The National Honey Board and Project Apis m. are reinforcing their commitment to the future of bees through an investment of $10 million by 2020 in bee health research. In addition to producing honey, bees are an important contributor to our food supply. Pollinator foods, including those pollinated by bees, represent one in every three bites of food eaten.
The initiatives will seek to improve the well-being of nearly 2.9 million American bee colonies, with a specific focus on the main threats to bee health:
- Pesticides, some of which may kill the bee immediately once they’ve made contact, or when the bee brings small amounts of the pesticide, on its body or in contaminated nectar, back to the hive. There are also many sub-lethal effects which appear slowly or synergisms of multiple exposure.
- Pathogens and parasites, such as Nosema and Varroa mites, infect bees with diseases that can destroy entire colonies. All parasites directly or indirectly feed on the honeybees.
- Limited quality and quantity of forage for bees results in poor nutrition.
“We feel a strong responsibility to help protect the bees, which is why we’ve been funding production research since 2004, funding for Colony Collapse Disorder research since early 2007 and began allocating five percent of our annual budget to all honeybee health research in 2008,” said Margaret Lombard, Chief Executive Officer, National Honey Board. “We’re so pleased to be working alongside partners, such as Project Apis m., who share our commitment to improving and maintaining bee health, during a time when it is needed most.”
In addition to these efforts, there are several, simple changes that people can make to help improve the health of bees, such as:
- Provide forage and habitat for bees by planting pollinator-friendly flowers and flowering herbs in the garden. Find plant species that are native to your area and also beneficial non-native plants by visiting the Pollinator Partnership website.
- Allow dandelions and other flowering weeds to grow to provide more nectar and pollen sources for the bees. If you must control them, consider waiting until bloom is over, and using natural alternatives to chemical and pesticides, such as releasing natural pest predators or pulling weeds by hand. If you apply a chemical, do so in the evening after pollinator flight periods.
- Donate to an organization dedicated to helping protect and provide habitat for honeybees and other pollinators.
- Eat more honey. Supporting the honey industry makes beekeeping possible, and will continue to fund bee health research that will help our pollinator friends to thrive.
“Without bees, we wouldn’t have some of the world’s most nutrient-rich foods,” said Danielle Downey, Executive Director, Project Apis m. “Thanks to previous research and funding, we’ve been making progress towards better bee health, however, we still have a long road ahead. We’re pleased to join our partners and the National Honey Board to commit to funding vital research to continue to improve bee health.”
To educate people about the importance of bees to our food supply and honey production, the National Honey Board has created a virtual reality (VR) video that takes viewers on a hive-to-table journey, seen from the point of view of a bee. The video can be viewed as a 360° video or as a more immersive experience using a VR viewing headset.