Bayer CropScience has begun construction of its North American Bee Care Center at its headquarters in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

The center is to be a gathering place for researchers, bee experts, students, and other visitors to meet with Bayer scientists with the goal of promoting and protecting bee health. It is to be completed in July.

Bayer’s reasons for investing in bee care are complex. The company developed and is the largest producer of neo­nico­tinoid insecticides, which have come under scrutiny in the investigation of causes of colony collapse disorder. Many uses of this class of insecticides have been banned in Europe. While most patents have expired, Bayer remains the largest manufacturer. Imidacloprid is the most widely used insecticide in the world.

In addition to producing pesticides for crop care, Bayer has developed a variety of products that are used by beekeepers to manage parasitic mites and is researching new treatments.

The U.S. company is following the lead of its Germany-based parent company, which created its global Bayer Bee Care Center in Monheim, Germany, last spring.

In response to questions from Good Fruit Grower, Bayer director of communications Beth Roden said that, as a leader in the agricultural industry, Bayer CropScience recognizes the importance of honeybees.

“You may find it interesting to know that in Canada, Bayer CropScience is the largest renter of honeybees, which are used in our hybrid canola seed production,” she wrote in an e-mail message.  “Our seed crop is entirely dependent on insect pollination, and all of it is treated with neonicotinoid insecticides.”

The new center’s staff includes manager Dick Rogers, who will direct bee health research activities and manage the research apiary, and Jim Dempster, the apiary manager and technician. Rogers began his career as a consultant in the tree fruit industry in Nova Scotia, Canada. A beekeeper since 1973, he was an extension entomologist and apiculturist for the province of Nova Scotia. In recent years, he has been a contract researcher, working on bee health studies, and IPM consultant, primarily in Canada’s Atlantic provinces.

“The center will also provide working space and resources for visiting academics and graduate students working on various bee health projects,” Roden said.

Partnerships are already established with North Carolina State University, and several other initiatives are well along in development.”

The center will include:

  • A laboratory and research apiary, as well as honey extraction and workshop space needed to conduct bee health research and to support a practical apiculture. Research will focus on integrated pest management for the multiple causes affecting bee health, such as parasites (such as the Varroa mite), predators, ­diseases, seasonal management, and ­environmental stressors.
  • Promotion of bee-responsible use of Bayer products.
  • Meeting and training facilities for beekeepers, farmers and educators.

Apiculture research efforts will include a healthy bees program, bee health product development and testing, and integrated pest management (IPM) practices, Roden said. Hives will be allocated for honey production, educational purposes, queen rearing, intensive research, and a healthy bee stock production program.

“The highest priority for bee health research is for management of the parasitic mite Varroa destructor,” Roden said. “However, honeybee health is negatively affected by many factors, so a holistic IPM approach is a key focus of the Bayer Bee Care Center in North America.”