July 10, 2018
Longtime Classroom writer Jerry Hayes retired from Monsanto on July 6th, 2018. He had joined the agrochemical company 6 years ago, shortly after the company acquired Beeologics, an Israeli company that was pioneering RNAi technology to immunize honey bees against specific viruses. While at Monsanto, Jerry strove to inform beekeepers about the dangers of varroa, emphasizing the impacts this destructive parasite has on colony health.
The move from chief apiary inspector of Florida to Monsanto was viewed with trepidation by some beekeepers, and created a “Swarm of Controversy” described in exquisite detail by Wired magazine in a longform article that should be required reading for any lover of his Classroom column. It contends that “before he was a villain, Jerry Hayes was a hero. He considered himself one of the good guys. Many people did. They sought his advice. …Since the early 1980s Hayes has written “The Classroom,” an advice column for the American Bee Journal, America’s oldest bee magazine. He is Dear Abby for beekeepers, counseling readers on everything from capturing swarms to making shoe polish from beeswax.” Hayes joined Monsanto, because he saw that they had pockets deep enough to really help honey bee health. While there, he learned the RNAi technology of Beeologics was much further behind than he expected. The field trials were failing, as it’s much easier to kill varroa in a Petri dish than in a colony. Instead of pouring all their research dollars into stopping a single virus—Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus—he helped the agrochemical company focus its efforts on addressing the vector of the viruses—varroa. He was a frequent speaker at conferences, helping beekeepers understand how difficult it is to kill “a fist sized bug on another bug.”
Jerry will continue to write his much loved column for ABJ and we wish him much success in this next stage of his life. We will be interviewing Jerry in an upcoming issue, so stayed tuned as he reflects on what lies ahead.