — and there are no figures showing the effects of probiotic treatment. Supplemental figures contain very limited information on probiotic treatment. One figure shows that the probiotic treatment did not shift the core components of the microbiome. This result is exactly what one would expect and hope for. Probiotic treatment should never alter or disrupt the host microbiome. This is not unique to beekeeping — in fact, guidelines for the probiotics industry in general, summarized by International Scientific Association on Probiotics and Prebiotics, state: “A common misconception is that to be effective a probiotic must impact the composition of your gut microbiota. Probiotics typically do not take up residence in your gut and may not evoke any detectable change in the microbes that are normally present. As they pass through the gut, probiotic (and the substances they produce) interact with immune cells, gut cells, dietary components in the gut and the microbes that live in our gut, and that’s how they exert their benefits.”
Colony strength and survival are very important to beekeepers. One of the study’s authors, Mr. Randy Oliver of ScientificBeekeeping.com, has discussed the trial in early 2021 [“Á Field Trial of Probiotics,” May 2021 ABJ and “Letters to the Editor,” July 2021]. Unfortunately, Mr. Oliver did not publish the raw data, making peer review impossible. The published article does not discuss the …