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Bee Investigations

Except for some studies on the most efficient type of winter covers for beehives, and cooperation with the State Department of Agriculture in apiary inspections, the department did little research on the subject of honey bees prior to 1922. By 1922, however, European foulbrood disease had assumed such proportions that at the request of the State Beekeeper's Association, the legislature made a special appropriation for research in methods of combating it. Studies were begun by Ray Hutson and on his resignation in 1931, were continued under the direction of Robert S. Filmer. The investigation was conducted along three main lines: (1) the development of a strain of bees resistant to European and American foulbrood, (2) the breeding of a high-producing strain of bees, and (3) the use of bees in pollination.

On special breeding grounds established in the south Jersey pine barrens, Hutson succeeded in developing, by selection and inbreeding a strain of bees which was not only apparently strongly resistant to European foulbrood, but had also an exceptional honey-gathering ability. Shortly after 1930, European foulbrood practically disappeared from New Jersey.

Later an attempt was made to develop a strain resistant to American foulbrood, and strains developed in other parts of the country were tested in New Jersey. Chlorine gas was found successful as a disinfectant in the control of American foulbrood and carbon tetrachloride with ethylacetate as a fumigant killed the waxmoth. More recently use of some of the antibiotics showed good results and certain antibiotics and sulfathiazole appear to be excellent preventatives if not cures for this disease.

In developing a high-producing strain, forty to eighty colonies were maintained in an apiary at Lebanon, New Jersey. Filmer succeeded in developing a high producing strain for New Jersey by crossing inbred lines that had high vigor and excellent honey-producing qualities. In connection with this work extensive knowledge was accumulated on bees' winter requirements for honey and pollen. Work on breeding programs was discontinued at the start of World War 11.

Before 1930 in studies of pollination in orchards, Hutson established that for pollination of apples a colony of bees to two acres of fruit was sufficient. At that time native insect pollinators were abundant in orchard areas and arsenicals were the chief insecticides used. Later, when growers needed to maintain colonies for pollination purposes, studies showed that package bees could be used to supplement established colonies.

Early work on pollination was concerned with apples, but with the development of the blueberry industry studies were made to determine the need for colonies of bees in the pollination of blueberries and cranberries. When, during the war, New Jersey growers attempted to raise their own legume seed, studies of the role of the honey bee in setting of legume seed became particularly important. Studies of the honey bee in lima bean pollination have also been made.

The application of insecticides by spraying and dusting created another pollination problem, in that the bees could not be excluded from the poisoning. In the '30s and '40s it was primarily a matter of arsenical poisoning which fruit growers were taught to avoid by limiting spraying to periods when trees were in bloom. In potato producing areas, it was later found that bees were being poisoned, by dust drifts from potato fields to adjoining fields, and to such a degree that the beekeeping industry had disappeared altogether from potato-growing areas in Middlesex and Monmouth Counties. Since the war, studies have shown that where insecticides are applied from airplanes, bees are sometimes poisoned when the insecticide drifts from fields being treated to adjoining fields that are in blossom. And, in recent years, it has also been demonstrated that serious poisoning of bees has occurred in blueberry and cranberry fields where dusting was done during the bloom period.