Scientists and stakeholders on the leading edge of honey bee health came together last fall during a national workshop focused on current and future issues facing domestic honey bees and the growers who rely on them to pollinate their crops.

The joint USDA-EPANational Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health, held in Alexandria, Va., brought together leading national honey bee researchers to explore the status of various factors on honey bee health. The meeting not only highlighted what has been learned from some five years of research on Colony Collapse Disorder, but also helped inform the USDA as it focuses federally funded honey bee research over the next five years. 

Some 1.6 million honey bee colonies are brought into orchards annually to pollinate the state’s almond crop. That number is expected to grow as new acreage reaches maturity in coming years. At the same time, a number of stressors are putting a strain on beekeepers and their hives.

(See related: Honey bee losses defy solitary explanations)

The workshop highlighted areas crucial to the sustainable future of domestic honey bees in the United States.

The first day of the meeting provided background information on the issues and concerns of various stakeholders as well as the current status of knowledge on aspects of honey bee health in the areas of bee biology, nutrition, and pest management; the impact of pesticides; and bee breeding and genetics. The following day, attendees were divided into breakout groups to provide feedback to USDA on priorities for research in each of these broad categories.

Later, researchers from throughout the U.S. offered overviews and updates on their research, as well as the major issues facing domestic honey bees.