A New Hive for Bee Care Research
This article is part of Seed World’s ongoing Protecting Pollinators series, brought to you by Bayer CropScience. Here, you’ll discover the answers to help improve bee health and stewardship as researchers uncover them. In this article, you’ll learn about Bayer’s new North American Bee Care Center, which is home to apiologists, biodiversity specialists, eco-toxicologists and beekeepers.
On average, beekeepers lost 32 percent of their colony and some reported losing as much as 70 percent of their colonies in 2013, reports Donald Parker of the National Cotton Council of America.
As the integrated pest management manager for the NCC, bees are one of the insects on Parker’s mind. He’s concerned that efforts to protect pollinators will restrict some of the crop protection products available to cotton farmers. He says that many farmers understand that colony collapse is a concern for agriculture, as honey bees are responsible for between $1.2 billion and $5.4 billion in agriculture productivity in the U.S. But Parker says most farmers don’t understand how the issue relates to their farm.
Parker explains that beekeepers get higher honey yields in fertilized irrigated areas versus forested conservation areas and that’s where farmers come into the picture.
“Often times, beekeepers ask local farmers if they can put their bees out in a field and they say yes, but don’t even know the person’s name,” Parker says. “That’s one reason why we are working to improve communication between beekeepers and farmers.”
The decline of pollinators has been top of mind for many businesses. As a result, the Pollinator Partnership was formed in 1997 to protect pollinators critical to food and ecosystems through conservation, education and research.
Jim Dempster, an apiarist at the Eastern Bee Care Center Technology Station in Clayton, North Carolina, holds up an educational prop that displays different components inside of a honey bee hive.
Laurie Davies Adams, Pollinator Partnership executive director, says the non-profit organization through its Corn Dust Research Consortium gave grants to Iowa State University, The Ohio State University and the University of Guelph to observe corn fields during the planting season with the goal of reducing honey bee exposure to dust emitted from the fan exhaust of planters during the planting of treated corn seed. The first year of research has been completed and the group is funding a second year, which focuses on follow-up evaluation, information dissemination and adaptive management.
Having worked in the bee care area of for more than 25 years, Bayer CropScience also has a long-term relationship with pollinators. In fact, the company’s commitment to pollinators, specifically honey bees, was on full display April 15 as employees, stakeholders, researchers and industry leaders gathered to celebrate the grand opening of Bayer’s North American Bee Care Center. Located at its headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina, the $2.4-billion center brings together significant technological, scientific and academic resources with the goal of promoting improved bee health, product stewardship and sustainable agriculture.
Becky Langer, Bayer CropScience Bee Care program manager, says that the Bee Care Center was really an evolutionary process that brings all the different working components together to improve communication, collaboration, stewardship and research.
A 6,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, Bayer CropScience’s North American Bee Care Center comprises a honey extraction room, a hive workshop and an interactive educational room.
Searching for Answers
The Bee Care Center houses researchers who study many different areas that affect the health of honey bees. Langer says they have projects focusing on the varroa mite, small hive beetle, and forage and habitats.
“As our society grows, we are losing some of our natural habitats,” Langer says. “Some acres that have traditionally been planted with forages are shifting to row crops. We’ve partnered with Project Apis m and the Pollinator Partnership to look at native drought resistant plants and developing forage habitats.”
In their quest to search for answers, Bayer is collaborating with many other organizations and universities. As part of that collaboration, graduate students from across the country will rotate through the center, while working on their research projects. Two graduate students have already taken up residence for the summer at the Bee Care Center.
Langer also says that they’re forging new partnerships with FFA and 4-H to inform youth. “We’re working to educate youth so as they grow and move forward, they’ll have a good knowledge base to make decisions from,” Langer says.
The Bee Care Center places a great deal of emphasis on education and has already given numerous tours. To-date, more than 300 individuals have toured the state-of-the-art facility.
All of these efforts build upon one another to improve stewardship for a sustainable bee population. As a part of that effort, Bayer launched its Fluency Agent, which replaces the traditional graphite and talc powders and is designed to reduce dust. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” Langer says. Be sure to check out SeedWorld.com/Pollinators for more information.
Highlights from the Grand Opening
More than 200 people came to witness and celebrate the grand opening of Bayer CropScience’s North American Bee Care Center. Speakers included Jim Blome, Bayer CropScience president and CEO; Steve Troxler, North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner; and Rich Linton, North Carolina State University dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Check out this video at SeedWorld.com/Pollinators and listen to the highlights from the day’s events.