NIFA-Supported Researchers are Finding Solutions to Bee Losses

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue declared this week as “National Pollinator Week” to help call attention to these losses, which are caused primarily by biological and environmental stressors. On June 6, Secretary Perdue joined Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, to announce the installation of a honey beehive on the grounds of the Vice President’s residence in Washington, D.C.

NIFA has supported researchers to halt the declining bee population and address the threat it poses to our nation’s long-term agricultural productivity. Through a coordinated effort across USDA and with land-grant university partners, NIFA has funded a number of projects seeking to find solutions.

  • Researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explored how bees might respond to two contrasting bioenergy production scenarios: annual row crops, such as corn or soybeans, and perennial grasslands, such as switchgrass or diver prairie. The researchers used field observation data to develop models for predicting the abundance, diversity, and community composition of flower-visiting bees.
  • Researchers at The Pennsylvania State University discovered the diet of honeybees can significantly impact their resistance to pesticides. The study found that feeding honeybees a natural diet of pollen makes them significantly more resistant to pesticides than feeding them an artificial diet. Pesticide exposure also causes changes in the expression of genes that are sensitive to diet and nutrition. The study revealed a strong link, at the molecular level, between nutrition, diet, and pesticide exposure. Exploring this link further, the researchers found that diet significantly impacts how long bees can survive when given lethal doses of a pesticide.
  • University of Nevada-Las Vegas researchers have discovered a groundbreaking prophylactic treatment of honeybee larvae using a cocktail of phage—or anti-bacterial viruses considered safe to humans—that increased bee survival up to 70 percent following exposure to American foul brood disease.
  • Researchers at Emory Universitysuggested that modern beekeeping practices may be creating an environment that increases the development of more virulent strains of deadly parasitic mites and associated diseases. They hypothesize that there is a direct relationship between transmission rate and incidence of more virulent strains of Varroa mites. To test this, they will track the movement of different mite lineages in managed and feral colonies and evaluate parameters of colony health.

From NIFA Updates


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