Next-generation Integrated Pest Management of Honey Bees (Bee IPM)
Honey bees not only provide us with a source of natural sweetness in the form of honey but they also play a crucial role as pollinators for the agricultural industry. Worryingly, for the past few years North American beekeepers have lost approximately one third of their bees every year – roughly three times the historical average. This project: ‘Bee IPM’ aims to reverse this trend on colony loses by developing new Integrated Pest Management (IPM) tools and recommendations for the honey bee industry.
Colony losses are partially attributed to bee-specific infectious diseases and even though some diseases can be controlled using chemical pesticides, many of the bacteria, viruses, fungi and mites responsible are becoming resistant. In addition, as consumers become more aware of what we eat, chemical residues in honey and on bee-pollinated crops are less accepted. Integrated pest management is the combination of a variety of approaches to control and manage agricultural pests and diseases; it can include biological, physical, and chemical controls. This project is developing new IPM tools and recommendations: 1) protein markers to facilitate the selection of honey bee stocks with natural disease resistance, 2) RNAi-based treatments for bee diseases, and 3) best-practices guidelines for IPM.
Biologists, beekeepers and economists are working together to design and evaluate these IPM practices and help beekeepers deal with the challenges facing the honey bee industry. The success of this project and its implementation will result in a decrease in colony losses, increased honey production and greater availability of bees for pollination. Consumers, crop growers and beekeepers will benefit from improved food security and healthier, more abundant, more effective pollinators.
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