Organic Beekeeping Management

Honey bees are the most important managed pollinator for crop production, making the issue of the high percentage of annual colony losses a concern for food security. Various practices are currently used to manage honey bee colonies, which include conventional, organic, and chemical-free systems. We are conducting a stakeholder-driven, integrated systems-based project to rigorously test the effect of conventional, organic and chemical-free honey bee management systems on honey bee health and profitability. Funded by USDA.

The role of genetic stocks on honey bee health

Several honey bee genetic stocks are commercially available in the US. Unfortunately, information about their performance, particularly for northern climates in the US, is missing. We are currently collaborating with Purdue University and 15 beekeepers to generate field relevant data on the performance and profitability of multiple commercially available honey bee stocks in the Midwest and Northeast. Our goal is to generate evidence-based data that will help beekeepers choose the best stocks that will increase sustainability and profitability of their beekeeping operations. Funded by USDA.

Bee Microbiomes

Pollen and nectar exposed to pesticides can change the microbiota associated with honey bee colonies. As part of the COMB (Conventional and Organic Management of Bees) project, we are also investigating another important aspect of colony health: how microbial communities change in managed honey bee colonies treated with different in-hive chemicals. Beneficial bacteria and fungi help with the production of bee bread by fermentation of the pollen stored in cells. Symbiotic microbes help metabolize some compounds in the digestive tract of bees.  Increasing evidence suggests that changes in the honey bee microbiome can be directly linked to colony health. Funded by USDA.