By MATTHEW WEAVER
Bayer CropScience will break ground in February on a $2.65 million honeybee research center near the company's headquarters in Durham, N.C.
The 4,810-square-foot center is designed as a research facility for bee health issues, and a meeting and training center for bee researchers and stakeholders, said Robyn Kneen, project manager for Bayer's bee care program.
The center just began its first two-year collaboration with North Carolina State University managing small hive beetles, and is looking to work with other researchers elsewhere in the United States.
Priority issues include the Varroa mite, a parasite widely recognized as one of the biggest challenges for beekeepers. The mite has developed resistance to a long-available control product, Kneen said.
The mite is a top concern, said Oregon State University researcher Ramesh Sagili, who has been studying bees for 10 years.
Nationally, bee colonies are declining by an average of 30 percent per year, forcing beekeepers to replace them, Sagili said. Six to seven factors stress bees and compromise their immune system, he said. Possible causes include the effects of pesticides and fungicides.
Not much funding is available from federal and state agencies for honeybee research, Sagili said, so he welcomes the private sector's involvement.
"Honeybees were taken for granted for a long time, that's for sure," he said. "This is a very complex problem. There is a lot of need for money from the private industry so we can do more comprehensive research."
The facility will include a screened hive observation area and covered outdoor space, with 462 square feet of screened porch area and 1,410 square feet of open porch.
The center will be completed in July. It will house 10 hives with 40,000 to 60,000 bees per hive. A secondary location will have 15 to 30 hives, Kneen said.
"We understand the necessity for bees and pollinators," she said. "As a research and development company, we have the ties, background and knowledge to bring products to the market."
Bayer has more than 25 years of experience researching honeybee health and is dedicated to sustainable agriculture, Kneen said.
"We recognize that bees are a fundamental part of that," she said.