Montana State U Student Gets Honeybee Fellowship

Three-year funding will help focus on pathogen impact on bees.

Published on: Oct 25, 2013

A Costco Fellowship of $50,000 a year has been awarded to Montana State University student Laura Brutscher for a three year probe of the impact of pathogens on bees.

She will continue her ongoing research into how microbes impact honeybee health and how they relate to the recent surge in honeybee deaths (see our story from Oregon which ran on Oct. 24 in this web site).

"I'm excited for the future opportunities to interact with beekeepers and other bee scientists and to share my findings with the beekeeping community," she says of the fellowship.

The Costco award is not that unusual since it is common for industry and institutions to link up to probe issues related to food.

Montana State U grad student Laura Brutscher has received a $50,000-a-year fellowship for honeybee studies over the next three years.
Montana State U grad student Laura Brutscher has received a $50,000-a-year fellowship for honeybee studies over the next three years.

"It is a natural partnership between Costco, a business that sells a large amount of honey and food produced from crops that require pollinators," says Michelle Flenniken, a MSU plant scientist. The funding was channeled via a beekeeping industry nonprofit known as Project Apis m. – a name which incorporates the scientific name of the western honeybee. The project has infused nearly $2.5 million into research programs over the last eight years in the wake of colony collapse syndrome.

Project executive director Christi Heintz believes Brutscher is a "great young scientist," who she feels "represents the future in bee research."

"Her capacity to help us with what ails the bee is tremendous," adds Heintz. "We are pleased to have funding from Costco to help her pursue her exciting bee research.

"She is on the cutting edge."

It may not be well known that Montana is one of the nation's leading beekeeping states, particularly in terms of honey production. Many of the beekeepers with hives in the state travel to California with their bees annually to pollinate almonds, a crop where bees are highly critical.