Sweet as honey: the solution to honeybee decline

Millions of bees die each year due to a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Scientists believe a combination of factors contribute to CCD, including pesticides, environmental and nutritional stresses and pathogens.

University of Georgia bee expert Keith Delaplane is working with a nationwide network to monitor and maintain honeybee health, particularly the causes of CCD, where bees abandon the nest causing the colony to literally collapse. The Bee Informed Partnership will use a five-year, $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to do the work.

The goal of the partnership is to reduce honeybee mortality, increase beekeeper profitability and enhance adoption of sustainable management systems in beekeeping, while at the same time improve the reliability of production in pollinator-dependent crops and increase the profitability of pollinator-dependent producers. The partnership will use an epidemiological approach to identify common bee-management practices and develop better ones on regional and local levels. The partnership will include beekeepers.

This is the second Coordinated Agriculture Project, or CAP, the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is involved with to solve honeybee problems. CAP is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.

“Between our two CAPs, this is more than $9 million in new federal dollars going toward honeybee decline, and that’s good news,” Delaplane said.

Delaplane is the national director of the $4.1 million Managed Pollinator Coordinated Agriculture Project, a consortium of U.S. honeybee scientists and educators working to reverse honeybee decline. Honeybees pollinate a third of the nation’s food supply and add $15 billion annually to U.S. crops. They pollinate 130 different fruits, vegetables and nuts. While there are other bee pollinators, honeybees are the most prolific and easiest to manage for agricultural pollination.