Apiculture and Bee Biology Laboratory

Zachary Huang, Assistant Professor


The fourth summer at MSU has proven a very productive one. The patent for mitezapper (http://www.mitezapper.com) has been approved and now we have to get it to work under field conditions! We have been working with Tom Mase, a professor in Engineering to fine tune the mitezapper. Bartek Majewski, a student in Engineering, has been working hard to improve the prototype, including determining the thermal properties of brood and getting the best heating elements for the zapper.

Left to Right: Zachary Huang, Letti Taua, Michael Langenberger, Sandie Michalek, Jayne Michalek, Yanping Wu. Not shown in the picture: Ting Zhou, Bartek Majewski and Jeff Tan.

Our lab continues to collaborate with Ke Dong's lab in studying the sodium channel of the varroa mite. So far we have successfully sequenced the full length gene of the sodium channel (we named it VmNa), but are still trying to express the gene functionally in frog eggs. Right now Jeff Tan is working on the pharmacological profiles of a chimeric sodium channel (by mixing the genes from the cockroach and varroa mite sodium channels) to determine if some of our previously identified genes are indeed responsible for conferring resistance.

We continued to study the interactions between a microsporadian parasite, Nosema apis, and its host the honey bees. To keep the tradition of involving K-12 and undergraduate students in research, we hosted another High School Honors Science Program (HSHSP) student, Letti Taua (who came all the way from America Somoa) in our lab. Letti worked on a project to determine whether nosema spores would reproduce differently in worker bees of different behavioral castes (newly emerged bees, nurses and foragers). We were hoping to find some differences because nurses and foragers have very different physiology and it was possible that nosema spores might germinate and/or reproduce faster in nurses. Unfortunately we did not find any difference after many trials. Yanping Wu helped with a similar project late in the season -- to determine whether nosema spores would germinate or reproduce differently in workers, drones and queens. Again we failed to find any difference in spore loads in the three castes after inoculating them with the same dose. Ron Lin, who had been working on nosema for three years, returned to Vancouver, Canada June 1st to continue his commercial beekeeping. Yes, Ron, make more money and support the bee research here:) :)

We performed a second-year field study in Canada to evaluate possible effects of transgenic canola pollen on the development and physiology of honey bees. Michael Langenberger, who did this study last year in Canada, traveled to Sasktoon again this year. He stayed at MSU for six months, helping with other projects when he was around. He returned to Canada late fall. The main player in the transgenic project, Anne Hanley, wrapped up her research early spring, defended her Master's thesis and got a job around the same time! Well done Anne.

Sandra Michelak worked for us a second summer. She not only was responsible for providing all the logistic help for all experiments, but she also managed to help one experiment Zachary designed. The study was to determine the reasons why honey bee queens sometimes would lay worker eggs (fertilized eggs) in drone cells (which are larger than worker cells). We found that there was a seasonal component (as originally predicted): queens would produce higher proportions of worker progeny in drone cells, as the season progressed on. The queens also seemed to decide what eggs to lay based on the proportion of worker vs drone cells. These are very exciting results because it has always been thought the honey bee queen is quite robotic when it comes to what eggs to lay based on cell sizes -- the queen seems to lay fertilized eggs in worker cells and unfertilized eggs in drone cells, with a nearly 100% accuracy. We were sad to see Sandy leaving because of her need to have a full time job.

Sandra's daughter Jayne Michelak, also a high school student, worked on a project to determine the flight development in honey bee workers. It is common knowledge that newly emerged workers can not fly, and they eventually have to fly out of hive to forage for food. However the ontogeny of this important function has never been studied. We determined that it took a minimum of 7 days @ 35 degrees C for 100% of workers to be able to fly, and there were large colony to colony variations. In addition, we discovered that this flight development was temperature dependent -- at 25 degrees C nearly none of the workers could fly on day 7 (compared to 60-100% of bees capable of flying when reared at 35 degrees C). Our data also suggests that flight muscles perhaps need high temperature to develop because the thoracic mass was smaller for non-flying bees.

Teaching and Extension:

Zachary was awarded a Lilly Teaching Endownment Fellowship for the year 2002/2003. The Lilly program was established nationwide in 1974 by the Lilly Endowment to recognize the combined teaching and research skills of junior faculty members in the early stages of their careers. During the fellowship year, Zachary will meet other fellows and his mentor (Jack Liu, Fishers and Wildlife) regularly, attending workshops, and working on a project, all aimed to enhance the fellow's teaching skills and explore new teaching methods.

