Tag-Archive for » honey bee research «

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 | Author:

Kim Flottum found out for us (thaaaaaank youuu!)


A year ago USDA CSREES (Cooperative State Research Extension Education Service) awarded a $4.1 million grant to a group of university researchers for the express purpose of solving the current honey bee health problems confronting the beekeeping industry. Without actually nailing it down, this was a project to look into the current Colony Collapse Disorder malady and, over four years, find out what was going on. But at the same time the grant was to fund an extensive education program for beekeepers, and to develop as much information as possible so beekeepers could keep their bees healthy, and had a place to go for questions … and answers. Moreover, 25% of the funds were to go to study non-apis pollinators, such as bumble bees, alfalfa leaf-cutting bees and the like. To date, this is the only government money to be distributed to beekeeping researchers to study this problem other than normal budgetary funds to keep the USDA projects up and running.

So what’s happened in a year? I’m glad you asked, because I wanted to know too. So I ventured to the University of Georgia in Athens to visit with Dr. Keith Delaplane, the leader of this large and varied group studying this large and varied problem.


In this first year each of the cooperators in the program have hired the people they need to work with or brought on board the grad students who will do the work or the post-doc who will assist in the project. Probably the biggest accomplishment so far, said Dr. Delaplane, is the establishment of the seven stationary apiaries to monitor honey bee health and the environment. These apiaries, consisting of 30 colonies each, are in Maine, Florida, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Texas, Washington and California. Each is administered by one of the researchers and will be managed using the techniques particular to their respective locations … bees in Minnesota are not managed on the same calendar or with the same methods as those bees in Texas, for instance. But each area does have best management practices that reflect these differences, and those will be followed.

However, one constant is that each colony in each of these apiaries will be sampled once a month for the duration of the study to look at what’s going on inside. Samples of bees, honey and wax will be taken, and measurements of bees and brood will all be taken routinely. The samples will go to a lab at Penn State to look for viruses and nosema disease, to the University of Minnesota to count nosema spores, and to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station to look at the pollen and wax samples for residues of agricultural pesticides. At the same time, USDA scientists will be taking identical samples, and doing identical counts from a series of migratory beekeeping operations. Samples and data will be identical from each apiary and each migratory operation, and at the end the mountain of data will be easily comparable and very useful, said Delaplane.

Because this grant also covers non-apis bees (that is, bees that are not honey bees) identical samples will be taken from managed non-apis bees at each of the apiary sites. Scientists are looking for cross infections or other relationships.

Other non-apis projects include looking at increasing the efficiency and reducing the stress of managed bumblebees when used for pollination. The effects of the neonicitinoid pesticides on non-apis bees are also being studied, and especially the sub-lethal effects and any effects from residues. This should be interesting.

Meanwhile, the Extension and Education part of this has moved right along, and in July the USDA is launching its eXtension.org website. It is to be a one-stop shopping experience for agricultural information. The honey bee health section is housed and administered from the University of Kentucky in Lexington. All of the information that goes on this web page, the bee page included, is well-researched and well-refereed work, with oversight by a large team of honey bee scientists. There will be a Frequently Asked Questions section, an Ask The Expert question, Best Management Guides section and more. All coming from the Bee Health Community group. This effort will be federally supported, but all states will contribute with funds from their individual extension budgets. This will, over time I imagine, erode the personnel in each state’s Extension core. Unfortunate, but at least there won’t be a vacuum left behind.