Latest research on honeybees to be featured at pollinator conference

June 25, 2010

University Park, Pa. -- Top researchers, government officials and representatives of organizations from around the world will be presenting their latest findings on honey bees and other pollinators at the inaugural International Conference on Pollinator Biology, Health and Policy being held by the Penn State Center for Pollinator Research, July 24-28 at the University Park campus.

Worldwide, pollinators such as honeybees, solitary bees, hummingbirds and bats are declining due to habitat loss, diseases, pests and excessive pesticide use. "Pollinators are essential because they are responsible for one out of every three bites of food you eat," said Diana Cox-Foster, Penn State professor of entomology, who will present at the conference. "More than 80 percent of all flowering plants depend on our pollinators for survival."

The plight of pollinators has been highlighted in reports of Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD. CCD first was discovered in November 2006 after a Pennsylvania beekeeper reported that more than 50 percent of the bee colonies he was overwintering in Florida had collapsed. Tens of thousands of bees in each hive had simply disappeared.

"Since then, beekeepers from all over the country have been reporting unprecedented losses," said Maryann Frazier, apiculture extension associate in the College of Agricultural Sciences. According to Frazier, symptoms of CCD include the sudden reduction or disappearance of the adult bee population without evidence of dead bees. "The hive will contain brood, pollen and honey, with little evidence of robbing by other bee colonies or attack by pests such as wax moth or small hive beetle."

Even before the discovery of CCD, pollinators were in decline. According to Cox-Foster, four species of bumble bees are going extinct, and more than 50 pollinator species are threatened or endangered. In addition, wild honeybee populations have dropped 25 percent since 1990.

The focus of the conference will be current research on the factors influencing pollinator decline, as well as policies and practices related to pollinator conservation. The keynote speaker will be Dr. May Berenbaum, professor and head of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Berenbaum is internationally recognized for her research and conservation efforts related to pollinators, including chairing the National Research Council's Committee on the Status of Pollinators in North America in 2007.

In addition, a Pollinator Conservation Short Course will be offered by the Xerces Society at the conclusion of the conference on July 29. Topics will include the basic principles of pollinator biology, the economics of insect pollination, recognizing native bee species and assessment of pollinator habitat.

The conference is being sponsored by Häagen-Dazs, the National Honey Board, Anthropologie/Urban Outfitters, Bayer CropScience, Syngenta, The Almond Board of California, and Penn State's department of entomology, College of Agricultural Sciences and Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. More information and online registration are available at

The conference is the first event hosted by the Center for Pollinator Research at Penn State. The center is comprised of 26 independent faculty, including researchers, educators, extension specialists and outreach coordinators, spanning multiple departments and colleges at Penn State. It is a hub for research and education about pollinator health, especially the factors causing honey bee population declines. For more information on the Center for Pollinator Research, go to

  • Researchers inspect honeybee hives for signs of disease.

    IMAGE: Steve Williams
Last Updated November 18, 2010