“Anyone who thinks their work is too small to make a difference, has never met the honey bee.” I love that quote, adapted from the Dalai Lama (1). Determined and durable like our namesake, Project Apis m. is celebrating a milestone so impressive that our founders would have never dreamed: PAm celebrates funding $10M in honey bee research!
$10M is impressive, and those dollars started with beekeepers and grower’s own donations- which were- and still are- a critical vote of confidence. When PAm approaches sponsors, our support from commercial beekeepers and beekeeping clubs shows our connection to the industry. Focus and solution-oriented work continues to attract funds from partners and corporations who want sustainable supply chains and resource management, and brands who know consumers care about giving back to bees. It’s you, our supporters, who made such successful fundraising possible.
By: National Honey Board
The National Honey Board is excited to celebrate Project Apis m. surpassing its milestone goal of raising $10 million to fund research to improve honey bee health. As an organization that is focused on providing resources to those whose lives directly depend on the bees, Project Apis m. has spent the last 16 years bringing together farmers, researchers, and government agencies to achieve their mission of sustainability within the beekeeping and agricultural industry.
Each year, National Honey Board designates 5 percent of its annual revenue to production research, and that money is managed by Project Apis m. To date, NHB has funded more than $3 million in research studies.
“Project Apis m. has been a great partner to the National Honey Board. Their expert advice and deep understanding of the science behind bee health has been invaluable in advising our board on how to best utilize our funds for research that is practical and applicable immediately for beekeepers.” -Margaret Lombard, CEO, National Honey Board
By: Dr. Kaira Wagoner, Researcher at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, and former PAm-Costco Scholar
My lab may be on the verge of a huge breakthrough – use of brood pheromones to enable precise and rapid selection of Varroa and disease resistant bees - and Project Apis m. (PAm) provided support critical to this success. It started with a Ph.D. project related to hygiene communication. At the time, the focus of the research community seemed to be on hygienic adults – their superior sense of smell and how this enhanced perception was modulated in the honey bee brain. But what exactly was it they were smelling? We decided to find out.
New Research at Project Apis m.
Project by project, PAm helps address the bee health questions of today while helping beekeepers prepare for the future. Across the U.S. and Canada, recently funded projects are beginning on topics ranging from Varroa and viral diseases to drought-tolerant bee forage.
Salt Lake City, Utah-August 25th 2021.
Managed honey bees in North America are under increasing pressure to meet pollination demands for our food supply. At the same time, annual colony losses are high- 45.5% in the US in 2020, and the natural forage which gives bees healthy nutrition and a honey crop for producers is decreasing. Colony losses are often attributed to pathogens, parasites, pesticides, hive management (queen mating, genetics, maintenance), climate, and available nutrition. United States honey production in 2020 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 148 million pounds, down 6% from 2019. Sustainable beekeeping is dependent on maximizing outputs (colony health, colony numbers, pollination contracts, honey production, profitability) while minimizing the inputs (time, money, personnel, treatments). A sustainable beekeeping industry contributes to a more sustainable agricultural landscape through a stable supply of bees for crop pollination. Therefore, PAm is requesting research proposals that focus on enhancing the health, survival and productivity of honey bee colonies, which provide practical and tangible solutions to the beekeeping industry.
Crossing Borders: New Research in Canada, and Our Newest Science Advisory Committee Member
Beekeeping is a big industry and interest in Canada. In 2019, Canada produced 80.4 million pounds of honey, and in 2017 pollination services in Canada were estimated to contribute between 4.0 and 5.5 billion dollars to the nation’s economy.1 Canada is a major producer of canola and blueberries, two crops that benefit greatly from pollination services. Unfortunately, beekeepers in Canada face similar challenges to those in the U.S. making research a necessity for improving honey bee health, creating and optimizing tools for beekeepers. In 2020, the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA) reported 30.2% colony losses over winter, nationally, with some provinces losing as many as 40.7% of their colonies.2
Project Apis m. Funds Dr. Judy Wu-Smart to investigate the impacts of pesticide-treated seed recycling in Nebraska.
Beekeepers have been re-locating their apiaries from Nebraska for years. Well before the public became aware of an ethanol plant producing pesticide-laden by-products, there had already been a concerning trend of beekeepers leaving Nebraska.
Dr. Marion Ellis, head of the Bee Lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) saw the pattern begin during his tenure. Beekeepers were migrating out of the state as more pastureland in the area was planted with corn, and especially when that corn was treated with organophosphate insecticides to control corn rootworm. Organophosphate insecticides are persistent in the environment and are highly toxic to bees, but beekeepers were reluctant to complain to friends and family who farmed the land. As Ellis said, “It became really hard to keep bees in the Corn Belt.”
More recently, large-scale career beekeepers with thousands of colonies have continued that exodus from Nebraska because they cannot afford the high bee losses year after year.1 A new publication representing a major collaboration across state and federal organizations puts some concerning data behind the trends. It highlights that bees in Nebraska are dealing with a disproportionately high number of pesticides detected at higher levels than most other states and the neonicotinoids clothianidin and thiamethoxam contributed significantly to the hazard quotient (the risk) posed to bees in Nebraska.2
Since beginning in 2006, Project Apis m. has endeavored to fund bee research that will improve honey bee health. Translating the research into improvements on a large scale means not just funding the work, but providing beekeepers with the knowledge and tools quickly so they can benefit from the research. Over time, with the help of an engaged research community, PAm has created a funding process and pipeline to drive innovation and solutions for years to come.
In 2014, a new pollinator habitat collaboration was initiated by a group of stakeholders that saw land use changes threatening pollinator health in the upper mid-west region. Acres of row crops were rapidly rising, conservation land was being lost, and with the expansion of row crops, agricultural chemical use was also expanding. From the initial success of that collaboration, The Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund (BBHF) was formed.
While beekeepers and environmentalists have been aware of land use changes impacting bee health for a long time, these changes have intensified over the past few decades – and at the same time, honey bee and native bee health issues have come to the forefront of public awareness.
The above images represent how land use changes and increased agricultural chemicals can sometimes correlate. Pesticides are a complex issue. You can read more about pesticides and bee health here. Read the publication “Land-use change reduces habitat suitability for supporting managed honey bee colonies in the Northern Great Plains” here, and visit the USGS Pesticide National Synthesis Project’s interactive pesticide maps here.
The California State Beekeepers’ Association (CSBA) is seeking proposals for research conducted in the area of honey bee health and management. Proposals should be designed to cover a single year of highly focused research devoted to finding practical solutions to beekeeping problems.
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