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April 22, 2014 - ABJ Extra

 Bayer CropScience Opens North American Bee Care Center

State-of-the-Art Facility Dedicated to Improving Honey Bee Health
through Research and Development, Education

 RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (April 15, 2014) – In celebration of Bayer CropScience’s more than 25-year commitment to pollinator health, today the company celebrated the grand opening of its North American Bee Care Center, at its North American headquarters in Research Triangle Park. The $2.4 million center brings together significant technological, scientific and academic resources, with goals of promoting improved honey bee health, product stewardship and sustainable agriculture. A 6,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, the Center will complement the Eastern Bee Care Technology Station in Clayton, N.C., and a Bee Care Center at the joint global headquarters campus of Bayer CropScience and Bayer Animal Health in Monheim, Germany.

The North American Bee Care Center, part of the company’s $12 million investment in bee health in 2014, brings together some of the brightest minds in agriculture and apiology to develop comprehensive solutions for bee health. This includes entomologists and apiarists, graduate researchers and more, all of whom are invested in the continuation of Bayer CropScience’s commitment to honey bee health excellence. The North American Bee Care Center team includes Becky Langer, Bee Care program manager; Dick Rogers, M.Sc., bee health expert and manager, Bee Care Center Research Program; Dr. Ana Cabrera, pollinator safety and varroa mite research scientist; Sarah Myers, apiarist and event manager, Bee Care Center; Kim Huntzinger, bee health laboratory diagnostic specialist; Sadye Howald, field apiarist in Indiana; and Jim Dempster, apiarist at Eastern Bee Care Center Technology Station in Clayton, N.C.  

The center houses a full laboratory with a teaching and research apiary, honey extraction and hive maintenance space; interactive learning center; and meeting, training and presentation facilities for beekeepers, farmers and educators, as well as office space for a full staff and graduate students. On-site honey bee colonies, pollinator-friendly gardens and a screened hive observation area serve to further education and collaboration that will foster significant improvement in honey bee health and stewardship measures and best management practices.

“Honey bees are essential to modern agriculture production, and our North American Bee Care Center will help facilitate the research needed to help honey bees meet the increasing global demand for crop pollination,” said Jim Blome, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience LP. “Healthy honey bees mean a more substantial and nutritious food supply for us all, and we understand the many complex issues affecting honey bees’ ability to thrive, including disease, parasites such as Varroa mites, genetics and more.”

A hub for worldwide honey bee health initiatives, the Center supports scientific research and development, and education of the public on honey bees’ integral role in agriculture. The Center serves as a hub for premier technological, scientific and academic resources to protect and improve honey bee health and sustainable agriculture. Additionally, the North American Bee Care Center is targeting LEED Silver certification. The environmentally sustainable facility will help Bayer CropScience reduce its carbon footprint in an effort to promote corporate environmental stewardship. Products and technology developed at the Center will control parasitic mites in honey bee hives, help manage a Healthy Bees program, assess the safety of crop protection products to bees, and much more. Other activities conducted on-site include a Sentinel Hive monitoring program, varroagate testing and development, Varroa resistance monitoring and varroacide screening.

“Bayer CropScience actively seeks to promote bee-responsible use of Bayer products through worldwide communication activities and education,” said Blome. “What we are developing here will serve not only to protect honey bees and their ability to effectively pollinate crops but will also help us leave a better world, one hive and one harvest at a time.”

As part of the grand opening celebration, Bayer CropScience is launching the “Color Me Bee-autifully” coloring contest, a learning opportunity for educators, parents and students. The contest will include an online component, where students ages 12 and under nationwide can enter their “pollinator-friendly” artwork, which will be displayed at the Center throughout May and June. Locally, students in elementary school classrooms in the greater Raleigh-Durham area will be asked to participate as well, and will have the chance for their artwork to be displayed at the Center during July. The Center will rotate pictures on a regular basis to provide students with an opportunity to have their artwork on a display wall. Local participating classes will have a chance to be chosen for a scientist from Bayer’s Making Science Make Sense program to visit their class and conduct a hands-on science experiment.

For more information on the North American Bee Care Center and Bayer CropScience’s commitment to honey bee health, visit http://www.bayercropscience.us/our-commitment/bee-health.

