Causes of Honey Bee Queen Failure in Commercial Beekeeping Operations

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2016: $30,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/30/2017
Grant Recipient: University of Minnesota
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Marla Spivak
University of Minnesota

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bees


  • Animal Production: general animal production
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Pest Management: prevention
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Beekeepers are vital to our agriculture and economy as they provide honey bee colonies for pollination services and honey production. In turn, beekeeper profitability and sustainability is affected by the health of their colonies. The North Central Region (NCR) is the top honey producing area in the U.S., and many commercial colonies are transported from the NCR to other states for crop pollination. Honey bee colonies are dying from a number of causes. Commercial beekeepers report ‘queen failure’ as the top reason for colony mortality through annual surveys conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership. Queen failure will eventually lead to colony death if the bees or beekeeper do not successfully replace her. We propose to explore potential causes of queen failure in colonies managed by commercial beekeepers in North Dakota and Minnesota. We will run paired comparisons of pathogen levels (Nosema, viruses, and trypanosomes) and pesticide residues in the queens and wax combs from colonies with failing queens and colonies with non-failing queens in the same apiary. Our goal is to determine the cause(s) of this insidious problem, so researchers and beekeepers can treat or mitigate its effects and restore health to our nation’s honey bees.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Conduct comprehensive laboratory tests of pathogen loads and pesticide residues in queen bees to uncover causes of widespread queen failure in honey bee colonies.
    2. Communicate test results with beekeepers through the Tech-Transfer Teams (, a national program that works directly with commercial beekeepers to provide colony health assessments. Results will be communicated through direct dialogue, presentations at beekeeper meetings, the Bee Informed website, and beekeeper trade journals.
    3. Develop strategies to treat diseases and/or mitigate pesticide exposure to queen bees to restore health to our nation’s honey bees and economic stability to beekeepers.
    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.