Scientists Selected to Work on Healthy Hives 2020 Initiative

Growing Produce   By Rosemary Gordon  June 23, 2016

Project Apis m. has announced the names of scientists and research projects seeking to answer key questions around bee health to receive funding as part of the Healthy Hives 2020 initiative. Healthy Hives 2020 is an initiative of the Bayer Bee Care Program and administered by Project Apis m. with the goal of improving the health of honeybee colonies in the U.S. by the year 2020.

Projects funded cover critical bee health topics such as bee nutrition, Varroa and disease management, and enhanced management techniques through smart-hive technology. The recipients were selected from a total of 23 research proposals seeking to provide practical and tangible solutions to the key issues affecting the U.S. beekeeping industry. More projects will be funded as the Healthy Hives initiative moves forward.

“Project Apis m. is dedicated to honeybee health and we are so excited about this initial round of grant recipients,” says Danielle Downey, the Director of Operations for Project Apis m. and Healthy Hives 2020 program manager. “Today’s beekeepers are faced with a broad range of issues and are in urgent need of practical solutions to improve the health of their hives. We believe these projects will be critical to helping us enhance the vitality of honeybee colonies, while also improving crop productivity.”

Projects Funded:

In February 2016, Healthy Hives 2020 issued a call for research proposals to address priority areas established by the program. The Healthy Hives 2020 Steering Committee reviewed the nearly two dozen proposals received and selected the seven research projects based on their direct correlation to the objectives set forth by the advisory council. Awarded projects* include:

Arathi Seshadri, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor, Colorado State University
Phytochemicals as management tool for sustainable honeybee colony health and productivity 

  • Develop laboratory studies to test the effects of phytochemical nutritional supplements on forager longevity and pathogen tolerance.
  • Evaluate the field benefits of nutritional supplements using pollen patties infused with phytochemicals by measuring foraging activity and colony survivorship.

Brandon Hopkins, Ph.D., – CEO, Advanced Beekeeping Solutions
Evaluate and compare management strategies and economics of apicultural practices in commercial beekeeping operations

  • Develop accurate “real-time” data to enhance management decisions and optimize economic output, especially for large migratory operations spread over wide geographies.
  • The research will use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology on bee pallets to provide a detailed economic evaluation of the data and to identify best management practices among collaborating beekeepers.

Jody Johnson, Ph.D. – Cullaborate, LLC
Pesticide toxicity analysis of Varroa mites

  • Evaluate the efficacy of potential varroacides with novel modes of action with the intent to provide beekeepers with new tools to combat Varroa.
  • These efforts will accelerate the discovery and field testing of new varroacides and facilitate quicker notification and commercial registration by the respective regulatory agencies.

Joseph Cazier, Ph.D. – Center for Analytics Research and Education, Appalachian State University
Electronic data collection and sensor integration for data aggregation, best management practices data mining, and smart hive development

  • Establish a standardized platform for consistent and reliable collection of human and natural order data from commercial and hobby beekeepers, using advanced data analytics across multiple locations, crops and forage locations.
  • The comprehensive analysis will examine beekeeping economics, best management practices, smart hive development and robust data collection and analytics.

Quinn McFrederick, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor, University of California, Riverside
Determine how Nosema ceranae infection alters the honeybee midgut microbiome

  • Determine how Nosema alters the honeybee midgut microbiome and how the microbiome differs in bees that are resistant to the parasite.
  • The researchers will partner with a local beekeeper to identify Nosema-resistant or susceptible colonies to determine if there is a pattern in the microbiomes composition that could lay the groundwork for future midgut engineering to protect against infection.

Stephen Martin, Ph.D. – Professor, School of Environmental & Life Sciences, University of Salford
Establish the Deformed Wing Viral (DWV) diversity across the U.S.

  • Characterize the distribution and associations of DWV strains within different U.S. honeybee populations (e.g. managed, feral, Varroa-tolerant, hygienic).
  • Screen 1,000 bee colonies to detect and isolate benign types from the virulent strains.
  • Determine if non-virulent strains can be linked to increased colony survival to develop a long-term solution to the problem of Varroa-transmitted viruses.

Steve Sheppard, Ph.D. – Washington State University
Compare of U.S. honeybee genetic lines for queen production and pollination efficiency under field conditions

  • Compare subspecies performance as it relates to mating success and queen production, foraging behavior and pollination efficiency, overwintering survival, productivity/vigor and Varroa tolerance.
  • Old World subspecies and three commercial lines will be examined under differing climatic environments to increase our knowledge of apiculturally-relevant characteristics associated with crop pollination.

Note:  Only the lead researcher is listed