Bayer CropScience to build bee care center in RTP

Dec. 04, 2012 @ 07:50 PM

Bayer CropScience is planning to break ground in February on a bee care center in the Research Triangle Park where one official said the company hopes to attract university researchers to look into factors that may affect bee health.

The company, a subsidiary of the Germany company Bayer AG that works on crop protection, non-agricultural pest control, seeds and genetically determined traits, makes products in a class of pesticide that was linked in two studies published in the journal Science this year to harmful effects on bees.

The company’s new “North American Bee Care Center,” slated to be finished in July, is expected to cost $2.65 million. It’s planned to be used as a gathering place for researchers, bee experts, students and visitors, according to a news release.

The 6,600-square-foot facility will include a bee apiary where bees will be kept, and a honey extraction and workshop space.

Research there is expected to focus on “Integrated Pest Management,” according to the release, looking at factors that may affect bee health such as parasites, predators, diseases, seasonal management, and environmental stressors.

“The bee care center is really focusing on what we consider to be some of the greatest challenges to beekeepers today, and that is some of the pests and parasites which are causing challenges,” said Robyn Kneen, Bayer CropScience’s North America bee health project manager.

Kneen said the company has a full-time beekeeper on staff now, and also contracts with another employee. She said the company is also looking to set up collaborations and sponsorships with university researchers.

“We don’t see this as being a Bayer research project, we see it as being a truly collaboration with other … university researchers,” Kneen said. “We’re already beginning a project next spring with N.C. State University; we have a collaborative project with them to look at management of small hive beetles,” she added.

The company produces a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids that were identified in two scientific articles published earlier this year in Science as having harmful effects on bees.

One study, by a team including Penelope Whitehorn at the School of Natural Sciences at the University of Stirling in the United Kingdom, and other researchers, looked at the size of bumblebee nests after foragers were exposed to doses of a widely used neonicotinoid compound called imidacloprid.

Treated colonies produced about 85 percent fewer queens, according to a news release about the studies, and queen production translates to establishment of new nests.

The other study. by a researcher from the National Institute for Agricultural Research in France and other investigators, showed that exposure to what the researchers said were field-realistic doses of neonicotinoid substance can affect survival of forager honeybees and can contribute to risk of colony collapse.

A Bayer CropScience scientist challenged dosage levels, and other aspects of the studies, used in the studies in a previous interview in The Herald-Sun.

The company’s bee care center in the Research Triangle Park, which is where the company has its North American headquarters, will be used for the promotion of “bee-responsible use” of Bayer products, according to the release.

There will be meeting, training and presentation facilities for beekeepers, farmers and educators to provide resources and an interactive learning center.

Kneen, who leads and coordinates the company’s bee care program in North America, said the center will be the second for the company, next to another in Germany.

The program Kneen leads in North America focuses on bee health, including work to ensure the company’s crop protection products are not used in a way that could case any inadvertent exposure to bees, she said.