The mysterious disappearance of bees, called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), is a growing threat to Honey Bees, the mainstay of pollination services in agriculture. The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC), a tri-national coalition dedicated to promoting the health of all pollinators partners with different organizations to perform research for improving the health of honey bees and reversing the threats they face. The Honey Bee Health Improvement Project focuses on ways to help Honey Bees and beekeepers. In the absence of Colony Collapse Disorder, this task force will seek out and secure funding for innovative and important work to understand and promote genetic stock improvements, understand and promote best management practices for commercial beekeeping, and promote forage opportunities for colonies on public and private land. Click here to read the latest compendium from the OPERA Research Center on the latest bee health in Europe.

Even if you aren't a scientist able to do research, you can play an important role in increasing research related to the health of honey bees. Give now and your money will go directly to the Honey Bee Health Improvement Project.


2015 Honey Bee Health Projects

Do bees self-medicate? An examination of the impacts of xenobiotics on anti-viral defenses in honeybees
Diana Cox-Foster, Ph.D., Professor, The Pennsylvania State University

Do viruses manipulate honey bee behavior in ways that increase their transmission?
Adam Dolezal, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Associate, Iowa State University

Assessing the impact of pesticides on honey bee health using a network of controlled, experimental hives
Scott McArt, Ph.D., Research Scientist, Cornell University

Investigating the effects of fumagillin and other common in-hive xenobiotics on immune function in honey bees
Rodney T. Richardson, Ph.D. Candidate, The Ohio State University

Sublethal effects of neonicotinoids (imidacloprid) on embryogenesis, hygienic behavior and grooming of worker honey bees
Elemir Simko, DVM, Professor, University of Saskatchewan

Elucidating the effects of real world pesticide load and diet variety on honey bee health
Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Maryland

2014 Honey Bee Health Projects

Honey bee hemocyte profiles associated with winter hardiness
James B. Burritt, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Stout

Exposure of honey bees to neonicotinoids in corn guttation fluid
Jonathan Lundgren, PhD, Adjunct Professor, South Dakota State University & Kristine Nemec, PhD, USDA-ARS

The effect of nutritional stress on the foraging and recruitment activity of honey bee workers
Heather Mattila, PhD, Knafel Assistant Professor, Wellesley College

How Do Drought Stress Related Alterations to Floral Traits and Reward Profiles in Canola Influence Honeybee Foraging and Colony Health?
Arathi Seshadri, PhD, Assistant professor, Colorado State University

Assessing the role of environmental conditions on efficacy rates of entomopathogenic nematodes for controlling small hive beetles in honey bee hives - a citizen science approach
Elizabeth Hill, President, Center for Urban Bee Research & Ashleigh Smythe, PhD, Assistant Professor, Virginia Military Institute

The effects of pollen diversity on bumble bee health in an agricultural environment
Anthony Vaudo, PhD Candidate, The Pennsylvania State University

2013 Honey Bee Health Research Projects

Impacts of nectar compounds on honey bee gut microbes and disease
Dr. Jay Evans; USDA-ARS Bee Research Lab, Dr. Lynn Adler; Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts, and Dr. Rebecca Irwin; Biology Department, Dartmouth College

Identification of IAPV targets in honey bee

(Apis mellifera) Drs. Olav Rueppell (P.I.) and Humberto Boncristiani; Department of Biology, University of North Carolina

Crop pollinator diversity and abundance in relation to floral resources and forest cover in the landscape
Drs. Martha Lopezaraiza Mikel (P.I.) and Mauricio Quesada Avendaño; Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Activating honey bee immunity against Nosema disease: a pilot experiment

Dr. James C. Nieh (P.I.) and Matthew Endler; Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, San Diego

Sustainable approaches to improving honey bee disease: a pilot experiment
Maryann Frazier (P.I.) and Dr. Christina Grozinger; Department of Entomology, Pennsylvania State University

Behavioral responses of honey bees, Apis mellifera, to neonicotinoid insecticides

Catherine Dana (P.I.) and Dr. May Berenbaum; Department of Entomology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Plant-pollinator interactions across a disturbance gradient

