Honey Bee Survey Molecular Pathogen Lab Has Relocated

The National Honey Bee Survey has moved the location for some of its lab work. All molecular pathogen processing will now occur at the University of Maryland, College Park entomology labs. This is an expansion of the current UMD lab space already used for NHBS testing as the central location for Tropilaelaps, Varroa, and Nosema inspection since 2012 (previous to 2012, we were kindly given space in the basement of the USDA Beltsville Bee Lab). Our UMD lab has also been home to our survey kit preparation, all sample receiving, and report sending.

Now we are adding molecular pathogen testing to the lab’s processing functions, sometimes labeled as viral processing, which was formerly executed at the USDA. This testing has been used to screen for viruses not yet found in North America, as well as creating data used to track trends among viruses and Nosema infections that are known to occur in the United States.

This move was planned out to have no discernible impact to participating survey beekeepers and state inspectors. If not for this blog, only our lab workers may have noticed. Honey bees sent for molecular pathogen analysis had already been sent to UMD since 2017, so there will be no change to any address currently being used to ship samples. The equipment being used is also the same, so the same molecular pathogen data will continue to be sent back on reports.

The one short-term delay that could be produced by the time used for the move itself may occur with the late 2022 samples’ molecular pathogen data being completed and returned to beekeepers. Fortunately, however, we recently updated our reports, so that beekeepers whose results are delayed may receive partial reports containing their Varroa, Nosema, Tropilaelaps, and visual inspection information. These data are reported independently from their molecular pathogen and pesticide data which typically take longer to process and return.

Overall, we are expecting that increased efficiency, as was a goal of the move, will in short order lead to quicker molecular pathogen results being sent back to beekeepers.

Molecular pathogen processing was previously completed at the USDA ARS Bee Research Labs in Beltsville, MD. Not only has the physical space at the USDA been a significant component of the survey since its inception, but just as integral have been its bee research staff who have shared their lab space with us through the years. We expect the loss of the daily camaraderie we have shared with them as the most negative impact of the move. Our collaborations will continue, however, and the USDA lab will store a complete set of the cDNA library, containing nearly all of the honey bee samples collected from 2013 up through the current survey year as a back up to samples stored at UMD.

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