Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Appalachian joins Bee Informed Partnership USDA project will monitor honey bee health

BOONE—Appalachian State University’s Department of Computer Science is part of a nationwide network to monitor and maintain honey bee health.

The Bee Informed Partnership is a five-year, $5 million program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and is led by Penn State.

Other university partners are the University of California, University of Illinois, University of Georgia, University of Tennessee, University of Minnesota, North Carolina State University and Lincoln University. The Florida Department of Agriculture and NASA are also part of the project.

The Bee Informed Partnership will use an epidemiological approach to identify common bee management practices and use them to develop best practices on a regional and operationally appropriate level. The partnership will include many institutions already involved in pollinator work, but will also strive to include citizens involved in bee keeping or other aspects of the problem for data collection and integration.

The multistate team hopes that their work and especially their educational efforts to introduce the best management practices will reduce national losses in honeybee populations by 50 percent in the next five years.

“We would like to reduce honey bee mortality, increase beekeeper profitability and enhance adoption of sustainable management systems in beekeeping,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, senior extension associate with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture who will lead the project. “At the same time we want to increase the reliability of production in pollinator dependent crops and increase the profitability of pollinator-dependent producers.”

Appalachian’s Department of Computer Science, housed in the College of Arts and Sciences, was awarded $729,736 through the project to create and maintain a honey bee health database with an interactive web-based interface that also will provide valuable feedback to beekeepers as well as information for future research. Appalachian’s funding will support full-time research associate as well undergraduates who will work part time on various aspects of information technology support.

Department chairman James Wilkes’ experience as a beekeeper and his desire to blend computer science with the science of beekeeping led to the university’s involvement in the project. “Personally, I had a horrible winter this past year with my own bees,” he said. “I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do, but something happened and I lost a lot of bees. That’s what’s been happening in the beekeeping world for the past several years.”

Wilkes said the database will enable beekeepers to provide real-time information about their hives, which in turn may help others determine if winter losses are related to a virus, pesticides or other causes. “Everyone in the beekeeping world is trying to discover what’s causing these losses,” he said.

Wilkes said the Bee Informed Partnership database also will provide historical as well as current data that will become a much-needed source of information for future research.

Computer science majors and faculty at Appalachian have already developed an Android mobile phone application that will help beekeepers keep track of beehive maintenance. Hive Tracks, the Web application found at, provides a simple electronic way for beekeepers to record data and keep track of maintenance they have performed and future maintenance needed for the hives.

Penn State and project partners will also survey colony mortality, pathogens and parasites, as well as beekeeping management strategies, costs and outputs. They will create a pollinator quality and availability reporting system and an emerging-issues alert system.

Some of the surveys planned by the partnership include the continuation of the colony winter loss survey, an annual survey of management practices and a survey of pollinator availability. Other surveys will focus on determining colony mortality, parasite loads and socioeconomic factors.

“By surveying beekeepers about their management practices as well as their colonies’ overwintering success, we can use epidemiological methods to tell beekeepers which practices work and which do not,” vanEngelsdorp said.

For more information about the Bee Informed Partnership, visit

'Bee Informed' to inform beekeepers

May 17, 2011

Media Contact: Dr. David Tarpy, associate professor of entomology and N.C. Cooperative Extension apiculturist, 919.515.1660 of

'Bee Informed' to inform beekeepers

North Carolina State University will play a central role in a 5-year, $5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture effort to compile a nationwide honey bee database designed to make beekeepers more productive.

Dr. David Tarpy, associate professor of entomology and North Carolina Cooperative Extension apiculturist in N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, will direct the North Carolina part of an effort that has been dubbed the Bee Informed Partnership.

The partnership is an effort “to fill a void at the national level in our ability to collect data and information about the managed honey bee population,” Tarpy said. The nationwide effort, which is being led by Penn State University, will involve entomologists around the country.

Tarpy explained that surprisingly little is known about the nation’s honey bees, which play an indispensible role in pollinating many crops.

“Honey bees tend to fall between the cracks,” Tarpy explained. “If you have a cow, you know it’s there, and it’s going to be there. With honey bees, you have a hive. All of a sudden next week, it can swarm, and then you have two hives, or you have half a hive. Or they (the bees) die out. And they get moved all across the country. It’s much more of a fluid thing.

“That lack of information or the fuzziness of that information has hindered our ability to make strong, concrete recommendations.”

The Bee Informed Partnership is designed to rectify this situation by creating a database that will contain information about all things related to honey bees. N.C. State’s role in creating the database will be to try to get a handle on important pathogens and parasites that afflict honey bees.

“There’s no systematic mechanism to track patterns of disease and disease outbreaks (in honey bees),” Tarpy said. “That’s what our component is going to do.”

Project field teams will collect honey bees around the country, then ship them to N.C. State, where the bees will be analyzed for the presence of disease or parasites. What is learned about bee health at N.C. State along with a range of other information collected as part of the project will be compiled in a database that will be available to beekeepers and others through a website.

“A very large component of this initiative is to develop an infrastructure to take those data and turn them into useful information, and through a web conduit broadcast that information so that beekeepers can see where disease outbreaks are in real time so that they can make informed decisions (about their bees),” Tarpy said.

Tarpy added that the interactive website that is developed as part of the project should allow beekeepers to enter information about their bees -- information, for example, about a parasite that is afflicting their bees -- then get back strategies for dealing with that parasite or other problem.

The website will provide beekeepers with the information they need to assess the risks and rewards of using various strategies to deal with a problem.

It is hoped that the project’s educational efforts will introduce beekeepers to best management practices that will reduce national losses in honeybee populations by 50 percent over the next five years.

Project collaborators, in addition to N.C. State and Penn State, are the University of California -- California Cooperative Extension, University of Illinois, University of Georgia, University of Tennessee, University of Minnesota, Appalachian State University, Lincoln University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Florida Department of Agriculture.

Written by: Dave Caldwell, 919.513.3127 or

More news from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is available at

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

2011 Carquest Spring Mowdown

The spring lawnmower race will take place May 14th at the Alleghany County Fairgrounds beginning at 5 pm. Don't miss out on the first mower race of the season! Proceeds go to support the Alleghany County Fair. Without this race the fair would not be possible.

Gates will open at 2 pm and tickets are $6
Children 8 and under FREE.
Concessions available at 3pm.

For more information contact the Extension Office at 336-372-5597.

Justice Carlisle Higgins Fairgrounds
1525 US Hwy 21 N
Sparta, NC