A new research network will be taking a multifaceted look at ways to improve bee health. The project is being made possible through a $900,000 grant from the University of California’s Office of the President. Researchers and engineers from Riverside, Davis, San Diego, and Merced campuses will all be participating in the effort.
“We actually brought together a variety of different people that are not all traditionally bee researchers, but they have all these unique sets of expertise and knowledge that will be really crucial,” said Boris Baer, Professor of Entomology at UC Riverside and principal investigator of the project. “There are 16 different projects in that grant, but I think generally you can separate that into three major kinds of activities that we have planned.”
The first area of importance is establishing a new breeding program. Researchers plan to identify bee species that are more tolerant to environmental stressors to better understand what makes them so resilient. The second area of focus is the pursuit of new tools to better manage bee health. Baer highlighted the need to better understand health issues in bees and explore the potential for developing medications to address those issues. Lastly, the network will also be working on methods for better bee monitoring.
The underlying goal is to help boost bee populations through a comprehensive approach to developing solutions. Dramatic declines in bee populations in recent years have increased interest in methods for improving bee health. The multi-campus network will be working towards viable solutions to combat bee decline. Project members will be working closely with local beekeepers as various projects take shape.
“I think it’s really important – and we really stressed that for this grant – that you work in a collaborative environment with those people that actually take care of these bees, the guardians of these bees, which are beekeepers,” Baer noted. “I think this kind of communication between those people at the university that think about these issues and try to find solutions and those on the ground that would actually deploy them – would use them – I think that communication is very important.”