Karlie Carman; Biology Department, University of Central Florida

2012 Honey Bee Health Research Projects

Stimulating propolis collection to benefit honey bee health and immunity
Renata Borba (P.I.) and Dr. Marla Spivak; Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota
The goals of this research are to explore ways for beekeepers to encourage honey bee colonies to deposit a propolis envelope within standard beekeeping equipment, and to quantify the benefit of this natural propolis envelope to colony health and immune system functioning, particularly in early spring in northern climates. If a heavy propolis envelope is a vital component to a healthy bee colony, we can modify the equipment currently used for beekeepers and beekeeping practices nationwide. Such modifications will encourage the bees' natural construction of a necessary antimicrobial protective envelope in the nest cavity. A long-term outcome of this research is to promote honey bee health, which will directly support local, regional and national beekeepers by having stronger colonies to produce more honey.

Honey hydrogen peroxide: diet effects and use as a colony stress indicator

Dr. Berry Brosi (P.I.) and Lydia McCormick; Emory University and Dr. Keith Delaplane; University of Georgia
It has been known for a half---century that honey bees add hydrogen peroxide (H202) to honey and that H202 has a strong antibacterial effect arising from the oxygen free radicals that it produces. While this mechanism in its role as a preservative food stores is well understood, it is also known that all organisms are to some degree susceptible to oxygen free radical damage. In this project we built from previously collected pilot data to explore the potential that honey H202 production may comprise a generalized colony defense mechanism, beyond its role as a honey preservative. Our project had two specific aims: 1) Investigate the effects of supplemental sugar feeding on honey H202, with a particular emphasis on supporting H202 production 2) Investigate the potential for using honey H202 as an early---warning indicator of colony stress.

Comparative analysis of honey bee survival and immune response to co- infections of IAPV and N. ceranae using quantitative mass spectrometry based proteomics

Dr. Leonard J. Foster, Amanda Van Haga, and Sarah Natrasany; University of British Columbia
Using proteomic tools, our research was aimed at understanding honey bee immune responses to both fungal and viral pathogens in an effort to develop novel integrated pest management based tools including RNAi based gene silencing treatment systems as an alternative to antibiotics for the control of honey bee pathogens. Specifically, we aimed to evaluate survival and host immune response in honey bees infected with Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) and Nosema ceranae, both singly and in combination. Our overall goals of the project are to:

  1. Test the effect of Israeli acute paralysis virus and Nosema ceranae infections both singly and in combination on larval, pupal, and adult honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) survival using adult cage and in vitro larval rearing assays.
  2. Compare changes in host immune responses using mass spectromety based quantitative proteomics in larval, pupal and adult honey bees artificially innoculated with IAPV and N. ceranae, both singly and in combination. 

Amanda Van Haga and Sarah Natrasany of the University of British Columbia
presenting at the 2012 NAPPC Conference at the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Symbiont mediated pathogen protection
Dr. Lana Vojvodic; University of Arizona
This project has three ongoing components that are focused on the bacterial gut symbionts (probiotics) interaction with their honey bee host and the fungal pathogens that are known to cause chalkbrood and stonebrood disease. We test for the:

  1. Survival of larvae infected with different combination of brood fungal pathogens and beneficial bacteria;
  2. Difference in the expression of six immune genes after the fungal and probiotic exposure;
  3. Investigating overall host gene expression by using the next generation sequencing (RNAseq) of the whole larval genome post exposed to the probiotics and aseptic larvae.

2011 Honey Bee Health Improvement Projects

Effects of pesticides on honey bee behavior, physiology and/or colony health
Christian Krupke with Hunt, Greg and Eitzer, Brian; Purdue University
Quantifying routes of exposure of honeybees to neo-nicotinoid seed treatments of corn.
Summary and next steps

• Honey bees living near corn fields have multiple routes of exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides
• Exposure may be by contact (dust, soil), by ingestion (pollen), and is likely a combination
• Talc exhaust is an obvious target for mitigation
• Synergies? Neonicotinoids + fungicides

• Many flowering plants in fields before planting… effects on other pollinators?

