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Bayer Funding Studies of Honey Bee Health, Management

Bee on flowers

(Jack Dykinga, Agricultural Research Service, USDA)

18 February 2016. Bayer Crop Science is seeking research ideas for improving the health of honey bee colonies in the U.S. Proposals for studies in the $1 million program addressing urgent needs highlighted by Bayer’s Healthy Hives 2020 initiative are due by 1 March 2016.

Bees, which play a key role in agriculture, are facing increasing stresses, most notably colony collapse disorder, but other pathogens as well affecting their health and the economic stability of U.S. commercial bee keeping and pollination operations. According to the Agricultural Research Service of USDA, American bee keepers reported losses in managed honey bee colonies of 42 percent in 2014-15, although earlier declines in winter months apparently leveled off in recent years.

Bayer Crop Science, in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, created its Healthy Hives 2020 program in April 2015 to find solutions to health problems facing honey bee colonies in the U.S. In a two-day workshop in June 2015, the company, with experts from academia, government, agriculture, business, and the bee keeping community, identified the most urgent needs for ideas and solutions, reflected in the new call for research proposals.

Among the top bee health research priorities are:

  • Honey bee genetics, to identify traits important for disease resistance of colonies to pests and disease, as well as improving pollination efficiency and honey production
  • Evaluating smart-hive technologies for monitoring bee colony health during commercial migrations; data from sensors in participating colonies are updated to a database in the cloud for viewing and analysis
  • Assessing the economics of commercial bee keeping to better account for production costs and improve the efficiency of their operations
  • Using performance data of colony health to create a set of best management practices for commercial bee keeping.

Proposals are expected to address one or more of these priorities, describe qualifications of researchers, outline timelines and deliverables, and propose a budget. The deadline for proposals is 1 March.

Bayer is collaborating with the not-for-profit organization Project Apis m in Paso Robles, California, which will oversee administration of the research grants. Project Apis m — from Apis mellifera, the scientific name for the European honey bee — funds research studies, purchases equipment for bee labs at universities, supports graduate students, and provides scholarships to new bee scientists.

The following video tells more about the Healthy Hives 2020 program.

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