Planting Seeds - Food & Farming News from CDFA

Pollination Preservation: Grants Help Assess, Improve Health of Bee Colonies

Photo of bee colony

Inspecting a bee colony.

California’s farmers and beekeepers are harvesting the benefits of two Specialty Crop Block Grant (SBCG) projects awarded by the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Federal Funds Management Office (FFMO).  The grantee, Project Apis m (PAm) reports that the loss of bees during the crucial overwintering period, when they are most vulnerable, is hovering at an unsustainable 30% level. To reduce that loss rate, Project Apis m is giving beekeepers tools to objectively assess and improve the health of their colonies so that growers can be confident when it comes to pollination season.

A grant awarded to Project Apis m in 2007 assists growers and beekeepers by giving them access to vital information about the health of bee colonies before they are sent into the field to pollinate California’s specialty crops.  The grant provided funding to conduct field and laboratory assessments for analyzing bee health.  This work resulted in the development and distribution of a list of diagnostic facilities that can perform objective evaluation of bee health. Beekeepers have been made aware of methods to effectively evaluate bees for pests, diseases, viruses, nutritional health indicators, and pesticide exposure in an effort to reverse the trend of declining honey bee populations.

In 2009, PAm received a second SCBG for a project on Best Management Practices (BMPs) for honey bees. With this grant, beekeepers are able to focus their BMPs in areas where objective evaluations indicated they can most improve honey bee health.  PAm’s campaign of brochures, one-page fact sheets, articles, newsletters, e-newsletters, website development, video clips and PowerPoint presentations at regional, state and national meetings is reaching beekeepers pollinating California crops.  The BMPs focus on nutrition, pest control (Varroa), disease control (Nosema), hive management, colony management and business management.

Project Apis m was created by beekeepers and orchardists to pursue research to improve the health and vitality of honey bee colonies while improving crop production.  For more information, please visit

The FFMO is responsible for managing California’s SCBG Program, which funds projects that enhance the competitiveness of the state’s specialty crops. The FFMO conducts compliance site visits with SCBG recipients to ensure project goals and objectives are being met and to review financial records.  FFMO staff Faye Ison and Troy West recently met with PAm Project Director Dan Cummings and Project Manager Christi Heintz to conduct a site visit and they were given the opportunity to tour a fascinating apiary near Chico, California where they learned firsthand about hives and equipment, the organization of the bee colony, and the roles of worker, drone and queen bees.

Photo of staff holding a bee colony during a site visit.

Project Manager Christi Heintz (center) gives FFMO staff Faye Ison and Troy West a firsthand look at the science of honey bee health.

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