The Bee Informed Partnership is an extension project that endeavors to decrease the number of honey bee colonies that die over the winter. Managed honey bees are important to our agricultural security because many fruits, nuts, vegetables, and other crops require bees to pollinate them to ensure production of quality produce. Unfortunately, the rate of mortality suffered by overwintering colonies over the last 4 years has been unsustainably high, threatening the livelihoods of not only the beekeepers who manage bees, but those who rely on bees for pollination.
The project proposes to help beekeepers keep colonies alive by initiating several levels of surveys. These surveys will document which management practices beekeepers use and the degree of loss suffered by those beekeepers. Using methods developed by human epidemiologists, we will compare the effectiveness of different management practices by calculating and comparing the losses suffered by those that did or did not use a particular management practice. In recognition of the fact that the most appropriate management practices for a beekeeper in one region are not necessarily the same for beekeepers in other regions, we will develop web- and app-based tools that will enable beekeepers to interact with the survey data to permit them to compare management practices among groups of beekeepers that share their geography, purpose (e.g., honey production, pollination), and/or management philosophy (e.g., minimal pesticide use). To facilitate this level of engagement, we will develop a honey bee health database that will act as a repository for all honey bee health data collected from this and other bee health surveillance projects.
This project is motivated by the conviction that beekeepers, when presented with beekeeper-derived data that objectively show which management practices worked and which did not, will adopt the more successful practices. This, in turn, will reduce colony losses and increase the availability of pollinating units overall.