The development of diagnostics or indicators for the presence of stressors that effect honey bee health, particularly those that can be used by beekeepers
Christopher Mayack; Colorado State University
Forager Energetic Stress as a Casual Mechanism for the Depopulation of Honeybee Colonies
Learn more by clicking here>>

Development of methods to improve genetic stocks of managed honey bee populations
Thomas Seeley, Delaney, Deborah and Tary; David Cornell University
Genetic evaluation of a survivor stock in the northeastern United States: the honey bees of the Arnot Forest

Effects of climate or environmental variables on: a) plants, especially nectar and pollen quantity and quality; and/or b) honey bee physiology and/or colony health
Martha Lopezaraiza Mikel with Quesada Avendano; Mauricio Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
Assessing floral resources availability in the tropical dry forest and agricultural sites of the Pacific Coast of Jalisco, Mexico to promote honey bee colony maintenance and health.



2010 Honey Bee Health Research Projects

Sublethal Doses of the Pesticide Imidacloprid Alters Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Response Threshold and Optic Flow, Potentially Affecting Colony Health
Daren M. Eiri and James C. Nieh
Much attention on honey bee declines has focused on the sublethal effects the pesticide, imidaclorpid, has on honey bee behavior. How it affects individual foragers and their ability to navigate to communicated food sources or their preferences for nectar is unknown. Using tunnels to provide optic flow, preliminary data suggest that bees treated with sublethal doses of imidacloprid travel shorter distances than control bees to a trained location. We also use the proboscis extension reflex (PER) assay to test an individual’s response threshold. Bees treated with the pesticide have higher response thresholds and respond less often to high concentrations of sucrose than control bees. The navigational inefficiency and increased preference for sweeter sucrose concentrations may contribute to a colony’s decline.

Dr. James Nieh of University of California, San Diego presenting
at the 2010 NAPPC Conference at the US Dept. of Agriculture

A Survey of Water sources used by honey bees for imidacloprid contamination.
Josephine Johnson, doctoral candidate, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Dept of Toxicology (P.I.), Dr. Jeff Pettis, USDA Bee Research Lab, and Dr. Katherine Squibb, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Dept. of Toxicology

Imidacloprid (IMI), a neonicotinoid pesticide, is water soluble and has had sub-lethal effects on honey bees. The intent in this study was to determine the presence of IMI in water sources frequented by honey bees across the state of Maryland. Rural, suburban, and urban sites were chosen for sampling and IMI was found in 9 samples at a range of 7 -131 ppb in a total of 108 samples. Thirteen other samples gave results at the threshold of detection (0.2-.3ppb). Positive samples accounted for 19 % of all samples. Water sampling occurred on Jun 1-2, 2010 and ELISA results were available in Sept 2010 .The decision was made to resample positive samples on Oct 15-18, 2010 and to assay them by GC/MS as a comparison of methodology and time lapse in IMI concentrations. The results of the October samples (analysis completed on Nov 20, 2010) generally showed smaller concentrations, perhaps due to degradation of IMI in the environment or a cleansing by environmental circumstance (rain, snow). Notably, some samples that had shown no detection in June showed positive detection of IMI in October suggesting that concentrations of IMI in water sources may shift as water shifts or as weather, the environment, or human interactions change circumstances. In conclusion, this study showed that imidacloprid is present in 19% of water sources frequented by honey bees and the levels of imidacloprid shift with time presumably due to changes from weather, environment, degradation, and human interaction.

Josephine Johnson of the University of Maryland presenting
at the 2010 NAPPC Conference at the US Dept. of Agriculture

Evaluating effects of pollen quality on honey bee physiology, colony growth and behavior
Ramesh Sagili Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University
In the wake of deteriorating honey bee health, bee nutrition has attained greater importance than ever. Loss of habitat and large monocultures have restricted the diet of honey bee. Specific objectives of this proposal were
1) to evaluate and compare the effects of single source pollen consumption versus mixed source pollen consumption on hypopharyngeal gland protein content, bee mass, lipid content, colony growth, immunocompetence and learning behavior in the honey bee and 2) to design a field test to assess the nutritional status of honey bee colonies in the field. Nurse bee hypopharyngeal gland protein content and colony growth in single-source pollen treatments were significantly low compared to multi-source pollen treatments (P < 0.01 and P < 0.05 respectively). Single-source pollen (SSP) treatments had significantly lower phenoloxidase and prophenoloxidase activity when compared to multiple-source pollen (MSP) treatments (P <0.001). BSA visual standard for the four trea tments (no protein, 10% protein, 20% protein and 40% protein) was developed. We plan to compare the protein contents of field samples to this established standard.

