Colorado State University to study honey bee health

Colorado State University Extension, CSU College of Agricultural Sciences and the Colorado Department of Agriculture have been awarded a grant for $132,000 to span three years from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to monitor honey bee health and to educate hobby beekeepers new to the field of honey bee husbandry.

Maintaining healthy bee populations has been challenging for a variety of reasons including communicable diseases that bees are contracting, mite infestations, lack of forage and misuse of pesticides. Colorado is home to 946 native bee species belonging to 66 genera. Preliminary indications are that new beekeepers who do not receive instruction and mentoring from beekeeping clubs or other experts are more likely to have hives that carry diseases and other health issues that spillover to other honey bees and native bees.

“The health needs of bees and the commitment to become a beekeeper is often misunderstood,” said Laura Pottorff, CDA’s Apiary program manager. “The receipt of this award will help CSU and CDA work to preserve the beekeeping profession and protect the health of all pollinator populations in Colorado.”

“The goal of the project is to educate new beekeepers and decrease disease and parasite presence in apiaries managed by hobby beekeepers across Colorado by helping them to recognize honey bee pests and diseases and to adopt integrated pest management practices,” said Kurt Jones, county director for Chaffee County Extension.

The training programs will be offered in Adams, El Paso, Chaffee, Mesa Counties and the San Luis Valley. Program participants will be educated on scientific beekeeping practices and monitoring for honey bee health, specifically addressing re-emerging diseases, their prevention and control. In return, participants must agree to:

Commit to the training program;

Volunteer to help train other new beekeepers; and

Agree to allow monitoring and inspection of hives for mite levels and other health metrics by state apiary inspectors.

Instruction will be provided by researchers, beekeepers and apiary inspectors. To apply and for more information please contact Kurt Jones, CSU Extension, at 719-539-6447; Arathi Seshadri, CSU Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, at 970-491-6804; or Laura Pottorff, Colorado Department of Agriculture, at 303-869-9070.