Honey bees are an important pollinator for various agricultural crops many of which are also grown in California. For example, more than 1.5 million honey bee colonies are required to pollinate over 850,000 acres of California almonds. Honey bees and other pollinators, however, are facing a global decline. In the United States alone, approximately 30 percent (Bee Informed Partnership) of colonies are lost each winter due to the combined effect of various pests, pathogens, environmental toxins, and poor nutrition. My research and extension goals are to provide stakeholders with practical tools that better equip them to confront these challenges.
Honey Bee Queen Reproduction
One of the top direct causes of colony loss that beekeepers consistently report is queen failure. Since the queen is the only reproductive female in the colony, finding ways to support her reproductive health is of paramount importance. Our primary research focus is to characterize biological factors that regulate honey bee queen reproduction. Better understanding these processes through basic research will help guide applied studies necessary to improve best management practices with a goal of improving queen health and longevity. We can also use our findings to work towards improving honey bee breeding protocols necessary for creating and maintaining resilient honey bee stock.
Honey Bee Health
Honey bees are exposed to a myriad of maladies including various pathogens such as viruses and Nosema. Understanding the mechanisms and the extent to which these pathogens affect honey bees is crucial in adapting best management practices to improve overall colony health and survival. We are currently involved in collaborative work on understanding genomics of honey bee – pathogen interactions (collaborators: Christina Grozinger, Robert Paxton, Soojin Yi).