Development of novel Varroa mite control methods from attractant and arrestants isolated from brood host volatiles
Mark J. Carroll, Drs. Adrian Duehl and Peter E. A. Teal USDA-ARS, Carl Hayden Bee Research Center
One approach for the control of Varroa mite is the identification of semiochemicals (signaling chemicals) that the mite uses to find its hosts.  During cell invasion, a female mite detects and moves into the cell of an older bee larva just before capping.  Two volatiles named CA and CB characterized from older capping larvae were previously shown to act as excitants and arrestants to female mites in bioassays.   We have begun to investigate other brood volatiles to determine if these chemicals affect mite behavior, either individually or as synergists with CA and CB, using an EthoVision behavioral analysis system to analyze mite bioassay responses.  One volatile specifically associated with non-host larvae, termed CC, acts as a repellent to mites at high concentrations.  The limited responsiveness of mites to these volatiles at lower concentrations suggests that these three compounds could affect mite behavior at contact or near-contact distances.  We will continue our efforts to develop CA and other signaling chemicals as flooding agents (to disrupt mite chemical communication) or as trap lures to control mites in the hive environment.

Dr. Mark Carroll of USDA-ARS, Carl Hayden Bee Research Center
presenting at the 2010 NAPPC Conference at the US Dept. of Agriculture

Selection of honey bees for resistance to Nosema ceranae
José D. Villa, A. Lelania Bourgeois, Robert G. Danka USDA, ARS Honey Bee Breeding Laboratory
N. ceranae is a widespread fungal parasite in beekeeping operations throughout North America. We surveyed the possibility of genetic resistance in ten commercial sources from a wide array of geographic and genetic origins. Queens from the ten sources were introduced into colonies kept in an infected apiary that received no treatment. Surviving colonies with original queens were sampled monthly from May 2010 to April 2011. Overall average infections through samplings for one year were moderately high (about 1 million N. ceranae per bee) but did not differ between sources. Infections in colonies from the same source varied greatly at each sampling time. Also, infection in most colonies fluctuated widely through time. A small proportion of the surviving colonies have been identified as having relatively low or high infections. Their workers will be tested in standardized, laboratory cage tests for responses when fed spores of N. ceranae. This research is part of a larger project at our laboratory using different approaches to find genetic resistance to this parasite.

Dr. José Villa of USDA, ARS Honey Bee Breeding Laboratory
presenting at the 2010 NAPPC Conference at the US Dept. of Agriculture

2009 Honey Bee Health Research Projects

Food and fungi: The combined effects of food supplementation and Varroa mite control on honey bee health
Laura Burkle; Department of Biology, Washington University in St. Louis

The effects of pesticides on immature honey bee (Apis mellifera) development
Dr. James D. Ellis; Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida

Genes over expressed in Varroa resistant honey bee strains: a novel tool to identify and select enhanced Varroa resistant honey bees
Dr. J. Spencer Johnston (P.I.); Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University, Jay D. Evans & Jeffery S. Pettis; United States Department of Agriculture, and Danny Weaver; BeeWeaver Apiaries Navasota

Designing a field test to estimate the nutritional status of honey bee colonies in the field and evaluating effects of pollen quality on honey bee physiology and behavior
Dr. Ramesh Sagili; Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University

The benefits of Propolis to the immune system of honey bees: do bees self-medicate?
Dr. Marla Spivak; Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota

Sublethal effects of pesticide combinations on honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) larval development and adult associative learning
Dr. James L. Frazier and Daniel R. Schmehl (P.I.s) with Maryann T. Frazier and Dr. Christopher A. Mullin; Department of Entomology, Pennsylvania State University

