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The CPR, PDA, and PSBA Cooperate to Establish a Research Program Aimed to Benefit Pennsylvania Beekeepers.

Posted: December 1, 2011

In the summer 2010, three organizations committed to honey bee and pollinator health, the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association (PSBA), the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) and Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research (CPR), created a new research fund to support applied research projects which would directly benefit beekeepers. The PA Pollinator Research Program received $10,000 from each organization. Furthermore, the Montgomery County Beekeepers, recognizing the potential benefit of the program, contributed to the fund and urged other small associations to donate as well.

The PA Pollinator Research Program (PPRP) awarded grants to three Penn State graduate students.  The projects reflect the breadth and diversity of research on honey bee health at the Center for Pollinator Research.

 Wanyi Zhu is a graduate research assistant working on a Ph.D. in Entomology and Operations Research. Zhu’s work will look at the effects of individual and combinations of pesticides on queen fertility and honey bee larval development. She will work to understand how these effects translate into a decreased fitness at the colony level using a mathematical modeling approach.  With the population model, she will also examine how the potential stressors impact honey bee colony dynamics through the stage-specific vital rates or the efficiency of social connection in the colony. Wanyi is collaborating with several Center faculty members, including James and Maryann Frazier, Mike Saunders, Chris Mullin, and Tim Reluga.

Gabriel Villar an Entomology Ph.D. student, is studying the molecular and chemical ecology of honey bee mating behavior. His PPRP funded project seeks to identify the pheromones used by drones to locate and mate with virgin queens. The identification and characterization of these compounds may allow for better replication natural mating conditions, which would facilitate breeding programs. Gabe is working with Christina Grozinger, Harland Patch, and Tom Baker. 

Michael Freiberg is pursuing a Master’s degree in Entomology with Dr. Diana Cox-Foster.  Freiberg is interested in investigating the potential for antiviral drugs as treatments for RNA viral infections in honey bees and is currently studying the drug ribavirin.  He is also studying the effects of antiviral drugs on the RNA viruses, especially in regards to mutation rates and infectivity of treated viruses.

The results of these studies will undoubtedly provide critical insights into both basic and applied honey bee biology.  PSBA, PDA, and CPR are very pleased to support the research of these enthusiastic and talented students.