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Healthy Hives 2020 USA, a multi-year, million-dollar research initiative, is well on its way to finding measurable and tangible solutions for improving the health of honey bee colonies in the USA by the end of 2020. A diverse group of researchers and scientists is focused on studying critical bee health topics affecting beekeeping, such as bee nutrition, the parasitic Varroa mite, disease management and enhanced colony management techniques through “smart hive” technology.
Today’s beekeepers are coping with a broad array of challenges, making management of their hives more difficult than ever before, while the need for bees in agriculture continues to increase. Healthy Hives 2020 USA is looking at areas that will improve honey bee health over the next four years and counter the continued reduction of colony losses.
The Healthy Hives 2020 USA initiative was launched in 2015 at the Bayer North American Bee Care Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. The two-day workshop brought together some of the nation’s leading bee health experts and stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds, including academia, government, agriculture, business and the beekeeping community.
The 17 summit workshop attendees identified the areas of research with the highest probability of finding measurable and tangible ways to improve honey bee colony health in the USA. These were later reviewed and prioritized by the Healthy Hives 2020 USA Steering Committee.
The program is focused on four major research objectives:
Conducting an economic assessment of commercial beekeeping operations to help beekeepers maximize efficiency and production;
Creating a set of “Best Management Practices” for commercial beekeeping based on definitive colony health performance data;
Evaluating the use of “smart hive” technology to monitor honey bee colony health during commercial migratory operations; and
Assessing honey bee genetics for traits which are relevant for colony resistance to pests and diseases, as well as pollination efficiency and honey production in the USA.
Leveraging Bayer-funded research grants, the nonprofit pollinator research organization Project Apis m. leads the administration of the program, including issuing requests for proposals, managing accountability and allocating funding. Project Apis m. and the Healthy Hives 2020 USA Steering Committee have allocated $794,713 of the 1 million US dollars provided by Bayer to date.
Steering Committee/Review Panel
A review panel assesses the Healthy Hives 2020 USA project proposals and provides the funding decisions. The panel includes:
Steve Sheppard, Washington State University (Chair)
Don Parker, National Cotton Council
Dick Rogers, Bayer Bee Care Center
Dave Westervelt, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Gloria Degrandi-Hoffman, USDA ARS Tucson Bee Lab
Randy Verhoek, Harvest Honey Inc.
Since its launch, the program has funded ten innovative research efforts that either support one of the program’s priority objectives or was felt by the Steering Committee to have the potential to make an immediate impact on honey bee colony health.
These researchers and their colleagues are helping to enhance the health and vitality of U.S. honey bee colonies. In their efforts to seek solutions for sustainable beekeeping, they are also helping to understand and combat honey bee colonies’ most significant threats.
Grant recipients include:
*Only the lead researcher is listed.
Professor Arathi Seshadri is studying phytochemicals as a management tool for sustainable honey bee colony health and productivity.
Dr. Brandon Hopkins is conducting an evaluation and comparison of management strategies and economics of apicultural practices in commercial beekeeping operations.
Dr. Edmund Stark, aims to develop a commercially viable, cost-effective product to control the Varroa mite, generally considered to be the major cause of honey bee colony losses in many regions of the world.
Dr. Jody Johnson is leading an efficacy study for potential novel miticides to control the Varroa mite.
Dr. Olav Rueppell is determining whether different commercially available honey bee genetic lines provide resistance to virus infection.
Professor Quinn McFrederick, Assistant Professor, University of California, Riverside is determining how Nosema ceranae infection alters the honey bee midgut microbiome.
Dr. Steve Sheppard is comparing U.S. honey bee genetic lines for queen production and pollination efficiency under field conditions.
Dr. James Wilkes and his team, including Dr. Joseph Cazier and Dr. Ed Hassler of the Center for Analytics Research and Education, Appalachian State University, are helping beekeepers make wise hive management decisions by advancing technology-assisted data collection at the honey bee colony level. See https://www.hivetracks.com/.
“Our ‘smart hive’ project is aimed at building a data platform that identifies and improves Best Management Practices through tailoring them to specific apiary or hive locations. Additionally, the improved monitoring of hive conditions aims to reduce costs, increase efficiency in honey bee colony management and provide a measurable reduction in annual colony losses within both commercial and hobbyist operations,” explains Dr. Wilkes.
Dr. Stephen Martin investigates how the viral landscape is changing and how these changes are affecting honey bees in the USA.
“The Varroa mite is providing a new viral transmission route for a previously rare and largely benign virus called Deformed Wing Virus (DWV). The mite’s main role in causing the death of honey bee colonies is by acting as a transmitter of this virus. DWV is now one of the most wide-spread insect viruses in the world with most colonies in the U.S. infected – healthy-looking bees are also potentially infected, not just the deformed ones, as people often think.
DWV is made up of several distinct viral strains, and each viral strain may have a different effect on the honey bees. Our project seeks to 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.” - Dr. Stephen Martin
Through the Bee Integrated Demonstration Project she helps showcase the best management practices that help to reduce honey bee colony loss through a coordinated and collaborative effort.
“The Bee Integrated Demonstration Project, lead by HBHC and supported by a broad variety of stakeholders, will utilize a suite of tools, guides and techniques developed by diverse partners in beekeeping and crop production. These can effectively address the primary risk factors influencing bee health, including honey bee forage and nutrition, hive management, crop pest management and education / cooperation.
Our demonstration project will measure colony losses throughout the season and use the gathered data to enhance beekeeping Best Management Practices with the goal of minimizing colony losses.” - Julie Shapiro
Bayer is a sponsor of multiple research efforts to identify and develop solutions for improving honey bee colony health and performance in the USA. To date, Bayer has committed millions of dollars to honey bee health projects, including those through the Healthy Hives 2020 USA initiative.
Nearly all of the Healthy Hives 2020 USA projects funded in 2016 and 2017 are still in progress, and initial results look promising. More research projects will be funded as the Healthy Hives 2020 USA initiative moves forward, striving to ensure honey bees remain healthy for generations to come.