Addressing honey bee health challenges in Minnesota through providing colony assessment tools and education for beekeepers

Project Overview

LNC21-448
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2021: $250,000.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2024
Grant Recipient: University of Minnesota
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Katie Lee
University of Minnesota

Commodities

No commodities identified

Practices

No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

Small-scale hobby beekeepers and large-scale commercial beekeepers struggle to keep their honey bee colonies healthy. High colony losses mean that beekeepers need to purchase replacement colonies; low losses allow beekeepers to sustain or grow their apiaries, leading to more fiscal freedom and less stress, improving quality of life. 

Pathogens can spread between colonies, so one beekeeper’s colony health can impact other beekeepers even a mile away. A unified strategy is therefore critical to the health of managed honey bees. In our project titled “Addressing honey bee health challenges in Minnesota through providing colony assessment tools and education for beekeepers,” we will develop unique support-systems: for hobby beekeepers the focus will be on developing a hands-on colony assessment and mentorship program; for commercial beekeepers, the focus will be on varroa mite diagnostics training. 

With hobby beekeeper Advisory Board input, we will develop a colony assessment service and management guides to provide crucial honey bee health standards for hobby beekeepers. Our program will encourage hobbyists to participate in a community-focused beekeeping model; i.e., understanding how their bees affect the health of their neighbor’s bees, and together raising regional standards for bee health and longevity. Outcomes will include more beekeepers with increased knowledge and confidence in performing colony diagnostics, and adoption of these practices. 

With commercial beekeeper Advisory Board input, we will empower commercial beekeepers to perform their own monitoring and through the development and use of a varroa mite monitoring kit. Operation-specific plans will be developed based on a beekeeper’s schedule and resource availability. On-farm, bilingual trainings will lead to increased knowledge and skills in varroa mite monitoring and confidence in implementing varroa mite control. Outcomes will include increased knowledge and use of timely mite monitoring in commercial operations, allowing for the detection of varroa issues before economic damage and resulting in more profitable businesses. 

We will develop the programs in Minnesota and build a template for both small and large-scale beekeeper trainings that can be used in other regions with similar needs.

Project objectives from proposal:

We will develop unique support-systems for different beekeepers: for small-scale hobby beekeepers the focus will be on developing a hands-on colony assessment and mentorship program; for large-scale commercial beekeepers, the focus will be on mite diagnostics training. Learning outcomes for hobby beekeepers will include more beekeepers with knowledge and confidence in performing colony diagnostics and monitoring for pests and diseases; action outcomes will be adoption of these practices into colony management. Learning outcomes for commercial beekeepers will be increased crew knowledge of mite monitoring; action outcomes will be timely implementation of mite monitoring into the operation.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.