How We Learn More About Bees: Meet the University of Minnesota Bee Lab!
At Project Hive Pet Company, we believe in using business to create change; that’s why we donate a percentage of our gross sales to our partners, The Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund and the Canadian Honey Council. These non-profits aid in our mission of saving the bees by establishing high-quality pollinator habitats to ensure bee populations thrive. However, these are not the only bee advocacy organizations doing incredible work, so we want to feature other great organizations in our blog. Read on to learn more about the University of Minnesota Bee Lab and its research on bees.
What is the University of Minnesota Bee Lab?
The University of Minnesota Bee Lab is comprised of two labs: the Spivak Honey Bee Lab, named after Dr. Marla Spivak, who is a MacArthur Fellow and Distinguished McKnight Professor in Entomology, and the Cariveau Native Bee Lab, named after Dr. Daniel Cariveau who is an Assistant Professor in Entomology. Read this blog post to learn more about the difference between honey and native bees.
According to their website, their mission is “promote the conservation, health, and diversity of bee pollinators through research, education, and hands-on mentorship. We work as a team to provide the richest learning environment for students at all levels and from all backgrounds.”
How Does the Bee Lab Help Save the Bees?
The Bee Lab's primary focus is researching issues concerning different bee populations. Elise Bernstein, the Outreach Specialist at the University of Minnesota Bee Squad explains the Bee Lab “supports bees and pollinators in a variety of ways.” She continues, “Many members of our labs are engaged in research and are learning different things about different kinds of bees. In order to understand how to support and protect bees and other pollinators, we need to understand what is happening to them.”
In the Spivak Honey Bee Lab, “researchers are learning more about viruses that impact honey bees, which can tell us how to better protect our honey bees from viruses or virus spillover between colonies,” Bernstein says. Some of their current research focuses on honey bee hygienic behavior and bee breeding.
“Minnesota is home to 508 different species of native bees, many of which face uncertain futures,” she explains. “Researchers in the Cariveau Native Bee Lab are learning about the stability of different species, what types of habitat different bees prefer, and what species of plants they may prefer, for example.” The Cariveau Lab is currently researching restoration ecology and pollination biology, among other projects.
The two labs also work together in a variety of ways. “There are a few research projects that involve members of both labs, like the Minnesota Agriculture for Pollinators Project (MAPP), which looks at how agricultural lands impact bees, both honey bees and native bees,” Bernstein explains. “There is also an ongoing research project that is looking into virus spillover from honey bees to bumble bees from shared flowers. Both the honey bee lab and the native bee lab have similar goals: make Minnesota and the rest of our world a better place for bees.”
The Bee Lab also features the Bee Squad, which is the lab’s outreach team. Bernstein says, “You can think of the Bee Lab like a Venn diagram. In one circle, you have the Spivak Honey Bee Lab; in the other, you have the Cariveau Native Bee Lab. Bee Squad is in the center, where the two circles overlap.”
How Does the Bee Lab Use Their Research to Inform Conservation Efforts?
Bernstein explains that “Bee Squad's primary role within the Bee Lab is to help the public become more informed on issues bees and other pollinators are facing, and the things that they can do to help. By understanding how bees are being impacted by climate change, habitat loss, pesticides, pathogens, and parasites, we are able to set in motion actions that protect bees,” she adds.
The Bee Lab’s research informs conservation in two main ways: policy and education. “Our research findings inform policies and ordinances on different levels of government, Bernstein says. “[A] good example pertains to the rusty patched bumble bee, which is Minnesota's state bee and a critically endangered species, and has drawn a lot of attention in recent years. Research on this bee has helped determine what plant species and habitat types it prefers, which helps to prioritize areas and actions for recovery efforts on a federal level.”
“When it comes to research on honey bees and honey bee viruses, our findings can inform beekeepers on best practices for keeping their bees healthy,” Bernstein says. “While honey bees are not endangered and do not need conservation, keeping them healthy will prevent the spread of viruses into other honey bees and even potentially native bee populations.” (Speaking of education, read this blog post to learn about honey bees in the winter.)
The Bee Squad uses many outlets to share their research findings. “Bee Squad helps to support local beekeepers through mentoring programs. We attend many outreach and education events across the Twin Cities focused on pollinator education, give presentations on supporting pollinators and how the bees are doing, and teach youth the importance of pollinators,” Bernstein explains.
Bernstein emphasizes the importance of pollinator education, “Engaging with the public at our outreach events and offering educational opportunities for beekeepers and folks interested in supporting native ways is another way we indirectly support pollinators, as an educated and engaged public is one that can effectively support bees and other pollinators.”
How Does the Bee Lab Measure its Impact?
“One way that our impact can be measured is by the amount of public engagement and participation in actions that can support pollinators,” Bernstein says. “Now more than ever, we are seeing homes with bee lawns and pollinator gardens across the Twin Cities and many cities across the state that have passed pollinator resolutions as an action to support bees within their communities. Seeing these kinds of landscape changes and policy developments is a way that we know our messaging is working.”
Project Hive Pet Company is proudly headquartered in this Land of 10,000 Lakes, habitat for over 500 native bee species, and home to the University of Minnesota Bee Lab! Thank you, University of Minnesota Bee Lab, for taking the time to talk to us and for the wonderful work you do!