New Partnership to Help Honeybees

In the past five years, beekeepers have lost nearly one-third of their colonies to Colony Collapse Disorder. Penn State University is spearheading a nationwide initiative to monitor and improve honeybee health. The Allegheny Front's Colleen O'Neil has more.

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OPEN: In the past five years, beekeepers have lost nearly one-third of their colonies to Colony Collapse Disorder. Penn State University is spearheading a nationwide initiative to monitor and improve honeybee health. The Allegheny Front's Colleen O'Neil has more.

ONEILL:The Bee Informed Partnership is a five-year, $5 million program funded by the US Department of Agriculture. The Bee Informed Team hopes to cut national losses in honeybee populations by half with the help of scientists and beekeepers.

Beekeepers will participate in surveys to monitor how management practices impact colony health. A team of researchers at Penn State is working to compile this winter's feedback into an online database to help beekeepers make informed management decisions.

Program director Dennis vanEnglesdorp stresses the importance of participant observation.

vanENGLESDORP: ìWe're in the process of evaluating that data so we can tell beekeepers what practices work, and what practices didn't... we're not looking at the cause of loss. We're looking at what keeps bees alive.î

ONEIL:Beekeepers have lost an average of 30% of overwintering colonies since 2006.The cause is still unknown.

These losses threaten the livelihoods of both beekeepers and farmers who rely on bees to pollinate crops.

VanEnglesdorp estimates that one in every three bites of food we eat is directly or indirectly pollinated by bees. Beekeepers going out of business could have wide-ranging economic effects in the agriculture market.

For The Allegheny Front, I'm Colleen O'Neil.