Program to boost honeybee populations

USDA has announced that $4 million will be available in Fiscal Year 2008 for a 4-year Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) to research ways to improve the health and protection of honeybees, which are facing serious threats that have the potential to heavily impact the nation's food supply.

"Bee populations throughout the United States are in serious decline," said Gale Buchanan, USDA under secretary for Research, Education and Economics. "As the threat of Colony Collapse Disorder and other bee health problems increases, it becomes more important that USDA takes the necessary steps to help protect these valuable assets."

The overall goal of the Protection of Managed Bees CAP is to improve the health of managed bee populations in agricultural systems. The research USDA is seeking to fund is expected to address genomics, breeding, pathology, immunology and applied ecology that explain the cause behind dwindling bee populations. Unique to this CAP program is that the researchers will work closely with the extension community and stakeholders to develop mitigation strategies for Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and other significant problems that threaten the bee industry and U.S. agriculture.

Bee pollination is responsible for $15 billion in added crop value each year. CCD became a matter of concern in the winter of 2006-2007 when an estimated 25 percent of the beekeepers in the United States reported losses of adult bees from their hives.

CAP projects focus around the coordinated activities of individuals, institutions, states and regions to promote open communication and the exchange of information in response to emerging areas of national priority and need. The project should complement and/or link with existing programs and projects at the national level.

In Fiscal Year 2007, CSREES committed another $1.7 million to honeybees and pollinator research, while USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) will spend about $7.7 million on honeybee research focused on mites, pathogen and nutrition. National program leaders at ARS and CSREES developed an Action Plan for CCD which is a long term plan for research, extension and educational activities that are recommended to address this important problem. The plan is available on the ARS Web site.

In October 2007, ARS will begin research on the Honeybee Health Areawide Project, which will provide robust bee colonies for early season crops such as almonds in California or squash in Florida. It will also include all major beekeeping routes, such as cherries, apples, cranberries, etc., with a focus on bee nutrition and pest resistance. The 5-year project will be funded at $1 million per year, with 2007 funded at $670,000.

The USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) is funding the CAP project under the National Research Initiative's 2008 Request for Applications. Mary Purcell-Miramontes, national program leader for arthropod and nematode biology, developed this new CAP project and will be coordinating this new funding opportunity.

More information about the CAP funding opportunity can be found online at Background information about CCD and the Action Plan is also available at

CSREES advances knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities by supporting research, education and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System. For more information, visit ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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