ABC Invests in Washington State University Honey Bee Health Experiment

Posted May 20th, 2019

Happy World Bee Day! Without honey bees there would quite simply be no almonds so California’s almond farmers have a deep, vested interest in protecting their health.

Because of their essential role in almond farming, moving pollen from flower to flower and pollinating the crop along the way, the California almond community has funded over 100 bee health research projects, more than any other crop group. This research is working to address the five major factors impacting honey bee health – varroa mites, pest and disease management, genetic diversity, pesticide exposure, and access to forage and nutrition.

One of the projects Almond Board of California (ABC) recently funded will help to advance a Washington State University (WSU) study taking a novel approach to fighting the varroa mites that harm honey bees.

The WSU team received a combined $200,000 from the Washington State Tree Fruit Research Commission and ABC to purchase three 20-foot cargo containers, which will be retrofitted with equipment to control the internal temperatures and atmospheric gasses, and a $500,000 USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) grant that will start in August, when the refrigerated containers will be up and running.

“Our preliminary research has been really promising related to the benefits of using refrigeration storage at different times of the year, so this is an expansion to help save the bees on a large scale,” said Brandon Hopkins, assistant research professor in WSU’s Department of Entomology. “We know the mites die at a level of carbon dioxide that doesn’t harm bees, but we’ve never done experiments on a scale that approaches what professional beekeepers have.”

In the past, the team has used small refrigerators that couldn’t accommodate full bee hives. The new containers will allow them to work on a scale that’s closer to real-world. The use of these facilities will enable the researchers to determine the best management practices and any potential disadvantages associated in indoors storage of honey bee colonies and the associated varroa mite control.

Since honey bee health was made a strategic organizational research priority in 1995, ABC has become a leader in the honey bee health conversation, partnering with more than 20 organizations to support bee health including universities, government agencies, nonprofits and beekeeping groups.

Learn more about how the almond community supports honey bee health and ABC’s pollination partnerships in this short video:

Category: 
Bees