Dec. 16, 2011--Most people don’t realize just how important honeybees are to American agriculture, or that the honeybee is also the ofﬁcial Wisconsin State Insect. It is estimated that bees, through their ﬂower pollination efforts and honey production, contribute $15 billion to the national economy. For example, 100 percent of all almonds produced in the U.S. ($2.7 billion worth in California alone) must be pollinated by honeybees. No bees, no almonds.
UW-River Falls professors Kim Mogen, Karen Klyczek, and Brad Mogen are collaborating with Marla Spivak, a University of Minnesota professor of entomology who recently received a McArthur Genius Award for her work on honeybees, to help shed light on our nation’s diminishing honeybee populations by bringing research into the classroom. Students in their general biology course are learning about the signiﬁcant decline of our nation’s honeybee population, termed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
As well as becoming familiar with bee anatomy, physiology, management and ecology, students are performing authentic scientific research. Students analyze honeybees that were treated with various concentrations of a widely-used agricultural pesticide that may be contributing to CCD. Their work will show if there is a correlation between pesticide exposure and increased virus infection in the bees. Faculty members expect to continue working closely with other bee researchers, local bee producers and UWRF students to generate data that may help explain the surprising decline in our honeybees.
Engaging freshmen in authentic research models a curriculum method shown to increase the number of students choosing a scientific career. Professors Klyczek and Kim Mogen also teach a bacteriophage discovery course for freshmen that is sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
For more information, contact the UWRF Biology Department at 715-425-3591.
Students in the UW-River Falls Biology 150 course were decked out recently in their bee suits listening to Jerome Rodewald discuss honeybee management at his local apiary.