An assistant professor of entomology from Purdue University is the co-recipient of a U.S. Department of Agriculture CARE grant that aims to help beekeepers improve the health and productivity of their apiaries. The university says the funding will support a comparative study of local honey bee stocks in Indiana and Pennsylvania.
Purdue says the three-year grant was awarded to Brock Harpur as well as Pennsylvania State University assistant professor of entomology Margarita López-Uribe. Through the study, the researchers will be better able to quantify the health-to-profit ratio of traits associated with different stocks.
“This single-blind study will work with colonies over the next three years, testing for some regular phenotypes and collecting data, which will eventually be synthesized into Extension materials and research papers for beekeepers and researchers,” said Harpur.
According to Harpur, the study results will be disseminated through field days and workshops around the state. The researchers hope the study will decrease rates of colony loss due to pests and pathogens, while also empowering beekeepers with knowledge about how different stocks perform.
“I think we need to be smarter about how we’re buying and replacing honey bee stocks,” López-Uribe said. “Currently, queens and honey bee packages are mass produced and transported long distances. That can be detrimental to the industry and the sustainability of honey bees as a species.”
Purdue says the researchers expect to find different results regarding the best stock, due to geography, climate and other factors. The researchers say they are pioneering the process for evaluating honey bees at the local level, something that is needed across the country.
The university says 200 hives, originating from five distinct sources, have been distributed across Indiana and Pennsylvania. A team in both states will visit each hive once every three months to collect data.