Wyman's of Maine provides gift for Penn State honeybee research

March 26, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- The nation's largest grower of wild blueberries -- a crop that relies on honeybees for pollination -- has thrown its support behind Penn State research aimed at finding solutions to the health crisis facing the nation's honeybee colonies.

Ed Flanagan, president of Wyman's of Maine, visited the entomology department in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences Thursday (March 26) to present a check for $50,000 to Robert Steele, dean of the college. The funds will support research on Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, a mysterious ailment that has led to the disappearance of up to one-third of U.S. commercial honeybee hives since late 2006.

Researchers say the loss of honeybees has put at risk about one-third of the typical American diet. About $15 billion worth of fruits, vegetables and other crops -- from California almonds to Pennsylvania apples -- rely on honeybees for pollination.

Every berry that Wyman's of Maine grows owes its existence to the essential pollination that comes from the honeybee's dance from flower to flower, noted Flanagan.

"There is no more direct or urgent sustainable food issue than CCD facing the wild blueberry crop," he said. "There is no effective alternative to honeybees. It's simple: no bees, no blueberries!"

Wyman's of Maine has taken a leadership role nationally among growers in the effort to help beekeepers solve CCD and eliminate the threat to our nation's crops.

The company testified before Congress in June 2008 in support of increased USDA funding. The company has also issued a call to action for consumers, noting a portion of their wild blueberry purchases will be used to fund that commitment.

Penn State has been at the forefront in the effort to identify the cause or causes of CCD. Researchers are investigating viruses and other diseases, bee immune responses, pesticides, bee nutrition and other environmental factors.

Maryann Frazier, Penn State extension bee specialist, said the gift from Wyman's will provide critical support. "This funding will allow us to extend projects, collect and analyze more data and make the most of what we're doing," she said. "In particular, it will help us continue looking at how the complex interaction between pesticides and diseases is contributing to pollinator decline and possibly to CCD."

To learn more about Penn State honeybee and pollinator research, visit the entomology department online at http://www.ento.psu.edu/HoneyBeeResearch.html.

About Wyman's of Maine
Wyman's of Maine has been growing and marketing wild blueberries for more than 125 years. Still family owned, the company's fruit comes from more than 10,000 acres of its own wild blueberry barrens and from the coastal hills, ridge lines and fields of other Wyman growers from Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. With a focus on sustainable food, the company's tag line is "Recommended by Future Generations." Visit Wyman's online at www.wymans.com.

  • Ed Flanagan, president of blueberry grower Wyman's of Maine, speaks with Penn State research technician Sara Ashcraft about studies to assess the effects of pesticides on honeybees.

    IMAGE: Steve Williams
Last Updated November 18, 2010