First International Pollinator Conference a Success

Posted: September 13, 2010

Top researchers, government officials and representatives of organizations from around the world traveled to University Park in July to present their latest findings on honey bees and other pollinators at the inaugural International Conference on Pollinator Biology, Heath and Policy hosted by the Penn State Center for Pollinator Research.

Many of their presentations and other information about pollinators is now available on line at The Center for Pollinator Research.

Pollinators have been in decline for years; four species of bumble bees are going extinct, and over 50 pollinator species are threatened or endangered. In addition, wild honeybee populations have dropped 25 percent since 1990. “Pollinators are essential because they are responsible for one out of every three bites of food you eat,” said Diana Cox-Foster, Penn State professor of entomology and presenter at the conference. “Over 80 percent of all flowering plants depend on our pollinators for survival.”

Several factors seem to be contributing to the decline of pollinators, including habitat loss, diseases, pests and excessive pesticide use. The goal of the conference was to discuss those causes and what to can be done about them. A global contingent of over 200 pollinator experts gathered at the Nittany Lion Inn for the five-day conference. “This is the first time all of these different groups have come together to for an open dialogue about pollinator decline,” said Christina Grozinger, associate professor of entomology and director of Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research.

Presentations from industry groups focused on new efforts to develop safer agrochemicals, while policymakers discussed the development of new regulations and incentives programs to improve agricultural landscapes to support pollinator populations. Researchers presented surveys of honey bee populations that highlighted the continuing threat of Varroa mites to colony survival, while extensive studies of pesticide residues in colonies demonstrated that honey bees accumulate many of these toxins from the environment. More information on the topics covered can be found online.

The conference was sponsored by Häagen-Dazs, the National Honey Board, Anthropologie/Urban Outfitters, Bayer CropScience, Syngenta, The Almond Board of California, as well as Penn State's Department of Entomology, College of Agricultural Sciences, and The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

The conference was the first event hosted by the Center for Pollinator Research at Penn State. The success of the conference stimulated the attendees to call for a follow-up conference within two to three years. The center is comprised of 27 independent faculty, including researchers, educators, extension specialists and outreach coordinators, spanning multiple departments and colleges at Penn State. It is a hub for research and education about pollinator health, especially the factors causing honey bee population declines. Go to the Center for Pollinator Research for more information.