Health effects of Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) on native pollinators
Dr. Edwin J. Rajotte (P.I.), Rajwinder Singh, and Dr. Diana Cox-Foster; Department of Entomology, Pennsylvania State University


2008 Honey Bee Health Research Projects

Effects of miticide and Fumagilin-B® on honey bee survivorship and immune responses
Catherine M Little, M.Sc. candidate; Acadia University
Western honey bees (Apis mellifera) are exposed to a number of parasites.  Varroa destructorNosema apis, and N. ceranae have particularly detrimental effects on colony productivity and survival.  We will measure honey bee immune responses to infection by each of these three species of parasites and the effects of co-infection.  We will then compare the results of infection with the effects of miticide and Fumagilin-B® use on honey bee physiology.  Quantification of immune trade-offs which occur during infection by multiple parasites and the effects of standard chemical treatments may enable us to determine infection threshold levels for effective use of chemical treatments, thereby reducing the risk of chemical resistance developing in either Varroa or Nosema. We will also determine if immune protein concentrations resulting from parasitic infection are predictive of honey bee survival, potentially leading to a means of assessing mortality risk during preparations for over-wintering honey bee colonies (see below pictures).

An early look at participating colonies and
over-wintering sites, March 2008
Little and Williams completing detailed colony condition assessments, May 2008
A promising sign: emerging new bees in spring, May 2008

Assessment of sublethal effects of Imidacloprid on honey bee and colony health
Galen P. Dively and Mike Embrey; Department of Entomology, University of Maryland
While the extent and causes of CCD are unknown, many believe that honey bees have reached a tipping point wherein the colony can no longer protect itself from a barrage of problems. The CCD Working Group developed an action plan of research that addresses four categories of factors that impact bee and colony health: 1) new or re-emerging pathogens; 2) bee pests; 3) environmental and nutritional stresses; and 4) pesticides. This project will address the latter category and examine the sublethal effects of pesticides, which is one of the priority areas identified by the HBHI Task Force for funding.

Nutritional effects on intestinal health and longevity of honey bee workers
Olav Rueppell; Department of Biology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
This research project seeks to identify the effects of diet quality and malnutrition on the health of the honey bee worker intestine, as assessed by the activity of their intestinal stem cells. The intestinal epithelium is crucial to organismal health and it is one of the most exposed tissues in the animal body. Its cells are continuously replaced in a wide variety of organisms (Finch and Kirkwood 2000).

Although early reports on proliferative cells in the intestine of insects exist (Snodgrass 1956), these cells have only recently been characterized as bona-fide stem cells in adults through molecular analyses in Drosophila (Micchelli and Perrimon 2006; Ohlstein and Spradling 2006). A certain level of cell proliferation is necessary to maintain a functional intestine, even in the adult insect. Thus, the activity of these cells has been linked to insect growth (Hakim et al. 2007) and they are responsive to toxin exposure (Loeb et al. 2001; Gregorc et al. 2004). Furthermore, their rate of cell proliferation is positively correlated with food quality (Zudaire et al. 2004). Thus, the proliferative activity of intestinal stem cells may be an indicator of malnutrition with direct relevance to bee health.

Diagnostic gene panel for honey bee breeding and disease management
Jay D. Evans and Yanping Chen; USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory
Honey bees face numerous challenges, from nutritional stress to dedicated parasites and
pathogens. A long-term goal of bee research is to develop and maintain honey bee lines
that are resistant to disease, and that thrive with a minimum of chemical treatment of
disease agents. New molecular-genetic tools can aid research on breedable traits, and,
ultimately, these tools could be used directly by commercial bee breeders or others in the private sector. Beekeepers also rely on disease indicators and established thresholds while making management decisions. Such decisions could also be helped by genetic indicators for pests and for bee health.
This gene panel would differ from previous entries into disease forensics (e.g.,
Evans, 2006) by including only the most informative markers, alongside reportable
diseases found in bee colonies. In so doing, the panel can be cheaply applied to bee
problems, and can also be ‘exported’ to future technologies for bee diagnostics and genetic research.