Bayer CropScience Twitter Page:
http://twitter.com/bayer4cropsus
http://twitter.com/bayerbeecare

Bayer CropScience Blog:
http://connect.bayercropscience.us

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April 21, 2014 - ABJ Extra

 East African Honey Bees Are Safe From

Invasive Pests ... for Now

Several parasites and pathogens that devastate honeybees in Europe, Asia and the United States are spreading across East Africa, but do not appear to be impacting native honeybee populations at this time, according to an international team of researchers.

The invasive pests include including Nosema microsporidia and Varroa mites.

"Our East African honeybees appear to be resilient to these invasive pests, which suggests to us that the chemicals used to control pests in Europe, Asia and the United States currently are not necessary in East Africa," said Elliud Muli, senior lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences, South Eastern Kenya University, and researcher at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Kenya.

The team first discovered Varroa mites in Kenya in 2009. This new study also provides baseline data for future analyses of possible threats to African honeybee populations.

"Kenyan beekeepers believe that bee populations have been experiencing declines in recent years, but our results suggest that the common causes for colony losses in the United States and Europe -- parasites, pathogens and pesticides -- do not seem to be affecting Kenyan bees, at least not yet," said Christina Grozinger, professor of entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research, Penn State. "Some of our preliminary data suggest that the loss of habitat and drought impacting flowering plants, from which the bees get all their food, may be the more important factor driving these declines."

According to Harland Patch, research scientist in entomology, Penn State, not only are flowering plants important for honeybees, but the insects are important for plants as well.

 
This is the African honey bee, Apis mellifera scutellata, on
an ornamental succulent in Kitui, Kenya.

Photo Credit:
Maryanne Frazier, Penn State

"Honeybees are pollinators of untold numbers of plants in every ecosystem on the African continent," Patch said. "They pollinate many food crops as well as those important for economic development, and their products, like honey and wax, are vital to the livelihood of many families. People say the greatest animal in Africa is the lion or the elephant, but honeybees are more essential, and their decline would have profound impacts across the continent."

In 2010, the researchers conducted a nationwide survey of 24 locations across Kenya to evaluate the numbers and sizes of honeybee colonies, assess the presence or absence of Varroa and Nosema parasites and viruses, identify and measure pesticide contaminants in hives and determine the genetic composition of the colonies.

"This is the first comprehensive survey of bee health in East Africa, where we have examined diseases, genetics and the environment to better understand what factors are most important in bee health in this region," said Grozinger. The results appeared today in PLOS ONE.

The researchers found that Varroa mites were present throughout Kenya, except in the remote north. In addition, Varroa numbers increased with elevation, suggesting that environmental factors may play a role in honeybee host-parasite interactions. Most importantly, the team found that while Varroa infestation dramatically reduces honeybee colony survival in the United States and Europe, in Kenya, its presence alone does not appear to impact colony size.

The scientists found Nosema at three sites along the coast and one interior site. At all of the sites, they found only a small number of pesticides at low concentrations. Of the seven common honeybee viruses in the United States and Europe, the team only identified three species, but, like Varroa, these species were absent from northern Kenya. The number of viruses present was positively correlated with Varroa levels, but was not related to colony size.

"The Africanized bees -- the so-called 'killer bees' -- in the Americas seem to be having no problem with Varroa or diseases, so I would not be surprised to find they have some innate genetic tolerance to these pests," Patch said. "We suspect the seemingly greater tolerance of African bees to these pests over the western bees is a combination of genes and environment."

This shows Elliud Muli and Maryann Frazier interviewing
Kenyan beekeepers, south of Mombasa, Kenya.
Photo Credit: Diana Sammataro, USDA Agricultural Research Service
 
Given their findings that African honeybees currently appear to be resilient to the effects of parasites and viruses, the researchers recommend that beekeepers in East Africa maintain healthy bee populations by protecting vital nesting habitat and the native flowering plant diversity that the bees depend on for food. In addition, the researchers suggest that beekeepers use pesticides sparingly.

"This research is important because it confirms the resilience of African bees despite the heavy presence of recently introduced Varroa mites, and it suggests that the approach to manage these pests should not follow the application of pesticides as has been done in the western world," said Muli. These newly introduced pests to Africa might have long-term implications for the honeybee populations.

"As these new parasites and pathogens become more widespread, as pesticide use increases and as landscape degradation increases due to increased urbanization, farming and climate change, we expect to see the combination of all these factors negatively impact the bees in the future," Grozinger said.