USDA establishes Honeybee Genetics and IPM Center

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Cornell University will be the home for a new Honeybee Genetics and Integrated Pest Management Center that will study the continuing threat from deadly parasitic mites and Africanized honeybees. The center is funded by a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems.

The grant will establish the largest university-based, honeybee research and extension infrastructure in the country.

The new center will focus on developing solutions to the two major threats to honeybees, insects that are responsible for agricultural pollination valued in the billions of dollars.

The director is Nicholas W. Calderone, Cornell assistant professor of entomology, assisted by project scientists Walter S. Sheppard of Washington State University in Pullman and Jeff Pettis of the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Bee Research Laboratory, Beltsville, Md. Other supporters of the program include the USDA Sustainable Research and Agricultural Education program, the USDA Northeast Integrated Pest Management program, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, and the Organic Farming and Research Foundation.

Most of the pollination for more than 90 commercial crops grown throughout the United States is provided byApis mellifera , the honeybee. The value from the pollination to agricultural output in the country is estimated at $14.6 billion annually. Growers rent about 1.5 million colonies each year to pollinate crops.

The introduction of the parasitic bee mite Varroa destructor in 1987 and the invasion of the Africanized honeybee in 1990 have threatened honeybee colonies. "Parasitic mites are currently managed with pesticides, but as with other agricultural pests, the mite population has developed resistance to these pesticides and beekeepers will soon be without effective treatments," says Calderone. He notes that the extremely defensive African

Contact: Blaine P. Friedlander Jr.
Cornell University News Service

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