The benefits of propolis to the immune system of honey bees
Marla Spivak; Department Entomology, University of Minnesota

We have initiated a comprehensive line of research in my lab on the benefits of propolis collection to the immune system of honey bees. Propolis is a resin secreted by some plants that honey bees collect and deposit in the nest. Propolis has important antimicrobial value to humans, but its value to the bees is not known. Here I am requesting funds to test if colonies selectively bred for high- and low-propolis collection differ in immune-related gene transcript levels. The applied goals of this research are to promote the natural immune defenses of honey bees and to promote the human use of propolis as an antimicrobial value-added product from the beehive.

Enabling genetic selection for resistance to viral pathogens: Developing a rapid and inexpensive cytometric method for screening honey bees for viral resistance
Dr. J. Spencer Johnston; Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University- Funded by Dr. Peter Swift, GDS Legacy Foundation and Reid and Margaret E. Dennis
Preliminary evidence suggests that honey bee strains are more resistant to IAPV than honey bee lines from other sources.  We propose to use quantitative PCR, flow cytometry and direct monitoring of colony health to rapidly compare changes in blood cells number, pathogen titre and colony level response.  We hypothesize that it will be possible to use flow cytometry to distinguish resistant bees from susceptible bees and evaluate the efficacy or extent of immune response to viral infection.  If we are correct, then the results of the flow cytometry experiments could be used (in the place of more time consuming and expensive field trials) to quickly assess the presence or absence of viral resistance in aid of breeding programs to develop or propagate virus resistant honey bees.   Perhaps more importantly, flow cytometry should reveal whether differential immune responses correlate with virus resistant phenotypes, offering clues to some mechanisms of viral resistance.
PODCAST: Click here to hear an recent update of Johnston's HBH Project

Changes in hormonal and protein levels in honey bees that are experiencing migratory transportation 
Zachary Huang; Department of Entomology, Michigan State University
Aside from pesticides, perhaps the strongest stress honey bees experience comes from
long distance transportation, commonly used for pollination purposes. For example, bees can transported from Maine to California, across four different time zones. No studies have ever been conducted to determine the physiological or behavioral changes induced by such stress. In this study, I propose to piggyback with Dr. Jeff Pettis’s group to obtain data on physiological changes in honey bees that are experiencing migratory transportation. The objectives of this study is to 1) measure changes in juvenile hormones in bees that are being transported from Florida to California, and 2) determine the protein nutrition of the same bees. Proper control will be obtained from bees which are staying in Florida.
Update from 5/19/08: We are currently measuring the hormone levels in groups of bees in Bakersfield, CA and Boston, GA. We still have to thaw the bees and bleed them for the CA samples. We might do a third trial if we see something interesting.

Honey Bee Health Research Sponsors: Partnering for Bee Health

In 2008: The project of the Pollinator Partnership teamed up with bee-friendly, natural personal care company Burt’s Bees to address this environmental issue. Together, they spearheaded a campaign led by Burt’s Bees co-founder Burt Shavitz that raised consumer awareness through PSA distribution, online marketing and consumer sampling efforts. NAPPC and Burt’s Bees continued their partnership through research funding and a heightened awareness push later in 2008.

Click here to read the press release

Click here to view the Colony Collapse Disorder public service announcement

Thanks to the contribution of Jim Beam and Burt’s Bees, the NAPPC Honey Bee Health Improvement Project was able to fund the most Honey Bee Health Grants in one year to date. Seven research projects, represented by two different countries, directly funded research relating to the study of Colony Collapse Disorder.


APHIS works to protect honey bees, managed bumble bees and other managed pollinators, and native pollinators, by conducting research, surveys of pathogens and diseases, and regulatory oversight of pollinator imports and interregional movements.  APHIS is a multi-faceted agency with a broad mission area that includes protecting and promoting U.S. agricultural health, regulating genetically engineered organisms, administering the Animal Welfare Act and carrying out wildlife damage management activities.   APHIS supported research proposals on Varroa mites, small hive beetles and other pests and diseases primarily affecting honey bees.  

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