GVSU Professor hopes to stop bee population decline

ALLENDALE, Mich. -- The bee population in North America is declining rapidly and researchers all over the world are trying to figure out why.

One of those researchers is Professor Jonathan Engelsma at Grand Valley State University. He and his team of student researchers were recently awarded a $200,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture to help pinpoint the cause of bee population loss.

Right now, Engelsma knows that pesticides, loss of food sources, and a pest known as the varroa mite are contributing to the loss of honeybees. And this loss is at about one third of the population each year in the state of Michigan.

"Here in Michigan, there's apple growers, blueberry growers, farmers that raise crops like squash and pickles," he says. "Those all depend on honeybees as well. There's not enough native pollinators left to pollinate these crops. So if you're an apple grower, every spring you have contracts with commercial beekeepers to bring in truckloads of bees."

Although he knows some of the causes of the decline of the honeybee, he is still searching for the key to saving them. He's partnering with an organization called "The Bee Informed Partnership" to track 160 beehives from across the country -- tracking their temperature, weight, humidity, and other information.

"And then what happens is that data that is gathered from your apiary is made public, so other beekeepers in the area can use the data you're  gathering as kind of a sentinel," Engelsma says. "And kind of understand are they seeing mites in my area and is the weight increasing right now -- which means the nectar flow is going in my area."

Engelsma says he could use more beekeepers in his network. For more information, click here.

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