Penn State Extension educator secures grant to help honey bees and beekeeping
By Alexandra McLaughlin
A $217,000 grant from the U.S. Division of Agriculture’s Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Analysis and Training program will allow Robyn Underwood, apiculture educator with Penn State Extension, to develop an extension program on honey bee queen rearing and synthetic insemination.
“Honey bees are crucial managed pollinator,” Underwood mentioned. “We want honey bees to assist present excessive crop yields and quite a lot of meals. One in each three bites of meals is because of pollination from honey bees.”
The extension program will present long-term studying alternatives, together with common lunch-and-learn periods, on-line courses and written informational sources, structured instructional boards, and in-person workshops. Organizers named this system “EPIQ,” which stands for schooling about manufacturing and insemination of queens.
Underwood mentioned she expects a aggressive utility course of to lead to a cohort of about 100 skilled beekeepers taking part in queen rearing schooling without charge.
Queen rearing implies that a beekeeper can enhance earnings by elevating further queens to promote to different beekeepers, Underwood defined. She goals to extend self-reliance of beekeepers within the Northeast. “The beekeeping neighborhood depends on California and Georgia for lots of our queens,” she mentioned. “We might moderately rely much less on imports and be extra self-sustaining.”
Members will study in regards to the anatomy and biology of queens, staff and drones; information assortment to pick one of the best bees for breeding; correct look after colonies; strategies to rear queens and drones; and the significance of diet.
A choose subgroup of contributors will obtain the coaching and gear wanted to offer synthetic insemination providers.
“Synthetic insemination is very superior and technical,” Underwood mentioned. “Our purpose is to have one individual in every state who can present that as a service. Any close by beekeeper can come to them for managed breeding.”
Underwood famous that bees usually fly off and mate randomly. Synthetic insemination permits beekeepers to mate queens with drones from one of the best colonies to enhance genetic traits. In the long run, selective breeding might assist handle the most important downside within the beekeeping trade — the parasitic varroa mite.
“Individuals liken varroa mites on bees to having a tick the scale of a dinner plate in your physique,” Underwood mentioned. “They pierce the bees and transmit lethal viruses.”
Breeding applications will help bees turn into genetically immune to varroa mites, lowering the necessity for beekeepers to make use of mite-killing chemical substances in hives.
Underwood defined that the grant will generate studying alternatives to assist beekeepers transfer towards breeding applications, however that breeding applications are usually not the main target of the award. She expects the grant to final by means of no less than 2025.
The funding will allow Underwood to create intermediate and superior on-line beekeeping courses that construct upon Beekeeping 101, the newbie course supplied by means of Penn State Extension.
Underwood will associate on the venture with Kate Anton, an apiculture technician within the Middle for Pollinator Analysis in Penn State’s Faculty of Agricultural Sciences; different professionals expert in queen rearing and insemination; and a community of stakeholders within the Northeast.
Funded by USDA’s Nationwide Institute of Meals and Agriculture, Northeast SARE presents grants and schooling to farmers, educators, service suppliers, researchers and others to deal with key points affecting the sustainability of agriculture all through the Northeast.