"Honey bees are essential to modern agriculture production," says Jim Blome, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience. "Our North American Bee Care Center will help facilitate the research needed to help honey bees meet the increasing global demand for crop pollination," he adds.
Blome made those comments in mid-April during the grand opening of the new center.
Located in Research Triangle Park, N.C., the 6,000 square-foot facility will bring together entomologists, graduate researchers and others to develop comprehensive solutions for bee health. The $2.4 million 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 bee keepers, farmers and educators, as well as space for a full staff and graduate students.
"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 the varroa mites, genetics and more," says Blome.
Complements other centers
In addition to the North American Bee Care Center, Bayer has the Eastern Bee Care Technology Station in Clayton, N.C., field stations in Fresno, Calif.; Ontario, Canada, and a Bee Care Center at the joint global headquarters campus of Bayer CropScience and Bayer Animal Health in Monheim, Germany. But the facility in Research Triangle Park will be the main research station, according to Sarah Myers, apiarist and event manager there.
Related: NRCS Pledges $3 Million for Honey Bee Health
"At this center we have more room and will be able to do our own in-house research as well as cooperate with others. We have full time lab associate and a full time bee keeper working on different projects. And we have grad students from different universities who are collaborating with us," she explains.
She adds that at the various field stations across the U.S. and Canada, Bayer will be monitoring honey bee hives from the start of planting season to the end to try to determine if corn dust is an issue in hive health. "We partner with bee keepers in parts of the country where corn and soybeans are grown to study what goes on in the hives. We monitor right before planting season to the end of it with a remote device installed in the hives."
She says the device lets them know if, for example, there is a drop in hive weight, which means a major loss of bees and they can investigate to try to determine if there is a correlation with agricultural activities.
"So far, we have not seen a correlation. And we know that honey bee health is very complex, and there are many pieces to the puzzle."
Related: Dust Begins Clearing Over Treated Seed Corn's Impact On Bees
But Bayer continues to collaborate with groups such as the Corn Dust Research Consortium and others to study the corn dust issue. Through these partnerships, Bayer and other stakeholders – bee keepers and growers -- are looking at the corn dust issue and how to mitigate exposure.
Education and outreach
"We host public tours – it could be a garden group, bee keepers association or a third grade class," explains Myers. We talk about the research, product stewardship, and how honey bees are important to food production."
"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."