Research: Bee Lab Research

Insect pollinators are vital for the production of many fruits, nuts and vegetables, including apples, blueberries, almonds, tomatoes and pumpkins.   These crops are also vulnerable to pests and diseases, which are often controlled by farmers using pesticides.  However, pesticides may be toxic to insect pollinators, setting up a conflict between the need for pollination and the need for pest and disease control.

In our lab we are seeking to understand how to protect pollinators from the pesticides and toxins they encounter.  The managed European honey bee, Apis mellifera, serves as a model pollinator for toxicological testing.  While the honey bee is the most economically important pollinator in the U.S. and serves as an excellent model species, we are also interested in understanding pesticide toxicity in other pollinating insects as well.

Current projects include:

1. Comparative toxicogenomics between pollinating bee species: honey bees (Apis mellifera), bumble bees (Bombus impatiens), alfalfa leafcutter bees (Megachile rotundata) and squash bees (Peponapis pruinosa)

2. Assessment of honey bee immature survival using a photographic method and analysis by volunteers at http://broodmapper.com

3. Comparing the success of managed honey bee colonies in urban and rural environments in Ohio 

For more information, contact Dr. Reed Johnson.