Besides the ANR week beekeeping which keeps Zachary "home" each year during the spring break, Zachary also attended and gave talks at the highly popular annual meetings of Eastern Apicultural Society and the Heartland Apicultural Society, where about 500 from the eastern and 300 beekeepers fom the midwest states met, respectively.

International Travel and Collaboration:

Zachary was invited to Limoges, France, as the keynote speaker for the National Association of Queen Breeders and Bee Rearing Centers. Delighted with such an invitation, he gave 3 additional talks there. He then was invited by scientist Yves LeConte in Avignon to speak at Invertebrate Ecology Seminar Series, the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA) in Avignon and the Univ. of Avignon & the Countries of Vaucluse.

He then visited China April/May of 2002. While at the Xishuangbanna Tropic Botanic Garden (http://www.xtbg.ac.cn), Yunnan province, Zachary carried out a few different lines of research. He worked with the pollination group (headed by Prof. D. Yang) there to study fig wasp behavior and ecology, pollination ecology of wild ginger (Amomum, Zingiberaceae). Risking his life, Zachary managed to paint giant honey bees (Apis dorsata), introduce them to nests, and then sample hemolymph of age-marked bees. Samples were brought back to Michigan to determine juvenile hormone (JH) levels. We found that the giant bees, similar to Apis mellifera, also show low JH levels in young bees and high JH in older bees. Zachary continued to study mite reproductive biology of mites on Apis mellifera and Apis cerana, and found mites from A. cerana cannot reproduce on A. mellifera, but mites from A. mellifera can produce on A. cerana. As part of the collaborative arrangement, a visiting scientist, Ting Zhou, stayed here for 6 months to figure out the molecular phylogeny of these mites. During that 6 month period she visited Denis Anderson's lab (Australia) to finish the genetic analysis. Ting also conducted a study to determine the effect of nosema infection on the size of hypopharyngeal glands and hemolymph protein titers of honey bee workers.

As soon as Zachary came back from China in early May, he went to participate a workshop on modelling in social insects, joining a group of international social insect biologists at the Santa Fe Institute. This "Working Group" gets together once a year and tries to integrate organizational concepts of neurobiology, behavior, and social biology. For more information about the purpose and participants of the working group see a paper by Erber and Page, and visit http://sfi.cyberbee.net. Zachary also wrote a report with Jennifer Fewell on the workshop of 2002, published by Trends in Ecology and Evolution (see pub #30 below).

The last internationa meeting was at the Niagara falls, a joint meeting between the Canadian and American beekeepers which about 500 people attended.

Publications in 2002 (numbered articles indicate refereed journal):

28. David, J.S., M.J. Vermiglio, Z.Y. Huang, G.E. Robinson. 2002. Effects of colony food shortage on social interactions in honey bee colonies. Insectes Sociaux 49: 50-55 29. [pdf]

29.Wang, R., Z. Liu, K. Dong, P.J. Elzen, J. Pettis, Z.Y. Huang. 2002. Association of novel mutations in a sodium channel gene with fluvalinate resistance in the varroa mite, Varroa destructor. Journal of Apicultural Research 40: 17-25 30. [pdf]

30. Huang, Z.Y., Fewell, J.H. 2002. Modeling insect societies: from genes to colony behavior. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 17: 403-404 [pdf]

Wang, R., K. Dong, Z.Y. Huang, P.J. Elzen & J. Pettis. 2002. Resistance Mechanism of Varroa jacobsoni to Fluvalinate: Altered Sodium Channel? In (eds: E.H. Erickson, R.E. Page Jr, and A.A. Hanna) Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Africanized Honey Bees and Bee Mites. pp 173-176

Submitted manuscripts:

Lin, H., C. Dusset & Z.Y. Huang. Short-term changes in juvenile hormone titres in honey bee workers due to stress. Submitted

Wang, R., Z.Y. Huang & K. Dong. Molecular characterization of an arachnid sodium channel gene from the varroa mite (Varroa destructor). Accepted.

Hanley, A.V., Z.Y. Huang & W. Pett. Does transgenic Bt corn pollen affect larval development of honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) and greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella L.)? Submitted

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